All posts by Edward Curtin

What Are We Working For “At Eternity’s Gate”?

One also knows from his letters that nothing appeared more sacred to Van Gogh than work.

— John Berger, “Vincent Van Gogh,” Portraits

Ever since I was a young boy, I have wondered why people do the kinds of work they do.  I sensed early on that the economic system was a labyrinthine trap devised to imprison people in work they hated but needed for survival.  It seemed like common sense to a child when you simply looked and listened to the adults around you.  Karl Marx wasn’t necessary for understanding the nature of alienated labor; hearing adults declaim “Thank God It’s Friday” spoke volumes.

In my Bronx working class neighborhood I saw people streaming to the subway in the mornings for their rides “into the city” and their forlorn trundles home in the evenings.  It depressed me.  Yet I knew the goal was to “make it” and move away as one moved “up,” something that many did.  I wondered why, when some people had options, they rarely considered the moral nature of the jobs they pursued.  And why did they not also consider the cost in life (time) lost in their occupations?  Were money, status, and security the deciding factors in their choices?  Was living reserved for weekends and vacations?

I gradually realized that some people, by dint of family encouragement and schooling, had opportunities that others never received.  For the unlucky ones, work would remain a life of toil and woe in which the search for meaning in their jobs was often elusive.  Studs Terkel, in the introduction to his wonderful book of interviews, Working: People Talk About What They Do all Day and How They Feel About What They Do, puts it this way:

This book, being about work, is, by its very nature, about violence – to the spirit as well as to the body.  It is about ulcers as well as accidents, about shouting matches as well as fistfights, about nervous breakdowns as well as kicking the dog around.  It is, above all (or beneath all), about daily humiliations.  To survive the day is triumph enough for the walking wounded among the great many of us.

Those words were confirmed for me when in the summer between high school and college I got a job through a relative’s auspices as a clerk for General Motors in Manhattan.  I dreaded taking it for the thought of being cooped up for the first time in an office building while a summer of my youth passed me by, but the money was too good to turn down (always the bait), and I wanted to save as much as possible for college spending money.  So I bought a summer suit and joined the long line of trudgers going to and fro, down and up and out of the underground, adjusting our eyes to the darkness and light.

It was a summer from hell.  My boredom was so intense it felt like solitary confinement.  How, I kept wondering, can people do this?  Yet for me it was temporary; for the others it was a life sentence.  But if this were life, I thought, it was a living death.  All my co-workers looked forward to the mid-morning coffee wagon and lunch with a desperation so intense it was palpable.  And then, as the minutes ticked away to 5 P.M., the agitated twitching that proceeded the mad rush to the elevators seemed to synchronize with the clock’s movements.  We’re out of here!

On my last day, I was eating my lunch on a park bench in Central Park when a bird shit on my suit jacket.  The stain was apt, for I felt I had spent my days defiling my true self, and so I resolved never to spend another day of my life working in an office building in a suit for a pernicious corporation, a resolution I have kept.

*****

“An angel is not far from someone who is sad,” says Vincent Van Gogh in the new film, At Eternity’s Gate. For some reason, recently hearing these words in the darkened theater where I was almost alone, brought me back to that summer and the sadness that hung around all the people that I worked with.  I hoped Van Gogh was right and an angel visited them from time to time.  Most of them had no options.

The painter Julian Schnabel’s moving picture (moving on many levels since the film shakes and moves with its hand-held camera work and draws you into the act of drawing and painting that was Van Gogh’s work) is a meditation on work.  It asks the questions: What is work?  What is work for?  What is life for?  Why paint?  What does it mean to live?  Why do you do what you do?  Are you living or are you dead?  What are you seeking through your work?

For Vincent the answer was simple: reality.  But reality is not given to us and is far from simple; we must create it in acts that penetrate the screens of clichés that wall us off from it.  As John Berger writes:

One is taught to oppose the real to the imaginary, as though the first were always at hand and the second, distant, far away.  This opposition is false.  Events are always to hand.  But the coherence of these events – which is what one means by reality – is an imaginative construction.  Reality always lies beyond – and this is as true for materialists as for idealists.  For Plato, for Marx.  Reality, however one interprets it, lies beyond a screen of clichés.

These screens serve to protect the interests of the ruling classes, who devise ways to trap regular people from seeing the reality of their condition.  Yet while working can be a trap, it can also be a means of escape.  For Vincent working was the way.  For him work was not a noun but a verb. He drew and he painted as he does in this film to “make people feel what it is to feel alive.”  To be alive is to act, to paint, to write.  He tells his friend Gauguin that there’s a reason it’s called the “act of painting, the “stroke of genius.”  For him painting is living and living is painting.

The actual paintings that he made are almost beside the point, as all creative artists know too well.  It is the doing wherein living is found.  The completed canvas, essay, or book are what is done.  They are nouns, still lifes, just as Van Gogh’s paintings have become commodities in the years since his death, dead things to be bought and sold by the rich in a culture of death where they can be hung in mausoleums isolated from the living.  It is appropriate that the film ends with Vincent very still in his coffin as “viewers” pass him by and avidly now desire his paintings that encircle the room that they once rejected.  The man has become a has-been and the funeral parlor the museum.

“Without painting I can’t live,” he says earlier.  He didn’t say without his paintings.

“God gave me the gift for painting,” he said.  “It’s the only gift he gave me.  I am a born painter.”  But his gift has begotten gifts that are still-births that do not circulate and live and breathe to encourage people to find work that will not, “by its very nature, [be] about violence,” as Terkel said. His works, like people, have become commodities, brands to be bought and sold in a world where the accumulation of wealth is accomplished by the infliction of pain, suffering, and death on untold numbers of victims, invisible victims that allow the wealthy to maintain their bad-faith innocence. This is often achieved in the veiled shadows of intermediaries such as stock brokers, tax consultants, and financial managers; in the liberal and conservative boardrooms of mega-corporations or law offices; and in the planning sessions of the world’s great museums. Like drone killings that distance the killers from their victims, this wealth accumulation allows the wealthy to pretend they are on the side of the angels.  It’s called success, and everyone is innocent as they sing, “Hi Ho, Hi Ho, it’s off to work we go.”

“It is not enough to tell me you worked hard to get your gold,” said Henry Thoreau, Van Gogh’s soul-mate. “So does the Devil work hard.”

A few years ago there was a major exhibit of Van Gogh’s nature paintings at the Clark Museum in Williamstown, Massachusetts – “Van Gogh and Nature” – that aptly symbolized Van Gogh in his coffin.  The paintings were exhibited encased in ornate gold frames. Van Gogh in gold.  Just perfect.  I am reminded of a scene in At Eternity’s Gate where Vincent and Gauguin are talking about the need for a creative revolution – what we sure as hell need – and the two friends stand side by side with backs to the camera and piss into the wind.

*****

But pseudo-innocence dies hard.  Not long ago I was sitting in a breakfast room in a bed-and-breakfast in Houston, Texas, sipping coffee and musing myself awake.  Two men came in and the three of us got to talking.  As people like to say, they were nice guys.  Very pleasant and talkative, in Houston on business.  Normal Americans.  Stressed.  Both were about fifty years old with wives and children.

One sold drugs for one of the largest pharmaceutical companies that is known for its very popular anti-depressant drug and its aggressive sales pitches.  He travelled a triangular route from Corpus Christi to Austin to Houston and back again, hawking his wares.  He spoke about his work as being very lucrative and posing no ethical dilemmas.  There were so many depressed people in need of his company’s drugs, he said, as if the causes of their depression had nothing to do with inequality and the sorry state of the country as the rich rip off everyone else.  I thought of recommending a book to him – Deadly Medicines and Organized Crime: How big pharma has corrupted health care by Peter Gotzsche – but held my tongue, appreciative as I was of the small but tasteful fare we were being served and not wishing to cause my companions dyspepsia.  This guy seemed to be trying to convince me of the ethical nature of the way he panned gold, while I kept thinking of that quote attributed to Mark Twain: “Denial ain’t just a river in Egypt.”

The other guy, originally from a small town in Nebraska and now living in Baton Rouge, was a former medevac helicopter pilot who had served in the 1st Gulf War.  He worked in finance for an equally large oil company.  His attitude was a bit different, and he seemed sheepishly guilty about his work with this company as he told me how shocked he was the first time he saw so many oil, gas, and chemical plants lining the Mississippi River from Baton Rouge to New Orleans and all the oil and chemicals being shipped down the river. So many toxins that reminded him of the toxic black smoke rising from all the bombed oil wells in Iraq.  Something about it all left him uneasy, but he too said he made a very good “living” and that his wife also worked for the oil company back home.

My childish thought recurred: when people have options, why do they not choose ethical work that makes the world more beautiful and just?  Why is money and so-called success always the goal?

Having seen At Eternity’s Gate, I now see what Van Gogh was trying to tell us and Julian Schnabel conveys through this moving picture.  I see why these two perfectly normal guys I was breaking bread with in Houston are unable to penetrate the screen that lies between them and reality.  They have never developed the imaginative tools to go beyond normal modes of perception and conception. Or perhaps they lack the faith to dare, to see the futility and violence in what they are working for and what their companies’ products are doing to the world.  They think of themselves as hard at work, travelling hither and yon, doing their calculations, “making their living,” and collecting their pay.  It’s their work that has a payoff in gold, but it’s not working in the sense that painting was for Vincent, a way beyond the screen.  They are mesmerized by the spectacle, as are so many Americans. Their jobs are perfectly logical and allow them a feeling of calm and control.

