One thing that came up somewhere a few days ago was some online comment that matched up with something I have been thinking for some time. The suggestion was that although quite a few people are suggesting that we’re in a period that could be seen as something ominously forecast decades ago by the George Orwell novel 1984, it might be fair to think that where we are now might be a little more similar to Brave New World by Aldous Huxley.
I think that if we get into books that are relevant to the time, Amusing Ourselves To Death by Neil Postman should definitely be right there around the top of the list. Marshall McLuhan might merit a spot, with his Understanding Media.
The fictional story of Brave New World might have a little more resonance with the time we find ourselves in, along with the other two nonfiction books I just cited, with a broad theme here being that a lot of people seem susceptible to not merely accepting a lot of very questionable situations and nonsensical alternate reality noise, but embracing a whole ugly array of a variety of dysfunction, delusion, and general madness. They might be prone to even doing so enthusiastically, if they see it as a way to fit in with the crowd. What we have here is not so much a macroscopic case of people being stomped into submission, but very happily being herded around by entertainment diversions and nonsense and trivial idiocy.
By coincidence, I’m thinking about this and writing on a day that has been taken over as (insert fanfare) Super Bowl Sunday! Millions of people will basically devote their entire day to a whole gigantic circus surrounding a sports contest entertainment that, technically, is a game that lasts an hour.
Just one of the deeply weird elements of the whole circus is that for years now, people have been all wrapped up in one really peculiar aspect of the circus, which is an almost obsessive interest in the television advertising spots running throughout the TV broadcast, which is no small item to consider in contemplating the general theme I have brought up here. It slots right in with the bizarre phenomenon of how easily people seem to accept being labeled as “consumers”. Just that, alone, is something to reflect upon a while as you also consider the fictional phenomenon in Orwell’s 1984 of “Newspeak“, with its fundamental warping of language to distort and manipulate people in how they see and think about themselves and the world in general.
One part of the story of 1984 is the way people are manipulated by bombardments of nonsense until their perception of reality is warped, including “we’ve always been at war with Eastasia!”.
This is not a trivial topic right now, as we have recently had the burst of popular media memes about “Fake News”, which had a batch of issues that need a great deal of dissection to sort out, which seems to have given way to a new variation on “alternative facts”. All that should be a good bundle of clues about some important things being very wrong, and very problematic. The extra twist of complication comes in a swirl of some profound confusion and squabbling conflict about what might actually be fake news, and “alternative facts”.
Take a moment to recall an item that popped up in one of the TV entertainment shows of 2012 about the Presidential election, one of the TV “debates” (in quotation marks as something of a euphemism) between “two party system” candidates Willard Romney and Barack Obama.
At some point in the episode of that TV entertainment series presented as “a Town Hall Meeting”, a question was posed about what the candidates might regard as “America’s biggest National Security Threat”, which cracks open the whole bizarre subject of the way we have been subjected to years of manipulations about the notion that the United States is under continuous imminent danger of attack and conquest if we do not spend trillions of dollars covering the entire planet with US military forces, you know, to “defend our freedom”.
Romney spoke, giving an answer where he stated that clearly the “greatest threat” was from Russia. This was somewhat politely but firmly rejected in his response by incumbent President and candidate for re-election Barack Obama, and in the following period, Romney was ridiculed widely, and rightly so, by many people who pointed to this as being one example of many of reasons why Romney was a poor choice to be elected President.
It is significant that much of this reaction involved people who were devoted Brand D loyalists, regarding this statement as not only a prime example of Romney’s unsuitability as a President, but the general deluded stupidity of Brand R in general. Move along the scale of passing time just a little bit forward, and what did we find? In a very short period of time, really, we found ourselves, while in the second term of re-elected President Obama, suddenly being presented with histrionics about the imminent grave threats of Russian aggression under the evil dictator Bond movie villain in the form of Russian government leader Vladimir Putin.
But we’ve always been at war with Eastasia!
This, of course, is a matter that I have been writing about often for some time now, really beginning to get my attention around the beginning of the year in 2014 as news began to be filled with the dramas of Ukraine, and I quickly began to detect an overwhelming stench of the aroma of mass quantities of bullshit, and started to look into what was happening.
Also, obviously, this returns to an ongoing situation I have been talking about, involving all sorts of confused nonsense that comes as responses to all attempts to shine any light on reality in anything involved in all that. Sometimes there comes responses from people that more or less go something like suggestions that writing about this reality warp, including pointing toward web links with articles about the real news and analysis, about not only the Ukraine drama, but other related matters, is some sort of obsession with Russia and the Russians.
It has been incredibly difficult to get some people to understand that I did not suddenly develop some sort of obsession with Russian and the Russians, I started noticing something that has only grown worse and more disturbing, and have been trying to focus attention on the bizarre way that suddenly, somehow, the noise of the public domain started to become dominated by paranoid histrionic obsession with Russia. Arguably the worst part about it is the way that it became so common to find otherwise very intelligent and earnest and attentive people completely sucked into this delusional lunacy.
