All posts by Edward Curtin

Amazon Censorship of 9/11 Unmasked?

On September 10, 2018, I published a laudatory review of the new book, 9/11 Unmasked: An International Review Panel Investigation by David Ray Griffin and Elizabeth Woodworth. The review also appeared at many sites.  It is the definitive book on the defining event of the 21st century.  The book concludes that the official version(s) of the attacks of 11 September 2001 are false. The review was subsequently reposted at many publications.  There was great reader response and interest in the book, which was due for official release the next day, 11 September.  My review provided a link to the book’s Amazon page that noted the 11 September availability date.

By the next day readers were responding in great number that the Amazon site was reporting the book was “out of print,” when, in fact, it had just been published.  This “out of print” notification lasted until the evening of 13 September when it was changed to “in stock on September 30, 2018.”  By the following morning it was changed to “in stock on September 21, 2018,” only to be changed again between 11-12 PM on September 14 to “in stock on September 24, 2018,” only to be changed again to September 26, 2018, only to be changed again on Sunday, September 16, as I write, to “In stock on September 28.  It is unheard of for a book that has an official release date and that is available straight from the publisher to be listed as “out of print.” Amazon Canada continues to report that the book “has not yet been released.”  And obviously, all the date changes that push the book’s availability back by weeks suggest a clear-cut effort by Amazon to make sure readers cannot obtain the book quickly and in a timely manner from the most popular source, if ever.  Will they soon announce that the book will never be available for national security considerations or because it violates Amazon’s “content guidelines”?  The book’s publisher, Interlink Publishing, is selling the book now and says Amazon has the books.  So why is Jeff Bezos’s company playing this game?  His other major business, The Washington Post, (known as the CIA’s newspaper) is surely not going to review the book, nor would their editorial staff post encomiums to David Ray Griffin, Elizabeth Woodworth, their colleagues in this important research.

Readers should demand that Amazon immediately change their website and accept orders to be shipped today. Whether they are responsible for this game of chaotic discouragement or the intelligences services, who are fully capable of hacking into Amazon, as Edward Snowden has pointed out, I do not know.  But something very odd is happening and Amazon should correct it.

The Fakest Fake News: The U.S. Government’s 9/11 Conspiracy Theory

If you want to fathom today’s world, absolutely nothing is more important than to understand the truth about the attacks of September 11, 2001. This is the definitive book on the subject.

For seventeen years we have been subjected to an onslaught of U.S. government and corporate media propaganda about 9/11 that has been used to support the “war on terror” that has resulted in millions of deaths around the world.  It has been used as a pretext to attack nations throughout the Middle East, South Asia, and Africa.  It has led to a great increase in Islamophobia since Muslims were accused of being responsible for the attacks.  It has led to a crackdown on civil liberties in the United States, the exponential growth of a vast and costly national security apparatus, the spreading of fear and anxiety on a great scale, and a state of permanent war that is pushing the world toward a nuclear confrontation.  And much, much more.

The authors of this essential book, David Ray Griffin and Elizabeth Woodworth, and all their colleagues who have contributed to this volume, have long been at the front lines trying to wake people up to the real news about 9/11.  They have battled against three U.S. presidents, a vast propaganda machine “strangely” allied with well-known leftists, and a corporate mass media intent on serving deep-state interests, all of whom have used illogic, lies, and pseudo-science to conceal the terrible truth.  Yet despite the establishment’s disinformation and deceptions, very many people have come to suspect that the official story of the September 11, 2001 attacks is not true.

With the publication of 9/11Unmasked: An International Review Panel Investigation, they now have a brilliant source book to use to turn their suspicions into certitudes.  And for those who have never doubted the official account (or accounts would be more accurate), reading this book should shock them into reality, because it is not based on speculation, but on carefully documented and corroborated facts, exacting logic, and the scientific method.

The book is based on the establishment in 2011 of a scientific review project comprising 23 experts with a broad spectrum of expertise, including people from the fields of chemistry, structural engineering, physics, aeronautical engineering, airline crash investigation, piloting, etc. Their job was to apply systematic and disciplined analyses to the verifiable evidence about the 9/11 attacks.  They used a model called the Delphi Method as a way to achieve best-evidence consensus.  This best-evidence consensus model is used in science and medicine, and the 9/11 Consensus Panel used it to examine the key claims of the official account(s).  Each “Official Account” was reviewed and compared to “The Best Evidence” to reach conclusions.  The authors explain it thus:

The examination of each claim received three rounds of review and feedback.  According to the panel’s investigative model, members submitted their votes to the two of us moderators while remaining blind to one another.  Proposed points had to receive a vote of at least 85 percent to be accepted…This model carries so much authority in medicine that medical consensus statements derived from it are often reported in the news.  They represent the highest standard of medical research and practice and may result in malpractice lawsuits if not followed.

This research process went on for many years, with the findings reported in this book.  The Consensus 9/11 Panel provides evidence against the official claims in nine categories:

  1. The Destruction of the Twin Towers
  2. The Destruction of WTC 7
  3. The Attack on the Pentagon
  4. The 9/11 Flights
  5. US Military Exercises on and before 9/11
  6. Claims about Military and Political Leaders
  7. Osama bin Laden and the Hijackers
  8. Phone Calls from the 9/11 Flights
  9. Insider Trading

Each category is introduced and then broken down into sub-sections called points, which are examined in turn.  For example, the destruction of the Twin Towers has points that include, “The Claim That No One Reported Explosions in the Twin Towers,” “The Claim That the Twin Towers Were Destroyed by Airplane Impacts, Jet Fuel, and Fire,” “The Claim That There Were Widespread Infernos in the South Tower,” etc.  Each point is introduced with background, the official account is presented, then the best evidence, followed by a conclusion.  Within the nine categories there are 51 points examined, each meticulously documented through quotations, references, etc., all connected to 875 endnotes that the reader can follow.  It is scrupulously laid out and logical, and the reader can follow it sequentially or pick out an aspect that particularly interests them.

The 9/11 Consensus Panel members describe their goal and purpose as follows:

The purpose of the 9/11 Consensus Panel is to provide the world with a clear statement, based on expert independent opinion, of some of the best evidence opposing the official narrative about 9/11.

The goal of the Consensus Panel is to provide a ready source of evidence-based research to any investigation that may be undertaken by the public, the media, academia, or any other investigative body or institution.

As a sociologist who teaches research methods and does much research, I find the Consensus Panel’s method exemplary and their findings accurate. They have unmasked a monstrous lie.  It is so ironic that such serious scholars, who question and research 9/11, have been portrayed as irrational and ignorant “conspiracy theorists” by people whose thinking is magical, illogical, and pseudo-scientific in the extreme.

A review is no place to go into all the details of this book, but I will give a few examples of the acumen of the Panel’s findings.

As a grandson of a Deputy Chief of the New York Fire Department (343 firefighters died on 9/11), I find it particularly despicable that the government agency, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), that was charged with investigating the collapse of the Towers and Building 7, would claim that no one gave evidence of explosions in the Twin Towers, when it is documented by the fastidious researcher Graeme MacQueen, a member of The 9/11 Consensus Panel, that over 100 firefighters who were at the scene reported hearing explosions in the towers.  One may follow endnote 22 to MacQueen’s research and his sources that are indisputable.  There are recordings.

On a connected note, the official account claims that there were widespread infernos in the South Tower that prevented firefighters from ascending to the 78th floor.  Such a claim would support the notion that the building could have collapsed as a result of fires caused by the plane crashing into the building.  But as 9/11 Unmasked makes clear, radio tapes of firefighters ascending to the 78th floor and saying this was not so, prove that “there is incontrovertible evidence that the firefighter teams were communicating clearly with one another as they ascended WTC” and that there were no infernos to stop them, as they are recorded saying.  They professionally went about their jobs trying to save people.

Then the South Tower collapsed and so many died.  But it couldn’t have collapsed from “infernos” that didn’t exist.  Only explosives could have brought it down.

A reader can thus pick up this book, check out that section, and use common sense and elementary logic to reach the same conclusion.  And by reaching that conclusion and going no further in the book, the entire official story of 9/11 falls apart.

Or one can delve further, let’s say by dipping into the official claim that a domestic airline attack on the Pentagon was not expected.  Opening to page 78, the reader can learn that “NBC’s Pentagon correspondent Jim Miklaszewski was warned of the Pentagon attack by an intelligence officer,” who specified the illogical spot where the attack would happen shortly before it did.  In Miklaszewski’s words, “And then he got very close to me, and, almost silent for a few seconds, he leaned in and said, ‘This attack was so well coordinated that if I were you, I would stay off the E Ring – where our NBC office was – the outer ring of the Pentagon for the rest of the day, because we’re next.’”  The authors say correctly, “The intelligence officer’s apparent foreknowledge was unaccountably specific.”  For if a terrorist were going to fly a plane into the Pentagon, the most likely spot would be to dive into the roof where many people might be killed, including top brass and Defense Secretary Rumsfeld.  To make an impossibly acrobatic maneuver to fly low into an outside wall would make no sense.  And for the government to claim that this impossible maneuver was executed by the alleged hijacker Hani Hanjour, a man who according to documentation couldn’t even pilot a small plane, is absurd.  But the intelligence officer knew what would happen, and the reader can learn this, and marvel.

Or the reader can start from the beginning and read straight through the book.  They will learn in detail that the official version of the attacks of 9/11 is fake news at its worst.  It is a story told for dunces.

Griffin and Woodworth and their colleagues simply and clearly in the most logical manner show that the emperor has no clothes, not even a mask.

Since knowing the truth about the attacks of September 11, 2001 is indispensable for understanding what is happening in today’s world, everyone should purchase and read Unmasking 9/11: An International Review Panel Investigation.  Keep it next to your dictionary, and when you read or hear the latest propaganda about the 9/11 attacks, take it out and consult the work of the real experts.  Their words will clarify your mind.

It is the definitive book on the defining event of the 21st century.

A Diabolic False Flag Empire

The past is not dead; it is people who are sleeping.  The current night and daymares that we are having arise out of murders lodged deep in our past that have continued into the present.  No amount of feigned amnesia will erase the bloody truth of American history, the cheap grace we bestow upon ourselves.  We have, as Harold Pinter said in his Nobel address, been feeding on “a vast tapestry of lies” that surrounds us, lies uttered by nihilistic leaders and their media mouthpieces for a very long time.  We have, or should have, bad consciences for not acknowledging being active or silent accomplices in the suppression of truth and the vicious murdering of millions at home and abroad.

But, as Pinter said, “I believe that despite the enormous odds which exist, unflinching, unswerving, fierce intellectual determination, as citizens, to define the real truth of our lives and our societies is a crucial obligation which devolves upon us all. It is in fact mandatory.”

No one is more emblematic of this noble effort than David Ray Griffin, who, in book after book since the attacks of 11 September 2001, has meticulously exposed the underside of the American empire and its evil masters.  His persistence in trying to reach people and to warn them of the horrors that have resulted is extraordinary.  Excluding his philosophical and theological works, this is his fifteenth book since 2004 on these grave issues of life and death and the future of the world.

