State of Plague, Part 9: Disease-Mongering as Militarized Trojan Horse for Globalization and Surveillance
The pomp of the Fascists, taken at its face value, has a hollow gest, the gest of mere pomp, a featureless phenomenon: men strutting instead of walking, a certain stiffness, a lot of colour, self-conscious sticking out of chests, etc. All this could be the gest of some popular festivity, quite harmless, purely factual and therefore to be accepted. Only when the strutting takes place over corpses do we get the social gest of Fascism. ~Berthold Brecht, Brecht on Theater
Read Part 1, Part 2 , Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7 and Part 8.
By Adriana Gamondes
Skeptic Gestics and Troubleshooting the Wounded
Parts 1 through 8 delved into the how and why the wars on disease/terror have merged and the resulting moebius strip reality where the public rides an eternal loop between bomb threats and disease scares, maintaining a permanent state of crisis or, as Foucault put it, a state of plague to justify progressively greater incursions on rights and privacy.
These “wars on” have their various strategists, their generals and intelligence gatherers and their propagandists, snitches, provocateurs and hired thugs who sow divisions and rationalize the collateral of all these ideological, social and actual wars. In the case of the organized Skeptics PR front, it’s a three-fer. In effect, the Skeptics are the tape on the moebius strip, binding all the themes and entrapping public discourse in the perpetual cycle through a sort of bullying fundamentalist science rhetoric.
The Skeptic front organization not only leads the charge in “defining the enemies” of the vaccine industry as “anti-vaccine” and has harped in particular on religious resistance towards vaccination, the chemical industry and genetically modified crops, associated members and leaders of the group have also helped hone PR rationalizations for preemptive invasion of biofuel-rich, often Islamic countries by demonizing Islamic culture based on the actions of a minority and characterizing Islam as anti-progress and anti-science.
The problem in establishing the Skeptics' corporate and state connections is that, due to tax loopholes allowing educational foundations to keep funding sources anonymous, for the time being there are only circumstantial hints that the Gates Foundation— aside from pharmaceutical companies, public health regulators and chemical giants like Monsanto— may be among the Skeptics’ backers. It’s beside the point in a sense since, according to the number of Skeptic affiliates ensconced in the media, academia and who hold positions on public boards despite sometimes outrageous conduct and statements, the group seems to have plenty of institutional support. In a corporocratic world, institutional support and a teflon veneer frequently imply corporate support.
But one thing is very clear—the biotech defense front is very centralized. One way or another, a high number of prominent public health avatars and industry defenders in the media have ties to the organized Skeptics. All unilaterally spin apologias and swap soundbites for a range of industrial products while stumping for policy which supports their brands, using methods that combine literal and figurative panoptic themes. Whether selling the war on terror, the war on disease or the war on “irrationality,” the group’s figureheads argue that carriers of anti-science/anti-progress beliefs doubly endanger the public through actual and conceptual contagion and that both the ideas and the carriers themselves must be contained.
The most important function of the group is that any human collateral or ecological fallout in the wake of industrial/institutional exploits are either denied or rationalized, always for the greater good. What the late Pulitzer-winning journalist Murray Kempton said about editorial writers is doubly true of Skeptic aligned journalists and marketers: “the people who come down from the hill after the battle to shoot the wounded.”
Left to right from top: Dr. Joe Schwartz, James Randi, Ben Goldacre, David Gorski, Lorne Trottier, Michael Shermer, Brian Deer, Randi, Phil Plait, Randi, Penn Jillette, Steven Pinker, Paul Offit, Arthur Caplan, Sam Harris, Shermer, Christopher Hitchens, Daniel Dennet, Richard Dawkins, Harris, Seth Mnookin, Shermer, Mark Edward, Plait, Brian Dunning, Steven Novella, Dorit Reiss
On the surface, the many associated Skeptic groups and offshoots—I Fucking Love Science, Skepchick, Skeptic Magazine, Committee for Scientific Inquiry, etc.—appear to be benign scientific and humanist forums that discuss evolution, the scientific underpinnings of thought and belief, the latest discoveries in agricultural, animal, genetic and medical science. It all seems quite harmless, as Berthold Brecht wrote, purely factual, therefore to be accepted. But aside from the group’s self described goals of promoting and defending science against superstition and religious fundamentalism, the network also acts as a unified flak machine that explodes in smear shrapnel to keep other science and media figures in line to maintain an absolutist brand of science.
