War, Conflict & Enemies of Truth

Michael Brenner says the frenzy engendered by the Ukraine conflict reinforces a herd mentality that cries out for critical thinking. 

By Michael Brenner

Accurate perception, precise language and objectivity are the first victims of war and conflict. For good reason. Emotion eclipses reason. The “we/they” prism refracts and distorts our thoughts. The individual is swept up into the mass mood. Frenzy roils just below the surface.

Experiences of war and conflict, though, are not uniform.  They vary. Whose blood is being shed, in what quantities? Are we the direct protagonist or just the empathetic supporters of certain combatants? How closely and why do we identify with one side? How much do we hate the other side? Is our collective self vulnerable or confident? What is the pre-existing anxiety level?

Consequently, each situation is peculiar. A country’s subjective response and attendant behavior, therefore, can be highly revealing.

Unfortunately, observation is blurred and selective. We are poor witnesses to ourselves. Sometimes, we never do gain the perspective needed for a clear rendering of what happened, how we felt and what we did. Oddly, the more peculiar the experience, the less the inclination and ability to reflect on it.

Such is the case in regard to the current Ukraine affair. That singular feature is itself noteworthy. For that is not due to indifference – quite the opposite. Washington is the producer and would-be director of the drama as well as the co-star.

The feature that cries out for our critical attention is the frenzy that the Ukraine conflict has engendered. This despite the absence of an American military presence, no obvious national interest of the first order at stake, and it’s erupting at a time when one would have thought the country’s appetite for this sort of thing satiated by two decades of endless, failed wars in nearly every part of the world.

My principal concern here is not to answer the question of “why?” I have tried to address that in previous commentaries here and here. Instead, the aim is to highlight those characteristics of America’s collective national persona brought into stark relief by our reaction to events.

Hypocrisy

The air is rank with it. The overwrought emotional response to events, concentrated in D.C., spreads across the land – from sea to shining sea. As per usual, it is the MSM and the politicos who take the lead and set the tone.

Sympathy for human suffering is admirable when genuine and the expression of sensitive, empathetic concern; when we are moved by the occasion and not just the ritual. Honoring the victims of mass shootings, hate bombings and natural disasters is moving and in a sense reassuring.

Today, we are seeing an outpouring of sentiment over the plight of Ukrainians. Most striking is the upwelling of vigils, prayer sessions and protests at universities. Demonstrative displays of feelings that are of this scope should set us to reflect on their full meaning. Here are a few things to consider.

Civilian casualties in Ukraine are relatively few. Despite the strenuous efforts to find then, actual numbers of dead appear to be in the order of 300-400, according to a U.N. count.

For good reasons, Russian forces are calculatingly trying to avoid attacks on urban centers. After all, 40 percent of the population is Russian and concentrated in the regions where the fighting is taking place. Moreover, Moscow says it has no interest in subjugating the country to its rule.

In comparison, the Ukrainian army has been shelling the city centers of Lugansk and Donetsk, producing casualties estimated by a U.N. agency at 440 casualties (77 killed and 363 injured) since the start of Russia’s military intervention.  Also, the water system has been destroyed. Since 2014, as many as 7,000 civilians have been killed in Donbass. Yet, these facts are unreported and unnoticed in the total absence of media presence in an area they have erased from their reportorial map.

A broader perspective is instructive. During the week of combat in Ukraine, a larger number of innocent civilians in other places have died from American actions.

In Yemen, the unrelenting Saudi bombing and strangulation of the Houthi regions continues to take a heavy toll: from weapons, from starvation, from disease.  This carnage could not have occurred without direct involvement by the U.S. military.

Although the American contribution has diminished over the past year or so, the U.S. continues to play a considerable role in the Saudi onslaught. U.S. officers have sat in Air Force command posts in Saudi Arabia pinpointing targets, U.S. planes have done the refueling of Saudi aircraft which, otherwise, could not have reached their targets, they have supplied the weapons and ammunition marked “Made In U.S.A.”

The U.S. has also participated in the embargo that has prevented food and medicines from getting to the needy. Famine has added immeasurably to the casualties. Over the past six years, tens of thousands have been killed, maimed or invalided by illness.