In this masterful book, he provides a powerful historical argument that right from the start with the arrival of the first European settlers, this country, despite all the rhetoric about it having been divinely founded and guided, has been “more malign that benign, more demonic than divine.”  He chronologically presents this history, supported by meticulous documentation, to prove his thesis.  In his previous book, Bush and Cheney: How They Ruined America and the World, Griffin cataloged the evil actions that flowed from the inside job/false flag attacks of September 11th, while in this one – a prequel – he offers a lesson in American history going back centuries, and he shows that one would be correct in calling the United States a “false flag empire.”

The attacks of 11 September 2001 are the false flag fulcrum upon which his two books pivot. Their importance cannot be overestimated, not just for their inherent cruelty that resulted in thousands of innocent American deaths, but since they became the justification for the United States’ ongoing murderous campaigns termed “the war on terror” that have brought death to millions of people around the world.  An international array of expendable people.  Terrifying as they were, and were meant to be, they have many precedents, although much of this history is hidden in the shadows.  Griffin shines a bright light on them, with most of his analysis focused on the years 1850-2018.

As a theological and philosophical scholar, he is well aware of the great importance of society’s need for religious legitimation for its secular authority, a way to offer its people a shield against terror and life’s myriad fears through a protective myth that has been used successfully by the United States to terrorize others.  He shows how the terms by which the U.S. has been legitimated as God’s “chosen nation” and Americans as God’s “chosen people” have changed over the years as secularization and pluralism have made inroads.  The names have changed, but the meaning has not. God is on our side, and when that is so, the other side is cursed and can be killed by God’s people, who are always battling el diabalo.

He exemplifies this by opening with a quote from George Washington’s first Inaugural Address where Washington speaks of “the Invisible Hand” and “Providential agency” guiding the country, and by ending with Obama saying “I believe in American exceptionalism with every fiber of my being.”  In between we hear Andrew Jackson say that “Providence has showered on this favored land blessings without number” and Henry Cabot Lodge in 1900 characterize America’s divine mission as “manifest destiny.”  The American religion today is American Exceptionalism, an updated euphemism for the old-fashioned “God’s New Israel” or the “Redeemer Nation.”

At the core of this verbiage lies the delusion that the United States, as a blessed and good country, has a divine mission to spread “democracy” and “freedom” throughout the world, as Hilary Clinton declared during the 2016 presidential campaign when she said that “we are great because we are good,” and in 2004 when George W. Bush said, “Like generations before us, we have a calling from beyond the stars to stand for freedom.”   Such sentiments could only be received with sardonic laughter by the countless victims made “free” by America’s violent leaders, now and then, as Griffin documents.

Having established the fact of America’s claim to divine status, he then walks the reader through various thinkers who have taken sides on the issue of the United States being benign or malign.  This is all preliminary to the heart of the book, which is a history lesson documenting the malignancy at the core of the American trajectory.

“American imperialism is often said to have begun in 1898, when Cuba and the Philippines were the main prizes,” he begins.  “What was new at this time, however, was only that America took control of countries beyond the North American continent.”  The “divine right” to seize others’ lands and kill them started long before, and although no seas were crossed in the usual understanding of imperialism, the genocide of Native Americans long preceded 1898.  So too did the “manifest destiny” that impelled war with Mexico and the seizure of its land and the expansion west to the Pacific.  This period of empire building depended heavily on the “other great crime against humanity” that was the slave trade, wherein it is estimated that 10 million Africans died, in addition to the sick brutality of slavery itself.  “No matter how brutal the methods, Americans were instruments of divine purposes,” writes Griffin.  And, he correctly adds, it is not even true that America’s overseas imperialistic ventures only started in 1898, for in the 1850s Commodore Perry forced “the haughty Japanese” to open their ports to American commerce through gunboat diplomacy.

Then in 1898 the pace of overseas imperial expansion picked up dramatically with what has been called “The Spanish-American War” that resulted in the seizure of Cuba and the Philippines and the annexing of Hawaii.  Griffin says these wars could more accurately be termed “the wars to take Spanish colonies.”  His analysis of the brutality and arrogance of these actions makes the reader realize that My Lai and other more recent atrocities have a long pedigree that is part of an institutional structure, and while Filipinos and Cubans and so many others were being slaughtered, Griffin writes, “Anticipating Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s declaration that ‘we don’t do empire,’ [President] McKinley said that imperialism is ‘foreign to the temper and genius of this free and generous people.’”

Then as now, perhaps mad laughter is the only response to such unadulterated bullshit, as Griffin quotes Mark Twain saying that it would be easy creating a flag for the Philippines:

We can have just our usual flag, with the white stripes painted black and the stars replaced by the skull and cross-bones.

That would have also worked for Columbia, Panama, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Nicaragua, and other countries subjugated under the ideology of the Monroe Doctrine; wherever freedom  and national independence raised its ugly head, the United States was quick to intervene with its powerful anti-revolutionary military and its financial bullying.  In the Far East the “Open Door” policy was used to loot China, Japan, and other countries.

But all this was just the beginning.  Griffin shows how Woodrow Wilson, the quintessentially devious and treacherous liberal Democrat, who claimed he wanted to keep America out of WW I, did just the opposite to make sure the U.S. would come to dominate the foreign markets his capitalist masters demanded.  Thus Griffin explores how Wilson conspired with Winston Churchill to use the sinking of the Lusitania as a casus belli and how the Treaty of Versailles’s harsh treatment of Germany set the stage for WW II.

He tells us how in the intervening years between the world wars the demonization of Russia and the new Soviet Union was started. This deprecation of Russia, which is roaring at full-throttle today, is a theme that recurs throughout The American Trajectory.  Its importance cannot be overemphasizedWilson called the Bolshevik government “a government by terror,” and in 1918 “sent thousands of troops into northern and eastern Russia, leaving them there until 1920.”

That the U. S. invaded Russia is a fact rarely mentioned and even barely known to Americans.  Perhaps awareness of it and the century-long demonizing of the U.S.S.R./Russia would enlighten those who buy the current anti-Russia propaganda called “Russiagate.”

To match that “divine” act of imperial intervention abroad, Wilson fomented the Red Scare at home, which, as Griffin says, had lasting and incalculable importance because it created the American fear of radical thought and revolution that exists to this very day and serves as a justification for supporting brutal dictators around the world and crackdowns on freedom at home (as is happening today).

He gives us brief summaries of some dictators the U.S has supported, and reminds us of the saying of that other liberal Democrat, Franklin Roosevelt, who famously said of the brutal Nicaraguan dictator Anastasio Somoza, that “he may be a son-of-a-bitch, but he’s our son-of-a-bitch.”  And thus Somoza would terrorize his own people for 43 years.  The same took place in Cuba, Chile, Iran, Guatemala, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, etc.  The U.S. also supported Mussolini, did nothing to prevent Franco’s fascist toppling of the Spanish Republic, and supported the right-wing government of Chiang-Kai Shek in its efforts to dominate China.

It is a very dark and ugly history that confirms the demonic nature of American actions around the world.

Then Griffin explodes the many myths about the so-called “Good War” – WW II.  He explains the lies told about the Japanese “surprise” attack on Pearl Harbor; how Roosevelt wished to get the U.S. into the war, both in the Pacific and in Europe; and how much American economic self-interest lay behind it.  He critiques the myth that America selflessly wished to defend freedom loving people in their battles with brutal, fascist regimes.  That, he tells us, is but a small part of the story:

This, however, is not an accurate picture of American policies during the Second World War.  Many people were, to be sure, liberated from terrible tyrannies by the Allied victories.  But the fact that these people benefited was an incidental outcome, not a motive of American policies.  These policies, as [Andrew] Bacevich discovered, were based on ‘unflagging self-interest.’

Then there are the conventional and atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  Nothing could be more demonic, as Griffin shows.  If these cold-blooded mass massacres of civilians and the lies told to justify them don’t convince a reader that there has long been something radically evil at the heart of American history, nothing will.  Griffin shows how Truman and his advisers and top generals, including Dwight Eisenhower and Admiral William D. Leahy, Truman’s Chief of Staff, knew the dropping of the atomic bombs were unnecessary to end the war, but they did so anyway.

He reminds us of Clinton’s Secretary of State Madeline Albright’s response to the question whether she thought the deaths of more than 500,000 Iraqi children as a result of Clinton’s crippling economic sanctions were worth it: “But, yes, we think the price is worth it.”  (Notice the “is,” the ongoing nature of these war crimes, as she spoke.)  But this is the woman who also said, “We are the indispensable nation.  We stand tall…”

Griffin devotes other chapters to the creation of the Cold War, American imperialism during the Cold War, Post-Cold War interventions, the Vietnam War, the drive for global dominance, and false flag operations, among other topics.

As for false flag operations, he says, “Indeed, the trajectory of the American Empire has relied so heavily on these types of attacks that one could describe it as a false flag empire.”  In the false flag chapter and throughout the book, he discusses many of the false flags the U.S. has engaged in, including Operation Gladio, the U.S./NATO terrorist operation throughout Europe that Swiss historian Daniele Ganser has extensively documented, an operation meant to discredit communists and socialists.  Such operations were directly connected to the OSS, the CIA and its director Allen Dulles, his henchman James Jesus Angleton, and their Nazi accomplices, such as General Reinhard Gehlen.  In one such attack in 1980 at the Bologna, Italy railway station, these U.S. terrorists killed 85 people and wounded 20 others.  As with the bombs dropped by Saudi Arabia today on Yemeni school children, the explosive used was made for the U.S. military.  About these documented U.S. atrocities, Griffin says:

These revelations show the falsity of an assumption widely held by Americans.  While recognizing that the US military sometimes does terrible things to their enemies, most Americans have assumed that US military leaders would not order the killing of innocent civilians in allied countries for political purposes.  Operation Gladio showed this assumption to be false.

He is right, but I would add that the leaders behind this were civilian, as much as, or more than military.

In the case of “Operation Northwoods,” it was the Joint Chiefs of Staff who presented to President Kennedy this false flag proposal that would provide justification for a U.S. invasion of Cuba.  It would have involved the killing of American citizens on American soil, bombings, plane hijacking, etc.  President Kennedy considered such people and such plans insane, and he rejected it as such.  His doing so tells us much, for many other presidents would have approved it.  And again, how many Americans are aware of this depraved proposal that is documented and easily available?  How many even want to contemplate it?  For the need to remain in denial of the facts of history and believe in the essential goodness of America’s rulers is a very hard nut to crack.  Griffin has written a dozen books about 11 September 2001, trying to do exactly that.

If one is willing to embrace historical facts, however, then this outstanding book will open one’s eyes to the long-standing demonic nature of the actions of America’s rulers.  A reader cannot come away from its lucidly presented history unaffected, unless one lives in a self-imposed fantasy world.  The record is clear, and Griffin lays it out in all its graphic horror. Which is not to say that the U.S. has not “done both good and bad things, so it could not sensibly be called purely divine or purely demonic.” Questions of purity are meant to obfuscate basic truths. And the question he asks in his subtitle – Divine or Demonic? – is really a rhetorical question, and when it comes to the “trajectory” of American history, the demonic wins hands down.