Take for example the group’s defense of genetically modified food and technology. The statement Skeptic insider and celebrity scientist Bill Nye (the Science Guy) made about GMOs ten years ago (“Some people are understandably scared about a new technology that could be harmful to the environment”) got him compared to “creationists” and climate change deniers by Skeptic bloggers until he came back into the fold. Or food blogger Vani Hari’s (Food Babe) criticism of chemical food additives and GMOs that drew a so-called “takedown” by Skeptic Gawker blogger Yvette d’Entremont. Even Prince Charles got flak from Richard Dawkins for criticizing GMO tech. When the Chipotle Mexican Grill chain pronounced it was removing GMOs from its food, or when syndicated host Dr. Mehmet Oz criticized GMOs on the air, the interesting thing is how many publications, bloggers and science reporters that participated in the ensuing flak orgies— if they weren’t simply repeating Monsanto science— were either part of an echo chamber citing Skeptic sources, in the fan club or directly affiliated.
BIG THINK: The Chipotle Smackdown: A Growing Rejection of Fearmongering That Denies the Evidence (affiliated)
NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC:What Chipotle’s Ban on GMOs Says About Us (affiliated)
SLATE: Chipotle Wants to Sell “Food With Integrity.” Dropping GMOs Is the Wrong Way to Do It. (echo chamber)
SCIENCE-BASED MEDICINE: Pepsi Removing Aspartame/Chipotle Removing GMOs (affiliated)
DAILY BEAST: We’re Paranoid About GMO Foods Because of Pseudo-Science (echo chamber)
GENETIC LITERACY PROJECT: Organic Food Can Cure Autism Caused by GMOs? More Quack Science from Dr. Oz (affiliated)
SKEPTICAL RAPTOR: Dr. Oz Falls for Overhyped and Debunked GMO Corn Study (affiliated)
When Indian environmental activist and science and ecology researcher Vandana Shiva reported a link between farmer suicides in India and GM crop failure, the Skeptics lined up to debunk the association:
Of course the usual suspects of anti-science fearmongers jumped on the “GMO causes suicide” bandwagon…
When animal studies of Glyphosate showed chronic toxicity and mass birth defects from Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide were reported in Argentina, the group’s denials ran thick, the subject was given the comedy treatment and refutations of inconvenient science were meant to neatly dispose of the collateral.
Reports of child deaths from vaccines—even those established and compensated— get the same desecrating treatment from the same sources.
In terms of foreign policy PR, the group has long been obsessed with the burqa—various Islamic traditions of women covering parts or all of their bodies and faces with veils. If the use of medical and vaccine drives as cover for foreign military missions is ever halted as Homeland Security’s Lisa Monaco promised, the burqa would probably be the next stand-in—another iconic moral rationale that veils, so to speak, the true motives behind wars for resources. The burqa also represents an entry point for incursions on privacy and criminalization of daily life that have become so useful for domestic militarization: in France, banning the veil on the grounds that it would liberate Islamic women is instead generating a nation of snitches and an inquisitorial political environment. Along these lines, the disconnect between the Skeptics’ progressive façade coupled with figureheads’ support of preemptive war on oil-rich, often Islamic countries, the Skeptics’ proposed “feminist” manner of liberating women from oppression might amount to burning the veils off their bodies with white phosphorus or, say, unburdening them of excessive children begotten in forced marriage through drone strikes.
