When I worked for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in the 1970s, I was once dispatched to an Amway convention at the Atlanta Omni to speak to the packed arena about carious Chamber citizen activism projects. Right before I was scheduled, the Amway “Diamond” hosting the thing (it was so strange and cult-like that “thing” is the best I can come up with this early in the morning) rallied the glassy-eyed crowd with a speech the likes of which I had never heard before. Among the crazy assertions he made to cheers and cries of “Amen!” was that Jimmy Carter, then President, was card-carrying Communist and an agent of the Soviet Union, preparing as he spoke to turn over America to the Russians He also said, Joe McCarthy-like, that he had authentic documents to prove this.
As I sat in the wings, my mind raced to determine what I should do. I did not want to endorse or support what I had just heard in any way, but I also was on an assignment from my boss, who, I was and am quite sure, would have been just as horrified by what I had just heard as I was. Amway’s founders, Jay Van Andel and Rich De Vos were Chamber board members and big contributors to the Chamber’s PAC. Nothing I was promoting there was sinister. Still, I seriously considered leaving immediately, or even using my huge radio mic to denounce what I had just heard as outrageous lies, at least until I was brought down in a hail of bullets, or torn limb from limb by the infuriated mob.
In the end, I gave a shortened version on my planned speech—the crowd was very receptive—and got the hell out of there. When I returned to D.C., I announced that I would not appear at any more Amway conventions, or, for that matter, any John Birch Society meetings or KKK rallies, and my wishes were respected. I remained disturbed by the incident, and especially by the extremist bile that was apparently circulating quietly among the public that was barely hinted at in what was then naively called the “respectable media.”
Sunday, I read a column by Thomas Friedman, a three-time Pulitzer Prize winner and best-selling author who writes for the New York Times. In a column called “Iran Is Crushing Freedom One Country at a Time,” this supposedly mainstream and eminently respectable pundit wrote,
The G.O.P. has elevated the exact same kind of autocrat that Middle Easterners are trying to get rid of. Our sultan is just like one of theirs: He shirks the rule of law, nurtures a cult of personality through his own state-directed media, surrounds himself with sycophants, con men and conspiracy buffs, and denounces our professional deep state — its bureaucrats, diplomats and military officers — for trying to shackle him with our 230-year-old constitutional checks and balances. Go figure. We’re becoming them right when they want to become us — or what used to be us.
This is just slightly more genteel version of what I heard that day in Atlanta, except that it is not coming from a multiple diamond-ring wearing kook in a leisure suit in front of a rock band-style, laser-lit set at a cult gathering. It is coming from what is presented as a foreign affairs expert in the pages of the nation’s so-called “paper of record.” Yet Friedman’s poison is no less extreme, distorted, inflammatory and false than what the Omni crowd was told about President Carter. The difference is that then such rhetoric was not considered fit for publication, as it was fear-mongering, hateful, and designed to turn the public against their leaders and institutions while shaking their faith in their fellow citizens and their nation. Today, similar poison is being published, broadcast, and circulated on social media.
I’m not going to waste time here knocking down Friedman’s ridiculous contentions; if most of them aren’t obvious to you, then you have probably already been replaced by a pod. (State-sponsored media? Trump has a cult of personality? Is there such a thing as a cult of obnoxious personality? How did I miss the videos of schoolchildren being led in hymns of praise for Donald Trump? OK, OK, I’ll stop…) I will mention that no editor insisted that Friedman mention the fact that the reason Iran is able to “crush freedom” in its region is because the previous President secretly negotiated a naive deal that gave Iran around 100 billion dollars in frozen assets in exchange for bolstering that President’s “legacy” by promising not to develop nuclear weapons to, among other things, flatten Israel, until said President was safely thriving in affluent retirement. “Amid a tense political climate, Iran hawks in the U.S., Israel and elsewhere argued that the United States was giving far too much to Tehran and that the windfall would be used to fund extremism and other troubling Iranian activity,” said the AP. Imagine them arguing such a thing! That President’s name isn’t mentioned in Friedman’s piece, in part, I suspect, because The New York Times spend eight years virtually singing hymns of praise to him in its news room, nor is the fact that our “sultan’ pulled out of that disastrous deal and has re-instituted sanctions, though the 100 billion is long gone, and being used to destabilize the region.
15 thoughts on “Cultural And Societal Poison, Pumped Into Our National Bloodstream [Corrected]”
Everything is spinning out of control, I guess. Two days ago WordPress, while I was AWAY, converted a posted blog essay to a previous draft and removed it. Then this morning, this post went up with the comment option suddenly missing, though I have never put up a post without that option automatically checked in 10 years. Thanks to Jim Rogers and other Bill for an email that tipped me off.
Happy to help.
The video you try to link to has been *removed* for reasons of violation of terms of service. But, I found this one which makes sense and drives home the point:
While it is now a cultural meme, I do in fact feel dumber for having read Friedman’s biased, illogical, and, frankly, insane ranting. Thanks a lot NYT.
All was good up to this point:
If the conversation is honestly to be about ‘crushing freedom’ or ‘supporting freedom’, and if it is to be an honest conversation, the US could be taken to task for many different reasons.
In foreign-policy — I don’t think anyone contests this seriously — it is often better and easier to work with dictatorial government with strong, authoritarian governing structures, than it is to work to ‘encourage (genuine) democratic structures and encourage the sort of tumult that is said to be *bad for business*. This is a simple, Machiavellian fact.
The founding of Israel in the region created a whole array of problems because, to the surrounding countries, it seemed to be, and in many senses is, an ‘intrusion’ into the region for a whole group of political and economic reasons. The way it was done, and the way how it was done was lied about, is one of the sources of the problems that arise in the region. Again, if there were to be an honest conversation on all of this, the conclusions would open up the picture to some doubt and certainly about the general situation and the ethics problems there. For this reason: it is better to stick with the ‘lying narrative’ because it saves one the internal pain of having to process such difficult ideas and issues. (That of course is my view and I ask no one to accept it).
The NYTs has in my view lost nearly all credibility in the sense that the articles that appear there seem all to have angles of bias operating in them routinely. In most, but not in all, cases. When it attacks *Russia!* for example (said in the way Tucker Carlson says it) it all seems so suspect. Like they are desperately trying to locate an enemy. Similarly, it is possible that their views are unreliable or — as some have suggested — inserted there for more dubious and dangerous reasons.
If they can’t be trusted, Who can be trusted? Does *trust* make any sense at all?
The simplistic and binary *narrative* that you seem to employ here is not absolutely untrue, but it is not either completely true. Partial truths and semi-truths are the standards of the day, unfortunately. And they seem to infect everyone when, for one reason or another (and often the reason is *interest*) the ‘real truths’ cannot be revealed.
‘Political truths’ are not truths, they are expedient narratives that serve the interested parties.
“Iran hawks in the U.S., Israel and elsewhere argued that the United States was giving far too much to Tehran” and other such similar statements, when examined, always seem to show a very belligerent and war-minded individual ‘machinating’ in disturbing ways. Take John Bolton as a solid example: a liar through and through. A dangerous man really. But a strong servant of power and one who grasps the deceptive use of power. A man whose political praxis is to lie and distort. That is what I see, and I do not say this from any Left-Progressive perspective.
I’m curious. Of what country are you a citizen, Alizia?
Naturalized US citizen, I have said it many times. Why do you ask?
You have a very foreign outlook, beyond just being a citizen of the world. Where were you born? Of what culture are you?
I’ve said this all many times. 🙂 I was born in Venezuela.
It’s an innocent question.
