by Francis Lee for the Saker Blog
Contemporary politics consists of the usual timeless formula of Machiavelli – namely: rule by force and fraud – but now with the current emphasis being on fraud, writes Francis Lee.
‘’Defenceless villages are bombarded from the air, their inhabitants driven out into the countryside, their cattle machine gunned, their huts set on fire with incendiary bullets: this is called pacification.’’ (Politics and the English Language – 1946)
‘’There is a high probability that Russia will intervene in the Baltics to test NATO’s Article 5 … ‘’ (Anders Fogh Rasmussen, ex head of NATO, February 2015).
It would be true to say that the language of politics and power – machtpolitik or realpolitik – is patently neither objective, nor particularly interested in the pursuit of truth. Quite the contrary in fact. If we take the above examples, the first is simply an attempt to mask what is an international war crime into a reasonable policy of ‘humanitarian’ intervention. All rather reminiscent of the language which evolved during the Indo-China wars, e.g. ‘we destroyed the village in order to save it.’ The purpose of the second assertion was simply designed to ramp up the current war psychosis in order to justify the eastern expansion and build-up of NATO on Russia’s western frontiers. Please note that Mr Rasmussen isn’t saying that a Russian intervention is possible, or even probable, but highly probable. This seems somewhat strange as Russia couldn’t wait to get rid of the Baltic states when it declared its independence in 1991, and now we are expected to believe that Russia wants to invade those same states!
It is said that knowledge is power, in fact the reverse seems more accurate. Those who control the means of communication are now able to create a virtual reality. This is nothing new. The father of modern Public Relations, Edward Bernays, postulated that ‘invisible’ people create knowledge and propaganda and rule over the masses, with a monopoly on the power to shape thoughts, values, and citizen response. “The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country. We are governed, our minds are moulded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of.” (Propaganda).
One of Bernays’ great admirers was Nazi propaganda chief Josef Goebbels who was to apply his theories with alacrity during the Nazi ascendency 1934-1945. JG was able to convince enough of Germany’s population that ‘total war’ was really quite good fun. He and they were apparently not aware that this would ultimately involve the fire-bombing of German cities like Hamburg and Dresden. This amply demonstrates that skilful techniques of mass indoctrination are able to get people to imagine and support policies which are not necessarily in their own best interests.
In our own time this mass manipulation was identified by Edward S Herman and Noam Chomsky in their seminal work The Manufacture of Consent first published in 1988. The mass communication media of the U.S. “are effective and powerful ideological institutions that carry out a system-supportive propaganda function, by reliance on market forces, internalized assumptions, and self-censorship, and without overt coercion.” This seems to be the most salient political phenomenon of our times.
Returning to Orwell, it was during his period in Spain during the war against Franco (1936-39) that he first became aware of the political potentialities of modern mass communications systems. Orwell was a passionate believer in truth, and that objective facts existed and could be identified. However, as a result of his experiences in Spain he discovered that mere facts were of secondary or even no importance. What counted was a propaganda narrative which was a function of political expediency. At the time he was serving in the military wing of POUM (Workers’ Party of Marxist Unity) sister party of the British ILP (Independent Labour Party) which he later joined – 1938. This was in 1937 after the Comintern’s right turn, away from the ultra-leftism of the Third Period, towards the Popular Front phase, a move from a policy of international revolution (identified as Trotskyism) to the defence of democracy through alliances with bourgeois political groups. Unfortunately for Orwell he was in the wrong place at the wrong time – this was the time of the big Stalinist push against Trotskyism, and in Spain this meant the POUM. He wrote:
‘’I must say something about the general charge that the POUM was a secret fascist organization in the pay of Franco and Hitler. This charge was repeated over and over in the Communist press … according to the Frenti Rojo (the Valencia Communist Newspaper) ‘’Trotskyism, is not a political doctrine; it is a capitalist organization in league with the Fascists, a Fascist terrorist band, and part of Franco’s 5th column.’’
