Total power drives you totally mad by Willliam Bowles

17 July 2007

One tends to think of those who rule as being ruthlessly logical in their application of power; after all, maintenance of the status quo should surely be one of their major objectives?

But their loss of legitimacy, obvious to all except the most myopic and self-delusional points to something quite fundamental taking place, for the loss of legitimacy reveals a ruling class that has completely lost the plot.

The invasion and subsequent destruction of Iraq is a case in point, could it really be as Glen Ford points out because:

“Ultimately, the parasitic class can only maintain its rule by force. Manufacturing nothing, creating no value except on paper, they must finally call upon the Armed Forces to impose their unearned advantage on the planet. Such was the logic of March, 2003. The Great Offensive failed, but the contradictions that compelled the captains of finance capital to order their political servants to wage war, remain — and are in fact more acute than four years ago. They must wage war, again, to fight their way out of the box.” — ‘Iran and Beyond: Total War is Still on the Horizon’,[1] by Glen Ford

There are two ways of looking at it: on the one hand, they are so stupid and arrogant in their application of power that it blinds them to the reality of the consequences of their actions or, like lemmings, they are driven by forces of which they have no comprehension or control.

Either way it’s a frightening thought that those who wield such awesome power are intellectual pygmies, small-minded and incapable of empathy except for those of their own class (and even here, the idea of solidarity is completely inimical to them, thus they would and do, stab their ‘friends’ in the back should the need arise; examples are legion).

Not even the planet, which is their only and irreproducible home, is exempt from these barbarians’ indifference to their fellow humans (again, examples are legion). To them Nature is a given and it’s ‘free’, well to them that is, but someone or some thing, somewhere is always picking up the tab.

The question arises, how do they get away with such gigantic deceptions? And what makes most of us go along with the lies? Well turn on your TV or radio or pick up any corporate-owned newspaper and you’d find the answer. Every word uttered or written reeks of deception; every image is one filtered through a maze of illusions.

It’s not merely the gigantic lies, for these rest on a bed of illusions composed of a million tiny deceptions built in to the language used. There is an implicit assumption about how reality works without which the Big Lies would not be effective.

Perhaps the most important aspect of this parallel universe is the assumption of Western, that is of the white, Anglo-American ruling class that their vision and values are innately superior to everyone else’s.

We see this for example when the media talks about ‘human rights’ and ‘democracy’. Such words, when used, have their meaning ‘adjusted’ according to the context.

Thus the Western definition of human rights means one thing when used say to describe events in Venezuela but quite another when used to describe events in the occupied territories of Palestine where it gets transformed into ‘humanitarian’ or in Iraq where the puppet government is regularly described as ‘democratically elected’ but as international law defines it, any government ‘elected’ whilst under an illegal and violent occupation, is de facto illegitimate and thus illegal.

But of course missing from any analysis by the Western media is the fact that the invasion was and remains an illegal act under international law, thus it never gets mentioned, not even in passing.

The fluidity of language is an absolute requirement if the propaganda is to succeed, for otherwise how can ‘democracy’ or ‘human rights’ be sold if used as an absolute? How can a democratically elected government be accused of being an incipient dictatorship or as in the case of the democratically elected government led by Hamas, simply dismissed as ‘inconvenient’?

Legality it seems, even by Western standards is a very partial concept.

Mostly however, the problem of linguistic paradoxes is dealt with by simply ignoring them, thus the entire history of Israel’s illegal occupation of the occupied territories is omitted from any analysis of the current outrageous condition of the Palestinian people nor its central role in preventing a solution.

You can be sure however that were a similar situation to occur say in Venezuela, we would never hear the end of it.

A prime example of lies by omission is the Venezuelan government’s decision not to renew the license of the television station, RCTV which has been directly implicated in the failed coup attempt in 2002 including a foreknowledge of the planned coup and during the abortive coup, broadcasting an endless stream of disinformation and incitements to get rid of the (four times democratically elected) government of Chavez. Nor is the fact that over 90% of the media in Venezuela is in private hands and without exception, anti-government, yet they continue to broadcast and publish.[2]

Can you imagine what would happen here in the UK or in the US if a television station advocated the violent overthrow of the ‘democratically’ elected government? And not only advocated it but also actively participated in an attempt?

How can it be then that educated and one assumes informed people can participate in such a gigantic fraud? These are after all, university-educated with access to all the information necessary to make informed observations on events.

We must return to the assumption of an innate superiority of Western ‘values’ over all others, for it is this and this alone which informs our ‘media mavens’, how else can they justify such blatant distortions of the facts except by adhering to a world view that endorses anything Western as the yardstick by which all events should be judged?

Take for example, the issue of government corruption: if it’s an African government that is accused, it’s because there is an assumption that African governments are innately corrupt. A different set of criteria kicks in and the concept of ‘failed state’ is introduced into the discourse. Worse, it becomes the sole measurement for all African governments because implicit in the idea of ‘innate’ is an assumption of a ‘genetic disposition’ to be corrupt. This is never spelled out of course, but it doesn’t need to be, it taps directly into all the fears and prejudices we have been fed about the ‘Dark Continent’.

