All posts by Edward Curtin

Painting A True Christ

There’s an early scene in Terrence Malik’s masterful new film – what I would call a moving painting – where the central character Franz Jägerstätter, an Austrian peasant farmer from an isolated small mountainous village who refuses to take an oath to Hitler and fight in the German army, is talking to an older man who is restoring paintings in the local Catholic church.  Franz, a devout Roman Catholic, is deeply disturbed by the rise of Hitler and the thought of participating in his immoral killing machine.  The older man tells Franz – who has already been admonished that he has a duty to defend the fatherland (homeland) – that he makes his living painting pretty holy pictures for the culturally conditioned parishioners for whom God and country are synonymous.  He says.

I paint their comfortable Christ with a halo over his head.  We love him, that’s enough.  Someday I’ll paint a true Christ.

Malik’s “someday” has arrived with A Hidden Life, where the older Malik shows the younger Malik – and us – a moving picture of what experience has taught him is the complex essence of a true and simple Christ: out of love of God and all human beings to refuse to kill.

To watch this film is to undergo a profound experience, an experiment with truth and non-violence, a three-hour trial (Latin: experimentum – trial).  While Franz is eventually put on trial by the German government, it is we as viewers who must judge ourselves and ask how guilty or innocent are we for supporting or resisting the immoral killing machine of our own country now.  Hitler and his Nazis were then, but we are faced with what Martin Luther King called “the fierce urgency of now.”  Many Americans surely ask with Franz, “What has happened to the country that we love?”  But how many look in the mirror and ask, “Am I a guilty bystander or an active supporter of the United States’ immoral and illegal wars all around the world that have been going on for so many years under presidents of both parties and have no end?  Do I support the new cold war with its push for nuclear war with its first strike policy?  Do I support, by my silence, a nuclear holocaust?”

I say that A Hidden Life is a moving painting because its form and content cannot be separated.  A true artist, Malik realizes that what non-artists call form or style is the content; they are one.  The essence of the story is in the telling; in a film in the showing. The cinematography by Jörge Widmer, a longtime Malick collaborator, is therefore key.  It is exquisitely beautiful as he paints with swiftly moving light the mountains and streams of the Austrian countryside, even as the storm clouds with their thunder and lightning roll in across the mountains. The ever-recurring dramatic scenes of numinous nature and the focus on the sustaining earth from which our food comes and to which we all return and in which Franz, his wife Fani, and their young daughters romp and roll and plant and harvest and dirty their hands is the ground beneath our feet, and when we look, we see its marriage to the sky, the clouds, the light, the shadows, which in their iridescent interplay of light and darkness beseech us to interrogate our existence and ask with Franz what is right and what is wrong and what is our purpose on this beautiful earth.

That question is especially focused when between the beauty comes the terror in the form of interspersed documentary footage of Hitler, his fanatical followers, and horrifying scenes of war and violence.

Like the movie, I think you would agree that we are always moving, asking, wondering, if we are not the living dead. All is now, and now is nevermore, as it disappears into the darkness behind us. The light is always pointing into the future, so we can see where we are going.  We don’t look at the light but by the light, as the great South African preacher, Alan Storey, puts it.  But what is our light?

Where, asked Nietzsche, was the lightning before it flashed?  To which the answer comes: it wasn’t.  It is its flashing. Only a doing, an act, just like love, not a thing but action.  Just like the word God, theόs in Greek, which has no vocative sense, as Roberto Calasso has pointed out in Literature and the Gods. “Theόs has a predictive function: it describes something that happens.”  God is a verb; God is happening.  God is happening when humans are happening, acting.  Only then.  “What you do (or don’t) speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say,” was the way Emerson phrased it.

The filmic interplay between Franz’s agonized moral dilemma, his action, and the embodiment of Christ in the natural world, the body of Christ (Corpus Christi, not the erstwhile American nuclear submarine by that name), is its genius, one that might be lost on one impatient for action and garrulous dialogue.  A Hidden Life is far from Hollywood. Silence and natural beauty permeate it, as if to say the only way to grasp the mechanized and conscienceless brutality of Hitler or today’s killers and grasp why some resist it, is to enter a contemplative space where the love of the incarnated world awakens our consciences to our responsibility to our sisters and brothers everywhere.  For in the silences one can also hear the screams of the millions of innocent victims beseeching us to heed their cries and intercede.

Malik shows us that the “true Christ” must be experienced as all of creation.  No divisions.  We must feel this in our flesh and blood, as does the rather inarticulate Franz, who speaks very little.  His silence, however, and the marvelous acting of August Diehl, speak volumes.  Valerie Pachner, as his supportive wife Fani, is gripping in every sense of the word, as Franz and Fani grip and grasp and hold each other in a fierce struggle to stay united in the face of the evil forces that threaten to separate them.  It tore me apart to watch their struggle, and I left the theater shaking.

In one of his marvelous essays, “A Kind of Sharing,” John Berger, writing about painting, said:

The act of faith consisted of believing that the visible contained hidden secrets, that to study the visible was to learn something more than could be seen in a glance.  Thus paintings were there to reveal a presence behind an appearance.

This could be Malik’s motto, his faith.  Or perhaps “to reveal a presence that is the appearance.”  The body is the soul.  We are the world.

When I was young and in the U.S. Marines, seeking release as a conscientious objector, I read a book by Gordon Zahn, a sociologist and Catholic peace activist, called In Solitary Witness. It was the book that first brought Franz Jägerstätter to the world’s attention.  I found it deeply inspiring to learn about someone else who felt alone in his spiritual decision to refuse to fight in war.  Unlike Franz, who had been a wild motorcycle-riding young man prone to fighting, I had tried to be an upstanding, Jesuit-educated, patriotic, Irish-Catholic boy.  Tried but didn’t completely succeed.  I prided myself on my toughness and sensitivity.  Don’t laugh.  It’s not that uncommon.  We are often strangers to ourselves, complicated creatures, even the worst among us open to redemptive change. But as I said then and say now, war is another matter. I felt it in my soul, as Franz clearly did, even if all he could say was, “I have this feeling inside me that I can’t do what I believe is wrong.”

War is a racket, as Marine Major General Smedley Butler put it. It is waged for the tyrannical oligarchs and always kills mostly civilians.  Over ninety percent now, probably more.  Innocent people.  War is immoral.  It is not complex.  It is simple.  Like the gospel message.  Jägerstätter grasped that long ago and paid the price.  I paid no price since I was released from the Marines to “take final vows in a religious order,” which was a complete lie, something I had never mentioned or considered but which allowed them to get rid of me.  But I vividly remember the spiritual sustenance I got from Franz’s witness as I awaited the ruling, for I was unequivocally determined to go to prison before ever donning the uniform again. I got off easy and still feel guilty that I pocketed their lie and went my merry way.  Watching A Hidden Life reminded me of my cowardice.Despite feeling “he had no one to turn to,” despite being urged “to say the oath and think what you want,” despite the advice of family and Bishop to compromise, despite the animosity of the villagers toward him and his family, despite being alone with his conscience, Franz remained faithful to his soul’s promptings. He lived forward by the light.

Malik shows us the anguish that was involved in his decision, the agony for him and his wife, who, ironically, seems to have been instrumental when they married in his spiritual awakening and whose suffering is palpable as she supports his decision to the end.  It is not easy to watch.  Aside from Franz, who remains steadfast throughout all the abuse and suffering that he undergoes when jailed by the Nazis, the viewer is not fed a simple story of good against evil but instead is invited to examine one’s own life, to ask what would one have done, to wonder whether Franz was right or wrong to subject his family to such suffering.  Even the humanity of the Nazi judge is shown when he privately tries to dissuade Franz from not signing the oath, telling him that no one will ever know of his sacrifice, that “the world will go on as before” and “someone else will take your place.”  We see the torment on this man’s face and in his harrowed hands when he is left alone after Franz tells him simply that “I don’t know everything” but “I can’t do what I believe is wrong,” despite knowing the consequences, and Franz is taken off to his solitary witness and his death.

The viewer is left to interpret the meaning of it all.  Afterwards, we hear Fani says that “the time will come when we’ll know what all this means.”

Has that time come?

In 2007 the Catholic Church declared Jägerstätter a martyr and beatified him.  The irony of making a saint out of a man whose spiritual witness was opposed by the institutional church authorities cannot be lost on a thinking person.  Long dead, safely in his grave, a monument can be erected to his memory.  Or is it a monument erected to the church itself, the church whose silence was in those days deafening?

When I was leaving the theater with the seven other attendees, a man engaged me in conversation.  I asked him what he thought of the movie.  He said only that “it was beautiful.”  I was startled and had no response, but I thought of Rilke’s words about beauty from the Duino Elegies:

For beauty is nothing but the beginning of terror, which we still are just able to endure, and we are so awed because it serenely disdains to annihilate us.

A Hidden Life is like that.

Near the end we see Franz and a group of prisoners sitting on a bench awaiting their turns to be beheaded by the executioner in a black coat and bowler hat.  A man just doing his job, a bored look on his face, loping off heads one by one, anxious to get the mornings work done and get to lunch.  The terror on the victims’ faces is palpable.  I felt sick.  While some prisoners struggled as they were led into the shed that housed the guillotine, Franz walked calmly in.  Malik spares the viewer the details.  All we are shown is the aftermath – a floor awash in blood.  And as I recall, the light streaming in a high-up window.

Always the light to show us the way.

The United States of America’s Doll House: A Vast Tapestry of Lies and Illusions

This is an updated and revised version of the full cover-story that appeared in the important publication, garrison: The Journal of History and Deep Politics, Issue 003.  Issue 004 is due out this week and I urge readers to purchase it.  You will read articles there that you will find no place else, brilliant, eye-opening analyses of issues that the MSM will never touch.

*****

It never happened. Nothing ever happened. Even while it was happening it wasn’t happening. It didn’t matter. It was of no interest. The crimes of the United States have been systematic, constant, vicious, remorseless, but very few people have actually talked about them. You have to hand it to America. It has exercised a quite clinical manipulation of power worldwide while masquerading as a force for universal good. It’s a brilliant, even witty, highly successful act of hypnosis.

— Harold Pinter’s Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech, 2005

While truth-tellers Julian Assange and Chelsea Manning sit inside jail cells and Edward Snowden lives in exile in Russia, the American people hole up in an illusionary dwelling constructed to reduce them to children afraid of the truth.  Or is it the dark?  This is not new; it has been so for a very long time, but it has become a more sophisticated haunted doll’s house, an electronic one with many bells and whistles and images that move faster than the eye can see. We now inhabit a digital technological nightmare controlled by government and corporate forces intent on dominating every aspect of people’s lives. This is true despite the valiant efforts of dissidents to use the technology for human liberation. The old wooden doll houses, where you needed small fingers to rearrange the furniture, now only need thumbs that can click you into your cell’s fantasy world.  So many dwell there in the fabricated reality otherwise known as propaganda.  The result is mass hallucination.

In a 1969 interview, Jim Garrison, the District Attorney of New Orleans and the only person to ever bring to trial a case involving the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, said that as a result of the CIA’s murderous coup d’état on behalf of the military-industrial-financial-media-intelligence complex that rules the country to this day, the American people have been subjected to a fabricated reality that has rendered them a nation of passive Eichmanns, who sit in their living rooms, popping pills and watching television as their country’s military machine mows down people by the millions and the announcers tell them all the things they should be afraid of, such as bacteria on cutting boards and Russian spies infiltrating their hair salons.  Garrison said:

The creation of such inanities as acceptable reality and unacceptable reality is necessary for the self-preservation of the super-state against its greatest danger: understanding on the part of the people as to what is really happening.  All factors which contribute to its burgeoning power are exaggerated.  All factors which might reveal its corrosive effect on the nation are concealed.  The result is to place the populace in the position of persons living in a house whose windows no longer reveal the outside but on which murals have been painted.  Some of the murals are frightening and have the effect of reminding the occupants of the outside menaces against which the paternal war machine is protecting them.  Other murals are pleasant to remind them how nice things are inside the house.

But to live like this is to live in a doll’s house.  If life has one lesson to teach us, it is that to live in illusion is ultimately disastrous.

In the doll’s house into which America gradually has been converted, a great many of our basic assumptions are totally illusory.1

Fifty years have disappeared behind us since the eloquent and courageous Garrison (read On the Trail of the Assassins) metaphorically voiced the truth, despite the CIA’s persistent efforts to paint him as an unhinged lunatic through its media mouthpieces.  These days they would probably just lock him up or send him fleeing across borders, as with Assange, Manning, and Snowden.

It is stunning to take a cue from his comment regarding the JFK assassination, when he suggested that one reverse the lone assassin scenario and place it in the U.S.S.R.  No American could possibly believe a tale that a former Russian soldier, trained in English and having served at a top Soviet secret military base, who had defected to the U.S. and then returned home with the help of the K.G.B., could kill the Russian Premier with a defective and shoddy rifle and then be shot to death in police headquarters in Moscow by a K.G.B. connected hit man so there would be no trial and the K.G.B. would go scot free.  That would be a howler!  So too, of course, are the Warren Commission’s fictions about Oswald.

Snowden, Assange, and Manning

If we then update this mental exercise and imagine that Snowden, Assange, and Manning were all Russian, and that they released information about Russian war crimes, political corruption,  and a system of total electronic surveillance of the Russian population, and were then jailed or sent fleeing into exile as a result, who in the U.S., liberal, libertarian or conservative, would possibly believe the Russian government’s accusations that these three were criminals.

Nevertheless, Barack Obama, the transparency president, made sure to treat them as such, all the while parading as a “liberal” concerned for freedom of speech and the First Amendment.  He made sure that Snowden and Manning were charged under the Espionage Act of 1917, and that Assange was corralled via false Swedish sex charges so he had to seek asylum in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London (a form of jail).  He brought Espionage Act prosecutions against eight people, more than all former presidents combined.   He hypocritically pardoned Manning on his way out the door as if this would polish his deluded liberal legacy after making her suffer terribly through seven years of imprisonment.  He set the stage for Trump to re-jail Manning to try to get this most courageous woman to testify against Assange, which she will not do, and for the collaborationist British government to jail Assange in preparation for his extradition to the United States and a show trial.  As for Snowden, he has been relegated to invisibility, good for news headlines once and for a movie, but now gone and forgotten.

