How Leftist Criticism of America's Rulers Plays Right Into the Hands of Rush Limbaugh
August 22, 2015
[Also related: 'The "Logic" of the Left Leads Literally to Terrorism' & The 9/11 Litmus Test for American Radicals]
I was recently personally introduced to Paul Atwood, the author of War and Empire, the American Way of Life. Being curious about his book, I downloaded its preface and Chapter One to my kindle as a free sample. The author's intention in writing the book is clearly a noble one. He wants to educate his readers so they will know the truth about how the United States ruling class has been waging unjust wars for very despicable reasons: to enrich itself and increase its power and privilege at the expense of ordinary people. Unfortunately, the framework he uses to write the book is a terrible one; it is the typical Leftist framework that perfectly enables right wingers such as radio celebrity Rush Limbaugh to turn good people against anybody who criticizes the warmongering of the American ruling class. Here's how that happens.
Limbaugh tells his listeners that they--ordinary Americans--are good people, not bad people, that they believe in fairness and decency and not robbing and plundering and murdering for selfish gain. In this, Limbaugh is absolutely correct, whether Leftists agree or not. But then Limbaugh uses a false premise (that the United States is a genuine democracy in which the good values of ordinary people actually shape governmental policy) to make his Big Lie argument. He tells his listeners, "Since you are good people and since we are a democracy, our nation's foreign policy is a good one, not a bad one."
Next, Limbaugh quotes from Leftist critics of U.S. foreign policy and wars to demonstrate that these Leftists say that Americans are very bad people whose foreign policy and wars are very bad. "So," Limbaugh asks his listeners, "who are you going to believe? I, who agree with you that you are a good person, or the arrogant snob elitist Leftist who says you are a bad person?"
Below is a list quotations from War and Empire, the American Way of Life that Rush Limbaugh could read to his listeners to easily make his argument. The fact that there are so many such quotations, just in Chapter One, makes it clear that the framework (Leftism) the author uses is both wrong and dangerous. In many cases, what makes the quotation so perfectly useful for Limbaugh is that the word "we" or "Americans" (meaning all Americans) is used to refer to the people with the evil motives behind U.S. foreign policy, instead of the word "they" or "U.S. rulers" to make it clear that it is the small minority of Americans with the real wealth and power who have the evil motives. In other cases, the quotation explicitly accuses ordinary Americans of being bad people in one way or another.
"Mass public acceptance of hypocrisy on this scale requires a deeply-rooted rationale for explaining to ourselves why we can commit naked aggression and not have to experience the guilt or shame* which we insist others should feel when they act similarly."
"For a people outraged at the murder of our civilians on 9/11 we are morally anesthetized when it comes to admitting the crimes our own actions, votes and tax dollars have wrought."
"Since the US emerged from World War II as the most potent nation in history we have slaughtered millions, directly or not, the vast majority being helpless civilians."
"We ravage only those who lie all but helpless before us."
"In sum, Americans possess a highly adaptive ideology that provides ready-made justifications for our actions, and reproaches for those who oppose us."
"[W]e breezily dismiss the fact that the American system at its inception was built on the backs of the dispossessed and enslaved, or people in other conditions of servitude..."
"If ordinary Americans oppose the current wars they do so for the most part only tepidly because we are a people, like others, who prefer the guise of fantasy to reality. We have the most bloated civilization and lifestyle ever seen on planet earth and we know, if only by keeping this forbidden knowledge just below our consciousness, how we got to this state, and whom we had to kill. And we do not want our globalized cornucopia to cease providing its fruits. If the resources we need to sustain our conspicuous consumption happen to be in other people's countries, if their labor is cheaper in order to provide the goods, then history obliges us to do what the Romans did. And we do."
