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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Big Brother, Doublethink & the Memory Hole - Politics in the Modern World

Big Brother, Doublethink & the Memory Hole - Politics in the Modern World

Cold War, War on Drugs, War on Terror ... more than 70 years of continuous warfare.

Is this the realisation of the "Perpetual War" that George Orwell wrote of in his novel, Nineteen Eighty-Four?

These wars had to be fought to ensure the continuation of democracy and capitalism - so we've been told.  We feared communism and socialism, we feared the insidious and subversive nature of drugs and now we fear Islamic extremists.  We fear people who are not like us, outnumbering us in "our own" land.

Our modern western society has eerily disturbing similarities to the world portrayed by Orwell in Nineteen Eighty-Four.

The purpose of "Perpetual War" was to artificially create fear in the minds of the population to believe that they were at war with an enemy who was ill-defined, yet identified as the source of many of society's ills; without any logical argument or proof behind the accusations.  In Orwell's perpetual war citizens had to swear undying allegiance to "Big Brother" and the State without question.  This was not that different to George W. Bush declaring that "you are either for us or against us".  Big Brother employed "thought police" to monitor the behaviour, reactions and opinions of citizens to weed out those who were traitors to society.  President Bush passed the Patriot Act which restricted media and free speech and gave law enforcement unprecedented powers of monitoring, censorship and arrest.  Journalists were "embedded" in military operations so the media would only report "authorised" information.

Orwell's Big Brother would often change the enemy.  One day an ally would be an enemy and an enemy would be an ally and citizens were expected to forget the previous status of the relationship as history was rewritten and contrary evidence destroyed in the "memory hole".   The enemy being fought today may not be the enemy being fought tomorrow.  We have seen parallels with this in modern society. During the 1980's Saddam Hussein, Osama Bin Laden, the Mujahideen were all supported, financed and armed by the United States.

However, during the 1990's Saddam Hussein became the enemy.  Osama bin Laden formed Al Qaeda and became the enemy.  From the Mujahideen, the Taliban was formed and following 9/11 became the enemy because they were harbouring Osama bin Laden.  Histories were rewritten and denials issued of the support that the USA gave to these groups. Lies were manufactured to justify the invasion of Iraq; for instance the blatant lie that Hussein and bin Laden were cooperating with each other, the lie that Hussein still held weapons of mass destruction in 2003 and denial of the original reasons for invading Iraq to fit the latest propaganda.  In a purely Orwellian act, the USA buried these histories in the "memory hole" and continued on as though the history never existed whilst their citizens were left wondering "why do our enemies hate us so much".   The reason given by George W. Bush was that "they hate our freedoms"; this could not have been further from the truth.

Two prime examples of this "memory hole" include Colin Powell stating in February 2001 "[Saddam] has not developed any significant capability with respect to weapons of mass destruction.  He is unable to project conventional power against his neighbours. So in effect, our policies have strengthened the security of the neighbours of Iraq".

Then in July 2001, Condeleeza Rice stated "We are able to keep his arms from him.  His military forces have not been rebuilt".

In August 2002, Dick Cheney stated "there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction".   The United States government from Bush, Cheney, Rice, Powell and others commenced declaring that Iraq clearly was in possession of WMD and had to be disarmed.  He was given warning after warning and in Monty Pythonesque logic Ari Fleischer declared that "If he declares he has none, then we will know that Saddam Hussein is once again misleading the world".  So if he weighs the same as a duck then he must be made of wood ...

In March 2003, the United States and its "Coalition of the Willing" (a Newspeak euphemism if there ever was one), invaded Iraq on the basis of disarming Saddam Hussein who was allegedly in possession of vast amounts of WMD.   President George W. Bush declared on 17 March 2003, "Intelligence gathered by this and other governments leaves no doubt that the Iraq regime continues to possess and conceal some of the most lethal weapons ever devised".

In March 2003, Donald Rumsfeld stated "we know where they are, they are around Tikrit and Baghdad and east, west, south and north somewhat".

