Whether they are uttered by Trump or by respectable media pundits, false equivalencies typically come into use in order to marginalize progressive alternatives when actual counter-arguments to them would be unconvincing. Here’s the logic:
A is the moderate opinion acceptable to those in power.
B is a progressive alternative, which gatekeepers ignore.
C is a loony, right wing conspiracy theory.
Eventually, public pressure forces the gatekeepers to address B.
When they can no longer ignore B, they attack it with ineffective criticism.
When criticism proves useless, they resort to FEs, equating it with C.
Another related issue is the FE of strictly non-violent movements for racial justice with a vicious white supremacist reaction, often expressed by police murders of unarmed people of color.
In 2017, reports the conservative magazine Fortune, firearm-related killings of police officers actually declined from 2016. And police are, according to the same statistics, more likely to kill themselves than be killed by a criminal. 2017 was actually one of the safest years in decades for on-duty police officers. It also marked the third year in a row in which police killed nearly 1,000 Americans.
How then do we explain the fact that in the first two months of that same year, lawmakers in 14 states introduced 32 “Blue Lives Matter” bills proposing that police be included in hate crime protections, except by understanding the phenomena of FEs? Or that in May 2018 an overwhelming majority of the House passed the “Protect and Serve Act of 2018,”which mandates harsher penalties for people who commit violence against police than for those who hurt civilians? The Senate’s version of the bill went even further, making police a “protected class.” From whom? Black Lives Matter activists? Natasha Lennard observes the irony that now we have yet another category of victim, created by yet another FE:
The same ideological commitment to police-as-persecuted underpins FBI efforts to frame Black Lives Matter activists as potential “black identity extremists” — a designation, conjured from thin air, that claims anti-racist activism is breeding a terroristic targeting of cops…the Senate has denigrated the very notion of persecution. Treating cops as a persecuted minority equates a uniform — which you can take off — with skin color, religion, gender, or sexual orientation.
Think about that: these laws are (falsely of course) attempting to equate the degree of unchosen and natural melatonin in one’s skin with an occupation, a job, which one must decide to apply for. Now, an unarmed black teenager and a heavily armed white cop are “equally” potential victims.
And when the public impression is that white supremacists and anti-fascists are merely two faces of the same coin, it becomes easier for police to actually cooperate with the former so as to further marginalize the latter. For more on this, read here and here.
And here’s a beauty: CBS News accuses Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of being the “Sarah Palin of the Left.”
FEs have stalked the conversation about racial justice for decades. From the old distractor that “Africans enslaved each other, so therefore American slavery wasn’t so bad” to the deliberately confusing claims that “most Blacks are killed by other Blacks” to Trump’s recent crusade against “white genocide” in South Africa.
The same issues appear in international politics. For decades, media coverage of Israel and Palestine has been a litany of FEs, such as the claim that to be anti-Zionist is to be anti-Semitic. Another is the “dueling narratives” story, which laments the impossibility of any long-term solution because there has always been “violence on both sides.”
Once that is assumed, the next FE is to make the absurd argument of equivalence between the degrees of power and the levels of violence committed by the two sides. But to do that, the gatekeepers must utterly ignore the Geneva Convention definition that collective punishment – precisely what Israel regularly inflicts upon the population of Gaza – is a war crime.
The NYT has long set the tone for other media to follow:
Here, one of its columnists compares Jewish Voice for Peace with white nationalists.
Here, it allows an Israeli minister to call BDS activists “enemy soldiers” and compare them to Nazis:
Here, it marginalizes anti-Zionism by equating it with anti-Semitism:
And here, it repeatedly finds reasons to defend the ongoing war crimes in Gaza.
Partially because of the unrelenting barrage of FEs led by the Times, the FBI has relied on unvetted, right-wing blacklists to surveil and harass anti-Zionist activists, and Congress has been considering an “Anti-Semitism Awareness Act’ that would severely limit free speech.
The Israel / Palestine dispute has been a long-term issue on university campuses, and it has become another arena of FEs, since there is little coverage of the huge discrepancy in funding between the two sides, or on the fact that many academics have been fired and/or blacklisted for their pro-Palestinian – yet anti-violence – positions, Including Norman Finkelstein and Steven Salaita.
