State of Plague, Part 5: Disease-Mongering as Militarized Trojan Horse for Globalization and Surveillance
Mixed Metaphors: Gates’ Inverted Totalitarian Corporate Conquistadors
As mentioned in Part 2, Bill Gates’ investment in a fracking tech corporation and Operation Neptune Spear corresponded with the intensive and obviously orchestrated vaccine defense media campaign which began with the publication of Paul Offit’s Deadly Choices: How the Anti-Vaccine Movement Threatens Us All; followed by Murdoch stringer and paid pharmaceutical operative Brian Deer’s regurgitation of old claims against Andrew Wakefield in the British Medical Journal, and crescendoing with Gates nosing out from behind the curtain to declare a virtual fatwa on purported “anti-vaccine” advocates who “kill children.” The campaign finished off with the seemingly endless junket for Seth Mnookin’s vaccine-defense screed, Panic Virus. The mandate drumbeat and calls for censorship against critics have only amplified since.
At the time, the media crusade was like one long, belletristic plea that this could be the last attempt to deploy persuasion before the erosion of consumer rights would begin in earnest, and that certain policies could be—ever so reluctantly and unfortunately— forged to make vaccination fully compulsory in the US. At some point the media signaled that the “gloves were coming off,” which brings us to the current rhetoric on jail, fines, fees, segregation and child removal for vaccine dissent.
The absolutist campaign was nevertheless only one of several similar campaigns since 9/11. As journalist and Dirty Wars author and documentarian Jeremy Scahill wrote in Huffington Post, Scooter Libby, with the help of the NY Times WMD spin-planting columnist Judy Miller, lobbied to make disease outbreaks instrumental to war footing.
The fact that the shot obsession in this century began with the Bush administration and Libby—one of the officials at the heart of the “yellow cake” and WMD fabrication scandal—shouldn’t come as much of a shock since the vaccination campaign continues to be as orchestrated as WMD spin had been (and still is). The fact that the campaign has only ratcheted up under the Obama administration— known for jailing and persecuting whistleblowers who threatened more current “WMD” ploys— isn’t so shocking at this point either. As mentioned in Part 2, all of the odd convergences bring up questions over both what is at stake that would explain the parallel intensity of the wars on terror/disease as well as questions about the power of particular figures enmeshed in the blitz to coordinate the centralized message. At least one of the answers is obvious. As the Seattle Times reported in 2010 in a report titled Does Gates Funding Taint Media Objectivity?
Better-known for its battles against global disease, the giant philanthropy has also become a force in journalism.
The foundation's grants to media organizations such as ABC and The Guardian, one of Britain's leading newspapers, raise obvious conflict-of-interest questions: How can reporting be unbiased when a major player holds the purse strings?
But direct funding of media organizations is only one way the world's most powerful foundation influences what the public reads, hears and watches.
To garner attention for the issues it cares about, the foundation has invested millions in training programs for journalists…Magazines and scientific journals get Gates money to publish research and articles. Experts coached in Gates-funded programs write columns that appear in media outlets from The New York Times to The Huffington Post, while digital portals blur the line between journalism and spin…
Some of the foundation's approaches are controversial, such as its embrace of genetically modified crops and emphasis on technological fixes for health problems. Critics fear foundation funding of media will muffle those debates. And with only three trustees setting the overall strategy — Bill and Melinda Gates and fellow billionaire Warren Buffett — there's something "deeply anti-democratic" about such a concentration of influence, [NYU Professor Mark Crispin] Miller said.
"We're not dealing with a lively discussion among players. We're dealing with one gigantic entity ... that seems to be very skilled at promoting its agenda," he said.
This brings up a question over what exactly Gates’ and his foundation’s agenda might be.
One of the benefits of publishing a series is being able to incorporate reader insights along the way. Several comments to Part 2 addressed the above question—whether globalization schemes exemplified by Bill Gates and his “emissaries of pity, science and progress,” panoptic control of the media and use of disease eradication as a fulcrum are driven by an identifiable ideology that is somehow equivalent, as argued in Part 3, to “scientism,” the secular “doctrine of salvation” that fueled 20th century totalitarianism.
