No, I’m not telling you what to think!

13 Mar

Shock and Awe  comes to Baghdad, March 2003

Fourteen months ago I opened a post on the tragedy of Corbynism with this:

On a few issues – Russia, the 2016 US Election, Brexit, Syria, Venezuela – my positions, and reactions to them, have threatened or cost me friendships I valued. Yet no one took me to task over specifics. No one ever said:

You know what, Phil? You’re dead wrong about Putin .. Trump/Clinton .. the nature of the EU .. Assad .. Maduro. And here, point by closely argued point, is why …

Rather, they traded generalities. I’m biased, said some. True. It’s hard to be impartial when your country, armed to the teeth and in bed with an even mightier power, wages hot war or imposes infanticidal sanctions on the global south in the name of lofty ideals but in the interests – as factually demonstrated in posts like this – of profits.

I’m an extremist, said others. Well, yes, it will look that way if, lulled by careful omission and the seemingly sober and reasonable voices of what Tariq Ali called the Extreme Centre, a violently insane world order has been successfully presented as mainstream and by that fact moderate. Which is to say, if your overarching weltanschauung  is at root shaped by two realities. One, like mine your life is one of material comfort and freedoms beyond the reach of most people that on earth do dwell. Two, unlike mine your window on the world is framed almost entirely by corporate media, of which Noam Chomsky has made two telling observations. Here’s one:

These are big corporations selling privileged audiences to other corporations. Now the question is, what picture of the world would a rational person expect to come out of this structure?

And here’s the second:

The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum – even encourage the more critical and dissident views. That gives people the sense there’s free thinking going on, while all the time the presuppositions of the system are being reinforced by the limits put on the range of the debate.

Still other of my detractors served up strawman argument with heavy handed sarcasm – “oh yes, I’m sure Assad is a saint!”  But the most memorable generality – “my politics aren’t the same as yours” – effectively denied any relevance to factuality. We may as well have been discussing preferences for jazz over classical, Thai cuisine over Italian, Chelsea FC over Arsenal.

None of those who made such arguments is stupid or immoral. Most have degrees, doctorates etc, so are well trained in the construction of arguments grounded in evidence and framed in logic. So why won’t they debate me point by point?

They can’t. They sense instinctively that I must be wrong but can’t engage me on the facts. And why would they? As Caitlin Johnstone often reminds us, narrative beats facts hands down in the arena of opinion manufacture. And as any observer of the human condition knows, ‘instinctive sense’ – in this case nurtured by narratives spun by those best equipped, pace Chomsky, to do so – beats reasoned analysis. Also hands down.

Tomorrow belongs to me? The Azov Battalion struts its stuff in post Maidan Ukraine

Fourteen months on, nothing has changed. In spades, on steroids, or whatever earthy turn of phrase you might choose to emphasise a propaganda blitz of unprecedented ferocity, the Evil Putin in Ukraine  narrative exceeds any I’ve experienced in my seventy spins around the sun.

But the change is quantitative, not qualitative.

In an outpouring of posts since early February, I have had the gall and brass neck to impose on any who’ll lend me an ear my evidence and reasoning – while trying to leave room for what I do not and cannot know – for saying that culpability for a potentially global disaster in Ukraine lies overwhelmingly with the US Empire.

I won’t repeat my arguments. That’s not my purpose here. Rather, I want to make something clear. I do not tell people what to think. I tell people what I  think, and why.

Do feel free to drop me a line, or post a comment, to say where I’ve got it wrong.

* * *

27 Replies to “No, I’m not telling you what to think!

  1. Love on ya Phil, and keep on trucking. Wonderful to read what you think about the current mayhem. Keep it coming
    Jim

  2. Well said Phil.

    I followed Corbyn studiously and IMHO he got more right than wrong. I followed the wars in Iraq, Libya, Syria(including John McCain’s little trips abroad to enlist first Muslim Brotherhood, then over to KSA for Al Qaeda) and Ukraine from well informed sources all over the world who were in a position to know the truth on the ground and know that the truth was a universe away from what MSM audiences were being told.

    You have managed to read the situation in all Washington’s murderous gerrymandering by following the truths, witness based evidence and thorough understanding of virtually all aspects of the imperialist and colonial perfidy and shared, to those who would listen your well informed opinion.

    Good on yer mate!

    Regards,
    Susan:)

  3. On the issue of Ukraine you are in interesting company:

    https://threadreaderapp.com/thread/1501220686173556736.htm

    Bottom line is, if facts and objective realities are ignored or discarded in favour of a manufactured narrative nothing works properly, ever.

    This basic problem of process is the same across multiple and differing issues. Whether its Geo-politics, the sex/gender culture war, or jointing telephone cables. Principles and the criteria upon which they are based have to be applied consistently rather than selectively to suit some individual or collective based subjective whim.

    Otherwise the outcome is the unworkable anarchy of the school playground. A bodge job at best and more often than not a complete shambles in which everything falls apart.

    Leaving aside religion, Matthew 7.12 provides the basic bottom to top building block necessary for any society/social system which wishes to function rather than disintegrate.

    No matter how many bits of paper with letters anyone has to their name, along with the accompanying shoulder pips, if the basic principles are not adhered to consistently then you are the problem not the solution.

    Sheep or goats; reality based community or narrative based community. It amounts to the same thing.

    Everything else seems to be just window dressing.

    • Matthew 7:12, King James Version:

      Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.