Why has there been such a long-term barrage of pro-Israel propaganda and gatekeeping? Certainly, world opinion has long favored the Palestinians. And even in the U.S., polls have shown that Democrats, especially younger voters, have begun to stray from one of the most foundational stances of the American Empire, the notion that liberals must support Israel without question. In a world where Israeli bombers destroy Palestinian children and snipers assassinate Palestinian medics inside the concentration camp known as Gaza, people are actually waking up and questioning the imperative to be PEPs (progressives except for Palestine).
Hence the perceived need for FEs. And since the media can choose what to emphasize and whom to equalize, the marginalization can also happen when they attack activists and writers for making what they determine to be FEs. Noam Chomsky, for example, receives very little attention, except for when he makes the mild observation that the U.S. as well as Russia has intervened in countless elections in other countries. And the NYT was horrified when journalist Gary Johnson dared to equate war crimes committed in Syria by both the Syrians and the U.S.
So what about the “9-11 Truthers,” (they, of course, don’t use that term, nor do people who question the vaccination orthodoxy call themselves “anti-vaxxers”), whom the gatekeepers have been equating with the looniest of Obama haters (Kenya, socialist, Muslim, etc) for years? The issue here is not about veracity, but about how the media marginalizes those who question the empire, and about how the passage of time gradually takes the energy out of the reactionary response.
In 2014 a group called Rethink911 put up large advertisements in eleven cities, including a massive billboard in New York’s Times Square. They were about Building Seven, the third high rise that fell on 9/11, the one that had not been hit by the planes, and about which many were still unaware of. It was too big an event to ignore, so Time reported it with a typical headline: “Sept. 11 ‘Truthers’ Mark Anniversary.” It would seem, however, that thirteen years after the event, it was now permissible for the actual text of the article to be surprisingly objective and free of the usual ridicule. Six months later, writes Elizabeth Woodworth,
…20 stories in major papers have covered the September-December 2013 ReThink911 campaign – including Time Magazine, the NYT, the Ottawa Citizen, and BBC News Magazine…As time passes our memories of 9/11 becomes less painful and more open to public discussion. There is increasing skepticism in both the social and corporate media about the credibility of 9/11 as the foundation for the continuing global war on terror…seven congressmen, backed by impacted 9/11 families, are calling for the release of a secret 2002 congressional study that implicates Saudi Arabia in financing the alleged hijackers…A 2011 poll shows that 42% of Canadians believe US government information about 9/11 has been intentionally hidden from the public.
And this week, four more years later, the venerable gatekeeper Newsweek, with surprising objectivity, reviewed a new book that claimed “CIA and Saudi Arabia Conspired to keep 9/11 details secret.”
Again, I’m not trying to provoke a fight about the truth of the situation, but to examine how the gatekeepers do what they do, how they grab the “moderate center” and how they convince educated people to stop thinking, or at least until the passage of time softens the import of certain events. However, for those who have always questioned the official narrative of American innocence, I’ll offer yet another bit of argumentative logic. This one is attributed to Mahatma Ghandi:
First they ignore you.
Then they laugh at you.
Then they fight you.
Then you win.
Then we have the question of who is “fair and balanced,” as Fox News once described itself(significantly, they don’t any longer). Of course, the press and most journals of opinion have always claimed to offer opposing points of view in order to flesh out the finer points of an issue. This is what the free press is supposed to be about. In fact, beginning in 1949, the Fairness Doctrine of the Federal Communications Commission required this of all holders of broadcast licenses. Ronald Reagan revoked it in 1987 and it was removed from the Federal Register in 2011 by – yes – Barack Obama.
