Tuesday, December 14, 2010

WikiLeaks Real? Economics of Slaughter: It Really Is Us Against Them & Losing Our Moral Compass in Pursuit of Profit, Efficiency*

* (Linked at Krugman Online 12/14/2010)

Once again we come to the question (one of them anyway) of the day: Is it real or Memorex? (Can you say C I A?) I wonder how Bradley Manning feels now? Also, Valerie Plame Wilson, whom we notice was gotten rid of right around the time that the fake Iranian documents surfaced. Lotsa double talk going on here (and purposive misinformation about Iran's nuclear program) as per. Once again (ahem), be very careful whom you trust to tell you the truth (emphasis marks added - Ed.) .

Who is Behind Wikileaks?

Michel Chossudovsky December 13, 2010 "World bankers, by pulling a few simple levers that control the flow of money, can make or break entire economies. By controlling press releases of economic strategies that shape national trends, the power elite are able to not only tighten their stranglehold on this nation's economic structure, but can extend that control world wide. Those possessing such power would logically want to remain in the background, invisible to the average citizen." (Aldous Huxley) Wikleaks is upheld as a breakthrough in the battle against media disinformation and the lies of the US government. Unquestionably, the released documents constitute an important and valuable data bank. The documents have been used by critical researchers since the outset of the Wikileaks project. Wikileaks earlier revelations have focussed on US war crimes in Afghanistan (July 2010) as well as issues pertaining to civil liberties and the "militarization of the Homeland" (see Tom Burghardt, Militarizing the "Homeland" in Response to the Economic and Political Crisis, Global Research, October 11, 2008)

In October 2010, WikiLeaks was reported to have released some 400,000 classified Iraq war documents, covering events from 2004 to 2009 (Tom Burghardt, The WikiLeaks Release: U.S. Complicity and Cover-Up of Iraq Torture Exposed, Global Research, October 24, 2010). These revelations contained in the Wikileaks Iraq War Logs provide "further evidence of the Pentagon's role in the systematic torture of Iraqi citizens by the U.S.-installed post-Saddam regime." (Ibid)

Progressive organizations have praised the Wikileaks endeavor. Our own website Global Research has provided extensive coverage of the Wikileaks project. The leaks are heralded as an immeasurable victory against corporate media censorship.

But there is more than meets the eye. Even prior to the launching of the project, the mainstream media had contacted Wikileaks. There are also reports from published email exchanges that Wikileaks had entered into negotiations with several corporate foundations for funding. (Wikileaks Leak email exchanges, January 2007).

The linchpin of WikiLeaks's financial network is Germany's Wau Holland Foundation. ... "We're registered as a library in Australia, we're registered as a foundation in France, we're registered as a newspaper in Sweden," Mr. Assange said. WikiLeaks has two tax-exempt charitable organizations in the U.S., known as 501C3s, that "act as a front" for the website, he said. He declined to give their names, saying they could "lose some of their grant money because of political sensitivities."

Mr. Assange said WikiLeaks gets about half its money from modest donations processed by its website, and the other half from "personal contacts," including "people with some millions who approach us...." (WikiLeaks Keeps Funding Secret, WSJ.com, August 23, 2010)

At the outset in early 2007, Wikileaks acknowledged that the project had been "founded by Chinese dissidents, mathematicians and startup company technologists, from the US, Taiwan, Europe, Australia and South Africa.... [Its advisory board] includes representatives from expat Russian and Tibetan refugee communities, reporters, a former US intelligence analyst and cryptographers." (Wikileaks Leak email exchanges, January 2007). Wikileaks formulated its mandate on its website as follows: "[Wikileaks will be] an uncensorable version of Wikipedia for untraceable mass document leaking and analysis. Our primary interests are oppressive regimes in Asia, the former Soviet bloc, Sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East, but we also expect to be of assistance to those in the west who wish to reveal unethical behavior in their own governments and corporations," CBC News - Website wants to take whistleblowing online, January 11, 2007, emphasis added).

