Orwell’s 1984 Solution to Criminalize War: “If There was Hope, it must Lie in the Proles” August 28, 2012Posted by rogerhollander in Art, Literature and Culture, Revolution, War.
Tags: 1984, howard zinn, james tracey, mass media, orwell, public opinion, roger hollander, war
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Roger’s note: It is no dramatic discovery that the vast majority of Americans (and people everywhere around the globe) hate and oppose not only warfare, but the legalized theft of human rights and human labor and the destruction of the biosphere that is perpetuated by every government of every capitalist state and largely bolstered by the mass media and the political culture. Change (the accomplished dissimulator Obama notwithstanding) will not come via electing leaders in contests where the option for peace and justice are never represented. From the Paris Commune to the Russian Revolution to the successful overturning of oligarchic capital rule in places like Cuba and Nicaragua, it was the common people who took things into their own hands. Although in each of the cases the humanistic revolutionary goals were corrupted by a combination of internal and external pressures, nevertheless, our guide for future humanistic revolution lies with these historic victories. Today’s Arab Spring and the Occupation movement are the heirs of the previous popular uprisings.
“The greatest obstacle to discovery is not ignorance-it is the illusion of knowledge.”-Daniel Boorstin
Mystified by its own credentials, surrounded by peers who conceive of reality along similar lines, and underscored by the corporate media’s overwhelming tide of disinformation, much of today’s professional class is impervious to “rumors” and “conspiracy theories” that all too often captivate the sordid masses—from unreasonable suspicion over mysterious terrorist attacks to the poorly-informed questions surrounding their leader’s hidden background. Much like the expert officials and agenda setting outlets they look to for prepared interpretations of the world, the opinion leading class’ constituents understand themselves as above all well informed, similarly disinterested and unmoved by groundless passion.
In fact, the programming necessary to attain such a degree of self-assuredness often tends to distance one from reality. For example, revulsion towards war in the United States has historically tended to run strongest among those who have escaped the heavy indoctrination of the professional class—those members of the non-or semi-skilled, working class majority. As historian Howard Zinn observes,
Recent public opinion indicators point to the enduring nature of antiwar sentiment. For example, a recent poll by the Pew Research Center for People and the Press shows that on March 19, 2011, one week before President Obama announced the NATO bombing of Libya, 77% of the US public opposed the destruction of the country’s air defenses. Polling one year later revealed a 62% majority against NATO “bombing Syrian military forces to protect anti-government groups in Syria,” even though almost the same percentage (64%) admitted to having heard “little” or “nothing at all” on “recent political violence in Syria.”
May we thus safely conclude that a majority of the population despite ceaseless propaganda still recognizes how war remains the supreme crime and the greatest demarcation between master and slave? “If there was hope, it must lie in the Proles,” Orwell wrote, “because only there, in those swarming disregarded masses, eighty-five percent of the population of Oceania, could the force to destroy the Party ever be generated.”
James Tracy is Associate Professor of Media Studies at Florida Atlantic University. He blogs at memorygap.org.
|James F. Tracy is a frequent contributor to Global Research. Global Research Articles by James F. Tracy|
Orwell, 9/11, Emmanuel Goldstein and WikiLeaks September 10, 2011Posted by rogerhollander in Civil Liberties, Democracy, War.
Tags: 1984, democracy, emmanuel goldstein, glenn greenwald, national security, orwell, permanent war, propaganda, roger hollander, war, wikileaks
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Roger’s note: the excerpt from Orwell’s 1984 toward the end of this article is, to say the least, uncanny in its prophetic foresight into today’s world. Read that if you read nothing else in this post.
Saturday, Sep 10, 2011 06:11 ET, www.salon.com
A strikingly good piece of investigative journalism from Associated Press finds that accusations about the damage done by WikiLeaks’ latest release are — yet again – wildly overstated and without any factual basis. These most recent warnings have centered on WikiLeaks’ exposure of diplomatic sources whom the released cables indicated should be “strictly protected.” While unable to examine all of the names in the cables, AP focused on the ones “the State Department seemed to categorize as most risky.” It found that many of them are “comfortable with their names in the open and no one fearing death.”
