History versus Propaganda

History (well-researched and written with integrity) teaches us lessons from the past we can learn from, propaganda makes us believe things that are not necessarily true. Would-be dictators hate history that accurately reflects the facts of the past and portrays a reasonable cause and effect of events.   History often directly contradicts the strongman’s stilted message.  The only use dictators have for history is selectively highlighting some things that happened, and hiding others, to convince unsophisticated citizens of the righteousness of their grievances, the historical holiness of their cause.  

If you would rule a conformist state, where thought and belief are strictly regulated, you will obviously get rid of certain books, criminalize certain ideas, make a pious, public show of punishing dissent, and in the end destroy the ability to think critically in the masses who will chant your name.   False history, written to benefit a small, powerful group, can rule public perceptions for generations, as the Lost Cause myth of the Civil War did here during a century of racism at law and free reign for terrorist enforcement of the racist worldview.

This influential school of American history, the Dunning School, started at prestigious Columbia University in New York City, not in the former Confederacy.   The Lost Cause theory was based on racist assumptions (slavery actually was mostly benign and benefited the racially inferior Blacks by protecting them) and spread the false idea that the war waged by the states that seceded was not based on protecting The Peculiar Institution (a popular euphemism for American chattel slavery) but on the glorious cause of fighting encroachment of States’ Rights by a tyrannically overreaching federal government.  

In this telling, the viciously biased federal government broke a Constitutional guarantee, under which slavery, never named in the founding document itself, was protected in perpetuity via three or four discreet clauses crafted by fine lawyers who negotiated the compromise with the self-evident proposition that “all men are created equal”.  The glorioys Lost Cause history was taught in classrooms all over the country to several generations of young people, supported by many of America’s greatest historians.  My friends who grew up in Tennessee heard nothing but this story in relation to the Civil War — that it wasn’t fought over slavery at all, it was fought over local sovereignty, something everyone can get behind.  You want unaccountable federal bean-counters running your life, or your friends and neighbors?   The States’ Rights rationale is still pushed by right-wing ideologues to justify all kinds of racial and class warfare motivated mischief.

An obvious problem with this kind of distorted historical story is that it can’t withstand much scrutiny.  Each of the eleven states that seceded from the Union after Lincoln’s election (and Lincoln was not even on the presidential ballot in any of those states, mind you) promulgated Articles of Secession.  You can look them up.  Each list of irreparable grievances began with the federal government’s intended interference with the sacred constitutional right to hold “such persons as the states shall see fit” in servitude without limitation.  And the horrors of slavery, and a century of legally tolerated lynching after the Civil War, are also well-documented.   

I heard a great simple correction of the List Cause myth by a black woman who’d been one of the first in her small southern town to go to school with white kids after Brown v. Board of Education.   She said it was fine if you want to say the Civil War was fought over States’ Rights — it was fought over states’ rights to hold slaves.  

For Professor Dunning and his progeny it was a matter of de-emphasizing or omitting details like the incriminating Articles of Secession, the real atrocities of slavery and all other evidence that contradicted their preferred narrative of a glorious lost cause fought for righteous ideals.  Focus instead on the alleged post-war corruption of little over a decade of Reconstruction (the federal government again sticking their fingers in the glorious South’s eye by forcing them to allow thousands of ignorant Blacks to vote!).  Cite the way some slaves were loyal to their masters as proof that there was nothing so terrible about being owned like a cow, goat, horse and used similarly.  The only truly terrible thing, in the immensely influential Dunning version of history (supported by Supreme Court rulings, mind you) was the pious, hypocritical tyranny of the federal government.  This popular myth was indispensable for the white southern bigots who filibustered proposed federal anti-lynching and voting rights laws for decades.

What was one of Putin’s first moves after he attacked Ukraine?   Make it a crime to call his totally justified invasion an attack, a war or an invasion.   No!  It is peacekeeping police action, like the US did in Viet Nam and many other places!   Say otherwise and it’s fifteen years in the jailhouse for you, lying dissident criminal.

