The shifting baseline syndrome requires today’s people disavowing things written 10 years ago, even five years ago, but those books, articles, whitepapers and radio broadcasts are actually ahead of their time . . .
And what is that expiration date for good, sound, righteous news and writing and broadcasting?
I see more and more young people, and older ones, relying on up-to-the-minute news and up-to-the-minute authors to set the stage of their own personal collapse. Who do you need to hear, watch and rarely debate to help frame collapse?
Analysis paralysis, climate change fatigue, and, alas, the insanity of echo chambers and the constrant high pitched whine of the mainstream news, the mainstream thinkers and all the handlers of us, including the gatekeepers, those are today’s diseases, much more than mental malaise.
This is the groundhog day show, when people today think they are in the know because of some piece of ProPublica, investigative new or news feature, because of another hundredth documentary consumed in a year, and all the noise coming from these script readers and yellers and scammers we call the mainstream media.
For instance, how do we feed out kids, get our roads fixed, live healthy, and pull down the system, end the system, with stories like this?
Susquehanna founder and TikTok investor Jeff Yass has avoided $1 billion in taxes while largely escaping public scrutiny. He’s now pouring his money into campaigns to cut taxes and support election deniers.
by Justin Elliott, Jesse Eisinger, Paul Kiel, Jeff Ernsthausen and Doris Burke
There is no difference between Tucker or Rachel. They are in it for the money, the accumulation of power, and the attention. Narcissim, and neglecting context and history and mutliple points of view, definitely defining characteristics of this day and age.
And so many wagons are circling, so many lobbies running the America citizen into the ground. So much is broken and wrong about the way the USA operates, that we are at the point of living in a world of thirty five adult, full-grown clowns coming out of the VW Bug or compact car.
I have these conversations daily about how much the average person has abandoned sanity or any faith or confidence in systems meant for The People, meant as entitlements for WE The People. That the pigs of commerce are gouging Americans on every leveL, that the housing crisis is more crises, that all those bombs and bullets and balistics are shipping to the Zionist Zelensky, that all of that is happening, but, oh, my, what to do about it?
We have insane people in positions of power, positions of middling influence, and then, of course, policy makers are in the pockets of the millionaires and billionaires, and then, we are at a point where, say, the community where I reside, Waldport and Newport, the dam holding our water source is crumbling and any action on it has to wait until the lottery numbers come in. Casino capitalism. Money for infrastructure gained through gaming the system, through gambling addiction.
Newport City Council approved $600,000 from federal relief funds for design tasks to replace the Big Creek dams, keeping the project moving while the city awaits state lottery bond funds and hopes for a much larger contribution from the federal government.
Last year, the Oregon Legislature approved a budget with $14 million appropriated for design and replacement of the earthen Big Creek dams, which are vulnerable to failure from relatively minor seismic event and showing signs of internal seepage. Those funds would bring the city through the design process and might contribute some to initial construction. (Source)
The incredible darkness of their lies, all of them, until here we are, stuck in a loop with Pig Trump and Pig Biden and all the Pigs of Politics.
How much money is funneled into the so-called Pentagon?
Really, how dependent is this country, USA, on the military machines? Military is everything — logistics, air, water, land, space, burgers and buttons, and trillions of dollars spent to prop up the welfare queens and kings of profiteering. War mercenaries, and profit players.
And what is this new green economy? What is this divestment from hydrocarbons? Americans and many in the Woke UK and EU, they live in a make-believe world, fully Disneyfied. Absolutely stupid greenies in terms of how things are made — think steel and aluminum and concrete and, well, embedded energy and life-cycles of products all embedded in oil!
Oh the headlines:
Tryzub: The National Revolution Fantasized by Ukranian Nationalists
‘Ukraine Fatigue’ Intensifies as Sanctions Boomerang Ravages Western Economies
So here we are: young people have no idea how the old days were the days of now, where solutions to the many problems were in the hands of communities, with farming, arts, communitarian spirit, sharing economy, mutual aid, rebuffing all those powers, all those instruments of suppression and oppression. The good old days were never put into play to the point of mass movements to oust the purveyors of pain, from militaries, to the government, to the corporation.
The good old ways, that is, those that embodied a spirit of honor and sharing, what the the Iroquois Great Law of Peace was about: a constitution that established a democracy between five Iroquois-speaking tribes—the Seneca, Cayuga, Oneida, Onondaga, and Mohawk. This group of five nations, called the Iroquois Confederacy, was established around 1450.
Making decisions now that will affect seven generations out originated with the Iroquois – Great Law of the Iroquois – which holds appropriate to think seven generations ahead (about 525 years into the future, which is counted by multiplying the 75 years of an average human lifespan by 7) and decide whether the decisions they make today would benefit those unborn generations.
In 1744, the Onondaga leader Canassatego gave a speech urging the contentious 13 colonies to unite, as the Iroquois had at the signing of the Treaty of Lancaster. This cultural exchange inspired the English colonist Benjamin Franklin to print Canassatego’s speech.
“We heartily recommend Union and a good Agreement between you our Brethren,” Canassatego had said. “Never disagree, but preserve a strict Friendship for one another, and thereby you, as well as we, will become the stronger. Our wise Forefathers established Union and Amity between the Five Nations; this has made us formidable; this has given us great Weight and Authority with our neighboring Nations. We are a powerful Confederacy; and, by your observing the same Methods our wise Forefathers have taken, you will acquire fresh Strength and Power; therefore whatever befalls you, never fall out one with another.”
He used a metaphor that many arrows cannot be broken as easily as one. This inspired the bundle of 13 arrows held by an eagle in the Great Seal of the United States. (source)
Their constitution, recorded and kept alive on a two row wampum belt, held many concepts familiar to United States citizens today.
Iroquois Confederacy and the Great Law of Peace
United States Constitution
Restricts members from holding more than one oﬃce in the Confederacy.
Article I, Section 6, Clause 2, also known as the Ineligibility Clause or the Emoluments Clause bars members of serving members of Congress from holding oﬃces established by the federal government, while also baring members of the executive branch or judicial branch from serving in the U.S. House or Senate.
Outlines processes to remove leaders within the Confederacy
Article II, Section 4 reads “The President, Vice President and all civil Oﬃcers of the United States shall be removed from Oﬃce on Impeachment for, and the conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other High Crimes and Misdemeanors.”
Designates two branches of legislature with procedures for passing laws
Article I, Section 1, or the Vesting Clauses, read “All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives.” It goes on to outline their legislative powers.
Delineates who has the power to declare war
Article I, Section 8, Clause 11, also known as the War Powers Clause, gives Congress the power, “To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water;”
Creates a balance of power between the Iroquois Confederacy and individual tribes
The diﬀering duties assigned to the three branches of the U.S. Government: Legislative (Congress), Executive (President), and Judicial (Supreme Court) act to balance and separate power in government.
Oh, those old ways, no? Ignored: Native American democratic principles focus on the creation of strong kinship bonds that promote leadership in which honor is not earned by material gain but by service to others. Read again — honor not earned by material gain but service to others.
Imagine that tattoo on the foreheads of these evil politicians.
Check out my old stuff, long form interviews, over the radio. Here, on my Word Press site:
Yes, old stuff I uploaded, and, who the hell listens to old radio shows in this day and age? Who would care about my own education during these 56 minute episodes? People like authors, scientists, food experts, activists, etc.?
Check it out — Tipping Points: Voices from the Edge, Spokane, low power community radio! Here, my preamble. Note that I am not a greenie weenie, and I have always doubted the sustainability arena, the New Urbanism crap, all of that, really, since all of what I have learned in courses and certifications and degrees is that CAPITALISM is the bulldozer and the media manipulator of any possible bottom up way to solve myriad of problems, not just tied to resource piracy, biopiray, land grabs, resource thefts, pollution-pollution-pollution, toxicity-toxicity-toxicity.
Podcast list— Paul’s radio show from the mid-2000s. Ironically, poets, thinkers, scientists, community engagement experts, and book authors talked to me with an open mind. I engaged in exchanges of ideas. I was not a stenographer, and yes, I do jump in and have my own spin or take on things. I, of course, have changed my way toward enlightenment compared to the period of 2001 – 2011 I was in Spokane, writing, creating columns, teaching, and involved in activism. I am more grounded in my socialism and my communism. Working anywhere in the USA, Amerikkka, means covering up or masking one’s true self. Capitalism is a form of totalitarianism, and fascism in its own way. I have witnessed colonization of formerly independent thinkers, then a hive mentality take over and then just Plain Jane Stockholm Syndrome seeping into the collective, at large, especially within Democratic Party supporters. Academics. Woke folk. Et al. Enjoy these people, these historic and cutting edge long-form radio conversations!
Note: Realize that the greenie weenies, the Green New Deal (not for nature and people) proponents, the end of fossil fuel folk, all those liberals in the liberal managerial class, please, realize, that I was up against them. For this radio station, this low power community radio station, I had back-stabbers and retrogrades. If you realize the value of this body of work, in a span of two years (and I did work for a living, since this was a gratis gig), then you might understand where I am now, listening to and observing the rot, smelling the putridity, and all the monetizing of some really bad show. Good ones, too, thank goodness, supported me, but I was already deeply victimized by cancel culture. Some of the worse are the compliant ones, the herd, those that call themselves green and organic. However, many of those types hated my show, hated my work, and, well, many loved the work, but those are not the pied piper types. It’s the haters who come out from their dirty sheets at night like an army of bedbugs.
Last Friday’s decision by UK Home Secretary Priti Patel to authorise the extradition of Julian Assange to the United States is both deeply shameful and unsurprising. Her action paves the way for Assange to be tried under the 1917 Espionage Act, introduced by the US government shortly after entering World War I, with a sentence of 175 years if found guilty. In essence, the US wishes to set a legal precedent for the prosecution of any publisher or journalist, anywhere in the world, who reports the truth about the US.
US political journalist Glenn Greenwald noted that Patel’s act ‘further highlights the utter sham of American and British sermons about freedom, democracy and a free press.’ Assange is being persecuted relentlessly because he and WikiLeaks have arguably done more than anyone else to expose the vast extent of the crimes of US empire.
Free speech and press freedoms do not exist in reality in the U.S. or the UK. They are merely rhetorical instruments to propagandize their domestic population and justify and ennoble the various wars and other forms of subversion they constantly wage in other countries in the name of upholding values they themselves do not support. The Julian Assange persecution is a great personal tragedy, a political travesty and a grave danger to basic civic freedoms. But it is also a bright and enduring monument to the fraud and deceit that lies at the heart of these two governments’ depictions of who and what they are.
Dissident Australian journalist Caitlin Johnstone made a similar point, that Assange’s ‘refusal to bow down and submit’ has:
exposed the lie that the so-called free democracies of the western world support the free press and defend human rights. The US, UK and Australia are colluding to extradite a journalist for exposing the truth even as they claim to oppose tyranny and autocracy, even as they claim to support world press freedoms, and even as they loudly decry the dangers of government-sponsored disinformation.
Peter Oborne, an all-too-rare example of a journalist speaking out on behalf of Assange, called Patel’s decision a ‘catastrophic blow’ to press freedom. But, he said, it was a blow that had been carried out with:
the silent assent of much of the mainstream press. Too many British newspapers and broadcasters have treated the Assange case as a dirty family secret. They have failed to grasp that the Assange hearing leading up to the Patel decision is the most important case involving free speech this century.
Not only was there ‘silent assent’, but much of the media actually cheered and applauded Assange’s arrest in the Ecuadorian Embassy in April 2019 ‘with undisguised glee’, as Alan MacLeod wrote at the time:
The Daily Mail’s front-page headline (4/12/19) read, “That’ll Wipe the Smile Off His Face,” and devoted four pages to the “downfall of a narcissist” who was removed from “inside his fetid lair” to finally “face justice.” The Daily Mirror (4/11/19) described him as “an unwanted guest who abused his hospitality,” while the Times of London (4/12/19) claimed “no one should feel sorry” for the “overdue eviction.”
The Mirror (4/13/19) also published an opinion piece from Labour member of Parliament Jess Phillips that began by stating, “Finally Julian Assange, everyone’s least favourite squatter, has been kicked out of the Ecuadorian embassy.” She described the 47-year-old Australian as a “grumpy, stroppy teenager.”
Oborne also noted that Patel’s decision:
turns investigative journalism into a criminal act, and licenses the United States to mercilessly hunt down offenders wherever they can be found, bring them to justice and punish them with maximum severity.
Andrew Neil, the right-wing journalist and broadcaster, reflexively listed Assange’s supposed faults (‘reckless’, ‘stupid’, ‘narcissist’) in a Daily Mailopinion piece. But he still made clear his opposition to Assange’s extradition:
It is thanks to Assange that we know many appalling things that America would prefer we didn’t know. He does not deserve to spend the rest of his life in some high-tech American hellhole for doing what should come naturally to all good journalists — exposing what powerful people don’t want to be exposed.
But the few editorials that appeared in the British ‘mainstream’, while meekly and belatedly opposing extradition, were much less damning in their comments. According to our searches of the Lexis-Nexis newspaper database, the first edition of the Independent’s editorial was titled, ‘It’s time to release Assange – he has suffered enough’. By the time the editorial appeared online, the title had been watered down to:
Justice for Julian Assange should be tempered with mercy
And an extra line had been added:
The WikiLeaks founder is no hero but nor should he be a martyr
The paper’s praise for the vital work of Assange and Wikileaks was begrudging and limited, with the usual ‘mainstream’ caveats and distortions mixed in (see Johnstone’s powerful demolition of the multiple smears against Assange):
We were resolutely unsympathetic to Mr Assange’s claim to have been unfairly treated by the British and Swedish criminal justice systems. We urged him to face justice over the allegations of rape in Sweden, and considered his self-imprisonment in the Ecuadorian embassy in London to be a form of punishment for his refusal to do so.
The Guardian, which had benefited enormously from Assange’s ground-breaking work – with many of its journalists publishing numerous snide articles and disparaging remarks about him – described Patel’s decision, with pathetic understatement, as ‘a bad day for journalism’. Of course, there was no mention in the editorial of the Guardian’s own shameful role in helping to create the conditions for Assange’s persecution; not least their fake front-page ‘news’ story in November 2018 claiming that Paul Manafort, Donald Trump’s former campaign manager, supposedly held secret talks with Assange in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London.
‘How Far Have We Sunk?’
As Nils Melzer packed up and moved on from his term as the UN Special Prosecutor on Torture, on the day that Patel announced Assange’s extradition, he said:
How far have we sunk if we prosecute people who expose war crimes for exposing war crimes?
How far have we sunk when we no longer prosecute our own war criminals because we identify more with them than we identify with the people that actually exposed these crimes?
What does that tell about us and about our governments?
How far have we sunk when telling the truth becomes a crime?
The questions were left hanging in the air. But anyone with basic standards of ethics and wisdom knows that a society which has sunk this low is being governed by so-called ‘leaders’ who:
are lacking in ethics and wisdom;
are driven by concerns shaped by power and profit;
will attempt to crush anyone who dares to expose their crimes;
spout deceptive rhetoric – faithfully amplified and propagated by state-corporate media – proclaiming the West’s supposed virtues and respect for ‘freedom’, ‘human rights’ and ‘democracy’.
The persecution of Julian Assange has brought all this to the fore.
Yes, there are tiny windows in the ‘MSM’ for eloquent expressions of the truth; such as Peter Oborne’s Guardianopinion piece cited above. But the general drift of the ‘Overton Window’ – the ‘acceptable’, tightly limited range of news and debate – has shifted towards the hard right, with journalists and commentators squeezed out for being deemed ‘toxic’, ‘radioactive’ or otherwise ‘dangerous’.
Thus, in 2018, John Pilger, one of the finest journalists who has ever appeared in the British media, observed that:
My written journalism is no longer welcome in the Guardian which, three years ago, got rid of people like me in pretty much a purge of those who really were saying what the Guardian no longer says any more.’
The Guardian is a prime stoker of revitalised Cold War rhetoric about the ‘threat’ of Russia and China, mirroring what is prevalent across the whole ‘spectrum’ of ‘mainstream’ news. Indeed, as revealed by Declassified UK, an independent investigative news website, the UK’s leading liberal newspaper has essentially been ‘neutralised’ by the UK security services. Mark Curtis, editor and co-founder of Declassified UK, observed that the paper’s:
limited coverage of British foreign and security policies gives a misleading picture of what the UK does in the world. The paper is in reality a defender of Anglo-American power and a key ideological pillar of the British establishment.