If anything, certain comments illustrate how being caught directly in the crosshairs of looming political repression can make even the most dry, dark and creepy discourse in political philosophy suddenly accessible or even hopeful, if only because someone in the past bothered to write about the problem and had the relative liberty to do it.This means that history wanes, so perhaps the current campaign against civil and consumer rights, freedom of the press and privacy might too.
But to some observers, threats against democracy are worse than they’ve ever been. Also discussed in Part 3 were the various forms of totalitarianism to choose from—right, left, or the “inverted” variety currently taking hold in the US according to political philosopher Sheldon Wolin, who compared the present form to East Germany. In a review of Wolin’s Democracy Incorporated, journalist Chris Hedges, who had been stationed in the GDR before the fall of the Berlin Wall, describes inverted totalitarianism as a system with interchangeable figureheads more prone to “break souls” than break bones:
It differs from classical forms of totalitarianism, which revolve around a demagogue or charismatic leader; it finds its expression in the anonymity of the corporate state. The corporate forces behind inverted totalitarianism do not, as classical totalitarian movements do, replace decaying structures with new structures. They instead purport to honor electoral politics, freedom of expression and the press, the right to privacy and the guarantees of law. But they so corrupt and manipulate electoral politics, the courts, the press and the essential levers of power as to make genuine democratic participation by the masses impossible. The U.S. Constitution has not been rewritten, but steadily emasculated through radical judicial and legislative interpretation. We have been left with a fictitious shell of democracy and a totalitarian core. And the anchor of this corporate totalitarianism is the unchecked power of our systems of internal security.
In light of the current astroturf campaign to remove medical rights, jail dissenters, etc., much of it eminating from Gates-controlled media, the issue is certainly ripe for a clot of fascist and Bolshevic metaphors. But one commenter offered a less typical comparison for Gates: “Bill Gates operates much as the conquistadors of the Spanish empire did; no plan, no depth of purpose, fully backed by and fully in service to empire, and genocidal when necessary.”
What the comment highlights is that, in many environmental activism arenas, it’s no longer debated whether Bill Gates and his foundation do harm, simply whether it’s intentional or by design.
Einstein reportedly wrote, “Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity— but don't rule out malice.” Presuming Gates intended to cause over 47,000 cases of vaccine-induced flaccid paralysis to thin out the third world may be giving him and his foundation too much credit for competence. The collateral might simply be a side effect of using a particularly cheap and dangerous technology as the means to unstated ends. But that doesn’t imply Gates and his foundation have not engaged in other unethical and deliberate acts and that the real reason for employing brutal and undemocratic means to those ends are necessarily philanthropic.
To repeat another argument from Part 2, in view of the Department of Homeland Security’s admission that vaccine drives have been repeatedly used as a cover for intelligence operations, it’s become apparent that American medical philanthropy exemplified by Gates has not always been about improving health in foreign populations. In some cases, these campaigns may simply have been a classic manner of gathering intelligence and capturing health infrastructure in certain oil-, gas- or mineral-rich target nations as a militarized Trojan horse operation to gain control of resources— a kind of expedient panopticism that results in the exact revese of “spreading democracy.”
For example, in the wake of the Afridi-CIA scandal surrounding the Bin Laden mission which was covered by Glenn Greenwald, a Western response to counter the resulting vaccine resistance was orchestrated with cooperating clerics throughout Islamic countries to issue “fatwas” to local populations to comply with vaccination. Any use of force that may have been employed to coerce this compliance, such as cases of vaccination at gunpoint in Malawi and other countries in Africa, has generally been downplayed in the press.
Nevetheless, a “fatwa” in Arabic is an enforceable legal edict. In cases of coerced vaccination in Africa prior to Neptune Spear, it was not the imams but government, NGOs and the UN that provided the live oral polio vaccine according to Ugandan journalist, Kihura Nkuba.
