Thursday, February 09, 2006

Puncture This, II

In our last post, we saw that the Don Imuses of the Media Industrial Complex have become bored with the "war" in Iraq, and to the extent that it reflects badly on the present ruling regime, they're just tired of the "whole debate", the jokes about "Rummy", the complaints about unarmored troops, etc.

So what does this mean? Well, it at least suggests that the MIC has implicitly, if not explicitly, accepted the notion that the war, as a vehicle of smashing the Middle East, neuturing Islam, and giving birth to a new American hegemony, born of either intimidation or good will, is lost. That some form of government will eventually form in Mesopotamia, whether as one or three nations, won't change the essentials of this conclusion.

So the war as an explicitly foreign endeavor, a symbol of America's international ambitions and prestige, has gone up in smoke.

But this doesn't mean that the "war" is over or that it doesn't still matter for the talking heads on MSNBCFoxCNN. This is because the war's other, more important internal dimension is still hanging by a thread. For many backers of the "war" in Iraq, its domestic aims were as important as its stated and contrived international ones.

And what were these domestic aims? To silence and, if possible, punish opposition to the Bush presidency and to the conservative establishment. To continue the climate of fear 911 had delivered. To help enforce conformity and remake American life. To spur a new ethic of "obedience", mass passivity, and submission to authority. To eradicate liberal individualism, academic freedom, and political and religious pluralism.

As I write these lines I'm a little shocked at myself. You're going overboard Bulworth. But am I? How has the MIC, particularly its cable variation, responded to Democratic Party opposition to the president, to the NSA spying reports, to the Alito nomination, first to Howard Dean and then to John Kerry's candidacy, to the movies and ads of so-called liberal symbols like Michael Moore and In 2002-2003 we heard how vital it was that the country follow Bush's lead and go to war, "pre-emptively" against Iraq; what little war opposition existed was roundly treated as treasonous. And when the invasion failed to turn up WMD, it was 2004 and the MIC was then able to focus on John Kerry's alleged "flip-floppiness" rather than his war service, saluted the GOP's 2004 convention speakers who reiterated the "opposition to war as treason" line, failing to question the "purple heart bandaids" and angry talk of conventioneers like Zell Miller, and later trumpeted Bush's 51% victory in November as a "mandate".

As 2005 bloomed, the president's failing Social Security campaign, followed by the Terri Schiavo debacle, followed by the Harriet Myers nomination, and then the disasterous Katrina Hurricane and FEMA bungling made MIC cheerleading for the president difficult. Nonetheless, as 2006 began the MIC began sounding notes of the president's public opinion "rebound" although his approval numbers remained mired in the upper 30's and low to middle 40's.

The NSA spying report, meanwhile, has given the MIC the opportunity to reinsert the GWOT theme, criticizing opponents of the previously secret and poorly defended wiretapping project as "not wanting to do anything and everything possible to fight terrorism".

Simultaneously, the nation's political and religious pluralism is coming under increasing attack and scorn. The "war", for whichever country or "operation" that term is meant to imply these days, serves however indirectly, as a vehicle for strengthening the forces of theocracy, who see in it as a means of destroying Islam and enhancing America's global and religious prestige, and instilling fear and conformity at home. Emboldened by having "one of their own" in the WH, America's religious right, comprised of both Catholic and Protestant elites who were once bitter enemies, have dictated judicial selections, court and executive appointments and public policy generally, while inciting the passions of the faithful through three "Justice Sunday" events designed to draw attention to America's supposed Christian heritage and plea for substituting the Torah for the Constitution.

Coincidentally, the president's list of court applicants is composed almost entirely of representatives of The Federalist Society, formed in the 1980's in response to the liberalizing affects of the Warren and Burger Courts, and calling for a new judicial model known as "originalism" or "strict constructivism", which regardless of its name dejure, happens to support the restriction of privacy rights and civil liberties, while expanding the power of corporate and governmental elites.

In the lead up to the war, and during the war's initial months, one of the two or three media companies that owns and runs all the radio stations in America helped organize so-called "pro-war" rallies, events that were in truth more anti-American than pro-war, as speakers denounced regular and celebrity Americans opposed to the Iraq war or those who were in any way critical of the president. Records by the Dixie Chicks were smashed.

The two institutions largely insulated from the conservative reaction, university campuses and black churches, have come in for their own inspection and retribution. So-called "Academic Bills of Rights" have been initiated by several states with their stated intentions to target "liberal" or "unAmerican" professors and modernist views generally for punishment and expulsion. Meanwhile, when black civil rights leaders speak against the war during the funerals of their leaders, they're labeled as unnecessarily political and disrespectful of authority.

Right wing radio and cable TV hosts and guests routinely attack liberals and liberalism as unAmerican, vile, and degenerate, and call for the religions and peoples of foreign lands to be invaded and destroyed. In a bizarre irony, Democratic members of Congress, who have limply responded to the conservative agenda, are labeled as "angry", and liberal Internet bloggers are called "uncivil" for speaking out.

So while the war abroad is collapsing, and the MIC is in many ways attempting to ignore it, the war at home continues in blatant as well as subtle ways. While many of these conservative attacks would be happening irrespective of a foreign war, the existence of the Iraq war and the maintenance of an indefinite "war on terror" has enabled conservatives to weave the spector of fear and treason in with their regular attacks on pluralism, liberalism and modernity.

From someone who saw where we were headed half a century ago:

War is Peace

The essential act of war is destruction, not necessarily of human lives, but of the products of human labour. War is a way of shattering to pieces, or pouring into the stratosphere, or sinking in the depths of the sea, materials which might otherwise be used to make the masses too comfortable, and hence, in the long run, too intelligent.


War, it will be seen, accomplishes the necessary destruction, but accomplishes it in a psychologically acceptable way. In principle it would be quite simple to waste the surplus labour of the world by building temples and pyramids, by digging holes and filling them up again, or even by producing vast quantities of goods and then setting fire to them. But this would provide only the economic and not the emotional basis for a hierarchical society. 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 [citizen] 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.


In past ages, a war, almost by definition, was something that sooner or later came to an end, usually in unmistakable victory or defeat.


But when war becomes literally continuous, it also ceases to be dangerous. When war is continuous there is no such thing as military necessity. Technical progress can cease and the most palpable facts can be denied or disregarded. As we have seen, researches that could be called scientific are still carried out for the purposes of war, but they are essentially a kind of daydreaming, and their failure to show results is not important. Efficiency, even military efficiency, is no longer needed. Nothing is efficient in Oceania except the Thought Police.


...the citizen of Oceania is like a man in interstellar space, who has no way of knowing which direction is up and which is down. The rulers of such a state are absolute, as the Pharaohs or the Caesars could not be. They are obliged to prevent their followers from starving to death in numbers large enough to be inconvenient, and they are obliged to remain at the same low level of military technique as their rivals; but once that minimum is achieved, they can twist reality into whatever shape they choose.

Does any of this sound familiar?

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