Skeptic drone apologism has toned down slightly in the past year or so since Greenwald’s criticism of Skeptic icons Sam Harris’ and Richard Dawkins’ “anti-Muslim animus” in The Guardian—but not by much. Sam Harris on the necessity of human collateral:
Yes, our drone strikes in Pakistan kill innocent people—and this undoubtedly creates new enemies for the West. But we wouldn’t need to drop a single bomb on Pakistan, or anywhere else, if a death cult of devout Muslims weren’t making life miserable for millions of innocent people and posing an unacceptable threat of violence to open societies.
Harris has been even less euphemistic in other writings:
“Some beliefs are so dangerous that it may be ethical to kill people for believing them.” (The End of Faith)
"…the people who speak most sensibly about the threat that Islam poses to Europe are actually fascists." (The End of Liberalism)
"there are tens of millions of people in the Muslim world who are far scarier than Dick Cheney." (The End of Liberalism)
"We should profile Muslims, or anyone who looks like he or she could conceivably be Muslim." (In Defense of Profiling)
"I am one of the few ...who has argued ... that torture may be an ethical necessity in our war on terror." (In Defense of Torture)
And just to clarify what Harris means by ethically necessary torture:
Thumbscrews may be applied, or toe screws, or a pear-shaped device may be inserted into your mouth, vagina or anus until your misery admits of no possible increase. You may be hoisted to the ceiling on a strappado (with your arms bound behind your back and attached to a pulley, and weights tied to your feet), dislocating your shoulders. There would be no harm in dusting off the strappado and exposing this unpleasant fellow to the suasions of bygone times. (The End of Faith)
The Skeptic front tends to combine campaigns through use of the same language to defend both commercial products (GMOs, vaccines, psychiatric drugs, food additives, etc.) and the military aggression of the US and its allies and the same language to dismiss the humanity of the victims of any of it. The group also uses the same language to define, condemn and equate both commercial science critics and “religious terrorists”. But these attitudes, expressions, condemnations, false equivocations and rationalizations are what define the group themselves.
These are the “gestics” of the Skeptics: the surgical removal of all consequences of abuse of industrial power, though to qualify as a “social gest,” it’s the body count that defines. In a series of essays published as Brecht on Theatre, German poet and playwright Berthold Brecht describes a special approach to performance in which expression and language are grounded in social reality through what Brecht called “social gestics”—social as in political and politicized by being infused with and exposing the consequences of corruption. At some point in virtually all of Brecht’s work, the seductive or comical zeitgeist the audience may have been enjoying flips sickeningly into a ditch and the entertaining, moody essence turns fluorescent, revealing gruesome violence and raw suffering.
Just to flog the German theme again, the approach was intended to trigger bildung—a moment of political awakening in the audience that enables, as James Baldwin wrote, the ability to see “history in themselves” and “themselves in history.” Brecht's goal was to “get the enemy [audience] at close range and induce in them a seismic response,” just as, in the early 1930’s, Brecht envisioned the evolution of radio into something interactive and akin to the internet. Brecht showed little interest in the technical aspects of communication devices, focusing instead on the revolutionary political potential of technology to hold public institutions accountable:
[Q]uite apart from the dubiousness of its functions, radio is one-sided when it should be two-. It is purely an apparatus for distribution, for mere sharing out. So here is a positive suggestion: change this apparatus over from distribution to communication. The radio would be the finest possible communication apparatus in public life, a vast network of pipes. That is to say, it would be if it knew how to receive as well as to transmit, how to let the listener speak as well as hear, how to bring him into a relationship instead of isolating him …Whatever the radio sets out to do it must strive to combat that lack of consequences which makes such asses of almost all our public institutions. We have a literature without consequences, which not only itself sets out to lead nowhere, but does all it can to neutralize its readers by depicting each object and situation stripped of the consequences to which they lead. We have educational establishments without consequences, working frantically to hand on an education that leads nowhere and has come from nothing…
It should be clear from reports of NSA mass data and bulk email collection that, just as many forms of communication technology go two ways today, so does the spectator component. In the modern explosion of online human rights and environmental activism—anti-fracking, Keystone and Ferguson protests, March Against Monsanto, Occupy and Arab Spring, etc.— the web, Twitter and other communication tech have been used to foment and sustain social resistance. This has triggered a backlash by corporate and institutional power to regain control and, in turn, a counter backlash of hacktvism to spy on the spies and counter the counter intelligence propaganda. Had Brecht further developed his theory of radio, he would likely have foreseen the panoptic boomerang effect of repression and surveillance and might also have perfectly staged a depiction of the front groups and astroturf troll networks assigned with reigning in, diverting, undermining and destroying this growing web-age bildung.