Now neither Fox (the house organ of the Republicans) nor MSNBC (ditto for the Democrats) is required to maintain the pretense of balanced reporting. But when we look at “serious” journals that do claim to do so, once again we find the common use of FEs. Was it a search for “fairness” that made The Atlantic and CNN give space and airtime to outright racists this year, or was it a cynical ratings-grab? Do their mild, “Russia-Gate” attacks on Trump that lack any criticism of the military-industrial complex or Israel justify the promotion of men who advocate killing reporters, advocate waterboarding and call Mexicans “peasants?” Should those attacks, justified or not, convince us that the career criminals of the FBI, CIA and the military are any more honorable than Trump himself?
Then we have the issue of the real media of the present and future, social media. Again, we see the use of FEs to drape the mantel of “outside the pale” on progressive writers by associating them with right-wingers. Caitlin Johnstone argues that when there is no meaningful separation between corporate power and state power, corporate censorship is state censorship. In 2016, she reports,
…representatives of Facebook, Twitter, and Google were instructed on the US Senate floor that it is their responsibility to “quell information rebellions” and adopt a “mission statement” expressing their commitment to “prevent the fomenting of discord.” “Civil wars don’t start with gunshots, they start with words,” the representatives were told. “America’s war with itself has already begun. We all must act now on the social media battlefield to quell information rebellions that can quickly lead to violent confrontations and easily transform us into the Divided States of America.”
She also describes a typical “mainstream debate” in which
…Two mainstream parties, both backed to the hilt by the entirety of corporate media…arguing with each other over who is doing more to help advance cold war aggressions between two nuclear superpowers. They’re not arguing about whether or not the world should be destroyed, they’re arguing over who gets to push the button.
Robert Parry, a real and lamented journalist, wrote in late 2017:
…I cannot think of a single prominent figure in the mainstream news media who questions any claim – no matter how unlikely or absurd – that vilifies Russian President Vladimir Putin and his country…And, behind this disturbing anti-Russian uniformity are increasing assaults against independent and dissident journalists and news outlets outside the mainstream.
He mentions the Justice Department’s demand that the Russian news outlet, RT, register under the restrictive Foreign Agent Registration Act.
This attack on RT was rationalized by the Jan. 6 “Intelligence Community Assessment” that was, in reality, prepared by a handful of “hand-picked” analysts from the CIA, FBI and National Security Agency…However, if any real journalist actually read the Jan. 6 report, he or she would have discovered that RT’s sinister assault on American democracy included such offenses as holding a debate among third-party candidates who were excluded from the Republican-Democratic debates in 2012…reporting on the Occupy Wall Street protests and examining the environmental dangers from “fracking,” issues that also have been widely covered by the domestic American media. Apparently, whenever RT covers a newsworthy event – even if others have too – that constitutes “propaganda,” which must be throttled to protect the American people from the danger of seeing it…The U.S. government’s real beef with RT seems to be that it allows on air some Americans who have been blacklisted from the mainstream media – including highly credentialed former U.S. intelligence analysts and well-informed American journalists – because they have challenged various Official Narratives.
“…to protect the American people from the danger of seeing it.” Once again, the reasoning seems to be that citizens can no longer be trusted (by whom?) to ingest competing descriptions of the truth and make intelligent decisions. This seems like authoritarianism at worst and patronizing at best. But it really opens up into a profoundly mythic issue. In my book I repeatedly ask the rhetorical question, What are they so afraid of? In Chapter Ten I write,
…fear of the outsider is stronger than ever, and that fear was nurtured through the deliberate creation of an image. For four decades J. Edgar Hoover described those who threatened the status quo as “outside agitators,” regardless of their nationality. This almost poetic image of the Dionysian menace implies three assumptions about the polis. The first is innocence: evil comes from abroad. It implies that communist ideas couldn’t possibly originate here. Terrorism, quips Chomsky, is “what others do to us.”
A second assumption is weakness. Just as youths seemingly cannot resist drugs or sex, the polis can entertain only the mildest diversity of opinion. If allowed access to the children, communists would prevent discrimination of right from wrong and infect the national immune system with their “agit-prop.”
A third assumption about us is fairness. Pentheus, who would attack directly, throws fastballs, while Dionysus throws curves. The terrorist could be a friend or co-worker. He is urban, possibly Jewish. He infects us through trickery rather than through direct, “manly” confrontation. And since he refuses to play by our rules, we are justified in our righteous and overpowering vengeance.