What was noticeable from the start was that there was no evidence to support this accusation; the thing was simply asserted with an air of authority.’’ (My emphaisis – FL)
Yep, sounds familiar.
Orwell’s pessimism in this respect reached its terminal stage in his disturbing dystopian novel, 1984
This manufacture of a virtual reality is now common currency in the mass media. The press in particular – including the putatively left-wing publications, (more catholic than the Pope) the Guardian and the Independent – pretty much operate as an appendage to the ‘invisible’ people or are the ‘invisible people’ identified by Bernays. A case in point being a recent snippet in the Independent newspaper which read:
‘’60,000 tortured to death in (Syrian) government jails.’’
‘’At least 60,000 people have died in Syrian government jails during the 5-year conflict, according to a report by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) which said they died ‘’either as a result of direct bodily torture or denial of food and medicine.’’ The Observatory’s director, Abdulrahman said more than 20,000 had died in Sednaya prison near Damascus. The Observatory claimed it had been able to verify the deaths of 14,456.00 (sic) under the age of 18, since the start of the Syrian uprising since 2011.
The Independent 23-05-2106 By Tom Perry – Beirut.
Closer examination reveals that Mr Abdulrahman has lived in Coventry – a small provincial town in middle-England – since 2006 and owns a shop which he runs with his wife; nonetheless he asserts that his sources were serving officials seeking to expose what is going on.
So, we get one guy in Beirut publishing a report based upon another guy who has lived in Coventry since 2006 and who claims to have contacts at high levels in the Syrian government. Yeah, right!
Yet the Independent, which is said to be a ‘left leaning’ newspaper owned by the Russian oligarch Alexander Lebedev who purchased it in 2010, will it seems publish extremely dubious stories without checking the sources but simply takes what they say at face value. No doubt this dishonesty serves a greater cause.
The post-modernist denial of the possibility of objective reality is now firmly entrenched in reactionary elite circles. It involves, 1. ‘Groupthink’ defined as a process where a group with similar backgrounds and largely insulated from outside opinion makes decisions without critically testing, analysing and evaluating ideas and outcomes. 2. ‘Doublethink’ where two incompatible thoughts can be carried on at the same time. It of course follows that if everyone is thinking the same then no-one is thinking at all. Finally, 3. Double standards. Describing the behaviour of your opponents as despicable, inhuman and a violation of human rights, when ‘our’ side is doing exactly the same. Of necessity this involves all of the above mechanisms. Orwell explained:
‘’Actions are held to be good or bad, not on their own merits but according to who does them, and of course there is no kind of outrage – torture, the use of hostages, mass deportations, imprisonment without trial, forgery, assassination, the bombing of civilians – which does not change its moral colour when it is committed by ‘our’ side.’’ (Notes on Nationalism – 1945).
The Goebbels propaganda template was/is disarmingly simple: tell a lie, preferably a big one and then repeat it endlessly until it seeps into the popular consciousness. Taking their cue from this policy the mainstream media messages are relentless, ubiquitous, and obedient to their political masters. This was apparent during the EU referendum campaign and the geopolitical tensions in eastern Europe and the South China Sea. This information war is now the primary political phenomenon of our times, and the mass media speaks with one voice.
As Orwell opined: ‘To begin with, the era of free speech is closing down, the freedom of the press in Britain has always been something of a fake, because in the last resort, money controls opinion.’ That’s the bad news. ‘… still as long as the legal right to say what you like exists, there are always loopholes for the unorthodox writer.’ (Why I joined the Independent Labour Party – 1938). With due deference to Orwell, however, those loopholes are disappearing fast.
Sad to say, however, Orwell actually ended up spying for the British Foreign Office. At the time, 1946, the USSR and Stalin were both very popular amongst the working people of the UK. The Soviet football (‘soccer’ for all our American friends) team, Moscow Dynamo, did a tour of the UK and played Chelsea at Stamford Bridge (London); it was a mass sell-out where upwards of 100,000 fans spilled over onto the pitch. Chelsea won by the way, 4-1. (See below).
