Over the last several years I have watched the rise of an important new intellect on the American scene. Ron Unz, publisher of The American Conservative, has demonstrated time and again the extraordinary ability to reexamine settled issues and show that the accepted conclusion was incorrect.
One of his early achievements was to dispose of the myth of immigrant crime by demonstrating that “Hispanics have approximately the same crime rates as whites of the same age and gender.” You can imagine the uproar, but Unz won the debate.
Unz provoked and prevailed in another controversy when he concluded that Mexican-Americans have approximately the same innate intelligence as whites, with their lower IQs being due to transitory socio-economic deprivation.
He next surprised by showing the connection between the declining real value of the minimum wage (about one-third less than in the 1960s) and immigration. Americans cannot survive on one-third less minimum income than four decades ago, and the unfilled jobs are taken by Hispanics who live many to the room. A higher minimum wage, Unz pointed out, would cure the illegal immigration problem as American citizens would fill the jobs.
I wrote about some of Unz’s remarkable findings. One of my favorites is his comparison of the responsiveness of the Chinese and US governments to their publics. I found his conclusion convincing that the authoritarian one-party Chinese government was more responsive to the Chinese people than democratic two-party Washington is to the American people.
The person is rare who can take on such controversial issues in such a professional way that he wins the admiration even of his critics. In my opinion, Ron Unz is a national resource. He has established online libraries of important periodicals and magazines from the pre-Internet era, information that otherwise essentially would be lost.
Unz’s latest article, “Our American Pravda,” is a striking account of the failure of media, regulatory, and national security organizations and subsequent coverups that leave the public deceived. Unz uses the Iraq war as one example:
The circumstances surrounding our Iraq War demonstrate this, certainly ranking it among the strangest military conflicts of modern times. The 2001 attacks in America were quickly ascribed to the radical Islamists of al-Qaeda, whose bitterest enemy in the Middle East had always been Saddam Hussein’s secular Baathist regime in Iraq. Yet through misleading public statements, false press leaks, and even forged evidence such as the ‘yellowcake’ documents, the Bush administration and its neoconservative allies utilized the compliant American media to persuade our citizens that Iraq’s nonexistent WMDs posed a deadly national threat and required elimination by war and invasion. Indeed, for several years national polls showed that a large majority of conservatives and Republicans actually believed that Saddam was the mastermind behind 9/11 and the Iraq War was being fought as retribution. Consider how bizarre the history of the 1940s would seem if America had attacked China in retaliation for Pearl Harbor.
“True facts were easily available to anyone paying attention in the years after 2001, but most Americans do not bother and simply draw their understanding of the world from what they are told by the major media, which overwhelmingly–almost uniformly–backed the case for war with Iraq; the talking heads on TV created our reality. Prominent journalists across the liberal and conservative spectrum eagerly published the most ridiculous lies and distortions passed on to them by anonymous sources, and stampeded Congress down the path to war.
“The result was what my late friend Lt. Gen. Bill Odom rightly called the ‘greatest strategic disaster in United States history.’ American forces suffered tens of thousands of needless deaths and injuries, while our country took a huge step toward national bankruptcy [and a police state]. Economics Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz and others have estimated that with interest the total long-term cost of our two recent wars may reach as high as $5 or $6 trillion, or as much as $50,000 per American household, mostly still unpaid. Meanwhile, economist Edward Wolff has calculated that the Great Recession and its aftermath cut the personal net worth of the median American household to $57,000 in 2010 from a figure nearly twice as high three years earlier. Comparing these assets and liabilities, we see that the American middle class now hovers on the brink of insolvency, with the cost of our foreign wars being a leading cause.
“But no one involved in the debacle ultimately suffered any serious consequences, and most of the same prominent politicians and highly paid media figures who were responsible remain just as prominent and highly paid today. For most Americans, reality is whatever our media organs tell us, and since these have largely ignored the facts and adverse consequences of our wars in recent years, the American people have similarly forgotten. Recent polls show that only half the public today believes that the Iraq War was a mistake.”
Unz covers a number of cases of criminality, treason, and coverups at high levels of government and points out that “these dramatic, well-documented accounts have been ignored by our national media.” One reason for “this wall of uninterest” is that both parties are complicit and thus equally eager to bury the facts.
Unz is raising the question of the efficacy of democracy. Does the way democracy works in America provide any more self-rule than in undemocratic regimes? He offers this example:
“Most of the Americans who elected Barack Obama in 2008 intended their vote as a total repudiation of the policies and personnel of the preceding George W. Bush administration. Yet once in office, Obama’s crucial selections –Robert Gates at Defense, Timothy Geither at Treasury, and Ben Bernake at the Federal Reserve — were all top Bush officials, and they seamlessly continued the unpopular financial bailouts and foreign wars begun by his predecessor, producing what amounted to a third Bush term.”
In an article not long ago, I raised the issue whether Americans live in The Matrix with their perceptions and thoughts controlled by disinformation as in George Orwell’s 1984. Unz adds to this perspective. He tells the story of Russian oligarch Boris Berezovsky‘s plan to transform Russia into a make-believe two-party state complete with heated battles fought on divisive and symbolic issues. Behind the scenes the political elites would orchestrate the political battles between the parties with the purpose of keeping the population divided and funneling popular dissatisfaction into meaningless dead-end issues. In such a system, self-serving power prevails. After describing Berezovsky’s plot, Unz asks if Berezovsky got his idea from observing the American political scene.