In particular, many of these super-secret sources were “already dead, their names cited as sensitive in the context of long-resolved conflicts or situations” while “some have publicly written or testified at hearings about the supposedly confidential information they provided the U.S. government.” Like the Pentagon before them, even the State Department — which has “been scouring the documents since last year to find examples where sources are exposed and inform them that they may be ‘outed’” — is unable to provide any substantiation for its shrill, public denunciations of WikiLeaks and its “dire” warnings about the “grave danger” caused by publication of these cables:
The total damage appears limited and the State Department has steadfastly refused to describe any situation in which they’ve felt a source’s life was in danger. They say a handful of people had to be relocated away from danger but won’t provide any details on those few cases.
None of this is to say that all criticisms of WikiLeaks are unwarranted; I criticized the accidental release of sources’ names as part of the Afghan War documents and assigned them some blame for failure to secure the cables. Nor is it to say that it’s implausible that, at some point, someone may be harmed by release of the unredated cables. The point here is that, yet again, the fear-mongering frenzy issued by the U.S. Government against one of its Enemies Du Jour was blindly ingested and then disseminated by the standard cadre of government-loyal “journalists” and the authority-revering pundits who listen to them. No matter how many times that happens, the lesson is never learned, because there is no desire to learn it.
For three reasons, AP’s findings are anything but surprising. First, that the U.S. Government declares something Very Secret hardly means it is; this is a secrecy-obsessed government that reflexively declares even the most banal matters to be “sensitive” and off-limits to the public, as proven by the release of hundreds of thousands of “secret” documents that reveal nothing. Second, there is an established history of extremely exaggerated government and media claims about the harm done by WikiLeaks releases; that’s why, when examining the events last week that prompted the release of the unredacted cables, I wrote: “Serious caution is warranted in making claims about the damage caused by publication of these cables.”
Third, and most important for present purposes, this is what the U.S. government and its media-servants do; it’s their modus operandi. Whomever the government wants to demonize at any given moment is subjected to this same process. On a moment’s notice, the full propaganda system is activated against the New Enemy, indiscriminate accusations are unleashed, personal foibles are exposed, collective hatred among all Decent People is mandated, and it then instantly becomes heretical to question the caricature of evil that has been manufactured.
That’s how dictators and other assorted miscreants with whom the U.S. was tightly allied for years or even decades are overnight converted into The Root of All Evil, The Supreme Villain who Must be Vanquished (Saddam, Osama bin Laden, Gadaffi, Mubarak). Americans who were perfectly content to have their government in bed with these individuals suddenly stand up and demand, on cue, that no expense be spared to eradicate them. Often, the demonization campaign contains some truth — the nation’s long-time-friends-converted-overnight-into-Enemies really have committed atrocious acts or, as a new innovation of Nixonian tactics aimed at Daniel Ellsberg, even harbored some creepy porn (!) — but the ritual of collective hatred renders any facts a mere accident. Once everyone’s contempt is successfully directed toward the Chosen Enemy, it matters little what they actually did or did not do: such a profound menace are they to all that is Good that exaggerations or even lies about their bad acts are ennobled, in service of a Good Cause; conversely, to question the demonization or object to what is done to them is, by definition, to side with Evil.
Directing all this passionate hatred toward the state’s identified Enemy and their Evil Acts has an added benefit: the resulting mass contempt, by design, distracts all attention away from of the evil committed by those stirring that passion. Thus do we all stomp our feet in righteous fury over the potential, speculative harm caused by WikiLeaks while steadfastly ignoring the actual, massive death and destruction on the part of our own leaders which WikiLeaks reveals (just as dramatic tales and anniversary rituals about bin Laden’s act a full decade ago still cause us to overlook and acquiesce to the massive amount of violence, aggression and bloodshed our own leaders continue to bring to the world). Just yell Saddam’s rape rooms or display the iconic photograph of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed or claim that WikiLeaks has endangered hundreds of innocents and made “diplomacy” impossible or suddenly feign outrage over Mubarak’s internal repression and everything — the past, our own actions, facts — all fade away in a cloud of righteous collective hatred, directed outward, away from ourselves and our government.