From this assumption flows the idea that only Western societies have the capacity to be truly democratic, all else are fraudulent imitations, bad copies of the ‘real thing’.

Yet could not the US government be accused of corruption, with billions of dollars vanishing into the coffers of companies like Halliburton, all of it unaccounted for? This is corruption on a gigantic scale, which dwarfs even the most corrupt of African governments and it’s done with the virtual blessing of the media (and of course the complicity of the state).

In fact, it can be argued quite convincingly that the so-called Western democracies are built on corruption and are no more than state-sanctioned ‘Mafias’.

“Adult, working Americans are far more likely to die young as a result of organised, corporate crime than from any other form of criminal activity.” [3]

But the assumed superiority of the Western way of life also filters down to the citizens of empire by reinforcing and justifying their prejudices, fears and insecurities, for with ‘morality’ and ‘civilisation’ on our side, all manner of crimes can be condoned and a ‘consensus’ invoked which reinforces the daily diet of lies and disinformation. And when such a ‘consensus’ doesn’t exist, simply ignore it.

Thus the slaughter of innocents by remote control and thus devoid of a human component can never be called an act of terror but a single individual who sacrifices his or her life for a cause, is defined as a terrorist.

‘Terror’ is, like beauty, in the eye of the beholder. When ‘we’ slaughter hundreds, thousands of people, it is described as ‘collateral damage’, or a ‘regrettable incident’ or, ‘we didn’t intend to kill innocent civilians’, no, they just became victims of an act of terror, but one executed by the state and thus it can never be regarded as an act of terror in the corporate media.

‘State terror’ is reserved for countries like Venezuela where there is an a priori assumption that such countries are incapable of comprehending the concept of democracy or human rights, once again reinforcing the false idea that it’s only Western countries that are capable of building democracies.

“Americans want to alter the shape of our cities, dividing Iraqis into ethnic and sectarian groups living separately from each other,” Khali Sadiq, a researcher in statistics at Baghdad University told IPS.” ‘Partition Fears Begin to Rise’ [4]

Every day we read about ‘sectarian violence’ in Iraq and its cause is variously ascribed to religious or ‘ethnic’ struggles, ‘rival militias’ or incitement by ‘al-Qu’eda’. Yet the reality is that it is the illegal occupation of Iraq, which is the sole cause of the continuing mayhem. And we only need cast our minds back to that fateful day in March 2003 and remind ourselves that one of the primary rationales for invading Iraq was the establishment of a democratic society, free from the terror of Hussein’s dictatorship.

Such lies only make sense when set in the context of a society which projects the image of a system innately superior to all others, a system where ‘faults’ and ‘mistakes’ are presented as exceptions to the rule.

A “sincere belief” (even an admission that he ‘might have been wrong’ but because he was ‘sincere’ this absolves him of any accountability for his actions) become catchall rationales for war crimes, which is how Tony Blair justified his part in the destruction of Iraq and the media duly repeat the inanities.

But call Blair a liar and a war criminal and all hell breaks loose (George Galloway got kicked out of the Labour Party for doing just this), but his ‘mistaken belief that what he did was right’ is to put it mildly, outrageous. Imagine the outcry were the defence of the Nazis that they ‘meant well’ and were ‘sincere’ if mistaken in their beliefs.

Such comparisons however are not allowed to disrupt the smooth running of the media machine, and if such comparisons were made, they would be presented to the public not only as outrageous but odious. To call Tony Blair a war criminal on par with the Nazis would no doubt be grounds for a parliamentary investigation into the offender, but Tony Blair (amongst others) is a war criminal and should be indicted and tried as one.

But the reality is that Blair’s crimes are on par not only with the Nazis but with a host of other war criminals, many of whom have been allies of the UK and the US at some point in time (examples, once again are legion, including Saddam Hussein who has been compared in the Western media and government circles to Adolf Hitler).

But such paradoxes are not allowed to surface in the mainstream media lest they disturb the smooth delivery of disinformation. Thus it is not a surprise that when such ‘anomalies’ are mentioned they are referred to in passing as just a part of history and thus by a media sleight of hand are not relevant to the current situation (just as the current mayhem in Iraq is presented as having nothing to do with the invasion and occupation).


  2. See ‘Chavez And RCTV – Tilting The Balance Against ‘The Bad Guy‘, Medialens, June 13. 2007
  3. See my review of ‘Gangster Capitalism-The United States and the Global Rise of Organized Crime‘ by Michael Woodiwiss, Constable, London, 2005. Buy it from or
  4. For the latest on this, see Dahr Jamail’s Mideast Dispatches, ‘Partition Fears Begin to Rise‘. Of course, you won’t see Jamail interviewed on the BBC or Channel 4 about this story.

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