I think that what is most interesting in my ‘position’, but also what is threatening or perhaps discomfiting is the right word, is that I have a very different sense of what it is like to be subject to the irrational aspects of US policy — those policies that you do not question. Therefore, I notice that the ‘patriot’s perspective’ for all that strong patriotism is to be commended, also has a dangerous element that must be addressed.
I have brought forward here substantial critiques against the US invasion and occupation of the Philippines, and I have made references to natural citizens of some standing who opposed these adventures, and saw in them substantial dangers to the integrity of the Republic. I did not invent this perspective or the critique, and I certainly did not concoct the moral and ethical reasons for opposing this rush into ‘neo-imperialism’ (which is precisely what it was and what it is). I bring forward a critique that, as far as I have been able to tell, is only brought out — now, in the present — by those of Left-Progressive orientation.
As a result, I bring a challenging idea to the attention of conservative-oriented people who are simply, or so it seems to me, incapable of taking a critical posture. For that reason their ‘patriotism’ takes on a tinge more redolent of jingoism.
That attitude — I humbly suggest, of ever humility could be ascribed to me and my motives — of inability to self-criticize, and of continuing to focus in those area which I see as leading to significant corruption of the values of the Republic (Constitutional values) places me in an untenable and questioned position:
Where are you from? Why do you have these ideas? Why do these notions seem to me ‘foreign’ and in this sense ‘questionable’ or dubious — or even non-patriotic?
The Dissident Right — and it is a confused grouping with ideas that are not very well worked-out in their entirety — struggles to define perspective. There is a shift, a notable shift, in the idea-structures of the conventional Conservative-Right: indeed a populist position is evidence of that. A position that critiques America’s destructive ‘Forever Wars’ and the actual motivations for those wars (cui bono) is also an aspect of the ideological shift.
It is true, and it would not be fair if I did not state it, that I have been influenced by outlines of ideas formulated by the Progressive-Left. Simply because the Conservative Right has abandoned its ethically-oriented role. In this way not only the individual is drawn in two opposing directions, but the nation also splits.
For this reason I think it wise to deliberately renounce the category of Left and Right, Progressive and Conservative. (I think that you said something to this effect once: that you believe in the strength and soundness of the ideas, with their ethical component, and not what category they fit into).
The troubles that are now facing the Nation — this is my idea — have only just begun. They are not going to go away and they are not going to be ‘suddenly resolved’. They will continue to broil and to fester. The more difficult is yet to come (speaking as Cassandra here!)
And all of this in a context of encroaching AI and the us of it for control purposes; an increasing assertion of ‘right’ by fictitious persons (corporations that have far FAR too much unregulated power); and all this in the context of government control of the Maoist-Chinese style which is the real threat standing before us.
Is my (is our) perspective bad? Is it unwelcome? Is it harmful? I do not think so at all.
Therefore, the ‘conversation’ has to widen and broaden and no part of it can or should be excluded.
Did we install the Shah? Yes. Did the Shah’s tyranny beget the Islamic revolution? Yes. Does the Islamic revolution need to push for the destruction of Israel? No. Did Obama ignore an opportunity to help Iranian dissidents overthrow the Mullahs? Yes. Did Obama aid and abet a regionally aggressive Islamist government? Yes. Has Trump had much to do with Iran beyond supporting Israel as a bulwark against endlessly promised Islamist aggression and removing us from a long term idiotic agreement with aggressive Islamists? No.
If Trump were an aggressive, dangerous Sultan, Iran would be less populated and much smoother on the surface than it is.
Oh I forgot, is Trump extracting the money Obama gave the Mullahs back by constricting the Islamist aggressor economy? Yes. Good.
Rich DeVos is actually the father-in-law of “that” DeVos; her husband is Dick DeVos (Richard Jr.). Her family money married into his family money. Her father was a very wealthy industrialist in town here, and was responsible for many great things in our community. Betsy is not one of them, nor is big brother Erik Prince.
Thanks. I was confused about the family tree. I knew some of the De Vos kids long ago, and briefly.