The Counter Extremism Project reports today that convicted ISIS propagandist Anjem Choudary is to be released from a British prison. He was convicted and sentenced to five and a half years in 2016 after having pledged allegiance to ISIS and encouraging others to do the same. A British law that allows prisoners with non-life sentences to be released on probation after completing half of their sentence.
Neither Choudary’s propagandist activities nor his sentence are FAKE news! In fact, evidence of his success in recruiting innocents for ISIS flows in the ink of the British press. The CEP report states:
“Choudary is a founding member of extremist group al-Muhajiroun which was subsequently banned in the United Kingdom. Choudary has been linked to many extremists and multiple terrorist-related cases in the United Kingdom and Europe, including the 2017 London Bridge attack and the 2013 murder of British soldier Lee Rigby.”
Furthermore, according to the CEP, U.K. expert and CEP Advisor Ian Acheson, in a recent op-ed wrote: “It is likely that Choudary will continue to represent a serious threat to public safety and order when he is released. It seems inconceivable that any of the processes available to assist with the reintegration of offenders in he community will be applicable in his case.”
It is not a stretch to wonder out loud how long it will take for a public campaign of dissembling will erupt declaring all of this merely another of the lies propagated by the establishment. After all, to some, Choudary is an iconic hero, and propaganda machines are not the exclusive property and means of the establishments. Nor has propaganda been the exclusive invention and device of the trump administration although the extent to which it has been deployed by that administration seems to top the degree of deployment resorted to by previous administrations.
Today, Secretary of State Pompeo is in Riyadh allegedly on a mission from trump to learn the “facts” surrounding the death of Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi citizen living in the United States, contributing columnist to the Washington Post. Reputed to be a moderate critic of the Saudi royal family’s rule, and clearly not a revolutionary, Khashoggi, nevertheless, has not emerged from the Saudi Consulate in Ankara, Turkey, after being videoed while entering. Cooking up some story of an “interrogation gone wrong” as trump would have us think, only adds to the deceit and the growing distrust among ordinary people everywhere with how dictators regard the public and our capacity to discern truth behind the headlines.
Some of the more memorable quotes of propaganda from George Orwell’s novel, 1984 are worth repeating:
“Who controls the past controls the future”
“War is peace”
“The best books…are those that tell you what you know already”
“If you want to keep a secret, you must also hide it from yourself”
“It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen”
Also, from the Orwellian lexicon, “doublethink” is the ability to hold two completely contradictory thoughts simultaneously while believing both of them to be true. “Doublespeak” is saying one thing and meaning another, usually its opposite. “thoughtcrime” is the criminal act of holding unspoken beliefs or doubts that oppose or question Ingsoc, the ruling party.
And it is not only to Orwell that “fake news” and dissembling, and outright propaganda owes its roots. Writing in A Jew Today, Elie Wiesel notes in a 1977 essay entitled, What did happen to the Six Million?:
“Did Six Million Really Die? The Truth at Last” is the name of one brochure. Austin J,. App, former associate professor of English at LaSalle college, Philadelphia, spells it out: “The Six Million Swindle: blackmailing the German people for hard Marks with fabricated corpses.” French author Paul Rassinier, a pioneer of this revisionist approach, speaks of “The lie of Auschwitz,” Northwestern Professor Arthur Butz calls it “The hoax of the century.” If that is not enough, we recently hear a Nazi spokesman in California declare on national television that “all those stories about death camps and mass murder aren’t true, But…I wish they were.” (p. 51)
Wiesel goes on: Though obscene, this attempt to deprive the victims of their past is not new. Anne Frank’s The Diary of a Young Girl was termed a forgery by an ambassador at the United Nations. We find on monument for Jewish victims at Babi Yar, as there is none at Buchenwald. There were no Jews gassed anywhere, claims Sorbonne Professor Robert Faurisson. No Jew was ever burned in Auschwitz, says a former S.S. judge in a recently published book in Germany. The chimneys? Bakers, he explains, there were the chimneys of bakeries.
Enemies of the Jews, then and now, continue to utter such contemptible garbage. And, while silence is not the answer, refuting with evidence does not necessarily gag these purveyors of lies.