Here is a broad summary of how the backlash against so-called Russian interference and “fake News” is shutting down real debate and giving the media the opportunity to marginalize progressive voices with the use of FEs.
And here is how the giants of social media are doing it. Sure, you have the right to be a bit skeptical, but these links are from sources that I have come to trust:
Google is now in the business of controlling what viewers see. It “de-ranked” RT on its news feed, despite the fact that its own internal review system found that the news site had broken no rules.
The new algorithms have moved these websites from previously prominent positions to positions up to 50 search result pages from the first page, essentially removing them from the search results some searchers see. It appears that Google is using concerns over fake news as a cover to suppress opinions from socialist, antiwar or left-wing websites, including AlterNet, Truthdig, Global Research, Democracy Now, American Civil liberties Union, Wikileaks, Chris Hedges, Counterpunch and Consortiumnews (all of them, BTW, sites that I consider legitimate). The World Socialist Web Site, for example, reports that traffic coming in from web search is down 70 percent, and claims that In mid-April 2017, a Google search for “socialism vs. capitalism” brought back one of the site’s links on the first results page but, by August, that same search didn’t feature any of its links. The site said 145 of the top 150 search terms that had redirected people to the site in April were now devoid of its links.
World Socialist obtained statistical data estimating the decline of traffic generated by Google searches for 13 sites with substantial readerships:
* wsws.org fell by 67 percent
* alternet.org fell by 63 percent
* globalresearch.ca fell by 62 percent
* consortiumnews.com fell by 47 percent
* socialistworker.org fell by 47 percent
* mediamatters.org fell by 42 percent
* commondreams.org fell by 37 percent
* internationalviewpoint.org fell by 36 percent
* democracynow.org fell by 36 percent
* wikileaks.org fell by 30 percent
* truth-out.org fell by 25 percent
* counterpunch.org fell by 21 percent
* theintercept.com fell by 19 percent
By August of 2018, at least on my computer, it seemed that public pressure has led Google to relent – at least for now. C. J. Hopkins writes:
What’s happening isn’t censorship, technically, at least not in the majority of cases…This isn’t Czechoslovakia, after all. This is global capitalism, where the repression of dissent is a little more subtle. The point of Google “unpersoning” CounterPunch…is not to prevent them from publishing their work or otherwise render them invisible to readers. The goal is to delegitmize them, and thus decrease traffic to their websites and articles, and ultimately drive them out of business, if possible…Another objective of this non-censorship censorship is discouraging writers like myself from contributing to publications…(that) the corporatocracy deems “illegitimate.” Google unpersoning a writer like Hedges is a message to other non-ball-playing writers…“This could happen to you.”
This article goes deeper into the mess.
But when Trump accuses Google of “rigged” search results to showcase too many liberal media outlets and too few “Republic/Conservative (Sic) & Fair Media” sites, he makes it even easier for the company’s gatekeepers to use FE tactics against the left.
Paypal is also falsely equating non-violent anti-Zionist activism with anti-Semitic terrorism. It has refused to provide services to Palestinians living under Israeli military occupation and has shut down the accounts of major Palestine solidarity groups in France without providing an explanation. Why? Apparently because 20 human rights organizations were placed on a blacklist by Israeli authorities. Indeed, according to Ali Abunimah, Paypal has shown a willingness to censor journalists who criticize Israel:
An operative of Israel’s global censorship campaign has admitted to exaggerating claims of anti-Semitism in order to engineer crackdowns on supporters of Palestinian rights…In the latest instance, Benjamin Weinthal has apparently succeeded in persuading PayPal to close down the account of the French online publication Agence Media Palestine.
On the other end of the FE spectrum, many have pointed out that Paypal and other payment processors have repeatedly promised to stop helping white nationalists raise money online. But a year after the deadly white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, several openly racist groups still use mainstream payment providers to process credit card payments and crowdfund their efforts.