I would be remiss if I didn’t point out one place where Griffin fails the reader.  In his long chapter on Vietnam, which is replete with excellent facts and analyses, he makes a crucial mistake, which is unusual for him.  This mistake appears in a four page section on President Kennedy’s policies on Vietnam.  In those pages, Griffin relies on Noam Chomsky’s terrible book – Rethinking Camelot: JFK, the Vietnam War, and US Political Culture (1993), a book wherein Chomsky shows no regard for evidence or facts – to paint Kennedy as being in accord with his advisers, the CIA, and the military regarding Vietnam.  This is factually false. Griffin should have been more careful and have understood this.  The truth is that Kennedy was besieged and surrounded by these demonic people, who were intent on isolating him, disregarding his instructions, and murdering him to achieve their goals in Vietnam.  In the last year of his life, JFK had taken a radical turn toward peace-making, not only in Vietnam, but with the Soviet Union, Cuba, and around the globe.  Such a turn was anathema to the war lovers. Thus he had to die.

Contrary to Chomsky’s deceptions, motivated by his hatred of Kennedy and perhaps something more sinister (he also backs the Warren Commission, thinks JFK’s assassination was no big deal, and accepts the patently false official version of the attacks of 11 September 2001), Griffin should have emphatically asserted that Kennedy had issued NSAM 263 on October 11, 1963 calling for the withdrawal of American troops from Vietnam, and that after he was assassinated a month later, Lyndon Johnson reversed that withdrawal order with NSAM 273.  Chomsky notwithstanding, all the best scholarship and documentary evidence proves this.  And for Griffin, a wonderful scholar, to write that with the change from Kennedy to Johnson that “this change of presidents would bring no basic change in policy” is so shockingly wrong that I imagine Griffin, a man passionate about truth, simply slipped up and got sloppy here.  For nothing could be further from the truth.

Ironically, Griffin makes a masterful case for his thesis, while forgetting the one pivotal man, President John Kennedy, who sacrificed his life in an effort to change the trajectory of American history from its demonic course.

It is one mistake in an otherwise very important and excellent book that should be required reading for anyone who doubts the evil nature of this country’s continuing foreign policy.  Those who are already convinced should also read it, for it provides a needed historical resource and impetus to help change the trajectory that is transporting the world toward nuclear oblivion, if continued.

If – a fantastic wish! – The American Trajectory: Divine or Demonic? were required reading in American schools and colleges, perhaps a new generation would arise to change our devils into angels, the arc of America’s future moral universe toward justice, and away from being the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today, as it has been for so very long.

John McCain as Metaphoric Myth

Every notion of progress is refuted by the existence of the Iliad.

— Roberto Calasso, The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony, February 8, 1994

The spectacle is the nightmare of imprisoned modern society which ultimately expresses nothing more than its desire to sleep. The spectacle is the guardian of sleep.

— Guy Debord, The Society of the Spectacle, 1967

It’s still the same old story.  The best propaganda places individual stories within a larger framework.  The individual is extolled or damned in the service of the controlling myth.

Senator John McCain is a case in point.  As an individual, he is not important, except as the glorified stories about him and his own confabulations about himself can be used to enhance the controlling myth.  American history is replete with such bloodthirsty, war-mongering individuals, whose lives and stories serve to enhance the American myth of being “God’s New Israel” and Americans being God’s chosen people whose mission is to spread “freedom” and “democracy” around the world with our “terrible swift swords.”

As Bob Dylan put it:

But I learned to accept it/Accept it with pride/For you don’t count the dead/When God’s on your side.

Myths are the invisible narrative skeletons of our outward lives. They are limited in number and keep getting reused in different forms.   All we do hangs upon their bones.  This is true for nations and for individuals.  Myths are what people take for granted and do not question.  Our lives are telling stories, and myth means story.

We tell our lives by living stories.  Then others tell those stories about us when we are dead.

Of course, some control freaks try to manage their myths from the grave, as did McCain, who knew how the game is played, and who got his brothers-in-arms, George W. Bush and Barack Obama to polish his myth as he lay silent before them.

“We Lost a Good One,” blared the New York Times, as McCain was lying in state, and liars of state, Bush and Obama, were preparing to shill for him as they shilled for war and the overthrow of foreign governments for their masters.  Another member of the Club, Joseph Biden, had done his part in the mythologizing a few days earlier when he shed his famous “regular guy” tears as he spoke of his dear friend.  For those outside such a small circle of friends – the millions of passive TV spectators in the society of the spectacle – tears seal the deal, set the myth into an emotional space that just feels right. In mythmaking, feeling is all; facts don’t matter. And the military and religious symbolism, the pageantry and the majesty of the setting, make the eulogies resound more loudly.

It is through symbols, not just words, that the “people” are brought together to celebrate their mythic uniqueness, for the word symbol comes from the Greek, meaning to throw together, and for the in-crowd that is what they do.  We are in this together, one nation under God….while outside, as McCain, Bush, Obama, et al never failed to remind us “folks,” there lurks the diabolic (to throw apart) devils from Iraq, Iran, Syria, Afghanistan, Libya, Russia, etc. ready to divide us from within and attack us from without.  We are the good “insiders,” they are the evil “outsiders.”  Such verbiage constitutes the essence of cultural myth creation and the core of American Exceptionalism.  It is practiced by the politicians and mainstream corporate media every day.

In speaking about McCain, Bush and Obama did so from within the frame of this great American Myth of Exceptionalism and God’s Chosen People.  McCain, who is a small piece of a much larger myth, was just another name added to the Pantheon.  Bush once said, “Like generations before us, we have a calling from beyond the stars to stand for freedom.”  And Obama once confessed, “I believe in American exceptionalism with every fiber of my being.”  One can easily understand why McCain chose them.

Bush eulogized McCain thus: “In one epic life was written the courage and greatness of our country.”

Wasn’t it great to kill millions of Vietnamese and Iraqis?  Only the courageous from the home of the brave can perform such honorable duties, especially from the air.

“He respected the dignity inherent in every life, a dignity that does not stop at borders and cannot be erased by dictators,” said Bush, adding:

Whatever the cause, it was this combination of courage and decency that defined John’s calling, and so closely paralleled the calling of his country. It’s this combination of courage and decency that makes the American military something new in history, an unrivaled power for good.

And I too saw Satan laughing with delight, the day McCain died and was then eulogized by Bush.

Moreover, Obama intoned with such eloquence:

And finally while John and I disagreed on all kinds of foreign policy issues, we stood together on America’s role as the one nation, believing that with great power and great blessings comes great responsibility…But John understood that our security and our influence was won not just by our military might, not just by our wealth, not just by our ability to bend others to our will, but from our capacity to inspire others with our adherence to a set of universal values. Like rule of law and human rights and insistence on the God-given dignity of every human being.

Now I wonder what John’s and Barack’s dead victims in Libya and Syria would have to say about their “universal values” and respect for the “rule of law”?  Can the dead laugh sardonically?

The recent spectacle over John McCain’s death is a perfect example of myth creation.  McCain is, however, a metaphor for the larger ongoing narrative that has been going on for centuries and seems to have no end.

McCain’s apotheosis is a made for TV American hero movie, one that he first helped create and one that John Wayne would envy, as blatantly jingoistic and racist as Wayne was in “The Green Berets,” a movie released in 1968, the year after our hero McCain’s dubious involvement in the tragedy of the USS Forrestal aircraft carrier that killed 137 sailors, his being shot down while bombing North Viet Nam, and his subsequent years in captivity.  No doubt Sydney Schanberg’s devastating expose of McCain’s explanation of his years as a POW will play no part in the today’s mythologizing.

If only Wilfred Owen’s words could have been piped into the National Cathedral during the funeral ceremony, maybe the myth-making would have ceased and truth revealed.

If in some smothering dreams, you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,—
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori. ((Thought to have been written between 8 October 1917 and March, 1918.))

But that is wishful thinking in this land of make-believe, where such poetic obscenities are not allowed in the Cathedral of God’s People.

A Writer’s Last Port of Call: V.S. Naipaul

British author V.S. Naipaul at his home near Salisbury, Wiltshire, October 11, 2001 after it was announced that he has been awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. REUTERS/Chris Ison/POOL

S. Naipaul, the Nobel winning author who just died, was, like so many people, an enigma, at least in his writing. Lauded for his prose style and exquisite way with words, he was seriously criticized for his demeaning of Islam, women, Africans, and others in post-colonial countries, including the Caribbean from whence he came. Such criticism was amply justified.  He seems also to have been bigoted and irascible personally, while charming when he wished.  A strange character, many of whose political and cultural views I find abhorrent.

Nevertheless, if one only looked for beauty and truth in writers whose politics one agreed with, one would miss out on a lot.  For sometimes, despite themselves, writers pen words that come from a place where art and inspiration and personal anguish subvert their worst inclinations.  As Leonard Cohen has written: “There’s a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.”  This is true for Naipaul.

He once said that fiction never lies, and while this may or may not be true, it is true that writers whose politics one may find repulsive can also, despite their conscious intentions, write books that glow with an extraordinary prose luminescence that mesmerizes and reveals deep insights.  This is the case with Naipaul’s The Enigma of Arrival, a work he calls a novel but that reads like an autobiography.  While his novel, A House for Mr Biswas, is considered his finest work and the book that made him famous, I think The Enigma of Arrival is a masterpiece. Deeply melancholic, it allows Naipaul’s shadow side to reveal truths that go far beyond the man himself.

The prototype for all journeys is life itself.  This being so, it follows that every destination prefigures death and of necessity poses an enigma.  For although one travels in part to arrive, at the same time one’s anticipation of arrival harbors the fear of cessation.  It is because every elsewhere contains the worm of death that some people never embark on the voyage, while others go from “place” to “place” in search of paradise.

Naipaul cast anchor at the age of 18, leaving Trinidad for a scholarship at Oxford in England where – aside from numerous travels, especially in the Third World – he lived most of his life.  Setting out with a wish not “so much to go to Oxford as a wish to get out of Trinidad and see the great world and make myself a writer,” this young man of Indian ancestry, a child of crumbling colonialism, took with him a temperament “to see the possibility, the certainty, of ruin, even at the moment of creation.”  In other words, a true writer’s temperament, the sensibility of one who knows intuitively that the journey into the unknown never ends; “that,” as he would gradually learn, “to be a writer was not (as I had imagined) a state – of competence, or achievement, or fame, or content – at which one arrived and where one stayed…It was always necessary to pick oneself up and start again.”

Outwardly at least, the story Naipaul tells in The Enigma of Arrival is impersonal, slow-paced and almost boring in its progression (much like ordinary life).  After twenty years in England – “savorless and much of it mean” – having failed in his effort to leave England with its history of colonial exploitation and become “a free man,” his spirit broken and his nerves shattered, he settles in a “cottage of a half-neglected estate, an estate full of reminders of its Edwardian past” on the Salisbury Plain near Stonehenge.

There, in a part of England renowned for its historical and religious past – “a vast sacred burial ground” – he finds in his solitude and daily walks “a second chance, a new life, richer and fuller than any I had had anywhere else.”  He learns to see nature with new eyes and to take solace in “the child’s dream of a safe house in the wood.”  In the garden of a local man – “Jack’s Garden,” the book’s opening section – he comes to see a celebration of “something like religion.”  Jack, in his way of life, “had sensed that life and man were the true mysteries.”

