- on the sociology of intellectuals, state crime and propaganda
‘On the importance of the matter we have testimony from ancient times. Everybody knows that conceptual clarity was essential for Socrates. But let us here take an even older example. When Confucius one time was asked, what he considered to be of the greatest importance in the art of government, he answered: To put words and concepts correctly. Because if the concepts don't fit, the works won't be made. If the works aren't made then morality and art cannot thrive. And if morality and art do not thrive then the punishment do not hit the targets. And if the punishments don't hit, the people don't know where to put the hand and the foot. - That is why the scholar make sure that he can transform his words into action. The scholar cannot endure anyting in his words that do not fit. This is what everything depends on.’ Knud Grue-Sørensen
We need to talk about our insane wars and why we allow them to go on
If we only think of the illegal and destructive wars committed by the US and other Western nations in the last couple of decades in Yugoslavia, Iraq and Libya, we must pose this sociological problem: how is it possible for so-called democratic societies to continue with state crimes and not confront our governments’ illegal action?
Why do every critical analysis and critical piece of information on the subject seem so inconsequential? Indeed, why is there so little opposition and public resistance to the continuation of our illegal wars? It is not as if the populations want the wars. So why do we not oppose them on a grand scale? Why do we as peoples accept the wars? We need to face the harsh reality, and it is much, much harsher than people would like to think. However, we must because we must stop making virtues of our states of denial – both our mental and our national states of denial. The following text was to become an article but as the situation in Syria is getting still more dangerous by the minute – I will throw out some of my text on my blog. I have no doubt that the US and Western alliance consider if not simply plan to attack Syria directly. My text is a mess. I will improve it in the coming days.
My analysis of this problem has led me back to some heavy sociological lessons from the Germans’ Nazi experience that we, unfortunately, have forgotten or perhaps never properly understood. The great Canadian sociologist Everett C. Hughes found out, that the Germans really believed that they did not know the truth about their reality. How could that be possible? Well for similar reasons most people today do not know the truth about our reality. How is this possible?
It is the academics and the intellectuals, who betray their responsibility
I will point the causal finger in a completely different direction from where critical thinking on such issues usually point. I will focus on the role and responsibility of the academia and the intellectuals. Because history, not least twentieth century German history teaches us, that it is pointless to expect change of behavior from the obvious bad perpetrators. We will have to confront and expect change from somewhere else, that is, perhaps paradoxically, from the perceived good, prestigious academics and intellectuals. The greater the (symbolic) power the greater the responsibility, you know. We have to understand the role and responsibility of the Western academics and intellectuals, who, silently, somehow unconsciously and ignorantly but effectively, support and legitimize our governments’ dirty work and state crimes.
The intellectuals play a powerful role in the larger propagandized machinery if only by generally accepting the political lies and the media-based state propaganda. Just by accepting the general framework of our governments’ lies, they enhance the denial of our states’ ‘dirty work’ with all their symbolic power. In addition, at the same time as they make virtues of their ‘pure’ knowledge, morality and mental states, not wanting to go into the Western secret intelligence agencies like the CIA and the MI6, etc., they tend to stigmatize the very only sources of information, which actually work to inform the public about our states’ crimes and dirty work. This way, they make the people trust our governments and the mainstream media’s lies and propaganda while hindering them from taking the most important non-mainstream critical information seriously.
Then the intellectuals pretend to themselves and everybody else that they somehow deserve a finer status for being above taking dirty information – information on our states’ dirty work - seriously. Not to talk about researching and informing about it. Their more or less sincere ignorance is a perfect assistance to our governments’ unspoken wishes. In fact, their suppressing of our states’ dirty work could not have been so effective, if our governments had paid them full time to do it. Their collective sort of virtuous suppression of the subject and their naïve sincerity and sincere ignorance of the subject inclusive their own role and part in the entire logic make them perfect accomplices in our states’ game of making virtues of states of denial.
However, the intellectuals have the logic of things completely backwards as they betray their responsibility for informing and enlightening the world. Instead of being preoccupied with our governments’ crimes against other nations and doing their best to make people understand the world destructive consequences of the problem, they do the opposite. The intellectuals fulfill a most important function of legitimizing the state propaganda and preventing whole populations from knowing the crucial critical facts of our governments’ dirty work and state crimes.