But Vincent, responding to Gauguin, a former stock broker, when he urged him to paint slowly and methodically, said, “I need to be out of control. I don’t want to calm down.”  He knew that to be fully alive was to be vulnerable, to not hold back, to always be slipping away, and to be threatened with annihilation at any moment. When painting, he was intoxicated with a creative joy that belies the popular image of him as always depressed.  “I find joy in sorrow,” he said, echoing in a paradoxical way Albert Camus, who said, “I have always felt that I lived on the high seas, threatened, at the heart of a royal happiness.”   Both rebels, one in paint, the other in words: “I rebel: therefore we exist,” was how Camus put it, expressing the human solidarity that is fundamental to genuine work in our ephemeral world. Both nostalgic in the present for the future, creating freedom through vision and disclosing the way for others.

And although my breakfast companions felt safe in their calmness on this side of the screen, it was an illusion.  The only really calm ones are corpses.  And perhaps that’s why when you look around, as I did as a child, you see so many of the living dead carrying on as normal.

“I paint to stop thinking and feel I am a part of everything inside and outside me,” says Vincent, a self-described exile and pilgrim.

If we could make working a form of such painting, a path to human solidarity because a mode of rebelling, what a wonderful world it might be.

That, I believe, is what working is for.

Loving Me Was Easier: A Parable for the Perplexed

A few years ago I married myself, but we’ve reconsidered and have filed for divorce.  It’s no one’s fault, really, but we are emotionally devastated nevertheless. At least we have no children.  Sologamy didn’t seem to suit us.  We had acted impetuously.  I had gotten the idea after hearing a NPR radio report about a woman who fell in love with herself and said that after she tied the knot she had never been happier.

The world was getting me down at the time with all the political news about the Russians coming and insinuating themselves between me and you and all good Americans who had just wanted to elect Hilary Clinton and be happy.  And as I was thinking about this happy married couple – the woman and herself, not Bill and Hillary – I chanced upon a New York Times article in a coffee shop that convinced me to take the plunge.  It was a  weird article that jumped out at me about transracialism and transgenderism and this big debate about these big words and a big philosopher who claims if you can self-identify as a different sex, or is it gender – I  can never get them straight – you should also be able to self-identify as a different race.  It was a long article with a lot of people arguing back and forth about self-identifying as this and that and what names to call themselves and I couldn’t concentrate on it all but I got the gist of the professor’s point and thought this might be for me.  It might help me get OK and happy, which was my goal. So I self-identified as I and me, a couple, and we said I do and I do too in a private ceremony.  I really wanted to be happy like that woman and to forget all the stuff about Trump being in bed with the Russians, and the Russians trying to get into our heads and voting booths, maybe even our beds where they would whisper lies about capitalism being immoral and other sweet nothings meant to confuse us about our identities and what was right and wrong.  I figured going to bed with myself might help me forget.

But it hasn’t worked out as we expected.  Last night, we had a little New Year’s Eve party and had a few anime hologram friends over.  As usual, we talked about the past year and old times and old friends and sang a few lines of Auld Lang Syne as we toasted left hand to right with some nice Prosecco with pomegranate juice since we heard that was the drink all the smart set use to celebrate their clever happiness.  But then we got to arguing, and between you and me, it wasn’t pretty.  Our friends were mortified.  It was a scene straight out of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?  The Prosecco had gone to our head, so we don’t remember all the scathing interchanges, but I do know our anime friends said not a word and that me said to I at one point words that seemed to echo Martha and George’s. Martha: “Truth or Illusion, George; you don’t know the difference.”  George: “No, but we must carry on as if we did.”  Martha: “Amen.”

So now it’s the day after and we must carry on “as if.”  Amen, indeed!  And though our head hurts a bit, we have been talking over coffee and have decided to split up, amicably of course.  It’s a new year, and like most people, we want to make a fresh start.  I wish me the best and know me reciprocates. We will now go separate ways but it will be very lonely. Facebook friends might help somewhat, but they are no substitute for the intimacy of the past few years.  Who will now help me make it through the night?  And what about poor I?  Forgive me, but I am so confused and have a hell of a headache.

Although I want 2019 to be a happy year, if 2018 is any gauge, 2019 will be a long night from hell politically and culturally, with fake news everywhere and our Russian enemies infiltrating our minds at every turn with backstopping and sheep dipping their spies throughout the media and academia. It’s so lonely trying to make sense of it all.  Without my me-spouse, it can only get worse.  Even CNN’s Anderson Cooper’s New Year’s Eve words of comfort to the lonely from Times Square don’t help much.  Like Fox News’s “Fox and Friends,” Anderson is always there with a helping hand, and when I and me were arguing, I could always go to my true friends in the media for a dose of truth and sustenance.  They know all about the Russian threat.

But while I am grateful for their comfort in these confusing times, I need more.  With apologies to Kris Kristofferson, but loving me was easier that anything I’ll ever do again.  I need easy, real easy, easier even than when I would say something and me would disagree but we would let it slide for the sake of our relationship. It was easier that way.  But our relationship was probably doomed from the start.

But thank God for technology and CNN that has alerted me to a new technological possibility with a report about a Japanese man, Akihito Kondo, a school administrator, who fell in love years ago with Miku, a cyber-celebrity hologram. He has finally taken the plunge and married Miku in a lovely ceremony in front of 39 people.  Kondo seems radiantly happy and not at all confused.

Such a possibility was right in front of my nose all along: my anime hologram friends who watched me and I get drunk last night.  One of them – Meto – is cute as a button and is always looking to snuggle and comfort others.  If she will have me, I will propose after a dignified waiting period, maybe an hour or so.

I will carry on as if loving her will be easier than anything I’ve ever done before.

A Spiritual Special Ops Team’s Christmas Gift

It happened that a fire broke out backstage in a theater.  The clown came out to inform the public.  They thought it was a jest and applauded.  He repeated his warning, they shouted even louder.  So I think the world will come to an end amid general applause from all the wits, who believe that it is a joke.

— Soren Kierkegaard, Either/Or

It was snowing hard in the days before Christmas in 1972 as I sat at my writing desk looking out the back window toward the woods that were filling up with snow.  I felt trapped by the heavy snow that made the roads impassable, but even more so by the contemplation of the barbaric “Christmas Bombing” of North Vietnam carried out by Richard Nixon, Henry Kissinger, and their associated war criminals.  I was filled with despair and imagined the snow turning red with blood.  Earlier that fall, I, together with a thousand others, had been arrested for protesting the dispatching of these B-52 bombers that were indiscriminately massacring Vietnamese.  The corporate media, accomplices to war crimes then and now, refused to report on the demonstration and the large number of arrests, despite repeated requests to do so.  They were just doing their job.

So here we are again as Christmas approaches.  The same corporate media obsess about Trump as if something has changed over the decades. Nothing has, except for a growing gulf between reality and fantasy, not a small thing.  Between Nixon and Trump lies a vacuity of leadership and a history of evil war-making that the media have disappeared, just as they have disappeared the message of peace that connects Christmas to Good Friday, in favor of corporate capitalism’s favorite season of consumption and memory loss. Thus they have accompanied and promoted the growth of the malignant American empire and its violent expansion across the world. But if one knew the history of those years, one could perhaps find one’s way out of the forest of lies into the clearing of truth, a very big thing indeed.  Here’s a bit.

Nixon was first elected in 1968 as a “peace candidate” and proceeded to wage savage attacks on Vietnam and secretly on Laos and Cambodia.  He was elected after having treasonously sabotaged a Vietnam peace deal, but the American people in their naivety believed his lies and elected him.  After four years of savage war-making and the Watergate break-in, they reelected him in a landslide with the aid of the 18 year old vote, when his opponent, Democratic Senator George McGovern, who campaigned on ending the war and granting amnesty to draft evaders, received 17 electoral votes to Nixon’s 520. So much for war crimes. Then came Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, William Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama – liars and war-mongers all (I will spare you the details that are easily available) – and now we have Trump, who is no different, just far weirder and therefore a cause of some embarrassment to those who deal the cards.

Nine presidents who claim to be Christians, whose founder was executed by the Roman state for advocating love, not war; presidents who, when they die, we are told by the media, go straight to heaven as their presidential brothers in crime and their acolytes gather round to pray, hold hands, and beam them up in language that would make an idiot laugh.  Don’t bother to send in the clowns; they’re here. They gather periodically in the National Cathedral and other Washington, D.C. venues to give us a laugh. But who is laughing at these jokesters who are an embarrassment to the human race?

When JFK was executed by the U.S. national security state for planning to end the Vietnam War, the Cold War, and the nuclear arms race, he was succeeded by another “peace” candidate, Lyndon Johnson, number ten on the list of good Christian Presidents, who claimed his opponent in the 1964 election was prepared to nuke the world; so Johnson only proceeded to escalate the war against Vietnam in the most barbarous ways imaginable, killing millions and using young American war-slaves (draftees) to do so.

But enough history.  A little bit can make one laugh; delving deep can shock one into an awareness that we have been snowed for a long time and that that sense of despair and entrapment I felt at Christmas 1972 may run deep into the American soul.  Perhaps.

But of happiness and despair we have no measure.  What we can measure is the increase in the possibility that nuclear war may happen, making all possibility impossible. Do we need a comedian to tell us that the fire next time will be the last time; that the tinder is set and the match ready to strike?  How long will the American people go on believing the absurd lies of the politicians and their sycophantic media mouthpieces that it is the Russians who wish to bury us and are preparing to do so, when the United States continues to offensively provoke Russia in Ukraine and eastern Europe and has pulled out of all treaties that might help prevent nuclear war?  The writing is on the wall.

When we think of nuclear war, we enter the realm of the religious.  Once upon a time the power to destroy the world was reserved for God.  With the invention of nuclear weapons that power, and its accompanying symbolism that runs deep into our psyches, passed to the possessors of nuclear weapons.  In the U.S., our psychopathic nuclearists like to play the religious clowns by jocularly naming weapons of mass extinction and their delivery systems in such a way as to reduce them to sick  jokes (“Fat Man” and “Little Boy”), an ancient god’s spear (Trident), and even the body of Christ ( the nuclear submarine the “Corpus Christ”). Although they have set the world on a course toward extinction, it’s all a joke to them.