This mandate was confirmed by Julian Assange in a June 2010 interview in The New Yorker: "Our primary targets are those highly oppressive regimes in China, Russia and Central Eurasia, but we also expect to be of assistance to those in the West who wish to reveal illegal or immoral behavior in their own governments and corporations. (quoted in WikiLeaks and Julian Paul Assange : The New Yorker, June 7, 2010, emphasis added)

Assange also intimated that "exposing secrets" "could potentially bring down many administrations that rely on concealing reality — including the US administration." (Ibid)

From the outset, Wikileaks' geopolitical focus on "oppressive regimes" in Eurasia and the Middle East was "appealing" to America's elites, i.e. it seemingly matched stated US foreign policy objectives. Moreover, the composition of the Wikileaks team (which included Chinese dissidents), not to mention the methodology of "exposing secrets" of foreign governments, were in tune with the practices of US covert operations geared towards triggering "regime change" and fostering "color revolutions" in different parts of the World.

The Role of the Corporate Media: The Central Role of the New York Times Wikileaks is not a typical alternative media initiative. The New York Times, the Guardian and Der Spiegel are directly involved in the editing and selection of leaked documents.

The London Economist has also played an important role. While the project and its editor Julian Assange reveal a commitment and concern for truth in media, the recent Wikileaks releases of embassy cables have been carefully "redacted" by the mainstream media in liaison with the US government. (See Interview with David E. Sanger, Fresh Air, PBS, December 8, 2010)

This collaboration between Wikileaks and selected mainstream media is not fortuitous; it was part of an agreement between several major US and European newspapers and Wikileaks' editor Julian Assange.

The important question is who controls and oversees the selection, distribution and editing of released documents to the broader public?

What US foreign policy objectives are being served through this redacting process?

Is Wikileaks part of an awakening of public opinion, of a battle against the lies and fabrications which appear daily in the print media and on network TV?

If so, how can this battle against media disinformation be waged with the participation and collaboration of the corporate architects of media disinformation?

Wikileaks has enlisted the architects of media disinformation to fight media disinformation: An incongruous and self-defeating procedure.

America's corporate media and more specifically The New York Times are an integral part of the economic establishment, with links to Wall Street, the Washington think tanks and the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR).

Moreover, the US corporate media has developed a longstanding relationship to the US intelligence apparatus, going back to "Operation Mocking Bird", an initiative of the CIA's Office of Special Projects (OSP), established in the early 1950s.

Even before the Wikileaks project got off the ground, the mainstream media was implicated. A role was defined and agreed upon for the corporate media not only in the release, but also in the selection and editing of the leaks. In a bitter irony, the "professional media", to use Julian Assange's words in an interview with The Economist, have been partners in the Wikileaks project from the outset.

Moreover, key journalists with links to the US foreign policy-national security intelligence establishment have worked closely with Wikileaks, in the distribution and dissemination of the leaked documents.

In a bitter irony, Wikileaks partner The New York Times, which has consistently promoted media disinformation is now being accused of conspiracy. For what? For revealing the truth? Or for manipulating the truth?

. . . This "redacting" role of The New York Times is candidly acknowledged by David E Sanger, Chief Washington correspondent of the NYT: "[W]e went through [the cables] so carefully to try to redact material that we thought could be damaging to individuals or undercut ongoing operations. And we even took the very unusual step of showing the 100 cables or so that we were writing from to the U.S. government and asking them if they had additional redactions to suggest." (See PBS Interview; The Redacting and Selection of Wikileaks documents by the Corporate Media, PBS interview on "Fresh Air" with Terry Gross: December 8, 2010, emphasis added).

Yet Sanger also says later in the interview: "It is the responsibility of American journalism, back to the founding of this country, to get out and try to grapple with the hardest issues of the day and to do it independently of the government." (ibid)

"Do it independently of the government" while at the same time "asking them [the US government] if they had additional redactions to suggest"?

David E. Sanger cannot be described as a model independent journalist. He is member of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) and the Aspen Institute's Strategy Group which regroups the likes of Madeleine K. Albright, Condoleeza Rice, former Defense Secretary William Perry, former CIA head John Deutch, the president of the World Bank, Robert. B. Zoellick and Philip Zelikow, former executive director of the 9/11 Commission, among other prominent establishment figures. (See also F. William Engdahl, Wikileaks: A Big Dangerous US Government Con Job, Global Research, December 10, 2010).