Another constant theme of Brecht’s is a deconstruction of totalitarianism itself, how it comes in by stealth, pretending to be something other than it is in order to destroy first that which could derail the path to power. The trick is in identifying the gist or gest before it takes hold and keeping an eye on the corpses lining the parade route.
Liberation Theology vs. Scientism—a Political Inversion
Bringing up Berthold Brecht is a response to another defining industrial “gestic”—expropriation of culture. In 2007, National Institute of Mental Health director Thomas Insel, head of the IACC or Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee which has filled the panel in with several Skeptic-affiliated members, gave a speech to the National Autism Association conference in which he made a wordy effort to wet-blanket parental impatience to find the cause of autism. In Insel's closing remarks, he led off with a power point mildly misquoting the socialist playwright’s A Life of Galileo, probably belying Insel’s attempt to simultaneously pander and con conference attendees on the corporate “watermelon” assumptions that all environmental activists are anarchists and socialists (green on the outside, red on the inside), and then went on to warp Brecht’s overall meaning:
"One of the chief causes of poverty in science is imaginary wealth. The purpose of science is not to open the door to an infinitude of wisdom but set some limit to the infinitude of error." (Brecht, Life of Galileo)
Now, I started my remarks by telling you that we know a very small part of what we need to know. I would imagine it's under 10%. Many of you think you know the answers and we want to hear those. But I want you to understand that we set a very, very high bar in science - that most of what we do in science, as somebody once said, is "1% inspiration and 99% perspiration." So, it takes three months to make a finding and ten years to try to falsify it before you really believe it. Some of you don't have ten years to wait. I understand that. But, our goal, here, is to make sure we do set a very high bar and that when we tell you something, it's something that we know can be replicated not just for your child, but for many, many other children, because there's a lot at stake. So, the idea of setting a limit on the infinitude of error is extremely important to us and is a sort of guiding principle to make sure that we are trying to test as many different ideas as possible, but putting a very high bar on what we would accept as a test of any given idea before we feel that it's proven.
The gest of laying a possessive paw on Galileo, Brecht and other dead intelligentsia is as if to say, “We have claimed this intellectual territory in the name of the crown. These figures belong to us, their bodies of work argue for us, so you need look no deeper into these sources. There is no wisdom for you to grasp here that will help you resist…”
But as it turns out, there is. In a direct reproach of totalitarian science, what Brecht (via Galileo) meant was that science risks becoming a church itself if it presumes too much value to its traditional wisdom (it imagines that it is rich in this wisdom when it is not) and must retest and review every time-honored assumption. Insel also makes reference to Karl Popper’s scientific method—the theory of falsifiability. Of course, as we know, regulators at that time were not only not trying to uncover environmental factors in autism but were, as the whistleblower William Thompson disclosed, actively burying them—falsifying data in the sense of scientific fraud, not in the Popperian sense of legitimately trying to disprove a theory.