Nkuba argued that those protesting the inoculation drive were not “anti-vaccine” but simply wanted the safer version of the polio inoculation that Western children receive: when Ugandans learned that it would be too expensive for UNICEF to provide the safer inactivated (killed-virus) polio inoculation for their population, many objected—particularly families of HIV infected children for whom exposure to those who’ve received the live preparation is contraindicated. Nkuba stated on C-Span,
[T]he people said 'Okay, if it's too expensive, we don't want the cheap one. We think at least we are worth five dollars or ten dollars, or something like this. So if you can't bring the [inactivated polio vaccine], we are not going to have the [live virus] oral polio.' And that's what they did. But the government was ready for them - not really the government - the minister of health, the World Health Organization and the UNICEF. They mobilized the army, and the police and moved from house to house. They had asked the local authorities to do a list of people who had children, so they moved from house to house grabbing children at gunpoint and vaccinating them.
There’s a side controversy within this particular debate: that the safer, killed-virus form of the polio vaccine (IPV) is less effective than the live preparation (OPV) — the reason, aside from cost differential, given for hesitations to adopt it in regions where polio is still active—the irony being that IPV is ineffective in warding off vaccine-strain polio infections caused by OPV. If the latter is the case, it would undermine justifications for US mandates that often uses the effectiveness of IPV as a pitch, making it unsurprising that Western media seldom mentions the issue.
Nkuba’s account shows that those resisting the live polio vaccine in Uganda maintained at least some residual faith in public health by requesting what they believed—and what Americans are led to believe—is the safer, yet still effective form of inoculation. The account also undermines the idea that vaccine resistance in the developing and developed world exists only due to false assumptions and anti-science superstition as the Gates Foundation repeatedly claims: “Because barriers to some of the goals we’re pursuing include superstition [emphasis Gates Foundation’s]– barriers built on various assumptions about morality, cultural traditions, even government policies…More people in more countries—developed or developing—must be helped to understand that the programs we advocate save lives and improve health…”
As reported in the Express Tribune, a senior Taliban Commander in the North Waziristan Agency of Pakistan published and distributed a pamphlet describing suspicion of vaccine drives as more than an assumption. The pamphlet stated that “Polio infects one child in a million, but hundreds of Waziri women, children and elders have been killed in these strikes” and that constant surveillance in the region was causing mental breakdowns among residents: “Each day the list of psychological patients increases in Waziristan, which is worse than Polio.”
Regardless of whether the source of resistance is among sworn enemies of the US or not, and regardless of whether resistors have a perfect understanding of vaccine effectiveness or command of disease epidemiology, it’s still true that the live polio preparation is known to spread the disease and still true that hundreds of children and civilians (and apparently US citizens) have died in US drone strikes—therefore explanations for resistance should not be dismissed.
Rather than suppressing or mischaracterizing actual complaints and obstacles to vaccination coverage, it would seem more rational if global public health authorities had openly tried to solve the dillema and improve the technology. But once drives were tied to drones, the pointless (to health) trajectory of force simply snowballed. In Pakistan, current military operations are seen as the “best chance in years” to overcome resistance to the live oral polio vaccine, leading to the detention of over 500 parents:
Military operation gives officials the best chance in years for polio teams to make progress in the tribal areas, police commissioner says...”We had 13,000 to 16,000 refusal cases,' the deputy police commissioner for Peshawar, Riaz Khan Mahsud, said in an interview. 'There is total determination on our part. We shall convince parents of the good of vaccinating their children, but if they refuse, we shall detain them. There is no leniency… You have to resort to coercive measures when persuasion fails.”
Since the Gates Foundation specializes in precisely this type of local interface to address vaccine resistance and has been openly involved in certain cases, it’s reasonable to suspect that the foundation plays some role in engaging foreign governments in not just the implementation of vaccination but its enforcement. The Foundation has generally relied on coercive or chaotic regimes for just this purpose as was the case in Chad, when children were forced to take the experimental MenAfriVac as part of a Gates-sponsored program. According to reports from Gouru, up to 50 of these children developed severe side effects, convulsions and paralysis.