It is worth noting that several American journalists, members of the Council on Foreign Relations have interviewed Wikileaks, including Time Magazine's Richard Stengel (November 30, 2010) and The New Yorker's Raffi Khatchadurian. (WikiLeaks and Julian Paul Assange : The New Yorker, June 11, 2007)

Historically, The New York Times has served the interests of the Rockefeller family in the context of a longstanding relationship. The current New York Times chairman Arthur Sulzberger Jr. is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, son of Arthur Ochs Sulzberger and grandson of Arthur Hays Sulzberger who served as a Trustee for the Rockefeller Foundation. Ethan Bronner, deputy foreign editor of The New York Times as well as Thomas Friedman among others are also members of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR). (Membership Roster - Council on Foreign Relations)

In turn, the Rockefellers have an important stake as shareholders of several US corporate media.

The Embassy and State Department Cables

It should come as no surprise that David E. Sanger and his colleagues at the NYT centered their attention on a highly "selective" dissemination of the Wikileaks cables, focussing on areas which would support US foreign policy interests: Iran's nuclear program, North Korea, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan's support of Al Qaeda, China's relations with North Korea, etc. These releases were then used as source material in NYT articles and commentary.

The Embassy and State Department cables released by Wikileaks were redacted and filtered. They were used for propaganda purposes. They do not constitute a complete and continuous set of memoranda.

From a selected list of cables, the leaks are being used to justify a foreign policy agenda. A case in point is Iran's alleged nuclear weapons program, which is the object of numerous State Department memos, as well as Saudi Arabia's support of Islamic terrorism.

Iran's Nuclear Program

The leaked cables are used to feed the disinformation campaign concerning Iran's Weapons of Mass Destruction. While the leaked cables are heralded as "evidence" that Iran constitutes a threat, the lies and fabrications of the corporate media concerning Iran's alleged nuclear weapons program are not mentioned, nor is there any mention of them in the leaked cables.

The leaks, once they are funnelled into the corporate news chain, edited and redacted by the New York Times, indelibly serve the broader interests of US foreign policy, including US-NATO-Israel war preparations directed against Iran. With regard to "leaked intelligence" and the coverage of Iran's alleged nuclear weapons program, David E. Sanger has played a crucial role. In November 2005, The New York Times published a report co-authored by David E. Sanger and William J. Broad entitled "Relying on Computer, U.S. Seeks to Prove Iran's Nuclear Aims".

The article refers to mysterious documents on a stolen Iranian laptop computer which included "a series of drawings of a missile re-entry vehicle" which allegedly could accommodate an Iranian produced nuclear weapon: "In mid-July, senior American intelligence officials called the leaders of the international atomic inspection agency to the top of a skyscraper overlooking the Danube in Vienna and unveiled the contents of what they said was a stolen Iranian laptop computer. The Americans flashed on a screen and spread over a conference table selections from more than a thousand pages of Iranian computer simulations and accounts of experiments, saying they showed a long effort to design a nuclear warhead, according to a half-dozen European and American participants in the meeting.

The documents, the Americans acknowledged from the start, do not prove that Iran has an atomic bomb. They presented them as the strongest evidence yet that, despite Iran's insistence that its nuclear program is peaceful, the country is trying to develop a compact warhead to fit atop its Shahab missile, which can reach Israel and other countries in the Middle East."(William J. Broad and David E. Sanger Relying on Computer, U.S. Seeks to Prove Iran's Nuclear Aims - New York Times, November 13, 2005, emphasis added)

These "secret documents" were subsequently submitted by the US State Department to the International Atomic Energy Agency IAEA, with a view to demonstrating that Iran was developing a nuclear weapons program. They were also used as a pretext to enforce the economic sanctions regime directed against Iran, adopted by the UN Security Council.

While their authenticity has been questioned, a recent article by investigative reporter Gareth Porter confirms unequivocally that the mysterious laptop documents are fake. (See Gareth Porter, Exclusive Report: Evidence of Iran Nuclear Weapons Program May Be Fraudulent, Global Research, November 18, 2010).