According to author, Pulitzer winning journalist and lead plaintiff in the suit against the Obama administration for the “indefinite detention” clause in the National Defense Authorization Act, Chris Hedges, after 9/11, Skeptic icons such as Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris and the late Christopher Hitchens opportunistically geared their brand of pseudo-secular evangelism to public fear of Muslim militancy and government war footing. It was a successful PR maneuver and brought all three added attention in the media, though this was merely the opening pass of a kind of glorious cultural McRevolution to replace culture with the church of corporate power. The assault began with religion but does not end there.
As Brecht implies, the difference between the church appropriating science or science becoming a church is generally moot: after all, Brecht wrote the play while in exile in Denmark after having escaped the Nazis, the ultimate manifestation of scientism as the church of hegemonic power. In both instances, it’s the merger between science and religion that defines a cult while each on their own may not. In his critique of Skeptic icons such as Dawkins, Harris and Hitchens, When Atheism Becomes Religion: America's New Fundamentalists, Hedges writes,
All cults foster a class of high priests who speak of human possibility and progress in obscure, specialized jargon. They talk of miracles. They promise a healthy, long and wonderful life, one where human suffering will be vanquished and peace and happiness will prevail. Jesus makes this possible for fundamentalist Christians; science makes it possible for the new atheists. .. These atheists, like religious fundamentalists, seek the imprint of science, reason and scholarship to promote Utopian schemes. The most legitimate forces in society are not religious. They are legal and scientific…The secular fundamentalists, in a gross misuse of Darwin, also distort science to turn biological evolution into a methodology to perfect the human race. The use of pseudoscience is part of the atheist and the Christian fundamentalist movements. Both camps seek to give to their arguments the patina of unassailable truth and scientific legitimacy. But what they sell are myths, new forms of faith and the self-delusion that makes these fantasies possible. The bible and Darwin, if on nothing else, agree that human nature is fixed and irredeemable.
If there’s any lingering question about why a movement that presents itself as primarily secular is so fixated on vaccination, the obvious answer is religious exemptions. These exemptions are simply an emblem of cultural power to resist corporate dominance. On the viral theory of dissent, any cultural base of resistance is viewed as a disease that can spread and must be inoculated against. Philosophical exemptions would be as well except these are only offered in a few states currently, leaving religious exemptions as the main obstacle to both literal and figurative inoculation against both literal and figurative contagion.
This May, a federal bill mandating vaccines for all school children was introduced by Florida Congresswoman Frederica Wilson. H.R. 2232 would do away with all vaccine exemptions other than medical, which, as the bill stipulates, must be issued by a physician and “must conform to accepted standard of medical care.” As mentioned in Part 1, accepted standards for medical exemptions are set by the industry-embedded Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices and are so narrow that not even a life threatening reaction to one vaccine would equate to exemptions from others and only a temporally limited exemption from the vaccine that caused injury.
The above bill was introduced by a Democrat and it’s clear from media coverage of the measles outbreak that virtually every left-leaning publication is championing forced vaccination; in fact, the entire agenda has been pushed the most heavily by the mainstream left. Time will tell what happens to this bill but another obvious question is how and why did incursions on civil and consumer rights become a groovy, political left thing?
The general challenge for Skeptics seems to be selling industrial and state atrocity on a politically progressive platform, the group’s most defining gest. According to 20th century philosopher Karl Raimund Popper, this has been a recognized challenge since Plato. From Popper’s The Open Society and Its Enemies: The Spell of Plato:
Summing up, we can say that Plato’s theory of justice, as presented in the Republic and later works, is a conscious attempt to get the better of the equalitarian, individualistic and protectionist tendencies of his time, and to re-establish the claim of tribalism by creating a totalitarian moral theory… And he successfully enlisted humanitarian sentiments, whose strength he knew so well, in the cause of the totalitarian class rule of a naturally superior master race.