Hence, when people ask, why the Western peoples allow their governments to continue the incredible destructive policies around the world, not least in the Middle East, the truth is, that the people cannot imagine how false their information on their governments’ action are nor how treacherous and worthless their media, academia and intellectuals are. It is unreasonable and bad judgment to point the finger at the people. We need to understand how the authorities in the media, intellectuals and the academic field prevent the people from knowing the most crucial information.
Intellectuals, journalists, and others might reproach me that the problem of misinformation about governments’ dirty actions is nothing new. They are right, of course, and it is gruesome to acknowledge, that we perhaps could and definitely should have done things in a completely different way decades ago. Ridicule and ignorance of the analysis only underline its importance and confirm it.
The few intellectuals that actually work to inform on these critical matter logically classify as the most important people today. Given the state of affairs, it is also logical, that the academic and intellectual community generally neglect if not stigmatize them. Many important whistleblowers on these issues are, as everybody knows, in jail.
Radical Doubt: everything our governments tell us on Syria is false
Many people believe or at least cling to the illusions spread by Western governments about the humanitarian and democratic intentions if not necessity of our interventions and wars in foreign nations. Many people take the propaganda that accompanies our states’ interventions for information. As everybody can testify, who has tried to point out that much of media’s information is propaganda and that there is usually a more cynical agenda behind our governments’ actions; it is only normal, that one meets fierce resistance from people, who are more than willing to teach one lessons with the received propaganda, as if it was information.
Is it possible to know something but pretend, to oneself and others that one does not know it? It clearly is, I think, especially when one’s society as a whole support the pretension and treat direct confrontational critique as a taboo or, which is the same, with ridicule. Nevertheless, defending our Western governments ‘foreign policy’ and the accompanying mainstream media propaganda is not only false and pathetic; it is an important contribution, and I tell you, it may very well be the most important factor that help our states’ crimes against nations and humanity seem reasonable and just.
There are of course all kinds of partial critiques and moderations of the propaganda, but the problem is, that Western people generally accept the US and Western narratives as if they are sound and true in its basic postulates. This, we need to problematize. We need to make people realize, that our governments and the media are lying and that their powerful narratives on the Western ‘foreign policies’ backed by almost all politicians and the mainstream media are false to the core. We need to make the unthinkable thinkable.
In sociology, it is a basic epistemological postulate that the most powerful things in society happen silently and unnoticed. This is also, what I will argue happens in this case. Now I am not talking about the narratives, which our governments and the media manufacture on an industrial scale. I am talking about the way, we as people accept for this to happen rather silently and unnoticed. Yes, there are a few protests here and there, but in general, the narratives pass as true.
This is key; I am sure, to understand the fact that we are living in states of denial. We have the power of the masses clinging to our governments’ and the media’s version of reality. It is not difficult to understand how this can happen, when one realizes the grand scale of propaganda, we are accustomed to. One has to do a lot of research on a lot of less known, less official if not somewhat stigmatized sites and rely on what can easily be regarded as rather untrustworthy sources, if one is to go against the common narrative. It is not popular, it is not career promoting and above all, it takes a lot of time, what most working people do not have. Then one has to think one is right against one’s politicians, one’s media and one’s society if not most Western nations.
In other words, if you are not working most diligently and hard and over a long time, you will not be able to confront and go against our governments’, indeed our societies’ narratives. In this perspective, it is not difficult to understand why most people accept the same narratives. How could it be otherwise? Now, the problem is that it is enough, as Vaclav Havel once noted, to accept a system for one to be part of it. This way, as you may already sense, we may not be far away from qualifying as totalitarian states.
However, what about the critical minds in society? The same elementary logic, I am afraid, no matter one’s illusions about Western intellectuals, easily apply to the journalists and the intellectuals; and not only that. As I shall show, even the otherwise most trustworthy intellectuals known for their critical thinking in other areas are not only accepting these narratives, they even support and defend them and criticize and stigmatize information, that go against them.
This way our intellectuals not only play a powerful role, using their symbolic power to stigmatize the only sources that can provide the crucial counter-information. Their seemingly noble actions that seem to skillfully help select the trustworthy from the non-trustworthy information in fact only work to suppress critical counter information, thereby fulfilling a crucial role of stigmatizing critical thinking people, information and sources, at the same time making virtues of their own states of denial. Hence helping to make virtues of our nations as states of denial.
I must go now. But I will come back tomorrow with some concrete empirical evidence on how this happens. And people are of course welcome to mail me experience on the subject. Not least experience from critical academics and journalists are most welcome.
Information here: http://homosociologicus.com/syria
Till tomorrow then.