I am a confirmed “news junkie”. I want to really know and understand what’s going on with my country and with other important countries around the globe. But as an intelligence officer I view “news” as information upon which solid decisions of considerable gravity can safely be made. Getting from “news” information to “intelligence” information in our culture is a formidable task indeed. It requires wading through a lot of political propaganda and emotional rhetoric that accompanies most “news” even from normally reliable sources. Those who don’t make such an effort inevitably end up with perceptions of “truth” that fall wide of the mark, and this can dramatically affect the way they view the larger world they occupy. This is why I have a preference for printed news, which affords me the time to study, analyze, contemplate and weigh it against other information already in my inventory. Politics, in which so many have so much emotion invested, is an exceptionally difficult minefield to negotiate, especially since it plays such a prominent role in shaping our perceptions of society. Largely as a consequence of repetitive political propaganda, most of us have perceptions of social reality that exist mostly in fantasy.
The same even applies to much popular entertainment. An interesting recent film, for example, is “V For Vendetta” (UK/US, 2005), which, despite its cliché conventions providing the background, still makes some compelling and memorable points. (I am told that “Battle Royale” and “The Hunger Games” have similar background settings while shifting the focus of societal rebellion to teenagers, but since I haven’t seen these two films I can’t comment on them. Of course, all such films play around a similar theme as old as time – the little guy waging a campaign against a more powerful and oppressive regime.) The angle in “V”, which does achieve higher standards than most contemporary British films I’ve seen, is that there is just one single and supremely confident rebel who seeks to overthrow a totalitarian state through quite sophisticated guerrilla (“terrorist”) tactics, even to the point of announcing his intended attacks in advance, in the hope that his actions will lead to a popular uprising. The film’s quirk is that we never see the hero’s face, which remains concealed behind a mask of Guy Fawkes (See Footnote #1.).
The background for the “V” story is the usual despotic fascist rule that grew out of conservatism and its even more cliché “hatred” of homosexuals, Muslims, immigrants, anyone “different”, etc., which underpin trite liberal dogma. The film, although updated for a more contemporary political reality, is loosely based on a graphic novel (comic book)by a rather fanatical Alan Moore published during the 1980s as an indictment of the conservatism of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. But it could just as readily have been published in the US as an indictment of President Ronald Reagan’s conservatism during the same period. Both political leaders were at that time portrayed by the US and European predominantly leftist media as “right-wing extremists” and even “fascists”, primarily because they were both dedicated to ending the “Cold” War against Soviet Communism despite “sinister elements of anarchy the two saw arrayed against them” in their own societies.
That portrayal, of course, was a truly gross exaggeration by their opposing liberals on the other side of the political spectrum, a quite common practice in overwhelmingly left-leaning Europe and the similarly oriented “mainstream” American press. I spent much of the 1980s in Europe, and listening to the popular political hysteria there, one would have thought that Hitler himself had risen from the dead to take up residence in both London and Washington. Incredibly, after a whole generation of astronomical American blood and treasure spent to contain the dedicated global expansion of the Soviet communist ideology, and most especially in keeping it out of Western Europe, during the administrations of Reagan and Thatcher very many in Europe and the US felt that the “real enemy” was NOT in the Kremlin; it occupied 10 Downing Street and the White House. Very many of these people somehow got it into their pointy little heads that Reagan and Thatcher were greater threats to them than the Warsaw Pact, global Soviet and Chinese Communism, Nuclear Armageddon, and all the rest of the world’s truly twisted whackos and weapons on the extreme left side of politics. (At that time I chalked most of it up to childish fear of the unknown, of people grown too comfortable with the US military maintaining their very comfortable status quo vis-à-vis the Big Bear Next Door.) Yet somehow all that childish political fanaticism melted into the shadows when Poland finally breathed free and students started tearing down the Berlin Wall, unopposed, right in front of the world’s television cameras, without one shot being fired.
American liberalism takes its cues from its masters in Europe, so naturally everything “evil” in the western liberal view is conservative, because conservative is on the right side of the political spectrum, which “inevitably” leads straight to the excesses of Adolf Hitler and the German Nazis. The foundation of such dogma, of course, is that Western Europe did have first-hand experience with Nazism, with the excesses of right-wing extremism, during the 20th century.