You must be a Russian agent spreading Russian propaganda, you pro-Russian Putin supporter Putin apologist!
But we’ve always been at war with Eastasia!
Just to be clear, it’s not all about Russia, and specifically the chosen bogeyman Putin, as this has been just one aspect of a variety of lunacy and manipulations. Right now, it looks like there is a new burst of lunacy about The Iranian Threat, not a new item. The whole bizarre turn regarding Russia seems to be awfully coincidental with a saga of determinations in Washington halls of power that, in the middle eastern nation of Syria, suddenly the urgent agenda is “Assad must go!”, that it’s time for some more “regime change” in the world.
That, right there, is probably a good example of real live Orwellian Newspeak, the euphemism of “regime change” taking hold in the public hive-mind to subtly plant shifts of thinking in the minds of the American people (I’m sorry, “consumers”) that overthrowing the governments of other nations is perfectly alright, why, no, in fact, it’s essentially important, imperative, for world peace and human rights and security and Defending Our Freedom!
In Syria, Bashir al-Assad, the President of Syria, became a featured bogeyman American public enemy, as he apparently seems to be a terrible inconvenient obstacle by refusing to follow orders from Washington, and when longtime Syrian ally Russia had the unmitigated gall to come to Syria’s aid and help fight off the violent factions making war on Syria to overthrow its government, suddenly Russia, and Putin, became a much different subject.
It has already been several years since the leader of the Libyan government was finally declared such a “threat” that Libya had its own little “regime change” episode (wrapped up in the cosmetic guise of being a NATO operation, all about “an international coalition of the willing on a mission to save the Libyan people from the evil madman), turning what was apparently a fairly stable and prosperous north African nation, albeit one under somebody who was a dictator, and argued to be a fairly nutty one at that, into hellish chaos, death, and destruction.
The “regime change” took a more subtle form when the neocons wanted to take control of an eastern European country on Russia’s border, that just happened to include a Russian naval base on the Black Sea coast of Crimea that had not only been there for a couple of centuries, but is reportedly Russia’s only naval base on the Black Sea, which washes up on a large stretch of Russia, and their only warm water port base.
That story is one that I have written about often for close to three years now, including loads of links to news and analysis of the situation and events over there and the noisy nonsense of propaganda pumped out as news here in the US, along with accompaniment from news media in other places where they seek to obediently toe the line dictated from Washington. As I have said multiple times, that got my attention when it became known that the supposed “people’s revolution for freedom and democracy in Ukraine” was looking a lot more like a coup d’etat engineered by the DC neocon cult, the kind of manipulated events some call an “Orange Revolution”.
When the coup did not go so well, to make a long complex ugly story short, the official line from Washington became a steady barrage of distortions and outright blatant fiction. The coup brought to a head some serious cultural and political divisions and conflicts between, generally speaking, the northern and western portion of Ukraine and the southern and eastern regions, including the semi-autonomous territory of Crimea.
The official narrative became one about “Russian invasion” and “Russian aggression” after the people in Crimea and eastern Ukraine recoiled in horror and outrage about the elected President of Ukraine being ousted in the coup, the people in Crimea voted in a referendum by over 90% majority to part from Ukraine and ask to rejoin Russia (as Crimea had been part of Russia until a political maneuver of Soviet politics handed Crimea over to Ukraine in the mid fifties), and provinces in eastern Ukraine declared themselves to be independent republics.
I wonder what Orwell would have thought about the way this particular saga has become something where the official government statements and accompanying “news” has become so massively distorted and dishonest that what we have now, and have had for a few years, is a common public consensus of what people think they “know” about it is almost completely wrong, upside down and backwards compared to reality.
You can look around at fresh news items, that are into territory like Orwell and Huxley might have imagined as “news”, still pushing the fiction about events in and related to Ukraine, and from sources that people might expect to be reliable and credible. An online article from Newsweek portrays the almost three year long war of the new Ukrainian government attacking the eastern provinces rebelling against the coup that overthrew their previous government, their home territory under siege, as “Putin’s war in Ukraine”. NBC news has a web article including a statement reading “Three years ago, when separatists loyal to Russian President Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine eventually leading to its annexation…”, as part of an article that reports military buildup along Russian European borders by NATO, effectively the US, as being emergency moves to defend Europe against Russian aggression and invasion any day now.