Obama and Trump, arch political “enemies,” have made sure that those who reveal the sordid acts of the American murderous state are cruelly punished and silenced.  This is how the system works, and for most Americans, it is not happening.  It doesn’t matter.  They don’t care, just as they don’t care that Obama backed the 2009 coup d’état in Honduras that has resulted in so many deaths at the hands of U.S trained killers, and then Trump ranted about all these “non-white” people fleeing to the U.S. to escape a hell created by the U.S., as it has been doing throughout Latin America for so long.  Who does care about the truth?  Has anyone even noticed how the corporate media has disappeared the “news” of all those desperate people clamoring to enter the U.S.A. from Mexico?  One day they were there and in the headlines; the next day, gone.  It’s called news.

The Sleepwalkers

But even though a majority of Americans have never believed the government’s explanation for JFK’s murder, they nevertheless have insouciantly gone to sleep for half a century in the doll’s house of illusions as the killing and the lies of their own government have increased over the years and any semblance of a democratic and peaceful America has gone extinct. The fates of courageous whistle-blowers Assange, Manning, and Snowden don’t concern them. The fates of Hondurans don’t concern them.  The fates of Syrians don’t concern them. The fates of Iraqis, Afghans, Yemenis, Palestinians don’t concern them. The fates of America’s victims all around the world don’t concern them.  Indifference reigns.

Obviously, if you are reading this, you are not one of the sleepwalkers and are awake to the parade of endless lies and illusions and do care. But you are in a minority.

That is not the case for most Americans.  When approximately 129 million people cast their votes for Donald Trump and HilIary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election, you know idiocy reigns and nothing has been learned. Ditto for the votes for Obama, Bush, Clinton, et al.  You can keep counting back.  It is an ugly fact and sad to say.  Such a repetition compulsion is a sign of a deep sickness, and it will no doubt be repeated in the 2020 election.  The systemic illusion must be preserved at all costs and the warfare state supported in its killing.  It is the American way.

It is true that average Americans have not built the doll’s house; that is the handiwork of the vast interconnected and far-reaching propaganda arms of the U.S. government and their media accomplices.  But that does not render them innocent for accepting decades of fabricated reality for so-called peace of mind by believing that a totally corrupt system works.  The will to believe is very powerful, as is the propaganda.   The lesson that Garrison spoke of has been lost on far too many people, even on those who occasionally leave the doll house for a walk, but who only go slightly down the path for fear of seeing too much reality and connecting too many dots.  There is plain ignorance, then there is culpable ignorance, to which I shall return.

Denying Existential Freedom

One of the first things an authoritarian governing elite must do is to convince people that they are not free.  This has been going on for at least forty years, ever since the Church Committee’s revelations about the CIA in the mid-seventies, including its mind-control program, MKULTRA.  Everyone was appalled at the epiphany, so a different tactic was added.  Say those programs have been ended when, in fact, they were continued under other even deeper secret programs, and just have “experts” – social, psychological, and biological “scientists” – repeat ad infinitum that there is no longer any mind control since we now know there is no mind; it is an illusion, and it all comes down to the brain.  Biology is destiny, except in culturally diversionary ways in which freedom to choose is extolled – e.g. the latest fashions, gender identity, the best hair style, etc.  Create and lavishly fund programs for the study of the brain, while supporting and promoting a vast expansion of pharmaceutical drugs to control people.  Do this in the name of helping people with their emotional and behavioral problems that are rooted in their biology and are beyond their control.  And create criteria to convince people that they are sick and that their distress has nothing to do with the coup d’état that has rendered them “citizens” of a police state.

We have been interminably told that our lives revolve around our brains (our bodies) and that the answers to our problems lie with more brain research, drugs, genetic testing, etc. It is not coincidental that the U. S. government declared the 1990s the decade of brain research, followed up with 2000-2010 as the decade of the behavior project, and our present decade being devoted to mapping the brain and artificial intelligence, organized by the Office of Science and Technology Project and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). How convenient! George H. W. Bush, Clinton, George W. Bush, Obama, Trump — what a difference! But this is science and the welfare of the world.  Science for idiots.

Drip by drip, here and there, in the pattern of the best propaganda, as the French sociologist Jacques Ellul says – “for propaganda is not the touch of the magic wand. It is based on slow, constant impregnation. It creates conviction and compliance through imperceptible influences that are effective only by continuous repetition”2 – articles, books, media reports have reiterated that people are “determined” by biological, genetic, social, and psychological forces over which they have no control. To assert that people are free in the Sartrean sense (en soir, condemned to freedom, or free will) has come to be seen as the belief of a delusional fool living in the past, a bad philosopher, an anti-scientist, a poorly informed religionist, one nostalgic for existential cafes, Gauloises, and black berets.  One who doesn’t grasp the truth since he doesn’t read the New York Times or watch CBS television. One who believes in nutty conspiracy theories.

The conventional propaganda – I almost said wisdom – created through decades-long media and academic repetition, is that we are not free.

Let me repeat: we are not free.  We are not free.

Investigator reporter Jon Rappoport has consistently exposed the propaganda involved in the creation and expansion of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) with its pseudo-scientific falsehoods and collusion between psychiatrists and the pharmaceutical industry. 3 As he correctly notes, the CIA’s MKULTRA mind-control program has morphed into modern psychiatry, both with the same objectives of disabling and controlling people by convincing them that they are not free and are in need of a chemical brain bath.

Can anyone with an awareness of this history doubt there is a hidden hand behind this development?  Once you have convinced people that they are not free in the most profound sense, the rest is child’s play.  Convinced that they are puppets, they become puppets to be willingly jerked around.

“He played with me just as I used to play with dolls,” says Nora in Ibsen’s A Doll’s House.

Now who would want to get people to believe they were not free?  The answer is obvious given a minute of thought.  It is not just Nora’s husband Torvald.

Perfect examples of the persistence of the long-term, repetitive, impregnating propaganda appear in news headlines constantly.  Here is an egregious example concerning the little understood case of the assassination of Senator Robert Kennedy.  On Friday, August 30, 2019, Sirhan, who has been in prison for fifty-two years for the murder of RFK that he did not commit, was stabbed by another prisoner.  A quick click through the MSM headlines reporting this showed the same words repeated by all the corporate media as they fulfilled their function as CIA stenographers. One example, from CBS News, will suffice: “Robert Kennedy assassin hospitalized after prison stabbing.” RFK assassin, RFK assassin, RFK assassin … all the media said the same thing, which they have been doing for fifty-two years. Their persistency endures despite all the facts that refute their disinformation and show that Senator Kennedy, who was on his way to becoming president, was murdered, like his brother John, by forces of the national security state.

 Sartre and Bad Faith

Lying and dissembling are ubiquitous.  Being deceived by the media liars is mirrored in people’s personal lives.  People lie and want to be deceived.  They choose to play dumb, to avoid a confrontation with truth.  They want to be nice (Latin, nescire, not to know, to be ignorant) and to be liked.  They want to tuck themselves into a safe social and cultural framework where they imagine they will be safe. They like the doll’s house. They choose to live in what Jean Paul Sartre called bad faith (mauvaise foi):  In Existential Psychoanalysis he put it thus:

In bad faith it is from myself that I am hiding the truth. But with this ‘lie’ to myself, the one to whom the lie is told and the one who lies are one and the same person, which means that I must know in my capacity as deceiver the truth which is hidden from me in my capacity as the one deceived.

Such bad faith allows people to fabricate a second act of bad faith: that they are not responsible for their ignorance of the truths behind the government’s and corporate media’s lies and propaganda, even as the shades of the prison house ominously close around us and the world edges toward global death that could arrive in an instant with nuclear war or limp along for years of increasing suffering.

Those of us who write about the U.S. led demented wars and provocations around the world and the complementary death of democracy at home are constantly flabbergasted and discouraged by the willed ignorance of so many Americans.  For while the mainstream media does the bidding of the power elite, there is ample alternative news and analyses available on the internet from fine journalists and writers committed to truth, not propaganda. There is actually far too much truth available, which poses another problem. But it doesn’t take a genius to learn how to research important issues and to learn how to distinguish between bogus and genuine information.  It takes a bit of effort, and, more importantly, the desire to compare multiple, opposing viewpoints and untangle the webs the Web weaves.  We are awash in information (and disinformation) and both good and bad reporting, but it is still available to the caring inquirer.

The problem is the will to know.  But why?  Why the refusal to investigate and question; why the indifference?  Stupidity?  Okay, there is that.  Ignorance?  That too.  Willful ignorance, ditto.  Laziness, indeed. Careerism and ideology?  For certain.  Upton Sinclair put it mildly when he said, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on not understanding it.”  Difficult?  No, it’s almost impossible.

But then there are many very intelligent people who have nothing to lose and yet adamantly refuse to entertain alternative possibilities to the reigning orthodoxies that have them in their grip.  As do many others, I know many such people who will yes me to death and then never fully research issues.  They will remain in limbo or else wink to themselves that what may be true couldn’t be true.  They close down.  This is a great dilemma and frustration faced by those who seek to convince people to take an active part in understanding what is really going on in the world today, especially as the United States wages war across the globe, threatens Russia, China, and Iran, among many others, and expands and modernizes its nuclear weapons capabilities.

As for Assange, Manning, and Snowden, their plight matters not a whit.  In fact, they have been rendered invisible inside the doll’s house, except as the murals on the windows flash back their images as threats to the occupants, Russian monsters out to eat them up.  As the great poet Constantine Cavafy wrote long ago in his poem “Waiting for the Barbarians” and they never come: “Now what’s going to happen to us without barbarians?  Those people were a kind of solution.”  Then again, for people like U.S. Representative Adam Schiff, who knows the Russian barbarians have and will come again, life must be terrifying as he tries so manfully to bar the gates.  The Russians have been the American solution in this fairy tale for so long that it’s hard for many Americans to believe another story.

The Two-Headed Monster

On the one hand, there is the massive propaganda apparatus operated by American intelligence agencies in conjunction with their media partners.

On the other, there is the human predilection for untruth and illusions, the sad need to be comforted and to submit to greater “authority,” gratefully to accept the myths proffered by one’s masters.  This tendency applies not just to the common people, but even more so to the intellectual classes, who act as though they are immune.  Erich Fromm, writing about Germans and Hitler, but by extension people everywhere, termed this the need to “escape from freedom,” since freedom conjures up fears of vertiginous aloneness and the need to decide, which in turn evokes the fear of death.4   There are also many kinds of little deaths that precede the final one: social, career, money, familiar, etc., that are used to keep people in the doll’s house.

Fifty years ago, the CIA coined the term “conspiracy theory” as a weapon to be used to dismiss the truths expressed by critics of its murder of President Kennedy, and those of Malcom X, MLK, and RFK.  All the media echoed the CIA line.  While they still use the term to dismiss and denounce, their control of the mainstream media is so complete today that every evil government action is immediately seconded, whether it be the lies about the attacks of September 11, 2001, the wars against Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Yemen, Iran, etc., the coups disguised as color revolutions in Ukraine, Venezuela, Bolivia, Hong Kong, the downing of the Malaysian jetliner there, drone murders, the Iranian “threat,” the looting of the American people by the elites, alleged sarin gas attacks in Syria, the anti-Russia bashing and the Russia-gate farce, the “criminals” Assange, Manning, Snowden – everything.  The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, The Guardian, Fox News, the Washington Post, CNN, NPR, etc. – all are stenographers for the deep state.

So much of the ongoing propaganda travels under the banner of “the war on terror,” which is, of course, an outgrowth of the attacks of September 11, 2001, appropriately named and constantly reinforced as 9/11 in a wonderful example of linguistic mind-control: a constant emergency reminder to engender anxiety, depression, panic, and confusion, four of the symptoms that lead the DSM “experts” and their followers to diagnose and drug individuals.  The term 9/11 was first used in the New York Times on September 12, 2001 by Bill Keller, the future Times’ editor and Iraq war cheerleader.  Just a fortuitous coincidence, of course.

Jacques Ellul on Propaganda

Jacques Ellul has argued convincingly that modern propaganda in a technological mass society is more complicated than the state and media lying and deceiving the population.  He argues that propaganda meets certain needs of modern people and therefore the process of deceit is reciprocal.  The modern person feels lost, powerless, and empty. Ellul says, “He realizes that he depends on decisions over which he has no control, and that realization drives him to despair.”  But he can’t live in despair; desires that life be meaningful; and wants to feel he lives in a world that makes sense.  He wants to participate and have opinions that suggest he grasps the flow of events.  He doesn’t so much want information, but value judgments and preconceived positions that provide him with a framework for living.  Ellul wrote the following in 1965 in his classic book Propaganda:

The majority prefers expressing stupidities to not expressing any opinion: this gives them the feeling of participation.  For they need simple thoughts, elementary explanations, a ‘key’ that will permit them to take a position, and even readymade opinions….The man who keeps himself informed needs a framework….the more complicated the problems are, the more simple the explanations must be; the more fragmented the canvas, the simpler the pattern; the more difficult the question, the more all-embracing the solution; the more menacing the reduction of his own worth, the greater the need for boosting his ego.  All this propaganda – and only propaganda – can give him.5

Another way of saying this is that people want to be provided with myths to direct them to the “truth.”  But such so-called truth has been preconceived within the overarching myth provided by propaganda, and while it satisfies people’s emotional need for coherence, it also allows them to think of themselves as free individuals arriving at their own conclusions, which is a basic function of good propaganda.  In today’s mass technological society, it is essential that people be convinced that they are free-thinking individuals acting in good faith.  Then they can feel good about themselves as they lie and act in bad faith.