The drawings contained in the documents leaked by William J. Broad and David E. Sanger do not pertain to the Shahab missile but to an obsolete North Korean missile system which was decommissioned by Iran in the mid-1990s. The drawings presented by US State Department officials pertained to the "Wrong Missile Warhead":

In July 2005, ... Robert Joseph, US undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, made a formal presentation on the purported Iranian nuclear weapons program documents to the agency's leading officials in Vienna. Joseph flashed excerpts from the documents on the screen, giving special attention to the series of technical drawings or "schematics" showing 18 different ways of fitting an unidentified payload into the re-entry vehicle or "warhead" of Iran's medium-range ballistic missile, the Shahab-3. When IAEA analysts were allowed to study the documents, however, they discovered that those schematics were based on a re-entry vehicle that the analysts knew had already been abandoned by the Iranian military in favor of a new, improved design. The warhead shown in the schematics had the familiar "dunce cap" shape of the original North Korean No Dong missile, which Iran had acquired in the mid-1990s. ... The laptop documents had depicted the wrong re-entry vehicle being redesigned. ... (Gareth Porter, op cit, emphasis added)

David E, Sanger, who worked diligently with Wikileaks under the banner of truth and transparency was also instrumental in the New York Times "leak" of what Gareth Porter describes as fake intelligence. (Ibid)

While this issue of fake intelligence received virtually no media coverage, it invalidates outright Washington's assertions regarding Iran's alleged nuclear weapons. It also questions the legitimacy of the UN Security Council Sancions regime directed against Iran.

Moreover, in a bitter irony, the selective redacting of the Wikileaks embassy cables by the NYT has usefully served not only to dismiss the central issue of fake intelligence but also to reinforce, through media disinformation, Washington's claim that Iran is developing nuclear weapons.

Had enough yet? I'm just glad I held off posting an essay on WikiLeaks and "poor Julian," jailed for a baseless sex charge by CIA hired "hitters." I guess this increases his "legitimacy?"

Oh well. It's all good (as my brother always says whenever I miss a shot).

And on a note of no small irony, Danny Schechter informs us of the real loud yelp of our times (and it should be coming from US not them). It's almost like having a secret group of really rich people who can do anything they want in the good ole U S of A, isn't it? (Whatdaya mean, almost?) (Emphasis marks added - Ed.)

Go, Wall Street, Go!

Never mind the rise in unemployment and foreclosures. Never mind the folks waiting to know if they will get the benefits they need before they are cut off. Never mind the growing gap between rich and poor, and the continuing spread of poverty. (Did you know that inequality in the US is at the highest level of any industrialized country?)

Does any of this matter?

The idea of equality as a social goal is apparently passé. Christmas has a special meaning on Wall Street: It's bonus time. This brings to mind Peter Wolf singing with the J Geils Band, "First I look at the Purse." The context was different but the meaning is the same.

Just five too big to fail bankster companies have stashed $90 billion for payouts to prized employees. They know that the beat on The Street is fading, so it seems to be take the money and run time.

Incidentally, that "bonus pool" will rise with end of the year earnings.

Right now, the greedsters have a PR problem-how to transfer all this wealth from the banks to themselves with the lowest possible tax rate and the lowest degree of bad publicity.

They also will try to focus the media on supporting their right to such over the top rewards and "incentives" in the name, of course, of fostering an economic recovery.

Yes, it is a cynical exercise but no more blatant that the successful campaign to extend the Bush tax cuts for millionaires.

The mantra is simple: to those who have, more should be given.

So sayeth the faux populists of the Tea Party and their Republican benefactors. So sayeth the Democrats in the interest of compromise and getting some unemployment benefits to workers even at an unacceptable cost.

Who will remind the American people that many of these banks are only here to pay because the government-our government-bailed them out and, then, the Federal Reserve Bank pumped trillions in no interest loans into their coffers.

Can we count on the media to point this out, to make the connection clear about the many government subsidies behind the gigantic payouts that are on the way to companies lobbying against government programs?

Don't count on it.

Last Sunday. 60 Minutes sat down with Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke. They asked him about the bonuses. The Fed head had nothing to say about that. He just wanted to praise his own efforts to save the financial system.