A part of humanity much larger than Western Europe, however, experienced a very similar despotic rule that grew out of liberalism and its cliché hatred of individualistic self-realization unencumbered by the constraints of the state, etc., which underpin the conservative dogma. American conservatism takes its cues from the American Revolution against state tyranny and the individual freedom beliefs of the Founding Fathers, so naturally everything “evil” in the western conservative view is liberal, because liberal is on the left side of the political spectrum, which “inevitably” leads straight to the excesses of Stalin’s Soviet Russia, Mao Zedong’s Communist China, Kim Il-sung’s North Korea, etc.. The foundation of such dogma, of course, is that Western Europe (thanks largely to American conservatism) did NOT have first-hand experience with Communism, with left-wing extremism, during the 20th century.
Having been forged in violent revolution against tyrannical nobility, rule by monarchy is simply antithetical to “American”, so this is not an option that is even considered in the US. Having totally rejected and even banned privileged caste nobility, within American democracy, however, is still ample room for a rather wide range of political views, both those on the right and those on the left. It is at the far extremes of each that present the great danger. Having invested such huge portions of their blood and treasure in combating both extremes throughout the world over the past century, the American people as a whole habitually reject the far fringe elements of both liberalism and conservatism. (Liberalism must stop just short of socialism, and conservatism must stop just short of libertarianism; anything beyond those points is universally accepted as “extreme”, despite political propaganda that places those points far closer to the middle.) Today just as many Americans define themselves by liberal values as define themselves by conservative values. Those values, however, are actually quite moderate, so that their differences actually fall within a rather small space in the middle. But you’d be hard pressed to demonstrate this based solely on the rhetoric used by members of each herd. One of the most common terms used by both sides to describe the other is, in fact, “extreme”. Alan Moore’s view of “the other side” in his “V” novel is an excellent example of such hyperbole. That there do, in fact, remain in Western society very small elements of true extremists on the right, as well as on the left, are what lends some slight credence to the hyperbole and thus to popular beliefs about “the other side”.
Via a very wide range of propaganda, liberals try to paint conservatives as akin to Nazis, while conservatives try to paint liberals as akin to Communists. It’s the way each herd tries to tar and discredit the other while solidifying its own cohesion and strength by using well known principles of group dynamics. In recent times, the liberals have been winning the propaganda war, primarily by championing the rights of the individual at the expense of their responsibilities, by championing the self over all other possible social herds greater than the self, including religion, philosophy and nationalism. The politics of “me” focuses on race, gender and ethnicity according to one’s self-identity. The beauty of this approach is that it assigns “perpetual victim” status to huge sub-groups of “dumb and helpless” humans who thus need a strong political party to protect them from all those vague “oppressors” out there, mostly “on the other side”. They do this by buying their votes with all sorts of goodies from government which their own efforts have not fully realized (primarily because it requires too much effort on the part of the individual). The “victim” status then frees members of responsibility – for their own condition and that of anyone else, too – while still enjoying all those free goodies. This political ideology perpetuates dependence on government; it is the road to socialism.
The approach has been so successful, especially with really huge numbers of the majority voter group – women – that it has forced conservatives to adopt a similar approach with slightly different rhetoric in order to buy votes from the same herds courted by liberals. The irony here is that conservatives have been painted as “white heterosexual males” – the very minority group that “hates” everyone else and has been “oppressing” everyone else “since the beginning of time”. This incessant characterization has even led many white heterosexual males to abandon their own inescapable identity and join “the other side”, to join those condemning white heterosexual males, and therefore conservatives, for their inherent “evilness”. Such cowardly idiots see no shame in attacking their own minority group, even at the expense of their own sons. The relative size of the group that is white heterosexual males, of course, shrinks daily and will be almost gone well before the end of this century. The liberal construct desperately needs a “someone else” to take the blame, pay the bills and do the hard stuff for “special” “victim” “me”, but it remains to be seen which group will rise to take the role of “evil oppressor” in our society after the “evil white heterosexual males” are gone. (For an excellent candidate, check out some of the rising extremism on the left in Footnote #5 to “Marry Me”.)