The impulse of fascists is always the same — manipulate public opinion, don’t hesitate to lie, lie big and lie constantly, promulgate your alternate “history”, attack so-called “fact” and vilify the superior elites that do things like write critical books and encourage intelligent debate based on known facts.  There will be no intelligent debate based on anything, only debate framed by our terms and conducted under our rules and laws.  If you are a young gay person, shut the fuck up.  If you are a victim of racism, shut the fuck up.  If you are Black or poor and want to vote, forget about it.   If you are raped and become pregnant there is no harm in being forced to carry the fetus to term, giving birth and putting the baby up for adoption.  You have an absolute right to carry a gun and if you kill somebody because you were really afraid of them, it is no crime.  If you teach history that embarrasses innocent white kids or makes them feel bad, you have violated a new zero tolerance law.

It is tempting to call a party that embraces these tactics of fascism Nazis.  Read the story of Adolf Eichmann set out by Hannah Arendt in Eichmann in Jerusalem.   He was an ambitious man of limited intellectual curiosity who blindly followed the current of history that swept Hitler into power.   He did what he was told to further the eventually murderous goals of his superiors.  How was he any different than any of Trump’s loyal enablers?  What is the difference between the mentality of Eichmann and Jeffrey Clarke, the DOJ appointee who eagerly stepped up to put Trump’s stolen election lie on DOJ letterhead to try to overturn the certified election results in states Trump lost?  A guy like Clark, with his fervent desire to serve a strong, unprincipled leader, is basically a Nazi.

Remember, the Nazis did not sweep into power and immediately build death camps and start mass murdering.   It took eight or nine years in power, a declaration of war and the blitzkrieg, before they took the gloves off and began secretly implementing their insane leader’s wildest dreams of extermination.   They did it one step at a time, preparing the population by feeding them false history and fake news (while coining the term fake news — die lugenpresse).   

It was more than a year before Hitler took care of political rivals by having a coordinated national killing spree history recalls as The Night of the Long Knives.   One famous general he had executed stood up in his office when the assassins entered, confirmed that he was von Schliecher, and was killed in a hail of bullets along with his wife.  At first Hitler told Germany the “treasonous” general had been shot while resisting arrest, a week or two later he nonchalantly referred to “when I had Schliecher shot.”    It was more than five years before the first organized nationwide pogrom against Jews in Germany, Kristallnacht.  It took a controversial gassing program that targeted “lives unworthy of life” (lebensunvertes leben) in mental hospitals, Hitler’s humane euthanasia program (they put a noble spin on everything with strict language laws), to prepare Germany for the gassing of millions of others.   In fact, the Fuhrer had to stop killing Germans in mental hospitals due to the increasing discomfort of other Germans.   Jews, Gypsies, Communists, Homosexuals, Poles?   Not a problem, just euthanize ’em somewhere else.

American Nazis, neo-Confederates, white supremacists, white nationalists, Trumpists, the RNC or whatever you want to call them, never sleep or take a day off.  They may yet gain control of this country, through insane state election integrity laws passed by partisans cynically exploiting the Big Lie, though they must be fought at every step if we have learned anything from the last time their ilk controlled a vast industrialized nation.  They constantly rail against things like the Child Tax Credit that briefly lifted millions of children out of life-scarring poverty as “communism”.   A plan to increase the budget for IRS enforcement of the tax laws, targeting wealthy “tax avoiders” — Communism!  Voting Rights — partisan commie bullshit to enable more massive commie fraud, Commies!   Ethical rules for the Supreme Court, Radical activist Leftist commie child blood drinking drivel!   

The debate we have here is not a debate in the classical sense of two sides presenting clashing ideas and the better idea prevailing, based on the respective arguments, it is Newt Gingrich’s total war.  One side scorches the earth and dares their enemies to do something about it.  The other side publishes thoughtful, morally upright things like this (while the architects of US torture ply their hideous trade and escape all accountability, fuck you, LIBS!):

There is history worth reading and there is propaganda.  Here’s some recent American propaganda commissioned by the dumb dictator-worshiping fuck who still insists he won a rigged election in a landslide. It begins by piously reciting the truth that nobody in our system is above the law, as the former president continued to lie about winning an election he lost and insist that he is above the law. I love the fact that immediately after his inauguration Biden had this bullshit taken down — I’ve preserved a few bits of it, for posterity. 