As Rush Limbaugh fully appreciates, the quotations above constitute a huge insult to the American people. People in Rush Limbaugh's audience hearing Limbaugh read these quotations would quite reasonably say to themselves, "No! I never supported 'naked aggression' and have no reason to feel 'guilt or shame' for having done so." "No! I am not morally anesthetized." "No! I have never advocated or supported deliberately slaughtering millions of helpless civilians." "No! I don't ravage people who lie helpless before me." "No! I do not have an adaptive ideology to justify evil-doing." "No! I do not deny that there was wrongful chattel slavery in U.S. history and mistreatment of native Americans." And "NO, a thousand times NO! I do not support killing people to plunder them like the Romans did."
The problem with these quotations is not just that they are insulting and therefore play into the hands of people such as Rush Limbaugh. The problem is also that they are false. Sure, the U.S. government has engaged in naked aggression and it has obtained support for it from ordinary Americans. But it gets that support by hiding the truth from the public, not by telling the public the truth. Leftists write as if it were the exact opposite.
The public supports wars only when it believes they are NOT naked aggression. The ruling class always appeals to very positive moral values to persuade ordinary Americans to support a war. G.W. Bush would never say, "My fellow Americans, there's lots of oil in Iraq and if we invade it we can steal it and thereby continue to enjoy a bloated civilization and lifestyle cornucopia at the expense of the Iraqi people. So support the invasion of Iraq."
On the contrary, Bush and the mass media pitched the war as a war to stop Saddam Hussein from killing babies in their incubators and from destroying New York City with a suitcase bomb. When people learn the truth about these unjust wars (no thanks to the lying mass media!) they oppose them. By 1968 a majority of Americans opposed the Vietnam war, and Nixon was forced to withdraw ignominiously in 1975 in large part because GIs, having seen with their own eyes that it was not, as claimed, a war to protect the freedom of the Vietnamese people, were refusing to fight.
The Leftist idea that most ordinary Americans benefit from global inequality is, itself, false. In fact, as I demonstrate in "Global Wealth Equality: What Would it Mean?," if all the wealth of the world were somehow magically redistributed among all people on the planet equally, to make the billions of poor people in places like India, Ethiopia, Haiti and Bangladesh equal in wealth to Americans and everybody else, then 55% of American households would be richer, not poorer.
As for feeling "guilt or shame" for voting and paying taxes, good grief! I wonder if the author has stopped paying HIS taxes to the IRS. As for voting, most Americans don't, and those who do mostly "hold their nose" and vote for the candidate they consider to be the lesser evil.
The Leftist framework that generates this huge insult to ordinary Americans is clearly a framework within which it is impossible to even conceive of, never mind seriously try to build, a massive egalitarian revolutionary movement to remove the rich from power and have real not fake democracy with no rich and no poor. Who but the hundreds of millions of ordinary Americans have the power to remove the American ruling plutocracy from power? Nobody! But the Left has such disdain and contempt for ordinary Americans (it preaches to them that they should feel "guilt or shame") that it does not seriously aim to build a popular revolutionary movement. Instead, the Left aims, apparently, to insult ordinary Americans and thereby, unwittingly, help Rush Limbaugh be persuasive.
To read about building an egalitarian revolutionary movement that aims to shape all of society by the positive values shared by most ordinary Americans, go to www.PDRBoston.org.
* Prior to this quotation, when writing about how U.S. wars have always been against nations that posed little threat to the U.S., the author throws in some words that are properly respectful towards ordinary Americans:
"Certainly there were American casualties in all wars but never on the scale faced by the losing side. None of this is to dishonor those who gave or risked their lives. Most believed what their officials told them about the threat to the nation."
The author, however, contradicts these respectful words throughout the rest of the chapter. To see how this is so, ask yourself this question. What would be your appropriate emotional response when discovering that U.S. government officials had told you a lie to get you to give or risk your life fighting an American war, that the official had lied in saying the war was to defend against a threat to the nation but that in truth it was a war of American "naked aggression"? Should you, on discovering how you had been lied to this way, be angry, or should you instead feel "guilt or shame." Clearly anger, not "guilt or shame," is the appropriate response. But the author insists, on the contrary, that ordinary Americans should experience "guilt or shame."
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