If you watched his body language you could see that his stab at optimism was forced. He admitted it will be at least 5 years-if that-before more jobs come back.

He seemed depressed perhaps because he didn't want to tell us we are in a depression . His past track record as a forecaster has been flawed to a fault. That was not noted.

But give the man a cookie, after all, as I've heard just about everywhere . . . he's trying! He's trying my patience, but not for long (as you can imagine).

As is common these days on the networks, no criticisms or contrary concerns intergrated into this world-shaking interview. There was no comment from Bernie Sanders who challenged the Fed's admission of a "jaw-dropping" injection of trillions into banks here and abroad. There wasn't even a response from libertarians like Ron Paul who was also horrified. So much for reporting.

David Degraw of Amped Status says, the recent Fed disclosures were shocking: "Just when I thought the banksters couldn't possibly shock me anymore... they did."

We were finally granted the honor and privilege of finding out the specifics, a limited one-time Federal Reserve view, of a secret taxpayer funded "backdoor bailout" by a small group of unelected bankers. This data release reveals "emergency lending programs" that doled out $12.3 trillion in taxpayer money - $3.3 trillion in liquidity, $9 trillion in "other financial arrangements.

Wait, what? Did you say $12.3 trillion tax dollars were thrown around in secrecy by unelected bankers... and Congress didn't know any of the details?"

Of course not!

The myth that the media continues to truck in is that somehow the Congress and the President are in charge of the economy.

They aren't. Wall Street and the corporate world are clearly running the show, with little restraint so far, effective oversight or regulation.

Thus, we now understand how important the "deregulation fervor" was to the 'thugs. Without it, none of this fun could have happened. (And our lives would still be ongoing, with jobs and savings and everything!) Legally. That is. Which is the rub, and why not one of these big dawgs has been prosecuted. They think they aren't guilty of anything except taking advantage of fools and the naive. And who can blame them at this point?
Back to Degraw: "The Federal Reserve was secretly throwing around our money in unprecedented fashion, and it wasn't just to the usual suspects like Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, Citigroup, Bank of America, etc.; it was to the entire Global Banking Cartel.

To central banks throughout the world: Australia, Denmark, Japan, Mexico, Norway, South Korea, Sweden, Switzerland, England... To the Fed's foreign primary dealers like Credit Suisse (Switzerland), Deutsche Bank (Germany), Royal Bank of Scotland (U.K.), Barclays (U.K.), BNP Paribas (France)... All their Ponzi players were "gifted."

All the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations got their cut.

"If you still had any question as to whether or not the United States is now the world's preeminent banana republic, the final verdict was just delivered and the decision was unanimous. The ayes have it....

"I've been arguing for years that the market is rigged and that the major Wall Street firms are elaborate Ponzi schemes, as have many other people who built their beliefs on rational thought, reasoned logic and evidence. We already came to this conclusion by doing the research and connecting the dots."

After all, what do you think "trading ahead" was all about other than knowing the manipulations that were already in place? And the guy who stole the code for doing so? Ha! Secret outed! But no one was paying attention.

Where does this leave us? Is there any hope?

The critics of the Fed see little. There are some related developments underway that could shake things up.

The Bernie Madoff ponzi probers are targeting banks including HSBC that went along with his $65 billion dollar fraud. A Swiss bank has already admitted it was complicit. The FDIC is investigating officials from banks that failed. Bank Of America just coughed up millions for financing an illicit bond scheme.

At the same time, the "Justice Department" (sic) has mounted an investigation into insider trading. They say there are 343 criminal investigations underway but none against big players. (The NY Times says they are "chasing small timers.)

ProPublica w(r)ites: "Everyone is wondering: Where are the investigations related to the financial crisis?

John Hueston, a former lead Enron prosecutor, wonders: "Have they committed the resources in the right place?... Nobody from Lehman, Merrill Lynch or Citigroup has been charged criminally with anything."

Welcome to the USA! And speaking of the USA, William Bowles has a few facts to ensure your loss of sleep this weekend. (But, who needs that? Back to "American Idol!") (Emphasis marks added - Ed.)