Read, but think.   Read, but verify facts that can be demonstrated with evidence and discard fiction.  There is a big difference between useful history and the propaganda spread by cravenly ambitious useful idiots.

Totalitarian Tendencies

Of course, it’s always problematic to make comparisons between current events and infamous low points in human history, no matter how emotionally vexing those current events may be.   I call for an end (until it becomes undeniable, at which point I’ll be unable to post calls for anything) to the comparisons of brutal policymakers to Nazis or other totalitarian regimes.

Taking young children from their mothers’ arms is not the same, clearly, as wrenching a baby from the mother and smashing a rifle butt against its tiny head.   Putting a crying child in a cage for indefinite detention is not anywhere near as horrific as putting a child in a gas chamber.  You can’t even fairly compare those two things, caging and murdering.   So calling a government policy that dehumanizes certain classes of children and designates them for this kind of inhumane treatment “Nazi-like” sounds like hyperbole and is easily enough dismissed by the hard pragmatists who believe that this kind of harsh, tough, zero-tolerance policy that makes parents pay a brutally high price, their connection with their children, will deter desperate people from coming to our borders.

It is easy to condemn this sort of policy as the terroristic tactic of people consumed by unreasoning hatred of the objects of their policy.   The people coming to the US southern border are portrayed by proponents of these harsh policies as criminals, rapists, terrorists, a hoard posing untold dangers to our eternally threatened nation, incredible dangers, unbelievably bad dangers, really dangerous dangers.   That many of them are running from terrors directly produced by, say, our own imbecilic ninety year selective drug prohibition regime, our eternal War on Drugs, is beside the point.  Those violent drug gangs are the problem, not the ongoing American law enforcement idiocy that has only produced a massively lucrative product for these increasingly violent foreign (and domestic) criminals to peddle.    

Fleeing gang violence, says our tiny, racist top law enforcement official, is no longer grounds for political asylum, it’s your goddamn problem, deal with it, you brown, non-English speaking losers.  Neither is fleeing a spouse who beats the living shit out of you and threatens to kill you.   Nothing to see here!  No longer America’s role, to provide a haven for women and children who will otherwise be killed in their home countries, or teenagers facing death if they refuse to join a drug cartel’s street gang.

We cannot underestimate the vital role that terrorism and the threat of violent physical force plays in human affairs.  By terrorism and violent force, I refer to the routinized violence threatened or visited on citizens by states, by nations and coalitions of nations.  This state violence causes the vast majority of deaths by terrorism (though it is rarely referred to as terrorism, for obvious reasons).  Deadly violence, and the terrifying threat of its instant deployment, and more recently fear of non-government terrorism, and the need for extreme measures to protect the populace from Terror with a capital T,  is always used by the status quo to maintain order and to influence political relations.  

The old debate over who is the terrorist is now all the rage, in our terrified of terror Post-9-11 world.  Those illegal Mexicans, Guatemalans and Hondurans are TERRORISTS, we are told by American law enforcement.   The protesters in Gaza, every one of them according to the Israeli Minister of Defense, down to the medics and members of the international press:  TERRORISTS!   When you’re fighting terror, the gloves must come off, obviously.

The I.C.E. agents who forcibly take the kids from their potential terrorist parents are only protecting law abiding citizens from criminals and terrorists, the worst of the worst, shameless terrorists using their own babies as human shields!    Those terrorists in Gaza?   We have every right to kill as many as we need to in order to make them stop hating our freedom!    Israeli leaders, particularly the extreme nationalistic right wing ones, are fond of reminding the world that Israel is the region’s only real democracy.   Therefore any means needed will be employed to defend it from haters, including opening fire on unarmed protesters, with special bullets designed to do maximum damage on impact.

