Why Is American Drifting Towards Tyranny?
War is always sold by artificially demonizing the enemy.
Countries need to lie about their enemies in order to demonize them sufficiently so that the people will support the war.
Everyone knows that u201Ctruth is the first casualty of waru201C.
As Tom Brokaw said:
All wars are based on propaganda.
Posters prepared in foreign countries demonizing Americans are an obvious form of propaganda. For example, here are samples from Nazi Germany:
The Soviet Union:
(the American is supposed to be the guy on the left)
These are disturbing images, because we as Americans know that they falsely depict who we are.
But Americans have demonized our enemies as well. For example, in World War II, anti-Japanese posters such as the following were used to whip up hatred of the enemy:
Anti-German posters such as this were also widely used:
And, at times, Americans have even demonized other Americans, such as during the Civil War:
Modern America’s Unique Form of Authoritarianism
The unique modern strain of American fascism can be traced through Leo Strauss and the University of Chicago.
Leo Strauss is the father of the Neo-Conservative movement, including many leaders of recent American administrations.
Indeed, many of the main neocon players — including Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, Stephen Cambone, Elliot Abrams, and Adam Shulsky — were students of Strauss at the University of Chicago, where he taught for many years.
For example, Shulsky was the director of the Office of Special Plans — the Pentagon unit responsible for selling false intelligence regarding Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. He is now a member of the equivalent organization targeting Iran: the Iranian Directorate.
Strauss, born in Germany, was an admirer of Nazi philosophers such as Carl Schmitt and of Machiavelli (more on Schmitt later).
Strauss believed that a stable political order required an external threat and that if an external threat did not exist, one should be manufactured. Specifically, Strauss thought that:
A political order can be stable only if it is united by an external threat . . . . Following Machiavelli, he maintained that if no external threat exists then one has to be manufactured.
(the quote is by one of Strauss' main biographers).
Indeed, Stauss used the analogy of Gulliver's Travels to show what a Neocon-run society would look like:
u201CWhen Lilliput [the town] was on fire, Gulliver urinated over the city, including the palace. In so doing, he saved all of Lilliput from catastrophe, but the Lilliputians were outraged and appalled by such a show of disrespect.u201D (this quote also from the same biographer)
Moreover, Strauss said:
Only a great fool would call the new political science diabolic . . . Nevertheless one may say of it that it fiddles while Rome burns. It is excused by two facts: it does not know that it fiddles, and it does not know that Rome burns.
So Strauss seems to have advocated governments letting terrorizing catastrophes happen on one's own soil to one's own people of u201Cpissingu201D on one's own people, to use his Gulliver's travel analogy. And he advocates that government's should pretend that they did not know about such acts of mayhem: to intentionally u201Cnot knowu201D that Rome is burning. He advocates messing with one's own people in order to save them from some artificial u201Ccatastropheu201D.
Genesis of the Meme: Carl Schmitt
But to really understand Strauss — and thus the Neocons — one must understand his main influence: Carl Schmitt, the leading Nazi legal scholar and philosopher who created the justification for “total war” to destroy those labeled the “enemy” of the Nazi state. Strauss was a life-long follower of Schmitt, and Schmitt helped Strauss get a scholarship which let him escape from Germany and come to America.
Not only was Strauss heavily influenced by Schmitt, but Strauss and Schmitt were so close that — when Strauss criticized Schmitt for being too soft and not going far enough — Schmitt agreed:
Schmitt himself recommended Strauss's commentary [on Schmitt’s writing] to his friends as one that he believed saw right through him like an X-ray.
Schmitt’s philosophy argued that the sovereign was all-powerful in being able to declare a state of emergency:
The sovereign is the name of that person (legal or actual) who decides not only that the situation is a state of exception but also what needs to be done to eliminate the state of exception and thus preserve the state and restore order. Note the circularity of the definitions: the sovereign is the one who decides that there is a state of exception; a state of exception is that which the sovereign deems to be so.
Indeed, a continuous “state of emergency” is required for the type of leadership advocated by Schmitt and Strauss. As Slavoj u017Diu017Eek noted in 2002:
A notable precursor in this field of para-legal u2018biopolitics', in which administrative measures are gradually replacing the rule of law, was Alfredo Stroessner's regime in Paraguay in the 1960s and 1970s, which took the logic of the state of exception to an absurd, still unsurpassed extreme. Under Stroessner, Paraguay was — with regard to its Constitutional order — a u2018normal' parliamentary democracy with all freedoms guaranteed; however, since, as Stroessner claimed, we were all living in a state of emergency because of the worldwide struggle between freedom and Communism, the full implementation of the Constitution was forever postponed and a permanent state of emergency obtained. This state of emergency was suspended every four years for one day only, election day, to legitimise the rule of Stroessner's Colorado Party with a 90 per cent majority worthy of his Communist opponents. The paradox is that the state of emergency was the normal state, while u2018normal' democratic freedom was the briefly enacted exception. This weird regime anticipated some clearly perceptible trends in our liberal-democratic societies in the aftermath of 11 September. Is today's rhetoric not that of a global emergency in the fight against terrorism, legitimising more and more suspensions of legal and other rights? The ominous aspect of John Ashcroft's recent claim that u2018terrorists use America's freedom as a weapon against us' carries the obvious implication that we should limit our freedom in order to defend ourselves. Such statements from top American officials, especially Rumsfeld and Ashcroft, together with the explosive display of u2018American patriotism' after 11 September, create the climate for what amounts to a state of emergency, with the occasion it supplies for a potential suspension of rule of law, and the state's assertion of its sovereignty without u2018excessive' legal constraints. America is, after all, as President Bush said immediately after 11 September, in a state of war. The problem is that America is, precisely, not in a state of war, at least not in the conventional sense of the term (for the large majority, daily life goes on, and war remains the exclusive business of state agencies). With the distinction between a state of war and a state of peace thus effectively blurred, we are entering a time in which a state of peace can at the same time be a state of emergency.
Moreover, Schmitt argued that war against one’s enemy is total — lacking any legal constraints — but the sovereign can use ever-shifting definitions of who one’s enemy is:
War is the existential negation of the enemy.
As with the state of exception, there are not rational criteria for distinguishing friend from enemy. All conflict is situational conflict.
Similarly, Al Qaeda has been our “mortal enemy” since 9/11 … but now they are our close ally.
The sovereign eliminates the state of exception to restore order, but the content of this order is historically contingent, because it is dependent on the sovereign's will. All that matters to Schmitt is, as Slavoj u017Diu017Eek puts it, u201Cthe decision for the formal principle of order as such.u201D Similarly, Schmitt says nothing, can say nothing, about what it is that makes a Lebens form worth defending with one's life, what substance and concrete content could or should compel one to make such a commitment to preserve this form.
Indeed, Schmitt says that “politics” is not the process of debate, making trade-offs, building consensus or letting the best ideas win. Instead, the sovereign — through an act of will — makes a decision, and then the political system should carry it out, and the military effectuate it.
George W. Bush’s statement that he was the “decider” fits in nicely with Schmitt’s theories.
George Washington blogs at Washington’s Blog.