Selective Moral Outrage
In a recent interview, David Barsamian asked Noam Chomsky:
In the media, and among the political class in the United States, and probably in Europe, there’s much moral outrage about Russian barbarity, war crimes, and atrocities. No doubt they are occurring as they do in every war. Don’t you find that moral outrage a bit selective though?
The moral outrage is quite in place. There should be moral outrage. But you go to the Global South, they just can’t believe what they’re seeing. They condemn the war, of course. It’s a deplorable crime of aggression. Then they look at the West and say: What are you guys talking about? This is what you do to us all the time.’
So, when the long-suffering people of the Global South encounter western news reports about Putin being the worst war criminal since Hitler:
They don’t know whether to crack up in laughter or ridicule. We have war criminals walking all over Washington. Actually, we know how to deal with our war criminals. In fact, it happened on the twentieth anniversary of the invasion of Afghanistan. Remember, this was an entirely unprovoked invasion, strongly opposed by world opinion. There was an interview with the perpetrator, George W. Bush, who then went on to invade Iraq, a major war criminal, in the style section of the Washington Post — an interview with, as they described it, this lovable goofy grandpa who was playing with his grandchildren, making jokes, showing off the portraits he painted of famous people he’d met. Just a beautiful, friendly environment.’
In the UK, the war criminal Tony Blair – another key player in the post-9/11 ‘War on Terror’ that led to at least1.3 million deaths in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan – was recently “honoured’ by the Queen. He became ‘a member of the Order of the Garter, the most senior royal order of chivalry’. This archaic nonsense is yet another symptom of the deeply-embedded, medieval stratification of British society, and the baubles that are handed out to preserve ‘order’ and ‘tradition’. This is revealing of the sickness at the heart of our society.
Chomsky gave another example of how the West’s war criminals are lauded:
Take probably the major war criminal of the modern period, Henry Kissinger. We deal with him not only politely, but with great admiration. This is the man after all who transmitted the order to the Air Force, saying that there should be massive bombing of Cambodia — “anything that flies on anything that moves” was his phrase. I don’t know of a comparable example in the archival record of a call for mass genocide. And it was implemented with very intensive bombing of Cambodia.
The ‘justification’ for the extreme violence meted out by the West towards the Middle East and the Global South is always couched in propaganda terms proclaiming the protection of ‘human rights’, ‘democracy’ and ‘global security’. But, noted Chomsky:
The security of the population is simply not a concern for policymakers. Security for the privileged, the rich, the corporate sector, arms manufacturers, yes, but not the rest of us. This doublethink is constant, sometimes conscious, sometimes not. It’s just what Orwell described, hyper-totalitarianism in a free society.
Meanwhile, we pour taxpayer funds into the pockets of the fossil-fuel producers so that they can continue to destroy the world as quickly as possible. That’s what we’re witnessing with the vast expansion of both fossil-fuel production and military expenditures. There are people who are happy about this. Go to the executive offices of Lockheed Martin, ExxonMobil, they’re ecstatic. It’s a bonanza for them. They’re even being given credit for it. Now, they’re being lauded for saving civilization by destroying the possibility for life on Earth. Forget the Global South. If you imagine some extraterrestrials, if they existed, they’d think we were all totally insane. And they’d be right.
The appalling treatment of Julian Assange, especially set beside the ‘honouring’ and eulogising of the West’s war criminals, is symptomatic of this insanity.
In a brave and eloquent interview, Stella Assange, Julian’s wife and mother of their two young children, declared that:
We’re going to fight.
An appeal to Britain’s High Court will be lodged within 14 days of Patel’s decision by Assange’s lawyers. As Stella Assange noted, one of the many unjust aspects of the US case against her husband is that, under the Trump administration, the CIA had plotted to assassinate Assange:
Extradition to the country that has plotted his assassination is just – I have no words. Obviously, this shouldn’t be happening. It can never happen.
That is just the tip of the iceberg of the criminal activity that has gone on, on behalf of those putting Julian in prison. For example, inside the [Ecuadorian] Embassy his legal meetings – his confidential privileged legal conversations with his lawyers – were being recorded and shipped to the United States.
All these elements have come out since Julian’s arrest and incarceration. And we now know so much about the abuse and outright criminality that has been going on against Julian. There’s no chance of a fair trial.
‘And then you have the actual case. He’s charged under the Espionage Act. He faces 175 years. There is no public interest defence under the Espionage Act. It’s the first time it’s being repurposed; it’s being used against a publisher. It’s an Act that’s been repurposed in order to criminalise journalism, basically. And, of course, if you say that publishing information is a crime, then Julian’s guilty. He published information and he faces a lifetime in prison for it.
In conclusion, she said:
The case is a complete aberration. That’s why you have all these major press freedom organisations and human rights organisations saying that this has to be dropped.
We can take a significant step towards a saner society by shouting loudly for Julian Assange to be freed immediately. A good start would be to share widely this video from Double Down News in which Stella Assange describes the importance of the case and how we can all help.
The New York Times published this week the conclusion of its investigation into the killing of the Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh.
It was the fourth major US news organisation to look in detail at what happened to Abu Akleh during an Israeli army raid into the Palestinian city of Jenin last month.
The New York Times found a high probability she had been killed by an Israeli sniper, confirming the findings of earlier investigations by the Associated Press, CNN and the Washington Post. Like the other publications, the Times based its findings on video footage, witness testimonies and acoustic analysis.
“The bullet that killed Ms Abu Akleh was fired from the approximate location of the Israeli military convoy [in Jenin], most likely by a soldier from an elite unit,” the Times concluded. A total of 16 shots were fired at the group of journalists that included Abu Akleh.
Last month, CNN said the evidence it unearthed suggested the veteran Al Jazeera journalist had been killed in a “targeted attack by Israeli forces”. Similar conclusions have been reached by human rights groups that have studied the evidence, including Israel’s respected occupation watchdog, B’Tselem.
A major blow
These probes are a major blow to Israel, coming from reputed media organisations that are usually seen as highly sympathetic to Israel rather than the Palestinians.
They have kept the killing of the journalist in the headlines when Israel had hoped interest would quickly wane – as is the case with the overwhelming majority of Palestinian deaths.
The investigations have made it much harder for Israel to obscure both its responsibility for Abu Akleh’s killing and the intention behind it. The bullet that killed her was fired with the apparent goal of executing her, hitting a narrow, exposed area of flesh between her helmet and a flak jacket marked “Press”.
And the various probes have highlighted once again how unwilling Israel is to hold its soldiers to account for committing crimes if the victim is Palestinian.
Instead, Israel has had to twist and turn in defending its failure to identify the culprit. It initially refused to investigate, claiming a Palestinian gunman, not one of its soldiers, shot Abu Akleh during the military raid.
All the media investigations show that to be untrue.
Then Israel suggested that she might have been hit by the crossfire from an Israeli soldier being fired on by Palestinian gunmen. But all the investigations have shown that Palestinian fighters were nowhere near Abu Akleh when she was shot. She was, however, clearly visible to a unit of Israeli soldiers.
More recently, Israel has tried to shift the blame onto the Palestinian Authority, saying it has not cooperated by handing over the bullet that killed Abu Akleh or by agreeing to hold a joint investigation. As ever, Israel behaves as if the party accused of the crime should be the one to oversee the investigation.
The Palestinian Authority rightly refuses requests for cooperation, arguing that they are being made in bad faith. Israel would exploit any joint investigation to concoct “a new lie, a new narrative”, the PA observes.
A meaningful question
In reality, Israel already knows exactly which of its snipers pulled the trigger. The only meaningful question at this stage is, why? Was the shooting committed by a hot-headed soldier, or was it an execution carried out on orders from above? Was the intention to target Abu Akleh specifically, or did it not matter which of the group of journalists she was among was hit?
Israel, however, isn’t the only party discomfited by the media’s repeated investigations.
They have also served to embarrass Joe Biden’s administration. Antony Blinken, the US secretary of state, has called for an “independent, credible investigation”, while his department has underscored the need for a “thorough and independent investigation”.
The New York Times and the other major media outlets have all proved that just such an investigation can be carried out. And yet the silence from the US administration at their shared findings is deafening.
There are two further, possibly less obvious conclusions the rest of us should draw from these efforts to identify who was responsible for killing Abu Akleh.
The first relates to the exceptional nature of the investigations conducted by the US media. Concern at the killing of a Palestinian is far from the norm. In this case, it appears to have been prompted by an unusual coincidence of facts: that Abu Akleh was a high-profile, internationally respected journalist and that she had US citizenship.
In other words, she was seen not just as any ordinary Palestinian, or even as a Palestinian journalist, but as one of the western media’s own.
In murdering Abu Akleh, Israel reminded journalists at the New York Times, AP, CNN and the Washington Post that the lives of their correspondents covering Israel and Palestine are in more danger than they possibly appreciate. In killing her, Israel crossed a red line for the western media – one premised on self-interest and self-preservation.
There are parallels with the media’s special treatment of the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi – and for similar reasons. Khashoggi, who was working for the Washington Post, was murdered and his body dismembered during a visit to the Saudi embassy in Turkey.
As with Israel, Saudi Arabia‘s leadership has an appalling human rights record and is not hesitant to jail and kill its opponents. But Khashoggi’s murder provoked unprecedented outrage from the media – outrage that Saudi Arabia’s many other victims have never warranted.
The fact is the US media could have conducted similar investigations into any number of Palestinian deaths at the hands of the Israeli security services, not just Abu Akleh’s, and they would have reached similar conclusions. But they have consistently avoided doing so.
There is a danger inherent in focusing exclusively on Abu Akleh’s killing, just as there was with focusing exclusively on Khashoggi’s. Each has the effect of making it look as though their deaths are exceptional events requiring exceptional investigation – when they are each an example of a longstanding pattern of regime lawlessness and human rights abuses.
The special focus subtly reinforces too the impression that Palestinian accounts of Israeli abuses, even when the supporting evidence is overwhelming, cannot be trusted.
The veteran Israeli journalist Gideon Levy has run a weekly column, the Twilight Zone, in the Haaretz newspaper for years in which he investigates the killing or serious wounding of Palestinians – often people whose names have never appeared in the western media.
Invariably he finds that Israel’s military lies – sometimes flagrantly – about the circumstances in which Palestinians have been killed, or it initiates an inconclusive, stone-walling investigation.
The lies are needed because the truth would show something consistently ugly about Israel’s decades of military occupation: that Israeli soldiers often kill unarmed Palestinians in cold blood; or that they recklessly shoot Palestinian bystanders; or that they execute armed Palestinian fighters when no one’s life is in danger.
The common thread in Levy’s reports is the complete impunity of Israeli soldiers, whatever their actions.
Pilloried in public
But there is a further conclusion to be drawn. Blinken and the Biden administration keep insisting on a thorough, independent, credible and transparent investigation, and say it is important to “follow the facts, wherever they lead”.
But who do they expect to carry out such an investigation?
The White House, of course, reflexively discounts the findings of the Palestinian Authority’s investigation that Abu Akleh was deliberately shot by Israeli soldiers. It acts as if the investigations conducted by these four large media organisations do not qualify. Meanwhile, the administration itself shows precisely zero interest in conducting an investigation, despite pressure from Congress to involve the FBI.
Would Blinken prefer that the United Nations take on the task? Presumably not, given how the US and Israel responded to the last major independent investigation by the UN, one into Israel’s month-long attack on Gaza at the end of 2008. Israel refused to cooperate.
Richard Goldstone, a distinguished South African jurist, led a panel of experts who concluded that Israel had committed a series of war crimes during its attack, known as Cast Lead, as had Palestinian militias.
The UN panel’s report found that Israel had adopted a policy that intentionally targeted Palestinian civilians, the vast majority of the 1,400 Palestinians killed in Cast Lead.
Both the US and Israel worked strenuously to bury the report. Goldstone, who is Jewish, found himself publicly shamed and isolated by Jewish communities in the US and South Africa. He was even barred from attending his grandson’s bar mitzvah. Eventually, he appeared to succumb to the pressure campaign, expressing regret over the report.
No one in Washington came to Goldstone’s defence over the UN’s thorough, independent, credible and transparent investigation. Quite the reverse: he was publicly pilloried. The US administration thereby sent a message to other experts that investigating “independently” and “credibly” is certain only to bring ignominy on their heads if it exposes Israel’s war crimes.
And yet the US demonstrated the degree to which it appreciates full, independent, credible and transparent investigations by that body two years ago, when the ICC tried to turn the spotlight on to US war crimes in Afghanistan and Israel’s in the occupied Palestinian territories.
In response, Biden’s predecessor, Donald Trump, imposed sanctions on the court, denying staff entry to the US and threatening to seize its assets. The threat extended to anyone offering “material support” to the court – language more normally used in the context of terrorism.
The reality, as all parties understand, is that only an investigation overseen by Israel could ever count as “thorough, independent, credible and transparent” to the US.
The subtext is that an investigation cannot hope to reach the bar of “credible, independent and transparent”, as far as Washington is concerned, until the Palestinian Authority agrees to hold a joint inquiry with Israel.
But both Israel and the US know full well that the Palestinian leadership will never agree to such “cooperation” – because Israel’s role would not be to arrive at the truth but to engineer a cover-up.
The demand for a “credible, independent and transparent” investigation is the US administration’s code for an investigation that will never take place. It is the diplomatic equivalent of the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
But more importantly, it is the kind of impossible investigation that, conveniently for the US and Israel, they can blame the PA for obstructing. As long as the Palestinians refuse to “cooperate”, Israel’s hands are supposedly tied.
Abu Akleh’s murder has not just revealed the fact that Israeli soldiers kill Palestinians, any Palestinian, with impunity.
It has revealed too that the Biden administration is not troubled by the killing, or by the impunity of the soldier who executed her. All that bothers the White House is the irritant of having to create the impression it cares about the truth and the impression that Israel is doing its best to investigate.
Until the matter can be swept aside, it will be a little harder for each to get on with business as usual: for the US to give Israel full-throated financial, diplomatic and military support; and for Israel to continue its incremental, decades-long work of seizing control of the Palestinians’ entire, historic homeland.
But at least for each of them, with Abu Akleh gone, there is one less fearless witness to expose quite how hollow their moral posturing is.
All people need food, shelter and health care. In an alleged democracy, none of them need the religion of market forces governing their ability to get them. Nor do those of us temporarily comfortable while enjoying the benefits that come to a minority which does well with capitalism (as it did with slavery) but now face a choking atmosphere that no individual status or identity as glorified house negroes of slavery days will protect us since the house itself, our planet, is under deadly attack.
Brutal abuse of logic, savage assaults on morality, perverted molestations of reason; do those describe Russian military behavior in the Ukraine or western political-media market practice? Incredibly booming profits in the death industry accompany the world tour of a Ukrainian political hustler for NATO as he is treated as an international hero for escaping his country on a world go-fund-me trip to raise more weapons to assure more murder of his people with a potential bonus of hosting a late night TV show in America while the bodies are being counted.
The incredible reporting (?) of the Russian defense of its borders has it being depicted as an ugly rape of neighbors led by a comic book madman supposedly bent on building an empire by defending his nation from an imperial monster failing desperately by the day and threatening to destroy the world in a frenzy of trying to maintain its criminal domination of the market god religion. This while its own nation shows signs of crumbling with citizens lashing out at one another and losing faith in all aspects of what passes for leadership but reduced to blaming special villains and identity groups while pursuing decency and freedom for other and often the same villains and identity groups. The one most dangerous and unjust group, the incredibly rich who own and operate what passes for a democracy under thought control, are only just beginning to get the attention they have always deserved.
Low election day turnouts are an American tradition but worse than ever as divisions forced on a public taught to identify as anything but a democratic majority – while paying lip service to something called “our” democracy, which amounts to slaves claiming “our” plantation – while foreign slaughter is accompanied by homeland mass murders that reduce citizens to more fear, sorrow and anger directed at everything but the systemic breakdown and focused by media on scapegoats.
Class society is composed of all of us but we are hardly all members of the same class in a market-dominated capitalism in which rulers separate us by everything but class. Do we have testicles or vaginas? We are all human beings. Lighter skin or darker skin? We are all human beings. But when a tiny minority among us are rich and everyone else ranges from fairly comfortable to relatively comfortable to uncomfortable to suffering severe discomfort to being ground to pulp by marketism, that defines class society, which is absolutely necessary under the market forces controlled by the rich and their servants in government, industry and media.