Apparently, Facebook has been ‘deliberately targeting’ Palestinian accounts. Glenn Greenwald describes cooperation between Facebook and Israeli officials:
The meetings…came after Israel threatened Facebook that its failure to voluntarily comply with Israeli deletion orders would result in the enactment of laws requiring Facebook to do so, upon pain of being severely fined or even blocked in the country…The predictable results of those meetings are now clear and well-documented. Ever since, Facebook has been on a censorship rampage against Palestinian activists who protest the decades-long, illegal Israeli occupation…Indeed, Israeli officials have been publicly boasting about how obedient Facebook is when it comes to Israeli censorship orders…Needless to say, Israelis have virtually free rein to post whatever they want about Palestinians. Calls by Israelis for the killing of Palestinians are commonplace on Facebook, and largely remain undisturbed.
It seems that FB has been dishonest in its public statements about the “anti-Zionist = anti-Semitism” FE. But FB’s mendacity has gone well beyond that issue. Having banned Infowars for thirty days (thirty days!), it went on to permanently shut down all manner of progressive accounts because they “…sought to inflame social and political tensions in the United States, and…their activity was similar (my italics) — and in some cases connected — to that of Russian accounts during the 2016 election.” Matt Tibbi writes:
Facebook was “helped” in its efforts to wipe out these dangerous memes by the Atlantic Council, on whose board you’ll find confidence-inspiring names like Henry Kissinger, former CIA chief Michael Hayden, former acting CIA head Michael Morell and former Bush-era Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff. (The latter is the guy who used to bring you the insane color-coded terror threat level system.)…As noted in Rolling Stone earlier this year, 70 percent of Americans get their news from just two sources, Facebook and Google. As that number rises, the power of just a few people to decide what information does and does not reach the public will amplify significantly.
Alternet (one of those sites experiencing lowered viewership) reports that FB has also approved conservative news outlet The Weekly Standard to partner in fact-checking “false news.” This partnership
…makes little sense given the outlet’s long history of making misleading claims, pushing extreme right-wing talking points, and publishing lies to bolster conservative arguments…Calling the magazine a “serial misinformer”, Media Matters cited the Weekly Standard’s role in pushing false and misleading claims about Obamacare, Hillary Clinton and other political stories.
It gets worse. Even as FB uses FEs to block legitimate progressive postings, many are accusing it of allowing real hate speech to remain. Indeed, in a new documentary, an investigative journalist went undercover as a FB moderator in Ireland. He reports that it lets pages from far-right fringe groups exceed the deletion threshold, and that those pages are “subject to different treatment in the same category as pages belonging to governments and news organizations.” The accusation undermines FB’s claims that it is actively trying to cut down on fake news and hate speech. The reporter says he was also instructed to ignore users who looked as if they were under 13 years of age, the legal minimum.
Well, these revelations certainly shouldn’t surprise students of the long-term, well-documented collusion between American media and the national security state. Social media are now bigger and more influential than newspapers, and the money involved (Cui bono – follow the money) is correspondingly greater. Nor should we be surprised when the NYT cheers on these efforts to censor alternative opinion through the use of FE algorithms.
But as always, my greater interest is in considering the mythological implications, because our American attitudes, our American prejudices, our American blindness and naiveté are determined by the unconscious ways in which we attend to our American myths. And to do that, we have to look at how the “left” also engages in FEs. Sorry, no Greek myths here.
Throughout almost all of American history, the witch-hunts and hysteria that crop up every generation have mobilized the right wing, especially including those males who could be manipulated into identifying as white rather than as working class.
Or at least until our generation. Perhaps it began with the fluoridation dispute in the 1950s. It picked up intensity with the JFK assassination and blossomed fully after 9-11, when many serious, good-hearted, influential progressives absolutely demonized some of their brethren who dared to articulate the latest “conspiracy theory.” Last year Tim Wise (www.timwise.org), a profoundly important activist and writer, exploded in maximal sarcasm:
So please, stay at home 24/7, insisting to yourself and all who will listen about how vaccinations are the cause of autism and how Tower 7 was brought down by Dick Cheney or whatever, and how hyper-oxygenation can cure HIV/AIDS (or at least it would, if HIV/AIDS really existed which it doesn’t of course), and how everything – yes everything – is a “false flag” because Alex Jones said so after skipping his meds for like a month. So there was no Sandy Hook shooting, and no 9/11, and no attack on the Pentagon and no shooting at the theatre in Aurora: all those folks who supposedly died are hanging out on an island like in “Lost” where they are fed and cared for by the NSA and CIA, along with those folks who faked the moon landing and the curvature of the Earth. Oh and while doing this…claim to be a progressive or leftist or radical. Because saying it makes it true!