Economics of Slaughter: It Really Is Us Against Them

December 12, 2010 MPs fiddling expenses and leaked diplomatic cables: what connects them and is the game finally up for capitalist ‘democracy’?

“Julian Rush is on the case but it already really does look as if there is an evolving war online between the organic anarchy of the web, as represented currently on the one hand by WikiLeaks and an assorted group of internet activists, and on the other hand by both the old and new icons of the corporate capitalist order, credit card and web commerce companies.” – Channel 4 Email, 9 December, 2010

Aside from having their ‘little secrets’ exposed, British MPs just as with their compatriots in the diplomatic service have had their way for so long that they look like a force of nature. But no more. What the complicit media echoes so faithfully and fearfully, ‘we have to restore faith in the system’ reveals just how frightened they are and just how tenuous their hold on power really is. It all rests on our belief in the system and once that connection is broken the state has two choices: repression or dissolution.

And more "hippie punching?" (h/t Driftglass)
What the complicit media echoes so faithfully and fearfully, ‘we have to restore faith in the system’ reveals just how frightened they are and just how tenuous their hold on power really is. It all rests on our belief in the system and once that connection is broken the state has two choices: repression or dissolution.// There is a third option : Distraction. I predict that we will see a combination of all three options : A lot of distraction in the months, the years to come, a little dissolution of the Empire (what does not kill you makes you stronger), and a great deal of repression. For some unknown reason, this motto from the "Shadoks" (some interesting angry birds) came back to my mind : "To reduce the numbers of unhappy people, always beat up the same individuals."
And this last essay makes me ashamed (almost) of my master's degree.
Losing Our Moral Compass in Pursuit of Profit, Efficiency December 12, 2010

Recently, on a cold morning with a little snow fooling around in the bright air, I was chilled by this sentence in an AP news story:

"The idea isn't to just raise revenue, economists say, but finally to turn Americans into frugal health-care consumers by having them face the full costs of their medical decisions ("Tax Break on Employer Health Plans Targeted" Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar, AP 11/29/10)

Oh, of course - all Americans should face the full costs of their decisions to have broken bones, heart attacks, or sick children, right?

Even more chilling to me were the underlying assumptions that economists/technocrats decide what's best for everyone, and that it's just as important - if not more important - to turn Americans into tame consumers for the private sector as it is to raise revenues for the common good.

This led me to some further, chillier assumptions: democracy and politics are messy and unmanageable and must be replaced by the disciplined professionalism of scientists, technicians and economists.

Ordinary citizens lack the ability to deal with the "real world" of money, brokerage, extraction of natural resources, wars, weapons and political power, and must be kept out of decisions about them or even knowing about them.

Our most important moral obligation to our children is to not leave them any debts.

To be secure we must pre-emptively kill terrorists, would-be terrorists, might-be terrorists, geriatric terrorists, stone-throwing juvenile terrorists . . . .

The economically sound is the morally right.

In his recent book The Logic of Discipline, Alasdair Roberts proposes that democracy has been undermined by financial liberalization, free trade and a globalized economy.

Technicians, economists and managers, he observes, are very skeptical of the ability of democracy to make "the right decisions" for financial stability and security, and they doubt that ordinary politicians and voters are ‘disciplined' enough to make sensible policy decisions.

That's why, Roberts suggests, we have a new generation of professional technocrats and managers supported by corporate money and ideology who are running not only our giant corporations but our political parties and our governments.

They have reconfigured central banking, fiscal control, farm policy, taxes, health and safety regulations, port and airport management, infrastructure development and energy policy to meet the economic needs of multinational corporations in a global economy, not the needs of human beings on a fragile planet.

And they have determined that secrecy is a basic necessity for good management, to keep the public from interfering with the professionals' decisions.

That's why we have public officials, democratically-elected (sic) politicians, banks and giant corporations like Amazon & PayPal all deciding that WikiLeaks is a criminal operation and Julian Assange is a terrorist who deserves to die.

Hell, I guess I can believe anything now . . . as the evidence is certainly there and apparent for all to see who are looking. (Except, er, who's who again?)

