FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Public Enemy Number One: the Public

by KEVIN CARSON

It’s important, when listening to the official shapers of opinion in the media, to ask ourselves what they really mean by the words they use. As Orwell pointed out in “Politics and the English Language,” those in power use language to obscure meaning more often than to convey it.

A good example is the recurrence of phrases like “endangered our national security” and “aided the enemy,” from people like Eric Holder, Peter King and Lindsey Graham, in reference to leaks by people like Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden. Now, they certainly intend to evoke certain associations in the minds of listeners with their word choices. If you’re not careful, you may find yourself responding in just the way the users intend — allowing their words to conjure up in your mind homes, families, neighbors, churches, a whole way of life, threatened with invasion and destruction by a nameless, faceless enemy — in the words of Orwell’s Two-Minute Hate, “the dark armies … barbarians whose only honour is atrocity.”

But if you look behind the words, their actual meaning is something entirely different. To the kinds of people who throw around such words, “national security” is a corporate-state world order enforced by the United States, run by people like themselves, which enabling global corporations to extract resources and labor from the people of the world and live off unearned rents. “The enemy” is you. And the danger is that you might figure out what’s going on and disturb their cozy little setup.

Alex Carey, historian of propaganda, argues that the central pillar of elite rule in mass democracies is the engineering of consent. In the late 19th century two phenomena emerged simultaneously: First, the giant corporation and the power nexus between corporation and state; and second, the threat to that power nexus from universal literacy and universal suffrage. Hence the importance of propaganda, of managing public opinion, in formally representative political systems.

Samuel Huntington wrote in The Crisis of Democracy, in 1974, that the United States in the two decades after WWII had been the “hegemonic power in a system of world order” — a state of affairs possible only because of a domestic power structure in which the country “was governed by the president acting with the support and cooperation of key individuals and groups in the Executive office, the federal bureaucracy, Congress, and the more important businesses, banks, law firms, foundations, and media, which constitute the private establishment.” And this, in turn, was possible only because of the acquiescence, the passivity, of the American people, and their acceptance of it as a natural, inevitable, and perfectly legitimate state of affairs.

The Sixties, as you might expect, scared the crap out of these people. Until then the “New Deal social contract” had worked fairly well (at least for middle class whites): We’ll give you a suburban home, a TV, a new car every five years, and a secure union job with benefits and periodic pay raises. In return, you’ll show up for work in between contract renewal times and let us manage the factories as we see fit without bothering your pretty little heads about it. And you’ll let us manage the world in the interests of GE, GM and United Fruit Company, and look the other way when we install genocidal fascist regimes or fund death squads in Indonesia, Nigeria and Latin America.

The 1960s was the first time since WWII when it seemed to dawn on a significant portion of the public that “another world is possible.”

Since then, management of public opinion to engineer consent has been doubly important to them. That’s why the “national security” community engages in psychological operations to manage public perceptions, the same way they’d manage the perceptions of a wartime enemy — in both cases,  the goalbeing to manipulate the desired reaction out of us.

See, we really are the enemy. Every once in a while one of them slips up and reveals that all that stuff about government representing the sovereign will of the people is so much buncombe. For example, former Clinton Press Secretary Sandy Berger’s statement in 2004: “We have too much at stake in Iraq to lose the American people.”

That’s why they get so bent out of shape when people like Manning and Snowden tell the enemy — people like you and me — the ugly truth about how their sausage is made. Their power depends on keeping us — the enemy — in the dark.

Kevin Carson is a senior fellow of the Center for a Stateless Society (c4ss.org) and holds the Center’s Karl Hess Chair in Social Theory.

Kevin Carson is a senior fellow of the Center for a Stateless Society (c4ss.org) and holds the Center’s Karl Hess Chair in Social Theory. He is a mutualist and individualist anarchist whose written work includes Studies in Mutualist Political Economy, Organization Theory: A Libertarian Perspective, and The Homebrew Industrial Revolution: A Low-Overhead Manifesto, all of which are freely available online. 

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

February 22, 2017
Mike Whitney
Liberals Beware: Lie Down With Dogs, Get Up With Fleas
John Grant
On Killers and Bullshitters*
Peter Linebaugh
Catherine Despard, Abolitionist
Patrick Cockburn
The Bitter Battle for Mosul
Ted Rall
Sue the Bastards? It’s Harder Than You Think
Yoav Litvin
The Emergence of the Just Jew
Kim Scipes
Strategic Thinking and Organizing Resistance
Norman Pollack
Mar-a-Lago, Ideological Refuge: Berchtesgaden, II
Fred Donner
Nixon and the Chennault Affair: From Vietnam to Watergate
Carl Kandutsch
Podesta vs. Trump
Ike Nahem
To the Memory of Malcolm X: Fifty Years After His Assassination
Jesse Jackson
Trump’s Tough Talk Won’t Fix Chicago
Paul Donnelly
Betsy DeVos and the War on Public Education
Ebony Slaughter-Johnson
The End of an Alliance for Police Reform
Richard Lawless
Wall Street Demanded the Nuclear Option and the Congress Delivered
Liaquat Ali Khan
Yes, Real Donald Trump is a Muslim!
Ryan LaMothe
“Fire” and Free Speech
CounterPunch News Service
Bloody Buffalo Billboards
February 21, 2017
Sharmini Peries - Michael Hudson
Finance as Warfare: the IMF Lent to Greece Knowing It Could Never Pay Back Debt
CJ Hopkins
Goose-stepping Our Way Toward Pink Revolution
John Wight
Firestarter: the Unwelcome Return of Tony Blair
Roger Harris
Lenin Wins: Pink Tide Surges in Ecuador…For Now
Shepherd Bliss
Japanese American Internment Remembered, as Trump Rounds Up Immigrants
Boris Kagarlitsky
Trump and the Contradictions of Capitalism
Robert Fisk
The Perils of Trump Addiction
Deepak Tripathi
Theresa May: Walking the Kingdom Down a Dark Alley
Sarah Anderson
To Save Main Street, Tax Wall Street
Howard Lisnoff
Those Who Plan and Enjoy Murder
Franklin Lamb
The Life and Death Struggle of the Children of Syria
Binoy Kampmark
A Tale of Two Realities: Trump and Israel
Kim C. Domenico
Body and Soul: Becoming Men & Women in a Post-Gender Age
Mel Gurtov
Trump, Europe, and Chaos
Stephen Cooper
Steinbeck’s Road Map For Resisting Donald Trump
February 20, 2017
Bruce E. Levine
Humiliation Porn: Trump’s Gift to His Faithful…and Now the Blowback
Melvin Goodman
“Wag the Dog,” Revisited
Robert Hunziker
Fukushima: a Lurking Global Catastrophe?
David Smith-Ferri
Resistance and Resolve in Russia: Memorial HRC
Kenneth Surin
Global India?
Norman Pollack
Fascistization Crashing Down: Driving the Cleaver into Social Welfare
Patrick Cockburn
Trump v. the Media: a Fight to the Death
Susan Babbitt
Shooting Arrows at Heaven: Why is There Debate About Battle Imagery in Health?
Matt Peppe
New York Times Openly Promotes Formal Apartheid Regime By Israel
David Swanson
Understanding Robert E. Lee Supporters
Michael Brenner
The Narcissism of Donald Trump
Martin Billheimer
Capital of Pain
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail