“Naturally, the common people don’t want war; neither in Russia nor in England nor in America, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy or a fascist dictatorship or a Parliament or a Communist dictatorship. The people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country”
It’s a shame to have to quote a Nazi but one thing you can’t criticise them for was their understanding of the power of propaganda. And Goering was right, it’s difficult to argue against defending one’s country against a material threat, especially when we keep being reminded that that whole appeasement of Hitler strategy didn’t work out all that well.
TRIGGER WARNING: This post contains some stuff that is bleeding obvious, some stuff that has said many times before, and a bit of conspiracy theory too. Feel free to disagree and comment if you like, but don’t bother trolling me, I never get involved in flame wars. Anyway, I’ve tagged the various sections so you can pick and choose as you wish.
INTRODUCTION: I’m not a joiner. I don’t mean I am not a carpenter, although that is also true, I mean I am not one for following leaders or joining clubs. I am a natural skeptic, and for many years I have been a fairly vocal naysayer when it comes to conspiracy theories. Partly out of skepticism and partly because the kind of people that devise or repeat them do not inspire me with much confidence. However, I am not stupid. I hesitate to put my head above the parapet but if someone doesn’t say something then nothing will have been said. Remember those elusive weapons of mass destruction (WMD)? Those WMD that served as an imperative to invade Iraq in 2003 and save us all from big ones being lobbed into our back yards? Yes, the WMD that turned out to be a manufactured fantasy.
It turns out that the conspiracy theorists were right about that one.
Despite the posturing of Obama and his cronies here in the UK about the highly dubious supposed chemical weapon attack in 2013, both governments were foiled by their own democratic processes in their attempts to go to war in Syria.
ELLIPSIS: George Orwell has been getting a bit of stick lately from Will Self, or at least the quality of Orwell’s writing has. I don’t think this is a conspiracy to discredit Orwell, I just think Self has run out of things to write about.
I admire Orwell but I also think he is not the best writer in the world, nor the best novelist, but that’s missing the point. I admire him more for expressing and exploring interesting concepts without any personal or collective heroism. His accounts of the details of his time working as a plongeur in Paris and the minutiae of life on the road in “Down and Out in Paris and London” are hilarious and the trivial detail is compelling. What is compelling about Orwell’s writing is its clarity and candour, and his awareness of his own position, sometimes as an observer and sometimes as a participant.
The frankness of “Shooting an Elephant” is disarming, and the critique of political writing in “Politics and the English Language” is as current today as it was in 1946, except that most of the specific words and phrases have been replaced by a new rhetoric. I am no authority on Orwell, although I have read most of his books, and it might well be a cliché to keep referring to him, but but the very currency of his ideas and commentary is why he is still so persistently admired.
BLEEDING OBVIOUS: It’s worth revisiting “Nineteen Eighty-Four” particularly the idea that is expressed in Goldstein’s book about the continuity of war.
“The economy of many countries was allowed to stagnate, land went out of cultivation, capital equipment was not added to, great blocks of the population were prevented from working and kept half alive by State charity. But this, too, entailed military weakness, and since the privations it inflicted were obviously unnecessary, it made opposition inevitable. The problem was how to keep the wheels of industry turning without increasing the real wealth of the world. Goods must be produced, but they must not be distributed. And in practice the only way of achieving this was by continuous warfare.”
IRONY: On September 11th 2014 is was difficult to avoid the mawkish “Never Forget” messages, spread widely across social media, it’s irony perhaps being lost against the the “Never Again” and “Lest We Forget” of the First World War, currently having its 100 year anniversary? I wonder if the people of Iraq or Iran, or Afghanistan or Palestine or Vietnam, or any one of the numerous warzones that the US has either participated in or funded since WW1 pins up “Never Again” messages, or “Never Forget”. Or maybe the families of the 700,000 killed (so far) in the war in Iraq should use “Please, not again”.
IRONY: Well, one irony that is completely lost in the double-speak of US foreign policy is that the 11th of September already has a significant place in political history. In 1973, the US government sponsored a coup d’etat in Chile to replace the democratically elected president, Salvador Allende, with a military junta led by General Augusto Pinochet. The same Pinochet who is infamous for “The Disappeared”, those considered to be politically incompatible with the regime and removed from the democratic process (with extreme prejudice).
I usually prefer not to get all my information on current affairs from popular media, but I was not aware of the US / UK engineered coup until I saw the film Argo (2012), directed and starring Ben Affleck. I must admit to being shocked at how ignorant I was, but then it never gets any mainstream coverage. For anyone equally in the dark, Wikipedia has a short summary here.
IRONY: The movie has a short prologue that explained how the Americans and British organised a coup d’etat to replace the (you guessed it) democratically-elected government with a dictatorship. The incumbent Shah of Iran then oppressed the people to the point of revolution, without which Iran would (probably) still have been a moderate democracy with a muslim majority, as opposed to an Islamic State. I must admit to being totally ignorant of the political situation in Iran, despite having lived through the period of the Islamic Revolution in 1979. I remember it being covered on the TV news all the time, but at 15 I was neither informed nor interested in what was going on.
And they wonder why the Iranian post-revolution parliament used to chant “Death to America”. The ironies stack up so fast you need wings to stay above them.
IRONY: Again, it is widely known that Saudi Arabia regularly beheads criminals, though usually not Americans, but when Islamic State do it, it becomes an international outrage justifying drone attacks and (probably) invasion. What’s more, whilst the United States may not decapitate anyone (at least not on their own soil), but they murder hundreds of their own citizens each year in the form of capital punishment.
But the Saudis and the Americans have one of those “special relationships”, rather like the Aircraft Carrier GB relationship they have with us.
LIBERAL APOLOGISM: But this is why I would argue that not all conspiracy theorists are dope casualties, imagining that there are illuminati lizards lurking under the bed.
I am certain that some of the acts of violence that have been carried out in the name of Islam / Jihad are independently motivated, and some by militant Islamic groups abroad, but I think these, along with the Daily Mail’s flavour of immigration-fever are being used to fuel a nationalistic war effort in order to regain control of the oil-producing middle-east.
CONSPIRACY THEORY: Given the more-than-a-little dirty history of both our governments, I would not be surprised if Jihadi John and the videoed beheadings turn out to be sponsored by the US / UK. After the desperate attempt to go to war last year, and Obama’s overt commitment* to fucking with the world as he sees fit, it seems very convenient that they are murdering Americans using a masked man with a British accent. It ticks both nationality boxes, and this might also explain the current obsession in the British media about the radicalisation of British muslims.
DOUBLE-IRONY: However, the irony kill-zone here is that rise of jihadi movements in the middle east has been provoked by the meddling of the US and UK governments. Even if Jihadi John is not a CIA stooge, then he is a product of US foreign policy. It’s so ironic it’s not even funny and it’s a win-win situation for the perpetuators of continuous war.
Given Orwell’s imagined conspiracies, based upon his own observations, and illustrated by the continual re-enactments we see around us, it’s difficult not to believe that two plus two equals five.