Friday, December 06, 2002
by Rob

With one of those tiresome tirades against Noam Chomsky and John Pilger - usually confined to the loonier corners of Blogistan - Gormless Greg Sheridan occasions a particularly nasty bout of blogorrhoea.

Sprach the Dirty Digger's Shaggy Shiller:

"Readers of a certain age must remember those countless dinner parties
during the Cold War when the leftist at the table smirked and said
something like: "Yes, but we don't really know how the Russian people
feel about the Soviet system. It's only Western propaganda that tells
you they don't support it."


Well, I'm in Sheridan's age-group, and at plenty of tables with plenty of leftists have I sat. I remember DSPers (for whom the Soviet Union was a 'deformed workers' state'), ISers (for whom the Soviet Union was 'state capitalism' pretending to be socialism), the left-anarchists (who stressed that the concentration in the same few hands of political and economic power outraged their lad Bakunin as much as it did ol' Marx himself) and the left-Laborites (Jim Cairns fans like myself).

In the late eighties came the self-styled Chomskyites (people of a critical and sorta anarchistic bent, for whom the Soviet Union was anathema on the grounds that it was a military bureaucratic totalitarian state where obedience was all - which was fair enough, coz that's how Chomsky had bagged the SU in his *Necessary Illusions* book and his 'Cold War - Old and New' essay).

In all my decades of lefty table discourse, never did I meet a smirking champion of the Soviet-Union-style system.

Come to think of it, never did I meet anyone who could smirk quite like Sheridan can.

Anyway, the one thing my table partners had in common was that they recognised bullshit when they heard it; and they heard it no less from Radio Moscow than from Voice Of America. Which is just what Chomsky's always saying. Indeed, he argues that western propaganda is an altogether more elaborate and subtle thing precisely because what the masses think matters a lot more in democratically structured states than it does in totalitarian states, where obedience is the lot of the masses and thought the province of the aparat.

Chomsky NEVER parlayed the institutionalist analysis for which he is famous (apologies to his co-author, Ed Herman) - that the institutional setting of western media makes propaganda channels of those media - into anything like a defence of the Soviet Union's political system. EVER.

Sheridan again:

"The key to ideological commitment is emotional intensity, not rational
thought. All morality is subsumed into the larger question of furthering
the ideology's aims. In dealing with a fanatical ideology it is
important to understand that the demands are not negotiable."


To these rheumy eyes, these are precisely the traits an emotionally drooling, intensely smirking, irrationally slandering Sheridan exhibited when Lateline's Tony Jones put him up against that Galloway chappie a few weeks back.


"Ideology marches hand in hand with conspiracy theories, because
conspiracy theories are needed to explain why the world doesn't actually
look like the ideologue's description."

I thought conspiracy theories were the province of the hard-right black-chopper survivalist brigade? Certainly Marxist theory does not require conspiracy theories (which is not to say conspiracies don't happen - just ask Henry the K - merely that they don't explain history). Marx's project was to lay out the dynamics of capital in ideal circumstances, and look for essential contradictions in that dynamic in those very circumstances. I reckon he found enough to explain boom-bust cycles, recessions and depressions, uneven development, crises in the social democratic class-compromise project, 'globalisation' and periodic propensities to state-sponsored and 'civil' belligerence. Sheridan was either not convinced (which is fair enough, although he might tell us why) or never read it (in which case he should refrain from characterising it and telling us all about the sort of people who do find something in it).

And yet more Sheridan:

"The remarkable feature of the present moment is the way the West's far
Left has joined in a kind of de facto intellectual alliance with the
al-Qa'ida extremists, which is not to say that most leftists, even
extremist leftists, endorse terrorism, approve of mass murder or wish to
achieve a purist Islamic state."


Half-right, Gregory. Better than usual, but not good enough.

Yes, lefties fundamentally reject both al-Qa'ida's means and its ends. Which doesn't leave a lot of room for anything that might remotely pass for an intellectual alliance.

But on Gregory rants:

"Where the de facto alliance does come into play is the shared view of
the Left and al-Qa'ida of the nature of the West, and the role of the US
and Australia. Travelling recently in South-East Asia I was struck by
how often, in the offices of Islamist activists and fellow travellers, I
saw the works of Noam Chomsky, and somewhat less often our own John
Pilger, two of the iconic figures of mad Left denunication of their own societies."


This is THE media ploy du jour: To equate criticism of an uncritical corporate media, unaccountable elites and the associated dissolution of precious democracy with the mad denunciation of one's society.

Can't you make up your own illogical slanders, Sheridan?

Chomsky, as it turns out, puts all his faith in our 'more free and democratic societies'. That quote is on the back cover of his *September 11* book, Sheridan. Nice and short, too. You should be able to get through it without moving your lips.

Yet more Sheridan:

"Many Islamic activists believe the CIA was responsible for the Bali
bombing. Why wouldn't they believe this madness if they've been
consuming a high-octane diet of Pilgerist Chomskyism with its endless
conspiracy theories about the unregenerate evil and secret wickedness of
the US?"


Maybe because they don't say the CIA did the bombing? Maybe because they criticise elites and not peoples? Maybe because they believe all should enjoy the freedoms enjoyed by westerners? Maybe because they seek to protect those freedoms from insidious assaults by their own elites?

And anyway, the whole idea of 'blowback' is hardly an invention of Pilger's or Chomsky's. The CIA coined that little gem. Or are the CIA mad self-loathing lefties, too?


"Pilger, whose loopy extremism is more or less beyond satire, has
written: "There is no war on terrorism. It is the great game speeded up.
The difference is the rampant nature of the superpower, ensuring
infinite dangers for us all."


What? So there actually IS a war on a methodology? Wars are fought against corporeal enemies, Sheridan, and when one is declared against something other than a corporeal enemy, it is because it may then go on as long as the declarer wants it to (the defeat of a methodology being impossible to verify), occasioning the abrogation of whatever international norms and civil rights the declarer wants abrogated, and legitimating the incineration of whatever corporeal enemies the declarer wants to designate. Whenever.

Remember how the world was staunchly behind the Whitehouse back when al Qa'ida, the likely perpetrator of the S11 outrage, was the designated enemy? We swallowed the rhetorical identification of the Taliban with al-Qaida, too. We didn't even question the efficacy of high-altitude carpet-bombing B52s, the necessity of the destruction of public infrastructure, or the inevitability of the incidental deaths of innocents. Stuff like that happens in war, and in those days the world saw that war as something forced on the Whitehouse by a bunch of mass murderers.

Pilger simply put two (increasing US unilateralism and wholesale repudiation of international agreements) and two (the new administration's long list of miltarist-expansionist public utterances and the war-mongering against Iraq) together more quickly than the rest of us. How else do we interpret the concerted campaign to undermine the UN in general and the wmd inspectors in particular? How else the barrage of bellicosity toward a state which, unlike certain other states, can not be linked to al Qa'ida? How else the barrage of bellicosity toward a state nowhere near as powerful or dangerous as when it was soundly thrashed a decade ago? In fact, a state nowhere near as powerful and dangerous as a dozen others?

Anyway, there's a poll doing the rounds that says a lot of the world's people don't believe the Whitehouse any more. Out of a world of sympathy and solidarity, the Bush administration has managed to produce a global wave of distrust, fear and loathing, and in one year flat at that. Your Islamic activists read Bush and Cheney, too, Sheridan. Perhaps that's where they get their dark suspicions from, eh?


"Pilger ... was explaining how Australia was a target of al-Qa'ida not because we are a free and democratic country which represents everything al-Qa'ida hates, but because we are an ally of the US. But, asked Tony Jones, bin Laden himself said we're the enemy because of our role helping East Timor achieve independence.
'We can't believe that,' replied Pilger."

Blogorrhoea doesn't see why we should believe the opportunistic after-the-event pronouncements of quite-possibly long-deceased murderous conspirators any more than we should believe Sheridan's tiresomely second-hand slanders and apologetics.

One last Sheridanism:

"'We can't believe all these things we're being told.' An almost perfect
example of not letting the facts interfere with the ideology."

And one last from Blogorrhoea:

'We can't believe all these things we're being told' are not a perfect example of an idealogue's ravings at all. Only a raving idealogue would see them as anything but an apposite warning.

When theocrats and plutocrats are duking it out on the airwaves, 'tis the democrat who should be wary ...
Wednesday, December 04, 2002

Oh how this battered cynic's heart doth sing
To hear a Labor pollie saying Labor things ...


Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting (FAIR, 27 November) and The Federation of American Scientists are alone in reporting a quote from Defence Secretary Rumsfeld that the ENTIRE US media seems to have missed. Which is peculiar, because it was to the US media Rumsfeld was talking when he said what he said (a November 18 press briefing).

What did he say? That whilst the idea for an Office of Strategic Influence (OSI) didn't survive public outrage, the activities it was designed to perform are still being carried out. (See FAS Secrecy News, 11/27/02). Here are the great patriot's words: "And then there was the Office of Strategic Influence. You may recall that. And 'oh my goodness gracious isn't that terrible, Henny Penny the sky is going to fall.' I went down that next day and said fine, if you want to savage this thing fine I'll give you the corpse. There's the name. You can have the name, but I'm gonna keep doing every single thing that needs to be done and I have."

What activities was the OSI designed to perform? "[D]eveloping plans to provide news items, possibly even false ones, to foreign media organizations." (New York Times 19 February 2002) Rumsfeld backed the plan after at least two briefings as to the its intended goals and modus operandi (NYT 25 February).

Who reported this scoop? No-one. Here's FAIR on the non-story: "A search of the Nexis database indicates that no major U.S. media outlets-- no national broadcast television news shows, no major U.S. newspapers, no wire services or major magazines-- have reported Rumsfeld's remarks." Which all fits nicely with a William Arkin op-ed (LA Times 24 November), which argues that Rumsfeld's 'information warfare' strategy "blurs or even erases the boundaries between factual information and news, on the one hand, and public relations, propaganda and psychological warfare, on the other ... "while the policy ostensibly targets foreign enemies, its most likely victim will be the American electorate."

Don't reckon it's doing Australians the world of good, either.

Whatever, Henry the K's appointment to the S11 Inquiry fits a spooky picture all too well. As Robert Scheer notes "Kissinger, after all, was the member of the Nixon White House most bent on destroying Daniel Ellsberg for giving a
copy of the Pentagon Papers, the government's secret history of the Vietnam War, to the New York Times. His obsession with preventing all government leaks, except those of his creation, is well documented in the Nixon tapes. And this is the man who publicly lied about everything from the bombing of Cambodia to the cover-up of the Watergate break-in of Democratic Party headquarters to the overthrow and death of the democratically elected leader of Chile." Scheer reminds us that Kissinger's consulting firm "has had dealings in the past with Saudi Arabia and Kuwait - the two nations most closely linked with the 9/11 hijackers."

Scheer's conclusion: "The Bush administration resisted convening a 9/11 commission for more than a year and, when forced by overwhelming public pressure to do so, picked an infamous man with the legendary chops to quash any search for truth."

Let us harken unto Autolycus: "What a fool Honesty is! And Trust, his sworn brother, a very simply gentleman ... "
political economic and cultural observations in the register of dismal dilettantism

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