For another example, the Gates Foundation’s GAVI Alliance backed a disastrous HPV vaccine campaign in India and Columbia that improperly drew consent in the poorest provinces, resulting in deaths and injuries to scores of young girls.
In the period following the reported use of vaccine drives as reported cover for drone missions and the Neptune Spear vaccination fiasco, efforts to counter resistance could have been motivated either to preserve the noble mission of disease eradication or to preserve the effectivness of using vaccine philanthropy as military mission cover—or a blend of both. The difficulty of interpreting intent is the nature of covert operations. Pakistani Foreign Office spokesperson Tasnim Aslam cited the common understanding that the World Health Organization’s participation in the fake shot campaign portion of the operation to kill Bin Laden—a claim that the United Nations and World Health Organization have denied.
The UN’s denial was somewhat unconvincing due to the WHO’s involvement with the Global Vaccine Action Plan (GVAP) which paved the way for the operation in many senses. With the UN’s backing, the GVAP lobbies various governments worldwide to increase of global vaccinations through strategic programs. As reported by Occupy Corporatism, the WHO has planned campaigns in over 190 countries in collaboration with Decade of Vaccine Collaboration (DVC), which includes stakeholders from the global health community. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) have also partnered with the WHO and DVC to support GVAP.
Gates’ financial stakes in Africa alone are so vast and so intrinsically tied to philanthropic ventures that he may have been driven to a Kurtz-like moment— echoing his CNN claim that vaccine safety watchdogs “kill children”— when he lashed out against Zambian economist Dambisa Moyo, author of New York Times bestseller Dead Aid. Gates argued that the book “promotes evil” for making the charge that those who claim to be helping Africa are, in fact, doing enormous damage.
Among its more controversial theories on foreign aid to the continent, Moyo’s book documents the incontestable fact that this aid has largely enriched and empowered corrupt and oppressive governments against the interests of citizens and independent development in many countries. The book is light on addressing the specific corporate schemes and details of how these corrupt leaders then become servants of Western interests, though the implications are obvious.
If Gates’ defenders complain that Gates is the frequent subject of hyperbolic attacks, he himself has a hyperbolic pattern of lashing out only at those indictments that bear some degree of truth and threaten to bleed into the mainstream media. He couldn’t possibly publicly beat back all the wilder and more obscure charges or he’d be blustering around the clock. For instance, considering the revolving agendas and corporate alliances that Gates and his foundation are enmeshed in, it’s understandable that both are often accused of even darker deeds, such as reports from a Nigerian Christian organization that Gates and Monsanto have been co-sponsoring Boko Haram to “displace the indigenous farmers in the country and replace them with… corporate farms in the North East food basket region of Nigeria.”
If anything, buzz like the Gates/Monsanto/Boko Haram story gives a fever reading of the foundation’s reputation abroad. Furthermore, there’s that degree of truth again. A report from the African Centre for Biosafety warns of US/Gates initiative to foist GM crops on African countries:
JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA, 23 February, 2015 – US agencies, funders such as the Gates Foundation, and agribusiness giant Monsanto are trying to force unwilling African nations to accept expensive and insufficiently tested Genetically Modified (GM) foods and crops, according to a new report released today.
“The US, the world's top producer of GM crops, is seeking new markets for American GM crops in Africa. The US administration's strategy consists of assisting African nations to produce biosafety laws that promote agribusiness interests instead of protecting Africans from the potential threats of GM crops,” said Haidee Swanby from the African Centre for Biosafety, which authored the report commissioned by Friends of the Earth International.
The new report also exposes how agribusiness giant Monsanto influences biosafety legislation in African countries, gains regulatory approval for its product, and clears the path for products such as GM maize (corn).