All of this propaganda is utter nonsense, of course, but its incessant use over such a long period nevertheless has been extremely successful. Truth is irrelevant; perception is everything. It’s as “true” as any other stupid cliché out there. This stuff works best with poorly educated populations who are far more driven to join herds seeking the lowest common denominator than with thinking individuals educated to conduct independent rational and objective analysis within a context of accurate fact and history, i.e., those few able to rise above the herd and seek the highest common denominator. America has absurdly become a nation of whining victims, which is a society that will inevitably self-destruct even before the requisite evil bogeyman is gone. For many, politics has become the team sport or religion that provides a sense of community with like-minded others needed to fill up the vast expanses of empty spaces in their otherwise meaningless and dependent lives. The two-sided left-right rope-pulling contest, of course, does very little to further the best interests of the nation as a whole; nationalism, like religion, is only useful for those occasional instances that can prop up phony self-image.
As an Irish-American soldier who knows that the excesses of both political extremes, on the right as well as the left, derive solely from a thirst for power over “inferior others” and thus trace their modern post-Dark Age roots straight back to despotic monarchs like England’s Henry VIII. (Actually despotism has been around since the beginning of humanity.) All the rest is just dressing on the cake, the requisite cover, mostly a contemporary childish “we-versus-them” charade, the herd mentality. Everyone, and every group, needs a bogeyman. Sometimes it would be helpful if the gods of western filmmaking would dare to provide a left-wing or communist despotism for their movie backgrounds. I’m certain that surviving and aging members of Chinese, Russian and former Warsaw Pact societies would appreciate the nod before they take their final leave. There was, after all, something worth remembering of the Gulag Archipelago, collectivism, closely surveilled and tightly controlled populations, socialistic economic suicide, the Cultural Revolution, mass exterminations, state control of resource production and distribution, chronically empty store shelves, etc.. Even though more souls were sacrificed under the extremes of communism than under those of Nazism, both are equally evil. Freeing themselves of such despotic evil was what the American Revolution and the American Founding Fathers were all about, and it’s what still draws people to stories like “V For Vendetta” – of humans struggling to overcome such despotism regardless of which side of the political spectrum the despotism occupies.
The “V” film uses London as its setting, but even today the British fail to see that their despotic excesses in Ireland under a long succession of ruthless English monarchs are what led straight to slavery in America and the American Revolution – a conservative revolution – and showed privileged aristocracies during World War I, and later both Hitler on the right and Stalin on the left, the way to their own atrocities on even more colossal scales.
A curious twist in this left-right political struggle throughout western society today involves the definite right-wing extremism of militant fundamentalist Islam. Perhaps because so many do not really understand these aspects of politics, or perhaps because the western response to militant Islamic extremism has been very heavily wrapped up in western domestic politics, the popular regard of it seems to defy even basic logic. For example, the former leader of Iraq, Saddam Hussein, openly admired and modeled both himself and his ruthless regime on the right-wing extremism of Adolf Hitler. Saddam’s aggression against his own and others was twice opposed by the US military under the direction of conservative administrations (presidents Bush Senior and Bush Junior). Perhaps because those two actions were undertaken by American conservatives, western liberals have remained ambivalent of, or even in fervent opposition to, the two wars involving Iraq. Because of the political ideologies involved, logic would dictate that liberals would be in the forefront of those opposed to the right-wing extremism of Saddam Hussein and his henchmen. This has not been the case. So apparently domestic politics trumps logic. (Translation: “Right-wing extremist fascist despots are just fine for “someone else”, but not for “me”.”) No one in Hollywood would dare consider making a movie like “V” set in Saddam’s Iraq, a reality that very many citizen sufferers of that extremist regime find just pathetic. It’s because of such twisted western “thinking” that the US military was pulled out before the job of assisting those Iraqis was finished. The entire region desperately needed a reasonably solid basis, a functioning model, in Iraq to coalesce around for their own best and peaceful interests. This was denied them while the US military instead was forced to spin its wheels meaninglessly in Afghanistan for a dozen years, with almost zero help from its “allies”, an Afghanistan of almost no strategic significance to the greater objective, all while working against that greater objective with its treatment of a democratic Muslim Pakistan. (See “Human Rights, The Moral Imperative and Just Wars.)