Culpable Ignorance

It is widely accepted that political leaders and the mass media lie and dissemble regularly, which, of course, they do. That is their job in an oligarchy.  Today we are subjected to almost total, unrelenting media and government propaganda. Depending on their political leanings, people direct their anger toward politicians of parties they oppose and media they believe slant their coverage to favor the opposition.  Trump is a liar.  No, Obama is a liar.  And Hillary Clinton.  No, Fox News.  Ridiculous! – it’s CNN or NBC.  And so on and so forth in this theater of the absurd that plays out within a megaplex of mainstream media propaganda, where there are many shows but one producer, whose overall aim is to engineer the consent of all who enter, while setting the different audiences against each other.  It is a very successful charade that evokes name-calling from all quarters.

In other words, for many people their opponents lie, as do other people, but not them. This is as true in personal as well as public life.  Here the personal and the political converge, despite protestations to the contrary.  Dedication to truth is very rare.

But there is another issue with propaganda that complicates the picture further.  People of varying political persuasions can agree that propaganda is widespread.  Many people on the left, and some on the right, would agree with Lisa Pease’s statement in her book on the RFK assassination, A Lie Too Big to Fail: The Real History of the Assassination of Robert F. Kennedy, that “the way the CIA took over America in the 1960s is the story of our time.”6  That is also what Garrison thought when he spoke of the doll’s house.

If that is so, then today’s propaganda is anchored in the events of the 1960s, specifically the infamous government assassinations of JFK, Malcolm X, MLK, and RFK, the truth of which the CIA has worked so hard to conceal. In the fifty or so years since, a vast amount of new information has made it explicitly clear that these murders were carried out by elements within the U.S. government, and were done so to silence the voices of four charismatic leaders who were opposed to the American war machine and the continuation of the Cold War. To turn away from this truth and to ignore its implications can only be described as an act of bad faith and culpable ignorance, or worse.  But that is exactly what many prominent leftists have done.  Then to compound the problem, they have done the same with the attacks of September 11, 2001.

One cannot help thinking of what the CIA official Cord Meyer called these people in the 1950s: “the compatible left.”  He felt that effective CIA propaganda, beside the need for fascist-minded types such as Allen Dulles and James Jesus Angleton, depended on “courting” leftists and liberals into its orbit. For so many of the compatible left, those making a lot of money posing as opponents of the ruling elites but often taking the money of the super-rich, the JFK assassination and the truth of September 11, 2001 are inconsequential, never to be broached, as if they never happened, except as the authorities say they did. By ignoring these most in-your-face events with their eyes wide shut, a coterie of influential leftists has done the work of Orwell’s crime-stop and has effectively succeeded in situating current events in an ahistorical and therefore misleading context that abets U.S. propaganda.  They truncate the full story to present a narrative that distorts the truth.

Without drawing a bold line connecting the dots from November 22, 1963 up to the present, a critique of the murderous forces ruling the United States is impossible.

Among the most notable of such failures are Noam Chomsky, Alexander Cockburn, Howard Zinn, and Chris Hedges, men idolized by many liberals and leftists.  And there are many others who have been deeply influenced by Chomsky, Cockburn, and Zinn and follow in their footsteps.  Their motivations remain a mystery, but there is no doubt their refusals have contributed to the increased power of those who control the doll’s house.  To know better and do as they have is surely culpable ignorance.

From Bad to Worse

Ask yourself: Has the power of the oligarchic, permanent warfare state with its propaganda and spy networks, increased or decreased in the past half century?  Who is winning the battle, the people or the ruling elites?  The answer is obvious. It matters not at all whether the president has been Trump or Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan or George W. Bush, Barack Obama or George H. W. Bush, Richard Nixon or Jimmy Carter.  The power of the national security state has grown under them all and everyone is left to moan and groan and wonder why.  All the while the doll’s house has become more and more sophisticated and powerful with the growth of electronic media and cell phone usage.

The new Cold War now being waged against Russia and China is a bi-partisan affair, as is the confidence game played by the secret government intended to create a fractured consciousness in the population.  This fragmentation of consciousness prevents people from grasping the present from within because so many suffer from digital dementia as their attention hops from input to output in a never-ending flow of mediated, disembodied data. Trump and his followers on one side of the coin; liberal Democrats on the other. The latter, whose bibles are the New York Times, NPR, The Washington Post, Democracy Now, The Guardian, etc. – can only see propaganda when they can attribute it to Trump or the Russians. The former see everything as a liberal conspiracy to take down Trump.  The liberals have embraced a new McCarthyism and allied themselves with the deep-state forces that they were once allegedly appalled by, including Republicans.  Their embrace of the formerly despised war-monger John Bolton in the impeachment trial of Trump is a laughable case in point, if it weren’t so depraved and slimy.  It surely isn’t the bloodthirsty policies of the Trump administration or his bloviating personality, for these liberals allied themselves with Obama’s anti-Russian rhetoric, his support for the U.S. orchestrated neo-fascist Ukrainian coup, his destruction of Libya, his wars of aggression across the Middle East, his war on terror, his trillion dollar nuclear weapons modernization, his enjoyment of drone killing, his support for the coup in Honduras, his embrace of the CIA and his CIA Director John Brennan, his prosecution of whistle-blowers, etc.  The same media that served the CIA so admirably over the decades became the liberals’ paragons of truth.  It’s enough to make your head spin, which is the point.  Spin left, spin right, spin all around, because we have possessed your mind in this spectacular image game where seeming antinomies are the constancy of the same through difference, all the presidents coined by the same manufacturer who knows that coin flipping serves to entertain the audience eager for hope and change.

This is how the political system works to prevent change.  It is why little has changed for the better over half a century and the American empire has expanded.  While it may be true that there are signs that this American hegemony is coming to an end (I am not convinced), I would not underestimate the power of the U.S. propaganda apparatus to keep people docile and deluded in the doll’s house, despite the valiant efforts of independent truth-tellers.

How, for example, is it possible for so many people to see such a stark difference between the despicable Trump and the pleasant Obama?  They are both puppets dancing to their masters’ tunes – the same masters.  They both front for the empire.

In his excellent book, Obama’s Unending Wars: Fronting the Foreign Policy of the Permanent Warfare State, Jeremy Kuzmarov assiduously documents Obama’s crimes, including his CIA background.7 As Glen Ford, of Black Agenda Report, says in the first sentence of his forward, “Barack Obama may go down in presidential history as the most effective-and deceptive-imperialist of them all.” Read the book if you want all the details.  They form an overwhelming indictment of the con artist and war criminal that is irrefutable.  But will those who worship at the altar of Barack Obama read it?  Of course not.  Just as those deluded ones who voted for the reality television flim-flam man Trump will ignore all the accumulating evidence that they’ve been had and are living under a president who is Obama’s disguised doppelganger, carrying out the orders of his national security state bosses. This, too, is well documented, and no doubt another writer will arise in the years to come to put it between a book’s covers.

Yet even Jeremy Kuzmarov fails to see the link between the JFK assassination and Obama’s shilling for the warfare state.  His few references to Kennedy are all negative, suggesting he either is unaware of what Kennedy was doing in the last year of his life and why he was murdered by the CIA, or something else.  He seems to follow Noam Chomsky, a Kennedy hater, in this regard.  I point out this slight flaw in an excellent book because it is symptomatic of certain people on the left who refuse to complete the circle.  If, as Kuzmarov, argues, Obama was CIA from the start and that explains his extraordinarily close relationship with the CIA’s John Brennan, an architect, among many things, of the CIA’s extraordinary rendition program, and that Obama told CIA Director Panetta that the CIA would “get everything it wanted,” and the CIA killed JFK, well, something’s amiss, an enormous gap in the analysis of our current condition.

The doll’s house is a mind game of extraordinary proportions, orchestrated by the perverted power elites that run the show and ably abetted by their partners in the corporate mass media, even some in the alternative press who mean well but are confused, or are disinformation agents in the business of sowing confusion together with their mainstream Operation Mockingbird partners.  It is a spectacle of open secrecy, in which the CIA has effectively suckered everyone into a game of to-and-fro in which only they win.

Our only hope for change is to try and educate as many people as possible about the linkages between  events that started with the CIA coup d’état in Dallas on November 22, 1963, continued through the killings of Malcolm X, MLK, RFK and on through so much else up to September 11, 2001, and have brought us to the deeply depressing situation we now find ourselves in where truthtellers like Julian Assange, Chelsea Manning, and Edward Snowden are criminalized, while the real perpetrators of terrible evils roam free.

Yes, we must educate but also agitate for the release of this courageous trio.  Their freedom is ours; their imprisonment is ours, whether we know it or not.  The walls are closing in.

Lisa Pease is so right:

The way the CIA took over America in the 1960s is the story of our time, and too few recognize this.  We can’t fix a problem we can’t even acknowledge exists.

If we don’t follow her advice, we will be toyed with like dolls for a long time to come.  There will be no one else to blame.

  1. Interview with Jim Garrison, District Attorney of Parish of Orleans, Louisiana, May 27, 1969.
  2. Propaganda: The Formation of Men’s Attitudes, Jacques Ellul, Vintage Books, 1973, pp. 17-18.
  3. Jon Rappoport, CIA mind control morphed into psychiatry?  July 11, 2017.
  4. Escape from Freedom, Erich Fromm, Rinehart & Company, Inc., 1941.
  5. Ellul, op cit., p. 140.
  6. A Lie Too Big To Fail, Lisa Pease, Feral House, 2018, pp.500-501.
  7. Obama’s Unending Wars: Fronting the Foreign Policy of the Permanent Warfare State, Jeremy Kuzmarov, Clarity Press, 2019.

Hovering in Cyberspace

We live in a fabricated reality where the visible world became nearly meaningless once the screen world became people’s “window on the world.”  An electronic nothingness replaced reality as people gleefully embraced digital wraparound apparitions.  These days people still move about in the physical world but live in the electronic one.  The result is mass hallucination.

This is the fundamental seismic shift of our era. There is a lot of bitching and joking about it, but when all is said and done, it is accepted as inevitable. Digital devices are embraced as phantom lovers. Technological “advances” are accepted as human destiny.  We now inhabit a technological nightmare (that seems like a paradise to so many) in which technology and technique – the standardized means for realizing a predetermined end most efficiently – dominate the world. In such a world, not only does the end justify the means, but to consider such a moral issue is beside the point. We are speeding ahead to nowhere in the most “efficient” way possible.  No questioning allowed!  Unless you wish to ask your phone.

These days there is much political talk and commentary about fascism, tyranny, a police state, etc., while the totalitarianism of technocracy and technology continues apace.  It is not just the ecological (in the human/natural sense) impact of digital technology where one change generates many others in an endless spiral, but the fact that technical efficiency dominates all aspects of life and, as Jacques Ellul wrote long ago, “transforms everything it touches into a machine,” including humans.  For every problem caused by technology, there is always a technological “solution” that creates further technological problems ad infinitum.  The goal is always to find the most efficient (power) technique to apply as rapidly as possible to all human problems.

Writing nearly fifty years ago in Medical Nemesis, Ivan Illich, explained how in medical care the human touch was being replaced by this technical mindset.  He said:

In all countries, doctors work increasingly with two groups of addicts:  those for whom they prescribe drugs, and those who suffer from their consequences.  The richer the community, the larger the percentage of patients who belong to both…In such a society, people come to believe that in health care, as in all fields of  endeavor, technology can be used to change the human condition according to almost any design.

We are, of course, living with the ongoing results of such medical technical efficiency. The U.S.A. is a country where the majority of people are drugged in one way or another, legally or illegally, since the human problems of living are considered to have only technological solutions, whether those remedies are effective or anodyne.  The “accidents” and risks built into the technological fixes are never considered since the ideological grip of the religion of technology is all-encompassing and infallible.  We are caught in its web.

Marshall McLuhan, the media guru of the 1960s – whether he was applauding or bemoaning the fact – was right when he claimed that the medium is the message.

Cell phones, being the current omnipresent form of the electronification of life, are today’s message, a sign that one is always in touch with the void.  To be without this small machine is to be rendered an idiot in the ancient Greek sense of the word – a private person.  Translation: one who is out of it, detached, at least temporarily, from the screens that separate us from reality, from the incessant noise and pinging messages that destroy reflection and create reflex reactions.

But to be out of it is the only way to understand it.  And to understand it is terrifying, for it means one knows that the religion of technology has replaced nature as the source of what for eons has been considered sacred. It means one grasps how reality is now defined by technology. It means realizing that people are merging with the machines they are attached to by invisible manacles as they replace the human body with abstractions and interact with machines.  It means recognizing that the internet, despite its positive aspects and usage by dissenters intent on human liberation, is controlled by private corporation and government forces intent on using it as a weapon to control people. It means seeing the truth that most people have never considered the price to be paid for the speed and efficiency of a high-tech world.

But the price is very, very high.

One price, perhaps the most important, is the fragmentation of consciousness, which prevents people from grasping the present from within – which, as Frederic Jameson has noted, is so crucial and yet one of the mind’s most problematic tasks – because so many suffer from digital dementia as their attention hops from input to output in a never-ending flow of mediated, disembodied data.  As a result, a vicious circle has been created that prevents people from the crucial epistemological task of grasping the double-bind that is the ultimate propaganda.  Data is Dada by another name, and we are in Dada land, pissing, not into Marcel Duchamp’s ridiculous work of Dada “art,” a urinal, but into the wind.  And data piled on data equals a heap of data without knowledge or understanding.  There is no time or space for grasping context or to connect the dots. It is a pointillist painting in the form of inert facts that few can understand or even realize that they don’t.

I am typing these words on a Hermes 3000 manual typewriter, a beautiful piece of technology whose sound and movement creates a rhythmic sanctuary where my hands, head, and heart work in unison. It allows me to think slowly, to make mistakes that will necessitate retyping, to do second and third re-readings and revisions, to roll the paper out of the machine and sit quietly as I review it.  My eyes rest on the paper, not a blue-lit screen.

Technology as such is not the problem, for my typewriter is a very useful and endurable machine, a useful technology that has enhanced life. It does not break or need to be replaced every few years, as computers do. It does not contain coltan, tantalum, or other minerals mined in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, and other places by poor people working under oppressive conditions created by international consumer greed that is devouring the world.  It does not allow anyone to spy on me as I type.  I am alone and unplugged, disconnected, off-line and out of line, a sine qua non for thinking, and thinking about deep matters.  The typewriter is mine, and mine alone, unlike the connected digital devices that have destroyed aloneness, for to be alone is to contemplate one’s fate and that of all humanity.  It is to confront essential things and not feel the loneliness induced and exacerbated by the illusion of always being in touch.