Last month in a courthouse in Georgia, a hearing was held for seven Catholic peacemakers who take the possibility of nuclear war very seriously and believe Kierkegaard’s clown.  They have acted on their Christian faith that there is a direct link from a child born in a manger to a man executed by the state on a cross and the hope of an Easter rising.  They know the theater is on fire.  On April 4, 2018, the fiftieth anniversary of the national security state’s execution of Dr. Martin Luther King in 1968, they entered into the Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay, the east coast home of the Trident submarines that carry half the American strategic nuclear warheads, where they poured their own blood and indicted the military for crimes against peace.  Their actions follow a long string of such actions that have followed from the actions of the Catonsville Nine when they burned draft records in Catonsville, Maryland on May 17, 1968, six weeks after King’s murder and a few before Bobby Kennedy suffered the same fate at the hands of the same killers.  At Catonsville, the words that Fr. Daniel Berrigan, S.J. read over the flaming basket of draft files ring true today as they always will:

Our apologies, good friends, for the fracture of good order, the burning of paper instead of children, the angering of the orderlies in the front parlor of the charnel house. We could not, so help us God, do otherwise.

For we are sick at heart, our hearts give us no rest for thinking of the Land of Burning Children. And for thinking of that other Child, of whom the poet Luke speaks. The infant was taken up in the arms of an old man, whose tongue grew resonant and vatic at the touch of that beauty.

And the old man spoke; this child is set for the fall and rise of many in Israel, a sign that is spoken against. Small consolation; a child born to make trouble, and to die for it, the First Jew (not the last) to be subject of a “definitive solution.” He sets up the cross and dies on it; in the Rose Garden of the executive mansion, on the D.C. Mall, in the courtyard of the Pentagon.

We see the sign, we read the direction: you must bear with us, for his sake. Or if you will not, the consequences are our own. For it will be easy, after all, to discredit us. Our record is bad; trouble makers in church and state, a priest married despite his vows, two convicted felons.

We have jail records, we have been turbulent, uncharitable, we have failed in love for the brethren, have yielded to fear and despair and pride, often in our lives. Forgive us. We are no more, when the truth is told, than ignorant beset men, jockeying against all chance, at the hour of death, for a place at the right hand of the dying one.

These current witnesses for peace in Georgia include long-term peace activists Elizabeth McAlister, 78, of Baltimore; Jesuit Fr. Steve Kelly, 69, of the Bay Area in California; Carmen Trotta, 55, of New York City; Clare Grady, 50, of Ithaca, New York; Martha Hennessy, 62, of New York, granddaughter of Catholic Worker co-founder Dorothy Day; Mark Colville, 55, of New Haven, Connecticut; and Patrick O’Neill, 61, of Garner, North Carolina.

At this hearing, Bishop Joseph Kopacz of Jackson, Mississippi testified on their behalf that they were doing what Christians are called to do: resist war and the weapons of war, especially nuclear weapons that are sinful and that will destroy all of creation if used.  He said they were “a spiritual special ops team.”

They are being charged by the government with conspiracy, trespass, and destruction and depredation of government property, charges they are seeking to have dismissed.  The judge in the case has said the hearing will be continued at an unspecified future date.

And perhaps at another unspecified date – today? Christmas? – the gift that such courageous people offer to us will be accepted and we will come to the realization that time is short, as it always is in genuine living, and the evil that glides silently under the seas with those Trident submarines will be recognized for what it is: the evil that resides in us when we refuse to unwrap the gift that this spiritual special op team offers us and we continue to dwell in the illusionary unreality of the American dream that is sustained by lies, myths, and what Rev. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, executed by Hitler for his ant-Nazi dissidence, called “cheap grace” that we bestow on ourselves – the belief that our “leaders” mean well.

They don’t.

Sometimes A Pair of Pants Can Give You Vertigo

Between the experience of living a normal life at this moment on the planet and the public narratives being offered to give a sense to that life, the empty space, the gap, is enormous.  The desolation lies there, not in the facts.

— John Berger, “A Man with Tousled Hair” in The Shape of a Pocket, May 11, 2003

A few days ago, as I stepped into my pants to start the day as is my habit, I happened to notice the label at the waist band.  It read “Gap,” and the sight of this word sent my mind spinning into a whirling contemplation of this void that lies at the center of life today, a subject that has disturbed me for a long time.

I had earlier that morning made the mistake of checking the news headlines on the computer.  This too is a habit that I no doubt share with millions of other people.  It is a dastardly habit no sane person should inflict on oneself.  To rise from one’s night dreams and step into a litany of hyperbolic headlines shouting doom and gloom at every turn is to inject oneself with a poisonous drug before the sap of life has a chance to rise in one’s veins and one’s imagination might give birth to new possibilities.

Standing in my pants, I felt as though I were hovering over Berger’s enormous empty space, and if I didn’t wake up, I would tumble endlessly away.  Thoreau’s words floated up: “To be awake is to be alive. I have never yet met a man who was quite awake. How could I have looked him in the face?”

So I stepped over the hole at my feet and tried to shake the monotonous clatter of the monstrous media’s messages from my mind.  In my vertiginous state I dared not look in a mirror.  So many of the media’s lying words that I had already ingested with coffee seemed to float around and within me in an unreality disconnected from the actual world, even the world they were ostensibly reporting on.

I too had written many words about the drastic condition of our world today, thinking somehow my words, different from the corporate media’s, could move the world by pulling back the curtain that the powerful have created through clichés to conceal the sordid reality they have made of this beautiful earth.  Yet the presentation of facts seemed to make no difference.  Very little, if anything, made a difference.  Most of those who read my words more or less already agreed with me. And many, even friends and family, just ignored them, anticipating that they would disturb them.  And the mainstream publications shunned them like the plague.

Between my desire for a changed world and the world that seemed to change only for the worse lay the desolation Berger identified.

Many people feel it, I know, especially dissidents who fight in various ways against the powerful.  But we prefer not to go there, to see what it consists of and how we may transmute it into acts and words that might make a difference. We prefer to make believe we are making a difference by repeating ad nauseum the same prefabricated responses, usually directly political, to the atrocities committed daily.  We are caught in what Czeslaw Milosz, writing in a different context, called “ontological anemia” – “among this illness’s symptoms is the nothingness sucking from the center in.”  We try and try but seem to devour ourselves by repeating the same approaches, as if all the slaves know is what their masters have taught them.  Milosz knew this because he was an artist and a spiritual seeker, not just a political analyst, and also had personal experience with the totalitarian mindset that is descending on the West.

The twists of history can make one’s head spin.

In writing about Vincent Van Gogh, whose hunger for reality drove him to produce works of achingly loving beauty, John Berger, the quixotic Marxist, writes:

Reality, however one interprets it, lies behind a screen of clichés.  Every culture produces such a screen, partly to facilitate its own practices (to establish habits) and partly to consolidate its own power.  Reality is inimical to those with power.

Yet while Van Gogh sought reality by breaking the mold, the rich and powerful have devoured the results of his efforts and have transposed them into commodities.  Last year, his painting, Laboureur Dans Un Champ, painted from an asylum where he had committed himself, sold for $ 81.3 million at Christie’s after a frenetic auction.

A humble peasant working in a field becomes a trophy for the rich, who keep the working man slaving away.  Words and deeds are turned upside down on desolation row where:

Between the windows of the sea where lovely mermaids flow
And nobody has to think too much about Desolation Row1

We need to think again. Imagine!  Today we are caught in a void of clichés and in the clutches of rapacious elites.  Only acts of creative imagination will free us from their clutches.

I look to my right and on a shelf I see a vividly painted Matryoshka doll.  It startles me into the thought that like Matryoshka dolls, so many of our personal habits that deaden us to imagining a way across the gap to a better world are nestled within social habits of thought, speech, and action. We are so often encased like tiny cloned dolls in the social clichés that make us smaller versions of the powers that we say we oppose but which we mimic.  We are carved and painted in their likeness, and caught in the habit of reacting to them in ways that reinforce their control.

We must disrupt our routines.  We must find new ways, not to just respond, but to take the initiative.  When we react according to habits, although we may not realize it, we are being controlled and not in control.  Habits, like the word’s etymology reveals, may reassure us that we have, hold or possess a position of strength from which we can move the world in our direction, but the only Archimedean lever and fulcrum capable of that is inspiration.

That involves a new way of seeing, not vertiginous but visionary.

I think I’ll change my pants.

  1. Bob Dylan, Highway 61 Revisited, 1965

Phil Ochs and the Crucifixion of President John F. Kennedy

They say they can’t believe it, it’s a sacrilegious shame
Now, who would want to hurt such a hero of the game?
But you know I predicted it; I knew he had to fall
How did it happen? I hope his suffering was small.
Tell me every detail, I’ve got to know it all,
And do you have a picture of the pain?

— Phil Ochs, The Crucifixion

You are aware of only one unrest;
Oh, never learn to know the other!
Two souls, alas, are dwelling in my breast,
And one is striving to forsake its brother.

— Goethe, Faust

President John Kennedy was assassinated by the U.S. national-security state, led by the C.I.A., on November 22, 1963 in Dallas, Texas.  That is a fact beyond dispute, except for those who wish to engage in pseudo-debates to deny the obvious.  I prefer not to, since there is nothing to debate.