It’s also been verified that the process of paramilitary recruitment in many countries began as an operation by Blackwater, which is currently associated with Monsanto. As investigative reporter and Dirty Wars author Jeremy Scahill wrote for The Nation:
Over the past several years, entities closely linked to the private security firm Blackwater have provided intelligence, training and security services to US and foreign governments as well as several multinational corporations, including Monsanto, Chevron, the Walt Disney Company, Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines and banking giants Deutsche Bank and Barclays, according to documents obtained by The Nation. Blackwater's work for corporations and government agencies was contracted using two companies owned by Blackwater's owner and founder, Erik Prince: Total Intelligence Solutions and the Terrorism Research Center (TRC). Prince is listed as the chairman of both companies in internal company documents, which show how the web of companies functions as a highly coordinated operation. Officials from Total Intelligence, TRC and Blackwater (which now calls itself Xe Services) did not respond to numerous requests for comment for this article.
One of the most incendiary details in the documents is that Blackwater, through Total Intelligence, sought to become the "intel arm" of Monsanto, offering to provide operatives to infiltrate activist groups organizing against the multinational biotech firm.
And there’s truth to the idea that Gates has a history of investing in corporations that enlist death squads. For one example, the murders of Ken Saro-Wiwa and other environmentalists from the Ogoni region in Nigeria in 1995 have since commonly been identified as corporate “hits” by the Nigerian government at the behest of Shell Oil. But this history didn’t stop Gates from heavily investing in Shell.
Then after the LA Times investigation on the human health toll of Bill Gates’ oil holdings in Africa that ironically increased rates of death among children for the very diseases the foundation claims to prevent through vaccination, Gates began “rethinking unethical investments”—at least in terms of public perceptions. But through this time, Gates only continued to build other oil-related holdings that carry serious risks of human and environmental health hazards, such as his stake in Canada’s biggest railway company, Canadian National Railway, which is used primarily to transport oil in poorly maintained, mile-long freight trains that have a record of accidents and spills.
According to investigations by The Nation’s Chares Piller, the foundation maintains investments in weapons manufacturers, Shell, BP, and the coal giant Rio Tinto and makes the point that, though the Gates foundation claims investments like the above are “blind,” how does such a blind foundation maintain humanitarian credentials, much less global authority on public health?
Rio Tinto alone has quite a history, for instance, from applauding the assassination of workers by Franco’s forces in its Spanish mines at Huelva where it was founded, to apartheid style discrimination and the practice of virtual slavery in Namibia in the 1970’s, attacks on unionized workers in its current borax mine in California, engaging the government of Indonesia to suppress and kill labor and land activists in Papua, New Guinea, endless counts of spills, leaks and deliberate environmental damage and now its mining lease of a sacred Native American site.
The Lives and Ideas of Others
All told, there’s a certain amount of truth to the reader’s “conquistador” analogy mentioned above: intentional and unintentional biowarfare, the militarized helping hand as cover for plunder and a vast trail of collateral. It’s all there, though the comment also questions the existence of a driving “doctrine of salvation” or ideology other than profit.
But I might argue that if the motives that animate Gates are only as schizophrenic as, say, Columbus’s—who wrote ceaselessly of finding gold and even more ceaselessly of the glory of God—the analogy doesn’t rule out the question of reigning ideology. In Conquest of America: The Question of the Other, French historian and political philosopher Tzvetan Todorov argues that Columbus—who was so pious he wouldn’t sail on Sundays—was overwhelmingly driven to ensure the “universal victory of Christianity:
Infinitely more than gold, the spread of Christianity is Columbus’ heart’s desire, and he has set forth his feelings in the case very explicitly, notably in a letter to the pope…This, then, is his goal: “I hope in Our Lord to be able to propagate His holy name and His Gospel throughout the universe” (“Letter to Pope Alexander VI,” February 1502).
The same was true of many that followed according to Todorov, along with an obsession that the new world represented the earthly paradise of the bible, casting the form of Christianity driving the conquests as cult-like by definition. The utopian concept of an earthly paradise with the promise of earthly transcendence is a direct contradiction to Christ’s assertions in John that his “kingdom is not of this world.”
The standard platform of any violent cult, whether religious or political, secular or non, is supported neither by the bible nor the theory of evolution: the promise of a future paradise on earth free of disease, violence, suffering and so forth and the appintment (usually self-appointment) of a transcendent elite who will lead us there. This is because only such a bloated covanent could justify so many incursions on rights and privacy and so much killing and destruction to cull away the dregs that impede progress. It’s generally equivalent to the cult of science at the root of totalitariani doctrine.