But while this typing machine allows me to write in peace, I am in no way suggesting that I have escaped the technological condition that we all find ourselves in.  There are little ways to step outside the closing circle, but even then, one is still in it.  I will eventually have to take my paper and type it into a computer document if I wish to publish it in the form you will be reading it.  There is no other way. The technocrats have decreed it so. We are all, as George Orwell once wrote in a different context and meaning, “inside the whale,” the whale in this case being a high-tech digital world controlled by technocrats, and we have only small ways to shield ourselves from it. Sitting in a quiet room, working on a typewriter, taking a walk in the woods without a cell phone, or not owning a cell phone, are but small individual acts that have no effect on the structural realty of what Neil Postman calls technopoly in his masterful book, Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology.  And even in the woods one may look up to admire a tree only to find that it is a cell phone tower.

Humans have always created and used technology, but for a very long time that technology was subject to cultural and religious rules that circumscribed limits to its use.  Today there are no limits, no rules to constrain it.  The prohibition to prohibit is our motto.  In our acceptance of technical efficiency, we have handed over our freedom and lost control of the means to ends we can’t fathom but unconsciously fear.  Where are we heading? many probably wonder, as they check the latest news ping, no doubt about something to fear, as a thousand pieces of “news” flash through their devices without pause, like wisps of fleeting dreams one vaguely remembers but cannot pin down or understand.  Incoherence is the result.  Speed is king.

Of course, this kaleidoscopic flood of data confuses people who desire some coherence and explanation.  This is provided by what Jacques Ellul 1 calls “the explanatory myth.”  He writes:

This brings us to the other pole of our bizarre intellectual situation today: the explanatory myth.  In addition to its political and its mystical and spiritual function, the explanatory myth is the veritable spinal column of our whole intellectual system…Given that appearances produce confusion and coherence is needed, a new appearance unifies them all in the viewer’s mind and enables everything to be explained.  This appearance has a spiritual root and is accepted only by completely blind credulity.  It becomes the intellectual key for opening all secrets, interpreting every fact, and recognizing oneself in the whirl of phenomena…this myth [is] their one stable point of thought and consciousness…enables everyone to avoid the trouble of thinking for themselves, the worry of doubt, the questioning, the uncertainty of understanding, and the torture of a bad conscience.  What prodigious savings of time and means, which can be put usefully to work manufacturing some more missiles…[they] have a good conscience because they have an answer for everything; and whatever happens and whatever they do, they can rely on the explanation that myth provides.  This process places them within the most complete unreality possible.  They live in a permanent dream, but a realistic dream, constructed from the countless facts and theories that they believe in with all the power of ‘mass persons’ who cannot detach themselves from the mass without dying.

Today that myth is the religion of technology.

So if you have any questions you want answered, you can ask your phone.

Ask your phone why we are living with endless wars on the edge of using our most astounding technological invention: nuclear weapons.

Ask your computer why “nice” Americans will sit behind computer screens and send missiles to kill people half-way around the world whom they are told they are at war with.

Ask your smart device why so many have become little Eichmanns, carrying out their dutiful little tasks at Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, and all the other war manufacturers, or not caring what stocks they own.

Ask your phone what really happened to the Ukrainian International Airlines Flight 752 in Iran.  See if your phone will say anything about cyber warfare, electronic jamming, or why the plane’s transponder was turned off preventing a signal to be sent indicating it was a civilian aircraft.

Ask who is behind the push to deploy 5 G wireless technology.

Ask that smart phone who is providing the non-answers.

Ask and it won’t be given to you; seek and you will not find. The true answers to your questions will remain hidden.  This is the technological society, set up and controlled by the rulers.  It is a scam.

Google it!

God may respond.

  1. Presence in the Modern World, new translation, 2016, Cascade Books.

The Searching Life and Enigmatic Death of Albert Camus

Everyone wants the man who is still searching to have already reached his conclusions.  A thousand voices are already telling him what he has found, and yet he knows he hasn’t found anything. Should he search on and let them talk?  Of course.

— Albert Camus, “The Enigma” in Lyrical and Critical Essays, First published October 28, 1968

Albert Camus’ search ended sixty years ago on January 4, 1960, the day he died.  Although he had already written The Stranger, The Rebel, The Plague, and The Fall, and had won the Nobel Prize for Literature, he felt his true work had barely begun. Alongside the car in which he died, his briefcase lay in the mud.  In it was the uncompleted, hand-written manuscript of his final quest, The First Man, an autobiographical novel written in a raw emotional and lyrical style that was liberating him from the prison of a classical form he felt compelled to escape.  He was on his way to a new freedom, in writing and in life, when he was cut down.  The book was published posthumously in 1994 by his daughter and son.  It is a beautiful peek into a reserved man’s youthful inner development, the loneliness of a poor boy made fatherless by an absurd war, and the ways in which the boy “had to learn by himself, to grow alone, in fortitude, in strength, find his own morality and truth.”  It explains a lot about Camus’ later writing and why, at the end of his life, he was so isolated and criticized by the right, left, and center for his various political positions.

He could not be pigeonholed. This drove many crazy.  His allegiance was to truth, not ideologies.  He was not a partisan in the Cold War between the U.S./NATO and the U.S.S.R.  An artist compelled by conscience and history to enter the political arena, he spoke in defense of the poor, oppressed, and powerless.  Among his enemies were liberal imperialism and Soviet Marxism, abstract ideologies used to murder and enslave people around the world.  He opposed state murder, terrorism, and warfare from all quarters. He was an artistic anarchist with a passionate spiritual hunger and an austere and moral Don Juan.  He was a mystery to himself in many ways. He made mistakes. But he was honest and honorable.

He is the kind of thinker we need today.  But he is still easily used and abused by those with their own agendas, and in that way, he is emblematic of the ways the search for truth today can be manipulated.  It is a sly game, one that only can start to make sense when one puts concentrated effort into unraveling the endless propaganda that is the fabric of our lives today.

Anyone who has followed the evidence knows that Russia-gate, Ukraine-gate, the anti-Putin hysteria, and the new Cold War is a fabrication concocted by deep-state intelligence and political forces in the United States and the West.  Of course, many will deny these facts.  Anti-Russia hysteria has filled the airwaves for years.  It is pure propaganda that is manna from heaven for liberals and conservatives wishing to maintain their religious belief in American holiness, even as the U.S./NATO has surrounded Russia with military forces.  Anything that can intensify this mania is used by the corporate media. It is a very dangerous game of nuclear brinkmanship.  For many people, studying such issues in depth is beside the point.  As Camus wrote in 1954, “Today one takes a side based on the reading of an article.”  In 2020 it may be just a headline.

Here is a case in point. Perhaps minor, perhaps not.  A relative, knowing I had previously written about a book claiming that Camus did not die in a car accident but was assassinated by the KGB, recently sent me a link to an article in The Guardian, the paper that published a tiny portion of the Edward Snowden documents after allowing the Intelligence authorities to censor them, then oversaw the destruction of all Snowden’s computer documents, and finally became a full-time mouthpiece for the security state.  The article was entitled: “New Book Claims Albert Camus Was Murdered by the KGB.”  The article was published on December 2, 2019 and my relative naturally assumed it was a new book.

So did I, but I didn’t know there was a new book.  A year ago I had written about a book, Camus deve morire (Camus Must Die), published only in Italian in 2013 by the Italian writer Giovanni Catelli, that claims that Camus was assassinated by the KGB.  So I read the article and was perplexed.

There is no new book; there are new translations into French and Spanish of the same book from 2013. The French edition has a forward by the American writer Paul Auster, who finds Catelli’s argument convincing.  More than a year ago Catelli had kindly sent me an English version of his book, which I had read before writing about it, and I assume I am the only person to have read the book in English.  I think it is persuasive, but not dispositive.

The recent Guardian article was picked up by various publications that repeated much of it, adding incorrectly that The Guardian interviewed Catelli, etc., implying that it was all new.  This was picked up by other publications that repeated this plus other erroneous claims , including one from a linked  New Yorker article from 2014 that says, as do many others, that Catelli’s claims of a KGB hit on Camus couldn’t be true because Camus had a train ticket in his pocket and only made a last minute decision to ride in the car back to Paris with his friend Michel Gallimard and his family.  This is false, but it fits into the attractive theme of “an absurd death.”  The truth is Camus had written a letter on December 30 to Maria Casarès that he would be taking a car, not the train, adding – believe it or not – that he would be arriving on Tuesday, January 4, “taking into account surprises on the road.”  Then on the night of January 2, he had a nightmare in which he was pursued by four faceless men on a country road where he got into a car to escape and another faceless man drove the car straight into the side of a house, as Camus awoke terrified.

As I said, it’s a sly game, this publication business where little things can mean a lot, or not.  Subtle points.  Many mistakes.  Some out of ignorance, others intentional.  Things repeated.  The timing often important to send implied messages.

This speculation about Camus’ death began in 2011 when the media were abuzz with a report out of Italy that, rather than an accident, Camus may have been assassinated by the Soviet KGB for his powerful criticism of the Soviet invasion of Hungary in 1956, their massacre of Hungarian freedom fighters, and for his defense and advocacy of Boris Pasternak and his novel, Doctor Zhivago, among other things. For those who study history, all these issues are complicated by CIA involvement, which is not to say that Soviet forces did not massacre Hungarian freedom fighters or that Pasternak should not have been defended and the massacres condemned. Those things are clear, while others are murky, as was then and is now the CIA’s intention in so many terrible events around the world.  This murkiness is created by the mass media that does the bidding of the intelligence agencies.

These reports of a KGB hit on Camus were based on an article in the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, and came from the remarks of Catelli, an Italian academic, Slavic scholar, and poet.  Catelli said that he had read in a diary, published as a book, Ceĺ́ý zͮivot, written by Jan Zábrana, a well-known poet and translator of Doctor Zhivago, the following:

I heard something very strange from the mouth of a man who knew lots of things and had very informed sources.  According to him, the accident that had cost Albert Camus his life in 1960 was organized by Soviet spies.  They damaged the tyre on the car using a sophisticated piece of equipment that cut or made a hole at speed.

This claim was quickly and broadly rejected by Camus’ scholars and it just as quickly disappeared from view.

But in 2013 Catelli published Camus Must Die that suggests there may be more to it than those early dismissals of the Corriere della Sera report indicate. One has only to harken back to the 2013 mysterious death of journalist Michael Hastings in the United States when his car accelerated to over 100 miles per hour and exploded against a tree on a straight road in Los Angeles to make one think twice, maybe more. To question that death is, of course, to be accused of being a conspiracy theorist, a bit of mind control straight from the CIA’s playbook.

Camus and Hastings. Tree lined straight roads, no traffic, outspoken writers, anomalous crashes, different countries and eras – tales to make one wonder.  And probe and research if one is so inclined.  Read more than one article.  Perhaps a book or two.

Whatever the cause of Albert Camus’ death, however, it is clear that we could use his voice today.  I believe we should honor and remember him on this day that he died, for as an artist of his time, an artist for our time and all time, he tried to serve both beauty and suffering, to defend the innocent in this murderous world.  Quintessentially a man of his age, he was haunted by images that haunt us still, in particular those of being locked in an absurd prison threatened by madmen brandishing weapons small and large, ready to blow this beautiful world to smithereens with weapons conjured out of their hubristic, Promethean dreams of conquest and power.

For we live in plague time, and the plague lives in us.  Like the inhabitants of the rat-infested French-Algerian city of Oran in Camus’s The Plague, the United States is “peopled with sleep walkers,” pseudo-innocents, who are “chiefly aware of what ruffled the normal tenor of their lives or affected their interests.”  That their own government, no matter what political party is in power (both working for deep-state, elite interests led by the organized criminals of the CIA), is the disseminator of a world-wide plague of virulent violence, must be denied and divorced from consensus reality.  These plague-stricken deaths visited on millions around the world – by Clinton, the Bushes, Obama, Trump – must be denied by diverting attention to partisan politics that elicit outrage after outrage by the various factions and their minions.

The true plague, the bedrock of a nation continually waging wars against the world, is avoided. Presently, it is the liberals that are “shocked” that Trump is the President as he bombs Iraq and assassinates Iranian leaders. These are the same people who went silent for the last eight years as Obama ravaged the world and lied about his cruel policies. Their outrage over Trump’s victory reeked of bad faith, with most of them supporting Hillary Clinton, a neo-liberal war-monger par excellence. Further “shocks” will follow when Trump leaves office and the latest neo-liberal avatar succeeds him, whether that is this year or in 2024; conservatives will resume their harangues and protestations, just as they have done during Obama’s reign. The two war parties will exchange insults as their followers are outraged and the American Empire, built on the disease of violence, will roll along or perhaps disintegrate. No one knows. But the plague will rage on and the main stream corporate media will play along by sowing confusion and telling lies in big and little ways.

For “decent folks must be allowed to sleep at night,” says the character Tarrou sarcastically in The Plague; he is a man who has lost his ability to “sleep well” since he witnessed a man’s execution where the “bullets make a hole into which you could thrust your fist.”  He awakens to the realization that he “had an indirect hand in the deaths of thousands of people.”  He loses any peace he had and vows to resist the plague in every way he can.  “For many years I’ve been ashamed,” he says, “mortally ashamed, of having been, even with the best intentions, even at many removes, a murderer in my turn.”

The rats are dying in the streets. They are our rats, diseased by us. They have emerged from the underworld of a nation plagued by its denial.  Unconscious evil bubbles up.  We are an infected people. Worry and irritation – “these are not feelings with which to confront plague.” But we don’t seem ashamed of our complicity in our government’s crimes around the world. Camus knew better. He warned us:

It’s a wearying business being plague-stricken.  But it’s still more wearying to refuse to be it. That’s why everybody in the world looks so tired; everyone is more or less sick of plague. But that is why some of us, those who want to get the plague out of their systems, feel such desperate weariness.

