Submitted by: Mike Spindell, guest blogger
Former Senator Nebraska Chuck Hagel has been nominated by President Barack Obama as Secretary of Defense. Conventional wisdom would no doubt be that Hagel would have an easy path to the position. Hagel, a twice wounded Viet Nam War Sergeant and self-made millionaire, was elected to the Senate in 1996. His charismatic personality and blunt talk allowed Hagel to rise quickly within the Senate Republican hierarchy and his voting record was considerably conservative. He had a “a lifetime rating of 84 percent from the American Conservative Union and consistent A and B grades from the National Taxpayers Union “ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chuck_Hagel Initially had few misgivings about attacking Iraq, but supported the war and George W. Bush’s prosecution of it. By 2007 though, Hagel’s misgivings had turned into opposition to the war and he was one of three Republican Senators who voted for a failed resolution that would have ordered the withdrawal of American Troops within 120 days. Chuck Hagel’s clarity on Iraq extended to opposition to the morass in Afghanistan as well.
The Nominee’s political career in the Senate had shown a libertarian leaning Conservative, whose voting record on “national security” and the “intelligence community” shows a rather standard adherence to the “party line” of the permanent ‘Washington Establishment and the pundits that expound their views. How is it then that we see such loud opposition to this nomination? This week Hagel’s former friend and colleague John McCain attacked him viciously at the Senate Judiciary Hearing. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/31/chuck-hagel-john-mccain-iraq_n_2591001.html . Hegel has been attacked from both the Left and the Right. Whenever I see agreement on a given issue, from all sides of this country’s vast political chasm, it makes me suspicious as to what is really going on with this “political theater” being played out in our Corporate Media fueled by the “wise” pundits from the “Washington Permanent Government”. While I’ve never been a particular admirer of Chuck Hagel, I do believe that given some of his experience he is at least a credible candidate for this position. In feeding this opposition to him I think that as usual the mainstream media is missing a crucial element in its usual propagandist presentation of issues. Permit me to explain.
With the advent of World War II, coinciding with the rise in media technology, the structure of news reporting in the United States began to change with an ever increasing rapidity. Sophisticated propaganda techniques were crafted by the man who single-handedly revolutionized the advertising and public relations business, Edward Bernais http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_Bernais Bernais (or Bernays) was the nephew of Sigmund Freud. He applied many of his uncle’s theories about the “unconscious mind” to public relations and advertising techniques. His work in turning this country into a “consumer society” changed the entire structure and thrust of advertising as shown in this great BBC documentary film, which is well worth your viewing if you can find the time for its 48 minutes. http://whowhatwhy.com/2013/01/14/outside-the-box-video-series-the-century-of-the-self/
“In Propaganda (1928), Bernays argued that the manipulation of public opinion was a necessary part of democracy:
The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country. …We are governed, our minds are molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of. This is a logical result of the way in which our democratic society is organized. Vast numbers of human beings must cooperate in this manner if they are to live together as a smoothly functioning society. …In almost every act of our daily lives, whether in the sphere of politics or business, in our social conduct or our ethical thinking, we are dominated by the relatively small number of persons…who understand the mental processes and social patterns of the masses. It is they who pull the wires which control the public mind.”
“Bernays’s vision was of a utopian society in which individuals’ dangerous libidinal energies, the psychic and emotional energy associated with instinctual biological drive that Bernays viewed as inherently dangerous given his observation of societies like the Germans under Hitler, could be harnessed and channeled by a corporate elite for economic benefit. Through the use of mass production, big business could fulfill constant craving of the inherently irrational and desire-driven masses,irrationality simultaneously securing the niche of a mass production economy (even in peacetime), as well as sating the dangerous animal urges that threatened to tear society apart if left unquelled.”
In Bernays vision of a “libido driven common man” ruled with enlightenment by a “wise corporate elite” we see an early version of the state of being that many of us see as the reality of our nation today. Where the connection of this to Chuck Hagel’s nomination comes in starts to be shown here:
“Bernays felt that the public’s democratic judgment was “not to be relied upon” and he feared that “they [the American public] could very easily vote for the wrong man or want the wrong thing, so that they had to be guided from above”. This “guidance” was interpreted by [his daughter] Anne to mean that her father believed in a sort of “enlightened despotism” ideology.
This thinking was heavily shared and influenced by Walter Lippmann, one of the most prominent American political columnists at the time. Bernays and Lippmann sat together on the U.S. Committee on Public Information, and Bernays quotes Lippmann extensively in his seminal work Propaganda “
Many who will read this are probably not quite old enough to remember Walter Lippmann well, if at all. At one point Lippmann was probably one of the most influential men in America. As a foreign policy pundit, as a newspaper columnist and as an author of many books on politics and foreign policy.