Gates is like a hydraulic valve, who, when plugged into existing machinery, amplifies historical interpretations of current militarized schemes for globalization. He’s only exemplary of any of it to the extent that the philanthropist and tech guru has never done anything original in his life but merely “embraces and extends” the ideas and operations of others.
In a 1998 interview with Techrights, Noam Chomsky called Gates and Microsoft “parasites off the public system” in an argument that segues from practical monopolies (profit schemes) to political and social (tyranny) :
So how does Microsoft achieve its enormous profits? Well, Bill Gates is pretty frank about it. He says they do it by "embracing and extending" the ideas of others. They're based on computers, for example. Computers were created at public expense and public initiative. In the 1950s when they were being developed, it was about 100% public expense. The same is true of the Internet. The ideas, the initiatives, the software, the hardware -- these were created for about 30 years at public initiative and expense, and it's just now being handed over to guys like Bill Gates…It's a form of tyranny. But, that's the whole point of corporatization – to try to remove the public from making decisions over their own fate, to limit the public arena, to control opinion, to make sure that the fundamental decisions that determine how the world is going to be run— which includes production, commerce, distribution, thought, social policy, foreign policy, everything—are not in the hands of the public, but rather in the hands of highly concentrated private power. In effect, tyranny unaccountable to the public.
Any recognizable ideology underlying the foundation’s exploits has also simply been “embraced and extended” from existing sources—precisely what makes it identifiable. And even if any identifiable ideology held by Gates amounts to nothing more than expedient rationalizations in service to profit and power, this doesn’t make it any less important to these schemes, if only because ideology and the lure of a grand plan focused on the betterment of the species and the planet would be the typical selling point to get others to participate and enable them to sleep at night despite the fallout.
Todorov argues further in Hope and Memory and other publications that scientism is just one of three earmarks of totalitarianism, the others being the legislation of morality (Todorov uses controversial examples, such as European legislation against hate speech, on the warning this can boomerang as repression of any speech) and “instrumentalism”—the policy of doing something merely because you have the tools to do it (i.e., bombing Laos in 1968 because cessations of bombing in Vietnam left idle planes; a doctor prescribing drugs because there are samples on hand, etc.) Instrumentalism also serves as an explanation of how atrocity can be committed by average people and illustrates the indispensible function of doctrine and ideology. From Todorov’s Facing the Extreme: Moral Life in Concentration Camps:
[T]he totalitarian power demands that its subjects restrict themselves in thought and deed to instrumentality and treat every action as if it were a means to something else rather than as an end in itself. In the realm of material production, the fulfillment of that demand does not yield particularly brilliant results, as expanding bureaucracies and the loss of personal initiative present formidable obstacles. In the domain of moral conduct, however, the demand is far more productive. The question is often asked how "ordinary people," "decent husbands and fathers" could have committed so many atrocities. Where was their conscience in all of this? The answer is by usurping social goals and restricting people to instrumentalist thinking, the totalitarian power manages to have its subjects accomplish whatever tasks they are assigned without its having to disturb the individual's moral structure at all. Guards who committed atrocities never stopped distinguishing between good and evil. Their moral faculty had not withered away. They simply believed the atrocity was in fact a "good thing," and thus not an atrocity at all-- because the state, custodians of the standards of good and evil-- told them so. The guards were not deprived of a moral sensibility but provided with a new one.
The identification of scientism as a “doctrine of salvation” fueling conquest and suppression would only complete the conquistador analogy. It’s not so different from East Germany after all. It would also give the panoptic analogy—that the Gates Foundation’s use of disease eradication as an in-road to “securing state power from the domestic population and securing concentrated private power” in a campaign for which opponents themselves are treated as ideological and actual disease carriers— an identifiably totalitarian cast.