Tim Wise is a good man who is justifiably angry and extremely articulate within his areas of expertise, racism and white privilege. And I’m not saying that he’s wrong (the broader issue, once again, is not about right and wrong; it’s about innocence and experience.) But look at the language of FE, how he lumps progressives who question certain dominant paradigms that he takes for granted together with severely right-wing loonies. In his mind they are all conspiracy theorists, and they deserve nothing but ridicule. And I’ve found that his opinions, and worse, his tone, are quite characteristic of opinion pieces I’ve seen on normally reliable websites such as Moveon.org and Alternet.
Ridicule is a tool of the gatekeepers. Now the above quote is way too far over the top to characterize “reasonable” (NYT, etc) opinion, but its intention is the same: to marginalize people rather than engage with them. When did sarcasm and ridicule ever change anyone’s mind? Is it even intended to be read by people who don’t agree with him?
Look at Tim’s assumptions: by using the language of the gatekeepers, he is demonizing other people, and in the world of polar opposites that he seems to have fallen into, either you are with him on every single issue or you are not to be trusted on any issue. Change the terminology just a little, and we are back in the language of the American frontier, where you are either among the elect inside the pale of the innocent community, or you represent the dark (ironic, considering Tim’s huge heart on the race issue) evil on the outside that is inscrutable: we just can’t understand why they hate us so. And in American myth, evil is so, well, evil that it must be utterly and permanently obliterated and removed from memory. There is no middle ground.
This is the language of a demythologized world, in which subtle nuance (supposedly something that progressives claim to understand, has been replaced by dualistic language. However, as I write in Chapter One of my book:
The Aramaic word spoken by Jesus and translated into Greek as diabolosand into English as “evil” actually means “unripe.” What if we used “unripe” instead of “evil?” “Unripe” persons are simply immature. Aren’t communities responsible for helping them “ripen,” rather than punishing or eradicating them? This is critical: if we can’t imagine a sym-bolic(“throwing together”) world, then we are left with a dia-bolic world.
This is the language of Fox News.
And worse: they want him to sound shrill and intolerant. It makes their work that much easier. It assists in their broader intentions, to convince more and more of us to simply turn off to the cacophony of bitterness and ranting. Tim Wise is really much better than that.
The language of ridicule reveals how leftists are also engaging in FEs. Most of the progressive print and online voices that I read have got on board the “ridicule the anti-vaxxers” train, and in a very specific way. They have bought the gatekeeper line that actually lumps many legitimate anti-corporate, anti-military dissenters together with Tea Party loonies simply because of their views on vaccination.
This particular smear campaign has succeeded; progressives view the vaccination issue as just another left/right dispute, and so they no longer need to think about it. If they were experiencing anxiety over this issue (as we all do when our mythic thinking is called into question), now their anxiety has been reduced. But the myth of American innocence is inherently unstable. Like any other addiction (alcoholism, consumerism, fundamentalism, Marxism, free market libertarianism, workaholism and our greatest addiction of all, fear), it has very little nutritional capacity and must be constantly fed. But I say this issue is most certainly not about right and left.
And keep in mind that it was the CIA that coined the phrase, “conspiracy theorist,” and only when it perceived the need to marginalize those progressives who were questioning the official story of the Kennedy assassination.
Are you feeling manipulated, that you’ve read this far only to be dragged into the vaccination argument? Well, isn’t manipulation the real issue here? Can you at least entertain the possibility that for our entire history Americans – yes, all Americans – by the nature of our mythology, by the nature of our vast cultural shadow, by the nature of our historic crimes against Africans and the indigenous people, have been particularly susceptible to hysterias and violent witch-hunts? That we have always been willing to suspend our sacred individualism and give our identity over to the spokespersons of centralized control in the desperate hope that it might push away the nightmares that they themselves have created?
