Monday, October 30, 2006

"The Creation and Maintenance of Public Myths" (Who is Philip Zelikow?)

He was. of course, co-author of a book with 'Condi' Rice; and, five years later, (despite the vehement protests of the bereaved families) executive director of the 9-11 Commission.

But there's more to him than that. Another of his literary collaborators was a former CIA chief, and their article, published in 1998, was just as remarkably prescient as the
PNAC team's premonition of a New Pearl Harbor.

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- From an article by Mike Whitney, in the Online Journal, Oct 25, 2006:

"Stealing the midterm elections and the power of myth"

[...] In researching the Bush administration’s manipulation of public perceptions, I came across an interesting summary of the State Department’s Philip Zelikow, who was executive director of the 9-11 Commission, that greatest of all charades.

According to Wikipedia:

“Prof. Zelikow’s area of academic expertise is the creation and maintenance of, in his words, ‘public myths’ or ‘public presumptions’ which he defines as ‘beliefs (1) thought to be true (although not necessarily known with certainty) and (2) shared in common within the relevant political community.’ In his academic work and elsewhere he has taken a special interest in what he has called ‘searing’ or ‘molding’ events (that) take on 'transcendent’ importance and therefore retain their power even as the experiencing generation passes from the scene. . . . He has noted that ‘a history’s narrative power is typically linked to how readers relate to the actions of individuals in the history; if readers cannot make the connection to their own lives, then a history may fail to engage them at all.”

(“Thinking about Political History”, Miller Center Report, Winter 1999, pp. 5-7)


Isn’t that the same as saying there is neither history nor truth; that what is really important is the manipulation of epochal events so they serve the interests of society’s managers? Thus, it follows that if the government can create their own “galvanizing events,” then they can write history any way they choose.

If that’s the case, then perhaps the entire war on terror is cut from whole cloth; a garish public relations maneuver devoid of meaning.

Wikipedia helps to clarify this point by adding:

“In the Nov-Dec 1998 issue of Foreign Affairs he (Zelikow) co-authored with the former head of the CIA) an article entitled 'Catastrophic Terrorism' in which he speculated that if the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center had succeeded, ‘the resulting horror and chaos would have exceeded our ability to describe it. Such an act of catastrophic terrorism would be a watershed event in American history. It could involve loss of life and property unprecedented in peacetime and undermine America’s fundamental sense of security, as did the
Soviet atomic bomb test in 1949. Like Pearl Harbor, the event would divide our past and future into a before and after. The United States might respond with draconian measures scaling back civil liberties, allowing wider surveillance of citizens, detention of suspects and use of deadly force.”

(Philip Zelikow, From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

That was written in 1998!

Amazing. It is almost like Zelikow knew what was going to happen on 9-11 and was drawing attention to the “draconian measures” (scaling back civil liberties) which may seem attractive to ruling elites in the policy establishment.

Now, (coincidentally) everything has evolved almost exactly as Zelikow predicted. Just like Pearl Harbor, 9-11 has “divided our past and future into a before and after.” The post-9-11 world relates to a world in which personal liberty is no longer protected, and where surveillance, detention and the use of deadly force are all permitted. It is a world in which “America’s fundamental sense of security” has been shattered and will continue to be shattered as a way of managing public opinion.

As Zelikow presciently implies, the post 9-11 world depends entirely on “public myths”; fairy tales invented by society’s supervisors which perpetuate the illusion of democracy, freedom and the rule of law.

So, how does this apply to Karl Rove?

There are only two weapons in the imperial tool chest; force and deception. I expect that the anticipated Democratic landslide will be preempted by massive voter fraud accompanied by some type of “searing event”; that way the fantastical outcome of a GOP victory can be neatly folded into a larger and all-pervasive "myth."

As we have been reminded many times: Reality no longer matters; only the perception of reality. The power of myth reigns supreme.

- Full article here.

13 comments:

  1. Fucking hell. I know you get your share of stick over at the Tomb for this stuff, but as someone with professional experience in the world of public relations, and now an academic interest in propaganda, this is very interesting indeed.