Thinking further about the propagandistic nature of the US media, Unz writes:
“Individuals from less trusting societies are often surprised at the extent to which so many educated Americans tend to believe whatever the media tells them and ignore whatever it does not, placing few constraints on even the most ridiculous propaganda. For example, a commentator on my article described the East German media propaganda he had experienced prior to Reunification as being in many respects more factual and less totally ridiculous than what he now saw on American cable news shows. One obvious difference was that Western media was so globally dominant during that era that the inhabitants of the German Democratic Republic inevitably had reasonable access to a contrasting second source of information, forcing their media to be much more cautious in its dishonesty, while today almost any nonsense uniformly supported by the MSNBC-to-FoxNews spectrum of acceptable opinion remains almost totally unquestioned by most Americans.”
Unz’s view of the US media as propagandists for power is consistent with that of John Pilger, one of the last remaining real journalists who refuses to serve power, and with Gerald Celente, who sums up the sordid American media in one word–“presstitutes.” I know from my own media experience that an independent print and TV media no longer exists in the West. The American media is a tightly controlled disinformation ministry.
Those few Americans who are free of the constraints imposed by dogmas on their ability to think and to process information have a huge responsibility for their small number. The assault on the rule of law began in the last years of the Clinton regime, but the real destruction of the US Constitution, the basis for the United States, was achieved by the neoconservative George W. Bush and Obama regimes. Wars without declarations by Congress, torture in violation of both US and international law, war crimes in violation of the Nuremberg standard, indefinite detention and assassination of US citizens without due process of law, universal spying on US citizens without warrants, federalization of state and local police now armed with military weapons and uniforms, detention centers, “your papers, please” (without the Gestapo “please”) not only at airports but also on highways, streets, bus terminals, train stations, and at sporting events.
On May 5 Obama gave the commencement address at Ohio State University. No doubt that the graduates thought that they were being honored by being addressed by the world’s greatest tyrant.
Obama told the graduating class, to applause, that their obligation as citizens is to trust the government. Outdoing George Orwell’s Big Brother, Obama said in public to a graduating class of a great university without shame: “You have grown up hearing voices that incessantly warn of government as … some sinister entity that’s at the root of all our problems; some of these same voices also doing their best to gum up the works. They’ll warn that tyranny is always lurking just around the corner. You should reject these voices.”
Listen to my propaganda, not to those constitutional experts, legal authorities, and critics of me, the First Black President, who tell you to beware of unaccountable government. Due process is decided by the demands of the war on terror. If there is a war on terror, do you want a fair trial or do you want to be safe? I am going to make you safe by not giving defendants accused of terrorism, who some liberal-pinko-commie judge would set free, a fair trial.
Making you safe by enveloping you in a police state is a nonpartisan undertaking. Just listen to Lindsay Graham and Peter King and John McCain. These Republican leaders are demanding the police state that I am providing.
As my own legal department, The US Department Of Justice, decided, the Dictator, I mean, elected president, has the power to save the country from domestic and foreign terrorists by abrogating the US Constitution, an out-of-date document that binds our hands and prevents us from keeping you, our serfs and minions, I mean our cherished citizens, safe.
Trust me. That is your obligation as a US citizen. Trust me and I will make you free, happy, employed sometime later in this century when the Amerikan Empire controls the world.
The US Constitution was written by people who opposed Empire. These people were misguided, just like the Roman Republicans who did not understand the need for a Caesar. The American Empire, as the neoconservatives have made clear, is what keeps you free from terrorism. We have to kill them over there before they come over here. And those who are over here will be killed too. We tolerate no dissent. That part of the Constitution is gone, along with the rest of it.
Now give me my honorary doctorate, another sign of approval of my usurpation.
Soldier, Liberate Your Belorussia!
Viktor Koretsky, 1943
It can be imagined how powerful this poster might have been for Russian soldiers, a large part of whose country had already been invaded, occupied, and ruined by Nazi soldiers. Imagery as simple and moving as this could draw even peaceful men to war.
As with numbers 5 and 6, you need to look no further if you want to understand why many people go to fight in wars. For the ordinary soldier, the war was not so much about ideological allegiance as it was about protecting the ones they loved. The frightening images here weren’t designed to show what could hypothetically happen, if the war was lost; they showed what had already happened
Red Army Warriors, Save Us!
Viktor Koretsky, 1943
The imagery in the WWII posters is generally far simpler than those of the propaganda campaigns of the 20s and 30s. The propaganda posters were indoctrination campaigns, targeted at certain groups of people, aiming to convince them of certain things that they might not otherwise believe.
But images like this one did not need to be complicated in order to have the desired effect. Koretsky, the artist who created this poster, received letters from soldiers on the front: they “kept his poster folded in the left-hand top pocket of their uniform, next to their heart, just as icons had been kept by their fathers before them.”
The Kukriniksy, Wartime
Many of these hand-painted posters were pasted over windows for propaganda purposes. Despite initial and unexpected friendship with the Axis powers during the war, Hitler’s surprise invasion of Russia had resulted in a strong alliance with the U.S. and Britain.
KPSS – Glory!
Boris Berezovsky, 1962
KPSS stands for “Kommunisticheskaya partiya Sovetskogo Soyuza” – the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. This poster celebrates a series of feats, which intensified the space race and redefined the whole Cold War. On the left is Yuri Gagarin, the first man in space. To his right is Gherman Titov, the first person to spend a whole day in space. They are pictured alongside two other cosmonauts who made it to space. The achievements of these men both shocked and excited people in the U.S., and played a major role in Kennedy’s decision to prioritize sending a man to the moon.