Yet the fight against the plague must go on; that was Camus’ message.  If not, you will be destroyed by your own complicity in evil.  You will be plagued by your own hand.

Were Camus alive today, he would no doubt be struck by the constant stream of news reports exemplifying the hubris of our technological rationality, a mode of thinking that has made a fetish out of technology, worships efficiency, and considers any critical protest as irrational.   For Camus was deeply influenced by ancient Greek philosophy.  He wrote:

Greek thought was always based on the idea of limits.  Nothing was carried to extremes, neither religion nor reason, because Greek thought denied nothing, neither reason nor religion …. And, even though we do it in diverse ways, we extol one thing and one alone: a future world in which reason will reign supreme.

He would be appalled by the arrogance of a nation led by technocratic experts and politicians who have embraced the power of pure reason devoid of values.  Despite all rhetoric to the contrary, the embrace of technical reason, which is innately amoral, has caused many of the problems we seem unable to remedy.  These include environmental catastrophe, high-tech wars, GM foods, drone killings, drug addiction, and nuclear weapons, to name but a few.  For such problems created by technology, our esteemed leaders have technological answers.  The high-priests of this technological complex – organization types all – use the technology and control the information which they then present as “facts” to justify their actions.  The absurdity of this vicious circle is lost on them.  Their unstated assumption: We have a prohibition to prohibit.  If it can be done, it will be done.  We have no limits.

Camus thought differently:

In our madness, we push back the eternal limits, and at once Furies swoop down upon us to destroy.  Nemesis, the goddess of moderation, not of vengeance, is watching.  She chastises, ruthlessly, all those who go beyond the limit.

Camus reminds us that we must break free from the “mind-forged manacles” that render us prisoners of hopelessness. This world as a prison is a metaphor that has a long and popular tradition.  In the past hundred or more years, however, with the secularization of Western culture and the perceived withdrawal of God, the doors of this prison have shut upon the popular imagination, with growing numbers of people feeling trapped in an alien universe, no longer able to bridge the gulf between themselves and an absent God.  Death, once the open avenue to the free life of eternity, has for many become the symbol of the absurdity of existence and the futility of escape.  “There is little doubt that the modern cult of power worship is bound up with the modern man’s feeling that life here and now is the only life there is,” wrote George Orwell in 1944.

Camus was haunted by these images, intensified as they were by a life of personal isolation beginning with the death of his father in World War I when he was a year old and continuing throughout his upbringing by a half-deaf, emotionally sterile mother.  His entire life, including his tragic art, was an attempt to find a way out of this closed world.  This was his search.

That is why he continues to speak today to those who grapple with the same enigmas, those who strive to find hope and faith to defend the defenseless and revel in the glory of living simultaneously.  Not absurdly, he left clues to that quest in his briefcase on the road where he died – the unfinished manuscript to his beautiful Le Premier Homme (The First Man).  It was as if, whether he died in an accident or was murdered, the first man was going to have the last word.

In his last novel, The Fall, he left us Jean Baptiste Clamence, a nihilist worthy of our times, a lawyer dedicated to abstract justice, a phony actor who, in the name of absolute sincerity, lies in order to mask his destructive nihilism that knows no bounds. He reminds me of our power elites. His maxim cuts to the heart of our modern madness:

When one has no character, one has to apply a method.

Albert Camus had character.  Let us honor him.

I can imagine Camus saying with Hamlet:

Oh, I could tell you –
But let it be, Horatio, I am dead;
Thou livest; report to me and my cause aright
To the unsatisfied.

Let us do just that.

The Art of Doublespeak: Bellingcat and Mind Control

In the 1920s, the influential American intellectual Walter Lippman argued that the average person was incapable of seeing or understanding the world clearly and needed to be guided by experts behind the social curtain.  In a number of books he laid out the theoretical foundations for the practical work of Edward Bernays, who developed “public relations” (aka propaganda) to carry out this task for the ruling elites.  Bernays had honed his skills while working as a propagandist for the United States during World War I, and after the war he set himself up as a public relations counselor in New York City.

There is a fascinating exchange at the beginning of Adam Curtis’s documentary, The Century of Self, where Bernays, then nearly 100 years old but still very sharp, reveals his manipulative mindset and that of so many of those who have followed in his wake.  He says the reason he couldn’t call his new business “propaganda” was because the Germans had given propaganda a “bad name,” and so he came up with the euphemism “public relations.”  He then adds that “if you could use it [i.e. propaganda] for war, you certainly could use it for peace.”  Of course, he never used PR for peace but just to manipulate public opinion (he helped engineer the CIA coup against the democratically elected Arbenz government in Guatemala in 1954 with fake news broadcasts).  He says “the Germans gave propaganda a bad name,” not Bernays and the United States with their vast campaign of lies, mainly aimed at the American people to get their support for going to a war they opposed (think weapons of mass destruction).  He sounds proud of his war propaganda work that resounded to his credit since it led to support for the “war to end all wars” and subsequently to a hit movie about WWI, Yankee Doodle Dandy, made in 1942 to promote another war, since the first one somehow didn’t achieve its lofty goal.

As Bernays has said in his book, Propaganda, “The American motion picture is the greatest unconscious carrier of propaganda in the world today.”

He was a propagandist to the end.  I suspect most viewers of the film are taken in by these softly spoken words of an old man sipping a glass of wine at a dinner table with a woman who is asking him questions. I have shown this film to hundreds of students and none has noticed his legerdemain.  It is an example of the sort of hocus-pocus I will be getting to shortly, the sly insertion into seemingly liberal or matter-of-fact commentary of statements that imply a different story.  The placement of convincing or confusing disingenuous ingredients into a truth sandwich – for Bernays knew that the bread of truth is essential to conceal untruth.

In the following years, Bernays, Lippman, and their ilk were joined by social “scientists,” psychologists, and sundry others intent on making a sham out of the idea of democracy by developing strategies and techniques for the engineering of social consensus consonant with the wishes of the ruling classes.  Their techniques of propaganda developed exponentially with the development of technology, the creation of the CIA, its infiltration of all the major media, and that agency’s courting of what the CIA official Cord Meyer called in the 1950s “the compatible left,” having already had the right in its pocket. Today most people are, as is said, “wired,” and they get their information from the electronic media that is mostly controlled by giant corporations in cahoots with government propagandists.  Ask yourself: Has the power of the oligarchic, permanent warfare state with its propaganda and spy networks increased or decreased over your lifetime. The answer is obvious: the average people that Lippman and Bernays trashed are losing and the ruling elites are winning.

This is not just because powerful propagandists are good at controlling so-called “average” people’s thinking, but, perhaps more importantly, because they are also adept – probably more so – at confusing or directing the thinking of those who consider themselves above average, those who still might read a book or two or have the concentration to read multiple articles that offer different perspectives on a topic.  This is what some call the professional and intellectual classes, perhaps 15-20% of the population, most of whom are not the ruling elites but their employees and sometimes their mouthpieces.  It is this segment of the population that considers itself “informed,” but the information they imbibe is often sprinkled with bits of misdirection, both intentional and not, that beclouds their understanding of important public matters but leaves them with the false impression that they are in the know.

Recently I have noticed a group of interconnected examples of how this group of the population that exerts influence incommensurate with their numbers has contributed to the blurring of lines between fact and fiction. Within this group there are opinion makers who are often journalists, writers, and cultural producers of some sort or other, and then the larger number of the intellectual or schooled class who follow their opinions.  This second group then passes on their received opinions to those who look up to them.

There is a notorious propaganda outfit called Bellingcat, started by an unemployed Englishman named Eliot Higgins, that has been funded by The Atlantic Council, a think-tank with deep ties to the U.S. government, NATO, war manufacturers, and their allies, and the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), another infamous U.S. front organization heavily involved in so-called color revolution regime change operations all around the world, that has just won the International Emmy Award for best documentary. The film with the Orwellian title, Bellingcat: Truth in a Post-Truth World, received its Emmy at a recent ceremony in New York City.

Bellingcat is an alleged group of amateur on-line researchers who have spent years shilling for the U.S. instigated war against the Syrian government, blaming the Douma chemical attack and others on the Assad government, and for the anti-Russian propaganda connected to, among other things, the Skripal poisoning case in England, and the downing of flight MH17 plane in Ukraine. It has been lauded by the corporate mainstream media in the west.  Its support for the equally fraudulent White Helmets (also funded by the US and the UK) in Syria has also been praised by the western corporate media while being dissected as propaganda by many excellent independent journalists such as Eva Bartlett, Vanessa Beeley, Catte Black, among others.  It has had its work skewered by the likes of Seymour Hersh and MIT professor Theodore Postol, and its US government connections pointed out by many others, including Ben Norton and Max Blumenthal at The Gray Zone. And now we have the mainstream media’s wall of silence on the leaks from the Organization for the Prohibition on Chemical Weapons (OPCW) concerning the Douma chemical attack and the doctoring of their report that led to the illegal U.S. bombing of Syria in the spring of 2018.  Bellingcat was at the forefront of providing justification for such bombing, and now the journalists Peter Hitchens, Tareq Harrad (who recently resigned from Newsweek after accusing the publication of suppressing his revelations about the OPCW scandal) and others are fighting an uphill battle to get the truth out.

Yet Bellingcat: Truth in a Post-Truth World won the Emmy, fulfilling Bernays’ point about films being the greatest unconscious carriers of propaganda in the world today.

Who presented the Emmy Award to the film makers, but none other than the rebel journalist Chris Hedges.  Why he did so, I don’t know.  But that he did so clearly sends a message to those who follow his work and trust him that it’s okay to give a major cultural award to a propaganda outfit.  But then, perhaps he doesn’t consider Bellingcat to be that.

Nor, one presumes, does The Intercept, the billionaire Pierre Omidyar owned publication associated with Glen Greenwald and Jeremy Scahill, and also read by many progressive-minded people. The Intercept that earlier this year disbanded the small team that was tasked with reviewing and releasing more of the massive trove of documents they received from Edward Snowden six years ago, a minute number of which have ever been released or probably ever will be. As Whitney Webb pointed out, last year The Intercept  hosted a workshop for Bellingcat.  She wrote:

The Intercept, along with its parent company First Look Media, recently hosted a workshop for pro-war, Google-funded organization Bellingcat in New York. The workshop, which cost $2,500 per person to attend and lasted five days, aimed to instruct participants in how to perform investigations using “open source” tools — with Bellingcat’s past, controversial investigations for use as case studies…Thus, while The Intercept has long publicly promoted itself as an anti-interventionist and progressive media outlet, it is becoming clearer that – largely thanks to its ties to Omidyar – it is increasingly an organization that has more in common with Bellingcat, a group that launders NATO and U.S. propaganda and disguises it as “independent” and “investigative journalism.”

Then we have Jefferson Morley, the editor of The Deep State, former Washington Post journalist, and JFK assassination researcher, who has written a praiseworthy review of the Bellingcat film and who supports Bellingcat.  “In my experience, Bellingcat is credible,” he writes in an Alternet article, “Bellingcat documentary has the pace and plot of a thriller.”

Morley has also just written an article for Counterpunch –  “Why the Douma Chemical Attack Wasn’t a ‘Managed Massacre‘” – in which he disputes the claim that the April 7, 2018 attack in the Damascus suburb was a false flag operation carried out by Assad’s opponents. “I do not see any evidence proving that Douma was a false flag incident,” he writes in this article that is written in a style that leaves one guessing as to what exactly he is saying.  It sounds convincing unless one concentrates, and then his double messages emerge.  Yet it is the kind of article that certain “sophisticated” left-wing readers might read and feel is insightful.  But then Morley, who has written considerably about the CIA, edits a website that advertises itself as “the thinking person’s portal to the world of secret government,” and recently had an exchange with former CIA Director John Brennan where “Brennan put a friendly finger on my chest,” said in February 2017, less than a month after Trump was sworn in as president, that:

With a docile Republican majority in Congress and a demoralized Democratic Party in opposition, the leaders of the Deep State are the most—perhaps the only—credible check in Washington on what Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) calls Trump’s “wrecking ball presidency.”  

Is it any wonder that some people might be a bit confused?

“I know what you’re thinking about,” said Tweedledum; “but it isn’t so, nohow.”

“Contrariwise,” continued Tweedledee, “if it was so, it might be; and if it were so, it would be; but as it isn’t, it ain’t.  That’s logic.”

As a final case in point, there is a recent book by Stephen Kinzer, Poisoner in Chief: Sidney Gottlieb And The CIA Search For Mind Control, the story of the chemist known as Dr. Death who ran the CIA’s MK-ULTRA mind control project, using LSD, torture, electric shock therapy, hypnosis, etc.; developed sadistic methods of torture still used in black sites around the world; and invented various ingenious techniques for assassination, many of which were aimed at Fidel Castro.  Gottlieb was responsible for brutal prison and hospital experiments and untold death and suffering inflicted on all sorts of innocent people.  His work was depraved in the deepest sense; he worked with Nazis who experimented on Jews despite being Jewish himself.

Kinzer writes in depth about this man who considered himself a patriot and a spiritual person – a humane torturer and killer.  It is an eye-opening book for anyone who does not know about Gottlieb, who gave the CIA the essential tools they use in their “organized crime” activities around the world – in the words of Douglas Valentine, the author of The CIA as Organized Crime and The Phoenix Program. Kinzer’s book is good history on Gottlieb; however, he doesn’t venture into the present activities of the CIA and Gottlieb’s patriotic followers, who no doubt exist and go about their business in secret.

After recounting in detail the sordid history of Gottlieb’s secret work that is nauseating to read about, Kinzer leaves the reader with these strange words:

Gottlieb was not a sadist, but he might well have been…. Above all he was an instrument of history.  Understanding him is a deeply disturbing way of understanding ourselves.

What possibly could this mean?  Not a sadist?  An instrument of history?  Understanding ourselves?  These few sentences, dropped out of nowhere, pull the rug out from under what is generally an illuminating history and what seems like a moral indictment. This language is pure mystification.