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  2. It's so very interesting, in fact, that it has to be be very carefully ignored, at the Tomb and elsewhere. (This and much else.)

    Five years on, the refusal to even acknowledge the utterly overwhelming evidence of Bush Gang complicity continues to debilitate left analysis of the current situation. Lenin sometimes has to tie himself in knots to avoid mentioning The Unwelcome Topic - as in his most recent post, which probably led you here. And much more importantly: it enfeebles antiwar action.

    I think it's depressingly clear what mechanisms are at work here: 1. sheer vanity; 2. a widespread inability to admit a mistake (very male, that); 3. simple fear.

    The grotesque consequence is that the mere mention of the Bush Gang's grotesque Universal Casis Belli is enough to provoke moderators of "left" "antiwar" websites to go in the huff, to go apeshit or even to threaten bans. In Britain, at the Tomb; in the US, at Democratic Underground. Just for instance.

    It can't go on like this forever, though. The topic is not going to go away. It may be unwelcome, but it is not honestly ignorable.

    - warszawa

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  3. Among the things so studiously ignored are this highly watchable and frequently flabbergasting 84-minute film:

    http://www.911pressfortruth.com/

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  4. TuppenceWorth12:59 AM

    "I think it's depressingly clear what mechanisms are at work here: 1. sheer vanity; 2. a widespread inability to admit a mistake (very male, that); 3. simple fear."

    Well, fear of being ridiculed, I agree. As a supporter of the SWP I think that goes for the party as a whole and to some extent they have a point in that they could lose their credibility while their audience still believes the Bush story. The problem is of course that by steering in this direction they perpetuate the myth themselves. But as the truth emerges and public opinion changes, this will lead to pressure from within the anti-war movement. I think the SWP will then catch up, though my guess would be that although they will eventually admit that the entirety of the so-called ‘war on terror’ was a fabrication, they would still argue that the tactic of dissassociating themselves from so-called ‘conspiracy theorists’ was not wrong.

    A great post, anyway! Thanks.

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  5. What is baffling is how open they are about these things, sending ron susskind to out to tell 'the people' that The aide said that guys like me were ''in what we call the reality-based community,'' which he defined as people who ''believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.'' I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. ''That's not the way the world really works anymore,'' he continued. ''We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality -- judiciously, as you will -- we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.'

    Just how it is feasible to dismiss the possibility that those who can oversee the deaths of 600,000+ elsewhere, would not be able to justify a little local sacrifice (3000+ in iraq, 2000?+ in the homeland), is the perplexing thing.

    The idea that they would draw the line, in their hyper existential, malthusian mindset, at their own population implicitly suggests that they are working for their 'own people' rather than their own elite, which has rarely been the case historically.

    Insane people are generally as consistent as sane ones, they just pursue insane goals by insane means. sometimes it's easier to attribute it to a supernatural for such as 'capitalism', beneath which we are all equally helpless.

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  6. Sorry, should read as 'supernatural force'

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  7. hey could lose their credibility while their audience still believes the Bush story.

    As a distinctly minority party with no popularly elected representation, (unless you count piggybacking george galloway), that credibility would be a very small thing to surrender, and in such circumstances, the most craven excuse for closing their collective mind.

    However, warsawa's ram raids have at least evinced a tacit acceptance over at the tomb, to my mind, anyway. Which is not a bad thing, as they not a bad bunch overall.

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  8. Tuppenceworth, many thanks. You are the first SWP member (or supporter) who has actually honestly admitted that this is what's going on. That is far more than Bat020, Johng or Meaders ever managed.

    Lenin himself desrves enormous respect. He is always informative and sometimes brilliant, his heart is clearly in the right place, and he is obviously struggling to reconcile his party loyalties with what he knows to be a prudent lie (the pretence that the Bush Gamg's account is even remotely credible, or that the issue itself is unimportant). Five years into this fucking War, though, I have to say that he is not struggling hard enough.