The moral battle is won by the most skilled story-tellers, the people who can make us empathize the most with their point of view.  With that in mind, Israeli lawmakers are considering a law making it illegal to photograph Israeli soldiers in a way that could potentially harm Israeli military morale.  Showing a photo of an Israeli soldier cuffing a belligerent Palestinian teenager could really harm the morale of the sorely tested Israeli army.   Five years in prison for the photographer who has caused this harm to Israeli democracy, ten if the photograph, according to the law, undermines the security of the state.  They are voting on this important measure as I type these words.  Nothing to see here!  

The motto of every great democracy– Nothing to see here!   Criminalize those who take pictures of things that are nobody’s business, merely the democratic sausage we all love being made.  We are no slouches in this department, here in the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave.  Dubya Bush’s daddy made it illegal to photograph and broadcast images of the coffins of dead American soldiers.  How bad was it for morale to see, day after day, those dead Americans coming home from war zones?!   No more of that shit, citizens of a democracy do not need that kind of incredibly depressing shit, it only creates prejudice.  It sets our people against lawful war as the solution to every business-related foreign problem our leaders seek to solve by violent means. 

Recently our perpetually petulant president withdrew the U.S. from the the Human Rights Council in the United Nations.  Who needs fake fucking Human Rights from a bunch of self-righteous loser hypocrites?  This sudden departure from the council did not come out of nowhere.  First the council unfairly condemned Israel for having snipers shoot countless protesters, killing scores, hospitalizing thousands.   Next they attacked us directly!     The UN Council on Human Rights is poised to release a report about the extent and conditions of extreme poverty in the United States.

“It’s patently ridiculous for the United Nations to examine poverty in America,” U.S. Ambassador Haley Barber said in response to the Special Rapporteur’s report.   Fair enough, Ms. Barber, if you say so.   Just because the U.S. has vast numbers of citizens,  an estimated 5.3 million (out of 40 million in poverty), living in desperate Third World type poverty is none of anyone’s damn business.  Making a big deal about falling American life expectancy, an infant mortality rate as high as in many very poor countries, America’s informed choice not to recognize the human rights of children,  outrageous meddling!   It is no business of a bunch of Socialist America haters to “impartially” investigate and write preposterous, hateful, patently ridiculous reports about us.   They’re our fucking poor people and we’ll deal with those selfish parasites, including the 13 million so-called children in poverty, as we fucking see fit, Sir.  We’ve got your Human Rights Council right here (grab crotch), bitches!

It’s not right to call them Nazis, I’ll be the first to remind you.  Assholes, yes, vicious assholes, sure, but Nazis… not quite yet.   Still, this administration is taking steady, consistent steps toward a kind of American authoritarianism.   The destruction of critical thought is the first thing that must be achieved, to allow incoherent partisan buzzwords to carry every argument.  

Think of the incoherent messages about this policy of taking children from their parents, the citing of biblical scripture to justify it, the denials about the policy, the indignant objection to cages being referred to as cages, the blaming of Democrats for the policy, the sudden reversal of the policy by executive order.  None of that really matters, if we are really ready for the end of our democracy.   The silencing of all thoughtful criticism leads to the acceptance of incoherent narratives.  This process is crucial for anyone seeking absolute control over a population.  Silence the critics and you’re most of the way home.  The lying media, enemy of the people, knows this too.  Those bastards need to be made to fall into line, by hook or by crook.

Once the possibility of  coherent public discussion is eliminated, the rest is pretty much downhill for any motherfucker, already in the highest position in our government, who would become Supreme Leader.   The test of American democracy is upon us all.  The good news is that’s its a pass/fail exam, which is also, sadly, the bad news.


Delcog III

Here on Delcog III we don’t mess around with pie in the sky, or touchy feeliness either.  Life here is as frightening as it wants to be, and nobody on the planet has any quaint illusions that it could be any different. 

“Oh, yeah, Delcog III, isn’t that a bit lame, sir?” a blunt reader might ask.

