Thursday, January 19, 2012

"The Manipulation of Fear", by Noam Chomsky

"The resort to fear by systems of power to discipline the domestic population has left a long and terrible trail of bloodshed and suffering which we ignore at our peril. Recent history provides many shocking illustrations.

...In his remarkable diaries of his life as a Jew under Nazism ...Victor Klemperer writes these words about a German professor friend whom he had much admired, but who had finally joined the pack: “...I would have all the intellectuals strung up, and the professors three feet higher than the rest; they would be left hanging from the lamp posts for as long as was compatible with hygiene.”

Klemperer’s reactions were merited, and generalised to a large part of recorded history.

Complex historical events always have many causes.

One crucial factor in this case was skillful manipulation of fear.

The “ordinary folk” were driven to fear of a Jewish-Bolshevik conspiracy to take over the world, placing the very survival of the people of Germany at risk. Extreme measures were therefore necessary, in “self-defence”.

Revered intellectuals went far beyond.

...It is perhaps worth bearing in mind that Japan’s December 1941 bombings — “the date which will live in infamy,” in FDR’s (Franklin D. Roosevelt) ringing words — were more than justified under the doctrines of “anticipatory self-defence” that prevail among the leaders of today’s self-designated “enlightened States,” the US and its British client.

Japanese leaders knew that B-17 Flying Fortresses were coming off the Boeing production lines, and were surely familiar with the public discussions in the US explaining how they could be used to incinerate Japan’s wooden cities in a war of extermination, flying from Hawaiian and Philippine bases — “to burn out the industrial heart of the Empire with fire-bombing attacks on the teeming bamboo ant heaps,” as retired Air Force General Chennault recommended in 1940, a proposal that “simply delighted” President Roosevelt.

Evidently, that is a far more powerful justification for bombing military bases in US colonies than anything conjured up by Bush-Blair and their associates in their execution of “pre-emptive war” — and accepted, with tactical reservations, throughout the mainstream of articulate opinion.

...Just how secure the rich men must be from fear is revealed graphically by highly-regarded scholarship on the new doctrines of “anticipatory self-defence” crafted by the powerful.

...after Britain sacked Washington in 1814, US leaders recognised that “expansion is the path to security” and therefore conquered Florida, a doctrine now expanded to the whole world by Bush...

...There was in fact an Indian attack, which Jackson and Adams used as a pretext: US forces drove a band of Seminoles off their lands, killing several of them and burning their village to the ground. The Seminoles retaliated by attacking a supply boat under military command. Seizing the opportunity, Jackson “embarked on a campaign of terror, devastation, and intimidation,” destroying villages and “sources of food in a calculated effort to inflict starvation on the tribes, who sought refuge from his wrath in the swamps”. So matters continued, leading to Adams’ highly regarded State paper, which endorsed Jackson’s unprovoked aggression to establish in Florida “the dominion of this republic upon the odious basis of violence and bloodshed”.

These are the words of the Spanish ambassador, a “painfully precise description,” Weeks writes. Adams “had consciously distorted, dissembled, and lied about the goals and conduct of American foreign policy to both Congress and the public,”

...The crimes of Jackson and Adams “proved but a prelude to a second war of extermination against (the Seminoles),” in which the remnants either fled to the West, to enjoy the same fate later, “or were killed or forced to take refuge in the dense swamps of Florida”. Today, Weeks concludes, “the Seminoles survive in the national consciousness as the mascot of Florida State University” — a typical and instructive case…

…The rhetorical framework rests on three pillars (Weeks): “the assumption of the unique moral virtue of the United States, the assertion of its mission to redeem the world” by spreading its professed ideals and the ‘American way of life,’ and the faith in the nation’s “divinely ordained destiny”.

The theological framework undercuts reasoned debate, and reduces policy issues to a choice between Good and Evil, thus reducing the threat of democracy.

Critics can be dismissed as “anti-American,” an interesting concept borrowed from the lexicon of totalitarianism.

And the population must huddle under the umbrella of power, in fear that its way of life and destiny are under imminent threat…"

Noam Chomsky is a professor of linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the author, most recently, of Hegemony or Survival Americas Quest for Global Dominance.

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