  4. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-60724560

    War in Ukraine: ‘No one wants to die’ – meeting Ukraine’s teenage soldiers

    And they’re just ordinary guys. Though note that we get little information on the unit they are serving. Best keep quiet about that. Naturally there is also mystery about what The Evil Ones are doing:

    Foreign journalists have no access to the young Russian men only a few miles away on the other side of the front line. Many are believed to be conscripts, who were not told properly what was being planned for them. Wars are mostly fought by young men.

    I have no doubt that many young Russians in the war have hopes as high as Dmytro and Maksym. One difference might be less motivation to fight, though without the chance to report their side properly, it is hard to say with certainty.

    “without the chance to report their side properly”?

    Words fail!

  5. More reversal. Last night the “news” told us that Putin wants this conflict to last as long as possible. And the ones with me responded with “Of course he does! What an evil bastard!” If I was quicker off the mark I would have asked, “Why? What reason would Putin have for a protracted war?”

    On the other hand:

    https://www.facebook.com/ThePeoplesAssembly/photos/a.571680389566522/5076862902381559

    Economic decline blamed on the Ukraine situation. “We” clearly have a vested interest in a never-ending war.

  6. Well said Phil!

    I feel honoured to be amongst those who not only read your attempts at objectivity, but comment every now and again.

    I too have, as you so aptly put it:

    a life of material comfort and freedoms beyond the reach of most people that on earth do dwell

    Your posts help me to remember just that.
    Cheers mate.
    Billy

  7. https://countercurrents.org/2022/03/on-the-edge-of-a-nuclear-abyss/

    “After the terror of the Cuban Missile Crisis, many more people took the threat of nuclear war seriously. Today very few do. It has receded into the ”unimaginable.” In 1962, however, as James W. Douglass writes in JFK and the Unspeakable:

    “Kennedy saw that, at least outside Washington, D.C., people were living with a deeper awareness of the ultimate choice they faced. Nuclear weapons were real. So, too, was the prospect of peace. Shocked by the Cuban Missile Crisis into recognizing a real choice, people preferred peace to annihilation.”

    Today the reality of nuclear annihilation has receded into unconsciousness.”

    Which goes a long way to explain a recent Caitlin Johnstone tweet:

    “You asked for a robust anti-war movement in America, you got demonstrations calling for World War 3.”

    Of course we can’t overlook the likely possibility that these demonstrations have been staged or stoked. But the receding of the nuclear threat within the public consciousness (itself induced by decades of deliberate avoidance) has helped with the warmongering.

  8. Projection is the key in all public discourse. The propagandized are dead sure “the others” (people still possessing critical thinking) are propagandized and “love putin” or whatever. While those that still retain some historical analysis prowess, the few that can be regarded as of marxist training or generally sceptical types also project, thus crediting the “mainstream” side with thinking capabilities they don’t have. This is plainly wrong. All liberalism is a hierarchical structure of gate-keepers, a religion nonetheless, where the highest level (the likes of the atlantic council for instance) provides the orthodoxy, then lower clerics simply use their words (like the gospel, no kidding) it to wield their big or progressively smaller power over the fellow man. Liberals choose to side with the most powerful propaganda available in their system for the very simple reason it’s the likeliest to win and thus give them even more power, that is credibility, social contacts and so on. It’s all a religion.

    • The propagandized are dead sure “the others” (people still possessing critical thinking) are propagandized and “love putin” or whatever.

      Yes, I’d noticed that too, milos

  9. Phil
    Its great that you are providing an alternative narrative to the mainstream media. You are raise issues that are not being covered or are ignored elsewhere, keep it coming. We can trust you to say what you have researched and believe, and not what others find comforting.
    Take care
    John

  10. I haven’t said thank you to you for a few weeks – and what a few weeks they’ve been! I really appreciate the work you are doing to provide an alternative to the mainstream narrative on Russia and the Ukraine – without which it would be hard not to sink under the weight of the Russia bad, Putin evil propaganda. I also have a sense of how hard it is to write this stuff – I have been struggling for over a week to complete a post on the matter for my own blogsite, which has the luxury of only occasionally posting on politics. You must be knackered!

    Keep going mate, keep telling us what you think, keep us challenging the mainstream narrative – and ourselves!

    • No Bryan, it doesn’t leave me knackered. As I said to you while we walked, later on the day of your comment, it is in its way energising. That, my flawed but deeply brilliant teacher once said to me, is the nature of truth.

  11. In the present hysteria this drops on the lap:

    https://greekcitytimes.com/2022/03/12/greeks-in-mariupol/

    “A correspondent for Russian media asked a civilian of the village that “Western, EU, and Greek media say that the Russians are killing Ukrainians, terrorising the world, etc. Can you, as Sartana’s Greeks, say something to your compatriots in Greece?”

    The Greeks of Sartana responded: “Nobody kills anyone here. The Russians do not kill anyone.”

    “No one is shooting at civilians here.

    “As soon as the Russians came here, they immediately brought us help. Right now, immediately after the shootings stopped.

    “Now no one asks us if you are Ukrainian or Greek, about your origin, what language you speak,” they said.

    “The Russians do not discriminate,” they continued, adding: “While the Ukrainians did, they forced us to speak only Ukrainian, although I do not know it at all.”

    https://twitter.com/RFEmbassyGr/status/1502363508897423364

    Though if that hysteria keeps escalating in the way it is the Greeks could end up getting Cancelled by the collective West along with the Russians.

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