American dollar democracy finds 8% of us being millionaires, multi-millionaires, billionaires, and multi billionaires. The 92% majority, of course, control everything democratically. That is the definable truth if you believe deep nose-picking is a way of performing self lobotomy or that the tooth fairy is really a gay dentist. Sadly, a minority of us, including all too many voters, might as well be stuck in such a mental trap. But a growing majority sense that something is terribly wrong and that real change is necessary for humanity and not just one or another identity group’s survival is causing greater desire than ever for substantial change in the way we organize our society. Unfortunately, that desire is still under the control of the profit-making industries of division, violence, ignorance and more division.
It is possible to believe that a billionaire and a pauper are equal when shopping at the market, if one is among the nose picking tooth fairy faith. The rest of us must see the numbers which do not lie and get worse every day when it comes to what is called economic inequality. While that is the foundation of marketism which affords massive estates and riches so vast it takes several banks to hold them, hundreds of thousands of humans, whether possessing testicles, vaginas, or both, light skin, dark skin, or both, heterosexual, homosexual or both, do not have shelter, publicly beg for food and forage through garbage for clothing. This while millions of residents in a so-called democracy have no health care and more than a million die of a virus which is believed by some to have been created by one or another villainous force but hardly due to the capitalist market system which demands money for most of what is needed for survival while essentially telling those without enough money they can drop dead.
While formally educated and mentally deranged manipulators of policy are using Ukraine to affect murdering Russians and using Taiwan to encourage murder of Chinese, common sense and near universal desires for global peace are impossible to find in the mass murder market dominated and controlled by minorities at growing danger to the overwhelming majority of earth’s inhabitants. The socially diseased imperial beast calling itself a force for global peace and democracy has become a raving monster desperately in need of a truly democratic force of the American people to take control before the rest of the world, led by China, Russia and the many nations fed up with a disintegrating economic, social and political environment, have to exercise control, democratic or otherwise.
Peace is impossible while life is controlled by minority profiteers whose control of information is as menacing as its weapons making. The world outside the USA is growing restive, fed up, and beginning to tell us to bug off, as at the recent farce of an alleged meeting of Latin American countries formerly under our total domination showed. Nato countries reduced to suffering for obeying American orders to sanction Russia are being to think about banding together to sanction The USA. There has never been a greater time for real democracy in America but it won’t come about by making war on one another, which will only make the imperial situation worse. Our identity is as human beings, not sub-categories of humans with no need for food, clothing and shelter but only separate-but-allegedly-equal status slaves to a market god, and our fate is in coming together and acting as such. We need to do that in greater numbers and more quickly than ever.
On Thursday June 23 people will gather outside Rep Barbara Lee’s office in Oakland at 11:30 am to protest her recent vote for $40 billion for the war in Ukraine. The demonstration is called in conjunction with the International Day of Action for Peace in Ukraine called by the Peace in Ukraine Coalition. There will be a companion demonstration on the same day in at the Northampton, MA, office of Rep. Jimmy McGovern who also voted for the murderous $40 billion, and accompanied Pelosi in her recent visit to Ukraine.
This massive funding package represents a clear escalation of the war in Ukraine by the government of the United States using the Ukrainian people as cannon fodder in a proxy war with Russia. The funding pours fuel on the flames of that war. It will prolong the war, resulting in thousands more Ukrainian and Russian deaths, at the very least.
And this funding is one more step in escalating and widening the scope of the war – up to and including nuclear war.
WHAT: Protest of Barbara Lee’s vote for $40 Billion for the War in Ukraine. This protest is in conjunction with a global day of action against the war, preceding the NATO summit in Madrid, called by the Peace in Ukraine Coalition.
WHERE: 1 Kaiser Plaza, Oakland, California. (Barbara Lee’s Oakland Office)
WHEN: Thursday, June 23rd at 11:30 am.
WHO: Community and AntiWar activists and organizations including Code Pink, Democratic Socialists of American (DSA), East Bay Vets for Peace, Peace in Ukraine Coalition, United Against War & Militarism.
Despite promising just two months ago to “work relentlessly toward de-escalation” of the war in Ukraine, California Congresswoman Barbara Lee voted in lockstep with every Democrat in Congress behind President Biden’s war policy. This includes not only Barbara Lee but all the other self-styled progressives in Congress, including Bernie Sanders, AOC and the rest of the “Squad.”
Barbara Lee because of her lone vote in opposing the two decade war in Afghanistan, is held up as an icon proving that there are progressive Democratic politicians who will vote for peace. The promise held out by Lee and her Democratic colleagues that they could be a force for peace now lies in ruins.
Why U.S. involvement in the war in Ukraine must be opposed.
One can look at the war in several ways.
If it is a war between Russia and Ukraine, then it is no business of the United States.
If one believes that it is a war by an idealistic to US to defend sovereignty and national borders, ask the people of Iraq if the US respects sovereignty – or the people of Afghanistan or Libya or Vietnam or Venezuela … the list goes on and on.
If one believes that this is a war to defend democracy, then ask the Palestinians suffering under Apartheid imposed by Israel which is supported by the US government or the people of Saudi Arabia or the many other dictatorships around the world that the US has supported.
No, this is a proxy war of the US against Russia being waged to the last Ukrainian. If that has not been evident since the role of the US in backing the violent coup in 2014 against a duly elected Ukrainian President, then it is beyond doubt now with the declaration of Defense Secretary Austin that the goal of the US is to “weaken” Russia, the declaration of Joe Biden that Putin must not be allowed to govern and the declaration of Nancy Pelosi that the US must have total “victory” over Russia. The Biden administration has chosen to confront another major nuclear weapons power, Russia – and that confrontation constitutes an existential threat to all of humanity.
Ukraine now wages war only to improve its bargaining power at the inevitable negotiations which will end the conflict admitted David Arakhamia, who leads Ukraine’s negotiations with Russia and is one of Volodymyr Zelensky’s closest advisers. 200-500 Ukrainian soldiers dying each day with a total of 1000 dead or wounded daily, the latest numbers given by Ukraine, simply to improve a negotiating position is a highly immoral exercise. Ukraine has now become essentially a puppet state at the mercy of the US for arms and aid. It is naïve beyond belief to believe that Ukraine proceeds in this immoral fashion without approval of the US – or even perhaps coercion by the US to fight on so as to save face for its patron Biden.
The Biden administration can stop the proxy war. And we have the power to influence the Biden administration and the pols who support it. It is our right and responsibility to exercise that power and stop this war.
Who benefits from the war and who is damaged?
Cui bono? Billions in funding for the war serves the interests of weapons manufacturers, military contractors, who pocket untold profits from the war in Ukraine. Some of these dollars go to funding the endless proliferation of hawkish think tanks whose well paid employees show up as talking heads or op-ed writers in the mainstream media doing all in their power to convince us that “the other” is evil and that war is the answer. These are media manikins and are ideologues driven by a desire for US world domination and therefore very dangerous
At the same time funding cannot be found for the many problems we face in the US – homelessness, inadequately funded schools, crumbling infrastructure, failure to deal adequately with climate change and now even shortages of baby formula! Inflation in the U.S. was already running at over 7% before the conflict began due to the tragically inadequate response to Covid-19 and out of control “quantitative easing”; i.e., printing money with abandon. But the war and sanctions have worsened the inflation which is now running at over 8%. The average American sees this daily at the gas station and supermarket where soaring prices are now the rule.
Beyond that we must look to the entire world and especially the Global South both of which are suffering beyond belief from inflation and food shortages due to the US sanctions and the continuation of the war. Led by India, China and nations representing the overwhelming majority of humanity, the world has refused to respect the illegal sanctions. That leaves only the US and its European allies, former colonial powers, in supporting the US proxy war. It is not Russia but the US that is isolated.
The only shock about the UK Home Secretary’s decision regarding Julian Assange was that it did not come sooner. In April, Chief Magistrate Senior District Judge Paul Goldspring expressed the view that he was “duty-bound” to send the case to Priti Patel to decide on whether to extradite the WikiLeaks founder to the United States to face 18 charges, 17 grafted from the US Espionage Act of 1917.
Patel, for her part, was never exercised by the more sordid details of the case. Her approach to matters of justice is one of premature adjudication: the guilty are everywhere, and only multiply. When it came to WikiLeaks, such fine points of law and fact as a shaky indictment based on fabricated evidence, meditations on assassination, and a genuine, diagnosed risk of self-harm, were piffling distractions. The US Department of Justice would not be denied.
“Under the Extradition Act 2003,” a nameless spokesman for the Home Office stated, “the Secretary of State must sign an extradition order if there are no grounds to prohibit the order being made. Extradition requests are only sent to the Home Secretary once a judge decides it can proceed after considering various aspects of the case.”
Evidently, overt politicisation, bad faith, and flimsy reassurances from the US Department of Justice on how Assange will be detained, do not constitute sufficient grounds. But the cue came from the courts themselves, which have done a fabulous job of covering the US justice system with tinsel in actually believing assurances that Assange would not be facing special administrative detention measures (SAMs) or permanent captivity in the ADX Florence supermax in Colorado. “In this case, the UK courts have not found that it would be oppressive, unjust or an abuse of process to extradite Mr Assange.”
In such a scatterbrained, and amoral cosmos that marks decision making in the Home Office, no mention has been made of the surveillance operation against the publisher in the Ecuadorian embassy, orchestrated at the behest of the Central Intelligence Agency. None, either, of contemplated abduction or assassination, or the frail mental health Assange finds himself.
As late as June 10, a letter from the group Doctors for Assange, comprising 300 doctors, psychiatrists and psychologists, noted that the Home Secretary’s “denial of the cruel, inhuman treatment inflicted by upon Assange was then, and is even more so now, irreconcilable with the reality of the situation”.
In April, an umbrella grouping of nineteen organisations dedicated to press freedom and free speech urged Patel, in reviewing the case, to appreciate that Assange would “highly likely” face isolation or solitary confinement US conditions “despite the US government’s assurances, which would severely exacerbate the risk of suicide”.
The co-chairs of the Courage Foundation’s Assange Defense Committee, Noam Chomsky, Daniel Ellsberg and Alice Walker, reflected on the depravity of the order in a statement. “It is a sad day for western democracy. The UK’s decision to extradite Julian Assange to the nation that plotted to assassinate him – the nation that wants to imprison him for 175 years for publishing truthful information in the public interest – is an abomination.” As for the UK, it had “shown its complicity in this farce, by agreeing to extradite a foreigner based on politically motivated charges that collapse under the slightest scrutiny.”
Similar views were expressed by Amnesty International (“a chilling message to journalists the world over”) and Reporters Without Borders (“another failure by the UK to protect journalism and press freedom”). There was even concern from Conservative MP David Davis, who expressed his belief that Assange would not “get a fair trial.” The extradition law was, as matters stood, lopsided in favour of US citizens.
All this is consistent with Patel, who seems to relish the prospect of sending individuals to a place where human rights are marginal jottings on a policy paper. The UK-Rwanda Migration and Economic Partnership, as it is euphemistically termed, is her pride and joy, albeit one currently facing strenuous legal opposition.
Under the arrangement, individuals crossing the channel will receive one-way tickets to Rwanda to have their claims processed without a prospect of settling in the UK. The Rwandan government, hostile to contrarians, the rule of law and refugees, will be subsidised for their pain and labours.
To this sadistic streak can be added her admiration for the Espionage Act being used to prosecute Assange. This fact should have disqualified her in any country operating under the rule of law. Even as Prime Minister Boris Johnson faced a Conservative no-confidence vote this month, Patel’s National Security Bill passed its second reading in Parliament. The bill articulates an offence of “obtaining or disclosing protected information” that includes “any information… which either is, or could reasonably be expected to be, subject to any type of restrictions of access for protecting the safety and interests of the UK.”
In a polite nod of deference to US law, the proposed law states that an offence is committed when a person “obtains, copies, records or retains protected information, or discloses or provides access to protected information” for a purpose “that they know, or ought reasonably to know, is prejudicial to the safety or interests of the United Kingdom” and if “the foreign power condition is met”. The requirement there is that the act is “carried out for or on behalf of a foreign power”, including instances where “an indirect relationship” exists.
Assange has 14 days to appeal this insidious rubber stamping of judicially sanctioned brutality. His legal team are hoping to use the High Court as the route to highlight the political dimension of the case and draw attention back to the way the extradition law was read.
If the defence fail, Assange will be sent across the Atlantic, entrusted to officials, some of whom considered murdering him, to be made an example of. It will be the clarion call to regimes across the world that punishing a publisher is something supposed liberal democracies can do as well, and as deviously, as anybody else.
Part 2B. The Violence of Ukrainian Ultranationalists
We’ve been examining how threats to life are driving much of the violence of the current crisis in Ukraine. In the last part, we discussed how threats to Russian lives posed by the US and NATO have in turn provoked Russia to take military action. In this part, we’ll look at some of the threats to life within Ukraine itself, threats that Ukrainians feel from other Ukrainians, particularly the violence of ultranationalists.
Some Ukrainians have feared for their lives and safety because of Ukrainian extreme right-wing violence, a form of violence that seems to be aggressive and clearly criminal, since the targets of its violence appear to often be unarmed and non-violent. Groups such as the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists, the Svoboda Party—which used to be named the Social-National Party, Right Sector, Azov battalion, C14, the police regiments Dnipro 1 and Dnipro 2, and the Tornado, Donbass, and Aidar battalions are all linked with fascism and far right-wing violent extremism. Andriy Parubiy, the co-founder of Svoboda and Patriot of Ukraine, whose members became the core of Azov, reportedly regularly meets with Washington DC think tanks and politicians.1
As an aside, note that some consider fascism to be left-wing, rather than right-wing. It’s true that the very word Nazi comes from the words National Socialist, and the word “socialist” implies left-wing. However, others argue that while the Nazis were socialist in name, they were not socialist in action. In fact, the first groups that Hitler attacked and imprisoned were the left-wing political groups: socialists and Communists. Typically, Communism and socialism are considered left-wing, and fascism is considered right-wing.
For purposes of this essay, while I’ll continue to call them right-wing, it doesn’t matter to me whether you want to consider them left-wing or right-wing. A simple two-dimensional left-and-right line might not even be the best way to think about political viewpoints. But most importantly, my point in calling them far-right wing is not to disparage the right wing, or to suggest that the violence of the far-right wing is due to their being on the right wing. It’s due to their being “far,” which also doesn’t necessarily mean violent either.
Left-wing violence and left-wing dictatorships, such as that of a Communist totalitarian dictatorship, and right-wing violence and right-wing dictatorships, such as life under Chile’s Pinochet, are both horrendous, and they both violate the principles of left-wing and right-wing individuals who do not believe in such violence, dictatorship, or totalitarianism. Violence and aggression should be addressed with caring and concern and without bias, whether it is far-left wing or far-right wing. The deeper point is to address these groups, their aggressive ideas, their violence, and also their fears and grievances, no matter which side of the political spectrum they fall.
Perhaps in addition to the left-right horizontal line it would be more meaningful and purposeful to also draw a vertical line running through it and extending from cooperative, egalitarian non-violence at the top to dominating, hierarchical violence at the bottom so that there are four quadrants. Hopefully, whether we’re left or right, we can aim for the top.
It’s important to note that not all people in these groups are neo-Nazis, and perhaps some have views that are distinct in significant ways. Most or all of these groups do not formally embrace Nazi ideology. In fact, members of these groups have often vociferously denied that they are neo-Nazis. The label only angers them, and they explain that they are Ukrainian nationalists. At the same time, many of the groups do include some neo-Nazis in their membership. For example, in 2015 a spokesperson for the Azov battalion stated that 10 to 20 percent Azov’s recruits were neo-Nazis. The Svoboda Party supposedly expelled its neo-Nazi members when it was trying to transform its image and changed its name from the Social National Party to the Svoboda (Freedom) Party in 2018.
Perhaps a better term than neo-Nazi for these groups would be fascists, since Nazis are more specifically associated with Hitler’s Third Reich and perhaps many of these far-right-wing Ukrainians care much more about Ukraine than Hitler. An excellent article about the defining beliefs and fears of fascists is written by Dan Tamir, “When Jews Praised Mussolini and Supported Nazis: Meet Israel’s First Fascists.” 2 The article lists these defining characteristics of fascism: conviction of superiority of one’s group, a feeling of victimhood, feeling justified to commit any form of revenge, subjugation of the individual to the group, and belief in the supreme leader as having extraordinary, even divine or supernatural powers. Many also would include as a characteristic a repulsion to left-wing policies. While fascist beliefs are intolerant, ruthless, and violent, they appear to be goaded simultaneously by convictions of superiority and by fears and convictions of victimhood.