In other words, authoritarianism as a rule must somehow enlist or at least bamboozle the political left in order to take hold and this is done through the creation of an encompassing ideology—a moral theory of justice—that the humanitarian element can get on board with, which is where science comes in handy. Humanitarians, individualists and equalitarians have apparently always (fucking) loved science, or at least the patina of it. As Age of Autism editor Dan Olmsted—a self-described progressive himself— argued five years ago, progressives are also stuck on the concept of “progress”—sometimes blindly and at any cost.
“Science,”despite it’s many potentially oppressive applications and the rooting of 20th century totalitarianism in scientific rationales as discussed in Part 3, is generally perceived of as “progressive” in the modern age. A Pew survey found that more than half of all scientists lean towards what they believe are liberal politics—a higher percentage than the general population.
The organized Skeptic collective tends to slap their campaigns with progressive brand logos like gay marriage, equality and climate change, but self-identification as liberal may be more a matter of group branding than support for genuinely liberal policies. Expressing concern for the poor and downtrodden, for instance, is not always in keeping with the outcomes of certain policies just like the war on disease has not always resulted in better health and the war on terror has not increased public safety.
This is all the more true because astroturf groups for commercial science and other industries, particularly the Skeptics, specialize in peddling draconian institutional and anti-environmental industrial policies as somehow groovy and progressive to hoodwink the public in a process referred to as “reverse culture jamming” (mentioned in an earlier article). Borrowing a description of it from UC Santa Cruz anthropology professor Susan Harding’s Get Religion, industry mouthpieces are attempting to pass off corporate and institutional ideology by “appropriating, poaching, channeling, ventriloquism” and “revoicing” the message into a progressive journalistic “pitch” in order to shepherd an errant faction of mainstream progressives back towards the approved and conditioned thoughts and beliefs from which they’d wandered.
The humanistic and ecological sounding rhetoric means absolutely nothing. For the purposes of the pharmaceutical industry and public health authorities invested in defending the absolute safety and effectiveness of the vaccination program and other commercial science products, these journalistic “weapons manufacturers,” whose explosive soundbites and empty allegories—most of which couldn’t legally be issued by industry itself— are uncritically spread through cooperating media to be detonated by policy makers.
As I also argued in an earlier post, quite often the purveyors of these policies are steeped in their own rationalizations. In the introduction to Nuclear Rites, Stanford anthropologist Hugh Gusterson explains why he approached a formal study of atomic weapons scientists in the same manner he’d approach a tribal culture: “one powerful Western institution that is particularly understudied by anthropologists is science.”
According to Gusterson, nuclear weapons scientists’ faith in the ultimate morality of their work and that this morality stems from the problems they’re charged with solving (namely the belief that winning the arms race would prevent nuclear strikes by less evolved nations) explains the field’s euphemization of risks, romanticization of their technology and exaggerated self-assurance that this technology can be controlled even in the face of repeated human error and equipment malfunction potentially costing the lives of millions. Gusterson discusses profit mostly as it pertains to scientific status, coveted name-rights and the ritual of “initiation and transcendence” involved in creation and testing.
Gusterson’s use of religiously-tinged language in describing the drives of nuclear scientists is no accident and neither is his title. The allusions evoke the juncture of science and religion or scientism, a type of modern tribalism which equates uncomfortably with totalitarianism as discussed in Part 3.
It might sound counter-intuitive to accuse certain scientists and science collectives of religiosity. Another statistic that must have come up in a few industrial boardrooms when designing PR approaches is the estimate that 93% of members of the National Academy of Sciences are professed atheists and 41% of those in the professional sciences in the US claim to be as well—vastly higher rates than among non-scientists. But just as self-identification as liberal does not always equate to support for policies that actually benefit the poor, atheist self-identification may also be self-deceptive.
As mid-twentieth century philosopher Reinhold Niebuhr warns in The Irony of American History and in The Children of Darkness and the Children of Light, when the state and science attempt to answer the human need for transcendence, this invariably leads to the use of power without scruples under an illusion that a particular “conception of an unambiguously ideal end” justifies such abuse: “As politics deals with the proximate ends of life, and religion deals with ultimate ones, it is always a source of illusion when the one is invested with the other…This unification is spurious and dangerous; but this in fact adds to, rather than detracts from, its striking power. Religion and science are combined in such a way that the modern cult of science is brought completely into the service of an existential faith.”