The same illogical regard of liberals has also characterized the broader struggle with global militant Islamic extremism. Logic would dictate that political ideology would drive the politically left liberals to the forefront of western efforts to combat that right-wing extremism, especially since it is also wrapped up in religious fanaticism, something constantly vilified by liberals elsewhere. But this has not been the case, either. In the beginning, the most prominent complaint of al Qaeda was that western powers had been propping up dictatorships throughout the Mid-East throughout the long “Cold” War in order to ensure a reliable flow of oil to their economies, and that those dictatorships were severely oppressing the Muslim people. This valid complaint had been gaining ever increasing support among all Muslims, and not just those in the Mid-East, for decades – a popular support which was feeding al Qaeda. So to dilute that complaint and reduce the Muslim popular support for militant extremism, it was necessary to (1) relax its support of dictators, and (2) assist Muslims to decide their own destinies. The overthrow of Saddam’s dictatorship by the US military, however subsequently screwed up by inept civilian “leadership” it was, accomplished those objective right in the heart of the Muslim Mid-East. But western liberals have been steadfastly opposed to the effort. (I defy anyone to explain logically that opposition in view of inescapable long-range Western objectives.) They have, however, strongly supported the romantic notion of a “spontaneous Arab Spring” that was somehow miraculously born on a street corner in Tunisia (of all trivial places) and not in the blood of enormously weightier Baghdad. That notion borders on the inane. Long before Tunisia, Iraq proved to Muslims that there were viable alternatives to dictatorship and planted the seed, spread wide by al Jazeera, that Muslims in the Mid-East had other and better options available in deciding their own fates, even if those options did – like the American Revolution and the American Civil War – require really great sacrifice.
Rather than aggressively combat militant extremism where it lives abroad, western liberals seem to prefer to use its threat to them as an excuse to fortify their own societies at home, and conservatives, seeking the same votes, seem eager to join them in this “Fortress America” effort. It’s just astonishing now to watch both sides digging franticly in every trash bin to find pathetic excuses why we should not stand on principle and strategy in Syria. It’s as if they both prefer instead to construct their very own police states ostensibly in defense of the threat from militant Islamic extremism. “My voluntary police state is preferable to their imposed police state.” Neither Greatest Generation Reagan or Greatest Generation Thatcher would ever have imagined the measures now routinely undertaken by the state, primarily against their society’s’ own people, in the interest of “safety and security” – and fully supported by both the political left and the political right. Such measures, beginning with the “Patriot” Act, are simply fascist in nature and hand to future governments truly astounding powers to threaten, control and oppress its own population. Similar “safety and security” approaches were taken by Stalin on the left and Hitler on the right in Reagan’s and Thatcher’s own youth. Surrendering rights and freedoms in the interest of safety and security is a hallow argument, of course, since, regardless, the Bad Guys win. Those who fail to see such truths are people who prefer to kill humans by safe remote control rather than deal with the “messiness” of taking them prisoner. It’s the absence of sound thinking, just emotional mush. Western unwillingness to face its enemies toe-to-toe on the battlefield with very deadly force is seen by the enemy as a blatant sign of weakness which further inflames the fervor of their dedication. And tyrannical domestic fortifications, along with our remote control killing, only change who we are and what we represent in the world – pathetic caricatures of our former brave and free and honorable selves. What enemy would not view such cowering fear as evidence that we can be defeated? Are such people even worthy of defending?