Members of my own family were actively involved in the war both in the army, Royal navy and merchant navy. One such, Uncle Tom, took part in convoys carrying armaments to the USSR – a rather dangerous undertaking from Scotland to Murmansk all the time being bombed and torpedoed by German aircraft and U-Boats based in occupied Norway. He was lucky to survive.
But that was then, and this is now.
Unfortunately, however, and according to Ben Norton of The Greyzone 2016 , the popularity of the USSR was not to the liking of the British political class and intelligentsia. Indeed!
Norton noted the following:
‘’It is fascinating seeing people in the 21st century, especially self-declared leftists, still lionizing George Orwell, the worst kind of reactionary turncoat.
For years, the cat has been out of the bag: George Orwell secretly worked for the UK’s Foreign Office. At the end of his life, he was an outright counter-revolutionary snitch, spying on leftists on behalf of the imperialist British government.
The US government also found Orwell’s work quite useful. The coup-plotting, death squad-training assassins and torturers at the Central Intelligence Agency turned Orwell’s books into a propaganda weapon. The CIA even funded the Animal Farm movie, which is now mandatory viewing in many high schools.
But that happened after Orwell’s death in 1950. What is more scandalous is that he knowingly collaborated with the UK government when he was still alive.
“Orwell’s List” is a term that should be known by anyone who claims to be a person of the left. It was a blacklist Orwell compiled for the British government’s Information Research Department; an anti-communist propaganda unit set up for the Cold War.
The list includes dozens of suspected communists, “crypto-communists,” socialists, “fellow travellers,” and even LGBT people and Jews — their names scribbled alongside the sacrosanct 1984 author’s disparaging comments about the personal predilections of those blacklisted.
The document was declassified by the British government in 2003. The leading neoliberal newspaper The Guardian reported at the time that the blacklist “contains the names of 38 public figures, from the actors Charlie Chaplin and Michael Redgrave to the author JB Priestley, whom Orwell suggested should not be trusted by the IRD as anti-communist propagandists.”
Timothy Garton Ash, the historian who obtained the document, revealed that Orwell gave the blacklist to his close friend Celia Kirwan, who worked for the Foreign Office’s Information Research Department, from his sickbed in May 1949.
Orwell had told Kirwan in April that the list included journalists and writers who “in my opinion are crypto-communists, fellow-travellers or inclined that way and should not be trusted as propagandists.”
“There seems to be general agreement by Orwell’s fans, left and right, to skate gently over Orwell’s suspicions of Jews, homosexuals and blacks, also over the extreme ignorance of his assessments,” wrote legendary radical journalist Alexander Cockburn, sardonically referring to the anti-communist blacklist as “St. George’s List.”
“If any other postwar left intellectual was suddenly found to have written mini-diatribes about blacks, homosexuals and Jews, we can safely assume that subsequent commentary would not have been forgiving,” he added. “Here there’s barely a word.”
Cockburn’s The Nation article on the subject, “St. George’s List,” is difficult to find today. I have republished it in full below. The article was also expanded into “The Fable of the Weasel,” Cockburn’s foreword for John Reed’s Animal Farm parody Snowball’s Chance.
Apologists insist Orwell simply “sold out” later in life and became a cranky conservative, yet the story is more complex. Orwell had a consistent political thread throughout his life. This explains how he could go from fighting alongside a Spanish Trostkyite militia in a multi-tendency war against fascism to demonizing the Soviet Union as The Real Enemy — before returning home to imperial Britain, where he became a social democratic traitor who castigated capitalism while collaborating with the capitalist state against revolutionaries trying to create socialism.
Sure, the USSR did some objectionable things, but it was also the only large country in the entire world that supported the Spanish Republicans in their fight against fascism (excluding a bit of extra support from Mexico). The Soviet Union understood that one cannot have a revolution if one cannot even defeat the fascist counterrevolution first — a lesson many on the left still have not learned today.