Not mentioned in the article is the idea that fascist governments are defined by some as existing when a strong, undemocratic tie exists between government and big business, so that government and businesses collaborate in harmful ways to serve each other’s purposes. To my knowledge, such collaboration is not something that’s being promoted by Ukraine’s far-right-wing violent extremists who seem extremely angered by the stealing, dishonesty, and corruption within government and the disproportionate power of oligarchs within the nation.
Many articles refer to Ukrainians’ violent far-right wing simply as ultranationalists, and this may be the best term for them, a type of extreme nationalism that includes violence and hatred towards those who are not of their ethnicity. But again, I don’t have access to any type of survey of these groups, and I don’t know whether they all look down on others or not. Most of all, it’s important to listen to the particulars of their beliefs. It would be a disservice to smear an entire group with the ideas and actions of its most violent and intolerant members, who may not even be representative of the entire group. In fact, in situations of conflict, this tactic, called pathological stereotyping, of defining and perceiving an entire group by the most repulsive behaviors and actions of unrepresentative members, is a tactic that only heightens misunderstanding and places harmony and reconciliation even farther out of reach. Of course, just because a group isn’t neo-Nazi doesn’t mean it’s harmless, non-violent, and just. It could be highly prejudiced, fascist, and violent whether it’s neo-Nazi or not.
With regard to US foreign policy, it’s critical to understand that US weapons and funding are helping, either intentionally or unintentionally, to support the behaviors of these violent Ukrainian extremists. It’s reportedly difficult to keep US aid and weapons from ending up in the hands of these groups. Yet these groups are not representative of the Ukrainian population as a whole. The Svoboda Party, for example, won 10 percent of the vote in 2015, and that was much more than it had ever gained. 3 In supporting these groups more than others, therefore, US policymakers can hardly say they’re supporting democracy within Ukraine. In fact, it’s impossible to help one side kill another side in a foreign nation’s civil war and call that assistance democratic and supportive of that nation’s population. Democracy involves caring equally for all, not obliterating the side you disagree with. For this reason, Biden’s sending weapons to Ukraine is an extremely undemocratic gesture. US policymakers try to make it seem democratic, as if the other side of the civil war is really a bunch of Russian puppets. But that’s not the truth of it.
With regard to the dangers from these groups in Ukraine, several articles, especially Lev Golinkin’s highly informative article in The Nation, provide much evidence. 4 Human rights groups, including Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and the UN, have reported and condemned rising far-right-wing paramilitary violence in Ukraine, including attacks on women’s rights marches, the LGBTQ community, and several attacks on the Romani (Gypsies), who were also the primary target of Hitler’s Nazis in terms of percentage of the ethnic group destroyed.5
The UN has accused the Azov regiment of violating international humanitarian law.5 Azov’s infliction of rape and torture in the Donbas region of Donetsk and Lugansk is documented for the years 2015–2016.6 Yet right-wing extremists from several nations on three continents, including the United States, have travelled to Ukraine to join with Azov. 7
In 2018, the far-right group C14 drove away a Romani community, chased Romani women and children, and burned down their tents. A few months later, using batons and other weapons, they attacked a Romani community, injured several, and killed one young Romani man. C14 was originally the youth wing of the Svoboda party. The seven suspects in the murderous attack were aged 16 and 17. 8
The UN insisted that Kiev cease persecution of the Romani, but months later, a human rights group reported that C14, in collaboration with Kiev’s police, was allegedly intimidating the Romani. Well prior to the 2014 coup, the BBC reported that Svoboda Party activists attacked and sprayed tear gas at a gay rights rally in Kiev. The party also was calling for a requirement that passports specify the holder’s ethnicity. 9
Meanwhile, at the start of the civil war in 2014, the Aidar battalion, referred to as a neo-Nazi battalion, fired weapons at a monastery and held 300 monks and other civilians hostage. 10 Amnesty International has documented cases of abuse it states were committed by Aidar in 2014 and are classified as war crimes, including extorting money, abducting, and beating Ukrainians suspected of collaborating with pro-Russian Ukrainians. Aidar’s leader himself honestly admitted, “‘I don’t deny people were looting there (in eastern Ukraine).’” The Tornado battalion, as well, was accused by Ukraine’s government of including about 40 members who have criminal records, though the types and severity of the crimes committed are not stated. The 2015 article states that eight members had been accused of crimes including rape, forcing captives to rape another man, murder, and smuggling.11
As Medea Benjamin and Nicolas J. S. Davies of Code Pink explain, the extreme right-wing Svoboda (Freedom) Party played a major role in Ukraine’s 2014 coup. The peaceful protests against the administration of President Viktor Yanukovich turned into violence, thanks to the armed behavior of the extreme right-wing Right Sector. 12 Russ Bellant, who has written about the ties of right-wing Nazi-collaborating Eastern European immigrants with US Republican Party campaigns since the 1950s, has stated that the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists, an intolerant, violent organization from the 1920s that backed the all-Ukrainian 14th Waffen SS Division during WWII, is behind the Svoboda Party, a party supported by the US government and a party that was a force within the 2014 coup. 13
In stating the reasons for Russia’s invasion, Putin referred to this violence and to the war crimes of Ukrainian extremists, but US media makers called his grievances phony. Putin referred to the inhumane blockades which prevented Russia’s humanitarian aid from reaching Donetsk and Lugansk. Russia also claimed that Kiev cut off utilities, including water, to the republics. Again, US politicians and their obedient media makers dismissed these fears as phony.
This denial of Putin’s and Russia’s fears is the same callous, dehumanizing disrespect for another’s fears and the same denial of suffering, assault, and violence that has been present towards the victims of other forms of US prejudice, including prejudice against women, Native Americans, Asian Americans, and African Americans, as well as less-recognized forms of prejudice within our systems and institutions against the rights and dignity of children, employees, and the non-wealthy.
A truly evolved society is one which can recognize its own prejudices, not merely in hindsight, but in the present, when groupthink and mainstream media are at their zenith in applauding prejudice, and particularly in times of conflict when prejudice is harnessed and fueled to justify violence and injustice against certain people deemed evil, dangerous, and morally inferior. When people truly think someone else is dangerous and malicious, prejudice, itself dangerous, suddenly seems moral and is allowed to grow like cancer, disguised as good but actually taking over one’s cells.
While US policy and media makers have been busy drowning truth in the stew of their prejudice, in 2014, Amnesty International accused the Dnipro-1 battalion of war crimes, including the use of starvation of civilians as a weapon of warfare. Amnesty also accused Dnipro-1 of blocking humanitarian aid. An Amnesty International official also described as a war crime the actions of the Dnipro, Aidar, and Donbas battalions in blocking food and clothing to Donetsk and Lugansk, regions where more than half the people depend upon food aid. Golinkin reports that six months after this accusation, US Senator John McCain visited Ukraine and praised Dnipro-1. 14 Articles from German and British news sites reported on Ukraine’s attacks in 2014 that damaged a power plant in Donetsk, thus cutting off access to water, and on Ukraine’s cutting off the electricity supply and funding to the republics in 2017.15
In addition to the blockades of food, water, electricity, and humanitarian aid, and in addition to the physical attacks, abuse also comes in the form of symbolism. The use of Nazi symbolism, such as swastikas and swastika-like symbols, has been on the rise—Golinkin refers to an “explosion” of swastiskas. Statues and streets have been dedicated to Ukrainians connected with the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists who massacred thousands of Jews and Poles and collaborated with Nazis during WWII. Right Sector, who formed the most militarized parts of the 2014 coup, included demonstrators who wore anti-Semitic symbols. At the same time, Jewish Holocaust memorials, Jewish centers, and Jewish cemeteries have been vandalized and at least one synagogue was firebombed.
Verbal abuse against minorities has also escalated. Golinkin reports that torchlight marches celebrating Nazi collaborators have become a routine feature under the post-coup Ukrainian government. In a march in 2017 honoring Stepan Bandera, the former leader of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists, thousands chanted, “Jews out!” Other forms of verbal abuse, such as by right-wing members of parliament, have been coarse, vulgar, and threatening towards minorities such as Jews and Russians. A politician, Golinkin reports, regretted that Hitler hadn’t annihilated the Jews completely. These remarks and these statements of goals are made without repercussions.
Hatred against Russia has become venomous amongst far right-wing extremists. One article reported that a Ukrainian man was attacked simply for speaking Russian. In 2015, Reuters quoted a member of the St. Mary’s battalion who stated that he’d like to create a Christian “Taliban” to reclaim eastern Ukraine and Crimea. “‘I would like Ukraine to lead the crusades. . . .Our mission is not only to kick out the occupiers, but also revenge. Moscow must burn.’”
In 2012, the European Parliament passed a resolution asking Kiev not to associate with the Svoboda Party due to its racist, xenophobic, and anti-Semitic views. But after the 2014 coup, Svoboda Party members were appointed to about one-quarter of the Cabinet positions in the interim government. One Svoboda Party member even assaulted a Ukrainian state TV station merely for broadcasting a speech given by Putin. In 2014, NBC reported that the party’s goals listed on its website included preserving Ukraine’s national identity, protecting Ukraine’s “living space”—the lingo used by Hitler, and criminalizing any displays of “Ukrainophobia.” 16 In other words, it’s okay to be fearful or even hateful and violent towards Russians, Jews, feminists, and gays, but it’s not cool to be fearful, hateful, or violent towards heterosexual male ethnic Ukrainians.
Israel itself has publicly requested Kiev to stop the epidemic of anti-Semitism. In 2018, the World Jewish Congress, the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, and 57 members of the US Congress denounced this Nazi glorification and anti-Semitism emanating from Kiev. Golinkin reports that, while many Ukrainian Jewish leaders supported the anti-corruption protests in 2014, 41 Ukrainian Jewish leaders have since condemned the growth of anti-Semitism. 17
The connections between violent far-right extremists, including neo-Nazis, and Ukraine’s government and legal apparatus are disturbing. Neo-Nazis work in Ukraine’s police, national guard, and military, which is said to be the reason why far-right-wing violence in the streets is given impunity. The Azov battalion was incorporated into Ukraine’s National Guard in 2014 to become the Azov regiment. Shortly after the 2014 coup, the US began equipping and training Ukraine’s National Police, which is under the jurisdiction of Ukraine’s Ministry of the Interior, a cabinet post given to Vadim Troya, a veteran of Azov and Patriot of Ukraine. 18 Volunteer battalions have received some of their weapons from Ukraine’s Defense Ministry and others from oligarchs. Al-Jazeera’s article states that Petro Poroshenko, Ukraine’s president at the time, praised Azov when it was integrated into the National Guard in 2014 as “our best warriors.”
Yet, while the post-coup Ukrainian government seems to have directly supported these groups and has also been accused by human rights organizations of ignoring their violence, at the same time, at least back in 2015, the post-coup Ukrainian government itself saw many of these volunteer unofficial battalions or certain criminal members within them as problematic. The Reuters article from 2015 pointed out that President Poroshenko stated that these illegal groups must disarm because they’re threatening to make the country even more unstable than it already is. He also stated that groups could not be both politically involved in government and also militant; they could only be one or the other, presumably because militant vigilantism in Ukraine is allowed only in order to support Ukraine’s police and protect the Ukrainian population as a whole, not a particular political party.
The Ukrainian Minister of the Interior and Ukraine’s military prosecutor were both intent on weeding out the criminal elements within these volunteer battalions and prosecuting them for crimes. However, as the article from 2015 reveals, hostility has occurred between these far-right wing groups and the Ukrainian government and police. Extremists are angered that the revolution of 2014 has still not been completed and that corruption still exists. They’ve also been angered by the government’s attempt to dismantle them. Right Sector and the police even had a shoot-out. Far-right-wing extremists poured manure in front of the office of Ukraine’s military prosecutor. 19
While the Ukrainian government is accused of collaborating with neo-Nazis by bringing the Azov regiment into military service, it’s possible that this was part of an attempt to control Azov. The 2015 Reuters article states that the Ukraine government, in an effort to bring Aidar and other volunteer battalions under control, ordered Aidar to reform into the 24th assault battalion as part of Ukraine’s official forces. In 2015, Aidar members were lighting tires on fire in front of Ukraine’s Department of the Interior in protest of government attempts to disband them. Therefore, incorporating them into official forces may have been an attempt to disempower their criminal elements while empowering their non-criminal elements. 20 Even Poroshenko’s praise could have been intended to be aimed at the non-criminal aspects of Azov, as a way of helping them to feel proud of being a part of the official forces and more inclined to stay non-criminal.
Clearly, ultranationalist violence has been an enormous, complicated problem for many in Ukraine. Since US media is so one-dimensional and narrow in scope, it’s not clear that US weapon shipments are something that most Ukrainian leaders would even advocate, given the consequences of building up the violent capabilities of far-right-wing extremists. Nonetheless, with brazen falseness and stuffing its ears to Putin’s, Israel’s, Ukrainian civilians’, and the Ukrainian government’s severe concerns, with callousness that denies the suffering of victims of neo-Nazi and other far-right-wing violence, American “experts” deny the whole problem by first inflating these accusations of neo-Nazism and far-right-wing extremist violence into an accusation that the entire government of Ukraine is neo-Nazi, and then by rejecting that accusation as ridiculous.
So-called US “experts” persist in “educating” Americans by uttering with unwarranted confidence the simple-minded argument that it’s impossible for Ukraine’s government to be neo-Nazi or to collaborate with neo-Nazis because Ukraine’s President Zelenskiy is Jewish. Infographics, which repetitively derides Russia and Putin with relish throughout the program, mocks Putin’s accusation of neo-Nazism within Ukraine’s government by stating that the idea of a Jewish president leading a Nazi government is “not only blatantly false…but ridiculous.” The tone of the narrator is meant to assure us that Infographics has accurately explained Putin’s concerns and validly denied its foundations.21
Other US “experts” and scholars also dismiss neo-Nazism, claiming it is no more a problem in Ukraine than in other nations. They seem to forget that the neo-Nazis and other far-right extremists in Ukraine are being armed with US and NATO heavy weaponry to fight on the front lines in Donetsk and Lugansk. Moreover, Ukraine is the only nation in the world with a neo-Nazi formation in its armed forces.22
And if neo-Nazism has no more power in Ukraine than any other nation, then why were Ukraine and the US the only two nations that voted against the Feb. 2022 UN resolution to condemn the glorification of Nazism? In his July 2021 essay, Putin points out that Ukraine has repeatedly voted against past attempts to pass this resolution. In 2022, the resolution was passed with 130 nations voting in favor, 51—including the entire EU—abstaining, and only 2 voting against it: Ukraine and the US.23 The US supported its decision by falsely claiming that the resolution was a thinly veiled attempt by Russia to serve as fraudulent cover for its actions in Ukraine. This denial of neo-Nazi violence, vandalism, and symbolic, verbal, and physical abuse is maddening. Perhaps US policymakers should speak with the human rights groups and the victims of assault, rape, and robbery that have condemned neo-Nazi violence in Ukraine.
With its typical spineless sense of morality, the US government briefly forbade US support and training to Azov in 2015 but then lifted the ban in 2016, under some sort of unknown pressure from the Pentagon.24(US foreign policy is always made by this “pressure,” not by informed, cooperative thought and discussion.) The very presence of the Azov battalion on the front lines of war in Donetsk and Lugansk is yet one more factor that provoked Russia to invade Ukraine to protect Ukrainians from horror.
Nonetheless, with a sense of logic matching its sense of morality, US policymakers decided that Azov, whose violent presence was helping attract a Russian invasion, wasn’t so bad after all since it was fighting the invading Russians. Of course, perhaps US policymaker logic is the same as US National Security Adviser Brzezinski’s logic in 1979: arming the mujahideen in Afghanistan is a great idea because it will provoke the Soviets to invade and get mired in their own “Vietnam.” 25
It seems US policymakers are going to extremes to both support neo-Nazism and other forms of far-right-wing violence and also to deny its existence as a significant force in Ukraine, a behavior so peculiar that it deserves more attention. The use of President Zelenskiy’s Jewish ethnicity as “proof” of the lack of neo-Nazism as a force in Ukraine’s government and society is illogical on many levels. Of course, it’s understandable that Americans equate Nazism solely with anti-Semitism, since that’s pretty much all that’s emphasized in the US. We certainly don’t learn about Hitler’s viciousness towards socialists, Communists, the Romani, and Slavs in general—such knowledge would not have been conducive to fueling American Cold War anti-Soviet fear and hatred. And we certainly don’t learn about Jewish fascism as it exists in the form of Jewish Revisionism.