Kinzer also concludes that because Gottlieb said so, the CIA failed in their efforts to develop methods of mind control and ended MK-ULTRA’s experiments long ago. Why would he believe the word of a man who personified the agency he worked for: a secret liar? He writes:

When Sydney Gottlieb brough MK-ULTRA to its end in the early 1960s, he told his CIA superiors that he had found no reliable way to wipe away memory, make people abandon their consciences, or commit crimes and then forget them.

As for those who might think otherwise, Kinzer suggests they have vivid imaginations and are caught up in conspiracy thinking: “This [convincing others that the CIA had developed methods of mind control when they hadn’t] is Sydney Gottlieb’s most unexpected legacy,” he asserts. He says this although Richard Helms, the CIA Director, destroyed all MK-Ultra records. He says that Allen Dulles, Gottlieb, and Helms themselves were caught up in a complete fantasy about mind control because they had seen too many movies and read too many books; mind control was impossible, a failure, a myth, he maintains. It is the stuff of popular culture, entertainment. In an interview with Chris Hedges, interestingly posted by Jefferson Morley at his website, The Deep State, Hedges agrees with Kinzer.  Gottlieb, Dulles, et al. were all deluded.  Mind control was impossible.  You couldn’t create a Manchurian Candidate; by implication, someone like Sirhan Sirhan could not have been programmed to be a fake Manchurian Candidate and to have no memory of what he did, as he claims.  He could not have been mind-controlled by the CIA to perform his part as the seeming assassin of Senator Robert Kennedy while the real killer shot RFK from behind. People who think like this should get real.

Furthermore, as is so common in books such as Kinzer’s, he repeats the canard that JFK and RFK knew about and pressured the CIA to assassinate Fidel Castro. This is demonstrably false, as shown by the Church Committee and the Assassinations Record Review Board, among many others. That Kinzer takes the word of notorious liars like Richard Helms and the top-level CIA operative Samuel Halpern is simply incredible, something that is hard to consider a mistake.  Slipped into a truth sandwich, it is devoured and passed on. But it is false. Bullshit meant to deceive.

But this is how these games are played. If you look carefully, you will see them widely.  Inform, enlighten, while throwing in double-talk and untruths.  The small number of people who read such books and articles will come away knowing some history that has no current relevance and being misinformed on other history that does. They will then be in the know, ready to pass their “wisdom” on to those who care to listen. They will not think they are average.

But they will be mind-controlled, and the killer cat will roam freely without a bell, ready to devour the unsuspecting mice.

Unspeakable Memories: The Day John Kennedy Died

There is a vast literature on the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, who died on a November 22nd Friday like this in 1963.  I have contributed my small share to such writing in an effort to tell the truth, honor him, and emphasize its profound importance in understanding the history of the last fifty-six years, but more importantly, what is happening in the U.S.A. today. In other words, to understand it in its most gut-wrenching reality: that the American national security state will obliterate any president that dares to buck its imperial war-making machine. It is a lesson not lost on all presidents since Kennedy.

Unless one is a government disinformation agent or is unaware of the enormous documentary evidence, one knows that it was the CIA that carried out JFK’s murder. Confirmation of this fact keeps arriving in easily accessible forms for anyone interested in the truth.  A case in point is James DiEugenio’s recent posting at his website, KennedysandKing, of James Wilcott’s affidavit and interrogation by the House Select Committee on Assassinations, declassified by the Assassinations Record Review Board in 1998.  In that document, Wilcott, who worked in the finance department for the CIA and was not questioned by the Warren Commission, discusses how he unwittingly paid Lee Harvey Oswald, the government’s alleged assassin, through a cryptonym and how it was widely known and celebrated at his CIA station in Tokyo that the CIA killed Kennedy and Oswald worked for the Agency, although he did not shoot JFK. I highly recommend reading the document.

I do not here want to go into any further analysis or debate about the case.  I think the evidence is overwhelming that the President was murdered by the national security state. Why he was murdered, and the implications for today, are what concern me. And how and why we remember and forget public events whose consequences become unbearable to contemplate, and the fatal repercussions of that refusal.  In what I consider the best book ever written on the subject, JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died and Why It Matters (2009), James W. Douglass explains this in detail, including the James Wilcott story.

Realizing what I am about to say might be presumptuous and of no interest to anyone but myself, I will nevertheless try to describe my emotional reactions to learning of John Kennedy’s murder so long ago and how that reverberated down through my life.  I hope  my experiences might help explain why so many people today can’t face the consequences of the tragic history that began that day and have continued to the present, among which are not just the other assassinations of the 1960s but the lies about the attacks of September 11, 2001 and the subsequent endless and murderous “war on terror” with its mind-numbing propaganda and the recent anti-Russia phobia and the blatant celebration of the so-called “deep-state’s” open efforts to overthrow another president, albeit a very different one.

On November 22, 1963 I was a college sophomore. I was going down three steps into the college dining hall for lunch. (Many of my most significant memories and decisions have taken place on steps, either going up or going down; memory is odd in that way, wouldn’t you say?) I remember freezing on the second step as a voice announced through a PA system that the president had been shot in Dallas, Texas.  When I finally recovered and went down into the building, another announcement came through saying the president had died.  The air seemed to be sucked out of the building as I and the other students with a few professors sat in stunned silence.  Soon little groups on this Catholic campus joined together to pray for John Kennedy.  I felt as if I were floating in unreality.

Later that day when I left the campus and drove home, I thought back to three years previously and the night of the presidential election.  Everyone at my house (parents, grandparents, and the five sisters still at home) had gone to bed, but I stayed up past 1 A.M., watching the television coverage of the vote count. My parents, despite their Irish-Catholicism, were Nixon supporters, but I was for JFK.  I couldn’t comprehend why anyone would vote for Nixon, who seemed to me to personify evil.  When I finally went up the stairs to bed, I was convinced Kennedy would win and felt very happy.

It wouldn’t be for another tumultuous decade before I would hear Kris Kristoffenson sing:

Never knowin’ if believin’ is a blessin’ or a curse
Or if the going up is worth to coming down….
From the rockin’ of the cradle to the rollin’ of the hearse
The goin’ up was worth the coming down

And I would ask myself the same question.

In the meantime, the next few years would bring the Bay of Pigs, the Cuban Missile crisis, and the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, among other significant events, and for a high school student interested in politics and world events it was a heady and frightening few years.  It was a country of newspapers back then, and I would read perhaps 3-4 each day and sensed a growing animosity toward Kennedy, especially as expressed in the more conservative NYC papers.  I can remember very little talk of politics in my home and felt alone with my thoughts.  As far as I can remember, this was also true at the Jesuit high school that I attended.  And, of course, nothing prepared me for the president’s murder and the feeling of despair it engendered in me, a feeling so painful that I couldn’t really acknowledge it.  At nineteen, I felt traumatized but couldn’t admit it or tell anyone.  After all, I was a scholar and an athlete.  Tough.

Then on Sunday morning my family had the TV on and we watched as Jack Ruby shot Lee Harvey Oswald, the guy the government said had killed the president.  The unreality was compounded many-fold, and when later it was reported that Oswald had died, I felt I was living in an episode of The Twilight Zone, a popular television show at the time, whose narrator would say we are now entering the weird world between shadow and substance.

The next day a friend and I went to the Fordham University campus to visit a Jesuit priest who was a mentor to us.  He had the television on for JFK’s funeral and we sat and watched it for a while with him.  After a few hours, it became too painful and the two of us went outside to a football field where we threw a football back and forth.  Perhaps subconsciously we were thinking of Kennedy’s love of football; I don’t know.  But I remember a feeling of desolation that surrounded us on that empty cold field with not another soul around.  It seemed sacrilegious to be playing games at such a time, yet deep trauma contributes to strange behavior.

Then I went on with my college life, studying and playing basketball, until the day after Malcolm X was assassinated on February 21, 1965. Those New York newspapers that didn’t like Kennedy, hated Malcom even more and were constantly ripping into him.  I vividly remember talking to my college basketball teammate the next day.  His sense of devastation as a young African American struck me forcefully. As we walked to basketball practice and talked, his sense of isolation and gloom was palpable.  Visceral. Unforgettable.  It became mine, even though I didn’t at the time grasp its full significance.

In 1968 when Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated, I was driving to visit a girlfriend and remember hearing the news on the car radio and feeling deeply shocked. I felt immediately oppressed by the first warm spring evening in the New York area.  It was as if the beautiful weather, usually so uplifting after winter and so joyously stimulating to a young man’s sexuality, was conspiring with the news of King’s death to bring me down into a deep depression.

Soon the country would awaken on June 5 to the surreal news that Senator Robert Kennedy was shot in Los Angeles the night before.  Like so many Americans, when he died not long after, I felt his death was the last straw. But it was far from it. For all the while Lyndon Johnson had lied his way to election in 1964 and escalated the Vietnam war to savage proportions.  Death and destruction permeated the air we were breathing.  The year 1968 ended with the suspicious death in Thailand of a hero of mine, the anti-war Trappist Monk Thomas Merton.  Subsequent research has shown that that too was an assassination.  And while all of this was going on and my political consciousness was becoming radicalized, I became a conscientious objector from the Marines.  I was 24 years old.

By the late 1970s, having been fired from teaching positions for radical scholarship and anti-war activities, and mentally exhausted by the unspeakable events of the 1960s, I retreated into the country where I found solace in nature and a low-key life of contemplation, writing literary and philosophical essays, a novel, book reviews, and becoming a part-time newspaper columnist. By the 1990s, I gradually returned to teaching and a more active political engagement, primarily through teaching and writing.

Then in 1991 Oliver Stone jolted me back in time with his film JFK. I found powerful emotional memories welling up within me, and growing anger at what had happened to the U.S. in the previous decades. Soon JFK Jr., who was investigating his father’s assassination and was about to enter politics and take up his father’s mantle, was killed in a blatantly rigged “accident.”  A month before I had been standing in line behind his wife in the bakery in my little town while he waited outside in a car. Now the third Kennedy was dead. I called my old friend the Jesuit priest from Fordham, but he was speechless. The bodies kept piling up or disappearing.

When the attacks of September 11, 2001 happened, I realized from day one that something was not right; that the official explanation was full of holes.  My sociological imagination took fire. All that I had thought and felt, even my literary writing, came together.  The larger picture emerged clearly.  My teaching took on added urgency, including courses on September 11th and the various assassinations.

Then in 2009 I read and reviewed James Douglass’s masterpiece, JFK and the Unspeakable, and my traumatic memories of 1963 and after came flooding back in full force. I realized that those youthful experiences had been so difficult for me to assimilate and that I therefore had to intellectualize them, for the emotional toll of reexperiencing them and what they meant was profound.  The book really opened me to this, but so too did the awareness of how sensitive I was to John Kennedy’s death, how emotional I felt when reading about it or hearing him speak or listening to a song such as “The Day John Kennedy Died” by Lou Reed.  It was as though a damn had burst inside me and my heart had become an open house without doors or windows.

I tell you all this to try to convey the ways in which we “forget” the past in order to shield ourselves from powerful and disturbing memories that might force us to disrupt our lives. To change. Certain events, such as the more recent attacks of September 11, have become too disturbing for many to explore, to study, to contemplate, just as I found a way to marginalize my feelings about my own government’s murder of President Kennedy, a man who had given me hope as a youngster, and whose murder had nearly extinguished that hope.

Many people will pretend that they are exposing themselves to such traumatic memories and are investigating the events and sources of their disquietude. It is so often a pretense since they feel most comfortable in the land of make-believe.  What is needed is not a dilettantish and superficial nod in the direction of having examined such matters, but a serious in-depth study of the facts and an examination of why doing so might make one uncomfortable.  A look outward and a look inward.  Just as people distort and repress exclusively personal memories to “save” themselves from harsh truths that would force them to examine their current personal lives, so too do they do the same with political and social ones. When I asked two close relatives of mine, both of whom came close to death on September 11, 2001 at The World Trade Towers, what they have thought about that day, they separately told me that they haven’t really given it much thought. This startled me, especially since it involved mass death and a close encounter with personal death in a controversial public event, two experiences that would seem to elicit deep thought.  And these two individuals are smart and caring souls.

What and why we remember and forget is profoundly important.  Thoreau, in writing about life without principle, said, “It is so hard to forget what is worse than useless to remember.”  This is so true.  We are consumed with trivia, mostly by choice.

Perhaps a reason we remember so much trivia is to make sure we forget profound experiences that might shake us to our cores.  The cold-blooded public execution of President John Kennedy did that to me on that melancholy Friday when I was 19, and by trying to forget it and not to speak of it, I hoped it would somehow go away, or at least fade to insignificance.  But the past has a way of never dying, often to return when we least expect or want it.

So today, on this anniversary Friday, another November 22, I have chosen to try to speak of what it felt like once upon a time on the chance that it might encourage others to do the same with our shared hidden history.  Only by speaking out is hope possible.  Only by making the hidden manifest.

T.S. Eliot wrote in “Journey of the Magi” words that echo ironically in my mind on this anniversary of the day John Kennedy died:

All this was a long time ago, I remember
And I would do it again, but set down
This set down
This: were we led all that way for
Birth or Death? There was a Birth certainly,
We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and
Death,
But had thought they were different; this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.
We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
With an alien people clutching their gods.
I should be glad of another death.

Remembering in all its emotional detail the day John Kennedy died has been a long and cold journey for me.  It has allowed me to see and feel the terror of that day, the horror, but also the heroism of the man, the in-your-face warrior for peace whose death should birth in us the courage to carry on his legacy.

Killing a man who says “no” to the endless cycle of war is a risky business, says a priest in the novel Bread and Wine by Ignazio Silone.  For “even a corpse can go on whispering ‘No! No! No! with a persistence and obstinacy that only certain corpses are capable of.  And how can you silence a corpse.”

John Kennedy was such a man.

Eliot was right: Sometimes death and birth are hard to tell apart.

President Kennedy’s courage in facing a death he knew was coming from forces within his own government who opposed his efforts for peace, nuclear disarmament, and an end to the Cold War – “I know there is a God-and I see a storm coming.  I believe that I am ready,” he had written on a slip of paper, and his favorite poem contained the refrain, “I have a rendezvous with death” – should encourage all of us to not turn our faces away from his witness for peace.