But there is everything to mourn, even after fifty-five years, first, of course, for the man himself, then for those who have suffered and died for bearing witness to the truth about his assassination, and finally for the consequences of his murder, because it cut savagely into any pretense of American innocence and set the stage for the nihilistic tragedies that have followed, including the murders of Malcolm X, MLK, RFK, the September 11, 2001 attacks, and the ongoing “war on terror.”

Today, JFK’s killers have tightened their choke-hold on the country and on the throats of those wishing to tell the truth.  Their penetration of the corporate mass media is wide and deep, and the narratives they spin can make an innocent soul’s head spin.  Everything is twisted to serve their interests.  With a click of a finger, truth and falsehood rotate like spokes on a rapidly turning wheel – spooks turning spokes in a game of hide and seek meant to confuse and derange the public. Constant befuddlement is the name of this racket.

It’s a melancholy task to contemplate the parts played, consciously or unconsciously, by various actors in this deadly game, not least because one’s own naiveté prompts one sometimes to question or abandon those one once admired and to dive deeply into the twisted minds and hearts of fellow humans.  What follows concerns one such man’s strange story as told by another man, whose story is perhaps stranger, and what their relationships with U.S. intelligence, if any, might suggest about our situation today.

Oh I am just a student, Sir, and only want to learn
But it’s hard to read through the risin’ smoke of the books that you like to burn
So I’d like to make a promise and I’d like to make a vow
That when I got something to say, Sir, I’m gonna say it now

Those are the words of the folk singer, Phil Ochs, from his 1966 song I’m Going To Say It Now. Ochs wrote and performed passionate protest songs during the 1960s that inspired many to speak and act in opposition to the Vietnam War and many other injustices.  He was a fiery, sardonic activist whose music, such as I Ain’t Marching Any More induced many to refuse military induction and to burn their draft cards.  He, not Bob Dylan, was the committed voice of the 1960s radical anti-war folk music world, singing at events and rallies across the country, culminating at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago when the Chicago police rioted and savagely beat anti-war protesters, and Yippies and Hippies gathered in Lincoln Park to listen to Ochs sing defiant songs to keep up their spirits. But Ochs’s own spirit was broken that terrible year of so many deaths, which started his long descent into alcoholism and mental chaos that ended with his suicide in 1976.

I was one of those who was inspired by his music. I still am.  Soulful and satiric, biting and beautiful, stirring and inspiriting, it has a power few can equal.  But I have come to a point where I feel compelled to broach a mysterious story involving Ochs, something that when I first heard it in passing shocked me terribly. No, I thought, that can’t be true; it’s impossible.

But the more I have researched it, the truer it seems – with emphasis on the word “seems” – for there is only one source for the story, a source I don’t doubt but can’t confirm.

But either way, I have come to see the story as emblematic of the treachery and confusion sown by the CIA, its Operation Mockingbird, and its so-called Mighty Wurlitzer that have played so many for fools through its control of the corporate mass media and the production of narratives that run like little movies too perfect to be true, but too true to be false – even when they are.  Screens within screens within screens.  Efforts to fuck up as many people as possible in operation chaos, to derange and cleave them into split personalities within and without, and to mystify as many minds as possible.

I think Phil Ochs was one so mystified. I am wondering if in life and death he was used and abused by radically evil forces, whomever they may be.

According to Phil’s best friend from college at Ohio State, the man who taught him to play guitar, his singing partner, best man at his wedding, constant pal in their days in Greenwich Village, and life-long friend, Jim Glover, Ochs was in Dallas, Texas on November 22, 1963, standing outside the Dal-Tex building in Dealey Plaza when JFK was driven by to be killed. Glover says Phil told him he went there as a “national security observer.”

I had read about this on some off-beat websites, but never in biographies of Ochs, or in the latest documentary about him, There But for Fortune. There seems to be an “official” ban on mentioning Glover’s claim, even though Glover appears in the books and the documentary, has been interviewed by the authors and filmmaker, and is considered by them, as Phil’s old and close friend, to be a reliable source.

Jim Glover, who was one half of the well-known folk duo, Jim and Jean, back in the 1960s, and is now an anti-war activist in Florida, says that he has told Ochs’s siblings and biographers all the details, has also reported it recently and as far back as the early 1990s to the FBI, and has put these claims out on some internet sites and openly spoken about it. These disclosures have resulted in silence from Ochs’s family and biographers.  There have been no efforts to refute it, and so it circulates far outside the mainstream.  Since Glover speaks of it openly and in great detail, and since it is a shocking claim with serious implications, one would think it worthy of response.  But it is only greeted with silence.  It seems perhaps like another example of what Thomas Merton called “the unspeakable” – “the void that contradicts everything that is spoken even before the words are said.”

So I contacted Glover and asked him about it.  He told me that Phil had told him months before the assassination that he was “working for National Security, something like the C.I.A.”  Then, he later told him he had gone to Dallas with one of the Gambino boys as “a national security observer” and had been standing in Dealey Plaza outside the Dal-Tex building where he was filmed when JFK was shot.  Jim Glover has sent me photos that he discovered decades later that he says are photos of Phil in Dealey Plaza at the exact spot he mentioned and also in the movie theatre where Oswald was arrested.  He thinks they are very conclusive, especially because of the Dealey Plaza location, despite their blurriness.  While I think they are not dispositive, they do look like Ochs in a fuzzy sort of way.

 

The first two photos are outside the Dal-Tex building, after and before the assassination.

Inside the movie theatre where Oswald was captured and taken out the front door, while the second Oswald was led out the back door.

And the last is a photo of Ochs at Ohio State in 1961 for comparison purposes.

Whatever you think of the photos, they are one piece of a larger mystery, a tale stranger than fiction.  They may or may not show Ochs, as Jim Glover is certain they do, but if Ochs’s biographers trust him on other matters, why would they doubt him when he says Ochs told him he was in Dallas that day?  He says they are afraid to entertain the possibility.

So we might ask the question: If Phil Ochs was in Dallas that day, what was he doing there?

Let me reiterate: The murder of President Kennedy is not a mystery, and I am not exploring it.  We know he was killed in a coup carried out by the national security state led by the CIA.  If you want to know why, and if you want to know why this Thanksgiving, November 22, we should give thanks for John Kennedy’s life and witness, read JFK and the Unspeakable by James Douglass.  It’s the only book you need to read on the assassination.

Phil Ochs is the mystery in Glover’s telling, and I am wondering about him (and Glover), what he thought he was doing getting tangled up with shadowy intelligence operatives, how that awakening knowledge subsequently affected him, how he responded, and what place guilt and fear played in his post-1963 life and death.  I am proceeding as if Ochs went to Dallas at the naïve age of 22 not to harm Kennedy, but as Glover said he said, to investigate the threats against Kennedy that he had heard of in NYC through V. T. Lee of the Fair Play for Cuba Committee (FPCC) and others. (This is the same V.T. Lee who received a letter from Lee Harvey Oswald, who was proposing a FPCC chapter for New Orleans in May 1963, where he was performing his theatrical stunts.  Lee warned Oswald not to provoke “unnecessary incidents which frighten away prospective supporters” in a place so hostile to Castro.  But Oswald, of course, did the opposite to establish his fake support for Castro.)

Glover says he also knew of the plots against Kennedy that were widely circulating in leftist circles, and afterwards felt Phil and he were being set up to be implicated in the assassination in case the official cover story fell apart since he and Glover were sympathetic to Castro and Cuba. He says their phones were tapped and they were being surveilled.  At this time Glover and his partner Jean were persuaded, against Ochs’s advice, to go on a Hollywood Hootenanny Tour of southern college campuses, a surreal trip that made stops in Dallas and Houston and seemed clearly connected to the Kennedy assassination as strange people got off and on the multi-bus caravan, talking about Kennedy being killed.  Glover says these included George and Barbara Bush and J. Edgar Hoover, who were picked up by the bus at the Houston airport late in the day of November 22.

You would have to have a fantastic imagination to make this stuff up.  Why would he?   Yet his tale is truly bizarre, revealing the intricate nature of the government conspiracy to kill Kennedy and to create multiple tales of plausible deniability when others failed.

He told me that he doesn’t know who told Phil to go to Dallas, but he is unequivocal that he did.  He said:

I don’t have all the answers.  All I know is what Phil told me to keep us both as safe as possible.  He told me I’ll never lie to you but there are things I can’t tell you.  Knowing I had a big mouth if he told me things you [me] are asking, I might not be alive.  His purpose as I see it was to observe, and being set up if Oswald lived, he could have been used as, ‘See a Castro sympathizer knew and was involved.’  And that would apply to me also [learning what he did on the Hootenanny Tour] and they would stop at nothing to have us both silenced permanently if Oswald or Kennedy lived because we knew too much.

Once, he said, as an example of his big mouth, he was performing at the Gaslight in Greenwich Village and told the audience that Phil had been in Dallas as a national security observer.  He thinks Ochs’s manager, Al Grossman, and Bob Dylan heard it, “because Phil came over and said, ‘Are you trying to get me killed?’”

Phil, he said, was a super patriot and would never have done anything to harm Kennedy, but was tricked into going to Dallas under the assumption that he was working with those trying to prevent the assassination by investigating the plot or trying to infiltrate it and perhaps stop it. But when Ochs returned to NYC later that day,  according to Glover, he was devastated by Kennedy’s assassination and at the realization that he had been used and was now compromised.  That is why he cried so terribly that night and wanted to die.  His youthful innocence had died.