But Jack dies; the estate’s slow decay precipitates; the deadly sounds from the nearby army training grounds echo in the author’s ears; a fellow writer, one who suffered, like Naipaul, from a “too-literary approach to his experience,” kills himself; a woman is murdered.  In short, into his natural paradise, albeit a ruinous and derelict one (its appeal for Naipaul, the unanchored, dispossessed outsider), the snake of death and destruction crawls.  Having stayed too long in this place that he loved, Naipaul falls ill; his “second childhood of seeing and learning” comes to an end.  He moves, but just a few miles away, to a few old agricultural cottages that he converts into a house.  A mistake, he later realizes.  “I should have made a clean break, gone elsewhere.”

But where?  For at the heart of his pilgrimage is an image from which his book’s title derives.  It is a painting by Giorgio de Chirico, “The Enigma of Arrival,” so named by the poet Apollinaire.  It is a scene of a wharf; in the background rises the mast of an antique sailing ship; in the foreground stand two figures, muffled and mysterious.  In his fascination with this painting, Naipaul imagined a story of a man who arrived at this port, enters the city, has encounters and adventures, but gradually has the feeling that he is getting nowhere.  In his lostness and panic, he miraculously finds his way back to the quayside in order to escape.

But to where?  And how?  In the concluding section of this moving book – “The Ceremony of Farewell” – Naipaul’s sister dies of a brain hemorrhage.  He returns to Trinidad to be with his family.  During a Hindu ceremony for his sister, her husband says to the Hindu pundit conducting the rites, “ ‘I would like to see her again.’“  There were tears in his eyes.  “The pundit didn’t give a straight reply….Sati’s son asked, ‘Will she come back?’  Sati’s husband asked, ‘Will we be together again?’  The pundit said, ‘But you wouldn’t know it is her.’ “

“It was,” writes Naipaul, “the pundit’s interpretation of the idea of reincarnation.  And it was no comfort at all.  It reduced Sati’s husband to despair.”

And with that recollected dialogue, with its abstract commentary on everyone’s last port of call, Naipaul reveals the anguish at the heart of his journey.  “There was no ship of antique shape now to take us back,” he sadly notes.  The old sanctities, the sacred world had vanished.  He concludes:

Every generation now was to take us further away from those sanctities.  But we remade the world for ourselves; every generation does that, as we found when we came together for the death of this sister and felt the need to honor and remember.  It forced us to look on death.  It forced me to face the death I had been contemplating at night, in my sleep; it fitted a real grief where melancholy had created a vacancy, as if to prepare me for the moment.  It showed me life and man as the mystery, the true religion of men, the grief and the glory.

And it brought Naipaul to begin writing this book and to discover in the end that one arrives at oneself or not at all.  Whether he did or not, no one can say.  Is he still sailing?  No one can say?  Has he arrived?  No one can say.  But he left us with this deeply evocative meditation on life and death in the modern world, a world in which, despite science and technology, the old questions remain to haunt us –  the enigmas.

The Satanic Nature of the Atomic Bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki

Ahab is forever Ahab, man.  This whole act’s immutably decreed.  ‘Twas rehearsed by thee and me billion years before this ocean rolled.  Fool!  I am the Fates’ lieutenant; I act under orders.

— Herman Melville, Moby Dick

The greatest evil is not now done in those sordid ‘dens of crime’ that Dickens loved to paint…But it is conceived and ordered (moved, seconded, carried, and minuted) in clean, carpeted, warmed, and well-lighted offices, by quiet men with white collars and cut fingernails and smooth-shaven cheeks who do not need to raise their voice.

— C. S. Lewis, author’s preface, 1962, The Screwtape Letters

American history can only accurately be described as the story of demonic possession, however you choose to understand that phrase.  Maybe radical “evil” will suffice.  But right from the start the American colonizers were involved in massive killing because they considered themselves divinely blessed and guided, a chosen people whose mission would come to be called “manifest destiny.”  Nothing stood in the way of this divine calling, which involved the need to enslave and kill millions and millions of innocent people that continues down to today.  “Others” have always been expendable since they have stood in the way of the imperial march ordained by the American god. This includes all the wars waged based on lies and false flag operations. It is not a secret, although most Americans, if they are aware of it, prefer to see it as a series of aberrations carried out by “bad apples.”  Or something from the past.

Our best writers and prophets have told us the truth: Thoreau, Twain, William James, MLK, Fr. Daniel Berrigan, et al.: we are a nation of killers of the innocent.  We are conscienceless.  We are brutal.  We are in the grip of evil forces.

The English writer D. H. Lawrence said it perfectly in 1923, “The American soul is hard, isolate, stoic and a killer.  It has never yet melted.”  It still hasn’t.

This August 6, 1945 file photo shows the destruction from the explosion of an atomic bomb in Hiroshima Japan AP-Photo-File

 

August 10, 1945: Arrow marks the spot where the atomic bomb hit in Nagasaki. Photo by AP

When on August 6 and 9, 1945 the United States killed 200-300 thousand innocent Japanese civilians with atomic bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, they did so intentionally.  It was an act of sinister state terrorism, unprecedented by the nature of the weapons but not by the slaughter. The American terror bombings of Japanese cities that preceded the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki – led by the infamous Major General Curtis LeMay – were also intentionally aimed at Japanese civilians and killed hundreds of thousands of them.

Is there an American artist’s painting of Tokyo destroyed by the firebombing to go next to Picasso’s Guernica, where estimates of the dead range between 800 and 1,600?  In Tokyo alone more than 100,000 Japanese civilians were burnt to death by cluster bombs of napalm.  All this killing was intentional. I repeat: Intentional.  Is that not radical evil?  Demonic?  Only five Japanese cities were spared such bombing.

The atomic bombings were an intentional holocaust, not to end the war, as the historical record amply demonstrates, but to send a message to the Soviet Union that we could do to them what we did to the residents of Japan.  President Truman made certain that the Japanese willingness to surrender in May 1945 was made unacceptable because he and his Secretary-of-State James Byrnes  wanted to use the atomic bombs – “as quickly as possible to ‘show results’” in Byrnes’ words – to send a message to the Soviet Union.  So “the Good War” was ended in the Pacific with the “good guys” killing hundreds of thousands Japanese civilians to make a point to the “bad guys,” who have been demonized ever since.  Russia phobia is nothing new.

Satan always wears the other’s face.

Many Baby Boomers like to say they grew up with the bomb.  They are lucky. They grew up.  They got to be scared.  They got to hide under their desks and wax nostalgic about it.  Do you remember dog tags?  Those 1950s and 1960s?  The scary movies?

The children of Hiroshima and Nagasaki who died under our bombs on August 6 and 9, 1945 didn’t get to grow up.  They couldn’t hide.  They just went under. To be accurate: we put them under. Or they were left to smolder for decades in pain and then die.  But that it was necessary to save American lives is the lie. It’s always about American lives, as if the owners of the country actually cared about them.  But to tender hearts and innocent minds, it’s a magic incantation.  Poor us!

Fat Man, Little Boy – how the words echo down the years to the now fat Americans who grew up in the 1950s and who think like little boys and girls about their country’s demonic nature.  Innocence – it is wonderful!  We are different now. “We are great because we are good,” that’s what Hillary Clinton told us.  The Libyans can attest to that.  We are exceptional, special.  The next election will prove we can defeat Mr. Pumpkin Head and restore America to its “core values.”

Perhaps you think I am cynical.  But understanding true evil is not child’s play.  It seems beyond the grasp of most Americans who need their illusions.  Evil is real.  There is simply no way to understand the savage nature of American history without seeing its demonic nature.  How else can we redeem ourselves at this late date, possessed as we are by delusions of our own God-blessed goodness?

But average Americans play at innocence.  They excite themselves at the thought that with the next election the nation will be “restored” to the right course.  Of course, there never was a right course, unless might makes right, which has always been the way of America’s rulers.  Today Trump is viewed by so many as an aberration.  He is far from it.  He’s straight out of a Twain short story.  He’s Vaudeville. He’s Melville’s confidence man.  He’s us. Did it ever occur to those who are fixated on him that if those who own and run the country wanted him gone, he’d be gone in an instant?  He can tweet and tweet idiotically, endlessly send out messages that he will contradict the next day, but as long as he protects the super-rich, accepts Israel’s control of him, and allows the CIA-military-industrial complex to do its world-wide killing and looting of the treasury, he will be allowed to entertain and excite the public – to get them worked up in a lather in pseudo-debates.  And to make this more entertaining, he will be opposed by the “sane” Democratic opposition, whose intentions are as benign as an assassin’s smile.

Look back as far as you can to past U.S. presidents, the figureheads who “act under orders” (whose orders?), as did Ahab in his lust to kill the “evil” great white whale, and what do you see?  You see servile killers in the grip of a sinister power.  You see hyenas with polished faces. You see pasteboard masks.  On the one occasion when one of these presidents dared to follow his conscience and rejected the devil’s pact that is the presidency’s killer-in-chief role, he – JFK – had his brains blown out in public view.  An evil empire thrives on shedding blood, and it enforces its will through demonic messages.  Resist and there will be blood on the streets, blood on the tracks, blood in your face.

Despite this, President Kennedy’s witness, his turn from cold warrior to an apostle of peace, remains to inspire a ray of hope in these dark days. As recounted by James Douglass in his masterful JFK and the Unspeakable, Kennedy agreed to a meeting in May 1962 with a group of Quakers who had been demonstrating outside the While House for total disarmament.  They urged him to move in that direction.  Kennedy was sympathetic to their position.  He said he wished it were easy to do so from the top down, but that he was being pressured by the Pentagon and others to never do that, although he had given a speech urging “a peace race” together with the Soviet Union. He told the Quakers it would have to come from below.  According to the Quakers, JFK listened intently to their points, and before they left said with a smile, “You believe in redemption, don’t you?”  Soon Kennedy was shaken to his core by the Cuban missile crisis when the world teetered on the brink of extinction and his insane military and “intelligence” advisers urged him to wage a nuclear war.  Not long after, he took a sharp top-down turn toward peace despite their fierce opposition, a turn so dramatic over the next year that it led to his martyrdom.  And he knew it would.  He knew it would.

So hope is not all lost.  There are great souls like JFK to inspire us. Their examples flash here and there. But to even begin to hope to change the future, a confrontation with our demonic past (and present) is first necessary, a descent into the dark truth that is terrifying in its implications.  False innocence must be abandoned.  Carl Jung, in “On the Psychology of the Unconscious,” addressed this with the words:

It is a frightening thought that man also has a shadow side to him, consisting not just of little weaknesses – and foibles, but of a positively demonic dynamism. The individual seldom knows anything of this; to him, as an individual, it is incredible that he should ever in any circumstances go beyond himself. But let these harmless creatures form a mass, and there emerges a raging monster; and each individual is only one tiny cell in the monster’s body, so that for better or worse he must accompany it on its bloody rampages and even assist it to the utmost. Having a dark suspicion of these grim possibilities, man turns a blind eye to the shadow-side of human nature. Blindly he strives against the salutary dogma of original sin, which is yet so prodigiously true. Yes, he even hesitates to admit the conflict of which he is so painfully aware.