On 28 May 2003, Lt Gen James Conway "...we have not uncovered weapons, as you say, in some of the forward dispersal sites.  Believe me, it's not through lack of trying. We've been to virtually every ammunition supply point between the Kuwaiti border and Baghdad, but they're simply not there".

On 30 May 2003, President Bush continued with his lies by stating "but for those who say we haven't found the banned manufacturing devices or banned weapons, they're wrong, we found them".

The Coalition of the Willing never found any of these banned weapons or manufacturing plants.

In May 2003, Paul Wolfowitz stated "For bureaucratic reasons, we settled on one issue, weapons of mass destruction (as justification for invading Iraq) because it was the one reason everyone could agree on".

In Nineteen Eighty-Four the "memory hole" was used to rewrite history by destroying evidence and manipulating the memory of the population.  The use of the modern "memory hole" has resulted in ongoing cleansing of history and as a result many have forgotten the reasons for the USSR invading Afghanistan, they  have forgotten the role that the USA played in this.  Because of this memory lapse we are now at risk of the United States being brought down by the very strategy that they used to bring down the Soviet Union.

In the late 70s, the strategy was for the USA to fund and arm dissidents (the Mujaheddin) to wage terrorist attacks against the Soviets, in order to drag the USSR into a prolonged and expensive war.   The USSR invaded Afghanistan and the USA continued funding Islamic extremists to fight a "jihad" against the Soviets. Eventually this war drained the economy so much that it contributed to the fall of the Soviet Union.

In 1986, the leader of the Mujaheddin warned America that the jihadists were going to look for another enemy once the USSR was out of Afghanistan and that the enemy would be the USA. Most of the Jihadists did not know that they were being recruited and funded by the USA.

Since 9/11, Al Qaeda has engaged the USA in a protracted, expensive war which has seen America and her allies invade both Iraq and Afghanistan and wage wars that can't be won and which the USA can't afford.  The War on Terror has cost the USA close to $1 trillion. This money has been borrowed from China.  The Global Financial Crisis, whilst also caused by the greed of the banks, was not helped by the American debt owed to China.  If America is not careful, it may very well suffer the fate of the Soviet Union.

Greed has blinded successive US governments to the potential threat of over-committing to war zones and trouble spots.  The concept of Perpetual War is seen as profitable, after all not only is there an entire industry built around the manufacture of products and services consumed in war, for instance ammunition, weapons, armour, security, but there is also an entire industry around the rebuilding following war.  The US markets this under the banners of "security" and "democracy", yet the locals in those countries often see it for what it is: power, hegemony and money-making for multi-national companies who have no concern for the local economy or local citizens.

Again to quote Orwell's 1984, when asked why the party clings to power, the answer given was not that it was for the good of the people but "The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake.  We are not interested in the good of others; we are interested solely in power ... Power is not a means, it is an end ... One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship".   In this case, "the Party" is not a particular political party it is the government.

Of course this quote, does not solely apply to the US government, it could equally apply to any number of governments across the globe, particularly those established following a revolution, e.g. the Soviets,  Mao Tse Tung, Pol Pot, Pinochet, Suharto, the theocratic rule established following the Iranian revolution.  Some governments were established by more surreptitious "revolution" or by blatant force, for instance Israel, the Taliban, Gaddafi.  All the while the big players, such as the US or the USSR were there funding and establishing their own influences in these revolutions so that they were the beneficiaries. One doesn't have to be the ruler to hold the power.