Beginning in the 1920s, Jewish Revisionists, perhaps psychologically traumatized by their own family backgrounds experiencing pogroms in Eastern Europe, believed in the necessity of the ruthless use of force to achieve their goals of Israeli statehood. Ironically, Jewish Revisionists admired Hitler and sought to collaborate with the Axis powers to rid themselves of Britain’s attempts to equitably manage and remedy the fact that enormous numbers of impoverished Arabs were not only being economically threatened by rising Jewish immigration but were being pushed out of Palestine.
So while Britain was attacking Nazi Germany which was slaughtering Jews, the Jewish Revisionists’ Irgun, at one point led by future Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin, and the Stern Gang, at one point led by future Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, launched terrorist campaigns against British personnel and Arab civilians. 26 The Irgun was a political predecessor of today’s Likud party in Israel, strongly supported by US policymakers who, in turn, receive financial contributions from pro-Likud lobbyists of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). 27
Ukraine’s President Zelenskiy is not necessarily fascist. He could simply be under pressure to cooperate with the extreme right-wing. But the point in mentioning this aside about Jewish fascists in Israel is to prove even further that this US “expert” claim that a Jewish president cannot exist or even collaborate with neo-Nazis within the same government is false.
So you have to wonder, if this US expert claim is false, what else is false? And why are Americans making up false stories? Is their argument against Russia and against Putin too shaky to stand on its own without lies?
Ukrainian fears for life from attack by far-right-wing violent extremists—both before and after the 2014 coup—are valid fears that deserve attention, not denial. At the same time, as we follow the Paradigm for Peace model which entails seeking to understand and analyze the Defensive and Aggressive Roots of Violence on all sides of conflict, we must also learn whether these far-right groups, including neo-Nazis, have feared for their own lives and safety.
One of the worst things to do to people is simply to condemn them without even trying to understand their fears and their point of view. It’s also poor human relations to condemn an entire group based upon the worst behavior of its members, if those members’ actions are not representative of the group’s typical behavior. We need to learn whether these ultranationalist groups hold legitimate grievances or even certain legitimate aspects of grievances that should be addressed.
For example, why do these groups attack the Romani? Is it possible that any members of these groups have been threatened in major or minor ways by the Romani? Were ultranationalists’ lives threatened? Or property? Or feelings? If so, were the offending Romani acting typically for Romani, or were they more poorly behaved than most? If so, why should an entire camp be attacked? To what extent are attacks on Romani simply a way for ultranationalists to fulfill certain psychological needs that are otherwise unmet? Such as needs for identity and superiority? Can we talk about this?
For those grievances that prove to be largely illegitimate, irrational, or immoral, we need to figure out which forces and circumstances in culture created those perspectives, for these people, while inflicting suffering upon others, seem to be suffering in their own way. So much rage and hate must be difficult to endure. And be sure not to confuse sending weapons to these groups with solving these groups’ problems, for the weapons are not solving their problems and are only making them capable of worse crimes, which will, in turn, make their cause and their very existence appear even more illegitimate.
In her work, Women of the Klan, Kathleen Blee shows how Ku Klux Klan members in the 1920s truly thought of themselves as good people. It’s important to understand this and find out why. Highly-prejudiced, violent extremist groups such as the KKK do have underlying fears, not necessarily about their lives, but often about their economic security, values and morality in society, their social standing in society, and their personal value.28) They tend to irrationally blame their problems on entire categories of people of certain ethnic groups, religions, or socioeconomic classes other than their own. Without excusing or supporting right-wing or left-wing extremists’ violence and callous hatred, we’ve got to listen to their fears and see if they possess certain legitimate grievances that can be alleviated or simply irrational fears that also need to be addressed.
In order to understand why right-wing Ukrainians honor Ukrainians who collaborated with Nazis during WWII and massacred thousands of Jews and Poles, we might also try to understand the rational and irrational fears of those WWII Ukrainians, such as the all-Ukrainian SS unit, who committed the murders. Is it possible that these Ukrainians felt, correctly or not, that their lives were endangered by Jews and Poles? If so, to what extent was this feeling a result merely of propaganda?
In the course of my research and writing, I’ve run the Paradigm for Peace model through the circumstances of Nazi Germany, and it’s easy to see that German Nazism emerged from severe threats to life, power, wealth, land, love, worth, and respect from WWI, the Treaty of Versailles, the Great Depression, and unequal international relationships of power, wealth, and trade. Nazi views about Jews and Communists and German convictions that Hitler was a man of peace fighting on the defense against aggressors, resulted from heavy, lengthy doses of propaganda.29 Not only that, US banks, law firms, and businesses directly helped build up Hitler’s arsenal.30 To what extent were Ukrainian Nazi collaborators during WWII and to what extent are ultranationalist Ukrainians today experiencing these same types of threats, these same types of propaganda, and these same types of access to weapons? To what extent are Americans?
Obviously, the point is not to understand to the point of agreeing that Jews and Poles should be murdered or that certain people are inferior. The point is to discover how these extremists have felt threatened, even if only psychologically, even if only as the result of propaganda, in order to help them feel physically, emotionally, socially, and psychologically safe without having to resort to violence or injustice, in order to help prevent people from ever experiencing such fears and frustrations and from ever feeling the need to respond to fears and frustrations so violently. As repulsive as it might seem to various people to try to understand neo-Nazis, or Russians, or US policymakers, it’s critical not to exclude any group from our efforts to understand fears and hopes and the forces in society that have shaped these minds.
While all fears cannot be remedied in conflict resolution and cooperative negotiation, especially since some may originate in the physical and emotional insecurities of childhood dynamics, school and community dynamics, or personal biologies, and while perfect understanding and harmony is impossible, these efforts, unlike weapon-corporation-sponsored efforts and good-guy-killing-evil-guy efforts, could actually move us forward instead of backward. Moreover, if some American, Ukrainian, or Russian fears are more irrational and are rooted, not in actual current threatening circumstances, but rather more deeply in the stress, trauma, threats, frustrations, or alienation of childhood or community dynamics, in the skewed information developed by propaganda, or in the skewed mentalities festering within certain organizational cultures, such an analysis can point to the need for reforms in societies’ priorities and traditions of human relations to help humans grow and develop with much more social and emotional security, caring, and friendship and with respect for the truth as something to seek, not contort.
Kathleen M. Blee, Women of the Klan: Racism and Gender in the 1920s, (Berkeley and Los Angeles: Univ. of California, 1992
Ian Kershaw, The “Hitler Myth”: Image and Reality in the Third Reich (Oxford: Oxford University, 1987).
Christopher Simpson, The Splendid Blond Beast: Money, Law, and Genocide in the Twentieth Century (New York: Grove Press, 1993), 48, 63-65; and Stephen Kinzer, The Brothers: John Foster Dulles, Allen Dulles, and Their Secret World War” (New York: St. Martin’s Griffin, 2013), 38-39, 50-51.
In 1984 at the age of 36, I decided to return to school with the intention of becoming an art therapist. I attended Antioch University in San Francisco for my undergraduate degree and then went to a New Age spirituality school the following year for my master’s degree (California Institute of Integral Studies). At the time, Carl Jung, Mircea Eliade, and Joseph Campbell were treated as if they were gods. On the surface, it seemed like a good fit for me. After all, as an art therapist I could work with images, and Jungians were all about images. I was attracted to the prospect of making images not as art-for-art’s-sake, but in the service of spirituality or even pagan magic. Mircea Eliade was the guru of comparative religion. He wrote a 3 volume set on A History of Religious Ideas and like Jung, he thought modern life was a degeneration from ancient or even tribal times. Most likeable of all was Joseph Campbell. I mean, watching him on Bill Moyers, what’s not to like? I was thrilled by the sweep of his Hero with a Thousand Faces and I read his four-volume comparative mythology. I read all these books before I re-entered college, so I knew exactly what I was getting into. But there was a fly in the ointment. I was (and am) a materialist Marxist and had no intention of giving that up. Plus, I went to school in very conservative times, five years into Reagan’s two years of presidencies. It wasn’t until later that I realized how politically conservative Jung, Eliade and Campbell actually were. Further, thanks to Robert Ellwood’s book The Politics of Myth, I realized that they were all anti-Communist as well. This article is about Ellwood’s book. Besides Ellwood, other sources for this article are The Jung Cult and the Aryan Christ, both by Richard Noll.
Why was right-wing mythology attractive in post-World World II Yankeedom?
After World War II, there was an upsurge of interest in mythology in the United States. Why was this? Mythology is typically associated with time periods that are prior to the 19th century – the Greeks, the Romans, or the Renaissance. It seemed that the philosophy of the Enlightenment had buried mythology as another indicator that the days of conventional religion, magic and storytelling were over. But the industrialization process, along with two world wars and the rise of fascism seemed to put a damper on Enlightenment dreams for Europe. Not only this, but myth was used by European countries throughout the 19th centuries to build nationalist sentiments to fuel the war. Myth was an expression of the connection between collective humanity (not individuals) and an animated spiritualized nature (not inert). Myth is experienced through imagination, intuition, poetic stories, and rites. There was an anti-Christian, anti-Jewish strain since both these mainstream religions were modernist and rejected myth for history. “Now we see where history has led us”, the mythologists might say. If the modern world was fallen, the shortest road to paradise might lead backward to the Middle Ages, the ancient world or even to tribal societies.
It is completely understandable that Europeans might be drawn to myth because of the casualties, whether or not they won or lost the war. After all, these mass murders were achieved with modern weapons. But why would myth become popular in the United States that was on the winning side of the war and had suffered few causalities comparatively speaking? All three mythologists developed a following in the United States. In addition, the United States was anti-communist in the 1950s. Communism was associated with the “progress” orientation of the modern world. Why would the Yankee population reject both liberal modernity and communist modernity? The answer is that it was only the upper and upper-middle classes in Yankeedom that was enthralled with mythology. The middle and working classes were satisfied with their traditional religions.
Is myth inevitably associated with the right wing?
A second issue worth discussing is the politics of myth. All three mythologists we study – Jung, Eliade and Campbell – were associated with the extreme right. Why is this? Is there something about socialism that makes it less possible to use mythology? Some may say that the further to the left you go on the political spectrum the more skeptical people become about religion or mythology. But Jung, Eliade, and Campbell would argue that myth is not a stage of social evolution, nor does it occupy a particular place on the political spectrum. They would say myth is a set of rites and stories present in all societies. If we take this to be true, that will mean myth would be operative across the entire political spectrum. In other words, it doesn’t explain why the left has not used myth more.
Commonalities Among Post-World War II Mythologists
Condemning the secular Enlightenment
All three mythologists had major problems with the beliefs and institutions of modernity. They each thought Enlightenment secularism, empiricism, and rationality was responsible for the sad shape the world was in during their time. Jung thought that without spiritual institutions, the darker side of humanity runs rampant. He believed that this is true because this dark side is not sublimated through spiritual practices such as ritual enactments and mythic storytelling. The two world wars were the result of the collective unconscious run amok. Were people in touch with their mythological roots, and brought them to life regularly, they would not act them out in wars.
Western science is guilty of hubris
All mythologists implicate science in the state of the world because science is guilty of hubris in thinking that humanity can chart its own course. Quantitative measurement, statistics, probability, rationality, and objectivity took the heart and soul out of life. Personal experience, storytelling, use of imagination, and appreciation of mystery were left high and dry in this type of world.
The Jewish nature of capitalism
Another modern institution these mythologists condemned was capitalism. Capitalism hollowed out and commercialized religious holidays. While none of these mythologists were pro capitalist, it is easy to imagine that Joseph Campbell might support the pre-corporate capitalism of small traders. What is more important is that all three tended to connect capitalism to the Jews. Instead of critically examining the economic system of capitalism, they blamed the Jews in subtle ways for the spiritual poverty of the West. It is almost as if they were implying that if it wasn’t for the Jews, capitalism would be fine.
Perennial esoteric spirituality
However, to these mythologists, not all spiritual institutions are equally valuable. All three mythologists were, in different ways, hostile to the Jewish and Christian religion. All believed they were complicit in creating modernist problems. These religions denied the importance of spiritual experience and were marred in thin superstitious rituals and material wealth. Their sacred presences that were simplistic dualities of good and evil and they failed to address complexities of modern life. Mythological stories are really complex stories and solutions to common human problems that have been lost, marginalized, and demonized by Western religion. All three mythologists were followers of a spiritual Gnostic tradition which claims there is a hidden spiritual knowledge that the ancients were aware of but which had been lost, thanks to modernity. This Gnostic tradition teaches that the material world is unreformable and it is better to withdraw from it in order to perfect itself. The Gnostics believed that exoteric religion was institutionalized religion for the masses and they thought the Enlightenment was right to criticize them. However, all religion has an esoteric hidden teaching that contains the best of all religion and was followed by the great prophets of all these religions.
Though Jungian spirituality is highly idiosyncratic, it is fair to say that Jung admired what he imagined to be pre-Christian German paganism. If James Hillman is any indicator, Jungian psychology is a modern version of the archetypal, polytheistic psychology of the Renaissance. The roots of Eliade’s religious beliefs are Hindu’s and Vedanta’s tradition of yoga. According to Robert Elwood, Campbell flirted with Hindu traditions but ultimately settled with the pagan traditions in the West, from Homer to the Holy Grail. He also loved Native American mythology.
Scholarship lacks time and space grounding
In terms of scholarship, all three mythologists were interested in literary mythology as opposed to folklore. Not surprisingly, they all were influenced by the German romantics – Herder, Schelling, and Wilhelm Wundt. As might be expected by their rejection of science, all three mythologists were criticized by anthropologists and history scientists for their universalizing religious symbols, myths, and rituals. None of them did fieldwork or research in philology, textural studies. More importantly, all three were notorious for decontextualizing mythology from the technological, economic, and political circumstances in which myths were formed. In other words, these mythologists abstracted and compared myths independently of the time and place in which they occurred. They were opposed to any notion of cultural evolution. They saw no pattern of myths as they evolved over time and space. Since myths are supposedly eternal the time and place they occurred in was irrelevant.
To be a reactionary means to want to return to an earlier time politically. This is a common theme of all romantics. Where do these mythologists want to go? Ellwood argued that Jung wants to return to a medieval time in which all the world was a sacred symbol, where people knew how to do rituals, and when storytelling was meaningful rather than hollow. Eliade yearns for the 19th century Romanian Renaissance of peasant culture. Campbell’s ideal time seems to be during the period of pioneers, cowboys, and native Americans before they all were overshadowed by cities, industry, and commerce.
In the world of practical politics, Jung was initially sympathetic to the Nazis in the early years, but soon regretted it. Likewise, Eliade had connections with the fascist Romanian Iron Guard in the 30s but withdrew from them around 1940. Ellwood says that Joseph Campbell was easily the most right-wing of the three. Even by 1940 he was slow in understanding the destructiveness of the Nazis. As a teacher at Sarah Lawrence, he also was not supportive of racial minorities and feminism in the 1960s and threatened to fail students if they went to protests. Ellwood characterizes Campbell as to the right of William Buckley. All three mythologists were anti-communists with Campbell being the most extreme. The influences on all three mythologists were either fascists or conservatives including Nietzsche, Sorel, Ortega y Gasset, Spengler, Heidegger Frobenius, and Thomas Mann.
Interestingly, the publisher of both Campbell’s and Jung’s work, Bollington, was owned by Paul Mellon, and related to Andrew Mellon. Given the conservative tendencies of Jung and Campbell, it is not surprising that they found so much money to “spread their word” at a time of rabid anti-communism in the fifties. Norbert Frye did much to make mythic analysis of Shakespeare and other literature an academic fashion.
All three lost credibility in the sixties as many people were breaking away from the individualism these mythologists supported. They were becoming more political and more critical of the capitalism Mellon lived and died by. It wasn’t until the mid 1970s when the country turned more conservative and the New Age grew during the counterculture that Jung, Eliade and Campbell regained popularity.
Carl Gustav Jung and Wotan’s Return
Despite his dabblings into anthropology, (Totem and Taboo and Moses and Monotheism) Freud was interested in the unconscious primarily as it related to the individual. But after Jung’s break with Freud in 1913, Jung underwent a spiritual crisis. He recovered, in part due to his experience of the unconscious that he perceived as collective. Whole nations and races had their own collective unconscious that could be tapped through their mythology and rites. Jung drew from a volkish German tradition that included sun worshiping movements as well as spiritualism and theosophy.
For Jung, the type of society had no independence from the psychological states of humanity. The type of human society was no more than a screen on which to project the storm and stresses of the soul of the group. This meant that the Germans had a collective unconscious as did the French, Italians, and the Spanish. Whether the society was tribal, feudal, or industrial capitalist was irrelevant. In the modern world the collective unconscious is repressed because religious rituals have lost their power and had been hollowed out by science, industrialization, and capitalism.