How can one describe men who would intentionally slaughter so many innocent people?  American history is rife with such examples up to the present day.  Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, etc. – the list is very long.  Savage wars carried out by men and women who own and run the country, and who try to buy the souls of regular people to join them in their pact with the devil, to acquiesce to their ongoing wicked deeds.  Such monstrous evil was never more evident than on August 6 and 9, 1945.

Unless we enter into deep contemplation of the evil that was released into the world with those bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, we are lost in a living hell without escape.  And we will pay.  Nemesis always demands retribution.  We have gradually been accepting rule by those for whom the killing of innocents is child’s play, and we have been masquerading as innocent and good children for whom the truth is too much to bear.  “Indeed, the safest road to Hell is the gradual one,” Screwtape the devil tells his nephew, Wormwood, a devil in training, “the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.”  That’s the road we’ve been traveling.

The projection of evil onto others works only so long.  We must reclaim our shadows and withdraw our projections.  Only the fate of the world depends on it.

The Sexual Passion of Winston Smith

Christianity gave Eros poison to drink; he did not die of it, certainly, but degenerated to Vice.
— Frederick Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil

Ours is essentially a tragic age, so we refuse to take it tragically. The cataclysm has happened, we are among the ruins, we start to build up new little habitats, to have new little hopes. It is rather hard work: there is now no smooth road into the future: but we go round, or scramble over the obstacles. We’ve got to live, no matter how many skies have fallen.
— D. H. Lawrence, Lady Chatterley’s Lover

The so-called consumer society and the politics of corporate capitalism have created a second nature of man which ties him libidinally and aggressively to the commodity form.  The need for possessing, consuming, handling and constantly renewing gadgets, devices, instruments, engines, offered to and imposed upon the people, for using these wares even at the danger of one’s own destruction, has become a ‘biological’ need.

— Herbert Marcuse, One Dimensional Man

There is a vast literature analyzing the political prophecy of George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four.  Big Brother, double-speak, telescreens, crimestop, etc. – all applied to our current political situation.  The language has become part of our popular lexicon, and as such, has become clichéd through overuse.  Blithe, habitual use of language robs it of its power to crack open the safe that hides the realities of life.

There is no doubt that Orwell wrote a brilliant political warning about the methods of totalitarian control.  But hidden at the heart of the book is another lesson lost on most readers and commentators.  Rats, torture, and Newspeak resonate with people fixated on political repression, which is a major concern, of course.  But so too is privacy and sexual passion in a country of group-think and group-do, where “Big Brother” poisons you in the crib and the entertainment culture then takes over to desexualize intimacy by selling it as another public commodity.

The United States is a pornographic society.  By pornographic I do not just mean the omnipresent selling of exploitative sex through all media to titillate a voyeuristic public living in the unreality of screen “life” and screen sex through television, movies, and online obsessions.  I mean a commodified consciousness, where everyone and everything is part of a prostitution ring in the deepest sense of pornography’s meaning – for sale, bought.  And consumed by getting, spending, and selling.  Flicked into the net of Big Brother, whose job is to make sure everything fundamentally human and physical is debased and mediated, people become consumers of the unreal and direct experience is discouraged.  The natural world becomes an object to be conquered and used.  Animals are produced in chemical factories to be slaughtered by the billions only to appear bloodless under plastic wrap in supermarket coolers.

The human body disappears into hypnotic spectral images. One’s sex becomes one’s gender as the words are transmogrified and as one looks in the mirror of the looking-glass self and wonders how to identify the one looking back.  Streaming life from Netflix or Facebook becomes life the movie.  The brilliant perverseness of the mediated reality of a screen society – what Guy Debord calls The Society of the Spectacle – is that as it distances people from fundamental reality, it promotes that reality through its screen fantasies.  “Get away from it all and restore yourself at our spa in the rugged mountains where you can hike in pristine woods after yoga and a breakfast of locally sourced eggs and artisanally crafted bread.”  Such garbage would be funny if it weren’t so effective.  Debord writes:

The spectacle is not a collection of images, but a social relation among people, mediated by images….Where the real world changes into simple images, the simple images become real beings and effective motivations of hypnotic behavior.

Thus sex with robots and marrying yourself are not aberrations but logical extensions of a society where solipsism meets machine in the America dream.

As this happens, words and language become corrupted by the same forces that Orwell called Big Brother, whose job is total propaganda and social control.  Just as physical reality now mimics screen reality and thus becomes chimerical, language, through which human beings uncover and articulate the truth of being, becomes more and more abstract.  People don’t die; they “pass on” or “pass away.”  Dying, like real sex, is too physical.  Wars of aggression don’t exist; they are “overseas contingency operations.”  Killing people with drones isn’t killing; it’s “neutralizing them.”  There are a “ton” of examples, but I am sure “you guys” don’t need me to list any more.

Orwell called Big Brother’s language Newspeak, and Hemingway preceded him when he so famously wrote in disgust In a Farewell to Arms, “I was always embarrassed by the words sacred, glorious, and sacrifice, and the expression in vain….Abstract words such as glory, honor, courage, or hallow were obscene…”  This destruction of language has been going on for a long time, but it’s worth noting that from Hemingway’s WW I through Orwell’s WW II up until today’s endless U.S. wars against Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Syria, Libya, etc., there has been the parallel development of screen and media culture, beginning with silent movies through television and on to the total electronic media environment we now inhabit – the surround sound and image bubble of literal abstractions that inhabit us, mentally and physically.  In such a society, to feel what you really feel and not what, in Hemingway’s words, “you were supposed to feel, and had been taught to feel” has become extremely difficult.

Language, as the Greeks told us, should open up a clearing for the truth (Greek aleitheia, unhiddenness) to emerge so we can grasp the essence of life.  And so it is ironically appropriate that Orwell’s Winston Smith discovers such essence, not in analyzing Crimestop, his tormenter O’Brien, or Doublethink, but “in a natural clearing, a tiny grass knoll surrounded by tall saplings that shut it in completely” where he secretly meets a young woman who had passed him a note saying she loved him.   Away from the prying eyes of Big Brother and his spies, amidst bluebells and a torrent of song from a thrush, they come together almost wordlessly.  “Winston and Julia clung together, fascinated” as the thrush sang madly.  “The music went on and on, minute after minute, with astonishing variations, never once repeating itself, almost as if the bird were deliberately showing off its virtuosity…He stopped thinking and merely felt.”  Here the secret lovers affirm their humanity, the truth of sexual intimacy that is the enemy of all abstractions used by the powerful to control and manipulate normal people and to convince them to participate in killing others.  “Almost as swiftly as he had imagined it, she had torn her clothes off, and when she flung them aside it was with that same magnificent gesture by which a whole civilization seemed to be annihilated.”  Reveling in love-making in a free space outside the Party’s control, they felt they had triumphed.

But as we learn in 1984 and should learn in the U.S.A. today, “seemed” is the key word.  Their triumph was temporary.  For sexual passion reveals truths that need to be confirmed in the mind.  In itself, sexual liberation can be easily manipulated, as it has been so effectively in the United States. “Repressive de-sublimation” Herbert Marcuse called it fifty years ago. You allow people to act out their sexual fantasies in commodified ways that can be controlled by the rulers, all the while ruling their minds and potential political rebelliousness. Sex becomes part of the service economy where people service each other while serving their masters.  Use pseudo-sex to sell them a way of life that traps them in an increasingly totalitarian social order that only seems free.  This has been accomplished primarily through screen culture and the concomitant confusion of sexual identity.  Perhaps you have noticed that over the past twenty-five years of growing social and political confusion, we have witnessed an exponential growth in “the electronic life,” the use of psychotropic drugs, and sexual disorientation.  This is no accident.  Wars have become as constant as Eros – the god of love, life, joy, and motion – has been divorced from sex as a stimulus and response release of tension in a “stressed” society.  Rollo May, the great American psychologist, grasped this:

Indeed, we have set sex over against eros, used sex precisely to avoid the anxiety-creating involvements of eros…We are in flight from eros and use sex as the vehicle for the flight…Eros [which includes, but is not limited to, passionate sex] is the center of vitality of a culture – its heart and soul.  And when release of tension takes the place of creative eros, the downfall of the civilization is assured.

Because Julia and Winston cannot permanently escape Oceania, but can only tryst, they succumb to Big Brother’s mind control and betray each other.  Their sexual affair can’t save them.   It is a moment of beauty and freedom in an impossible situation.  Of course, the hermetically sealed world of 1984 is not the United States.  Orwell created a society in which escape was impossible. It is, after all, an admonitory novel – not the real world.  Things are more subtle here; we still have some wiggle room – some – although the underlying truth is the same: the U.S. oligarchy, like “The Party,” “seeks power entirely for its own sake” and “are not interested in the good of others,” all rhetoric to the contrary. Our problem is that too many believe the rhetoric, and those who say they don’t really do at the deepest level.  Fly the flag and play the national anthem and their hearts are aflutter with hope.  Recycle old bromides about the next election when your political enemies will be swept out of office and excitement builds as though you had met the love of your life and all was well with the world.

But understanding the history of public relations, advertising, propaganda, the CIA, the national security apparatus, technology, etc., makes it clear that such hope is baseless. For the propaganda in this country has penetrated far deeper than anyone can imagine, and it has primarily done this through advanced technology and the religion of technique – machines as pure abstractions – that has poisoned not just our minds, but the deepest wellsprings of the body’s truths and the erotic imagination that links us in love to all life on earth.

In “Defence of Poetry,” Percy Bysshe Shelley writes:

The great secret of morals is love; or a going out of our nature, and an identification of ourselves with the beautiful which exists in thought, action, or person, not our own. A man, to be greatly good, must imagine intensely and comprehensively; he must put himself in the place of another and of many others; the pains and pleasure of his species must become his own. The great instrument of moral good is the imagination.

We are now faced with the question: Can we escape the forces of propaganda and mind control that run so very deep into American life?  If so, how?  Let’s imagine a way out.

Orwell makes it very clear that language is the key to mind control, as he delineates how Newspeak works. I think he is right.  And mind control also means the control of our bodies, Eros, our sex, our physical connections to all living beings and nature. Today the U.S. is reaching the point where “Oldspeak” – Standard English – has been replaced by Newspeak, and just “fragments of the literature of the past” survive here and there.  This is true for the schooled and unschooled.  In fact, those more trapped by the instrumental logic, disembodied data, and word games of the power elite are those who have gone through the most schooling, the indoctrination offered by the so-called “elite” universities. I suspect that more working-class and poor people still retain some sense of the old language and the fundamental meaning of words, since it is with their sweat and blood that they “earn their living.”  Many of the highly schooled are children of the power elite or those groomed to serve them, who are invited to join in living the life of power and privilege if they swallow their consciences and deaden their imaginations to the suffering their “life-styles” and ideological choices inflict on the rest of the world.

