Read this a long time ago, but it may perhaps be of interest. It’s an article at OpenDemocracy by Danny Postel, titled Noble lies and perpetual war: Leo Strauss, the neo-cons, and Iraq.
Of course, I have some thoughts on this. But first, an excerpt:
What was initially an anti-war argument is now a matter of public record. It is widely recognised that the Bush administration was not honest about the reasons it gave for invading Iraq.
Paul Wolfowitz, the influential United States deputy secretary of defense, has acknowledged that the evidence used to justify the war was ‘murky’ and now says that weapons of mass destruction weren’t the crucial issue anyway (see the book by Sheldon Rampton and John Stauber, Weapons of Mass Deception: the uses of propaganda in Bush’s war on Iraq (2003.)
By contrast, Shadia Drury, professor of political theory at the University of Regina in Saskatchewan, argues that the use of deception and manipulation in current US policy flow directly from the doctrines of the political philosopher Leo Strauss (1899-1973). His disciples include Paul Wolfowitz and other neo-conservatives who have driven much of the political agenda of the Bush administration.
Strauss philosophy, it seems, includes the idea that lies are necessary in politics. This is interesting to me, because Lime and I were talking about the problem of apathy the other night. Social apathy about everythingpolitics, the environment, civil rights, safety, and equality is what can destroy a democracy and turn it into, well, what we see all around us.
Lime asked me what can be done about apathy, and I said that rather than fighting it, which I think will be an eternally uphill battle, we ought to use the current structure of the human social animal and use blunt force of media to engineer fashions. This is, of course, something I take right from Bruce Sterling’s thinking, something he’s implemented in his Viridian Design movement. But I imagine it carried over to the far end of instantiation: posters all over the place advertising how shameful it is to be in league with Monsanto and Exxon and Bush, for example. Moments in TV where characters snicker at people who don’t recycle. As many tiny little pinpricks as possible to the mind of the consumer that a good consumer is a green one, and one who isn’t green might as well be 300 pounds overweight and neuter. If knowing your politics is sexy, not knowing them is a sickening turnoff.
But now I begin to think this is wrong, and instead of expecting a populace to be attuned to news, what I think needs to happen is to have a separate media fight against the corporate media. Corporate media says implicitly that pollution, obesity, and conservative economics are acceptable, because it says nothing about them. The opposition media needs to find a way to say what it needs to while being as slick and convincing as the corp media.
That meanssupposing this is all correct, and I’m not sure I can bring myself to do so right nowthat we need to forget about “telling the truth” and think about how to seduce consumers back to sanity. It’s not about educating them, it’s just abour brainwashing them into behaving the way people would if they were more aware. That’s not a long-term goal, it’s a short term solution.
But I feel really wary of short term solutions. It feels a bit icky, like Strauss’s justification of lying. So I’m not sure I can go there.