In his recent post, “Meat Cutter Blues: The ‘Soft Totalitarianism’ of the American Elite“, Chris Floyd reviews “Who Paid the Piper“,
Frances Stonor Saunders‘ 1999 history of the CIA’s extensive subornation and skewing of Western culture for more than half a century.
The book, for which Chris paid two pounds, explains a good part of what’s wrong with us right now — for example, why a truth-teller of Floyd’s caliber is blogging while countless chumps are making good coin telling the most transparent lies.
I’ve added a few links and some photos. Here’s Chris:
Saunders writes of a seminal document produced in 1951 by the “Psychological Strategy Board,” created in that year by a secret directive from President Harry Truman [photo] to coordinate the government’s broad spectrum of covert “psychological warfare” operations. The creation of the PSB was part of a blizzard of secret orders by Truman that established a second, shadow government of the United States, unaccountable to the people, with a vast secret budget and deliberately vague directives encouraging the widest possible latitude of illegal action while maintaining “plausible deniability” for elected officials: the “National Security State” that supplanted the old American Republic.
The paper itself is still classified, but in a lengthy internal memo, a worried PSB officer, Charles Burton Marshall, quoted freely from the passages that most exercised him. “How [can] a government interpose with a wide doctrinal system of its own without taking on the color of totalitarianism?” he asked. “The paper does not indicate any. Indeed, it accepts uniformity as a substitute for diversity. It postulates a system justifying ‘a particular type of social belief and structure,’ providing ‘a body of principles for human aspirations,’ and embracing ‘all fields of human thought’ — ‘all fields of intellectual interest, from anthropology and artistic creations to sociology and scientific methodology.’ Marshall (who was to become a staunch critic of the PSB), went on to criticize the paper’s call for ‘a machinery’ to produce ideas to portray ‘the American way of life’ on a ‘systematic and scientific basis.’ It anticipates ‘doctrinal production’ under a ‘coordination mechanism,'” Marshall observed. “It asserts ‘a premium on swift and positive action to galvanize the creation and distribution of ideas.'”…. [Marshall’s] conclusion was adamant: “This is just about as totalitarian as one can get.”
“Uniformity as a substitute for diversity,” based on “a particular type of social belief and structure.” A “machinery” for “doctrinal production.” As a description of our modern-day Establishment media — and the product of Establishment academia and “think tanks” — this could hardly be bettered. But Marshall had even more to say about the worldview of America’s ruling class:
[In the PSB vision], “individuals are relegated to tertiary importance,” Marshall continues. “The supposed elite emerges as the only group that counts. The elite is defined [in the document] as that numerically ‘limited group capable and interested in manipulating doctrinal matters,’ the men of ideas who pull the intellectual strings ‘in forming, or at least predisposing, the attitudes and opinions’ of those who in turn lead public opinion.’
…Mr Marshall’s trenchant criticisms struck right at the very fundamentals of America’s secret cultural warfare programme….Commenting on [the document], CIA agent Donald Jameson intended no irony when he said: “As far as the attitudes that the Agency wanted to inspire through these activies are concerned, clearly what they would like to have been able to produce were people, who of their own reasoning and conviction, were persuaded that everything the United States government did was right.”
“The supposed elite emerges as the only group that counts.” The CIA sought to produce “people who of their own reasoning and conviction were persuaded that everything the United States government did was right.” These two passages describe perfectly the driving forces behind American society today. And after generations of diligent weeding and breeding, we have indeed produced generation after generation of journalists, politicians, academics, intellectuals, corporate chieftains — the “great and good” of every description — who, “by their own reasoning and conviction” believe that everything the U.S. government does is right. This accounts for why the brazenly deliberate and conscious crimes of the Bush Administration — and its bipartisan predecessors — are always written off as, at the very worst, good intentions gone awry, noble aims imperfectly executed.
I have a feeling I’m going to be talking about the PSB quite a bit in the near future. It’s a “missing link” that answers a lot of questions.
Chris links to one of his pieces from almost exactly a year ago, “Getting Away With It: Rendition and Regime Change in Somalia“, which I hope you might read in full (perhaps even following a few links), but I wish to bring to your attention the following very relevant excerpt:
This year marks the anniversary of this coup d’etat: the 1947 “National Security Act.” Writing on the 50th anniversary of this supplanting of the Republic, Gore Vidal wrote:
Fifty years ago, Harry Truman replaced the old republic with a national-security state whose sole purpose is to wage perpetual wars, hot, cold, and tepid. Exact date of replacement? February 27, 1947. Place: The White House Cabinet Room. Cast: Truman, Undersecretary of State Dean Acheson, a handful of congressional leaders. Republican senator Arthur Vandenberg told Truman that he could have his militarized economy only IF he first “scared the hell out of the American people” that the Russians were coming. Truman obliged. The perpetual war began. Representative government of, by, and for the people is now a faded memory. Only corporate America enjoys representation by the Congress and presidents that it pays for in an arrangement where no one is entirely accountable because those who have bought the government also own the media. Now, with the revolt of the Praetorian Guard at the Pentagon, we are entering a new and dangerous phase. Although we regularly stigmatize other societies as rogue states, we ourselves have become the largest rogue state of all. We honor no treaties. We spurn international courts. We strike unilaterally wherever we choose. We give orders to the United Nations but do not pay our dues…we bomb, invade, subvert other states. Although We the People of the United States are the sole source of legitimate authority in this land, we are no longer represented in Congress Assembled. Our Congress has been hijacked by corporate America and its enforcer, the imperial military machine…
It’s almost as if the mere suggestion that America has been a bully in the world playground is enough to get somebody branded as a terrorist sympathizer, or something … which is ridiculous on its face because we all know that the terrorists don’t hate us for anything we’ve done to them or their countries; they don’t even hate us “for our freedoms”, as the president used to say; it’s because of “the perverse and hateful ideologies of radical Islam.”
I know this because Barack Obama said so, and he’s “the Senate’s most liberal member” according to Rick Santorum. And I don’t always believe Rick Santorum, but I do believe Barack Obama when he says the problem is “the perverse and hateful ideologies of radical Islam”.
This is also important because if they don’t hate us for anything we’ve done, then we don’t have anything to feel guilty about, and we don’t have to think about changing any of our ways, and that slots in just perfectly for the “people, who of their own reasoning and conviction, [are] persuaded that everything the United States government [does is] right … “
… including nuking civilians — not once, but twice — just to show the Russians we were serious, just to kick the Cold War off on a sufficiently threatening note, or maybe just for the hell of it. We knew the Japanese were ready to surrender, but who wanted to have a weapon this powerful and not use it? Certainly not Harry Truman.
And so, you see, it turns out that even our current maniac idiot president was too dangerously near the truth with his ignorant formulation “they hate us for our freedoms”, since that erroneously implied that perhaps people in other countries do have reasons — no matter how flaky — for the unreasonable animosity they obviously feel toward America.
But if it’s just a question of “perverse and hateful ideologies” then we really have no choice but to bomb them to smithereens, right?
And then … What becomes of us?
It’s a good question, isn’t it? In fact it’s too good, and that’s why you don’t see it very often.
You don’t see any good questions very often, let alone answers.