So much of our understanding of what is going on in the world is manipulated and shaped by the information presented by the media. The ability of governments to mislead and confuse the public through the application of “strategic communications,” which is the new euphemism in journalism schools for propaganda, is the most pervasive in the history of humankind. And this is only going to get worse.
The heart of the American dream and mythology is the pursuit of freedom. My ancestors, who started arriving in America in the early 17th Century, were fleeing religious prosecution and the abuses of authoritarian rulers. The early Americans were a cantankerous lot and not keen on accepting the authority of rulers. We also have a soft spot for those underdogs challenging authority and seeking to throw off tyranny. But our ancestors also participated in jaw-dropping contradictions–slavery, genocide of Native Americans and imperialism, with the territorial grab from Mexico.
We are not very good at looking at ourselves objectively. We love to get teary-eyed while singing, “I’m Proud to Be an American,” but close our eyes to uncomfortable facts, such as the unwarranted invasion of Iraq in March 2003, the torture of prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the violation of our Constitutional rights against unreasonable search and seizure.
Which brings me back to Cliven Bundy.
I share his frustration and concern about the encroachment of Federal power at the expense of individual liberty. The left is very eager to denounce him as a free loader who needs to pay his share. And it is true that much of the media, in a bid to avoid giving that part of Bundy’s story any exposure, ignored the story. If you ignore it and don’t report on it, it does not exist.
It was only when Bundy began his stupid, uninformed remarks on the history of slavery that the press kept into action. At that point, the story shifted from Government abuse of power to Bundy’s racism. (I realize many of you believe he was simply misunderstood, but that’s nonsense. I understood all too well what he was saying.) Bundy’s racism does not delegitimize the issue of the Federal Government’s abuse of power and expanding land grab. But that story is now being “strategically communicated” to the majority of Americans in a way to mitigate outrage.
We see the same phenomena with respect to telling the story of the conflict in Ukraine. The wheel chair and Cold War warriors are all over the cable news comparing Putin to Adolf Hitler and Josef Stalin. Little attention is paid to U.S. provocations–expanding NATO to surround Moscow’s western frontier and meddling in Ukraine’s domestic politics. The effort in the US is to portray this matter as the people of Ukraine yearning for freedom for Russian/Communist tyranny and that we must do something.
We are presented with the spectacle of weak, feckless President, Barack Obama, who continues to talk tough in a confrontational manner about Russia, and, because of his fear of being perceived as a wimp, is acceding to requests to put a meaningless number of US troops along Russia’s border. This is all about the politics of perception.
Egging him on and trying to set the world on fire are the likes of John McCain and retired General Jack Keane. Admonishing Obama to do more, they agitate to send more troops to Eastern Europe and speak with a bellicosity that is reckless and dangerous.
The hypocrisy of the United States is truly breath taking. Let me give you a couple of examples to illustrate the point. When we crushed the Nazis in 1945 we obtained extensive evidence of the Nazi’s Final Solution and identified SS officers who were enthusiastic participants in that horror. Klaus Barbie is but one typical example:
In November [1942, at the ag]e of 29, Klaus Barbie was assigned to Lyon as the head of the local Gestapo.
He established his headquarters at the Hôtel Terminus in Lyon, where he personally tortured prisoners: men, women, and children alike, breaking extremities, using electroshock, and sexually abusing them (including with dogs), among other methods. He became known as the “Butcher of Lyon”. In Marcel Ophüls’s Oscar-winning documentary film Hôtel Terminus: The Life and Times of Klaus Barbie, the daughter of a French Resistance leader based in Lyon recounts her father’s torture by Barbie – her father was beaten, skinned alive and his head was put in a bucket of ammonia; he died shortly after.
Historians estimate that Barbie was directly responsible for the deaths of up to 14,000 people. He arrested Jean Moulin, one of the highest-ranking members of the French Resistance and his most prominent enemy figure. In 1943, he was awarded the “First Class Iron Cross with Swords” on behalf of his campaign against the French Resistance and the capture of Moulin by Adolf Hitler.
In April 1944, Barbie ordered the deportation to Auschwitz of a group of 44 Jewish children from an orphanage at Izieu. After his operations in Lyon, he rejoined the SIPO-SD of Lyon in Bruyères, where he led an anti-partisan attack in Rehaupal in September 1944.
The man was not a soldier. He was a murderer and slayer of children. And what did the United States do? We made him an intelligence asset because of our fear of communism. We paid him and protected him even though he was part of an army that slaughtered more than 20 million Soviet troops and civilians. We even helped him find refuge in Bolivia. Why? Because we felt the means justified the ends.
We also rounded up the Nazis who developed the rockets that rained down on British people and put them to work on building up our own missile program. We found ways to overlook and ignore the Nazi past of men like Werner von Braun.
And we enthusiastically prosecuted some Nazi leaders for mass murder–rightly so–but downplay our own policy of strategic bombing of cities in Germany, which also killed thousands of civilians. The bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki also raise the uncomfortable question of murdering civilians as apart of a greater cause.
I would be more open to making the situation of Ukraine as a cause célèbre except here, in the United States, we have a Federal Government that argues it can hold people in prison indefinitely without due process (yes, I’m talking Guantanamo). We have a Federal Government that is trying to muzzle what’s left of the free press and is aggressively prosecuting whistleblowers and accusing them effectively of being “enemies” of the state. We have a Federal Government that is steadily expanding an intelligence community and law enforcement, in the name of protecting the HOMELAND (shades of Hitler’s Fatherland) and fighting terrorism, while encroaching on the basic freedom of American’s against unreasonable searches and seizures.
Brings me back to Cliven Bundy. Most Americans, especially on the left, could care less that the Federal Government would deploy the equivalent of a heavily armed Army company to take a man’s cattle and try to collect a tax debt. The irony for me is that many Americans are willing to excuse this kind of abuse of power by Barack Obama, but, when it comes to Russian’s Vladimir Putin, we want to draw a redline with the threat that Putin will suffer unspeakable consequences if he crosses that line.
My concern is simple–we live in a world where the power of governments is growing and the rights of individuals are more susceptible to abuse. On this point, both Democrats and Republicans are mostly mute.