This is nothing more than a slightly less raucous rendition of Orwell’s Emmanuel Goldstein/Two-Minute-Hate ritual. In Orwell’s 1984, Goldstein is the shadowy, possibly-fictitious-but-possibly-real former Party official whose betrayals of the State, ongoing treason, and array of other incomprehensibly evil acts make him, in the lore of State propaganda, the Prime Villain, the Root of all Evil, whom Good Citizens blame for all societal evils and on whom they exclusively focus their rage. His image is regularly paraded before the citizenry during a Two Minute Hate Session, accompanied by an authoritative narration of his evil, and mass, inebriating rage results (see the video version here). The ultimate benefit of this ritual is it enables the citizenry to ignore their own plight and the violence and oppression of their own government (political parties use a similar process — endless focus on marginal, hated figures in the other party — to keep fear levels high and party loyalty strong). Thus can the debate over whether Julian Assange should be executed or merely imprisoned for life resume among all good people.
Speaking of Emmanuel Goldstein, he was the putative “author” of the Party manual published at length in 1984 that describes the Party’s means of control and manipulation, entitled “The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism.” In the chapter entitled “War Is Peace,” one finds what is easily the best essay for the 10-year-anniversary religious observance of 9/11 upon which we are about to embark:
In one combination or another, these three super-states are permanently at war, and have been so for the past twenty-five years. War, however, is no longer the desperate, annihilating struggle that it was in the early decades of the twentieth century. . . .
This is not to say that either the conduct of war, or the prevailing attitude towards it, has become less bloodthirsty or more chivalrous. On the contrary, war hysteria is continuous and universal in all countries, and such acts as raping, looting, the slaughter of children, the reduction of whole populations to slavery, and reprisals against prisoners which extend even to boiling and burying alive, are looked upon as normal, and, when they are committed by one’s own side and not by the enemy, meritorious.
But in a physical sense war involves very small numbers of people, mostly highly-trained specialists, and causes comparatively few casualties. The fighting, when there is any, takes place on the vague frontiers whose whereabouts the average man can only guess at, or round the Floating Fortresses which guard strategic spots on the sea lanes. . . .
To understand the nature of the present war — for in spite of the regrouping which occurs every few years, it is always the same war — one must realize in the first place that it is impossible for it to be decisive. . . . The primary aim of modern warfare (in accordance with the principles of doublethink, this aim is simultaneously recognized and not recognized by the directing brains of the Inner Party) is to use up the products of the machine without raising the general standard of living.
What is concerned here is not the morale of masses, whose attitude is unimportant so long as they are kept steadily at work, but the morale of the Party itself. Even the humblest Party member is expected to be competent, industrious, and even intelligent within narrow limits, but it is also necessary that he should be a credulous and ignorant fanatic whose prevailing moods are fear, hatred, adulation, and orgiastic triumph. In other words it is necessary that he should have the mentality appropriate to a state of war. It does not matter whether the war is actually happening, and, since no decisive victory is possible, it does not matter whether the war is going well or badly. All that is needed is that a state of war should exist.
The splitting of the intelligence which the Party requires of its members, and which is more easily achieved in an atmosphere of war, is now almost universal, but the higher up the ranks one goes, the more marked it becomes. It is precisely in the Inner Party that war hysteria and hatred of the enemy are strongest. In his capacity as an administrator, it is often necessary for a member of the Inner Party to know that this or that item of war news is untruthful, and he may often be aware that the entire war is spurious and is either not happening or is being waged for purposes quite other than the declared ones: but such knowledge is easily neutralized by the technique of doublethink. Meanwhile no Inner Party member wavers for an instant in his mystical belief that the war is real, and that it is bound to end victoriously, with Oceania the undisputed master of the entire world. . . .
War prisoners apart, the average citizen of Oceania never sets eyes on a citizen of either Eurasia or Eastasia, and he is forbidden the knowledge of foreign languages. If he were allowed contact with foreigners he would discover that they are creatures similar to himself and that most of what he has been told about them is lies. The sealed world in which he lives would be broken, and the fear, hatred, and self-righteousness on which his morale depends might evaporate. . .