Yet leftists like Orwell and his devoted followers continue to lament Kronstadt and revel in their ideological purity — while conveniently living relatively comfortable lives in Western imperialist country.’’
So, if it is the case that Orwell fell foul of some reactionary impulses in later life, then none of us is apparently immune to this type of propaganda. I think Orwell’s conversion dates back to his political period working for the British Colonial Office in India. His novels – Burmese Days, for example – as well as articles such as (Shooting and Elephant) and (A Hanging) seem to have insinuated themselves into his belief system. This was not at all unusual among intellectuals from the 1950’s onwards – with the honourable exception of C Wright Mills perhaps – who became fervent supporters of imperialism and is still the case today. The blue pill is apparently still all the rage among the decadent and fashionable elite! This much is manifest. Like the Irish poet, William Butler Yeats, who in 1918 said of the political/moral degeneration of the West:
‘’The best lack all conviction, and the worst are full of passionate intensity…
‘’And what rough beast its hour come round at last slouches toward Bethlehem to be born.’’
(The Second Coming)
But like the carthorse, Boxer, in Animal Farm, we, the western ‘intelligentsia’ (sic! or what passes for it) must try harder.
Karl Marx in 1862 wrote an opinion in the main New Tork paper that all his followers should support Lincoln and the republicans. The democrats were a reactionary Feudal party with slavery and feudal values thruout the party. Marx asserted that the Republicans with their belief in Capitalism had to destroy the remnants of feudalism first, before any socialist system cou;d evolve.The Democrats at the time supported a few worker’s positions, but were a Feudal party. So a progressive would support the Capitalists vs. the Feudal reactionaries.
Lenin ‘s idea that an elite group could go straight to Socialism from Feudalism waas unsound and anti-Marxist. The New Feudalism as Milovan Dijilas put it.So it is not so easy to judge who is “Left” or progressive. Orwell’s dedication to the truth seems to me to make him the true progressive, not the virtue signaling types who adopt the symbols of the time of politicians who claim to be left.
It’s very ironic that the Ben Norton that condemned Orwell so well, has himself become a stooge for the West today. He attacks many of the most vocal populist left . From his old colleagues at the Greyzone who he defrauded financially,to Jimmy Dore,and others. And is a Ukrainian supporting Russophobe. It appears the power of the $buck$ can overtake their scruples in the weaker members of the dissident class.
Ben Norton is young. He makes many mistakes and is taken in by various propaganda. Agree his analysis terrible but to corruption or youthful errors? Did not know he defrauded grayzone.
Ben Norton does not seem exactly “russophobe” in this video published 8 hours ago:
Do you have any evidence that supports your claims? Otherwise I have to think it’s baloney (ok, I already do).
You can view Jimmy Dore,Max Blumenthal,Aaron Mate,Jackson Hinkle,Gonzalo Lira,and Eva Bartlett to see about Norton. Here are a couple of posts from Telegram about him from a few days ago:
I dont buy this personal profiling. We all are involved and interconnected with persons and organisations of dubious characters during a lifetime.
What matters is whether George Orwell’s literature is true and useful.
Same with propaganda. Its only important if you/we recognize it, and the moment you recognize it as a power yourself have giving it value and the importance it shouldnt have. Its using energy in negative.
Just reject it as the trash it is and the hot air in the balloon goes out.
I prefer the boomer rang, b/c at least it has a chance of returning to bop the thrower while he’s not looking.
The origin of the propaganda was when someone heard that an animal was talking to him, and that was ago, a long time ago; did you really believe that an irrational animal spoke and did not run away?
As always the voice belonged to another.
Today the animal is now an electrical device but the image and sound always come from another. Orwell discovered very late what in the Middle Ages they called “objectivity”… from these powders these muds.