Phil Ochs was a man of two minds and inclinations, not unusual for a coterie of musicians of that era who knew and associated with it each other, had military/intelligence family backgrounds, and were never drafted like so many young men not in college. Like so many of these musical icons – Jim Morrison, David Crosby, Frank Zappa, “Papa” John Philips, Stephen Stills, et al (as Dave McGowan chronicles in his book, Weird Scenes Inside the Canyon, where he questions their public personae and the strange ways they gathered from far distances at one time into Los Angeles’s Laurel Canyon, at the heart which was a covert military film facility, Lookout Mountain Laboratory)  – Ochs had a military background.  He was a conservative rebel who suddenly transformed from a conservative to a radical at Ohio State in his last year, according to Glover. He attended Staunton Military Academy with Barry Goldwater’s son and John Dean of Watergate fame and was a sergeant in the ROTC at Ohio State where at the least he was aware of military intelligence spying on radical students; he idolized John Wayne, James Dean, Marlon Brando and the American western film mythology of the cowboy and soldier; he loved John Kennedy; he sang powerful anti-war songs and would jokingly say to his audience that now that they had listened to his anti-government songs he was turning them in to the government; he was a drama king who loved heroes and wanted to be one; he was a left-winger who mocked liberals; he was a folk singer who loved Elvis.  In short, he was a man of many contradictions, of highs and lows, hope and despair, driven to stop war and injustice and to become a star in the superficial entertainment culture, etc.  As he fell apart in his last years, it became easy to categorize him with the facile term “manic-depressive” or “bipolar.”

I think that misses the heart of the matter, as if a term explains its reality, as if his paranoia had no basis outside his mind, as if he was just nuts to think the CIA was out to get him, as he did regularly and especially after he was attacked and choked while walking alone on a beach in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania, when his vocal cords were ruptured and his voice permanently damaged.

My guess is that he was driven by guilt and fear and that his suicide at age 35 was connected to being in Dallas on the day JFK was assassinated.  I think he died that day too, and that the next 13 years of his life were courageous attempts to quell his guilt for being gulled into going to Dallas and fear that he might be killed for doing so by singing out his rebellious songs in the face of his ghosts. He was a haunted man, and produced haunting songs in response to exorcise his demons, including the songs The Crucifixion and That Was the President, both about John Kennedy.

In his last years he said he was John Train (sometimes John Butler Train), not Phil Ochs, and that John Train had killed Phil Ochs in the Chelsea Hotel on the summer solstice in 1975, the solstice being a significant turning point.  His biographers give various explanations for his adoption of this pseudonym, all of which, I believe, miss the mark.  To say he took the name from his heroes John Wayne, John Ford, John Kennedy, and William Butler Yeats, avoids the key word: Train. It’s as if the word is unimportant or unspeakable, or the name John Train is a common name that “crazy” Phil just made up.

As he was unravelling in fear and trembling, I believe he was referring to a real John Train, a CIA operative, when he metaphorically said “on the first day of summer 1975, Phil Ochs was murdered in the Chelsea Hotel by John Train….For the good of societies, public and secret, he needed to be gotten rid of.” Train assassinates Ochs.  Then the following spring Ochs assassinates Ochs by hanging himself.

Could it just be a coincidence that there is a real John Train who from the early 1950s onward was connected to the CIA and the covert state in various activities as an asset or an agent?  This John Train, who was one of the founders and funders of The Paris Review, its first managing editor, who together with the CIA’s Peter Matthiessen and George Plimpton started the magazine for the CIA under its propaganda front, The Congress for Cultural Freedom.  This John Train, who ran cover corporations for the CIA and was connected to George Herbert Walker Bush through the CIA’s Thomas Devine, who was involved in setting up Bush’s company Zapata Offshore.  This John Train, who was deeply involved with the CIA’s activities in the early 1980s backing the CIA-supported mujahideen against the Soviets in Afghanistan.  This John Train who….1

It is farfetched in the extreme to think that Phil Ochs just plucked the name John Train out of thin air. But the fact that this is asserted by his biographers makes sense when we realize that Jim Glover’s claims are ignored by Ochs’s family, his biographers, and the makers of the documentary about him.  That there is a real CIA-affiliated John Train and that Glover insists Phil told him he was in Dallas on November 22, 1963 seem clearly connected.  But these facts are unspeakable.  I think they need to be explored.

Like Jim Glover, I don’t have all the answers about Phil Ochs.  My guess and my hope is that Phil was used and was not complicit, that he naively thought by going to Dallas he was working with the good guys to protect the president from the killers, and when he witnessed the brutal murder, he felt compromised, and felt so overwhelmed with guilt and fear that life eventually became too unbearable for him.  Clearly this is Glover’s story.  I think it is incumbent on those who don’t believe it to explain why Glover would fabricate such an intricate tale that glorifies his friend as a true patriot,  whom he claims was used by intelligence operatives and who therefore suffered for the rest of his life for trying to protect President Kennedy.

Whatever the truth in this age of “not knowing,” I think his story is a parable for our times.  Whenever you think you’re getting the straight scoop, think again, and then again.  The CIA’s Operation Mockingbird is still singing its siren song to convince us that the crucifixion was a one-time event, when Phil knew otherwise, right from the start and right to the end. I think he tried to warn us and wouldn’t be silenced, even in death.

When I’m Gone

  1. See Joel Whitney’s Finks, Russ Baker’s Family of Secrets, David McGowan’s Weird Scenes Inside the Canyon, and Bill Kelly’s http://jfkcountercoup.blogspot.com/2013/05/phil-ochs-at-dealey-plaza.html

Spooks and the Masked Media

Back of the world in which we live, far in the background, lies another world.  The relation between the two is not unlike the relation we sometimes see in the theater between the forestage scene in the regular acting area and a scrim scene projected behind it.  Through a thin gauze we see, as it were, a world of gauze, lighter, more ethereal, qualitatively different from the actual world.  Many people who appear bodily in the actual world do not belong in it but in that other.

— Soren Kierkegaard, “Diary of the Seducer” in Either/Or

From the outset, the use of journalists was among the CIA’s most sensitive undertakings, with full knowledge restricted to the Director of Central Intelligence and a few of his chosen deputies.

— Carl Bernstein, “The CIA and the Media,” Rolling Stone

Personality is persona, a mask…The mask is magic…Larva means mask; or ghost…it also means mad, a case of demoniacal possession.

— Norma O. Brown, Love’s Body

There are innocent and guilty actors populating the American stage.

Unlike the naïve children who joyously revel in the costumes they don for Halloween, unaware as they are of the death fears they exorcise, the corporate mainstream media wear their masks year-round, while they consciously abet the United States government, its intelligence agencies, and its allies in exercising their God-given right to inflict death on people around the world, including many innocent children.

To point out the media’s sickening hypocrisy (Greek hypokrites, stage actor) is, in one way, quite easy and facile, but in another quite difficult because of the powerful hypnotic hold people’s “trusted” media have on them.  To even suggest that people’s favorite mainstream media are doing the work of the secret state feels so insulting to people’s intelligence with its suggestion of gullibility that many recoil in anger at the possibility.  A common retort is that it is absurd to suggest that The New York Times, The Washington Post, Fox News, CNN, etc. are just disseminating propaganda from behind a mask of objectivity.  And it is that small word “just” that reveals the falsity of the reply.  For obviously these media organizations report truthfully on certain matters.  For if they didn’t, their lies would not work.  But when it comes to crucial matters of foreign or domestic policy – matters that involve the controlling interests of the elites – lies and deceptions are the rule.

Yes, Trump is a narcissistic mana personality who has entranced and mystified his hard core followers. But to think he is the only hypnotist on the stage is childish beyond belief.  The psychoanalyst Sandor Ferenczi observed that people are so susceptible to returning to an imaginary childhood through hypnotic trances because “In our innermost soul we are still children, and we remain so throughout life.”  Like the little children who go trick-or-treating dressed up as ghosts, witches, or grim reapers, adults too fear death and are easily induced to believe god-like authorities who will quell their fears and ostensibly explain to them who the good and bad guys are.  Like parents with children, the masked media magicians play the good cop/bad cop game with great success.  Obama was a god; Trump, the devil.  Trump is a savior; Obama, a destroyer.  This charade is so obvious that it’s not.  But that’s how the play is played.  At the moment, all eyes are on Trump, who commands center stage. And those obsessively transfixed eyes are staring out of the heads of people of all political persuasions, those that love and those that loathe the man and all he stands for.  And who has created this obsession but none other than our friends in the corporate media, the same people who gave us Obama-mania.

Meanwhile, back stage…. it’s a wonderful life.

There’s Saudi Arabia and the recent news about the killing of Jamal Khashoggi and the Saudi war on Yemen.  You may rightly wonder what that is all about.

And you might remember and be wondering about the poisoning, allegedly by Russia, of those Russian nationals Sergei Scripal and his daughter Yulia, who have been kept in total isolation by the British authorities for eight months.

Do you wonder about where the war against Syria went?  Has it just gone to sleep until after November’s election?  Is that what wars do, take naps?

Do you wonder obsessively about the upcoming mid-term election and all those “former” CIA folks running for office?  “Crucial” elections, the media tell us.  The state of the country is riding on them, right?  Or is it the world?

There is so much to wonder about. The costumes are so creative, the masks mesmerizing. Something’s happening, right?  There is so much to wonder about in Wonderland. Something is happening, as Dylan sings:

You raise up your head and you ask, “Is this where it is?”
And somebody points to you and says, “It’s his”
And you say, “What’s mine?” and somebody else says, “Well, what is?”
And you say, “Oh my God, am I here all alone?”
But something is happening and you don’t know what it is
Do you, Mr. Jones?

As you no doubt do know, The Washington Post, The New York Times and other corporate media are outraged by the killing of Khashoggi and now by the Saudis’ war on Yemen.  Does their outrage make you wonder how outrage works?

Here from seven years ago:

The extent of America’s war in Yemen has been among the Obama administration’s most closely guarded secrets, as officials worried that news of unilateral American operations could undermine Mr. Saleh’s tenuous grip on power.

That was the NY Times’ Mark Mazzetti on June 8, 2011, two-and-a-half years into the Obama administration.