To the extent that corrupt industries and captured regulators generally rely on scientists to play the role of front line defenders of the use of power without scruples—to cover the collateral, hide or alter data, front for ghost studies, etc.— scientists themselves may be the key targets of evangelism for this existential faith. And to the extent that science has been labeled progressive and religion is generally regarded as conservative, astroturf groups have squared off against religion for several reasons—to supplant culture and philosophy with PR doctrine, to create a false binary “us and them” battle model, and to use the glaring flaws in institutional religion to divert attention from front groups’ and their industry sponsors’ cultish, Utopian core of scientism.
In general, the corporate world has always maintained an uneasy relationship with religious cultures to the degree that these might, at any moment, enter a humanitarian paradigm shift that could mobilize followers against industrial interests more quickly than any other social force. For this reason, according to certain strategic corporate models, if religious communities are not embedded corporate allies (as many modern churches are), they are rivals and critics to be feared and war will be declared.
A relatively recent example of a religious paradigm shift leading to actual war was the US covert campaign to replace pro-labor leaders in Latin America with corporate-friendly puppet dictatorships. Operation Condor isn’t generally recognized as a war waged by the US, much less as a religious war, though the roots of it had clear cause according to some analysts: liberation theology.
In an interview with MIT’s Abel Collins, Noam Chomsky explains how this triggered a militarized response by the US in the twentieth century:
In 1962, with Vatican II, Pope John XXIII introduced a very substantial paradigm shift. He tried to restore the Gospels to the Church. They’d been essentially eliminated except in form since the 4th century, when the Roman Empire took over Christianity as its official religion. This was a major change. And it was picked up in Latin America… and became what’s called liberation theology. Priests, nuns, lay people went out to talk to peasants and set up groups in which… peasants would read the Gospels, think about their radical pacifist message. There’s a reason Christians were persecuted for the first three centuries. Gospels is a radical text… with its basic preferential option for the poor. They tried to restore it. And what happened? Well, the U.S. went to war—fought a bitter, brutal, violent war against the church. If we had a free press, that’s the way they’d present it.
There was a long list of religious martyrs (points to depiction of Archbishop Oscar Romero), overthrow of governments, institution of neo-Nazi-style dictatorships… Major war against the Church which ended in 1989 with the assassinations of six leading Jesuit intellectuals by a… U.S.-backed, U.S.-trained, U.S.-armed battalion in El Salvador which had just come from renewed training at the Kennedy school of counterinsurgency warfare and acting on official orders of Salvadoran command very close to the U.S. embassy. I don’t have to attribute this to the government, it accepts this. The School of the Americas, which trains Latin American officers—killers basically… one of its talking points is that the U.S. army defeated liberation theology.
Collins might have been a bit optimistic when he wrote in Huffington Post that liberation theology is something which the current Pope Francis is dangerously reinvoking with his Evengelii Guadium or “Joy of the Gospel”:
The thirst for power and possessions knows no limits. In this system, which tends to devour everything which stands in the way of increased profits, whatever is fragile, like the environment, is defenseless before the interests of a deified market, which become the only rule…
It will be interesting to see if Pope Francis lives up to his egalitarian words, though the Vatican Radio’s recent and highly impolitic support of Kenyan Bishops’ charge that the WHO, UNICEF and the Gates Foundation dispensed abortifacient vaccines to Kenyan women illustrates why corporate globalists tend to be wary of such a shift.