Just this past Sunday, John Dickerson, subbing for Margaret Brennan on CBS’s Face the Nation, noted that there is a new wrinkle in political propaganda: insert obviously untrue information into a story in order to extend the length of the story, through the enhanced efforts of “fact checkers”. So now, the official publications of the state, especially under this administration, are morphing into a hybrid version of the facts and the non-facts, as a way of injecting the steroids of longevity into a news/public relations/propaganda piece.
Does it seem timely and appropriate to reflect on the concept of “what is true” in light of the Kavanaugh/Blassy Ford Senate Confirmation Hearings? Public opinion polls from Kansas, where Democrat Claire McCaskill is locked in a tight race with Josh Howley, Republican, she has a substantial lead among women, while Howley has a similar substantial lead among men. Is one to conclude that women have placed more confidence and trust in Blassy-Ford, while men have given their confidence and trust to Kavanaugh-trump? Was Susan Collins duped by Kavanaugh into believing that he would not have the temper to commit an act of sexual assault? Or had she cast her commitment to the Kavanaugh nomination long before the hearing? Was Warren Hatch colouring Blassy-Ford as “mixed-up” because his version of reality and truth could not countenance Blassy-Ford’s testimony? trump himself declared, when questioned by Lesley Stahl on CBC’s 60 Minutes, about whether he mocked Blassy-Ford, “It doesn’t matter; we won!” So the end justifies the means, and winning is the ultimate “end” of his zero-sum transactional game.
Is donald trump’s life-long immersion in lies and deception a hold-over from the Holocaust-denier ghetto? Are men and women becoming enmeshed in a tug-of-war about the truth regarding the sexual encounters of specific men with choirs of women? Does this kind of “denial” of truth erupt in our daily conversations about work, about family history, about school grades, about medical diagnoses, about paternity or about the way we go about pushing back if and when we are “outed” on an injustice? Is credibility the new litmus test for all public figures, including corporate CEO’s, candidates for elected office, professionals of all stripes? Or, more likely, we have slid so far below that standard that whatever statements reach our consciousness in the public arena are so fraught with “spin” and “torqueing” that the truth is now no more than a mere residual precipitate in the bottom of a long-forgotten test-tube on the shelf of an abandoned chemistry lab.? Or have we become so careless and disengaged that we no longer require ourselves to be fact-checking, scrupulously uncovering motive from stated purpose? Or have we surrendered our power so unconsciously and so completely to those who depend on propaganda to survive in their own narcissism that we have made ourselves victims of our own insouciance?
A NASA plane flew over the Antarctic this week, and disclosed some frightening information. Just one example is that the ice sheets are shedding the equivalent of two Olympic swimming pools of water every second! That is not “fake news” either, although there are plenty of people, including trump himself, who doubt whether or not man is contributing carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, suggesting that ‘nature’ may be simply doing its thing. Of course, such a truth and reality does not fit into trump’s military/industrial/transactional/sales equation of putting a price on everything (everything literally) and then counting only the sales, the profits and the dividends, without regard to the lost lives, families, reputation, ethics and morality and relationships that have sustained the nation and the world for nearly three quarters of a century.
If Elie Wiesel is right in this statement, then the world has to be joining his fear;
The world is indifferent to our (Jews) death, as, in fact, it is to its own. (p.47)
Confronting Holocaust deniers is only one of Wiesel’s commitments. However, that commitment, and our shame, responsibility and repentance for our direct and/or indirect participation in such crimes, then, previous to the Holocaust, or since and into the future, depends on our willingness, courage and openness to the facts. It also depends on a vociferous, steadfast and united rejection of all forms of propaganda, seduction and skirting of responsibility, in our own lives.
I recall, after reading a letter from my aunt, my father’s sister, learning that my grandfather became ill and attempted to take his own life. However, when I inquired of my father about the veracity of her report, he quickly and summarily denied it ever happened. Reminding us that we cannot tolerate too much reality, T.S. Eliot, nevertheless, keeps the issue at the front of our consciousness, in the hope that our capacity to accept the fullness of the truth, even and especially when that truth is less than friendly, will continue to expand, as will the number of us who continue to strive to mature in that way. Our individual and shared survival depends on that!
Are we like Solzhenitsyn in his Gulag Archipelago, another powerless witness, who (living) through the experience of shame and hopelessness, now want to be heard?
If that turns out to be true, the hope for humanity will not merely survive; it will endure! The poets, prophets and shamans voice could save us once again from ourselves!