With the rise of cities and mass communication at the end of the 19th century, local communities were broken up. Masses of humanity became isolated, living next to each other without the community rituals that allowed them to maintain rhythm with the natural cycles of life. According to Ellwood, Jung agreed with Ortega y Gasset that there was a vast cloud of unreleased collective energy which accumulated with no rituals, symbols, or storytelling to ground the instincts and channel it into constructive outlets. The result is that when modern revolts, crazes, and fads emerge they combine the worst of tribal and modern life.
As a conservative, Jung favored order, stability, and hierarchy. In his collective unconscious he had plenty of room for kings, queens, and warrior archetypes. Beyond his Swiss borders, he sometimes expressed admiration for Franco in Spain and Mussolini in Italy. Jung was very hostile to socialism and the prospect of levelling hierarchies. But the most controversial of all were Jung’s political attitude towards the Nazis. On the one hand, Ellwood tells us:
Most German protestant pastors (Jung’s ultimate roots) welcomed the accession of Hitler. They generally despised the Weimar regime for its cosmopolitan atheist or agnostic culture.
German volkish literature had broad distribution in Switzerland and its anti-Semitism was widespread.
Nazi groups and sympathizers within Germany were present in Swiss cities and towns.
Switzerland was bound economically to the Axis cause. Some 97% of Swiss exports went to Germany. Nazis had arrangements with Swiss banks.
Jung clearly had an anti-Jewish streak (as he did toward Christianity) and this was a foundation for his paganism. Jung talked about the rootlessness of Jewish intellectuals.
The Jew was domesticated to a higher degree than we are, but he is badly at a loss for that quality in man which roots him to the earth and draws new strength from below—a chthonic quality (57).
The Jews had a:
tendency of consciousness to autonomy with the risk of severing it almost entirely from its instinctual sources. (64)
The untimeliness of his writing about racial psychology at a time when millions of Jews were being slaughtered by Nazis says a great deal about Jung’s attitudes towards Jews. The weight of his authority and timing could only fan the flames of hatred of the Jews.
Qualifications about Jung’s anti-Jewish stance
To be fair to Jung, it is difficult for anyone to understand the full implications of a political movement when it is still in formation. Even people in the political center were sympathetic to the Nazis before they rose to power. The same is true for those who were initially supportive of the Soviet Union. Liberal intellectuals like John Dewey and Bertrand Russell were sympathetic to Russia. In the case of John Dewey, he maintained his sympathy as late as 1929 and well into the Stalinist era. Jung showed a very surprising lack of psychological depth in understanding the Nazi potential for mass violence. On the surface, the Nazis seemed to strive to undercut the alienation of mass society but instead returning to community roots. It is not so far-fetched to get behind this. By the beginning of World War II, Jung had recovered and was opposed to the Nazis.
The upsurge of the pagan god Wotan, like an extinct volcano roaring back to fiery life through National Socialism, could have given Jung a glimmer of hope since connections were culturally between the conscious and unconscious. This must have been a welcome relief to the thin modernistic anxiety of the Weimar republic.
We have to consider that Germany was home to some of the greatest scientists, philosophers, painters, and musicians for the last 300 years – Fichte, Kant, Hege and Leibniz. It was the home of the great science and industrial power that Germany became between 1850 and 1900. It is not far-fetched to think that whatever the Nazis were stirring up, it could be contained and integrated by the great traditions of Germany. Germany was a very civilized nation by European standards and by the end of the 19th century the envy of France and Britain.
If Jung were completely anti-Jewish, he wouldn’t have helped individual Jews such as Erich Neuman to escape.
No political scientist, natural scientist, philosopher, or artist can control what is done with their work. The Nazis made propagandic use of Jung, banning books and articles that were against them, and giving great attention to his writing that supported them. Whatever his upper-class public connections were, those connections were not strong enough to compete with the likes of the propaganda minister, Joseph Goebbels.
After World War II, Jung seemed to learn from his mistakes and there was no further mention in his work about earth-rootedness and lost communalism. Paradoxically, Jung became preoccupied with individuation, a very modernist conception he previously condemned.
Ellwood suggests that a truer picture of Jung’s political position was that of the conservative Edmund Burke. Like he, Burke of A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origins of our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful, Jung was a romantic rather than a classicist. Unlike a classicist who held that what is most beautiful and what is tame, clear, and self-evident, Jung believed that it was the sublime that mattered – what is striking, irregular and mysterious.
Mircea Eliade and Nostalgia for the Sacred
Mircea Eliade led a tempestuous life in Romania for the first 38 years of his life. According to Ellwood, among other things he was a prolific and provocative newspaper columnist; a novelist whose works were praised extravagantly and denounced as pornographic; a dynamic lecturer at the University of Bucharest who virtually established the history of religions and Indology as disciplines; a political activist who was accused of fascism and a political prisoner for four months for his loyalties under the royal dictatorship of King Carol II.
Ellwood claims Eliade was the best known and most controversial of the passionate young Romanian intellectuals of his generation. He fled Romania after it became a satellite of the Soviet Union in 1945. In 1945 he taught at the Sorbonne in Paris, and then from 1956 on at the University of Chicago. In these roles he become the preeminent historian of religion of his time.
Rejection of secularism
Of the three mythologists, Eliade was the most uncompromising in rejecting the secular world. He rejected the scientific study of religion and its history and did not work to join with other scholars in their efforts to make religious studies in any way empirical. He thought the entire secular world is a poor cousin to the most important aspirations of life which are religious. For Eliade, ordinary means of knowledge based on the five senses are not only flawed but really spread a veil of maya (or illusion) over our knowledge of reality. He saw himself as a caretaker of spirituality in a secular age. In the spirit of Indian idealism he saw the sacred, timeless as rich in being and the secular world as historical and degenerate.
Sacred space and time
To the secular, Eliade contrasted another kind of time, sacred time which is myth, not history. Myth foretells for us the re-enactment of the eternal time of Origins. Sacred space is the location where these myths are enacted. Geographically they are in the silent core of the whirling arms of the galaxies of secular life. In ancient civilizations the founding of a city was where the four directions met. In other words, the “heart” of downtown. These are the sacred places where myths are created. Mandalas, mazes, or labyrinths of medieval Christianity help us to experience these centers of the world. These are devices for grounding consciousness.
History as an exile from eternity
Eliade believed that to live in a historical time and place was to live under fallen conditions. Mystical experience was to live beyond history and place. It is tempting to think that premodern societies were more akin to Eliade’s vision. But Eliade tells us that even primitive societies did not live in mythic time. They too saw mythic time as located in the misty past and they were living in degenerate times. However, they were at least committed at the beginning of every year to performing a ritual which restored mythic time and place. Eliade thought that the historical religions lost a sense of how to do this:
What I am sure of is that any future forms of religious experience will be quite different from those we are familiar with in Christianity, Judaism, or Islam, all of which are fossilized, outmoded, and drained of all meaning (116)
Reasons for an anti-historical approach
As a result of World War I, Romania experienced a kind of national renaissance. They had regained a number of provinces which were historically Romanian and this greatly enlarged their territory and population. In 1932, there began a time of intense struggle in Romania and across Europe as the fascist right and communist left battled each other for control of the continent. Some wanted Romania to liberalize, become more cosmopolitan and follow the lead of the Enlightenment. Eliade and his friends wanted no part of this. For them, Western liberalism would hollow out the Romanian national spirit. The peasants would be left out along with Orthodox Romanians. Liberal nationalism would also hollow out the mythological and symbolic dimensions of nationalism. Lastly the corruption and incompetence of the shallow democratic monarchy that ruled Romania in those days helped to make Eliade skeptical of liberalism.
Eliade had thus experienced the terror of the failure of historical events to turn out as he and his generation had wished them. Strenski, in Thinking about Religion, suggests that Romania’s historical catastrophe might well have been influential in either reinforcing or initially shaping his later thought about religion because the history in Romania had been a disaster for Eliade. Speaking about World War Eliade wrote “Today the master of all of us is the war. It has confiscated the whole of contemporary history, the time in which we are fated to live. Even when we’re alone we think about the war all the time. That is, we’re slaves of history.”
Within history’s wreckage, it would not be far-fetched for someone like Eliade, who had internalized both yogic methods of attaining higher knowledge as well as Nae Ionescu’s irrational contempt for ordinary means of attaining knowledge, to feel that he could access higher and deeper ways of understanding religious data and escaping history.
Societies that deny myth have violent consequences
Like Jung, Eliade thought that myth is present in societies even when these societies deny its power. In fact, societies which ignore storytelling, rituals, and the acting out of instinctual drives are drenched with violence because the proper grounding in these processes are denied. He says that those on trial in the Soviet trials were like archetypal gods in archaic societies. Eliade challenges Marxism’s standing as a secular science and claims it an aggressively prophetic and polemical theology. Their hope for a communist Paradise in the future is really a projection of the wish for a politics of nostalgia for an egalitarian past.
Scholarship lack’s space and time constraints
Like Jung, Eliade’s claims for mythic experience rides roughshod over any kind of social evolution or cross-cultural differences. Eliade mushes together shamanism from all over the world and in different historical settings into a single religious experience. The shamanism of hunter-gatherers is the same as those of people in agricultural states to him. It doesn’t matter whether shamanism in practiced in Indonesia or Africa, it’s all the same experience. There is no sense that there is any evolution from shamanism to practicing yoga, or that the effects of social class may have anything to do with religious practice. Like Jung and Campbell, Eliade cherry-picks which will show commonalities while ignoring cross-cultural and historical variation. He will treat all examples as uncritically equal from a range of sources and cultural contexts.
Flirting with fascism?
The Legion of the Archangel Michael was a political and spiritual movement with fascist and anti-Jewish leanings powerful in Romania during the 1930s. The Legion came to be better known as the pro-Nazi Iron Guard, founded in 1927. It was a movement dedicated to cultural and national renewal by an appeal to the spiritual roots of Romanian people. The Iron Guard’s spiritual, romantic, spiritual, and mythic propaganda was attractive to Eliade. Unlike comparable fascist type movements in Italy and Germany, the Legion was explicitly Christian, like Romania’s Eastern Orthodox Church. The Jews were not only hated as unpopular financiers and foreign intruders but also as godless Bolsheviks.
Yet although Eliade had always been a cultural nationalist who like to speak of Romanian messianism, these views usually were relatively non-political. He prided himself on his friendship with Jewish novelist, Mikhail Sebastian and took a relatively moderate public position on the Jewish question. However, he was friends with fascists who were very political. Ellwood points out:
No one was more influential for the young Eliade then the charismatic fascist leaning philosopher Nae Ionescu (1890-1940). He was friends with the Romanian fascist intellectual Emil Cioran (85) …Eliade seems to have been directly inspired by the death in battle of two Romanian legionnaires who volunteered to fight in the Spanish civil war on Franco’s anticommunist side (87). He found time to compose a book in praise of Portugal’s benevolent dictator Antonio Salazar (90).
In 1940, the Legion came to power in alliance with the king and a pro-Nazi military dictator, Ion Atones, to create a National Legionnaire State. Eliade was clearly shocked by a series of assassinations that went on in the process of the National Legionnaires’ rise to power:
Romanian anti-Semitic atrocities were exceeded only by the Nazis in numbers and brutality leaving scores of desecrated synagogues and thousands of mutilated corpses. (Yet) In his autobiographies both the mythology and atrocities of the Legion are passed over in silence (91-92)
Qualifications and rebuttals
As with Jung, it is probably unfair to expect Eliade to know the direction fascism was going to take before Hitler was elected. In addition, there is the window between 1933 and World War II. One author claims it is more reasonable to see Eliade more like the fellow-travelers of Soviet communism who gave up their association but never repudiated the ideology. Ellwood kindly suggests that his passion for Romania was really the searching of a wandering soul for solid ground, rather than a political commitment that it might have been for others. There is good reason to surmise that the terrible experience with the Legend solidified his commitment that history was terrifying and he was better off in the mythic world.
His later work is an attempt to universalize spiritual experience and is one hundred and eighty degrees on the opposite side of any kind of the ethnic/racial nationalism of The Guard. After 1945 Eliade showed no interest in the political world or its causes. With other Romanian exiles he formed a circle to sustain the culture of a free Romania and to publish Romanian texts that could not be published in Romania itself.
Yet unlike Jung, Eliade seemed much more committed to fascism by his silence over the atrocities against the Jews by Romanians and his support of Franco. Also, most writers do not write books about people, for example, Eliade’s book on Portugal’s dictator, Antonio Salazar, with whom they had no sympathies.
Joseph Campbell and the New Quest for the Holy Grail
Joseph Campbell was the best known of all interpreters of myth in late 20th century America due to his scholarly, but easy to read books, his legendary “performances” when lecturing at Sarah Lawrence College, and his discussions with Bill Moyers on PBS.
The life of Joseph Campbell
Campbell was born in 1904 to Irish American parents. Both his grandparents arrived in the United States as poor immigrants escaping the Irish potato famine. However, Joseph’s father became a successful salesman and Joseph was raised to upper-middle class status which allowed him to travel, attend private schools and be exposed to the art and culture of the world, including concerts, plays and museums. His parents were moderately committed to Catholicism. Like Eliade, Joseph was an avid Boy Scout. After being taken by his father to Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show, he cultivated a strong interest in Native Americans. Ellwood says he imitated their practices on camping trips.
Campbell began college at Dartmouth and then transferred to Columbia. He took comparative literature and anthropology with the cultural relativist, Franz Boas. His dissertation was on the Holy Grail. He listened to Krishnamurti lecture in Paris on rejecting all dependence of external authority and possibly because of this, Campbell stopped attending Catholic Mass. In 1932 he travelled on a ship with a biological expedition to Alaska where he had first-hand observation of Native American culture. In 1934 he became a faculty member at Sarah Lawrence College. He loved German culture and read Spengler and Leo Frobenius. In fact, the first course he taught was on Spenglerian morphology. His direction in mythology was under the influence of Spengler’s cultural morphology. All the Germans he read were anti-modernists and against Weimer Republic’s liberalism.
Through Thomas Mann he met Indologist Heinrich Zimmer in 1941 and through Zimmer met Swami Nikhil Ananda of the Vedanta Society. When Zimmer died in 1943, Campbell inherited the responsibility for editing Zimmer’s manuscripts. The Zimmer connection enabled Campbell to become attached to the famous Eranos conferences which included Eliade; Gershom Scholem who had revived the study of Jewish Qabalah, Henri Corbin who was interested in Iranian mysticism, as well as Jung. Campbell became a major figure in the world of mythology with the publication in 1949 of his great book, The Hero with a Thousand Faces.
Campbell got to know Alan Watts but was never quite sure how much he liked the East. A trip to India left Campbell shaken with culture shock: heat, poverty, dirt, beggars, and the caste system. Also, at that time India was enamored with socialist visions and the prospect of friendship with the Soviet Union. By now, Campbell was on his way to being an anti-communist. Campbell turned Westward, towards the paganism from the Odyssey to the Holy Grail. Between 1959 to 1968, he wrote his great four-volume book on world mythology. For Campbell, the four functions of myth were:
Produce a mystical experience to awaken and maintain a sense of awe and gratitude
Create an image of the universe in accord with the scientific knowledge of the time
Implant a moral order
Give an account stage by stage through life
Twentieth Century myths: individualism in space: Star Wars
In the application of myths to today, Campbell was no reactionary. He did not yearn for a yesterday in pristine animated nature where myths were enacted. He proposed the place for myths to play themselves out in the United States were in outer space. Outer space contains the location for enacting the heroes called to adventure comparable to the role of Arthurian fantasy or Wagner’s heroes in Germany. George Lucas had admired Campbell and so Campbell indirectly became associated with Star Wars. Six years later he became friends with Lucas and they were friends until Campbell died three years later.
Robert Ellwood makes a very interesting comparison between Star Trek and Star Wars as a way to demonstrate Campbell’s individualistic roots. Star Trek was about cooperation between the crew, not the individual. It isn’t even about the patriotism of, say, the United States. The crew members included people of many ethnicities. The series was about humanity in space. In these episodes, there was a direct struggle for power between humanity and extra-terrestrial civilizations. In the case of Star Wars, the theme was about the individual heroism of Luke Skywalker. He is a hero but doesn’t know it. The intelligent robots are a kind of companion animal like Don Quixote’s Sancho Panza. In Star Wars, Arthurian Legend and Wagnerian cycles of myths all show the ultimate futility of grasping for political power. How convenient for the conservative ruling classes of the United States to encourage people to withdraw from political power engagements into the private world of individualistic mythological journeys.