For many decades, Africa has also been a center of liberation theology, which has roots in the American civil rights movement and the current racial justice movement in the US. Civil rights activist, political philosopher and academic theologian Cornel West writes in The Cornel West Reader,
Liberation Theology at its best is a worldly theology—a theology that not only opens our eyes to the social misery of the world, but also teaches us better how to understand and transform it. Academic theology in the First World, true to its priestly role, remains preoccupied with doctrinal precision and epistemological pretension. It either refuses to get its hands dirty with the ugly and messy affairs of contemporary politics and pontificates at a comfortable distance about the shortcomings and theoretical formulations and practical proposals of liberation theologians. Yet for Christians deeply enmeshed in and united with poor people’s struggles, theology is first and foremost concerned with urgent issues of life and death, especially the circumstances that dictate who lives and who dies.
West goes on to describe how Latin American schools of liberation theology study the clash between socialism and neoliberal “free market” economic ideology as the latter was applied through the Trilateral Commission’s violent covert policies towards Latin America, which—as mentioned in Part 4 of this series— political media analyst Noam Chomsky describes as distinctly panoptic:
To borrow Henry Kissinger’s terminology, independent nationalism is a “virus” that might “spread contagion.” Kissinger was referring to Salvador Allende’s Chile. The virus was the idea that there might be a parliamentary path towards some kind of socialist democracy. The way to deal with such a threat is to destroy the virus and to inoculate those who might be infected, typically by imposing murderous national security states. That was achieved in the case of Chile, but it is important to recognize that the thinking holds worldwide.
In short, liberation theology is the juncture at which a modern cultural perception flips poles and does a 180. It’s the place where religion becomes lefty—why priests and nuns were targeted by death squads as “socialists” (read: nationalist, anti-imperialist, anti-corporocratic) during the last century’s American sponsored Latin American reigns of terror—and an instance where secularism became repressive.
Congolese nationalists seeking to oust foreign mineral investors are also guided by it. In the documentary film Blood Coltan, Father Jean Bosco Bahala, a leader in liberation theology and a leading critic in the blood trade of coltan, states, “It’s as if by giving us natural resources, the Lord has trapped us, because other people come and take them from us. And instead of improving our lives, they have made us much more unhappy.” From the pulpit, Bosco regularly exhorts churchgoers not to sell themselves and their country to foreign imperialists and works to stop the violence and ritual rapes— of women, children, infants, even the elderly— used to bring the population to its knees in service of transnational industry. As part of his liberation doctrine, Bosco personally documents the crimes committed against the population in the name of trade. In kind, the Kenyan bishops who, again, stood up against their own government, the WHO, Unicef and the Gates Foundation, to denounce the latest mass sterilization campaign described in Part 6, also express overtones of liberation theology, which is again becoming a problem for corporate globalization.
Virtually all world religions contain similar ranges of scripture from which such organized resistance to corporate hegemony could be launched. The real threat of religious culture to corporate interests is not if these various faiths remain in corrupt, cult-like retrograde or calcified states which are easy to take shots at, like clergy sex abuse scandals or religious violence. Corruption is also easy to control: during Operation Condor, the Latin American church was split between resistors and those who collaborated with the juntas for gain or safety. Historically, the most potent threat is if these religions refocus on texts which are foundationally supportive of nonviolent social justice because of the greater persuasive and revolutionary power of it and because when it does not take the form of a cult, faith based social justice can be inclusive of all faith and non-faith instead of self-limiting and such a movement may snowball. This is the real target.
Religion is not the only social force capable of moving masses. Many non-faith-based political movements have achieved societal reform, so this isn’t an argument for the ultimate value of religion over secularism which both have reformist potential. It’s just a note on history: faith-based movements, for better or worse depending on perspective and circumstances, are frequently powerful and overpowering. This is precisely why an existential corporate faith— complete with scriptural slogans and propaganda— is being fabricated to supplant them.
Part 10 will look further into the use of false humanism as a cover for globalization.
Adriana Gamondes is a Contributing Editor to Age of Autism and one of the blog’s Facebook administrators.