We must stop being at ease in a dispensation where we worship the gods of war and clutch the nuclear weapons that our crazed leaders say they will use on a “first-strike” basis.  If they ever do, Eliot’s question – “were we led all that way for Birth or Death?” – will be answered.

But no one will hear it.

What’s Joker’s Joke?

Cause how many times can you wake up in this comic book and plant flowers?

— Rodriguez, “Cause

It’s not funny, that’s for sure.

When I went to see Joker, the new Todd Philips’ film, there were five other people in the theater in the liberal, up-scale tourist town populated by wealthy second-home owners, exiles for the most part from Gotham City (NYC). When the cave’s wall lit up, there was a string of shadows projected onto it, advertisements looping repetitively for the town’s “advantages,” specifically “living and working in the same community,” something next to impossible in the town except for the affluent people who didn’t want to see Joker, the story of a guy in New York City whose penurious and fragile existence belies the false innocence of the wealthy elites who deny succor to the suffering poor, as the obscene gap between them grows apace.

It occurred to me that Joker, with his keen eye for the ironic hypocrisies of all that surrounds him, would get a laugh out of these preliminary promotions, for he himself has a bit of a problem and no advantages living and working in NYC.  And he would understand why the rich would shun his story, having no doubt heard that it was violent, since they are squeamish about violence directed toward their kind, but great supporters of violence directed toward the poor around the world by the American military and at home by the police, both of whom work for them.  Such official violence, of course, is something that they never have to see because they live in doll houses constructed out of a vast tapestry of lies and illusions, where the windows don’t open out onto the wider suffering world but reflect inward their self-absorbed lives where people like Joker are invisible.

The repetitive shadows on the wall in the theater were advertising local services.  Real estate, landscaping, high-end jewelry and furniture, life style companies, architects – all the amenities of the rich and famous.  Like those who absented themselves from the theater so as to avoid a painful confrontation with truth, I knew violence was on the horizon and had to laugh at the services being offered before Joker made his first appearance.  It was my last laugh.  I imagined him laughing also.

Then he was there, big as life, Joker, a man emaciated like a Giacometti sculpture portrayed by Joaquin Phoenix, who from the moment he appears, brilliantly makes you realize that a poor and suffering thin man exists and attention must be paid. The viewer is mesmerized from the start as Joker, aka Arthur Fleck – fleck: a small particle, a stain – tells us that “I just don’t want to feel so bad anymore,” despite the seven medications he takes to ease his pain.  This “stain” on the social illusion of fairness and decency is a guy with no money or jewels to believe in, no real estate, no amenities, a guy who has no grass to be cut or beautiful plants to be tended to in his sad concrete apartment where he barely exists with his ill and deeply depressed mother whom he cares for. “I don’t believe in anything,” he tells us, ironically echoing the unacknowledged nihilism of the upper classes.  But he has good reasons, while theirs are rooted in their worship of power and money that undergirds the capitalist system of exploitation that creates suffering souls like Arthur, whose mental illness reflects a social system that is insane and violent to its core.  It is no joke.

As I watched his story unfold, I recalled the time frame of the movie, the late 1970s or early 1980s, when my wife and I lived in NYC, subletting various apartments.  When we first arrived in our old car, friends put us up at their apartment.  We had little money, and the first night when we stayed with our friends, we parked on the street and left most of our suitcases with all our belongings in the car overnight. In the morning, all the suitcases had been stolen.  Welcome to Gotham City.  While it felt like a liberation to me, as if now I could start a new life, my wife felt otherwise, as might you.  But it was our introduction to NYC.  And while we were young and educated and had the wherewithal to get jobs to pay the rent and live reasonably well, unlike Arthur Fleck, our time there was a wearing one.  The city seemed dirty, unsafe, depressed, depressing, and teetering on the edge of some sort of death.  Hope seemed to have died along with the radical dreams of the 1960s when I lived there.  After moving from one apartment to another all around Manhattan and Brooklyn, we had our sublet on West 103rd Street broken into in broad daylight.  We were worn down by it all, and when we took a walk one day along the Hudson River in Riverside Park, we saw ahead of us three very large cats cross the walkway and a woman scream in terror at the sight.  As we got closer, we realized the cats were rats, and we took it as a sign to make our exit, as if Camus’ plague were encroaching. So we did so shortly thereafter, borrowing a tent and heading to the country, never to return.

Poor Joker had no such option.  He was trapped.  Fired from his day job as a clown at children’s parties and store closings, ridiculed and bullied by co-workers, friendless, he continues to dream of being a stand-up celebrity comic as he and his mother laugh at a late-night television talk show they are addicted to.  They revere the host, and Arthur dreams of appearing on his show and making his breakthrough in comedy.  Laugh or cringe as we may, their reverence for the host, played by Robert DeNiro, reflects American’s dirty open secret: the adoration of celebrities and the wealthy.

Life goes from bad to worse for the two of them, becoming a total nightmare, and the viewer is drawn into its dream-like confusion, never being sure what is real and what are Arthur’s hallucinations.  Fact and fiction meld in a transmogrification that is film’s specialty.  Like life today in a screen culture, one’s mind vacillates and one wanders through it – or is it Arthur’s mind – wondering if what is happening in society is actual or virtual.  The viewer feels like he is Arthur/Joker while observing him, a perfect experience of the schizophrenic state of American life today.

The suffering Arthur Fleck is abandoned by a cruel American society whose political order cares not a whit for its regular people, and in a penultimate scene when Arthur is appearing on a late-night television show where the snide and condescending host mocks him and his attempt at comedy, Joker says to the host:

Comedy is subjective, Murray. Isn’t that what they say? All of you, the system that knows so much, you decide what’s right or wrong. The same way that you decide what’s funny or not.

In that quote lies our current fate, the relativistic dark night that has descended on our world since Nietzsche issued his warning about the encroaching nihilism. The system that knows and controls so much decides human truth and what is good and evil, always, of course, deciding in its own favor, even to suggest that all is woe and all hope is gone while heading to the bank with its ill-begotten lucre.

This is the void that frames the film, the nihilistic void that so many wish to avoid. To question. To ask themselves where their culpability lies and what is it, beyond creature comforts and social acceptance, that they truly believe.  To understand why jokers like Arthur pop up everywhere.

But people like Arthur get pushed and pushed to the brink, and they look over and see nothing, not even their own reflections in the water, and conclude that their only hope is to strike back at the people who personify the systemic violence that reduces them to non-entities.

After being tormented by three Wall St. types on the subway while in his clown costume, he finally strikes back and kills them. This gains him anonymous notoriety which he starts to relish.  “For my whole life I didn’t know I even really existed,” he says, “but I do.  People are starting to notice.”

Of course, they aren’t noticing Arthur, but the masked clown whom they now fear. For Joker is the ultimate ironist, a man without a face, the faceless modern, just as all those who hide behind their wealth and public performances are masked actors in a bad play, one they try to control but which sometimes gets out of hand.

For those who say the film encourages violence, I say no; it holds a mirror up to the violence that undergirds the system of economic and political exploitation that already exists. Of course, this too is ironic for a Hollywood movie.  Like the films that it echoes – Taxi Driver, The King of Comedy, NetworkJoker, like all good works of art, is open to polysemous interpretations.  It encourages introspection and extrospection.  It asks viewers to question themselves and their part in the social charade that passes for a just and equitable society. It asks viewers to contemplate Dr. Martin Luther King’s statement that is as true now as when he uttered it: “The greatest purveyor of violence in the world: My own government.  I cannot be silent.”

The joker’s joke is no joke at all.  It is deadly serious.

When Arthur Fleck says, “I used to think my life was a tragedy, but now I realize it’s a comedy,” and unleashes his murderous violent rage with a Joker’s smile, he was turning into those he condemned as his oppressors.  Their nihilism became his own; their violence his.

The film asks us to contemplate such a marriage of seeming opposites, its dialectic, and not turn away from the faces in the mirror.

“Have you ever noticed that it is the most civilized gentlemen who have been the subtlest slaughterers, to whom the Attilas and the Stenka Razins could not hold a candle, and if they are not so conspicuous as the Attilas and Stenka Razins it is simply because they are so often met with, are so ordinary and have become so familiar to us,” says Dostoevsky’s Underground man.

But where are the rats?
Quick, send in the rats.
Don’t bother, they’re here.

They have taken complete ownership of Gotham City.

The “Deep State” Has Been Redefined as Career Bureaucrats Doing Their Patriotic Duty

It gets funny, this shallow analysis of the deep state that is currently big news. There’s something ghoulish about it, perfectly timed for Halloween and masked jokers. What was once ridiculed by the CIA and its attendant lackeys in the media as the paranoia of “conspiracy theorists” is now openly admitted in reverent tones of patriotic fervor.  But with a twisted twist.

The corporate mass-media has recently discovered a “deep state” that they claim to be not some evil group of assassins who work for the super-rich owners of the country and murder their own president (JFK) and other unpatriotic dissidents (Malcom X, MLK, RK, among others) and undermine democracy home and abroad, but are now said to be just fine upstanding American citizens who work within the government bureaucracies and are patriotic believers in democracy intent on doing the right thing.

This redefinition has been in the works for a few years, and it shouldn’t be a surprise that this tricky treat was being prepared for our consumption a few years ago by The Council on Foreign Relations.  In its September/October 2017 edition of its journal Foreign Affairs, Jon D. Michaels, in “Trump and the Deep State: The Government Strikes Back,” writes:

Furious at what they consider treachery by internal saboteurs, the president and his surrogates have responded by borrowing a bit of political science jargon, claiming to be victims of the “deep state,” a conspiracy of powerful, unelected bureaucrats secretly pursuing their own agenda. The concept of a deep state is valuable in its original context, the study of developing countries such as Egypt, Pakistan, and Turkey, where shadowy elites in the military and government ministries have been known to countermand or simply defy democratic directives. Yet it has little relevance to the United States, where governmental power structures are almost entirely transparent, egalitarian, and rule-bound.

The White House is correct to perceive widespread resistance inside the government to many of its endeavors. But the same way the administration’s media problems come not from “fake news” but simply from news, so its bureaucratic problems come not from an insidious, undemocratic “deep state” but simply from the state—the large, complex hive of people and procedures that constitute the U.S. federal government.

Notice how in these comical passages about U.S. government transparency and egalitarianism, Michaels slyly and falsely attributes to Trump the very definition – “unelected bureaucrats” – that in the next paragraph he claims to be the real deep state, which is just the state power structures. Pseudo-innocence conquers all here as there is no mention of the Democratic party, Russiagate, etc., and all the machinations led by the intelligence services and Democratic forces to oust Trump from the day he was elected.  State power structures just move so quickly, as anyone knows who has studied the speed with which bureaucracies operate.  Ask Max Weber.

Drip by drip over the past few years, this “state bureaucracy” meme has been introduced by the mainstream media propagandists as they have gradually revealed that the government deep-staters are just doing their patriotic duty in trying openly to oust an elected president.

Many writers have commented on the recent New York Times article, Trump’s War on the ‘Deep State’ Turns Against Him” asserting that the Times has finally admitted to the existence of the deep state, which is true as far as it goes, which is not too far. But in this game of deceptive revelations – going shallower to go deeper – what is missing is a focus on the linguistic mind control involved in the changed definition.

In a recent article by Robert W. Merry, whose intentions I am not questioning – “New York Times Confirms: It’s Trump Versus the Deep State” – originally published at The American Conservative and widely reprinted, the lead-in to the article proper reads: “Even the Gray Lady admits the president is up against a powerful bureaucracy that wants him sunk.”  So the “powerful bureaucracy” redefinition, this immovable force of government bureaucrats, is slipped into public consciousness as what the deep state supposedly is.  Gone are CIA conspirators and evil doers. In their place we find career civil servants doing their patriotic duty.

Then there is The New York Times’ columnist James Stewart who, appearing on the Today Show recently, where he was promoting his new book, told Savannah Guthrie that:

Well, you meet these characters in my book, and the fact is, in a sense, he’s [Trump] right. There is a deep state…there is a bureaucracy in our country who has pledged to respect the Constitution, respect the rule of law. They do not work for the President. They work for the American people. And, as Comey told me in my book, ‘thank goodness for that,’ because they are protecting the Constitution and the people when individuals – we don’t have a monarch, we don’t have a dictator – they restrain them from crossing the boundaries of law. What Trump calls the deep state in the United States is protecting the American people and protecting the Constitution. It’s a positive thing in this sense.

So again we are told that the deep-state bureaucracy is defending the Constitution and protecting the American people, as James Comey told Stewart, “in my book, ‘thank goodness for that,’” as he put it so eloquently. These guys talk in books, of course, not person to person, but that is the level not just of English grammar and general stupidity, but of the brazen bullshit these guys are capable of.

This new and shallow deep state definition has buried the old meaning of the deep state as evil conspirators carrying out coup d’états, assassinations, and massive media propaganda campaigns at home and abroad, and who, by implication and direct declaration, never existed in the good old U.S.A. but only in countries such as Egypt, Turkey, and Pakistan where shadowy elites killed and deposed leaders and opponents in an endless series of coup d’états.  No mention in Foreign Affairs, of course, of the American support for the ruthless leaders of these countries who have always been our dear allies when they obey our every order and serve as our servile proxies in murder and mayhem.

Even Edward Snowden, the courageous whistleblower in exile in Russia, in a recent interview with Joe Rogan, repeats this nonsense when he says the deep state is just “career government officials” who want to keep their jobs and who outlast presidents.  From his own experience, he should know better.  Much better.  Interestingly, he suggests that he does when he tells Rogan that “every president since Kennedy” has been successfully “feared up” by the intelligence agencies so they will do their bidding.  He doesn’t need to add that JFK, for fearlessly refusing the bait, was shot in the head in broad daylight to send a message to those who would follow.

Linguistic mind control is insidious like the slow drip of a water faucet.  After a while you don’t hear it and just go about your business, even as your mind, like a rotting rubber washer, keeps disintegrating under propaganda’s endless reiterations.

To think that the deep state is government employees just doing their patriotic duty is plain idiocy and plainer propaganda.