Let’s make three things clear:
1 – To use the terms “anti-vaxxer,” “conspiracy theorist,” “assassination buff,” “9-11 Truther,” etc, is to begin the conversation from the position of the dominators. It is to concede to the colonialist, misogynist or white supremacist who establishes his superiority by determining the language: native, my dear girl, nigger.
2 – Things are always more complex than ideological purists or centrists would prefer. As in all political debates, there is a continuum among those who question the vaccination orthodoxy, from those who will not allow their children to receive vaccines under any circumstances, to those who want to space out the frequency of vaccination, to those who would allow the MMR treatment (read about it) if the components were given separately, to those who would allow any vaccines if the aluminum (read about it) were removed. These people are not monolithic, and every one of them that I know is a political progressive who hates Trump, votes Demo or Green, donates to good causes, marches for peace and has no interest in Alex Jones. So stop the damn FEs and try to be willing to listen, because:
3 – Accusations about the “war on science” are yet another form of FE, in which the gatekeepers lump those who question the vaccination orthodoxy in the same garbage bin of ignorance as climate deniers. Most people who raise doubts about vaccination, not just the doctors and immunologists (read about them), have approached the issue with open minds and made well-informed decisions. I’m talking about the corruption of science. In a time when the great myths of western culture are collapsing, it follows that all of our institutions are collapsing, or at least falling fully under the sway of late capitalism. Can anyone deny that Big Pharma is one of the most corrupt of all? Can anyone deny that long before Trump’s deregulation crusade, both the FDA and the Center for Disease Control (CDC) were drowning in accusations of fraud and bad science? And coverups, as well.
I don’t want to get too far off topic, so if you are open to “rational debate,” please consider some of these links:
And specifically on the subject of vaccination, its orthodoxy and its critics:
Look, I won’t deny my strong opinions, and I invite conversations that don’t descend into ridicule. But I’ve only been focusing on vaccination because it’s so critical to understand how many progressives are allowing themselves to be diverted from important issues. “Russiagate” does exactly that. Here is the liberal logic:
A – The conventional wisdom is that the Russians hacked the 2016 election.
B – Trump says there was no collusion, etc.
C – Trump is bad.
D – Leftists assert that Trump won because of apathy, gerrymandering and voter suppression.
E – Therefore, leftists are all dupes of Putin, as bad as Trump.
When we stop questioning why liberals are allowed to marginalize leftists, it becomes easy to accept this drivel, from the WAPO: Poll: 60 percent disapprove of Trump, while clear majorities back Mueller and Sessions.
Now, not only are we happily hating on Trump, but we find a new meme injected into our spinning heads: the alleged savior, Mueller, is on the same side as the fascist Jeff Sessions, and we barely noticed.
Here’s a right-wing FE. This one requires cognitive dissonance:
A – Communists are bad and un-American.
B – Russia was communist.
C – Russia became capitalist 27 years ago.
D – Putin is bad.
E – Putin is Russian.
F – Therefore Putin is communist.
G – To believe F, one must ignore C (this is cognitive dissonance).
But my concerns go very far beyond this one issue. I am talking about a post-9/11 era in which our freedoms, including freedom of privacy and freedom of choice, have been disappearing gradually and almost without our notice. It is only our bred-in-the-bones sense of innocence that keeps us from noticing that the pot is boiling, that we are all being cooked; it is only our constantly manipulated fear of the Other that can still, reliably, distract us from far more important issues.
Both the left and the right (at least those with stock in Big Pharma) are probably already celebrating the gathering momentum to mandate vaccinations for all Americans, young or old. Perhaps you agree. But please spare me your argument about “personal freedoms” in which you compare “anti-vaxxers” to people who would ignore traffic signals and endanger everyone else in their community in their libertarian selfishness. Because I will respond: any way you parse it, in our quickening slide toward American Fascism, you are condoning yet another loss of freedom in yet another dispute where all of the money is on one side of the issue. Cui bono?