On the other hand, conservatives seem too eager to charge forth everywhere with remote control might to kill humans and engineer events on the ground according to some desk-bound bureaucrat’s hypothetical scenario. They also believe that dangerous shortfalls in our military can be made up by commercial contractors who can manage to profit from war. All of this is just nonsense. It can’t be done. The “war of terrorism” over the past twelve years is littered with a very long list of really stupid mistakes made by self-inflated civilians who have no idea what they are doing, where they are going, or what result it will have. The most common characteristics of the civilian leadership throughout our foreign policy and national security apparatus that come readily to my mind are ignorance, incompetence, and delusion. Their “thinking”, too, is far more emotion-based than logic-based, and far too short-sighted. And, worse, it’s all been thoroughly mucked up by idiotic domestic politics. Even though Islamic extremists have been at war with the West, and especially with America since the 1980s, the West finally acknowledged that war twelve years ago – and still it has no strategy for waging it. The conservative approach is no better than those on the other side who sold to a really ignorant voting population the absurdity that, due to the “brilliant leadership” of affirmative action appointees Clinton, Rice, Power and Albright, “al Qaeda has been decimated” and the “Bad Guys are on the run”. These are all people who believe that the little boy on the beach can empty the sea into his hole in the sand. And the sea is limited to the tribal areas of Pakistan, not to two billion humans throughout vast expanses of the globe. These are Americans who still haven’t figured out that it’s over twenty years past when that silly 20th century anachronism still euphemistically called “NATO” should have been retired with honors for completing its mission, and a new alliance struck with new partners actually designed for this century. These are western people with almost no core beliefs beyond “me” who measure time in days against an enemy with thoroughly ingrained core beliefs all about “us” that measures time in centuries. With such a mismatch, all we can do is kill people, while building our own prison. As once-great Americans, we look just pitiable.
“Political language is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidarity to pure wind.” – George Orwell
Just who is teaching our kids how to think? Does anyone know what logic is? It’s as if everyone is thoroughly confused, and no one knows how to explain it all, much less show and articulate a logical way forward, especially in a manner that most Americans can comprehend and accept, a doable way forward that is solidly based in our core beliefs and principles, one that will hand to our children a worthwhile society in which to thrive. There are no Greatest Generation George F. Kennans or Henry Kissingers left, and quite obviously no one who can even begin to fill such worldly knowledgeable and astutely intellectual shoes. America’s greatest failure is its schools.
Of course, if your only response to all this is that you are “too special” to risk anything in defense of your society, and thus need only hire “someone else”, some brainless idiots who are “paid to die”, to go forth and engage the threat while keeping “me” safe, then you have also answered the question: You and your beliefs are not worth defending. No one ever leads from the very safe rear; those who try are just more dime-a-dozen tin-horn dictators. If you think my responsibility for you is any greater than your responsibility for me, you are just a delusional fool worthy only of contempt. There is no “special” in equal. I at least know that there is no sense to my dying on the battlefield while you steadily destroy our nation from within. I am constantly reminded of the Roman centurion on the battlefields of the fourth and fifth centuries trying to divine just what he was supposed to do, and why, as his society gradually and inexorably crumbled behind him.
So, when listening to politicians and their talking heads, remember that most of the rhetoric is just bullshit about “the other side”. There have been precious few original ideas with merit to come out of Washington since around 1970. (I’d place Kennan-Truman’s approach to containing Soviet expansionism, Kissinger-Nixon going to China, and Reagan-Thatcher taking on Soviet Russia via the Warsaw Pact in that category.) If any good idea ever does show up, one would fervently hope that most Americans would be wise enough to select elements of that idea from each side and then find an actual adult politician to run with it, from the front. But I doubt that most Americans would recognize such an idea if they saw it, and privileged affirmative action women certainly aren’t going to, either. In the absence of anything else to rally behind, our society is now divided into two solidly polarized political herds, characterized mostly by childish emotion, neither of which can get past the self-serving propaganda to arrive at logical truths and common objectives. Those who wear the badge of the Democrat Party, and those who wave the flag of the Republican Party, should at the very least be able to understand one thing: You do NOT have a lock on wisdom. This country is evenly divided between liberals and conservatives. The “other side” consists of at least 100,000,000 sentient humans in the same free and open society which your side occupies. It simply defies basic logic that only those on one side have all the answers, that there is not some ground in the middle that might be the better option for all of us. Those who simply cannot recognize such simple truth do not know how to think.
In the final analysis, contemporary politics is all about mediocre people winning superficial popularity contests so they can experience the self-serving power trip that comes with being able to buy votes from their respective herds with huge quantities of other people’s confiscated money. The future course, and survival, of the nation are irrelevant.
What good are stirring movies that provide vicarious self-worth if you are unwilling to step up when it counts in Real Life? There is far more to truth than perception.