The war, therefore, if we judge it by the standards of previous wars, is merely an imposture. It is like the battles between certain ruminant animals whose horns are set at such an angle that they are incapable of hurting one another. But though it is unreal it is not meaningless. It eats up the surplus of consumable goods, and it helps to preserve the special mental atmosphere that a hierarchical society needs. War, it will be seen, is now a purely internal affair. . . .
In the past, the ruling groups of all countries, although they might recognize their common interest and therefore limit the destructiveness of war, did fight against one another, and the victor always plundered the vanquished. In our own day they are not fighting against one another at all. The war is waged by each ruling group against its own subjects, and the object of the war is not to make or prevent conquests of territory, but to keep the structure of society intact.
There are certainly people with genuine power who understand exactly how this process works and are conscious of the propaganda it entails, and there are many ordinary citizens, paying only casual attention to political matters, who blindly ingest it. But it is the high-ranking Inner Party members — the D.C. cadre of think tank “scholars,” government and academic functionaries, and journalists and pundits who fancy themselves sophisticated political junkies and insiders — who are the True Believers. They cling to institutions of political power and officialdom, plant their careers, self-esteem, self-importance and social circles in its belly, and are thus the most incentivized to believe in its Rightness and Goodness and the least able to critically assess it. Intoxicated with supreme loyalty to the organs of political power and societal institutions which support it, they become its most ardent, faithful evangelizers. The more they gather together in their insular royal court realm, the more they reinforce each other’s trite convictions.
These pseudo-sophisticated, pseudo-intellectual nationalists may “know that this or that item of war news is untruthful” or may even know that the entire “war is being waged for purposes quite other than the declared ones.” But no matter: they are Washington’s most loyal denizens and thus “never waver for an instant in their mystical belief that the war is real” or in the propaganda that sustains it. At the heart of this propaganda — and of their worldview — is the unquestioning conviction about the unmitigated evil of the State’s designated Enemies, and of their own Good. Observe how WikiLekas is now discussed, and especially observe the waves of self-praising moralizing over this next several days, to see this dynamic in all its glory.
Nat Hentoff: What Obama Doesn’t Know December 18, 2008Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, George W. Bush.
Tags: cheney, cia, Condoleezza Rice, edgar hoover, eric holder, fbi, FISA, fourth amendment, frank church, George Bush, Homeland Security, john yoo, justice department, leahy, mukasey, nat hentoff, national security agency, nsa, Obama, orwell, privacy rights, Robert Mueller, roger hollander, rumsfeld, special operations, specter, surveillance, torture, transition team
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Much has been hidden from the new president by the Bush team
Nat Hentoff, Village Voice
December 18, 2008
No presidential transition team in recent history has ranged as widely as Barack Obama’s in its attempt to find out what minefields he may be walking into. For example,The Washington Post notes, 10 teams of 135 explorers, wearing yellow badges, have descended on dozens of Bush administration offices and agencies to look into their programs, policies, and records.
However, I keep remembering a dark warning to the successors of the Bush-Cheney legacy in a January 3 letter to The New York Times by Arthur Gunther of Blauvelt, New York: “Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney have so deeply embedded tacit approval for illegal acts in government agencies that wrongdoing by their philosophical sympathizers will continue in shadow operations for years to come.”
How many of those shadow sympathizers will remain deep in the CIA, the FBI, Homeland Security—and, as I shall later emphasize, in the omnivorous National Security Agency, with its creatively designed submarine that, on the bottom of the ocean floor, will be tapping into foreign cables carrying overseas communications, including those of Americans?
Will the Obama sleuths be able to peer into plans of the military Special Operations forces around the world, whose SWAT-style moves can quickly inflame even our allies? Covertly authorized four years ago by Donald Rumsfeld, these warriors are empowered to attack secretly any apparent terrorist venture, anywhere. No press allowed.
Will the new president, cognizant of the proliferation of retaliatory nuclear arms, presumably among our enemies, insist on signing off on each of those Special Operations forays?
