"People have often been willing to give up personal identity and join into a collective. Historically, that propensity has usually been very bad news. Collectives tend to be mean, to designate official enemies, to be violent, and to discourage creative, rigorous thought. Fascists, communists, religious cults, criminal 'families' — there has been no end to the varieties of human collectives, but it seems to me that these examples have quite a lot in common. I wonder if some aspect of human nature evolved in the context of competing packs. We might be genetically wired to be vulnerable to the lure of the mob." ~ Jaron Lanier
A Land Plagued With Useful Idiots
V. I. Lenin referred to apologists for the brutality of the Soviet state and the worldwide socialist cause as 'useful idiots.' Predominant among the intellectual elitists that have controlled the social institutions of the West since the beginning of the Twentieth Century--government, business, education, and mass communication--these 'useful idiots' have been in the vanguard of the march of tyranny, oppression, and murder across the globe for the last century. Their influence and lasting destruction has been pervasive across several generations of American society as well. Lenin's epithet, no longer exclusive to the intellectual elite, has come full circle: We are now a land plagued with useful idiots.
Whenever subjected to government-caused calamities such as recession, war, and a bloody military occupation, it has been the habit of the bulk of Americans to fall in line behind the Great Evil in Washington, D.C., and pledge their loyalty, and sometimes their blood, to defend the status quo of big government, a planned economy, and interests completely unrelated to their personal and material well-being. Rather than step back and think about what their government does, many Americans grab another beer, kick the recliner back, and reach for the remote. So long as the satellite's working and the government's 'doing something' to protect 'us' from 'them,' fixing the economy, and making sure that Iraqis have democracy, Americans will not trouble themselves thinking how government destroys their way of life.
Unlike Americans of the founding generation, who held the individual citizen and his liberties to be the most important component of a civilized society, the modern American has been conditioned since infancy to accept conformity to the demands of the group, the greatness of the presidency, and unquestioning loyalty and service to the state, as the noblest expression of citizenship. These accolades of contemporary citizenship would have been as alien to the founding generation as the New World would have been to their ancestors.
Americans have been trained to think that whenever 'our boys' (and now, girls) are sent to fight somewhere in the world, our freedoms and way of life are being defended from some evil that wishes to destroy them. Patriotic fervor is ignited as American flags twist in the wind from homes and flutter from the windows and antennas of cars until they are shredded. Americans feel comforted and proud knowing that they are part of some great movement, even though many of them have no clue as to what it means. They are simply acting out the part they have been trained to play since childhood--to go with the crowd, especially regarding matters of 'patriotism.'
Spontaneous movements of patriotism are always co-opted by scheming politicians. As was accomplished by the Bush White House, the patriotic fervor quickly becomes grist in the mill of state power, both domestically and internationally. Soon enough, many forget how the movement got started, inevitably identifying it with the government's pursuit of its expressed cause - always a cover for motives more sinister. Americans, true to their character, stand at attention, enthusiastically wave their flags, and cheer on the president and his 'defenders of freedom' here and abroad.
The mass of the American people will always fall prey to the deceit of politicians so long as they wrap their patriotism in symbols like the flag and emotional clich's about freedom and democracy. The Twentieth Century has demonstrated that such symbols and clich's are easily manipulated by a government eager to harness the people's energy, unity, and scorn to serve its ends. Government propaganda and lies have consequently enhanced the quantity and utility of useful idiots as a tool of domestic and foreign policy.
At some point in life, individual Americans should be expected, as part of the condition of being human, to engage in that one activity unique among humans in the scope of the animal kingdom--rational thought. This, in spite of all the years of conditioning toward groupthink and blind obedience by schools, the community, political 'leaders,' and sometimes, even parents. Even my small children, when told that American troops are fighting halfway around the world, supposedly to protect us, have enough sense to ask how they can protect us here when they are way over there. It is astounding how many Americans never question or investigate the accuracy of what they hear, read, or see from their government.
The Bush administration and its minions in the media continue to count on the level of idiocy rampant in American society. Otherwise, they would not make such brazen statements regarding recent attacks on targets in Iraq .
After the UN building was bombed, Governor-General L. Paul Bremer said of the bombers, 'It's people who are fighting against the liberated Iraq . . . who do not share the vision of a free Iraq with a vibrant economy the president has set forth and which Iraqis share.' Furthermore, Bremer described these people as 'bitter-enders,' who were 'probably people left over from the old regime who are simply fighting a rear guard action.' Bush himself said this was the work of 'al-Qaeda-type fighters,' whose actions 'showed their fear of progress and their hatred of peace.' To the president, these 'terrorists' are more than 'enemies of the Iraqi people. They are enemies of every nation that seeks to help the Iraqi people.'
The use of such shallow and anecdotal rhetoric can only result from individuals imbued with no fear of the consequences of their actions. Bush and Bremer have no way of knowing who exactly is behind this bombing and the numerous daily attacks on U.S. troops and targets. They can only conjecture. Using language that identifies all opposition to their self-proclaimed heroic efforts in Iraq in the harshest terms preempts the media and the opposition from impugning the integrity of their mission in Iraq . By emphasizing terms such as 'terrorists,' 'al-Qaeda,' and 'old regime,' the Bush administration can stave off its critics and sustain support from the zombie which comprises the American intellect.
For the last hundred years, the number of useful idiots plaguing this country has multiplied like a cancer. They have aided the government in eating away our freedom and throwing the future into a state of unknown chaos. Because of them, patriotism, citizenship, and loyalty are inextricably linked to the success and survival of the state. It is no wonder that many of these useful idiots also look to the state for their own survival; it is the state which often pays their salaries, provides them with benefits, subsidizes their activities, and secures their entitlements with the confiscated property of all Americans.
The useful idiots among us will continue to show support for wars and occupations they believe defend freedom, extend democracy, and ensure that good triumphs over evil. At their peril and ours, the useful idiots in this country fail to see the timeless truth inherent in all wars and certainly prevalent in this one: that they are initiated as a distraction for more pressing problems at home, as a force of national unity to be yoked by the state, and as cover to advance the vested interests of the well-connected and well-financed who actually control the government.
Prior to the start of war in Iraq, Burhan al-Chalabi, an Iraqi exile living in London, said that the Iraqis 'will fight and die, not to save President Saddam Hussein, but to protect their home, land, dignity and self-respect from a new world order alien to their way of life.' All but the useful idiots among us can see that this is happening right now. At a more enlightened period in our history, Americans would have lauded such behavior as heroic. Indoctrinated and intoxicated with service to the state, our nation of useful idiots condemns and crushes the same spirit that once made us the freest nation on earth. Plagues have a way of taking out the best in history, nations, and societies.