“It was Lippmann who first identified the tendency of journalists to generalize about other people based on fixed ideas. He argued that people—including journalists—are more apt to believe “the pictures in their heads” than come to judgment by critical thinking. Humans condense ideas into symbols, he wrote, and journalism, a force quickly becoming the mass media, is an ineffective method of educating the public. Even if journalists did better jobs of informing the public about important issues, Lippmann believed “the mass of the reading public is not interested in learning and assimilating the results of accurate investigation.” Citizens, he wrote, were too self-centered to care about public policy except as pertaining to pressing local issues.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Walter_Lippmann
We see then in Lippmann, a very influential intellectual who believed that the mass of the public lacked the ability to think critically and thus it was the Journalist’s duty to inform them “correctively” as to just what they should be thinking. Another way to put that is to propagandize them.
“Lippmann saw the purpose of journalism as “intelligence work“. Within this role, journalists are a link between policymakers and the public. A journalist seeks facts from policymakers which he then transmits to citizens who form a public opinion. In this model, the information may be used to hold policymakers accountable to citizens.”
One must wonder though which “policy makers” Lippmann saw as needing to be “held accountable” and which policies should they should be “held accountable” for?
“Though a journalist himself, he did not assume that news and truth are synonymous. For Lippmann, the “function of news is to signalize an event, the function of truth is to bring to light the hidden facts, to set them in relation with each other, and make a picture of reality on which men can act.” A journalist’s version of the truth is subjective and limited to how he constructs his reality. The news, therefore, is “imperfectly recorded” and too fragile to bear the charge as “an organ of direct democracy.”
Here is an encapsulation of what underlies Walter Lippmann’s view of the country and democracy.
“To his mind, democratic ideals had deteriorated, voters were largely ignorant about issues and policies, they lacked the competence to participate in public life and cared little for participating in the political process. In Public Opinion (1922), Lippmann noted that the stability the government achieved during the patronage era of the 19th century was threatened by modern realities. He wrote that a “governing class” must rise to face the new challenges.
The basic problem of democracy, he wrote, was the accuracy of news and protection of sources. He argued that distorted information was inherent in the human mind. People make up their minds before they define the facts, while the ideal would be to gather and analyze the facts before reaching conclusions. By seeing first, he argued, it is possible to sanitize polluted information. Lippmann argued that seeing through stereotypes (which he coined in this specific meaning) subjected us to partial truths. Lippmann called the notion of a public competent to direct public affairs a “false ideal.” He compared the political savvy of an average man to a theater-goer walking into a play in the middle of the third act and leaving before the last curtain.
Early on Lippmann said the “bewildered herd,” his way of referring to the mases, must be governed by “a specialized class whose interests reach beyond the locality.” This class is composed of experts, specialists and bureaucrats. The experts, who often are referred to as “elites,” were to be a machinery of knowledge that circumvents the primary defect of democracy, the impossible ideal of the “omnicompetent citizen”.”
Call me paranoid perhaps, but I see in this the model for our country today in the minds of those who consider themselves the elite. I also see this as the basis for the ongoing attempt to manipulate the “public”, mainly most of us, through fear and the development of false crises. Now the irony of this was that in many ways Lippmann was a very perceptive man. He was not a “Cold Warrior”, although he helped coint the term “cold war”. He argued that the policy of containment of the USSR was wronmg because it didn’t recognize their right to a “sphere of influence”. He believed that Cuba would never be under the Soviets sphere of influence. He broke ranks with LBJ on the Viet Nam war engendering a bitter hatred between the two. However, I think that by the “Law of Unintended Consequences” the elitist beliefs of both Lipmman and Bernays provided tremendous influence on the Corporate Elite of this country and gave these plutocrats the framework of a philosophy for “running” this country and abjuring any real concepts of democracy in its politics.
I used these two very influential individuals to illustrate a phenomenon that I believe has developed in America. Their views are a reflection of the mindset of those who really control our country today. The tendencies of this current mindset are rooted in the traumatic experience of World War II. Prior to WWII the idea of “American International Primacy” was the province of the progressive coalition on the Left with that of some Corporations who wanted to expand their market horizons internationally. The conservative thought that was espoused via the Republican Party was to avoid international entanglements. The isolationist movement prior to WWII was an essentially conservative one thatviewed America as an entity separate unto itself from the rest of the world, which was unstable and thus politically volatile. In this view Fascist dictators like Hitler, Mussolini and Franco represented stability for their countries, protecting them from the revolutionary grasp of Communism, personified by Russia. From a business standpoint Communism was naturally a terrible threat to their wealth, power and commerce.
World War II’s conclusion left America as the single most powerful country in this world from both and economic and from a military standpoint. Europe was in ruins and though Russia was little better given the devastating battles fought on its soil; its sphere of influence now contained a number of satellite states that made it truly a “Union of Soviet Socialist Republics” that ranked second in the world to the United States as a center of power. In truth the War had also devastated the Soviets, but with their sphere of influence expanded into productive industrial nations like Germany and Czechoslovakia, they had the wherewithal to appear far more threatening than they were. The USSR also had the “good will” initially of having been a major partner of the victorious side. Great Britain on the other hand was losing its colonial constituents and at best became a distant third in the field of international influence. The Brits were seen as America’s “little brother”.