The fact that Gates is an apologist for mass surveillance doesn’t do much to change the impression. In an interview for Rolling Stone, Gates argues that Americans must simply put their trust in the security state and relinquish rights to privacy:
Q: When people think about the cloud, it's not only the accessibility of information and their documents that comes to mind, but also their privacy – or lack of it.
Gates: Should there be cameras everywhere in outdoor streets? My personal view is having cameras in inner cities is a very good thing. In the case of London, petty crime has gone down. They catch terrorists because of it. And if something really bad happens, most of the time you can figure out who did it. There's a general view there that it's not used to invade privacy in some way. Yet in an American city, in order to take advantage of that in the same way, you have to trust what this information is going to be used for.
Gates’ involvement with the global vaccination campaign is not his only investment in the jolly march to progress, the list of which is dizzying and illustrates a sort of trajectory from profit-oriented strategies to social engineering. Aside from oil and gas development, providing billions in Monsanto investments and profits in Africa and a variety of other investments in biotechnology, the Gates Foundation has provided key participation in the NSA’s domestic surveillance, has campaigned for and implemented the privatization of US education and the tracking of school children, has invested in private prisons, is the major donor to a foundation that generates policy and lobbies for legislation effecting child protective services practices and a major donor to public-private adoption corporations.
Another question asked in Part 1 is if there wasn’t an end game involved in the campaign against consumer rights. While consumers are damned if they do and damned if they don’t comply with an ever-growing number of required vaccinations within a system where industry has complete legal immunity, certain investors may be poised to profit either way—whether the public goes along with it or whether chaos is unleashed, leading to mass opt-outs and resistance. If Gates’ investments in drug and vaccine makers, weapons, prison labor, private prisons and child protective services seem curiously well positioned to benefit in either scenario, this might be merely practical, not an expression of underlying ideology. But the fact that it overlaps with one of the mainstays of authoritarian systems—imprisoning people and grabbing their children, just a thing that totalitarian systems from Plato to Franco, Latin American juntas, the GDR, etc., engaged in as a potent form of social programming— seems significant, particularly due to the current rash of state child removals for trivial causes based on disagreement over medical doctrine or to penalize freedom of speech.
In reviewing Foucault’s panotic concept of the surveillance state, it’s also interesting to realize that Enlightenment philosopher Jeremy Bentham’s panoptic prison plan employing psychological fear and constraint through constant surveillance was once viewed as groundbreakingly humane. These days, the panotic vision obviously evokes the Orwellian specter of America in the mass data collection age and the fact that the US now boasts the highest rate of imprisonment of any country in the world, all a fulfillment of Bentham’s dream.
As political philosopher John Nicholas Gray points out in The Guardian, modern worshipers of the ideals of Englightenment such as bestselling author and neuroscientist Steven Pinker—who argues the increasingly popular orthodoxy in The Better Angels of Our Nature that violent death has continually declined in the modern world (while Gray demonstrates that it has not) and that this serves as proof that the species is evolving to be more moral (while Gray asserts that it is not)— tend to gloss over Bentham’s contributions. This is because any modern humanitarian appreciation of Bentham’s vision is only relative to the penal horrors of his time. In reviewing Pinker’s book, Gray writes,
[Steven] Pinker and [Peter] Singer belong in a contemporary orthodoxy. With other beliefs crumbling, many seek to return to what they piously describe as “Enlightenment values”. But these values were not as unambiguously benign as is nowadays commonly supposed. John Locke denied America’s indigenous peoples any legal claim to the country’s “wild woods and uncultivated wastes”; Voltaire promoted the “pre-Adamite” theory of human development according to which Jews were remnants of an earlier and inferior humanoid species; Kant maintained that Africans were innately inclined to the practice of slavery; the utilitarian Jeremy Bentham developed the project of an ideal penitentiary, the Panopticon, where inmates would be kept in solitary confinement under constant surveillance. None of these views is discussed by Singer or Pinker. More generally, there is no mention of the powerful illiberal current in Enlightenment thinking, expressed in the Jacobins and the Bolsheviks, which advocated and practised methodical violence as a means of improving society.