This is Mark Mazzetti for October 20, 2018, “Saudis’ Image Makers: A Troll Army and a Twitter Insider”:

In one conversation viewed by The Times, dozens of leaders [Saudi] decided to mute critics of Saudi Arabia’s military attacks on Yemen by reporting the messages to Twitter as “sensitive.

The article goes on to describe how the formerly Saudi good guys are getting bad and doing Russian-like stuff like trolling and “swarming and stifling critics on Twitter” in a propaganda and public relations campaign.  Boy, isn’t it shocking and a cause for wonder?  What they wouldn’t do!

And then there’s the Times’ emotional story from October 20, 2018 by Declan Walsh with photos and video from Tyler Hicks – “This is the Front Line of Saudi Arabia’s Invisible War” – that says:

The Khashoggi crisis has called attention to a largely overlooked Saudi-led war in Yemen. On a rare trip to the front line, we found Yemenis fighting and dying in a war that has gone nowhere.

“Largely overlooked” – by whom?  “Gone nowhere” – and where was it supposed to go?

Now what’s happening, Mr. Reader?  Has the worm turned?  Do you wonder? It’s hard to remember to forget or forget to remember, isn’t it?

Would this article – “U.S. stepping up weapons shipments to aid Saudi air campaign over Yemen – from April, 7, 2015 make you wonder what’s happening now?

It begins:  “The United States appears to be slowly but steadily deepening its involvement in the war in Yemen.”

So many things “appear” and disappear, it makes you wonder, doesn’t it?

Yes, the American stage is populated with so many spooky masked media characters, you’d think they were out to scare and trick us, rather than treat us well.

I’m afraid that’s what’s happening in Wonderland, Mr. Jones.

The Apocalypse Not Now

It was balmy and breezy by the bench where I sat outside a public library east of Atlanta, Georgia, brooding about the state of the world.  It seemed like the end times, and I had just attended a fire and brimstone sermon, not perused the mainstream and alternative press. I had just spent a few hours on the internet, noting so many articles that announced that the world as we know it was coming to an end, or maybe just the world.  The American Empire was collapsing, the U.S.A. was a failed state, climate change would soon destroy the world if nuclear war didn’t do it first, etc.  Many of these articles were predicting that soon the elites who run the U.S. would be getting their comeuppance because of hubris and overreach and, like the Roman Empire, the die had been cast and disaster was on the horizon.  Such prognostications were appearing in publications that covered the political spectrum.  All of it was fear-inducing, notwithstanding one’s political beliefs.  Left, right, and center had reasons to be depressed or elated by the claims, depending on one’s politics and existential reality.  And, need I surmise, the writers of these jeremiads were probably writing from a position of personal privilege, not scrounging for their next meal.

And it was a beautiful mid-October day.  The benches by the adjacent church were full of homeless people, their meagre belongings arrayed at their feet.  The susurrant sound of the leaves of the sycamore tree that formed a sacred canopy above me was lulling me to sleep.  In my half-asleep state, I, a northerner, was dreaming I was a Georgian civilian hiding behind the enemy’s lines, those lines being General Sherman’s Union Army’s artillery that was arrayed a few miles to my west and was shelling Atlanta.  And in this reverie I was also aware that, as I wouldn’t have been in 1864, that Sherman would soon leave Atlanta and lead his troops on the savage “march to the sea” that would earn him the appellation as the American father of total warfare that would become America’s tactic from World War I until the present day, a form of warfare that has brought apocalyptic death and destruction to millions around the globe.  Lost and frightened in this half-dreaming state with my eyes closed, I was startled by a thud and dim awareness of a shadow to my left.

Awakening, I saw that a homeless man had sat next to me. We said hello.  “Sorry to give you a fright,” he said, “but all the benches by the church are taken.”  We got to talking.  He told me that he had been homeless for almost two years, that he had originally been from Indiana, where he had graduated from the University of Indiana, and that when he was laid off he was unable to pay his mortgage and had lost his small house.  He looked to be in his late thirties, with a scruffy beard and a very tired face.  His name was Paul.

Among his tattered belongings, I was surprised to see an old paperback copy of a book sticking out of a side pocket of one of his bags.  I knew the title – Raids on the Unspeakable – by the anti-war Trappist monk, Thomas Merton, who died in a very mysterious manner in Bangkok, Thailand fifty years ago this December 10.  Merton’s death was the third that year of prominent and influential anti-war fighters:  Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy having earlier been assassinated by forces of the American national security state.  Nineteen sixty-eight had been a very bad year for peace and peace-makers.  It was a year of endless war and strife, a time when everything seemed to be collapsing.  And here we are.

Paul told me he had picked the book out of a box of books that had been set out for garbage pickup.  He said he had read a few of the essays and one in particular had struck him.  It is called “Rain and the Rhinoceros.”  I knew and loved the essay and was startled by the serendipity of our meeting.  He said the reason the essay struck home to him was because he had grown up on a farm in Indiana and had spent much of his youth outdoors.  He loved the natural world, and his mother and grandmother had early introduced him to the “Hoosier Poet,” James Whitcomb Reilly, whose poems he had memorized.  He proceeded to recite a stanza from one of them for me, as I, mesmerized, watched his expressive face light up.

Oh! the old swimmin’-hole! When I last saw the place,
The scenes was all changed, like the change in my face;
The bridge of the railroad now crosses the spot
Whare the old divin’-log lays sunk and fergot.
And I stray down the banks whare the trees ust to be—
But never again will theyr shade shelter me!
And I wish in my sorrow I could strip to the soul,
And dive off in my grave like the old swimmin’-hole.

Then his face grew dark again, tired and forlorn.  He said that when he lost his home, the last piece of mail he opened was his water bill, and it was sky high.  He thought it appropriate that since he couldn’t afford a home, he couldn’t afford water, the water of life that should be free.  And that’s what so resonated for him in the Merton essay.  Merton’s opening paragraph, which he opened to show me, goes like this:

Let me say this before rain becomes a utility that they can plan and distribute for money. By “they” I mean the people who cannot understand that rain is a festival, who do not appreciate its gratuity, who think that what has no price has no value, that what cannot be sold is not real, so that the only way to make something actual is to place it on the market. The time will come when they will sell you even your rain. At the moment it is still free, and I am in it. I celebrate its gratuity and its meaninglessness.

“When they will sell you even your rain,” he said sadly.  “They sold me a bill of goods.  The American dream!  What a bad joke, here I am, a college graduate, not a drunk or drug addict, and I’m living in a tent in the woods in a ravine by a golf course.  Some nights I think they make it rain on me for fun, as if to say: here’s your free water, you loser.”

He asked about me, and I told him who I was and why I was there.  I mentioned the end-of-the-world articles I had been reading earlier, realizing as I did that I was saying a dumb thing to this this poor guy whose world was in tatters already.

Then he taught me this, as if he were Socrates asking questions.  I paraphrase:

If you were Merton’s “they,” those who rule the American Empire and your oppressed subjects were restless and awakening to their plight, what message would you want to convey to keep the peons from rebelling?  What strategies, short of direct violence, would be most effective in rendering even the relatively well-off middle class passive and docile?  What, in other words, is the most effective form of social control, outside economic exploitation and fear of penury, in a putative democracy when all the controlling institutions have lost the trust of most of the population?

Then, without skipping a beat, he answered his own questions.  You would, he said, tell them that the sky is falling, the empire is collapsing, that the rich rulers are going to get theirs when the system collapses on itself and that this is in the process of happening right now.  So sit back and watch the show as it closes down.  The end is near.

Then he said he had to go.  Lunch was being served at the nearby soup kitchen and if you didn’t get there early, they sometimes ran out of food.

As he walked away, I thought of my vast ignorance and the society of illusions and delusions that I was living in, a constant streaming theater of the absurd.  I wanted to cry for this man and all people, even myself, as he disappeared around the corner.  He seemed to carry his loneliness in the old backpack that weighed him down.  As he turned the corner, he looked back and waved, a smile on his face.  I felt overcome, and when I recovered my bearings, I noticed he had left the book on the bench.  But by then he was long gone.  I opened it to a page that was dog-eared, and read these words of Merton, another solitary man in the woods, his solitude a choice, not, like Paul, an imposed necessity, at least the living arrangement part:

It is in the desert of loneliness and emptiness that the fear of death and the need for self-affirmation are seen to be illusory. When this is faced, then anguish is not necessarily overcome, but it can be accepted and understood. Thus, in the heart of anguish are found the gifts of peace and understanding: not simply in personal illumination and liberation, but by commitment and empathy, for the contemplative must assume the universal anguish and the inescapable condition of mortal man. The solitary, far from enclosing himself in himself, becomes every man. He dwells in the solitude, the poverty, the indigence of every man.

Next to this paragraph was the word “Paul,” written in blue ink.

It was such an achingly beautiful day.  I got up and left the book on the bench, as I too walked away, after writing “Ed” in black ink next to Paul’s blue.

We are all bruised, aren’t we?  But often times those bruised the most have the most to give.

This is Paul’s gift.

Showtime in America: Idiots’ Delight

 The making of a journalist: no ideas and the ability to express them.

— Karl Kraus, Half-Truths & One-and-a-Half Truths

Suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress.  But I repeat myself.

— Mark Twain

All cats die. Socrates is dead. Socrates is a cat.

— Eugene Ionesco, Rhinoceros

If believability is your gauge for discerning truth, you are living in a fantasy world.  But that is the reality of life in the United States today. This is the land of make-believe in which actors and audiences are engaged in a vast folie à deux full of sound and fury signifying a nothingness that passes for intelligence.  Assertions made convincingly enough are the new facts for a population hypnotized by a stage-managed reality show.