With the War over and the United States the clear winner the “isolationists” power within the conservative movement and the Republican party waned. American industry saw a world waiting to be plundered, their manufacturing capacity at its strongest due to the needs of fulfilling war production quotas and the demand for consumer goods surging both home and abroad at war’s end. Industry learned via their war experience that ministering to the needs of the American Military was quite profitable. The military on the other hand was giddy with a power that they never had throughout our Country’s history. Not only were they heroes, but in the exigencies of war they had strayed beyond the boundaries of civilian control and in the process saw themselves as the “experts” in dealing with foreign affairs. In America we always had some sort of intelligence apparatus. In WWII that intelligence apparatus expanded its role exponentially and in fact some of the aspects of our victory came directly from intelligence breakthroughs like the breaking of the “Enigma” code of the Germans and the “Codes” of the Japanese. The Office of Strategic Services (OSS) under “Wild Bill” Donavan
gained tremendous cachet and was morphed into the CIA after the war. Their “counter intelligence” wing became a dominant, rather than junior partner in the work and their budgets became relatively unlimited. In those heady days’ in the wake of a victorious war, I believe that for the first time the dream of American world hegemony, or empire if you will, germinated. The only possible rival to that dream was the Soviet Union and so they became the natural enemy of all of the aspirations of this country personified by those seeing the dream of hegemony. The “Cold War” as Lippman named it began and if the man who popularized the term wasn’t fully on board, he certainly did little to derail it. The USSR “bogeyman” became the lynch-pin of the growth of what is now the Military/Industrial Complex (MIC). This was an interweaving of the coincident interests of Industry, the military and the intelligence community, which caused them all to prosper and grow in power. The use of the Communist threat also introduced a relatively new concept into American politics and that was “bi-partisanship” in foreign policy. While in most areas of national policy there still remained battles of opposing political philosophies, when it came to the “Cold War” any who vehemently opposed it were cast as traitors to American Democracy and in many cases their careers and their lives ruined. From the end of WWII and through the administration of Dwight Eisenhower the power of the MIC kept growing and our politicians from both parties, afraid of being cast as traitors, engaged in the practice known as “bi-partisanship” when it came to the needs of the MIC and the philosophy of foreign relations formed to meet those needs. Their power grew to such an extent the moderate Republican Eisenhower, at the end of his term warns against the growing power of the MIC. The speech is short, but worth your watching, because it encapsulates my points and makes them credible coming from a beloved Republican President who was a Five Star General and war hero: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8y06NSBBRtY
Let us return then to Chuck Hegel’s nomination for Defense Secretary and why there is so much outrage against this man who has for his political career been rather representative of both the Republican point of view and of the encroachment of the U.S. intelligence establishment into the lives of our citizens, as illustrated by his support of the Patriot Act. The following is from the article “To Finagle Chuck Hagel” written by Christian Stork from Russ Baker’s investigative journalism website: http://whowhatwhy.com .
“His voting record aside, Hagel’s candor is what seems to have drawn most of the praise as well as the criticism of his putative nomination. He openly spurned the gulag at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, saying it labeled America “an empire that pushes people around…[and that doesn’t] live up to [its] commitments to multilateral institutions.” And he spoke of the need to cut the untouchable Pentagon budget, the imperative of ending the occupation of Afghanistan, the folly of regime change in Libya, and the urgency of diplomacy with Iran.”
We live in a time where for political capital a phony budget crisis has come to the fore with the Washington punditry almost solidly in favor of some “bi-partisan” deal to close the budget gap by reining in “entitlements” which include Social Security, Medicare and programs to help the needy. Yet as this argument rages there is little attention paid by either side to cutting our defense budget.
As this chart from the Washington Post shows our Defense budget of $711 billion is greater than the combined total of the next thirteen industrialized nations. http://www.dailykos.com/story/2013/02/01/1184033/-The-uncalculated-unreported-real-defense-budget?showAll=yes
In these time of supposed budget crisis one would think that it would be natural for us to consider cutting this bloated budget, yet those who cry the loudest about cutting spending say nary a word about cutting spending on Defense the nature of which can only be described as massive redundancy. Chuck Hagel, a man with impeccable defense, national security and foreign policy credentials has talked about the possibility of it and as Defense Secretary would have the unique bully pulpit of actually laying out the case for cutting defense. This is one reason the Neocon, yet “bi-partisan” establishment of the MIC hates this man. The second reason is of course that he is not one of the “experts” who marches to the drumbeat of attacking Iran which has also been syncopated by our Neocon establishment and their captive punditry. A third reason is that by his comments on the follies of Viet Nam, Iraq Afghanistan and Libya he undermines the causes put forth by those who would see the U.S. as a world controlling empire in the mold of Rome.
Personally, although I agree with him on certain issues, I hold no great love for Chuck Hagel. In domestic policy I am against most of what he believes in. Yet I do think it might be nice for a change to have a Secretary of Defense who would actually entertain cutting our bloated defense budget. Whether Chuck Hagel, or President Obama could be successful in reining in the ruling power of the MIC I must admit I am skeptical. I think though that it is worth a try and that at the least the idea of cutting defense spending, rather than the social safety net for most Americans, would at least gain some foothold in our national political discussions. What do you think?
Submitted by: Mike Spindell, guest blogger.