Back at home, will President Obama order the countermanding of the FBI’s return to the unbounded surveillance practices of J. Edgar Hoover? In an order implemented as recently as this December—by FBI Director Robert Mueller (who says he’d like to stay on) and Attorney General Michael Mukasey—the FBI can start an investigation without requiring any evidence of wrongdoing. That is not change we can believe in.
Among many Obama voters, much optimism is created when he pledges that we will not torture. But even if he makes his intent official, emphasizes Mark Kukis (Time, December 8), “the Executive Order would have to be sweeping and reach deep into the government’s darker recesses. That’s because the Bush team has written so many legal memos okaying various techniques for interrogators working at a wide range of agencies [not just the CIA]. Some of these opinions have been disclosed publicly, but an unknown number remain classified.”
It will be up to the new Attorney General, Eric Holder—not a notably passionate constitutionalist in his previous role in the Justice Department—to, as Kukis adds, “issue new legal guidance that supersedes all those legal opinions, seen or unseen, if he hopes to prevent a return to such practices in the future” (emphasis added).
So, keep an eye on Mr. Holder. And if he does bury those John Yoo–style torture memos and other (and, here, I use the term loosely) “legal opinions,” Holder should be tasked by the president to reveal what they permitted.
For a long time, Senate Judiciary chairman Pat Leahy, a Democrat, and leading Republican member Arlen Specter have been trying to get those deeply hidden authorizations for war crimes that contradicted the broken-record insistence (”We do not torture!”) of George W. Bush and Condoleezza Rice.
Of all our intelligence agencies, the most unabashedly un-American is the NSA, because it has the continually expanding technological resources to make George Orwell’s Big Brother look like a cantankerous infant. No American president has come close to reining in the NSA, let alone bringing its officials up on charges of murdering our Fourth Amendment privacy rights.
In case you’ve forgotten, those specific constitutional protections were a result of the general searches conducted by British soldiers that turned American colonists’ homes and offices upside down. NSA’s eavesdropping on our phones and Internet activities have largely destroyed some of our rights as mentioned in the Constitution: “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall be issued but on probable cause. . . .” (Computers and the Internet are now included.)
Of all the investigators of the formidably guarded privacy of the NSA, the most feared by these omnipresent spies is James Bamford, who for years has been penetrating their secrets in his books—Body of Secrets, The Puzzle Palace, etc. This year, he’s gone much deeper into that bottomless cavern than ever before, in The Shadow Factory: The Ultra-Secret NSA From 9/11 to the Eavesdropping on America (Doubleday). I hope President Obama reads this book himself and demands that his intelligence directors also plumb it and give him their reactions—or better yet, their confessions of complicity with NSA.
There will be more on the “Shadow Factory” next week, as well as on Senator Obama’s startling (to me) vote for the FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) Amendments of 2008—after he had insisted he would filibuster against its passage. In view of the sweeping spying powers that this law, championed by George W. Bush, provides the NSA, will President Obama be a dependable restorer of at least some of our privacy rights?
John McCain, of course, would not have been.
Bamford ends his new book by bringing back one of my Bill of Rights heroes, the late Senator Frank Church of Idaho, whose Senate investigating committee, during the 1970s, first uncovered the frightening range and depth of NSA’s spying on us. “That capability,” said Church, “at any time could be turned around on the American people, and no American would have any privacy left, such [is the NSA's] capability to monitor everything. . . . There would be no place to hide. . . . If this government ever became a tyranny . . . the technological capacity that the intelligence community has given the government could enable it to impose total tyranny, and there would be no way to fight back, because resistance . . . is within the reach of the government to know.”
After quoting that warning from Frank Church, Bamford ends: “There is now the capacity to make tyranny total in America. Only law ensures that we never fall into that abyss—the abyss from which there is no return.” Are you listening, President Obama?
The Real Bill Ayers December 6, 2008Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, John McCain, Political Commentary, U.S. Election 2008.