It is a trick, not the treat it is made to seem.

Ms. Pumpkin Head for President: A Nightmare

A few weeks ago I had a terrifying nightmare, so gruesome was it that I awoke screaming and had to run to the bathroom to vomit in the toilet.  In this dark horror show, I was carving a pumpkin for Halloween.  The cap came off easily and I disemboweled the slimy interior quickly, but as I did, I felt a strange sensation on my hand, as if a tongue were biting it.  When I was finishing carving the face, however, the trouble really started.  The pumpkin head came alive as the eyes and mouth moved and then it started speaking in a voice that was familiar but one I couldn’t place.  Blond hair started sprouting from its head as it started shrieking and bouncing on the table in an hysterical manner.  I jumped back in fear and trembling as it started cackling, “I running, I running.”  Blood ran from between the carved teeth and the blue eyes pulsated with the mania of a serial killer in a horror movie.

I awoke with a scream when I realized it was Hillary Clinton.

So hideous was this night terror that I kept it to myself.  But a week later when the next Democratic pseudo-debate was being promoted, I said to my wife that something told me that Hillary Clinton would be the Democratic nominee and the debates were a sideshow.  She said she thought that would never happen and that Clinton was now hated and done for.  I disagreed without recounting my nightmare because to describe it at that point would have induced more retching at the thought of the night monster.

Then this past week during the Democratic debate, the courageous Tulsi Gabbard put the lie to the murderous militarism of U.S. foreign policy and its regime change operations with its use of American supported terrorists in Syria and throughout the world.  She calmly and eloquently denounced the militarist positions of the other candidates standing beside her, as they listened disquieted and disturbed to a patriotic American speaking truth that they dare not even think, so bought and sold are they.

She was a woman alone among a cast of sycophants denouncing the murderous policies carried out by presidents Democratic and Republican and foisted on the American people through a vast network of propaganda, appealing to their worst instincts.  It was a stunning few minutes, for it is so rare, almost unheard of, for a politician to tell Americans the brutal truth about their government.

To many it was a sign of hope, but to the evil forces that run this country, Rep. Gabbard had gone too far and the knives came out in force, this time led by the pumpkin-headed Hillary Clinton and her accomplices at The New York Times and The Washington Post, who have consistently trashed Tulsi Gabbard in an effort to destroy her candidacy.

I felt my dream was prophetic when Clinton, in her slimy manner, attacked Tulsi Gabbard, without naming her, by saying,

I’m not making any predictions but I think they’ve [The Russians] got their eye on somebody who is currently in the Democratic primary and are grooming her to be the third-party candidate. She’s the favorite of the Russians. They have a bunch of sites and bots and other ways of supporting her so far.

Well, I ain’t making any prediction either; I’m leaving that up to my nightmare to do my talking.

It tells me that Hillary-O-Lantern, spitting blood, is running and gunning again.

She’s the favorite of the CIA and the military industrial complex and all those who profit from war and live off the deaths of victims everywhere.  They have bunches of sites and bots and fake news conspirators and all sorts of ways of supporting her, which they have been doing for many years, straight through their constructed Russia-gate and Ukraine-gate conspiracies and her barbaric support for wars everywhere, including the destruction of Libya and her joyful response to the fiendish death of Muammar Gaddafi, among so may atrocities.

Tulsi, never cowered, said it straight and true in response:

Great, Thank you.  You the Queen of warmongers, embodiment of corruption, and of the rot that has sickened the Democratic Party for so long, have finally come out from behind the curtain. From the day I announced my candidacy, there has been a concerted campaign to destroy my reputation. We wondered who was behind it and why. Now we know — it was always you, through your proxies and concerted campaign to destroy my reputation. We wondered who was behind it and why. Now we know — it was always you, through your proxies and powerful allies in the corporate media and war machine, afraid of the threat I pose.
It’s now clear that this primary is between you and me. Don’t cowardly hide behind your proxies. Join the race directly.

She later said, “I stand against everything she represents.”

Halloween is the time for masks and dissembling. Hillary Clinton is a figure straight out of a grotesque Halloween party, as are her clones in the Democratic party. Tulsi Gabbard was not invited to their party but came anyway, and came to tell the truth about the masquerade.

She has torn off Clinton’s mask and asks the American people to see the true face of Clinton and all her minions, who represent the triumph of war and death, and the sick play we have been living through, an endless war on terror justified by endless lies.

Norman O. Brown so well describes our stage set:

Ancestral voices prophesying war; ancestral spirits in the danse macabre or war dance; Valhalla, ghostly warriors who kill each other and are reborn to fight again. All warfare is ghostly, every army an exercitus feralis (army of ghosts), every soldier a living corpse.

Lying is the leading cause of living death in the United States.

Tulsi Gabbard has told the truth.

Like me, I am sure you don’t want your nightmares to become reality. Let’s live in the truth.

When Time Stands Still

The intimate human experience of time standing still is universal, although rare.  When we undergo it, we are stunned.  Silence seems to enclose us. It is the correlative to the more common experience of time passing at different speeds, sometimes slowly, sometimes fast, despite clocks.  These universal experiences do not accord with the teleology that underlies the modern world with its scientific principle that leads to entropic death triumphant. They are therefore, as John Berger, the English writer and art critic, writes, “dismissed as subjective, because time, according to the nineteenth-century view, is objective, incontestable and indifferent; to its indifference there are no limits.”

As a result of living within this scientific and technical presupposition that the background ticking of the clock is the only truth and time is a one-way street, we are now living inside a hopeless mind-frame of a scientific theocracy that says all will end in entropy.  This is nihilism; for at the end of this clock time is nothingness, the infinite void.  This is the unstated “future,” but a future that is also now, a noxious injection that surreptitiously poisons people at the well of their lives where cracks in the consensual reality open and other truths fly in, or as Emily Dickinson said, “’Hope’ is the thing with feathers/That perches in the soul/And sings the tune without the words/And never stops – at all”

The one-dimensional finality of the view of time as death triumphant is the nihilistic future Nietzsche said was coming, and it is here.  And being here, it tries to reduce any experience that transports us beyond time to personal lunacy and worthy only of dismissal. It reduces human subjectivity and transcendent joy and despondent suffering to the ravings of a madman. Facts are facts says this unstated premise, and if you don’t get that, you are a joker and will be rendered invisible.

In the new movie “Joker,” the suffering Arthur Fleck, the eponymous Joker, is abandoned by a cruel American society whose capitalist order cares not a whit for its regular people, and in a penultimate scene when Arthur is appearing on a late night television show where the snide and condescending host mocks him and his attempt at comedy, Joker says to the host:

Comedy is subjective, Murray. Isn’t that what they say? All of you, the system that knows so much, you decide what’s right or wrong. The same way that you decide what’s funny or not.

In that quote lies our current fate, the dark night that has descended on our world since Nietzsche issued his warning. The system that knows and controls so much decides human truth and what is good and evil, always of course, deciding in its own favor, even to suggest that all is woe and all hope is gone while heading to the bank with its ill-begotten lucre.

No wonder all the media, mainstream and alternative, are today filled with headlines and titles screaming about our impending extinction, doomsday, and the apocalypse. The end days are near.  Just as our fictitious “telling of time” with advanced technology has sped up since the simplest clock and speed has devoured space, so too have all the admonitions to prepare for the end of the world, as if you could.  Just pack your suitcase and you’re off.  These warning are often accompanied by assertions that humans, having contaminated the planet, don’t deserve to survive; that humans are vermin; and that, anyway, it’s too little too late, we don’t have time.  Extinction will be arriving shortly, even if we protest its arrival.  It’s hopeless, so don’t have children, or, if you have them already, teach them that “life is a tale told by an idiot signifying nothing.”  A one-way trip to dusty death where the trains run on time and the last stop is Nowhere.

Such political commentary, while often based on obvious problems caused by systemic structures of capitalist exploitation and technological hubris, implicitly rejects millennia of human experience and the testimony of the world’s great art and spiritual experience.  It rests upon a metaphysical assumption disguised as science that brackets out any word to the contrary.  It is the triumph of technical reason over the revelation of hope that is rooted in love, sexuality, and the human body, not abstractions.

“Our totalitarianism begins with our teleology,” writes Berger in his brilliant essay, “That Which Is Held.”

He adds:

What is ahistorical is the need to hope.  And the act of hoping is inseparable from the energy of love, from that which ‘holds,’ from that which is art’s constant example.

Such as the painting of a plaid suitcase by a little-known artist that hangs in my mental museum.  My father once went on vacation, and when he arrived at his destination and opened this suitcase, he found that it is was empty.  He had forgotten to pack and was overcome with joy at the realization.  He wanted for nothing.  This was his masterpiece, created when he wasn’t looking.

Just yesterday, I was being thought by these thoughts as I took an early morning walk by the neighboring lake.  A group of geese, like battleships on the sea, greeted me with their honking, and as I dawdled along, they dove to show me their white asses, as if they were college boys out on a drunken lark, mooning anyone who passed.  It seemed as if I were being mocked for allowing these thoughts to drift into my mind, guests that I did not summon but came uninvited.  Many days I feel as though I am visited by words and images that transport me into reveries of time lost and time found and time beyond time.  Rilke captures a bit of this with these words:

O longing for places that were not
Cherished enough in that fleeting hour
How I long to make good from far
The forgotten gesture, the additional act.
Who, among us, has not heard such words whispering into our silences?

Then I stopped by a swampy area at the end of the lake and took a look through the gently swaying bushes. A blue heron stood stock still on the far side, as if it were a statue or a silhouetted profile on an ancient Greek vase.  I froze and watched intently, lost in the sight of the bird’s eerie stillness.  For an instant I was that blue heron.  Its immobility and my stop-time staring seemed to fuse us in the way one is transported into a cataleptic state when watching dust motes in a flash of sunlight or unexpectedly seeing the full moon hanging on the world’s edge when stepping outdoors with night coming on.  It seems at these moments that a crack opens in the conventional reality machine that runs the world and one shivers with an erotic happiness that transcends description. Berger calls these “enclaves of the beyond.”

When I finally shook myself loose from being the heron, I walked on by myself but with many voices whispering in my ears.  Kris Kristofferson, whom I had recently seen in a documentary on country music, was singing “Me and Bobby McGee,” which took me back to a night years ago when a woman I knew played the song over and over for me as she drank wine in her low-cut dress, coming on to me, even as my then wife sat with us.

There is an infinite sadness in this memory, the loneliness of her yearning, not just for sex but for love, for a relationship, for tenderness, for “that which is held,” and while I remember the night vividly, I sadly can’t remember her name and she slips into the penumbra of the dreamy past.  But vividly alive, present.  She walks with me as I head down the road, where the sign reads: Rough Road Ahead.  The words live:

Then somewhere near Salinas, Lord, I let her slip away/She was lookin’ for the love I hope she’ll find.

Just a moment of time out of mind.  A moment the time-keepers can’t imagine.

We know it.  We live it. We use and are used by our memories and forgetteries in equal measure, thinking we control the flow of life, which we don’t.

There is an experience that lovers, writers, singers, and athletes have. Everyone has it at least once in a lifetime, or so I hope. It is called by some “being in the zone,” by others “being unconscious,” by others “ecstasy” and “inspiration”; in all cases it transcends clocks and the underlying bias of our age.  It is hope incarnate. It is time out of mind. By discounting it, we embrace hopelessness, nihilism.

Living in the age of abstractions, we tend to abandon the body, the earth, and the chance that we might redeem this sordid era.  By remembering that hope lies in the shadows, in the unexpected places and faces that flash through our times even when we are induced to believe we are only dreaming, we have a chance. But only if we reject the belief that entropy is time’s arrow.  Therein lies the real danger that will result in our forgetting of how instantly time can stand still in the ultimate sense, as it did for the Japanese victims of America’s murderous rage on August 6, 1945.  Galway Kinnell, in his poem “The Fundamental Project of Technology” reminds us to remember:

The children go away. By nature they do. And by memory,
in scorched uniforms, holding tiny crushed lunch tins.
All the ecstasy-groans of each night call them back, satori
their ghostliness back into the ashes, in the momentary shrines,
the thankfulness of arms, from which they will go
again and again, until the day flashes and no one lives
to look back and say, a flash, a white flash sparkled.

Where was the lightning before it flashed?  To us it wasn’t.  Its flashing was it.  It was its act. But the nuclear weapons that we once used and are now preparing to use already exist and if they flash again all time will be extinguished and we will be gone with it.

The road ahead is rough indeed.  A despairing teleology will not save us.  We need to see it for the trap that it is.

Rhythm, melody, and movement: from these life is born and sustained.  They are also integral to art – music, writing, painting, sculpture, dance, etc. – even when they are apparently absent, as with my distorted perception of the seemingly immobile heron. They lie at the heart of spiritual experience, as breath is the inspiration that carries us along.

As I walk up the hill past the lake and my respiration increases, I see Alberto Giacometti’s sculpture, “Tall Walking Figure” in my mind’s eye. Its immobility implies movement, just as the ticking of the turning clock down through the ages has implied the earth’s solid resistance to time’s final victory, as the seasons turn and renew themselves timelessly.  Movement and stasis, time and the timeless. Such paradoxical inclusiveness pertains to still-life painting as well.  While seemingly immobile, and defined by some as dead life encompassed by the presence of the absence of movement and change, the essence of all living things, such paintings come to life in the encounter with the living.  Relationship is all. To grasp the paradoxical nature of art – and life – one must approach them as an artist and see the wholeness in broken pieces.  “Everything is broken,” Bob Dylan sings, “take a deep breath, feel like you’re choking.”

It seems that way.  But I am enjoying my walking reveries and so will let John Berger have the final word:

There is no question of looking away from the modern world and its practices.  There is no question of a Pre-Raphaelite flight back to the Middle Ages.  It is rather that Dante advances toward us.  And in the specific purgatory of the modern world, created and maintained by corporate capitalism, every injustice is grounded in that unilinear view of time, for which the only relation conceivable is that between cause and effect.  In contrast to this, in defiance of this, the ‘single synchronic act’ is that of loving.