“I do remember, and then when I try to remember, I forget” —Winnie The Pooh
The act of “Never Forgetting” is being militarized against Muslims once again. And this is by a President who is popular because of his willful act of forgetting—that is nostalgia. On the heels of China’s use of Artificial Intelligence to track the faces of Muslims, Donald Trump continues his spectacular demonization campaign, seemingly much to the disgust of pro-love, pro-war Democrats.
Donald Trump has in some ways radically shifted the configuration of American violence. Trump’s environmental violence, most notable through his deregulation and gutting of the EPA, will be his most lasting legacy. America’s violence is usually dumped in the Never Remember” category. The most forgotten violence in this country is the genocide of Native American sisters and brothers. Donald Trump changes the name of the game by openly inciting violence against the press, against his political opponents, against women, immigrants, Muslims and people of color.
In this way Trump brings American violence into the center of discussion and opens up the floodgates for a cultural acceptance or even celebration of violence against those you disagree with or see as genetically inferior. This, in a word, has correctly been labeled as fascism. Trump crossed a line for the hopeless Democratic Party when he invited violence to be used against female black Muslim Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, who rightfully (and hopefully not regrettably) labeled 9/11 as an event where people did some things and all our civil liberties were taken away. It is here where one can forgive Omar, who has legitimate reason to fear for her life, from backing down from this biting comment.
Now I am of the opinion that there is no time too soon for a 9/11 joke (or too late for that matter). But Donald, if he had a sense of humor, made quite an uncharacteristically funny joke just hours after 9/11. The Guardian writes: “Trump, claimed, falsely, that one of his own buildings had been “the second-tallest building in downtown Manhattan”, after the World Trade Center.
“And now it’s the tallest,” he said.”
The fascist phrase used by the imperialist right-wing duopoly when used to describe the 9/11 tragedy is: “Never Forget”. And how could we ever forget? Anyone who goes near any news source, or maybe it is even any store, or any sporting event, how could anyone ever forget that 9/11 happened?
Now perhaps this is not relevant, or even quite off-putting to many people, but there is something significant around the policing of language in regards to 9/11. On the one hand, there is a self-seriousness when talking about 9/11 that is comical to any critical thinker. Furthermore, the continuous memorial for the great American land trotted out ad nauseam for the last 18 years, well it is laughable, to anyone with a sense of humor, or even to a serious person with any awareness of the role of American Empire in global devastation.
In listening to another superb interview by Eric Draitser, the low numbers of viewership of MSNBC, CNN and Fox were revealed. The clear age gap between who watches these channels and who doesn’t was rightly noted by Mr. Draitser. There is, on similar grounds, a self-seriousness that can only be seen as desperate and ridiculous when it comes to the latest “crisis” in American identity, that is Russiagate. Once again we see a single story hammered home with such persistence precisely because all sides must sense that the working class really has no time for these irrelevant stories. There also is a clear dwindling belief in American Exceptionalism because of the declining prospects of the working class in America and a rise in distrust in the traditional propaganda institutions. Alarmingly, fascist and nihilistic alternatives have arisen in its place, but there also of course is potential for this disillusionment to swing the other way (see Bernie, AOC, and socialism).
The divide in thinking about 9/11 may even be clearer than the general divide between generations. In part because of the taboo of the subject, in part because of a sincere hatred for America, and in part still because of a general cynicism that is understandable but also unproductive, we have seen an explosion of 9/11 counter culture. Young people enjoy nothing more than a 9/11 joke, and the memes, groups and a broader online cultural apparatus surrounding 9/11 are numerous, and often quite amusing. On the other hand, this dismissal of 9/11 may indeed reflect a gradual numbing to violence as youth are bombarded with militarized police, violent video games and movies, a sadistic porn culture and a normalization of Empire as a last stand to deal with its fading legitimacy.