The twists and distortions are staggering, and seem to overwhelm lots of people who should know better, and I’ve been pointing out the stories about what has happened over there for a long time now, often completely dismissed by some of those people. The people in eastern Ukraine under relentless siege and attack for refusing to accept the gang overthrowing their former government are, in the alternate reality narratives, “Russian invasion”, the vote in Crimea for leaving Ukraine and rejoining Russia following the Ukrainian coup, with over 90% voting in favor (I’ve seen varied numbers ranging from 93% to as much as 96%), as “Putin’s seizure of Crimea” or simply “annexation of Ukraine”, that last idea being truly spectacular in its reality warp. If somebody follows the Goebbels concept of the Big Lie, I suppose they will make it truly massive sometimes. In Crimea, the presence of Russian military in and around the Russian naval base that has been there for a couple of centuries is also portrayed constantly, still, as “Russian invasion”, and in another news item that should not be too surprising, the new United States ambassador to the United Nations under new President Trump that continues to toe the neocon War Party line, demanding that Russia, or Putin specifically, give Crimea back to Ukraine right now, something that completely ignores what the people actually living there might think about it all.
That whole ongoing story is not the only thing to notice in the barrage of reality distortions, as the recent news about the Syrian city of Aleppo reported the end of the violent occupation of a large part of the place by terrorist forces trying to overthrow the Syrian government, turning the city into a hellish war zone, was reported as the tragic “fall of Aleppo”, when the people there were relieved to have this living hell ended (or at least part of it, as now they have to try to recover) by the Syrian military finally getting the place under control again.
Now, we have a situation where the level of absurdity and surrealism ratchets up a few notches, with the arrival of new President Donald Trump. Already, the level of reality distortion and general detachment from reality of the President and the people surrounding him is staggering. Making it all much worse is the different reality distortions and confusion among people going apeshit about the arrival of Donald Trump as the new President. That is understandable, the going apeshit part, but everything is so much more confused given that much of the citizenry seeing themselves as “The Trump Opposition” are carrying around pathological levels of confusion and delusions of their own.
This brings me around to the reason I started thinking about books that are relevant to the time.
One of those books is The Fourth Turning, by William Strauss and Neil Howe. In this book, Strauss and Howe do a fine job of laying out something of a revelation of insight into historical patterns that are deeply relevant to understanding where we are right now. I won’t try to summarize it neatly here. Read the book.
Unfortunately, I found myself looking at an online post, that again happened to be from someone I have mentioned before here, the unidentified Mr. X, as an example of some things. This time, it was to share a link to an online article mentioning this book in conjunction with Trump associate Steve Bannon. Bannon appears to be a seriously questionable character with some people seeming to regard him as some sort of mutant hybrid of Oliver Cromwell and Rasputin combined. This particular post came with a comment saying that we should all be worried by this article, which connects Bannon with this book, describing him as obsessed with the book.
There are serious problems with this. First, it appears that the writer of the editorial piece in question might not have even read the book, considering the severely confused misunderstanding of some of the basic concepts and ideas. Maybe they did read the book, but skimmed through it at a rapid pace because they found this coming up as a main item in a story they wanted to address, and they managed to come away with a confused half comprehended set of notions about what the thing actually said. Who knows? The point that matters is that if you read that editorial piece and think you understand the general gist of The Fourth Turning, based on that, without reading the book (or at least a proper summary) you have it fundamentally wrong on some important points.
That is a serious problem, given the importance of the subject. I think that The Fourth Turning is essential reading, especially right now, as anybody who has read and actually understood the book is almost certain to understand that right now, this very moment, we are almost certainly in the kind of period Strauss and Howe categorize as a “Fourth Turning”, or “Crisis” phase of a roughly 80 year historical cycle. That brings up one of the inexcusably stupid aspects of the online editorial I refer to, the suggestion that Bannon is all about a determined obsession to “bring about” a Fourth Turning period.
We are there, now, and worse, part of the confusion of the editorial is a fundamentally confused description of what a Fourth Turning period actually is.
Maybe this sort of thing, along with a lot besides this, is a basic element of what we should learn from history. That lesson might be that human history occasionally features some profoundly troubled periods that, in retrospect, seem to be neatly bundled up in a thoroughly explained story of situations of a particular time and place, with some nicely summarized explanations of what went wrong, but part of how and why things were so troubled and problematic was that at the time, in that place, people could not see and understand what the fuck was happening.
That seems to be happening a lot. The irony is that I think if you present that thought to a lot of people in America right now, you might get a lot of agreement that it’s true, about people from “the other side”, whatever that is.
But back to the editorial I was talking about, another major problem, perhaps the worst, is the way it “poisons the well”, so that people who have never read the book The Fourth Turning might not ever read it, or, if they do, already have notions planted in their minds, all because they now see it as some awful crazy book acting as a guidebook for an evil Trump henchman and his nefarious plans.
I posted a comment following up the online post of that link, saying more or less what I just wrote here about the importance and relevance of The Fourth Turning and being a book people should read, never mind the stupid editorial written about it and this Bannon character.
What response did that bring?
“So, I take it you’re a Bannon supporter then?”
I wish I were kidding.