The recently closed Kavanaugh/Blasey Ford Show that mercifully had a short run at the National Comedic Congressional Theater is the latest case in point.  The believeability of the actors was said to be the key issue.  In other words, who seemed to be telling the truth.  Demeanor was determinative.  Facial expressions evidence.  The mass media, those paragons of truth-telling, entertained their audiences for a few weeks by marching out their puerile pundits to tell audiences who of the two primary actors was more believable, while the politicians, not willing to allow their media accomplices to outdo them in truthfulness, donned their masks and performed their usual public service of moral outrage and did the same in their unbiased ways.

There was no child to yell and tell the world that all the king’s sycophants, like the king, were naked – naked liars whose jobs depended on disinformation and deceptions meant to amuse an entertainment-besotted and bored public hungry for a bit of truth in a society drowning in agitprop and propaganda.  A public watching the wrong show.

The words the real Frank Serpico, the honest and brave cop, not the actor, Al Pacino, who played him in the movie Serpico, come to my mind.  He told me that when he was lying in a pool of his own blood on the night of February 3, 1971, having been shot in the face in a set-up carried out by fellow cops, he heard a voice that said, “It’s all a lie.”

“It’s all a lie.”

Those words sum up the spectacle that is American society today.  And while lies are nothing new – didn’t Aletheia, the Greek goddess of truth, flee into the wilderness just last week and say to a wandering searcher, “Among the people of old, lies were found among only a few, but now they have spread throughout all of human society”? – we are living in a time of unprecedented technological media mind manipulation difficult to penetrate.  Harold Pinter called it “a tapestry of lies” in which facts don’t matter.  What happened never happened; what never happened happened.  It’s all about believeability in the national media’s hypnotic show, whose purpose Russell Baker described 25 years ago as being to “provide a manageably small cast for a national sitcom, or soap opera, or docudrama, making it easy for media people to persuade themselves they are covering the news while mostly just entertaining us.”

I know something about believeability.  When I was a young teenager I appeared on a famous game show called “To Tell the Truth.”  Of course, I lied, since lying was the name of the game then, as now.  I was not who I said I was.  When I walked out in front of millions of television viewers and the celebrities who would question my veracity, I knew (although I was an impostor and not the real Robert McGee – son of a U.S. Senator, by the way) how to put on a face to fool the faces that would scrutinize my smallest expressions for any sign of feigning.  Although these celebrities knew the game well, I beat them at the believeability game, I am sorry to say.  My demeanor or mien (facial expression) was in sync with my words, an ability to act that I didn’t know I had.  I was an all-American boy – a student at an elite Jesuit boys’ prep school, the captain of the basketball team, my father (Edward) a lawyer – learning the national pastime of seemingly being “perfectly honest” as I lied.  And it worked, and the $250 that I won – I almost said earned – set me on a path that led to a fork in the road that I took.  When I picked this fork up, it hissed and tried to bite me with its poisonous forked tongue. So I quickly threw it down.  It was then I realized that my thirty pieces of silver ($250) were a betrayal that would haunt me forever if I didn’t try to become a genuine actor.

Soon I would come to realize that my Jesuit schooling was preparing me to be “a man for all seasons.” It had nothing to do with beer and girls. It was all about becoming a member of the ruling class.  In other words, a man with a forked tongue who could speak out of both sides of his mouth to suit the occasion.  Learning this skill would lead me to the social heights where I could smoothly move among Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives, elites and regular people, defense attorneys and prosecutors, actors and audiences, alleged victims and alleged victimizers, etc.  Nothing would be foreign to me, except myself, for I could become a perfect hypocrite, a double-man, my own doppelganger without a shadow.

I could become another judge-penitent like Albert Camus’ Jean-Baptiste Clement in his novel, The Fall, and take up a double profession, become double-faced and rich in the process.  Perhaps I could join the CIA and “sincerely” follow its motto: “And you shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32).

I could become a professor with nothing to profess but my innocence.  I could become a psychologist and specialize in lie detector tests.  I could learn how to lie while sincerely telling the truth while hooked up to one.  I could be confused and act confused and not know the difference

I could denounce torture while justifying it.  I could pretend impartiality while being partial.  I could claim independence while playing the puppet. I could remember to forget and forget to remember and remember that I forgot the details of what I remembered.

And no matter how I acted or what I did I could always remain a “nice guy.”

I could even say with Clement that I am 100 % innocent, my case is exceptional, as I played the parts of victim and victimizer; could say:

As I told you, it’s a matter of dodging judgment.  Since it is hard to dodge it, tricky to get one’s nature simultaneously admired and excused, they [we] all strive to be rich.  Why?  Did you ever ask yourself?  For power, of course.  But especially because wealth shields from immediate judgment, takes you out of the subway crowd to enclose you in a chromium-platted automobile, isolates you in huge protected lawns, Pullmans, first-class cabins.  Wealth, cher ami, is not quite acquittal, but reprieve, and that’s always worth taking.

I could become such a celebrated actor that I could make you believe my believeability when I put on a tearful face or a devastated face or a confused face or an angry face. I could confess my vulnerability and make you my ally, and I could plead with you in a halting way to sympathize with how I was victimized so long ago or yesterday.  But even if you didn’t believe me, I could feel justified in knowing that I was playing my part in Show Time in America, keeping you amused, and doing my part to advance the interests of those who accepted me for the role.  And I could always deny that I had been selected, and could always maintain I entered center stage of my own volition because I wished to fulfill my civic duty to see justice done.

But I promise, like Clement, I would never reveal who stole the painting of “The Just Judges” that I keep hidden in my cupboard.  Some things must remain hidden.  After all, who wants to know the truth?

But I digress.  I’ll be quiet, and stop with the what-could-have-beens.  The show must go on.  We both know that.  It is what is.  I look forward to reading what will no doubt be a best-selling and most truthful exposé of the Kavanaugh/Blasey Ford Show.  I imagine contracts have been signed, and the mini-series shouldn’t be far behind.

In the meantime, I would like to leave you laughing with a quote that has been disturbing me since I first read it after writing it:

Until we see through the charade of social life and realize the masked performers are not just the politicians and celebrities, not only the professional actors and the corporate media performers, but us, we won’t grasp the problem.  Lying is the leading cause of living death in the United States.  We live in a society built of lies; lying and dishonesty are the norm.  They are built into the fabric of all our institutions, into our psyches.  In America, there’s no business but show business, and we are sham actors, amusing ourselves to death while we spread death and destruction in our war theaters all around the world.  Theaters in which the tragic plays we direct hold no interest for us.  We prefer our Idiots’ Delight.

“It’s All a Lie.”  Maybe that should be the title of the next show.

 

Lost in the Theatre of Data, Dada, and Emotional Manipulation

It is not only information that they need – in this Age of Fact, information often dominates their attention and overwhelms their capacities to assimilate it…What they need, and what they feel they need, is a quality of mind that will help them to use information and to develop reason in order to achieve lucid summations of what is going on in the world and of what may be happening within themselves…what may be called the sociological imagination.

— C. Wright Mills, The Sociological Imagination, 1959

‘Our own death is indeed, unimaginable,’ Freud said in 1915, ‘and whenever we make the attempt to imagine it we can perceive that we really survive as spectators.’  It is thus the very habit of military situations that turn them theatrical.  And it is their utter unthinkableness: it is impossible for a participant to believe that he is taking part in such murderous proceedings in his own character.  The whole thing is too grossly farcical, perverse, cruel, and absurd to be credited as a form of ‘real life.’  Seeing warfare as theatre provides a psychic escape for the participant: with a sufficient sense of theatre, he can perform his duties without implicating his ‘real’ self and without impairing his innermost conviction that the world is still a rational place.  Just before the attack on Loos, Major Pilditch testifies to ‘a queer new feeling these last few days, intensified last night.  A sort of feeling of unreality as if I were acting on a stage….

— Paul Fussell, The Great War and Modern Memory

The society whose modernisation has reached the stage of integrated spectacle
is characterised by the combined effect of five principal factors: incessant technological renewal, integration of state and economy, generalised secrecy, unanswerable lies, and eternal present . . . .

— Guy Debord, The Society of the Spectacle

Hi-diddle-dee-dee
An actor’s life for me..
Hi-diddle-dee-dum
An actor’s life is fun

— Walt Disney, Pinocchio

It was 100 years ago this November 11th when World War I ended.  This “War to End All Wars,” resulted in the death of approximately 9 million soldiers and 9 million civilians. The brilliant leaders who waged this war – the crème de la crème – men who, in their own warped minds, possessed impeccable logic and rigorous reasoning, expected the war to be over in a few months.  It lasted four years. Like their more current American counterparts before they launched the war against Iraq in 2003, they expected a “cakewalk” or a “slam-dunk” (the former term is racist and the latter a sports term, perfect unconscious verbiage for the slaughter of “lesser” humans).  All these principals were data-demented, they had lined up their little toy ducks in a row and expected a neat and logical outcome.  Or so they said. The new weapons would make quick mincemeat of the enemy. Technology would expeditiously destroy to expeditiously save.  Nothing has changed in one hundred years

Such instrumental logic and its positivistic data reductionism has now deeply infected the popular mind, as common sense has been destroyed by government and mass media propaganda so blatantly ridiculous that only a hypnotized person could believe it.  But so many have been hypnotized and follow the repetitious and overwhelming streaming of each day’s markedly ad hoc “news,” following the Pied Piper to their doom via the wizardry of digital technology.  Raptly attentive to the “politainment” that passes for journalism, they pin ball between alleged assertions of fact cobbled together with tendentious and faulty logic and theatrical displays of emotion meant to manipulate an audience of spectators in the national theatre of absurdity.  It is all show and tell in which the audience is expected to react emotionally rather than think, with images and feelings having replaced concentrated reflection, and facts and evidence having disappeared like a coin from a magician’s hand.