Regardless, the media has succeeded in this sense: 9/11 is not forgotten. On the other hand, the wars that have followed have been forgotten precisely because the media never covers them. War is a permanent state for the American Empire, but war coverage is not. From the forgetful New York Times: “The three broadcast networks’ nightly newscasts devoted more than 4,100 minutes to Iraq in 2003 and 3,000 in 2004, before leveling off at about 2,000 a year, according to Andrew Tyndall, who monitors the broadcasts and posts detailed breakdowns at tyndallreport.com. And by the last months of 2007, he said, the broadcasts were spending half as much time on Iraq as earlier in the year.” It is wise not to forget that it was this same news organization that helped America lie its way into war through the bogus Weapons of Mass Destruction claim.
As the years go by, this dynamic only gets worse. War, no longer new, and no longer a product of the draft, can simply be a condition of the underclass, and therefore not worthy of reporting. This is the same way homelessness or hunger is treated. Rarely does one see a headline: 3 made homeless, or 5 made hungry. When in fact these things would be newsworthy if they weren’t so normalized.
It is interesting to think about the relationship between normalized and forgetting. For war is certainly normal, but also quite often forgotten. If it was said: America is at war! Well, that would be new, but only to a point. It would be like finding an old pair of trousers. New, technically, compared to a minute ago, but not new in the grand scheme of things, seeing that it was just merely forgotten, and likely forgotten for a reason.
But this is the new state of things. The war on terror is regretted, by some. But no one talks about ending it. People say it only would make things worse to pull out now. No one even talks about war, period. There is some knowledge that it is better that way. Obama’s expansion to Africa was remarkably silent and forgettable. Similarly, some of the recent actions in Latin America have shifted to economic warfare as there is some recognition that a new war is nothing to be proud about.
That doesn’t mean the old wars can’t stay, or that new wars can’t begin. It is merely to say that the excitement of the us vs. them narrative is no longer convincing to a nation in crisis and in decline. If this narrative is used it is best used in the more domestic nationalist sense where population is controlled actively at home while foreign affairs are not subject to be discussed. While no one should be missing the days where America proudly lined up for war, the numbing of war may be more ominous and more consequential.
This is why 9/11 opportunists said: Never Forget. It was because they knew that forgetting was the death of a cause. Similarly, the reason war is hidden completely is because the media knows that if it is shown at all, it will be remembered. And remembering is dangerous. Best to only remember the part where we got bombed.
It can also be argued that when the media did cover the War on Terror it was always within the assumption that war was both a legal and moral response to a terrorist attack by an individual not associated with any government. It was also within the context of the United States and often framed the U.S. as both the victim and the civilized actor. Little to no coverage was focused on the devastation of the countries effected by the wars and instead the entire saga was reported through the lens of a response to 9/11. In reality the political landscape of the countries in question far exceeded the fear of terrorism and domestic issues within our country. There could have been many stories on the destruction of education, the environment and the economy in the Muslim world during wartime. U.S. lies and profit motives were largely ignored as an emphasis was shifted to a supposedly consensual war that was both necessary and just because of a continual threat of terrorism which must never be forgotten, which is another way of saying it must always be invented.
In the era of The War on Vietnam, media coverage was a leading factor in civilian disgust, organizing, and protest about the war which surely led to a curb in its effects. There is a reason the media doesn’t cover war anymore. Look no further than the Julian Assange case. Assange did honest reporting on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. As a result, he was sent into exile, fleeing to be trapped in a house for many years in Ecuador, only to be traded back, for what else, a loan from the economically imperialist IMF.
The Democrats were fine with rushing to Ilhan Omar’s defense, on charges of Islamophobia. That is only weeks after they more or less labeled her a terrorist for questioning the terrorist apartheid state of Israel. And yet, if the Democrats really cared about Muslims, why would they be so keen to lock up the person who exposed the institutional capitalist imperialist violence against Muslims? Unless of course the Democrats are acknowledging that Islamophobia, not the actual slaughter of Muslim civilians, is where they draw the line.