In this world of The New York Times, Harvard, The New Yorker, Martha’s Vineyard, The Washington Post, Wall St., Goldman Sachs, the boardrooms of the ruling corporations, all the corporate media, etc., language has become debased beyond recognition.  Here, as Orwell said of Newspeak, “a heretical thought…should be literally unthinkable, at least as far as thought is dependent on words.  Its vocabulary was so constructed as to give exact and often very subtle expression to every meaning that a Party member could properly wish to express.”  The intelligently orthodox, he adds, must master the art of “doublethink” wherein they hold two contradictory ideas in their minds simultaneously, while accepting both of them.  This is the key trick of logic and language that allows the power elites and their lackeys in the U.S. today to master the art of self-deception and feel good about themselves as they plunder the world.  In this “Party” world, the demonization, degradation, and killing of others is an abstraction; their lives are spectral.  Orwell describes doublethink this way:

To tell deliberate lives while genuinely believing in them, to forget any fact that has become inconvenient, and then, when it becomes necessary again, to draw it back from oblivion for just so long as it is needed, to deny the existence of objective reality and all the while to take account of the reality one denies – all this is indispensably necessary.  Even in using the word doublethink it is necessary to exercise doublethink.  For by using the word one admits one is tampering with reality; by a fresh act of doublethink one erases this knowledge; and so on indefinitely, with the lie always one leap ahead of the truth.

It may sound silly to say, but language, as its etymology tells us, begins with the tongue (Latin, lingua).  And the tongue is a bell, tolling out its meaning.  Indeed, all language springs from the body – is body language. And when language becomes abstract and devoid of blood, it becomes etiolated and unable to convey the truth that is the mystical body of the world.  It becomes a viper’s tongue, dividing the “good” people from the “bad” so the good can eliminate the bad who have become abstractions.

When Winston Smith and Julia hid in the arbor and for once felt free and alive as they fucked – despite its transitoriness – Orwell was suggesting something that his dystopian novel denies is possible: that we can escape our own 1984 in 2018 by returning to fundamentals. Whitman told us that if anything is sacred it is the human body, and he sung “the body electric.”  This is the task of artists: to sing the words that tell the truth the propagandists try to deny.

James Joyce writes in The Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man:

Welcome, oh life!  I go to encounter for the millionth time the reality of experience and to forge in the smithy of my soul the uncreated conscience of my race.

Perhaps we should add: in the smithy of our souls and bodies.  His fellow Irishman, William Butler Yeats, brings us down to earth with the words:

Now that my ladder’s gone/I must lie down where all the ladders start/In the foul rag and bone shop of the heart.

“Yes, I said. Yes, I will, yes.”

Slow Suicide and the Abandonment of the World

The condition of alienation, of being asleep, of being unconscious, of being out of one’s mind, is the condition of the normal man.  Society highly values its normal man.  It educates children to lose themselves and to become absurd, and thus to be normal.  Normal men have killed perhaps 100,000,000 of their fellow normal men in the last fifty years.  Our behavior is a function of our experience.  We act the way we see things.  If our experience is destroyed, our behavior will be destructive.  If our experience is destroyed, we have lost our own selves.

— R.D. Laing, The Politics of Experience and The Bird of Paradise, Penguin Books Limited, 1969

The artist is the man who refuses initiation through education into the existing order, remains faithful to his own childhood being, and thus becomes ‘a human being in the spirit of all times, an artist.’

— Norman O. Brown, Life Against Death: The Psychoanalytical Meaning of History, Wesleyan, June 1, 1985

Most suicides die of natural causes, slowly and in silence.

But we hear a lot about the small number of suicides, by comparison, who kill themselves quickly by their own hands.  Of course, their sudden deaths elicit shock and sadness since their deaths, usually so unexpected even when not a surprise, allow for no return.  Such sudden once-and-for-all endings are even more jarring in a high-tech world where people are subconsciously habituated to thinking that everything can be played back, repeated, and rewound, even lives.

If the suicides are celebrities, the mass media can obsess over why they did it.  How shocking!  Wasn’t she at the peak of her career?  Didn’t he finally seem happy?  And then the speculative stories will appear about the reasons for the rise or fall of suicide rates, only to disappear as quickly as the celebrities are dropped by the media and forgotten by the public.

The suicides of ordinary people will be mourned privately by their loved ones in their individual ways and in the silent recesses of their hearts.  A hush will fall over their departures that will often be viewed as accidental.

And the world will roll on as the earth absorbs the bodies and the blood.  “Where’s it all going all this spilled blood,” writes the poet Jacques Prévert.  “Murder’s blood…war’s blood… blood of suicides…the earth that turns and turns with its great streams of blood.”

Of such suicides Albert Camus said, “Dying voluntarily implies you have recognized, even instinctively, the ridiculous character of that habit [of living], the absence of any profound reason for living, the insane character of that daily agitation, and the uselessness of suffering.”  He called this feeling the absurd, and said it was widespread and involved the feeling of being an alien or stranger in a world that couldn’t be explained and didn’t make sense.  Assuming this experience of the absurd, Camus wished to explore whether suicide was a solution to it.  He concluded that it wasn’t.

Like Camus, I am interested in asking what is the meaning of life.  “How to answer it?” he asked in The Myth of Sisyphus.  He added that “the meaning of life is the most urgent of questions.”  But I don’t want to explore his line of reasoning to his conclusions, whether to agree or disagree.  I wish, rather, to explore the reasons why so many people choose to commit slow suicide by immersing themselves in the herd mentality and following a way of life that leads to inauthenticity and despair; why so many people so easily and early give up their dreams of a life of freedom for a proverbial mess of pottage, which these days can be translated to mean a consumer’s life, one focused on staying safe by embracing conventional bromides and making sure to never openly question a system based on systemic violence in all its forms; why, despite all evidence to the contrary, so many people embrace getting and spending and the accumulation of wealth in the pursuit of a chimerical “happiness” that leaves them depressed and conscience dead.  Why so many people do not rebel but wish to take their places on this ship of fools.

So what can we say about the vast numbers of people who commit slow suicide by a series of acts and inactions that last a long lifetime and render them the living dead, those whom Thoreau so famously said were the mass of people who “lead lives of quiet desperation”?  Is the meaning of life for them simply the habit of living they fell into at the start of life before they thought or wondered what’s it all about?  Or is it the habit they embraced after shrinking back in fear from the disturbing revelations thinking once brought them?  Or did they ever seriously question their place in the lethal fraud that is organized society, what Tolstoy called the Social Lie?  Why do so many people kill their authentic selves and their consciences that could awaken them to break through the social habits of thought, speech, and action that lead them to live “jiffy lube” lives, periodically oiled and greased to smoothly roll down the conventional highway of getting and spending and refusing to resist the murderous actions of their government?

An unconscious despair rumbles beneath the frenetic surface of American society today.  An unspoken nothingness.  I think the Italian writer Robert Calasso says it well: “The new society is an agnostic theocracy based on nihilism.”  It’s as though we are floating on nothing, sustained by nothing, in love with nothing – all the while embracing any thing that a materialistic, capitalist consumer culture can throw at us.  We are living in an empire of illusions, propagandized and self-deluded.  Most people will tell you they are stressed and depressed, but will often add – “who wouldn’t be with the state of the world” – ignoring their complicity through the way they have chosen compromised, conventional lives devoid of the spirit of rebellion.

I keep meeting people who, when I ask them how they are, will respond by saying, “I’m hanging in there.”

Don’t common sayings intimate unconscious truths?  Hang – among its possible derivatives is the word “habit” and the meaning of “coming to a standstill.”  Stuck in one’s habits, dangling over nothing, up in the air, going nowhere, hanging by a string. Slow suicides. The Beatles’ sang it melodically: “He’s a real nowhere man/Sitting in his nowhere land/Making all his nowhere plans for nobody/Doesn’t have a point of view/Knows not where he’s going to/Isn’t he a bit like you and me.”  It’s a far cry from having “the world on a string,” as Harold Arlen wrote many years before.

Maybe if we listen to how people talk or what popular culture throws up, we will learn more through creative associations than through all the theories the experts have to offer.

There have been many learned tomes over the years trying to explain the act of suicide, an early and very famous one being Emile Durkheim’s groundbreaking sociological analysis Suicide (1897).  In thousands of books and articles other thinkers have approached the subject from various perspectives – psychological, philosophical, biological, etc.  They contain much truth and a vast amount of data that appeal to the rational mind seeking general explanations.  But in the end, general explanations are exactly that – general – while a mystery usually haunts the living whose loved ones have killed themselves.

But what about the slow suicides, those D. H. Lawrence called the living dead (don’t let “the living dead eat you up”), those who have departed the real world for a conscienceless complacency from which they can cast aspersions on those whose rebellious spirits give them little rest.  Where are the expert disquisitions about them?

We’ve had more than a century of pseudo-scientific studies of suicide and the world has gotten much worse.  More than a century of psychotherapy and people have grown progressively more depressed.  Large and increasing numbers are drugged to the teeth with pharmaceutical drugs and television and the internet and cell phones and shopping and endless talk about food and diets and sports and nothing. Talk to talk, surface to surface. Pundits pontificate daily in streams of endless bullshit for which they are paid enormous sums as they smile with their fake whiter-than-white teeth flashing from their makeup masks.  People actually listen to these fools to “inform” themselves. They even watch television news and think they know what is happening in the world.  We are drowning in a “universe of disembodied data,” as playwright John Steppling has so aptly phrased it.  People obsessively hover over their cell phones, searching for the key that will unlock the cells they have locked themselves in. Postliteracy, mediated reality, and digital dementia have become the norm.  Minds are packaged and commodified.  Perhaps you think I exaggerate, but I feel that madness is much more the norm today than when Laing penned his epigraphic comment.

Not stark raving screaming madness, just a slow, whimpering acceptance of an insane society whose very fabric is toxic and which continues its God-ordained mission of spreading death and destruction around the world in the name of freedom and democracy, while so many of its walking dead citizens measure out their lives with coffee spoons.  A nice madness, you could say, a pleasant, depressed and repressed madness.  A madness in which people might say with T. S. Eliot’s J. Alfred Prufrock (if they still read or could remember):  “I have measured out my life with coffee spoons…And I have seen the eternal Footman hold my coat, / and snicker, / And in short, I was afraid.”

But why are so many so afraid?  Everyone has fears, but so many normal people seem extremely fearful, so fearful they choose to blend into the social woodwork so they don’t stand out as dissenters or oddballs.  They kill their authentic selves; become conscience-less.  And they do this in a society where their leaders are hell-bent on destroying the world and who justify their nuclear madness at every turn. I think Laing was right that this goes back to our experience.  When genuine experience is denied or mystified (it’s now disappeared into digital reality), real people disappear.  Laing wrote:

In order to rationalize our industrial-military complex, we have to destroy our capacity to see clearly any more what is in front of, and to imagine what is beyond, our noses.  Long before a thermonuclear war can come about, we have had to lay waste our sanity.  We begin with the children.  It is imperative to catch them in time. Without the most thorough and rapid brainwashing their dirty minds would see through our dirty tricks.  Children are not yet fools, but we shall turn them into imbeciles like ourselves, with high I. Q.’s if possible.   From the moment of birth, when the Stone Age baby confronts the twentieth century mother, the baby is subjected to these forces of violence, called love, as its mother and father, as their parents and their parents before them, have been.  These forces are mainly concerned with destroying most of it potentialities, and on the whole this enterprise is successful.  By the time the new human is fifteen or so, we are left with a being like ourselves, a half-crazed creature more or less adjusted to a mad world.  This is normality in our present age.  Love and violence, properly speaking, are polar opposites.  Love lets the other be, but with affection and concern.  Violence attempts to constrain the other’s freedom, to force him to act in the way we desire, but with ultimate lack of concern, with indifference to the other’s own existence or destiny.  We are effectively destroying ourselves by violence masquerading as love…We live equally out of our bodies and out of our minds.