Tags: 1960s, 1984, Barack Obama, Bill Ayers, civil disobedience, demonization, fugitive, guilt by association, orwell, Pentagon, racism, roger hollander, terrorist, Vietnam War, war, weather underground
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IN the recently concluded presidential race, I was unwillingly thrust upon the stage and asked to play a role in a profoundly dishonest drama. I refused, and here’s why.
Unable to challenge the content of Barack Obama’s campaign, his opponents invented a narrative about a young politician who emerged from nowhere, a man of charm, intelligence and skill, but with an exotic background and a strange name. The refrain was a question: “What do we really know about this man?”
Secondary characters in the narrative included an African-American preacher with a fiery style, a Palestinian scholar and an “unrepentant domestic terrorist.” Linking the candidate with these supposedly shadowy characters, and ferreting out every imagined secret tie and dark affiliation, became big news.
I was cast in the “unrepentant terrorist” role; I felt at times like the enemy projected onto a large screen in the “Two Minutes Hate” scene from George Orwell’s “1984,” when the faithful gathered in a frenzy of fear and loathing.
With the mainstream news media and the blogosphere caught in the pre-election excitement, I saw no viable path to a rational discussion. Rather than step clumsily into the sound-bite culture, I turned away whenever the microphones were thrust into my face. I sat it out.
Now that the election is over, I want to say as plainly as I can that the character invented to serve this drama wasn’t me, not even close. Here are the facts:
I never killed or injured anyone. I did join the civil rights movement in the mid-1960s, and later resisted the draft and was arrested in nonviolent demonstrations. I became a full-time antiwar organizer for Students for a Democratic Society. In 1970, I co-founded the Weather Underground, an organization that was created after an accidental explosion that claimed the lives of three of our comrades in Greenwich Village. The Weather Underground went on to take responsibility for placing several small bombs in empty offices — the ones at the Pentagon and the United States Capitol were the most notorious — as an illegal and unpopular war consumed the nation.
The Weather Underground crossed lines of legality, of propriety and perhaps even of common sense. Our effectiveness can be — and still is being — debated. We did carry out symbolic acts of extreme vandalism directed at monuments to war and racism, and the attacks on property, never on people, were meant to respect human life and convey outrage and determination to end the Vietnam war.
Peaceful protests had failed to stop the war. So we issued a screaming response. But it was not terrorism; we were not engaged in a campaign to kill and injure people indiscriminately, spreading fear and suffering for political ends.
I cannot imagine engaging in actions of that kind today. And for the past 40 years, I’ve been teaching and writing about the unique value and potential of every human life, and the need to realize that potential through education.
I have regrets, of course — including mistakes of excess and failures of imagination, posturing and posing, inflated and heated rhetoric, blind sectarianism and a lot else. No one can reach my age with their eyes even partly open and not have hundreds of regrets. The responsibility for the risks we posed to others in some of our most extreme actions in those underground years never leaves my thoughts for long.
The antiwar movement in all its commitment, all its sacrifice and determination, could not stop the violence unleashed against Vietnam. And therein lies cause for real regret.
We — the broad “we” — wrote letters, marched, talked to young men at induction centers, surrounded the Pentagon and lay down in front of troop trains. Yet we were inadequate to end the killing of three million Vietnamese and almost 60,000 Americans during a 10-year war.
The dishonesty of the narrative about Mr. Obama during the campaign went a step further with its assumption that if you can place two people in the same room at the same time, or if you can show that they held a conversation, shared a cup of coffee, took the bus downtown together or had any of a thousand other associations, then you have demonstrated that they share ideas, policies, outlook, influences and, especially, responsibility for each other’s behavior. There is a long and sad history of guilt by association in our political culture, and at crucial times we’ve been unable to rise above it.
President-elect Obama and I sat on a board together; we lived in the same diverse and yet close-knit community; we sometimes passed in the bookstore. We didn’t pal around, and I had nothing to do with his positions. I knew him as well as thousands of others did, and like millions of others, I wish I knew him better.
Demonization, guilt by association, and the politics of fear did not triumph, not this time. Let’s hope they never will again. And let’s hope we might now assert that in our wildly diverse society, talking and listening to the widest range of people is not a sin, but a virtue.