It is worth noting that Assange is accused of sexual assault, and he will only face this trial if he is allowed to return to Sweden, rather being trapped in the U,S,. Assange should have to answer for this charge, but it is of course consistent with the United States’ broken criminal justice system that the people who expose violence are punished while the people who do violence walk away as cultural heroes. The starving and jailing of “violent” immigrants is the latest example of this logic of a victim-blaming and gleefully violent culture that revels in Empire and cannot bear to see it exposed.
The Julian Assange case shows the present crisis in journalism and in corporate consolidation of the media and wealth in general. Exposing crimes through journalism is heroic and vital in a democratic society. In an undemocratic oligarchy, the coverage itself is a crime. When Assange is arrested for exposing the wars on Iraq and Afghanistan this country is sending a clear message: forget that we are at war or you will go to prison. Thus the phrase Never Forget, used to justify perpetual war, can soon be flipped on its head to Never Remember, which means forgetting the war that Never Forget brought us into.
If the establishment really cared about violence against Muslims, they would be protecting the journalist with the guts to expose the war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan. In the Omar case the establishment is rushing to remind the American public to never forget that we are a tolerant nation who never will accept hate (especially by those radical Muslims). Meanwhile, in the Assange case, the establishment willingly forgets the real war against the Muslim world through this very vehicle of distraction in a corporate media who has lost the ability to cover real wars, instead choosing to focus on the bickering of a united pro-war establishment in Washington. It seems, that in all this effort to never forget, America has forgotten everything that isn’t on the teleprompter.
Hillary Clinton ran for President on the slogan of Love Trumps Hate. It may as well have been Love Trumps Peace. For once again calls for a “loving” world has replaced action for a peaceful one. There will never be love without peaceful relationships free of violence that can then foster equality and democracy in its living form. As journalism is criminalized, the truth is forgotten, and we risk forgetting how to find it again. The act of remembering simply becomes too dangerous in such an environment and the story of reality is left to be written by fascists like Donald Trump, who remembers nothing but what is convenient for the story he wants to be written.
Forgetting about war means in turn forgetting about peace. Once the possibility of freedom is denied, oppression does not appear in a language that is accessible to the oppressed, and therefore becomes nearly impossible to change. It is beyond unrealistic to have one’s cake and eat it too. There will never be a world of civility and decency until democracy and equality are restored. The rich should be learning that if you don’t pay your taxes, if you deal weapons for profit, if you privatize and gut public programs, social despair and unrest will follow. To all those who want a world free of the vicious Islamophobia that Donald Trump embodies, there must first be an end to the war on the Muslim world. The first step in ending this war is to remember it. The treatment of Julian Assange tells us that this act of remembering the truth is a radical act of love and must not be abandoned.
In closing, to bring it full circle. Winnie the Pooh was a radical comrade, who did not always have a great memory. Pooh wore a red shirt to show his solidarity. Pooh had so much comrade in him he didn’t even corrupt this red shirt with pants of any kind. In a cruel twist of late-stage capitalist appropriation the so-called Communist Party in China banned Winnie the Pooh after racist comparisons of Winnie to President Xi Jinping. Piglet, for some reason, acts Pooh for spelling advice: “How do you spell ‘love’?” Pooh responds in form: “You don’t spell it…you feel it.”
Julian Assange may not be spelling love like most of the establishment, but he is, in a deep sense, feeling it. There are rumors that Winnie the Pooh had dementia. It is also true that the United States Empire, as it grows old with age, is suffering a sort of dementia. Specifically the loss of judgement and of memory. It becomes quite difficult in these times of lawlessness and absolute power by the rich to situate any sort of radical memory that simply tells the truth as it happens. Julian Assange is making sure we Never Forget the tragedies in Iraq and Afghanistan. This is an act of public service and heroism, and even the forgetful Mr. Pooh remembers this act of grace in spirit: “Love is taking a few steps backward, maybe even more…to give way to the happiness of the person you love.”