Interestingly, Pinker is a speaker for the corporate and institutional PR front organization, the Skeptics, which promotes forced vaccination, as does Pinker himself— if it’s generally agreed that the removal of rights to refuse a policy is consistent with forcing the policy.
Gray goes on to write,
You would never know, from reading Pinker, that Nazi “scientific racism” was based in theories whose intellectual pedigree goes back to Enlightenment thinkers such as the prominent Victorian psychologist and eugenicist Francis Galton. Such links between Enlightenment thinking and 20th-century barbarism are, for Pinker, merely aberrations, distortions of a pristine teaching that is innocent of any crime: the atrocities that have been carried out in its name come from misinterpreting the true gospel, or its corruption by alien influences. The childish simplicity of this way of thinking is reminiscent of Christians who ask how a religion of love could possibly be involved in the Inquisition. In each case it is pointless to argue the point, since what is at stake is an article of faith.
In attempting to replace religion with a cult of science or scientism—which Pinker unconvincingly denies is the point— the new Enlightenment, as Gray calls the optimistic movement, defines itself, since the campaign is dependent on making disease and all its metaphoric applications the opening wedge for a wide array of ironically unenlightened policies. The crusade embodies every dark aspect of Enlightenment it ignores. To repeat key excerpts from Todorov’s Hope and Memory on the cult of science,
[I]f the transparency of the real includes the human world, then there is nothing to stop us from imagining how to create the “new man,” a human species without the blemishes of the original strain.
Totalitarianism isn’t totalitarianism without the ideological disease model whereby the enemy of the state, as Arendt argued, is seen as a “carrier of tendencies” very much like a “carrier of disease.”
But the first goal of Manichean constructs and secular doctrines of salvation isn’t the identification of an inherently criminal, inferior caste but to support the concept of an elite, superior caste. And all cults are founded on the hopeful-sounding conception that humans can evolve teleologically—for the better—in an ethical sense.
Bill Gates, an avowed fan of Pinker’s book, The Better Angels of Our Nature, writes,
Pinker presents a tremendous amount of evidence that humans have gradually become much less violent and much more humane. The trend started thousands of years ago and has continued to this day. As I'm someone who’s fairly optimistic in general, the book struck a chord with me and got me to thinking about some of our foundation's strategies.
And there you have it. The picture is complete even if the analogies are a hash. Whether Gates actually believes what he says or whether it’s just a selling point for conversion and drafting purposes, he’s purporting the “new man” and teleological-evolutionary-paradise-on-earth drivel at the core of scientism.
Journalist Chris Hedges, also a lead plaintiff with Daniel Ellsberg and others in the suit against the Obama administration for the “indefinite detention” provision of the National Defense Authorization Act, honed in on this bastardized version of Darwinism presented by the organized corporate and institutional front group with which Pinker is affiliated, as the perfect expression of the new totalitarian cult of science, identifying in it echoes of the worst expression of the European Enlightenment— Galtonian and Spencerian (Survival of the Fittest) eugenics:
Darwin, unlike Spencer, was not a teleological utopian. There was, for Darwin, no final goal. Darwin saw that species accrued mutations and adaptations that, over time, caused change… It was Spencer, not Darwin, who argued that, step by step we were progressing as a species and would end with the perfect human being. Social Darwinism bears many similarties to religious fundamentalism. It justifies the political, social and economic domination of those who are weaker and those who are poor. In Social Darwinism it is nature rather than God who blesses the strong and the priveleged. But the self delusion is the same. The new atheists of the twenty-first century, while they do not endorse the hierarchy of races or espouse the crude racist doctrine of earlier Social Darwinists, continue to argue that natural selection is social selection. They continue to create moral hiararchies among human beings and use these hierarchies to sanction violence. They do this because they insist we are moving forard to a final good. This is not a position supported by either human history or evolutionary biology.
Part 6 of this series explores the place where Kissinger’s viral theory of politics (described in Part 4) and Gates’ approach to social engineering begin to mesh.
Adriana Gamondes is a Contributing Editor to Age of Autism and one of the blog’s Facebook administrators