So, yes, I do think most people are victims.  No one chooses their parents, or to be born into poverty, or to be discriminated against for one’s race, etc.  No one chooses to have their genuine experience poisoned from childhood.  No one chooses to be born into a mad society.  This is all true.  Some are luckier than others.  Suicides, fast and slow, are victims.  But not just victims.  This is not about blame, but understanding.  For those who commit to lives of slow suicide, to the squelching of their true selves and their consciences in the face of a rapacious and murderous society, there is always the chance they can break with the norm and go sane.  Redemption is always possible.  But it primarily involves overcoming the fear of death, a fear that manifests itself in the extreme need to preserve one’s life, so-called social identity, and sense of self by embracing social conventions, no matter how insane they may be or whether or not they bring satisfaction or fulfillment.  Whether or not they give life a meaning that goes deep.

But for those who have taken their lives and are no longer among us, hope is gone.  But we can learn from their tragedies if we are truthful.  For them the fear of life was primary, and death seemed like an escape from that fear. Life was too much for them.  Why?  We must ask.  So they chose a life-in-death approach through fast suicide.  Everyone is joined to them in that fear, just as everyone is joined by the fear of death.  It is a question of which dominates, and when, and how much courage we can muster to live daringly.  The fear of death leads one to constrict one’s life in the safe surround of conventional society in the illusion that such false security will save one in the end.  Death is too much for them.  So they accept a death-in-life approach that I call slow suicide.

But in the end as in the beginning and throughout our lives, there is really no escape.  The more alive we are, the closer death feels because really living involves risks and living outside the cocoon of the social lie. Mr. Pumpkin Head might seize you, whether he is conceived as your boss, an accident, disease, social ostracism, or some government assassin.  But the deader we feel, the further away death seems because we feel safe.  Pick your poison.

But better yet, perhaps there is no need to choose if we can regain our genuine experience that parents and society, for different reasons, conspire to deny us.  Could the meaning of our lives be found, not in statements or beliefs, but in true experience?  Most people think of experience as inner or outer.  This is not true.  It is a form of conventional brainwashing that makes us schizoid. It is the essence of the neuro-biological materialism that reduces humans to unfree automatons. Proffered as the wisdom of the super intelligent, it is sheer stupidity.

All experience is in-between, not the most eloquent of phrasing, I admit, but accurate.  Laing, a psychiatrist, puts it in the same way as do the mystics and those who embrace the Tao.  He says:

The relation of my experience to behavior is not that of inner to outer.  My experience is not inside my head.  My experience of this room is outside in this room.  To say that my experience is intrapsychic is to presuppose that there is a psyche that my experience is in.  My psyche is my experience, my experience is my psyche.

Reverie, imagination, prayer, dream, etc. are as much outer as inner, they are modalities of experience that exist in-between.  We live in-between, and if we could experience that, we would realize the meaning of life and our connection to all living beings, including those our government massacres daily, and we would awaken our consciences to our complicity in the killing.  We would realize that the victims of the American killing machine are human beings like us; are us, and we, them.  We would rebel.

Thoreau said a life without principle was not worth living.  Yet for so many of the slow suicides the only principals they ever had were those they had in high school.  Such word confusion is understandable when illiteracy is the order of the day and spelling passé. Has anyone when in high school ever had Thoreau’s admonition drummed into his head: “The ways by which you may get money almost without exception lead downward. To have done anything by which you earned money merely is to have been truly idle or worse.”  Of course not, since getting a “good” living is never thought to involve living in an honest, inviting, and honorable way.  It is considered a means to an end, the end being a consumer’s paradise.  “As for the means of living,” Thoreau added, “it is wonderful how indifferent men of all classes are about it, even reformers, so called – whether they inherit, or earn, or steal it.”  Is it any wonder so many people end up committing slow suicide?  “Is it that men are too much disgusted with their own experience to speak of it?”

What the hell –TGIH!

I believe the story has it that when he was in jail for refusing the poll tax that supported slavery and the Mexican-American war, Thoreau was visited by his friend Ralph Waldo Emerson, who asked him, “Henry, what are you doing in there?”  To which Thoreau responded, “Ralph, what are you doing out there?”  Today, however, most folks don’t realize that being outside their cells is being in them, and such imprisonment is far from principled.  That’s not a text message they’re likely to receive.

I recently met a woman, where or when I can’t recall.  It might have been when walking on the open road or falling in a dreaming hole.  She told me “if you look through a window, you can see the world outside.  If you look in a mirror, you can see yourself outside.  If you look into the outside world, you can see everyone inside out.  When the inside is seen outside and the outside is seen inside, you will know what you face.  Everything becomes simple then,” as she looked straight through me and my face fell off.

An Important Book the Mainstream Media Refuses to Review

When a book as fascinating, truthful, beautifully written, and politically significant as American Values: Lessons I Learned from My Family, written by a very well-known author by the name of Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and published by a prominent publisher (HarperCollins), is boycotted by mainstream book reviewers, you know it is an important book and has touched a nerve that the corporate mainstream media wish to anesthetize by eschewal.

The Kennedy name attracts the mainstream media only when they can sensationalize something “scandalous” – preferably sexual or drug related – whether false or true, or something innocuous that can lend credence to the myth that the Kennedys are lightweight, wealthy celebrities descended from Irish mobsters.  This has been going on since the 1960s with the lies and cover-ups about the assassinations of President Kennedy and his brother Robert, propaganda that continues to the present day, always under the aegis of the CIA-created phrase “conspiracy theory.”  A thinking person might just get the idea that the media are in league with the CIA to bury the Kennedys.

Such disinformation has been promulgated by many sources, prominent among them from the start in the 1960s was the CIA’s Sam Halpern, a former Havana bureau chief for the New York Times, who was CIA Director Richard Helms’s deputy (the key source for Seymour Hersh’s Kennedy hatchet job, The Dark Side of Camelot), who began spreading lies about the Kennedys that have become ingrained in the minds of leftists, liberals, centrists, and conservatives to this very day.  Fifty years later, after decades of reiteration by the CIA’s Wurlitzer machine (the name given by the CIA’s Frank Wisner to the CIA’s penetration and control of the mass media, Operation Mockingbird), Halpern’s lies have taken on mythic proportions.  Among them: that Joseph. P. Kennedy, the patriarch, was a bootlegger and Nazi lover; that he was Mafia connected and fixed the 1960 election with Chicago mobster Sam Giancana; and that JFK and RFK knew of and approved the CIA plots to assassinate Fidel Castro.

Of course, whenever a writer extols the Kennedy name and legacy, he is expected to add the caveat that the Kennedys, especially JFK and RFK, were no saints.  Lacking this special talent to determine sainthood or its lack, I will defer to those who feel compelled to temper their praise with a guilty commonplace.  Let me say at the outset that I greatly admire President John Kennedy and his brother, Robert, very courageous men who died in a war to steer this country away from the nefarious path of war-making and deep-state control that it has followed with a vengeance since their murders.

And I admire Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. for writing this compelling book that is a tour de force on many levels.

Part memoir, part family history, part astute political analysis, and part-confessional, it is in turns delightful, sad, funny, fierce, and frightening in its implications.  From its opening sentence – “From my youngest days I always had the feeling that we were all involved in some great crusade, that the world was a battleground for good and evil, and that our lives would be consumed in the conflict.” – to its last – “‘Kennedys never give up, ’ she [Ethel Kennedy] chided us.  ‘We have to die with our boots on!’” – the book is imbued with the spirit of the eloquent, romantic Irish-Catholic rebels whose fighting spirit and jaunty demeanor the Kennedy family has exemplified.  RFK, Jr. tells his tales in words that honor that literary and spiritual tradition.

So what is it about this book that has caused the mainstream press to avoid reviewing it?

Might it be the opening chapter devoted to his portrait of his grandfather, Joseph P. Kennedy, who comes across as a tender and doting grandpa, who created an idyllic world for his children and grandchildren at “The Big House” on Cape Cod?   We see Grandpa Joe taking the whole brood of Kennedys, including his three famous political sons, for a ride on his cabin cruiser, the Marlin, and JFK (Uncle Jack) singing “The Wearing of the Green” and, together with his good friend, Dave Powers, teaching the kids to whistle “The Boys of Wexford” (Wexford being the Kennedy’s ancestral home), an Irish rebel tune all of whose words John Kennedy knew by heart:

We are the boys of Wexford
Who fought with heart and hand
To burst in twain
The galling chain
And free our native land.

We see Joseph P. Kennedy sitting on the great white porch, holding hands with his wife Rose Kennedy, as the kids played touch football on the grass beyond.  We read that “Grandpa wanted his children’s minds unshackled by ideology” and that his “overarching purpose was to engender in his children a social conscience” and use their money and advantages to make America and the world a better place.  We learn, according to Joe’s son, Senator Robert Kennedy, that he loved all of them deeply, “not love as it is described with such facility in popular magazines, but the kind of love that is affection and respect, order, encouragement and support.”  We hear him staunchly defended from the political criticisms that he was a ruthless, uncaring, and political nut-case who would do anything to advance his political and business careers.  In short, he is presented very differently from the popular understanding of him as a malign force and a ruthless bastard.

Portraying his grandfather as a good and loving man may be one minor reason that Robert Jr.’s book is being ignored.

No doubt it is not because of the picture he paints of his paternal grandmother, Rose Kennedy, who comes across similarly to her husband as a powerful presence and as a devoted mother and grandmother who expected much from her children and grandchildren but gave much in return.  Robert Jr. writes that “Grandpa and Grandma were products of an alienated Irish generation that kept itself intact through rigid tribalism embodied in the rituals and mystical cosmologies of medieval Catholicism,” but that both believed the Church should be a champion of the poor as Christ taught. The glowing portrait of Grandmother Rose could not be the reason the book has not been reviewed.

Nor can the chapter on Ethel Kennedy’s family, the Skakels, be the reason.  It is a fascinating peek into certain aspects of Ethel’s character – the daring, outrageous, fun-loving, and wild side – from her upbringing in a wild and crazy family, together with the Kennedys one of the richest Catholic families in the U.S. in days past.  But there their similarities end.  The Skakels were conservative Republicans in the oil, coal, and extraction business, who “reveled in immodest consumption,” were huge into guns and “more primitive weaponry like bows, knives, throwing spears and harpoons,” and “pretty much captured shot, stabbed, hooked, or speared anything that moved, including each other.”  The Skakel men worked as informers for the CIA wherever their businesses took them around the world and they worked very hard to sabotage JFK’s run for the presidency. Ethel’s brother George was a creepy and crazy wild man. Once Ethel met RFK, she switched political sides for good, embracing the Kennedy’s liberal Democratic ethos.