“Contemporary politics consists of the usual timeless formula of Machiavelli – namely: rule by force and fraud – but now with the current emphasis being on fraud, writes Francis Lee.”
That is certainly correct!
However, continuing to provide more egregious examples of the hypernormalizations of hyperhypocrasies does not move towards the kinds of series of profound paradigm shifts which are required to cope with the consequences of excessively successful organized crime dominating the world.
I recommend recognizing the fusion between ancient mysticism and post-modernizing science, which especially includes perceiving human beings as energy systems, wherein Energy IS Spirit.
Since it all the same Energy, every use of language based on false fundamental dichotomies is erroneous. There is only one political system: “organized crime.” That is because human beings necessarily take energy to live. That means human beings must live as gangs of robbers in the world.
The currently dominate systems are the result of generation after generation of the biggest and best organized gangsters making and maintaining civilizations, which were selected to become more and more based on being able to enforce frauds, which systems inherently have a structure which drive about exponentially increasing fraudulence.
Therefore, the language that “we” use is the biggest bullies’ bullshit-based language, and because that has been the dominate language so much, for so long, there is almost nothing but layers of controlled opposition surrounding the central core of excessively successful organized crime, more and more manifesting as runaway criminal insanities.
I propose and promote using unitary mechanisms, rather than fundamental dichotomies, in order to better discuss the dynamic equilibria between the different systems of more or less organized lies operating robberies, which are the only things which actually exist, since human beings live as nested toroidal vortices engaged in entropic pumping of environmental energy flows.
Due to the “legalized counterfeiting” that almost totally conquered the world, as Globalized Neolithic Civilization, that society tends to deliberately ignore the principle of the conservation of energy as much as possible, while also misunderstanding the concept of entropy in absurdly backwards ways.
Human beings are actually energy systems which have developed astonishing abilities to lie about that. That is even more awesome when one considers the prodigious progress made in understanding atomic or electrical energy, etc., while yet practically nothing is genuinely scientific about the current “political science,” because it, quite deliberately, does not recognize the fundamentals about human ecology and political economy. Instead, every aspect of politics, including “political science,” has become almost totally dominated by enforced frauds, which are therefore becoming more and more fraudulent, faster and faster.
Return to more “truth” would be return to better understanding how and why human beings live as energy systems, which includes better understanding selection for the successfulness of maliciousness maximizations in society. It would certainly be possible to have a more genuine scientific political science, except that its reliance upon unitary mechanisms would require perceiving that every church, country, or corporation in the world is some form of organized lies engaged in robberies.
That might be the basis for better dynamic equilibria between those different systems. However, at the present time, the previous generation after generation of social successes based on being able to enforce frauds have resulted in every possible kind of criminal insanity being selected for. The problems associated with “language, objectivity, and political power” are much more perilous and profound than the article above indicated.
“society tends to deliberately ignore the principle of the conservation of energy as much as possible”.
I agree in your final conclusion here from my armchair and my Budweiser, observing the principle of conserving energy as much as possible.
Wonderful essay. Very helpful. Many thanks.
Here’s a little nonsense I recently came across. From countryeconomy.com. Look at the recent ratings in New York given by Moody’s, Standard and Poor, and Fitch’s on US Treasuries. Apparently Russian bond ratings are Ca, CC, and, C – junk status. These are rated lower than those of El Salvador.(!) I think that there might be some American bias in this!
More than “might be” actually – the fact that the financial World turns to these institutions for advice on where to invest it’s money just goes to show yet another facet of US American power: if you’re against “the system” in any way (Russia, Iran and poor, long-suffering Venezuela), you get downgraded by three anonymous and utterly unaccountable US-based ratings agencies and from then on nobody will invest in your government bonds.
Lower than El Salvador – pfft… laughable! Russia’s external debt is tiny and they have no problems servicing it.
Communism the equal distribution of poverty (almost, except a bit more of the spoils for the redistributing class).