This technological surround-sound theatre has reduced everything to play-acting, with audiences and their puppeteers playing reciprocal parts.  Theodor Adorno analogizes thus:

Real life is becoming indistinguishable from the movies. The sound film, far surpassing the theatre of illusion, leaves no room for imagination or reflection on the part of the audience, who is unable to respond within the structure of the film, yet deviate from its precise detail without losing the thread of the story; hence the film forces its victims to equate it directly with reality. The stunting of the mass-media consumer’s powers of imagination and spontaneity does not have to be traced back to any psychological mechanisms; he must ascribe the loss of those attributes to the objective nature of the products themselves, especially to the most characteristic of them, the sound film. They are so designed that quickness, powers of observation, and experience are undeniably needed to apprehend them at all; yet sustained thought is out of the question if the spectator is not to miss the relentless rush of facts.

Meanwhile, the real business of murder, mayhem, and economic exploitation continues apace. As one “small” example of a fact relegated to oblivion by our mainstream media, in Gaza this past week, Israeli occupation forces killed Nasser Azim Musabeh (12), Mohammed Nayef Ai (14), Mohammed Ali Mohasmmed Anshasi, (18), Iyar Khalil Al-Sha’er (18), Mohasmmed Bassam Mohammed (24), Mohammed Walid Haniyeh (23), and Mohammed Ashraf Awawdeh (23). But such facts don’t matter since these dead young people were already reduced to invisible people not worthy of a mention.

Rather, pseudo-debates and pseudo-events are created by media and political magicians whose goal is to confuse the audience through information (data) and emotional overload into thinking that they are “freely” choosing what is always the same, to paraphrase Theodor Adorno. It is a conjurer’s act of mind manipulation in support of a repressive political and economic ideology built on false dichotomies.  The political/media empire creates its own “reality” that the captivated audience takes as reality, as their emotions swing from outrage to laughter and their electronic clickers jump them from show to show, from CNN or Fox or the New York Times to Saturday Night Live in the land where there is no business but show business.  “Amusing ourselves to death,” as Neal Postman so aptly put it.  To which I would add: As we put others to death outside the show.

The other day I was in a library and was looking through a large book of World War I photographs from the Imperial War Museum that I found lying on a table.  They were arranged chronologically from the start of the war in 1914 to its end in 1918.  Fascinating photos, I thought.  I went through the book page by page, examining the photos one by one, beginning with the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand by a young guy, on through the photos of stiff British war-hawk leaders in double-breasted suits, through photos of the trenches and the new weapons until I reached photos of the treaty to “end” it.  By the conclusion, I felt exhausted and knew nothing new. Photos as data.  Click, click, click: How many are enough? It was like spending an hour with the mainstream corporate media, and much of the alternative press. It was like a black and white movie in no motion.  Same old, same old, as a young man I know often says when I ask him what’s new.  Same old data via photographs.  War is hell.  Ditto.   Bodies get blown to bits and decompose in mud.  Ditto.  Heads get separated from necks and blood pours forth.  Ditto.  War is hell.  Ditto.  Great leaders meet and end the carnage.  Ditto.

Ditto Data Dada.  I had to imagine the subsequent pages and years as these great leaders, so disgusted by war, prepared for the next one, and the one following, etc. Ditto, data, dada.

I understood then why the first famous Dadaist piece of art that emerged from absolute disgust with the data driven crazies who started and waged WW I was Marcel Duchamp’s 1917 “Fountain,” a porcelain urinal signed by R. Mutt, a message to tell the “great” leaders to piss off.

But Dadaist art, like all avant-garde art, gets quickly sucked into the maw of the entertainment complex, which is another name for the propaganda complex.  As the word media means etymologically – magicians – these sorcerer’s have developed and use every bit of black magic to engineer the consent of the bewildered herd, to blend the words of two of America’s key propagandists from the past: Edward Bernays, Freud’s American nephew and President Woodrow Wilson’s master propagandist for WW I, and the famous journalist Walter Lippman.  Bernays put it straight and succinctly:

It is impossible to overestimate the importance of engineering of consent.  The engineering of consent is the very essence of the democratic process.  It affects almost every aspect of our daily lives.

Last week I attended a production of the play Annie in a community theatre in a liberal town in the northeast.  The show was sold out, and I was there because my lovely granddaughter was performing in the play, one whose story and music I was very familiar with.  The show was delightful and the audience was enraptured by the performances and the wonderful music.  If you are not familiar with the story, it is about an 11 year old orphan named Annie who, in 1933 when FDR has assumed the presidency, is in search of her biological parents.  Together with other orphans in a NYC orphanage, she is treated miserably by a character named Miss Hannigan.  By the play’s end, Annie is adopted by a wealthy man to presumably live happily ever after.  At one point in the play, this wealthy man brings Annie to Washington D. C. to meet his friend, President Roosevelt. He says to FDR, Franklin, you need to do something and get my factories humming again. In this scene, Roosevelt and his cabinet, the wealthy man, and Annie sing the very upbeat song – “Tomorrow” – which Roosevelt loves since it offers hope in the dark time of the great depression.  Everyone sings the stirring song, many in the audience silently singing along and the mood in the theater elevates.  By the play’s end Annie is adopted by the wealthy man, whose name is Daddy Warbucks.

This super-capitalist billionaire with a mansion on Fifth Avenue and a heart of gold has made his riches making weapons for WW I, though this is not spelled out in the show.  I kept wondering what the audience of liberal-minded people were thinking, or if they were, about the strange fact the hero of the show was a man with a war-monger’s name whose factories had produced armaments that had created tens of thousands of war orphans and who was urging the liberal Roosevelt to get his munitions factories up and running again in 1933.  I suspected they weren’t thinking about this at all and that the work of subtle propaganda was being magically induced at an unconscious level.  For how could such a nice, caring guy, who adopts the cute Annie and who sings such tuneful songs, be a killer?

I guiltily thought: I shouldn’t be thinking such thoughts, as I also thought how can I not think them.  Emotionally I felt one thing, and intellectually another.  This was the classic double-bind.

Upon further reflection, I realized that this is how the finest propaganda works.  It splits people in two and works subtly.  Emotionally you are pulled one way, and intellectually another, if you are thinking at all. There are certain connections you are not supposed to make or verbalize, when to oppose the powerful sway of the media’s emotional appeals is considered a betrayal of your humanity and certain victims, such as a cute orphan or acceptable victims, even when that doesn’t follow logically.

But in the Magic Theatre that is American life, false choices are the essence of the show. Democrats vs. Republicans, Clinton vs. Bush, Bush vs. Obama, Obama vs. Trump, liberals vs. conservatives, and on and on endlessly.  It’s Dada, my friends, all theater.  The next election will change everything, right?  “The sun’ll come out/Tomorrow, So ya gotta hang on/‘Till tomorrow/ Come what may.”

Only when we leave the theatre can we see the real play.  But that’s a bold act for which no Oscars, Tonys, or Emmys are handed out.  And outside the theater’s warm embrace, it’s cold, and you feel like an orphan looking for a home, no matter how much blood-money purchased it. But don’t go in; it’s a trap.

The Suppression of Truth in the Land of Lies: An Oxymoron

If you are interested in reading the definitive book that demolishes the official lies about the attacks of September 11, 2001 – 9/11 Unmasked: An International Review Panel Investigation by David Ray Griffin and Elizabeth Woodworth – then Amazon has a great deal for you.  While they conveniently do not offer new copies of this book that was published on September 11th, having reported it “out of print” and currently “out of stock,” after never having had it in stock, they allegedly offer 3 used paperback copies from other sellers for sale prices that are quite affordable: $917.04, $1060.20, and $1,500.

If that 4 or 20 cents would bring you over budget, I would be glad to provide either amount.

Don’t these sound like great deals for a book that proves that the justification for the “war on terror” and the slaughter of millions of people is one of the biggest propaganda operations in modern history?  It’s always good to know you have a friend who can conveniently provide you with access to the truth at a fair price.

I must say, however, that Amazon offers a slightly better deal for another book they also never directly sold for some odd reason – Journalists for Hire: How the CIA Buys the News by Dr. Udo Ulfkotte – a book that exposes the CIA infiltration of the major media throughout the world.  You can allegedly pick that one up through Amazon’s kind medium services for either $900 or $997.09, but that’s for a hardcover.

One person reports having seen a used copy of 9/11 Unmasked appear at amazon.co. uk one week after its official publication date of September 11 (an odd fact in itself), and when he ordered it, the book never arrived.  When he contacted the seller, he received a message from Amazon saying that the order had been cancelled, but no reason was given.  When the person tried to post a negative review of the seller, Amazon refused to publish it.

These days truth is temporarily out of stock.  No reason given.  People and books just disappear in this land of make-believe.

If it bothers you a bit that Amazon, through its Amazon Web Services, provides the CIA and other intelligence agencies with a “Secret Region” cloud service that complements Jeff Bezos’s other business, The Washington Post, don’t be alarmed.  I have conveyed a question through a certain medium’s mediumship to the deceased Frank Wisner, who is presumably beyond the clouds. He was the CIA’s architect of what he called his “mighty Wurlitzer,” on which he could play any propaganda tune he wanted through the CIA’s penetration through a covert action campaign of the mass media, journalists, student groups, women’s groups, and more.  I have asked him if there is anything untoward about any of these strange arrangements that so many readers of my review of 9/11 Unmasked have complained about: that for some strange reason they have been unable to get the book through Amazon.

As I hopefully await the medium’s response from Wisner, you may get impatient.  In that case you can immediately purchase the book through the publisher, Interlink Publishing, for $20.  It should save you quite a bit of time waiting.

But I’ll let you know if I hear anything.