Tariq Ali was bang on the nail with this term. Does it ever occur to those who deem themselves balanced of view, and well informed – while pitying the poor saps in such as China and Russia where they have, you know, propaganda – that our opinions might be a teeny bit influenced by the most developed and sophisticated machinery for shaping thought and behaviour the world has ever known? I refer of course to commercial advertising, whose brightest and best-paid flit seamlessly from selling commodities to defining normality – normality – and back. That’s how the voices on our radios and screens and in our news sites sound so sober, so informed and so frightfully reasonable as they speak, and for the most part believe, their lines in a soap opera teeming with sub plots but whose overarching message, like all the best ads, is very simple.
A world half of whose wealth is owned by fewer than a dozen men, while billions live in or close to destitution, is a sane one, the best humankind could possibly conceive or at any rate deliver. So what if its most lucrative trade happens to be death for profit, and so what if that fact alone incentivises war? Praise be, most of the guns, death planes and bombs are in Pentagon hands, most of the profits chalked up in Wall Street when, heaven forbid, it might have been Moscow and Beijing calling the shots or, let’s get really scary, those nut jobs in Teheran and Pyongyang – madmen who given half a chance would be subverting elected governments here, invading and testing state of the art weaponry there; all on pretexts thinner than rice paper to that small band of extremists also known as the wide awake club. And so what if that beacon of hope and freedom, which thankfully happens to be the most powerful nation on the planet, is getting antsy as China looks to challenge dollar hegemony with a gold-backed renminbi while Russia draws a line in the sand on Syria. Look on the bright side, I say – and chill out, will ya? We’re in good hands.
You have to hand it to Aldous Huxley’s thought manufacturers and mind manipulators. They’re seriously good – real pros.
Meanwhile John Pilger, a man – like fellow veteran Seymour Hersh and, a glimmer of hope here, a younger crop represented by such as Vanessa Beeley and Eva Bartlett – who still knows the meaning of confronting power with truth, wrote an impassioned piece in CounterPunch just yesterday. I recommend reading it in full but here’s a taster:
A lobotomy is performed on each generation. Facts are removed. History is excised and replaced by what Time magazine calls “an eternal present”. Harold Pinter described this as “manipulation of power worldwide, while masquerading as a force for universal good, a brilliant, even witty, highly successful act of hypnosis [which meant] it never happened. Nothing ever happened. Even while it was happening it wasn’t happening. It didn’t matter. It was of no interest.”
Those who call themselves liberals or tendentiously “the left” are eager participants in this manipulation, and its brainwashing, which today revert to one name: Trump.
Trump is mad, a fascist, a dupe of Russia. He is also a gift for “liberal brains pickled in the formaldehyde of identity politics”, wrote Luciana Bohne memorably. The obsession with Trump the man – not Trump as symptom and caricature of an enduring system – beckons great danger for all of us.
While they pursue their fossilised anti-Russia agendas, narcissistic media such as the Washington Post, the BBC and the Guardian suppress the essence of the most important political story of our time as they warmonger on a scale I cannot remember in my lifetime.
On 3 August, in contrast to the acreage the Guardian has given to drivel that the Russians conspired with Trump (reminiscent of the far-right smearing of John Kennedy as a “Soviet agent”) the paper buried, on page 16, news that the President of the United States was forced to sign a Congressional bill declaring economic war on Russia.
Unlike every other Trump signing, this was conducted in virtual secrecy and attached with a caveat from Trump himself that it was “clearly unconstitutional”.
A coup against the man in the White House is under way. This is not because he is an odious human being, but because he has consistently made clear he does not want war with Russia.
This glimpse of sanity, or simple pragmatism, is anathema to the “national security” managers who guard a system based on war, surveillance, armaments, threats and extreme capitalism. Martin Luther King called them “the greatest purveyors of violence in the world today”.
They have encircled Russia and China with missiles and a nuclear arsenal. They have used neo-Nazis to instal an unstable, aggressive regime on Russia’s “borderland” – the way through which Hitler invaded, causing the deaths of 27 million people. Their goal is to dismember the modern Russian Federation.
In response, “partnership” is a word used incessantly by Vladimir Putin – anything, it seems, that might halt an evangelical drive to war in the United States. Incredulity in Russia may have now turned to fear and perhaps a certain resolution. The Russians almost certainly have war-gamed nuclear counter strikes. Air-raid drills are not uncommon. Their history tells them to get ready.
The threat is simultaneous. Russia is first, China is next. The US has just completed a huge military exercise with Australia known as Talisman Sabre. They rehearsed a blockade of the Malacca Straits and the South China Sea, through which pass China’s economic lifelines.
The admiral commanding the US Pacific fleet said that, “if required”, he would nuke China. That he would say such a thing publicly in the current perfidious atmosphere begins to make fact of Nevil Shute’s fiction.*
None of this is considered news.
As Orwell has it: War is peace … Freedom is slavery … Ignorance is strength …
… to which we might add, pace Tariq Ali: Extreme is moderate.