Fascism the unequal distribution of wealth to the clubhouse class.
Choices, choices, seems like from the article Orwell did a stint with both and seemed to prefer the latter. Personally I’ve never had a thing for coerced redistribution.
“…during the Nazi ascendency 1934-1945. JG was able to convince enough of Germany’s population that ‘total war’ was really quite good fun.”
This is a misconception and a flip description of how Germans were manipulated into war. It started with fear.
There is a popular quote attributed to Goering that he may or may not have uttered. Here is the actual documented quote: “All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country.”
From 1933 to 1939 the Nazi government instilled nonstop fear in its citizens — fear of Communists, Gypsies, homosexuals, Jews, even the peace-loving Jehovah’s Witnesses. Only then, and only after assuming dictatorial power made possible by this fearmongering, was Goebbels able to do what the author says. By that time it was hazardous to your health and security to disagree that total war was really quite good fun. Ask Sophie Scholl.
The lesson for the present is if your government wants you to be deathly afraid of something you should be skeptical because it may just be a tactic.
“I once had occasion to conduct an interview with a Soviet writer (Anatoli Kusnyetsov). (…) He made a remark which is one of the most extraordinary remarks anyone has ever made to me and has echoed in my mind more often than I can say. He said to me this: that if in this world you are confronted with absolute power, power unmitigated, unrestrained, extending to every area of human life – if you are confronted with power in those terms, you are driven to realise that the only possible response to it is not some alternative power arrangement, more humane, more enlightened. The only possible response to absolute power is the absolute love which our Lord brought into the world. (…) I can see, though we in the West have not experienced this absolute power, that there would be something futile and ridiculous even in the attempt to meet such tyranny with some alternative propaganda or ideology. As between Caesar at his most absolute and God at his most remote, there is only Christ. And that was what this man said.”
― Malcolm Muggeridge, The End of Christendom
“Stalin knew that to get the Russian people to fight to the end with their backs to the wall, he needed something more than Marxist materialism. (…) What he did do was a characteristic Stalinist thing, he fetched the patriarch (of the Russian Orthodox Church) and one or two other prelates from the labour camp where they were languishing and brought them to the Kremlin and set them up in business again. It’s one of those very significant incidents that tends to get forgotten.”
― Malcolm Muggeridge, The End of Christendom
“When we say ‘our rulers’, we mean those who are engaged in the manipulation of symbols. We must consider ourselves a symbolic, semantic class of life, and cannot cease from being so… those who control the symbols rule us…
“Our rulers: politicians, ‘diplomats’, bankers, priests of every description, economists, lawyers, [media,] etc. and the majority of teachers [of our rulers] and work together. They do not produce any values but manipulate the values produced by others, and often pass signs for no value at all. … are ignorant of modern science, scientific methods, structural linguistic and semantic issues of [today] and … historical and anthropological background, without which a sane orientation is impossible. … as long as such ignorance of our rulers prevails, no solution of our human problems is possible. Scientists and teachers also comprise a ruling class. They produce the main values mankind has, but, at present, they do not realize this. They are, in the main, ruled by the cunning methods of the first class.”
I have been reading Francis Lee for many years, on many blogs, but this is truly excellent stuff, some of which is new to me – yet still open to interpretation. I think I once nearly met him, but was too shy to say hello.
I was particularly interested in “Moscow Dynamo, did a tour of the UK and played Chelsea at Stamford Bridge (London); it was a mass sell-out where upwards of 100,000 fans spilled over onto the pitch. Chelsea won by the way, 4-1.”
I did work very close to Chelsea FC for 13 years in the 80’s and the 90’s, and it was a fun time – nothing like this nonsense now. There were no major wars, the little theatres and the music venues, were full of talent – see all Orwell’s and Kubrick’s stuff done live on stage (better than the films or books), and we all got on.
What went wrong? It was art, not an instruction manual.
How could anyone deliberately plan such evil to destroy civilisation?