“A bit lame, earthling, sure, as lame as you like.  It could not be otherwise, no matter what color glasses you put on, no matter what olfactory filter you dial in.  The air here, for example, you cannot breathe it.  When your tank runs out you will die in four or five agonizing minutes,”  the Delcog looked off indifferently, then went back about its business.

And you wonder, who is the narrator here?  Who is Delcog?  Why am I suddenly part of this story?   Is it true about the atmosphere on “Delcog III”?  Am I living in a fool’s paradise of bottled air, will it run out and will I asphyxiate?

“You may scoff at Deleterious Cognition,” said the Delcog, “you may think it is the same as plain pessimism, or depression, mere expectation of the worst.  But it is more than a passive expectation of the worst, I assure you, my soon to be oxygen deprived friend,” the Delcog gave its version of a smile.  It was as bad as the confident prediction of an agonizing death.  

“Cognition,” continued the Delcog mercilessly, “is a thought process that involves perception, gathering information, digesting it and using it to make informed predictions while assessing various risk factors.  You label it Deleterious and we embrace that label, yes, cognition can be deleterious– to wishful illusion, for one thing.  Your dreams, my friend, they depend very much on your oxygen supply.  I note that you are wearing a four hour tank and that the gauge reads 5%.  Let us do the math together– 50% would be 2 hours of breathing time, or 120 minutes.  5% of four hours, therefore, is a tenth of 2 hours or 12 minutes.  I suppose we can round it down to eleven now.”

You know, I’m thinking I don’t have to take this kind of crap from some pedantic literary invention, yet I stand here, under the winking blackness.  I’m interested to hear what this sick bastard has to say.

“Of course you are,” said the Delcog agreeably, moving seamlessly into the past tense, “instead of making your way back to the ship to replenish your air supply you are listening to me rattle on with breath so bad that, I dare say, if you were not wearing the mask and breathing apparatus you would be unable to stand so close to me.  The ship, by the way, is at least seven minutes from us, so in three or four minutes the point will be as moot, as mute, as the song you imagine you are hearing.”  

The music I hadn’t been aware of swelled thrillingly, and along with it a sense of hope, soaring.  That is one amazing aspect of music I sometimes forget, it can fill you with feeling, sometimes impossible to express except through music.  

“Yes, that’s fantastic,” said the Delcog with a slight smirk, “talk about music, since it is more precious, apparently, than life itself.  It’s kind of funny: choosing music over life, since in the afterlife everybody is deaf.”

Now the Delcog had gone too far.  I was thinking about zapping him with my bop gun, raising some funk and a little sand too.  But what if he was right about the atmosphere being poison for me to breathe?  

“By way of example,” the Delcog said, “and forgetting about your insoluble breathing emergency a few minutes from now, you are writing this instead of working on a business plan, instead of figuring out how to recruit the crucial people that will allow your plan to move forward, instead of working on strategies to network and sell your idea.  Whatever you think about capitalism, baby, you’ve got to raise capital if you want your own business.  The widgets your business will make are no different than any other widgets, they’ve got to be branded, marketed, dressed in short skirts and marched out into the marketplace.  You think you are doing something special since you are ‘nonprofit’.   That’s very funny, if you think about it for a minute.  Oh, I forgot, you don’t really have a minute… that’s a little Delcog III joke… you actually have maybe nine minutes, or, actually, two– to decide to hightail it back to the ship and see if they can get the hatch open in time.” 

It was wearying talking to this guy, but I was already weary.  I got to thinking it was a long shot to make it back to the ship in time to save myself.  The music had stopped, I felt sick, sweaty and claustrophobic in my space suit.  I had to get out of it.  I pulled off the face mask, and, outside of the fartlike smell of the Delcog, who hadn’t been wrong about his breath, the air was very much like the air in a dank basement.  It didn’t smell very fresh, but it was fine to breathe.  I winked at the Delcog and went on my miserable way, shrugging into a long sideways leap in the low gravity of Delcog III.