Roberts further notes that the world of fiscal discipline is amoral: efficiency and objectivity always trump emotional and unreliable ideas of right and wrong. That's why - or at least how - in the pursuit of profit, efficiency and financial stability in global marketplaces, Americans are losing our moral compass. Many people now believe - or say they believe - that our most important moral responsibility is to the economy: reduce the deficit, cut taxes, protect profits, and shrink government spending, and keep actions of public officials secret.

So: we have messed up the entire world socially, economically, politically and morally, and have failed to address our habits of consumption that are warming the planet and destroying ecosystems that sustain the web of life. The oceans are rising, disaster and disease stalk humans and ecosystems, war and destruction consume natural resources, but the most important things to us are to cut taxes and government spending, reduce the deficit and keep secret the actions and words of government officials because we the people can't be trusted.

We don't even trust coming generations to find better ways to live together. Instead, we base our expenditures for their education, nutrition and health care on principles of profit and "fiscal responsibility", we teach them that killing in war is noble and exciting, and that most strangers should be feared and mistrusted, while we use up the natural resources they will need to survive.

Your Reality or Mine?

By Lawrence Davidson December 12, 2010

There is a postmodern position that states "reality is a social construct." In other words, individuals and groups have their own realities and, according to the postmodernists, one reality is as true as another. Certainly there is more than one way to interpret things. It is because individuals see the world differently and, at least in the American cultural milieu, have such trouble reconciling those views, that U.S. divorce rates run at about 50%. Then there is the inescapable fact that nation states and rival ethnic communities periodically slaughter each other in an effort to disprove the postmodernist assertion that all realities are equal. Thus we see the competition among groups to assert the reality of the powerful as triumphantly more real than all rivals.

It is hard to argue with the notion that there are many social, cultural and political "constructs," each a product of its place and time. However, the notion that all realities are equal can quickly take us into a kind of theater of the absurd. If you want to see what this looks like just take a close look at present day American politics. Take the issue of climate change.

John Shimkus is a Republican member of the House of Representatives from Illinois. He is presently campaigning for the chairmanship of the House Committee for Energy and Commerce. Last year, during a congressional hearing, he asserted that there is no need to be concerned about global warming because after the biblical flood God promised Noah that he would "never again...curse the ground because of man..."

Shimkus sees this as "the infallible word of God, and that is the way it’s going to be for his creation." Well, this is an opinion for sure, but it is also John Shimkus’s "reality." As such is it the equal to the reality posited by the present scientific consultants of the Environmental Protection Agency?

How about the world of John Barton, a House member from Texas who has it in his head that carbon dioxide emissions are not impacting the climate? If someday this gas does have an effect on the environment, Barton tells us not to worry. We will find a way to live with it. After all, according to Barton, man is able to adapt to just about any environment.

Again, what is the worth of Barton’s "reality"? Is it equal to the one posited by those scientists keeping track of greenhouse gases? Finally, there is Darrell Issa, a Republican House member from California who soon will be the Chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

Issa’s obsession is climate data which, he is sure, has been manipulated by environmentalists seeking the ruin of capitalism. And, he is determined to use his committee’s subpoena power to foil this plot.

Representative Issa has his own "reality." But, beyond his own head, just how real is it? It is not only with issues such as climate change that American politicians are riding the wave of postmodernism.

Foreign policy is also an arena of alternate realities. Texas Republican representative Louie Gohmert took the floor in the House of Representatives last month and stated the following, "I’ve been greatly concerned with the hypocrisy of this [Obama] administration telling Israel ‘just let Palestinians build illegal settlements and take over areas that are not theirs. Just let’em take over." Mr. Gohmert has his world, his "reality," but I think we can say definitively that it is less real to that of a new born Palestinian babe in Hebron.

Then there are all those U.S. politicians whose "reality" includes Iran’s drive for an atomic bomb, and the reality of all U.S. intelligence agency experts who say Iran is doing no such thing. Are they equal?

Americans are not the only ones subject to impaired or wholly false "realities." A recent report prepared for NATO by The International Council on Security and Development revealed that most Afghans in two hotly contested provinces, Helmand and Kandahar, "are completely unaware of the September 11 attacks on the United States and don’t know they precipitated the foreign intervention now in its 10th year." The report concludes, "the lack of awareness of why we are there contributes to the high levels of negativity toward NATO military operations...."