Footnote #1. Guy Fawkes. Fawkes was an English Catholic rebel who in 1605 sought to assassinate King James I and restore a Catholic monarch to the throne. His most famous (and final) act was a foiled attempt to blow up the House of Lords in Westminster Palace by placing a large amount of gunpowder in cellars beneath the structure. Fawkes and his fellow plotters were betrayed, caught, tortured, tried, convicted, hanged, quartered and scattered. By an act of Parliament, comprised exclusively of the birthright entitled nobility, Londoners have absurdly celebrated the event that saved the crown (and the Church of England) – their own birthright entitled oppressors – ever since with annual bonfires (and now also fireworks) on 5 November, but Guy Fawkes is also sometimes quietly toasted as “the last man to enter Parliament with honest intentions”.
The very next year, in 1606, the Protestant James formally and forcibly established the “Plantation” of Ulster in Catholic Ireland by wealthy English and Scottish Protestants (who had gained much of their wealth by confiscating Catholic Church property in England and Scotland). So began the systematic organized colonization (human “plantation”, a form of “ethnic cleansing”) of Ireland – enforced by the Protestant son of a Catholic Scottish Queen – in the Irish region most resistant to English crown-church control during the preceding half century after Henry VIII. (See “Terrorist Or Freedom Fighter – Irish” and note its Footnote #2.)
It depends to which herd one claims membership as to whether Fawkes was a “rebel”, a “freedom fighter”, an “anarchist”, a “terrorist”, a “traitor”, a “martyr” or a “fanatic”, or some combination of all, but the fact remains that he was a thinking man dedicated in opposition to despotic rule and unafraid to act on his beliefs. In this case, it was despotic rule by monarchy wearing the cloak of religion, but it could just as easily have been despotic rule by fascists or communists, by the right or the left. In the end, dictators are dictators, regardless of any “validating” cloak they wear. It is worth mentioning, however, that, unlike the imposed leaders of monarchy, both the leaders of fascism and communism were freely chosen by their misguided populations after being subjected to propaganda and extremist rhetoric emanating from their respective sides of the political spectrum. And, yes, it could very easily happen again; self-serving ideologues are lurking in many shadows, and they all know how to use propaganda to maximum effectiveness.
Footnote #2. The Grand Scheme. If you spend any time listening to those hyper-self-inflated aristocratic oracles in London and throughout Europe pontificating about the “global economy” and “American leadership”, at the foundation of their Grand Scheme is this insider monologue: “We have to keep all those hundreds of millions of really stupid American children buying up every little toy that dances in front of their faces, sending their soldiers off hither and yon to fight in stupid wars-of-the-day, and their legions of useless leeches growing ever more dependent on government. We’ll just keep referring to it as “America’s Global Leadership Responsibility”. Referring to dupes as “leaders” was a marvelous stroke, wasn’t it? ALL morons just LOVE to imagine themselves as leaders. Even if they no longer make anything but stink and loud noise, those spoiled American children can still borrow money far beyond their means, assume responsibilities they’ll never be able to meet, sacrifice trillions of dollars and thousands of soldiers on battlefields in the middle of nowhere, and demand cradle-to-grave care from their government far beyond its ability to afford. This ensures our own economies keep churning by selling silly stuff to the dumb Americans, still save us beaucoup bucks by getting the sucker Americans to pick up our defense tab, all while our own governments are ensured a steady income from American government debt interest. We “elitists” can easily make mountains of cash on the scheme. All we have to do is apply cheap propaganda, sorry, I mean “marketing”, that plays on their own pathetic delusions. Those nitwits they send to the US Congress are so focused on buying votes needed to hold on to power that they’ll tell and give voters ANYTHING – and do most of our work for us. Sooner or later the whole house of cards HAS to implode, of course, when the Americans finally realize they long ago squandered all the wealth they inherited from their Greatest Generation parents and totally leveraged even their great grandchildren’s future, but by that time we will have made a BUNDLE, and the American fools will have no one to blame but themselves. And then we can just shift the same game to China, playing off India. Elitism does have its sweet benefits, doesn’t it? And it’s SO easy. Another cognac?”