Let me repeat that: all of the money is on one side of the issue.
Think about it. Consider the significant political debates in our lifetimes or anyone else’s. Every single time – with the sole exception of the fight to unionize – the vast majority of money spent has been by the military-industrial complex, the churches, the lobbyists, the corporations seeking deregulation, the AMA, the NRA, Big Agriculture, Big Lumber, Big Mining, Big Chemical, Big Tobacco, Big Banks, Big Auto, Big Cancer Research, Big Oil, Big Fracking, Big Coal, Big Soda, Big Voter Suppression, Big Internet, Private Prisons, the anti-immigration industry. Even the “family values” debates: it was and remains the ultra-rich who have subsidized the segregationists, the Tea Party, the anti-union, anti-birth control, anti-abortion, anti-medical marijuana and anti-gay marriage movements.
All except for the vaccination dispute, which has a consumer protection movement begun by aggrieved parents and some libertarians on one side, and a trillion-dollar industry on the other hand, one that spends $150 million/year lobbying Congress and $5 billion/year on advertising, one that generates so much profit that it can annually absorb billion-dollar fines for corruption and bad science without scaring its stockholders.
And who supports this side? A legion of “Quackwatch”- type gatekeepers of dubious reputation and secretive funding – and a volunteer legion of Lefties armed with FEs. This includes the manager of KPFA, Berkeley’s Pacifica radio station, who last month abruptly cancelled the popular show “Guns and Butter” and deleted its sixteen years of archives. It also includes one of your and my favorite progressive commedians, John Oliver, using Trump himself as an example of a loony vaccine skeptic. Now that is professional FEing: Trump over there, along with those anti-vaxxers; us smart people over here.
I hope you’ve noticed that I am not advocating anything but simply trying to put things in perspective. If I’ve raised any doubts in your mind – or perhaps more important, if I’ve provoked a strong negative response – I’m hoping that at least you’ll open some of the above links, as well as your mind. Though I welcome a good argument, I avoid ideological absolutes. That is a language to which I am trying to offer an alternative, the language of mythological thinking. I am not talking about compromise. I’m trying to move from a dualistic world of “two” (polar opposites, right or wrong) to a world of “three” – holding the tension of those opposites, resisting the temptation to resolve that tension by believing only one side until something greater – a third element – appears. This is the essence of the Creative Imagination.
But I can’t avoid this one: there is simply no political conflict in which progressives should find themselves aligned so indisputably, so arrogantly, so unconsciously with the interests of Big Business, and indeed of one of the most corrupt of them all, Big Pharma. Forgive me, but I have to say this a third time: all of the money is on one side of the issue.
And let me say this again as well: it’s not about a war on science. It’s about how science is the religion of the secular world. It’s about becoming conscious of how late capitalism and the pathological drive for profits has so corrupted science that it would collude in poisoning three generations of children. It’s about the myth of the killing of the children. It’s about no longer referring to scientists as arbiters until they clean up their act and regain our trust. I’m talking about science that can prove it isn’t bought up by Big Business, science that can be replicated regularly.
This permission to demonize from the left may well be one of the greatest scams of all. They’ve got some of us shilling for them, on a very slippery slope. They’ve turned some us into FOX wannabes, more and more comfortable with their nasty, divisive language. And when we start using their language we are no longer speaking from our creative imagination, but from our paranoid imagination.
The present hysteria (whatever it is as you read this) will end soon, because they all do. That is the most characteristic aspect of our American predisposition to fall from fear into crusades. It’s not about the fear-du-jour; it’s about our willingness to go there.
Once the legislation mandating universal vaccination becomes law, will you or I be able to save ourselves (as at Salem, as during the Red Scare, as during McCarthyism and the bogus “war on terror,” as during the Mueller probe) by naming names? You can count on this: the next hysteria is already planned, and those who will profit from it expect to count on some of us to use false equivalencies in the service of marginalizing alternative thinking. When the call to join the next witch-hunt is sounded, will you have your pitchfork and torch ready?