Western nations were quick to publish and remind citizens of the genocides perpetrated by Hitler, Stalin and Mao Tse Tung, among others.  What wasn't publicised was the complicity and support that the west, in particular the USA, gave to genocides and gross human rights abuses throughout the world.  Declassified White House and CIA documents show that the USA funded, trained and were directly involved in the overthrow of many governments across the globe.  This included overthrowing the socialist-leaning President Sukarno and replacing him with President Suharto.  The CIA then provided names of left-wing sympathisers to Indonesian forces in order for those people to be arrested, tortured and executed.  Suharto was responsible for over a million deaths in Indonesia.   Suharto's troops received training from the British Army.  Former UK Prime Minister Thatcher described him as "one of our best and most valuable friends".  Former US President Bill Clinton described him as "our kind of guy".  This was at a time when Suharto's crimes were well known.  Imagine Thatcher and Clinton saying the same about Hitler or Stalin, yet he massacred over a million of his own people.

The USA will often boast of its democracy and its plan to bring democracy to the world.  In 1973, Chile was under the leadership of socialist President Allende who had been democratically elected.  The USA valued capitalism above democracy and sponsored a military coup which resulted in the death of Allende and the establishment of General Pinochet as Supreme Leader.  It also resulted in right wing death squads hunting down left wing sympathisers and imprisoning, torturing and murdering them.  The torture techniques were taught to them by the USA in their infamous "School of the Americas".  All of this in the name of capitalism.  It wasn't in the name of democracy and Allende was not a terrorist, he was not a despot: he's crime was to be a Socialist.

The USA funded the overthrow of numerous socialist or left wing governments across the globe using bloody revolutions, torture, murder to install US friendly despots who often were abetted by the USA to undertake genocides against their own citizens, particularly those of a socialist persuasion.

The main difference between the USSR and USA in their support of genocide is that the USA tended to not shit in their own backyard - they did it in other people's backyards and in the name of democracy.  However, it was not democratic but pure, unadulterated hegemony and extremist capitalism.

There is a danger in blindly following one ideology whilst criminalising another.  Rather than defend the indefensible, we should be standing up against tryanny, terrorism and human rights abuses regardless of who is perpetrating them.   GK Chesterton summed it up when he stated " 'My country right or wrong' is a thing that no patriot would think of saying except in a desperate case. It is like saying 'my mother, drunk or sober' ". 

In a piece of Orwellian "doublethink", the world's biggest arms dealers are the United States, United Kingdom, France, China and Russia, who also just happen to be the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council.  In Nineteen Eighty-Four, the concept of doublethink was "to be conscious of complete truthfulness while telling carefully constructed lies" or "the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one's mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them".

So to reiterate, the five permanent members of the UN "Security" Council are also the world's largest arms dealers.  To quote Orwell's doublespeak, "War is Peace".

President George W. Bush popularised the term "Compassionate Conservative" as a description of his extreme right wing conservatism.  "Compassionate Conservatives" claim that they use old-fashioned conservatism to compassionately address the problems of society.  Effectively, it is about divesting government of the responsibility to deliver social service programs, by funding their delivery through religious organisations and big businesses. "Compassionate Conservative" is pure Orwellian doublespeak. There is no compassion in the conservatism of the extreme religious right in the United States.

Former President Bill Clinton described "Compassionate Conservatism" as "I want to help you. I really do. But you know.  I just can't".  Compassionate Conservatives are generally of the extreme Christian Right Wing and have shown themselves to be pro-big business, pro-war, support low tax for the rich and higher tax of the poor, bigoted, opposed to human rights, opposed to the Bill of Rights, opposed to government social welfare programs which aim to assist the poorest people in society, opposed to public schooling and public health.

They are Compassionate in name only and have completely ignored the compassionate message of Jesus, whom they claim to so fervently follow.

They want free speech, or more accurately the freedom to criticise non-Christians, but are often the first to complain about outspoken Muslims or other non-Christians.  They want freedom of worship, or more accurately, freedom for Christians to worship however and wherever they want, but not for non-Christians; often waging anti-Islamic campaigns.

"Compassionate Conservatism" is a doublespeak which has duped many Christians and conservative voters, appealing to their xenophobia with catchy, dumbed-down slogans of hate and fear.