What kind of society would a Campbell view of myth construct? A society of heroes like Luke Skywalker of Star Wars would follow their own myths. Ellwood says there would be a ground crew of non-heroes who sing the praise of heroes as they provide for the heroes’ material needs. In other words, social organization remains the same and is unimportant, unlike for the crew of Star Trek.
Campbell was not really a folklorist. Folk tales were to him inferior, undeveloped, or degenerate in relation to the great mythologies of higher civilizations. He started his scholarly career in literature and cultural studies and approached myth though the eyes of a cultural critic. Let’s hear directly from Ellwood:
Though remarkably widely read in mythology, Campbell exhibited limited interest of the usual academic sort in his subject matter. He evinced little concern about mythic variants or philological issues. (130)
In his methods he used the traditional equipment of a literary critic – comparison and analogy.
Campbell was fundamentally literary. Most of Campbell’s work got a favorable hearing with literary and drama critics and the literate public than with professional folklorists or anthropologists. An American anthropologist said Campbell did not adequately distinguish between the Great and the Little traditions. Like Jung and Eliade, he picks and chooses mythological symbols from different times and places and universalizes them, leaving behind the political, economic, and technological conditions in which they are rooted.
As stated earlier, the German writers he read were anti-modernists and against the liberal Weimar Republic. Even by 1940-1941 he failed to grasp the threat posed by Hitler. By the early 1950s he saw liberty far more threatened by communism than by McCarthyism. Campbell was not supportive of the movements of the 1960s. He was reportedly anti-Jewish, but Larson’s biography states that Campbell was anti-Zionist, not anti-Semitic. I doubt that Campbell had the political interest enough to understand the difference between the two. Giving him the benefit of the doubt, we might say that he disliked the Jewish religion because of its early history battling paganism and its hostility to mythology in favor of its championing of history.
In spite of this conservative orientation, he was extremely popular at ultra-liberal Esalen and on the Bill Moyers show. Why was this? Ellwood suggests it was because the audience thought he was liberal because they were liberal and they thought any intellectual writing about comparative mythology would also be liberal. To be fair to Campbell, he did change. Thanks to the feminist exploration of the existence of matriarchies, he became more sympathetic to the place of goddesses in myth. Campbell spoke of ancient Hebrew conquest of Canaan as an example of pastoral fighting and promoting war against feminist goddesses.
Conclusions: Similarities and Differences
Let’s begin with the similarities:
Attitudes to the modern world: anti-modern, anti-rationalism and anti-materialistic science, anti-liberal Enlightenment
Esoteric spirituality: Gnosticism seeking hidden wisdom in the remote past in order to save people from entrapment in the false hopes of worldly political fantasies
Interest in literary mythology over folklore: myth became a magic potion by which one could again drink of the rejuvenation power of humanity’s primal vision
Mythological influences: Herder, Schelling, and the folk psychology of Wilhelm Wundt, Georges Sorel, Ortega y Gasset, Spengler, Heidegger Frobenius and Thomas Mann
Attitude to communism: all three were anti-communist
Publisher and funding: Bollington, Paul Mellon
Fieldwork: Philological or textual work on myth? Bad science. Theories not falsifiable.
Decontextualized myth from local culture in time and place and eternalized mythic stories
Broadly speaking, those attracted to New Age ideas when they began in the late 1970s are either apolitical or overwhelmingly liberal. They are either FDR liberals, centrists, and even a few neo-liberals. Those who are apolitical are less likely to understand or care about the very conservative political views of Jung, Eliade and Campbell. Those who were liberal in the late 1970s were riding the wave of at least fifteen years when Yankeedom was liberal politically (1960-1975). They naively assumed that any therapists interested in cross-cultural psychology (Jung) would be liberal rather than conservative, and anyone interested in comparative religion (Eliade) or comparative mythology (Campbell) would also be liberal by default. The purpose of my article is to give background that provides proof they were dead wrong.
In the Paradigm for Peace model, the Roots of Violence are divided into seven categories. While a few of the categories aren’t as easily divided into defensive and aggressive motivations, for the most part, we examine how each party to the conflict may be defensively motivated or aggressively motivated to inflict violence with regard to each category. For example, with regard to the category Wealth, Land, and Possessions, a person using violence to protect his home from attack has a defensive motivation to use violence. A person using violence to attack another person’s home to seize that other person’s wealth and belongings has an aggressive motivation to use violence.
Matters can get complicated, and it can sometimes be quite difficult to distinguish between defensive and aggressive. Sometimes the motivations are mixed within a single person or appear defensive or aggressive simply depending upon one’s perspective. However, without getting all harried about trying to figure out who exactly is motivated by what, it’s hugely helpful to be generally aware of these two categories of violence and to think in these terms so that we never rule out the possibility of legitimate motives in the so-called bad guys and illegitimate motives in the so-called good guys.
Most importantly, it’s crucial to have policy solutions that address both Defensive and Aggressive Roots of Violence. After all, if US foreign policymakers’ policies are always based on the assumption that terrorists, Iranians, North Koreans, left-wing Latinos, and Russians are aggressive and malicious, then US policymakers will never implement policies that help address the very real and legitimate Defensive Roots of Violence in the so-called enemies. Also, note that while Defensive Roots of Violence have legitimate motivations, the use of violence for defensive reasons isn’t necessarily legitimate, especially if there are non-violent means to protect what’s under threat.
In the condensed analysis below, I tend to spend more time writing about the Defensive Roots of Russian Violence and the Aggressive Roots of US Violence, rather than the Aggressive Roots of Russian Violence and the Defensive Roots of US Violence. This imbalance is largely due to the fact that I’m much more aware of these particular roots of violence for these nations. I’m not deliberately hiding anything to create this imbalance but am sharing what I know. This angle also helps place a counterweight to the dominant narrative in the US media that Russia is aggressive and the US and the Ukrainian government are defensive. However, please understand that in a full analysis with cooperative dialogue, equal attention should be paid to all sides’ defensive fears and all sides’ aggressive motivations.
In this essay, we’ll look at the first of seven categories: Life and Safety.
If we were creating a quick chart of the Roots of Violence, we’d list down the left side of the chart the seven categories. Across the top, we’d write in the names of the players in the external and internal conflict. We’d look at the first category, Life and Safety. How do people feel that the lives and safety of those they care about are under threat?
For example, let’s start with Russia. We’d list under Russia’s and President Vladimir Putin’s fears for life several items. NATO has expanded straight across Europe into Slavic lands and former Soviet republics. This is obviously a severe threat to Russia’s survival. After all, NATO was formed precisely to combat the USSR, and now NATO is in Poland, Romania, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. It’s as if the American Southwest seceded, allied with Mexico, and deployed missiles in Texas aimed at Washington, DC.
While those who support NATO may think of NATO’s expansion as enhancing US and European security, they fail to recognize the psychological ramifications of NATO on potential enemies: its existence topped by its expansion could easily cause physical insecurity by creating an ever-present threat to Russia. Emotional insecurity can lead to hostility, thus augmenting physical insecurity. And that, in fact, has happened with the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
This failure to sympathize with an enemy’s perspective, to be able to imagine an enemy’s feelings of being threatened, to respect the need for another’s emotional and psychological security, is the Achilles Heel of US foreign policymakers, who perpetually only think of how to control and dominate enemies. It’s the Achilles Heel because, by provoking rather than alleviating tension in the so-called enemy, US foreign policymakers actually weaken US security, weaken respect and genuine friendship for the US, and weaken the international foundations of democracy—caring equally for all. The resulting policies are also extremely costly and deadly. This is why in cooperative dialogue, or right now in this essay, it’s important for us to practice really sinking into Russia’s shoes and pretending we’re the leader of Russia, feeling these threats, and determined to protect our people.
When NATO expands, it means more than just a picture on the map of NATO covering nearly all of Europe. It means that physical weapons and military bases to potentially be used against Russia have also expanded in coverage across the continent. For example, Lockheed Martin’s Aegis Ashore Mark 41 Vehicle Land System with its SM-3 Block IIA missile interceptors has been deployed in Romania and Poland by the US through NATO. This system is capable of intercepting and destroying an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), thereby theoretically rendering ineffective Russia’s missiles and the strategy of mutual deterrence. If Russia can no longer feel safe, it will feel the need to develop more weapons and new strategies.
Moreover, the Mark 41 VLS, while allegedly intended solely for defensive purposes, could be fitted with aggressive weapons. 1 Making the weapon-imposed threat even more precarious is the fact that the Trump administration withdrew in 2018 from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, which had previously regulated land-based ballistic missiles and missile launchers. Even more ominous are the joint US-Ukrainian and NATO-Ukrainian military training in the nations and seas bordering Russia. 2
US policymakers and media makers have denied Russia’s accusations of US chemical and biological weapon intentions in Ukraine, but with US policymakers and media makers so untruthful about so many things, even the representation of Putin’s essay, and with a terrible documented record throughout the decades of US presidential administrations lying to the American people and Congress, we would be foolish simply to believe these denials on faith alone. Therefore, we should open-mindedly consider these Russian reports and predictions. Russia’s Ministry of Defense recently claimed that forces loyal to Kiev are preparing a chemical attack in eastern Ukraine. Russia has also previously warned of chemical weapons being stored in Ukraine. US policy and media makers, as they have done repeatedly and without proof, reverse Russia’s claims and state that Russia is using its claim as a pretext for its own planned chemical attack. 3
As civilians, how can we know the truth? Who’s preparing a chemical attack? Is anyone? It’s impossible for us to know. But we should understand one thing that’s based upon a long record of US government lies to the American people: there is absolutely no reason to believe US policymakers more than Russian policymakers. Just because we are Americans and each of us may be truthful does not mean that American policymakers are truthful. Our individual identities as Americans are not melded with the identities of US policymakers. They are strangers to us and we do not know them at heart.
Russia has also released documents that allegedly prove that Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, has played a significant role in providing and seeking funding for a military biological program, particularly with the labs of Black & Veatch and Metabiota, in Ukraine. According to Russia’s Defense Minister Igor Kirillov, the Pentagon issued contracts with a number of labs, including Black & Veatch, Metabiota, and CH2M Hill, for this military biological program. Investors in the program have included Hunter Biden, his investment fund Seneca Rosemont, and George Soros and his Open Society Foundation. Documents have reportedly revealed Hunter Biden’s close connections with both the labs and with the Pentagon’s Defense Threat Reduction Agency, the part of the Department of Defense engaged in the biological weapons program.
In the past, the Russian Defense Ministry has repeatedly drawn attention to the Pentagon’s military biological programs in former Soviet republics, including Ukraine. During its invasion, Russia found more than 30 biological laboratories in Ukraine, some of which may be for military purposes. In fact, Russia reports that it has found traces of a biological weapons program in the labs, which Ukraine reportedly was desperately trying to hide.4 Again, although US policymakers deny such an operation, they obviously would never admit it if it were true. And in the current climate, in which US policymakers automatically dismiss every single one of Russia’s fears as absurd, even the obviously valid ones, we cannot gauge the validity of Russia’s fears based upon US denials of their legitimacy.
In fact, a reading of “Rebuilding America’s Defenses” (2000) by Project for a New American Century is enough to be jolted into awareness of the ardent enthusiasm the neoconservative writers feel for conquering several other nations, for enhancing and preserving US hegemony, and for developing weapons including pocket-sized robots to be let loose on enemy territory, skin-patch pharmaceuticals to negate fear in US troops, and biological weapons to target specific genotypes—a recipe, perhaps, for genocide. 5
PNAC is defunct, but one of its co-founders, William Kristol, is an advisor to the Alliance for Securing Democracy, a neoconservative-liberal hawk mix of individuals that has the singular mission of thwarting, weakening, and basically destroying Putin. PNAC’s other co-founder, Robert Kagan, is the husband of Biden’s Undersecretary of State, Victoria Nuland, infamous for the leaked tapes at the time of the 2014 Ukrainian coup. She is also the former CEO of the similarly-sounding Center for a New American Security. To deny that US policymakers have the intention to develop biological weapons seems unwise.
In the column of our chart under Russian fears, we might also include the US-built Ukrainian naval base on the Black Sea, particularly because of the US ties. We could include Russian and German news reports of the presence in 2015 of US private military contractors connected with Academi in Ukraine training far right-wing Ukrainian extremists. 6 We also might investigate whether there were further results from meetings between Ukraine’s President Zelenskiy and Erik Prince, former head of the infamous Blackwater, regarding the development of a private military contract in Ukraine. 7
Instead of dismissing these fears as “phony”—as US policymakers and media makers perpetually do—we’d recognize the validity of each of these fears. This is how kind, responsible people treat others with fears. They listen to the fears, whether rational or irrational, until they understand the other’s feelings. Then they help them address these fears. Had the tables been turned with all of these military alliances, bases, weapons, and military drills transpiring along US borders or in former US territories or states, US policymakers would have been quaking in their boots long before this. The Russians have shown remarkable restraint.
The Russians also are not stupid and, unlike Uncle Sam, they’re not prone to war. They’re very unlikely to invade anywhere unless they’re feeling severely threatened by realistic, actual threats. They know full well from experience that any invasion attempt will be severely skewed by Western propaganda to make them look bad. With that in mind, it behooves us to seriously examine Russia’s and Putin’s fears, including the threats of chemical and biological weapons, for only something severely threatening must have drawn Russia out.
If Russian fears seem rational, participants should try to create solutions to give Russians valid reasons to no longer fear. Americans can’t simply say, “Trust us.” They have to provide valid reasons not based merely upon trust. If Russian fears come across through discussion as more irrational, then participants should work together supportively to uncover the psychological reasons for these irrational fears.
In dialogue, participants would discuss these fears and really try to step into Russia’s shoes to understand why these factors are mortally threatening. Participants would ideally reverse roles, or reverse the scenario and imagine a similar situation occurring to the US in reverse, such as if Alaska seceded, allied with Russia, and deployed missile launchers aimed at Washington, DC. The goal here is understanding and empathy—not control or intimidation of the other side, and certainly not dismissal of another’s fears as absurd.
For all those foreign policymakers who believe understanding and empathizing with others’ fears—especially enemies’ fears—is not appropriate to foreign policy, I suggest you find another line of work.
In light of these Russian fears, consider that statement made by Defense Secretary Austin, who expressed his belief that the US needs to “weaken” Russia “to the degree that it can’t do the kinds of things that it has done in invading Ukraine.”8 Austin totally misses the point: Russia invaded because it felt militarily threatened and it felt Ukrainians’ lives in Donetsk and Lugansk were threatened. Russia invaded because it felt existentially threatened by expanding US and NATO domination in Eastern Europe and Ukraine and by threats to Ukrainian lives in Donetsk and Lugansk. Why make it feel even more threatened by insisting that Russia become militarily weaker? It doesn’t make sense.
US policymakers persistently demonstrate zero capacity for understanding human dynamics. Their answer to those who resent US domination is always more US domination. Is it because US foreign policymakers want to dominate so completely that no significant signs of resistance are possible? But why? Is this some misguided attempt to seek pseudo-popularity by forcing itself upon those who don’t want it? Are policymakers mistaking domination for being liked and accepted? Is this craze for domination in part the result of clumsy social skills magnified by a billion? What on Earth is going on with these people in power?
And why wasn’t Austin’s idea of weakening an improperly-behaving nation to prevent future misbehavior suggested after the US invasion of Iraq? Or Afghanistan? Or Panama, Grenada, Vietnam, and Korea? Or after the first weapon shipment to the contras in Nicaragua? After the very first US extrajudicial drone attack? After the very first CIA coup? As far as I can see, the answer is that US foreign policymakers do not support justice. They support themselves.
To continue with our chart, we should include for Putin the fear of assassination, which he likely feels. After all, the CIA and its paid foreign agents are infamous for their assassinations which they inflict with impunity, as described in several books and articles, including William Blum’s Killing Hope. 9 The venomous anti-Putin US propaganda which falsely depicts him as both cruel and stupid, the economic sabotage against Russia by means of sanctions and shutting off Nord Stream 2, the cutting off of money to Russia, and even the collaboration with neo-Nazis are all reminiscent of the CIA’s propaganda and economic war against Chile’s President Salvador Allende. With its lies and economic tactics, the CIA helped foment riots and also funded the fascist Patria y Libertad thugs to help with the 9/11/1973 coup, in which Allende was killed. Patria y Libertad also helped ensure a gory aftermath for tens of thousands of civilians of Chile. A coup in Russia is obviously hoped for by American leaders. The blatantly propagandistic program by Infographics, “Russia’s Big Problem with Ukraine,” even portrays with its paper cut-out art a group of Russian troops leveling their weapons at a man intended to be Putin.10
We should also include for Putin’s and Russia’s fears some of the ideas Putin set forth in his February 2007 Munich speech, including Putin’s disappointment that the US and NATO nations failed to ratify the newly adapted Conventional Armed Forces in Europe Treaty. The original treaty of 1987 between Russian President Gorbachev and US President Reagan was adapted in 1999 to reflect the expansion of NATO and the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact. However, only Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and Kazakhstan signed the new treaty.