Gee, wonder if they'd just give up if they knew?
These particular Afghan citizens live in a remote and technologically poor region of the world. This remoteness makes their outlook more understandable than that of all those "modern" Americans cited above. But what about the world inside the heads of the people who prepared the NATO report? If we assume that their conclusions are an accurate picture of how they see reality in this case, we can only conclude that they too, like the Afghans, are suffering from an impaired worldview.

It would seem that somehow they have forgotten, or suppressed, the fact that when, after September 11, 2001, "President George W. Bush demanded that Mullah Omar...turn over Osama bin Laden and his lieutenants or face the full brunt of U.S. military might, Mullah Omar asked to negotiate, and Bush refused.

Instead, the United States invaded Afghanistan...." The Taliban leader had asked the Bush administration for proof of bin Laden’s involvement in the 9/11 attack and those in the White House, aided by the Pakistanis, could have probably supplied it. However, America’s leaders did not bother.

Er, does this guy know that bin Laden never made the FBI's Most Wanted list due to the fact that there was no real evidence of his involvement (let alone the Taliban!) in 9/11? Talk about a separate reality (h/t Carlos Castaneda)!

This also is part of the picture that should be given the remote peoples of Afghanistan so as to make their notion of what is real more complete. Thus, the reality of the Afghans of Halmand and Kandahar is different than that of the NATO commanders and their consultants. Are they equal? And, are either truly real?

. . . The above examples are from our immediate past, but there are similar ones in our immediate future. For instance, we can look forward to a new Israeli "advocacy campaign" scheduled for western Europe early in 2011.

The Israeli Foreign Ministry under the leadership of the Avigdor Lieberman, a man whose notion of reality is quite openly racist, has instructed Israeli embassies in all major western European capitals to hire "professional advocacy and public relations experts" as well as to recruit up to one thousand local Zionists per country to promote Israel’s official view of "reality" in the Middle East.

This comes after a relatively successful effort by both Israel and the United States to suppress the picture of reality put forth in the UN’s Goldstone report.

The Israeli picture of Middle East reality, and its role therein, has been eroding in the minds of many Westerners. That is why this effort is being made. The source of the erosion is the demonstrable difference between Israeli behavior and Israel’s publically promoted image of reality. As long as the gap between these two is a yawning one, the Israeli effort to restructure reality for the citizens of Europe is likely to be no more than a rear guard action.

On the other hand, one should not underestimate the impact of such efforts. Public relations campaigns, advertising, and the like obviously do work. They are capable making you passionate about new cars and new clothes, and they are capable of making you a supporter of the invasion of Iraq because you are convinced Iraqi WMDs are real.

. . . We all live lives that are relatively local and in terms of an understanding of outside (foreign) events we rely on the reports of others. That means, except for our immediate experience, our realities are heavily influenced by our media environment. That environment might entail serious and objective research or it may consist of daily doses of Fox TV. In either case that, in part, is how the universe inside our heads comes about and it, in turn, motivates our behavior. The whole process can bring us down to earth or send us into the realm of fantasy. In the end we are confronted with two problems.

One is that there are people who do occasionally attain power whose private realities are fantasy driven. As noted above, the House of Representatives seems to have an increasing number of such people. The second problem is that, unlike the postmodernist claim that we are all living in equally valid private realities, most individual realities are not private at all. They are instead the artificial creations of a manipulated information environment brought to us by way of the government and its allied media. And both of these problems are sure to lead to on-going tragedy.

Dr. Davidson has done extensive research and published in the areas of American perceptions of the Middle East, and Islamic Fundamentalism. His two latest publications are Islamic Fundamentalism (Greenwood Press, 1998) and America's Palestine: Popular and Official Perceptions from Balfour to Israeli Statehood (University Press of Florida, 2001). He has published thirteen articles on various aspects of American perceptions of the Middle East. Dr. Davidson holds a BA from Rutgers, an MA from Georgetown University and a Ph.D. in history from the University of Alberta.

Suzan __________________


Tom Harper said...

Interesting quote by Aldous Huxley at the beginning of your post. How little everything has changed.

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