Australia has not been immune from this destructive and duplicitous Orwellian politics.  We have seen the rise of the religious right influencing government and religious "values" used in political campaigns.  Then in a form of doublethink, these same "values" were used to justify war as community dialogue and public debates often became hate filled diatribes against refugees, asylum seekers and anyone who did not have the "same values as us".

The Australian Government made great use of the "memory hole" following the debacle over asylum seekers in 2001, firstly with the issues around the Tampa affair, then the fabricated "Children Overboard" affair, the denials and accusations over SIEV-X and the dehumanising policies of giving no voice to the asylum seekers and denying the media access to them or the military.  In a prime piece of doublethink an immigration issue was turned into a military one by unfairly linking asylum seekers to terrorists and unleashing the SAS on the refugees rescued by the Tampa.  The Navy was subsequently used to police our waters in order to "stop the boats".

This global and ongoing distortion of truth, manipulation of the population and misreporting of history was summed up in one of Big Brother's slogans:

"Who controls the past, controls the future: who controls the present controls the past".

Orwell is often seen as the poster-boy of the right wing, portrayed as anti-socialist.  Yet, Orwell was a Socialist and detested imperialism, totalitarianism and fascism. He described himself as a Democratic Socialist who supported free speech and free elections. He believed that Stalin had betrayed Socialism.  He fought with the republicans against the Fascist government in the Spanish Civil War.   He chose to become a Socialist because he saw the squalor and poverty that people in Britain were living in and blamed this on the greed and failure of Capitalism.

His books, Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four warned against the tyranny of government regardless of whether the government claimed to be Socialist, Fascist or Capitalist.  Some people have used these two books as an attack on Socialism, yet they were critical of the hypocrisy of Stalin who claimed to be a socialist, yet was a mass-murdering capitalist and Adolph Hitler who claimed to be a National Socialist (or Fascist) and showed himself to also be a mass-murdering dictator who oppressed and killed any who dare speak out or who was of a race or social group that he either feared or hated.

Over the last few decades we've seen the Alvin Toffler "Future Shock" vision come to pass where global corporations rule the world.  Now, instead of simply government's controlling the masses it is often a hybrid beast of government outsourcing to big business in order to effect social change.  As Naomi Klein has described in her book "Shock Doctrine", the rise of disaster capitalism has seen government and big business take advantage of disasters such as September 11 and Hurricane Katrina to implement policies which would have been more difficult prior to the disaster.  After Hurricane Katrina, "charter schooling" was introduced to replace public schooling at a greater cost to taxpayers but a great fiscal benefit to business.  After September 11, the opportunity was taken by the US government and private organisations such as Halliburton and Black Water to remodel Afghanistan, Iraq and potentially the entire Middle East into "democratic" (read "Capitalist") states at great expense to the US economy (trillions in debt) but at great profit to big business. Whose side is the US government on when it reduces public housing, Medicaid, Medicare, public education at the cost of boosting big business and an expanded military presence.

The fear of socialism and communism was used to manipulate the masses into accepting whatever lie the government required.   Yet following the Global Financial Crisis which was brought on by years of unrestrained military expenditure and unfettered laissez-faire capitalism which made Big Business even bigger and crippled many of the world's national economies, corporations were then forced to return to Government with cap in hand asking for a bail-out.  In the economic wars, the left-wing Keynes was shown to be victorious over the amoral capitalism of Milton Friedman; however, economic histories were also rewritten in order for extreme capitalism to appear victorious in the midst of its moral and fiscal bankruptcy.

As Orwell said "During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act".

It also may serve to save us from ourselves.

With all of the hysteria around patriotism and nationalism, around fighting terrorism and invading Iraq and Afghanistan, we really should remember our history, remember our own contribution to the world as it is, whether that contribution is good, bad or ugly.

Orwell summed up the danger of this hysterical nationalism in a statement that serves as a warning to all of us:

"The nationalist not only does not disapprove of atrocities committed by his own side, he has a remarkable capacity for not even hearing about them".

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