It was an important treaty for Russia because NATO had expanded to include the nations of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Slovenia, but these nations were not parties to the original treaty. After years of hoping the other nations would sign, Russia pulled out of the treaty in December 2007. If the Baltic nations on the border of Russia were not required to observe the treaty, it didn’t make sense for Russia to observe it either. Russia blamed the West for not signing. The US and NATO nations blamed Russia for not complying with certain terms. Either way, one would think that intelligent negotiators talented in integrative negotiation could have worked something out.11
In the 2007 speech, Putin also expresses the dangers of weapon proliferation, nuclear arms, weapons in space, and the hyper-use of force by the US government. Putin offered Russia’s cooperation in disarmament, 12 but instead of reciprocation, his honorable speech was instead followed by a 15-year anti-Putin campaign 13 and by the continuation of US policies of proliferating weapons, revitalizing its nuclear arsenal, preparing for weapons in space, and favoring the hyper-use of force, by US troops and private military contractors.
After really sinking into Russia’s shoes to feel these fears, we’d step out of those shoes and then step into the shoes of Americans who mortally fear Russia. Now I’ll admit right here that I don’t understand US fears, so in this essay I won’t be able to fairly represent those fears. However, in an actual cooperative dialogue, the idea is to ensure it includes people who can sincerely represent US fears, both as American civilians and as US policymakers from groups such as the Alliance for Securing Democracy. Just as we did with Russia and Putin, we’d all sink into these people’s shoes and feel their fears and sincerely try to see their logic as they do. As with Russian fears, there may not be agreement as to which fears are rational and which are irrational. However, participants will try to provide valid reasons for Americans not to mortally fear Russia, and they’d also work together to try to uncover psychological reasons for irrational fears, including decades of propaganda and social dynamics within US culture.
So we’d ask, during the decade or two prior to the Russian invasion of Ukraine and also since the invasion, have any Americans felt their lives and safety were threatened by Russia? If so, how exactly? Did Americans or other NATO members feel the need for NATO expansion in order to feel safe and sleep peacefully at night? Was there disagreement amongst NATO members? Ukraine and Russia had improved their relations in 2010, when Ukraine officially abandoned the goal of joining NATO.14 Was the abandonment of this goal threatening to Americans? Which ones? Why?
Did any Americans feel a sense of lethal danger and an urgent need to send weapons to the Ukrainian government to fight in its civil war? Do Americans feel their current fears are connected with the decades of anti-Soviet Cold War propaganda? Did they think of the USSR as malicious, belligerent, and untrustworthy then and do they think of Russia as malicious, belligerent, and untrustworthy now? What fatal scenario do some American civilians or policymakers fear could result from Russia’s actions?
Whether fears are rational or irrational, we must spend time in dialogue learning about the nature and causes of these American fears. They won’t go away just by dismissing them as absurd. And, frankly, I also don’t think they’ll go away by merely continuing an arms race, sending weapons, and devising lethal strategies for use against Russia. While weapons are one component of security, they’re not even half of what it takes to feel emotionally and psychologically secure and to actually be secure. That type of security requires—not the transfer to nations far and wide of an American form of plutocratic pseudo-democracy pinned upon elections, capitalism, privatization, globalization, and US dominance—but rather egalitarian justice, mutual understanding, and genuine friendship.
It’s not only foreigners who need these components to feel secure, it’s Americans. This is probably why US policymakers have been forever on this wild goose chase for security: they’re feeding an insatiable need for security that is insatiable precisely because they’re feeding it all the wrong food. They seek domination when what they need is friendship. They insist that others understand US goals and serve US interests, when what they really need is two-way mutual understanding and caring. They’re giving themselves junk food when what they really need are all the root vegetables of a big bowl of borsch.
Within Ukraine, we should ask Ukrainians from a range of perspectives how they felt about billions of dollars of US and NATO weapon shipments arriving since the civil war began in 2014. Did these weapons help them feel safer? Did they protect them from harm? Or did they put Ukrainians in greater danger from other Ukrainians and from Russia? Would Ukrainians be suffering now if the weapons had never been sent? Do Ukrainians feel the weapons helped resolve the problems that caused the civil war or did they make the problems worse? Did Ukrainian government members all agree that they wanted to receive US and NATO weapons? Or not? Were the weapons placed in responsible hands? What effect did US and NATO weapon shipments have on the effectiveness and strength of any formal or grassroots non-violent conflict resolution initiatives that may have been unfolding, including the Minsk Agreements?
We should also ask whether Russian weapons were sent to Donetsk and Lugansk, as the West claims. If so, how did these weapons make various Ukrainians feel with regard to their safety? Better or worse? The same set of questions we asked about US and NATO weapons should be asked about Russian weapons.
In the next part, we’ll look at threats to life within Ukraine with regard to the violence of Ukrainian ultranationalists.
Project for the New American Century (PNAC), “Rebuilding America’s Defenses: Strategy, Forces and Resources for a New Century,” Donald Kagan and Gary Schmitt, Project Co-Chairmen; Thomas Donnelly, Principal Author, (Washington, DC, 2000).
“I’m absolutely convinced we will get a low-carbon, no-carbon economy at some point in time. The challenge is will we get there in time to heed the warnings of the scientists and avoid the worst consequences of the crisis?” 1
In a soft pitch interview by Andy Serwer of Yahoo Finance on Saturday, May 28th at Davos World Economic Forum the Climate Czar expressed optimism about handling the climate change crisis, in part, based upon the fact that several of the world’s leading corporations are dead set on stopping the multitude of dangers associated with an out of whack climate system. They understand the risks.
According to Kerry, climate change is not complicated. It is basic physics: “There isn’t anybody I know today who doesn’t admit that the planet is warming and that life has changed as a result of this… this trend is pretty obvious… the climate crisis is getting worse, not better, and we have to more rapidly reduce emissions and take the necessary steps, not what politicians are saying we should do, but scientists whose lives are dedicated to determining the mathematics and the physics of this particular challenge.”
The Climate Czar presented an interesting viewpoint of how corporate CEOs are now coming together to take on the challenge. As explained by Mr. Kerry, there’s lots of money to be made, which, of course, is good enough to get the corporate juices flowing.
If Mr. Kerry’s message and climate plan is realistically on target, which is more inclusive than just CEOs and venture capitalists foaming dollar bills at the mouth, then the world may have a shot at containing the biggest threat of all time. But, there are plenty of ifs.
Kerry was quick to caution: “Assuming it can happen fast enough.” That is a key watchword for serious students of climate change/global warming.
There are serious-minded scientists who believe it’s already too late, and there are others who nod their heads in full agreement with the Doomsday Clock’s most recent reading at only 100 seconds to midnight. It is the closest to midnight of all time. Midnight represents a catastrophe. One of the principal factors taken into consideration for setting at 100 seconds to midnight was a warning by the IPCC: “This report is a dire warning about the consequences of inaction,” according to Hoesung Lee, Chair of the IPCC. “It shows that climate change is a grave and mounting threat to our wellbeing and a healthy planet.”
“Is there enough time” is a common theme amongst knowledgeable people. People whom have deep-dived the subject see serious threats. Major ecosystems, all of them, are rapidly approaching, in some cases exceeding, dangerous stages or tipping points: the Arctic, Antarctica, Greenland, Siberian permafrost, the Great Barrier Reef, the Amazon rainforest, mountain glaciers: the Himalayas, the Caucasus, the Alps, the Rocky Mtn, the Andes, ocean acidification, marine heat waves, Patagonia, the Atlantic Gulf Stream… as examples.
Here’s a more specific example: During the 1990s, Greenland and Antarctica combined lost 81 billion tons of ice mass per year on average during that decade. Moving ahead to the decade of the 2010s, the ice mass loss was 475 billion tons per year on average throughout the decade. That’s flat-out breathtaking, almost exponential at face value. 2
It’s an understatement to say a six-fold increase of ice mass loss within only one decade is especially troubling and nearly impossible to comprehend. After all, it’s not within centuries, which wouldn’t be quite so alarming; it’s within only one decade. Whew! So then, what’s in store for the 2020s, or how about the upcoming knotty 2030s?
81 billion tons versus 475 billion tons can only mean one thing: The impact of global warming is a helluva lot worse than what’s expected at only 1.2°C above baseline or could it be that 1.2°C is not really accurate?
Beware: “The greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function.” 3
As it goes, Mr. Kerry not only has the mannerisms and cadence and stature and personal background to get the job done, he has depth of knowledge about the danger of advanced climate change/global warming that’s revealed within his choice of words and emphasis without openly proclaiming the horrific truth that “we’re screwed unless we act quickly,” but his message is just that.
The following synopsis of his interview is provided for readers to decide for themselves the likelihood of his success, or not:
As explained by Kerry, some months ago he started a movement called First Mover Coalition inclusive of thirty-five (35) major corporations that have volunteered leadership roles to create “demand for change,” e.g., Maersk Shipping, the largest container shipper in the world has agreed that the next 8 ships they build will be carbon free. Volvo promised that 10% of the steel they buy to be “green steel.” United Airlines, Delta, and Boeing and Apple agreed to buy 5% sustainable aviation fuel and eventually go to 85% reduction in emissions.
The First Mover Coalition is working in cooperation with the World Economic Forum. Kerry claims the CEOs are stepping right up to the plate and swinging away: “They understand the urgency.” They want to lead by example with “demand signals” to change behavior of industry throughout the world. Plus, a big plus, they are working on the “hard-to-do things,” like aluminum, steel, and concrete manufacturers.
When asked about the Russian Ukrainian invasion, Kerry said it has taught Europeans a lesson to be independent, and that is a motivating factor to spur ahead with renewable infrastructure development. Thus, Russia is working against its own self-interest and turning away future fossil fuel sales at a rapid clip via invading Ukraine.
According to the Climate Czar, President Biden sees a significant part of the solution of climate change to be nuclear power. He’s kept nuclear on the table. New designs for nuclear plants are being researched and worked on. France, for example, is doubling down on nuclear. According to Kerry, “we cannot get to net zero by 2050 without nuclear.” Really? Honestly?
Headline News: “Electricite de France SA’s nuclear failures are sending ripples through European energy markets, threatening to undermine the continent’s plan to turn its back on Russian gas.” 4
“About half of EDF’s 56 reactors are currently halted, and EDF has estimated that output this year will be the lowest in more than 30 years. While many plants are offline for regular maintenance or refueling, a dozen are idled for checks and repairs following the discovery of stress-corrosion issues at units in late 2021.” 5
Nuclear power plants put more stress per square inch on foundational structure than any other form of energy production. It’s inherently dangerous! One small crack can make all of the difference between meltdown and no meltdown. That’s how risky it is to use nuclear to boil water. For example, the following Scientific American article discusses a real event descriptive of the inherent dangers of nuclear power plant structural pressure points:
“On Feb. 16, 2002, the nuclear power plant called Davis–Besse on the shores of Lake Erie near Toledo, Ohio, shut down. On inspection, a pineapple-size section on the 6.63-inch- (16.84-centimeter-) thick carbon steel lid that holds in the pressurized, fission-heated water in the site’s sole reactor had been entirely eaten away by boric acid formed from a leak. The only thing standing between the escape of nuclear steam and a possible chain of events leading to a meltdown was an internal liner of stainless steel just three sixteenths of an inch (0.48 centimeter) thick that had slowly bent out about an eighth of an inch (0.32 centimeter) into the cavity due to the constant2,200 pound-per–square-inch (155-kilogram-per-square-centimeter) pressure.”6
According to Kerry, the private sector is really moving. “There’s a gigantic shift with the private sector taking the lead in many places, and it involves all kinds of private sector institutions… some fossil fuel companies are now working to become energy companies and transition to producing electricity and doing it in a clean way either through hydrogen or nuclear or in other ways.”
As explained by Kerry: “This is one of the greatest economic opportunities that we’ve ever faced, potentially much larger than the industrial revolution” by building out new energy grids and new electric vehicles. By 2035, Ford and GM will only have electric vehicles. Everything has to be part of the solution, agriculture, shipping, buildings, transportation, and manufacturing.
Kerry is meeting with his Chinese counterpart to work together to see how best to achieve the promises made in Glasgow where the US and China agreed to reduce methane (CH4) and to meet about transitioning off coal, to perhaps gas or nuclear.
Headline News: ((“China is Building More Than Half of the World’s New Coal Power Plants”, NewScientist, April 26, 2022.)) “Some 176 gigawatts of coal capacity was under construction in 2021, and more than half of that was being built in China.” Note: 176 gigawatts equal enough power for one hundred twenty-three million (123,000,000) homes.
It looks like the Climate Czar is gonna have his hands full.
Still, according to Kerry: China has already committed to submit an ambitious national action plan on methane to the Conference of the Parties in Sharm El-Sheikh this coming November for COP 27, UNFCCC.
He says the world has now joined the methane battle, which is front and center in discussions. Kerry says it’s where “we can achieve some of the fastest reductions in greenhouse gases… 116 nations have now signed up to achieve a 30% reduction of CH4 by 2030. It is the equivalent of every car in the world, every truck in the world, every ship in the world, every airplane in the world going to zero emissions by 2030.” (hmm, really?)
Furthermore, Kerry claims the transition needs to happen all over the world. And, they’ll be working on deforestation, which he sees as a huge challenge. Illegal deforestation is the biggest threat to rainforests.
Still, the pre-eminent question is whether John Kerry and the CEOs carry enough cache around the world to achieve what decades of broken promises have failed to do? Not only that, but is it really enough? And, is the approach correct? Switching coal to gas or nuclear?
Frankly, aside from Kerry’s hopeful climate plans, what’s really desperately needed is something more, much more all-inclusive like a Climate Marshall Plan throughout the entire planet with a goal of zero fossil fuels by 2030. This is achievable if every major nation/state fully commits the funds and resources, similar to the rebuild of Europe post WWII. But sadly, that is only a dream, especially in light of the history of broken promises, one after another.
During the most recent IPCC meetings, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reveals: “A litany of broken climate promises by governments and corporations.” He accused them of stoking global warming by clinging to harmful fossil fuels. “It is a file of shame, cataloguing the empty pledges that put us firmly on track toward an unlivable world.”
Thinking out loud about Kerry’s monumental task… what’s with Kerry’s continual references to striving for net zero by 2050? Several really smart well-known climate scientists, many of whom I am sure Mr. Kerry knows, think net zero by 2050 should be taken off the table. That’s too late, and Kerry knows this. He’s the Climate Czar; he must know it. And, it’s not “net zero” that’s required; it’s “net negative,” and he likely knows this as well.
London. 26 August 2021: “The latest report published today by the Climate Crisis Advisory Group (CCAG) warns that reaching net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 is now “too little too late” and will not achieve the long-term temperature goals identified in the Paris Agreement… Drawing upon findings recently published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) Sixth Assessment Report (AR6), it states that current global emissions targets are inadequate and that net negative – rather than net zero – strategies are required.7
Members of Climate Crisis Advisory Group are accomplished scientists at prestigious institutions around the world, widely considered at the top of the field.
Regardless of the twists and turns of what Climate Czar John Kerry experiences, at the end of the day an overused cliché, “money talks” will either save the day or ruin it for good as it can work one of two ways going forward (1) funding positive results for climate mitigation programs or (2) buying denial. Hopefully, funding mitigation prevails over the past several decades of “buying denial” with underhanded dark money, which has been the big winner, especially in America, Kerry’s home base.
Here’s wishing the Special Presidential Envoy for Climate the best of luck. He’ll need it.
John Kerry, Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, May 2022.
“Greenland, Antarctica Melting Six Times Faster Than in the 1990s”, NASA, March 16, 2020.
Albert Bartlett 1923-2013, emeritus professor, physics, University of Colorado.
EDF Nuclear Failures Undermine Europe’s Push to Exit Russian Gas, Bloomberg, US Edition, May 26, 2022.
Atomic Weight: Balancing the Risks and Rewards of a Power Source, Scientific American, January 29, 2019.
“Net Zero by 2050 is ‘too little too late’: World-Leading Scientists Urge Global Leaders to Focus on Net Negative Strategies”, Climate Crisis Advisory Group, August 2021.