    "But as the truth emerges and public opinion changes, this will lead to pressure from within the anti-war movement. I think the SWP will then catch up,"

    The truth doesn't 'emerge' like daffodils in Spring. Public opinion doesn't change like the colour of the leaves on a tree. If the SWP waits around for such things to happen, then it subscribes (as Paul says) to a craven lie, thus forfeiting all claim to be taken seriously as a party of radical opposition.

    It also shares heavily in the responsibility for the continuation of this murderous bloody War.

    - w.

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  9. Tuppenceworth writes:

    "I think the SWP will then catch up, though my guess would be that although they will eventually admit that the entirety of the so-called ‘war on terror’ was a fabrication, they would still argue that the tactic of dissassociating themselves from so-called ‘conspiracy theorists’ was not wrong."

    Again, this shows that the ongoing avoidance of The Unmentionable Topic leads to the debilitation of left analysis in general, and thus to ineffective or counterproductive praxis. The term 'conspiracy theory' is a thoughtstopper and nothing more. Jamey Hecht nailed it years ago:

    "THE TERM ‘CONSPIRACY THEORY’

    This phrase is among the tireless workhorses of establishment discourse. Without it, disinformation would be much harder than it is. “Conspiracy theory” is a trigger phrase, saturated with intellectual contempt and deeply anti-intellectual resentment. It makes little sense on its own, and while it’s a priceless tool of propaganda, it is worse than useless as an explanatory category."


    http://www.911inquiry.org/Presentations/JameyHecht.htm

    It is no more possible to use that cant term innocently than it is to speak innocently of 'the Jewish problem' or 'political correctness' or 'family values' or 'the terrorist threat' or 'the shiftlessness of the working classes'. Words are weapons, among much else.

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  10. Paul beat me to it: "Just how it is feasible to dismiss the possibility that those who can oversee the deaths of 600,000+ elsewhere, would not be able to justify a little local sacrifice (3000+ in iraq, 2000?+ in the homeland), is the perplexing thing."

    Precisely. In the scale of covert operations, 3000 is pretty small beer. Personally, I'm still unclear as to whether it was engineered, or merely allowed to happen, but I have no problem admitting the possibility that they would be party to wet jobs on US soil.

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  11. Tuppenceworth2:12 PM

    "The truth doesn't 'emerge' like daffodils in Spring…. If the SWP waits around for such things to happen, then it subscribes (as Paul says) to a craven lie, thus forfeiting all claim to be taken seriously as a party of radical opposition."

    It’s true that there’s been and there still is a lot of hard slog going on to get to this point. But the SWP (and Respect) are doing a great job in fighting the attempt to scapegoat Muslims, which they explicitly link to US imperial aggression, and which I think is pressing issue No 1 for the left in the UK - and so the SWP is in fact, in practical terms, a party of radical opposition. I just don’t see where the contradiction lies between that and exposing another aspect of the same project, the biggest cover-up of all time. I wish the hell someone could explain it to me.

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  12. There is absolutely no contradiction, Tuppenceworth. On the contrary: racism against Muslims in Britain cannot be effectively opposed by the craven, dishonest, opportunistic and wilfully-"ignorant" SWP as long as they keep defending the most essental lie: the lie that started the so-called War on fucking Terror. The lie that says "That Lot Are Capable of Anything".

    "Progressives" say: "Another World Is Possible". Well, maybe, but not with the kind of evidence-proof, feebly "political" considerations that keep the "Tomb Patrol" so dependably fatuous. It is toy politics, and was ever so. If the brilliant (and exceptionally courageous) individual George Galloway were not there to stick his neck out for them, the SWP would immediately sink back into the obscurity it has so naturally inhabited since its birth.

    You cannot base effective opposition to war or racism on the prudent toleration of an obvious lie. QED, exhaustively, for the last five years and 52 days.

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  13. I just don’t see where the contradiction lies between that and exposing another aspect of the same project, the biggest cover-up of all time. I wish the hell someone could explain it to me.

    Just look to noam chomsky,someone i admire but do not revere, he wraps it all up into a fatuous dichotomy, 'if it was true, then it does not matter, because my truths are far worse', which, to me, liken him to an increasingly reactionary comic.

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