A vignette of Lemoyne Billings, JFK’s dear friend, who after RFK’s assassination took Robert Jr. under his wing, can’t be the reason.  It too is a loving portrait of the man RFK Jr. says was “perhaps the most important influence in my life” and also the most fun.  In his turn Billings said that JFK was the most fun person he had ever met.  They referred to each other as Johnny and Billy and both were expelled from Choate for hi-jinks.  But stories about Lem, JFK, and RFK Jr. would attract, not repel, the mainstream press’s book reviewers.

Clearly the chapter about Robert Jr.’s early bad behavior, his drug use, and his conflicted relationship with his mother would be fuel for the Kennedy haters.  “I seem to have been at odds with my mother since birth,” he writes.  “My mere presence seemed to agitate her.”  Mother and son were at war for decades, and his father’s murder sent him on a long downward spiral into self-medicating that inflamed their relationship.  Moving from school to school and keeping away from home as much as possible, his “homecomings were like the arrival of a squall.  With me around to provoke her, my mother didn’t stay angry very long – she went straight to rage.”  His victory over drugs through Twelve Step meetings and his reconciliation with his mother are also the stuff that the mainstream press revels in, yet they ignore the book.

The parts about his relationship with his father, his father’s short but electrifying presidential campaign in 1968, his death, and funeral are deeply moving and evocative.  Deep sadness and lost hope accompanies the reader as one revisits RFK’s funeral and the tear-filled eulogy given by his brother Ted, then the long slow train ride bearing the body from New York to Washington, D.C. as massive crowds, lined the tracks, weeping and waving farewell.  And the writer, now a 64-year-old-man, but then a 14- year-old-boy, named after his look-alike father, the father who supported and encouraged him despite his difficulties in school, the father who took the son on all kinds of outdoor adventures – sailing, white water canoeing, mountain climbing – always reminding him to “always do what you are afraid to do” and which the son understood to be “boot camp for the ultimate virtue – moral courage.  Despite his high regard for physical bravery, my father told us that moral courage is the rarer and more valuable commodity.”  Such compelling, heartfelt writing, with not a word about who might have killed his father, would be another reason why the mainstream press would review this book.

It is the heart of this book that has the reviewers avoiding it like the plague, perhaps a plague introduced by a little mockingbird.

American Values revolves around the long war between the Kennedys and the CIA that resulted in the deaths of JFK and RFK.  All the other chapters, while very interesting personal and family history, pale in importance.

No member of the Kennedy family since JFK or RFK has dared to say what RFK, Jr. does in this book.  He indicts the CIA.

While some news outlets have mentioned the book in passing because of its assertion that what has been known for a long time to historically aware people – that RFK immediately suspected that the CIA was involved in the assassination of JFK – Robert Jr.’s writing on the war between the CIA and his Uncle Jack and father is so true and so carefully based on the best scholarship and family records that the picture he paints fiercely indicts the CIA in multiple ways while also indicting the mass media that have been its mouthpieces.   These sections of the book are masterful lessons in understanding the history and machinations of “The Agency” that the superb writer and researcher, Douglas Valentine, calls “organized crime” – the CIA.  A careful reading of RFK Jr.’s critical history leads to the conclusion that the CIA and the Mafia are not two separate murderer’s rows, but one organization that has corrupted the country at the deepest levels and is, as Kennedy quotes his father Robert – “a dark force infiltrating American politics and business, unseen by the public, and out of reach of democracy and the justice system” – posing “a greater threat to our country than any foreign enemy.”  The CIA’s covert operations branch has grown so powerful that it feels free to murder its opponents at home and abroad and make sure “splendid little wars” are continually waged around the globe for the interests of its patrons.  Robert Jr. says, “A permanent state of war abroad and a national security surveillance state at home are in the institutional self-interest of the CIA’s clandestine services.”

No Kennedy has dared speak like this since Senator Robert Kennedy last did so – but privately – and paid the price. His son tells us:

Days before his murder, as my father pulled ahead in the California polls, he began considering how he would govern the country.  According to his aide Fred Dutton, his concerns often revolved around the very question that his brother asked at the outset of his presidency, ‘What are we going to do about the CIA?’  Days before the California primary, seated next to journalist Pete Hamill on his campaign plane, my father mused aloud about his options. ‘I have to decide whether to eliminate the operations arm of the Agency or what the hell to do with it,’ he told Hamill.  ‘We can’t have those cowboys wandering around and shooting people and doing all those unauthorized things.’  Then he was shot dead.

For whatever their reasons, for fifty plus years the Kennedy family has kept silent on these matters.  Now Senator Robert Kennedy’s namesake has picked up his father’s mantle and dared to tell truths that take courage to utter.  By excoriating the secret forces that seized power, first with the murder of his Uncle Jack when he was a child, and then his father, he has exhibited great moral courage and made great enemies who wish to ignore his words as if they were never uttered.  But they have.  They sit between the covers of this outstanding and important book, a book written with wit and eloquence, a book that should be read by any American who wants to know what has happened to their country.

There is a telling anecdote that took place in the years following JFK’s assassination when RFK was haunted by his death.  It says so much about Senator Kennedy and now his son, a son who in many ways for many wandering years became a prodigal son lost in grief and drugs only to return home to find his voice and tell the truth for his father and his family.  He writes:

One day he [RFK] came into my bedroom and handed me a hardcover copy of Camus’s The Plague. ‘I want you to read this,’ he said with particular urgency. It was the story of a doctor trapped in a quarantined North African city while a raging epidemic devastates its citizenry; the physician’s small acts of service, while ineffective against the larger tragedy, give meaning to his own life, and, somehow, to the larger universe.  I spent a lot of time thinking about that book over the years, and why my father gave it to me.  I believe it was the key to a door that he himself was then unlocking….It is neither our position nor our circumstances that define us… but our response to those circumstances; when destiny crushes us, small heroic gestures of courage and service can bring peace and fulfillment.  In applying our shoulder to the stone, we give order to a chaotic universe.  Of the many wonderful things my father left me, this philosophical truth was perhaps the most useful.  In many ways, it has defined my life.

By writing American Values: Lessons I Learned from My Family, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. has named the plague and entered the fight. His father would be very proud of him.  He has defined himself.

The The Boston Globe’s Hit Piece on the Assassination of Senator Robert F. Kennedy

The counterattack on those, including Senator Robert Kennedy’s children, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, claiming that Senator Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated as a result of a conspiracy involving at least a second gunman, has commenced.  The Boston Globe, the traditional hometown newspaper of the Kennedy family, published a clearly misleading piece on May 31, 2018 by Nik DeCosta-Klipa, with the curiously long and loaded title “Bobby Kennedy’s son thinks he was killed by a second shooter. Is there anything to it? Or has RFK, Jr. “launched a whole new generation of conspiracy nuts 50 years later.”

Whether DeCosta-Klipa was acting on orders from above to produce such a specious piece or is ignorant of the fundamental research in a case that shouts out conspiracy is a question I cannot answer, although based on his go-to “expert” in his article – Daniel Moldea, whose contradictory disinformation on the case is well known to serious researchers – I would guess the former to be correct.

Let me begin with the title, which is marvelously propagandistic and sets the naïve reader’s mind on the intended trajectory.  RFK Jr.’s recent claim in The Washington Post of a second shooter and his call therefore for a re-investigation (a redundancy since no genuine official investigation was done; it was a cover-up from the start) is followed by a question: Is there anything to it?  This is followed by a headlined quote from Moldea, repeating the CIA created meme about conspiracy nuts: Or has RFK Jr “launched a whole new generation of conspiracy nuts 50 years later.” A question mark for RFK, Jr., while Moldea is allowed an assertion in the title that is not followed by a question mark.  Language is the key to effective propaganda, including punctuation.  It is a very subtle art, at which our mainstream corporate media are adept.

But if you think I am being picky, let me explain further

DeCosta-Klipa begins by asserting that “conspiracy theories concerning President John F. Kennedy’s death may be most widely circulated.”  Thus the reader is led into this article with the insinuation that, of course, Lee Harvey Oswald killed JFK and anyone who questions that is a conspiracy nut.  So what about RFK’s murder?

As the night follows day, we meet conspiracy nuts here too, courtesy of DeCosta-Klipa who allows Moldea a free hand to spout nonsense.  A person not familiar with the research done on this case by the great researcher Lisa Pease and others would assume that Moldea was the expert par excellence on RFK’s assassination, when nothing could be further from the truth.  James DiEugenio, Pease’s colleague and an equally brilliant researcher, has surgically dismembered Moldea’s work on the case.

So why has DeCosta-Klipa shined the spotlight on Moldea and given him so much space?

It is unlikely that he has read Moldea’s 1995 book, The Killing of Robert F. Kennedy, a book about which DiEugenio rightly says: its “every major tenet is highly suspect, whose sourcing is not explicit, whose fairness is, to say the least, one-sided, whose completeness is just not there, whose use of witnesses-like Kaiser and McCowan-is rather lenient….it is a ‘bookshelf’ book that has no intellectual content or substance.”  He suggests it was commissioned by the government forces responsible for RFK’s death and the ongoing cover-up.

Moldea is allowed full leeway to rant:

To claim absurdly that the LAPD messed up and was not involved in the sinister plot and cover-up.

To rip Robert Kennedy Jr. with the words “What Bobby Kennedy Jr. has done, he’s launched a whole new generation of conspiracy nuts who are going to believe that Sirhan didn’t do it and somebody else did.”

To utter the word conspiracy and conspiracy nuts constantly and to have that word repeated throughout by DeCosta-Klipa, as if he were Moldea’s echo.  The word conspiracy is used nine times in a highly pejorative sense.

(The conspiracy label was created by the CIA in 1967 to besmirch the name and reputation of anyone questioning the assassination of President Kennedy.  CIA agents and assets throughout the mass media were encouraged to use it constantly.  Of course, they have.)

To preposterously claim that all the eyewitnesses were wrong and that since the autopsy definitively showed Kennedy was shot from the rear at point blank range that he must have turned around so Sirhan, who was standing feet away to the front could shoot him in his back and head.  To which, of course, DeCosta-Klipa has no reply, as if it weren’t ridiculous.

To falsely claim – lie – that Paul Schrade, an aide to the senator, who was walking behind him and was the first person shot, fell into RFK, pushing him toward Sirhan, when, in fact, Schrade fell backwards feet behind RFK.

To absurdly claim that the many bullet holes found in the door frames and wall weren’t bullet holes at all, but in DeCosta-Kipa’s words, paraphrasing Moldea, “were most likely the result of any number of kitchen carts banging into the wall.”

Don’t laugh; there’s more.

To claim that the man highly suspected of having shot Kennedy from the rear, the security guard Thane Eugene Cesar, is innocent since he told him so.  But he doesn’t say that Cesar fled the country and is living somewhere in Asia under Moldea’s protection.

To claim the highly suspect police investigator of the shooting, Sirhan, who also falsely asserts that no extra bullets were ever found, is a reliable source, despite extensive evidence to the contrary.

And to top it off, DeCosta-Klipa grants Moldea the final words:  “I think [RFK Jr.] has been misled, conned, and corrupted by the conspiracy crowd to believe this garbage that the man that murdered his father is innocent.”

The truth is the readers of The Boston Globe have been misled, conned, and corrupted by a classic piece of propaganda.

It is a disgrace.