The carnage in Yemen to which the U.S. is an accomplice is not collateral to the defense of any American national interest or the suppression of any threat. Its only rationalization is a dubious calculation that putting our arms around the shoulders of the psychopathic butcher Mohammed bin-Salman in Riyadh is worth the massive suffering of Yemeni innocents.

At least 15 people, including children, where killed when a Saudi-led coalition airstrike hit a home in the southwestern city of Taiz, April 2018. (Felton Davis/Flickr)

That decision was made by President Barack Obama and his Vice-President Joe Biden, reaffirmed by President Donald Trump. It continues to this day under President Biden – the great humanitarian who has shed copious crocodile tears for Ukraine.

Yet, one can search high-and-low for a vigil, a wake, a memorial service to honor the victims of the U.S. government’s callous disrespect for human life in Yemen.  Certainly there are no apologies to orphans, widows and invalids. The blood on U.S. hands is invisible, the blood on Russian hands undergoes microscopic examination. Hypocrisy in caps.

Whose Rules?

Let us look at the wider record to see what it says about the American attitude toward law, a “rules-based international order” and criminal acts. The United States invaded and occupied the sovereign state of Iraq with no legal mandate whatsoever, no legitimate claim – however stretched – of self-defense, and with no expression of approval from the Iraq people.

The results: tens of thousands killed directly by the U.S. military and their mercenaries; hundreds of thousands killed in the ensuing violence, untold wounded. Settlements were razed into moonscapes: Falluja (twice), Mosul, Raqqa, sections of Baghdad and numerous smaller towns.

The U.S. Marines alone fired 20,000+ artillery shells into densely populated Mosul – separate from weeks of aerial bombing. Empathy? The U.S. government waited three years before making the reluctant “admission” of 483 civilians dying in Mosul. By the standards applied to Ukraine, that last figure would be publicized as a million or so. In fact, the true figure has been estimated at between 9,000 to 11,000 civilians killed.

Then, there is ISIS. The U.S. is responsible for its very existence and, therefore, its grisly deeds. Its birthing was in the prison (Camp Bucca), set up by General Stanley McCrystal, where many thousands were swept up indiscriminately and cooped together. The grim conditions were the breeding grounds for its leadership and their recruiting ground.

In Afghanistan, the thirst for revenge for 9/11 drove us to spend 20 years generating violent chaos – 19 of them directed at the Taliban, not Al-Qaeda. To this day, there are no reports of the Taliban killing a single American outside of Afghanistan.

The U.S. has killed tens of thousands and inflicted suffering on many more. Now, in the wake of the shameful U.S. flight, the country is starving. Desperate women are selling their kidneys to organ traffickers in order to feed their kids.

A decent society, with a person of integrity at its head, would invite one of those women to attend the president’s State of the Union address as an honored guest – perhaps seated next to First Lady Jill Biden along with the Ukrainian ambassador. Such a symbolic gesture would do more to advance America’s reputation and influence around the world than all the hollow posturing by Biden’s bunch of bumbling amateur foreign policy makers.

We have responded to those dire conditions by imposing economic sanctions. In a move that should be inscribed in its own page of infamy, humanitarian Joe Biden literally stole $7 billion of Afghan money held in U.S. based banks and the Federal Reserve. That is not Taliban money, and it is not just the state’s money either. Most belongs to small merchants and individuals whose deposits were transferred to the Afghan central bank for safe-keeping.  That is as close as you can get to actually taking bread out of a baby’s mouth. Willi Sutton never had it so good – nor was he so morally crass as to boast of his humanitarian instincts.

Finally, let us not forget America’s full, unwavering endorsement of Israel’s repeated bloody campaigns to “mow the lawn” in the illegally occupied Palestinian territories. There, each “mowing” causes thousands of casualties. There, schools, hospitals and the offices of disobedient journalists are indeed targeted.

The bill of indictment is a long one. We haven’t even touched on the torture regime that the U.S. organized on a global basis – in explicit violation of international law, treaties and American statutes, too. A “rules-based international order,” indeed.

All of the peoples victimized, neglected and forgotten who are noted above share one common trait. I’ll leave its identity to your imagination. A hint: throw into the mix the Bosniaks?

Lying 

Biden speaks on Ukraine at White House. (Ruptly screenshot.)

Lying is the handmaiden to hypocrisy.

We Americans gradually have become used to lying and deceit from our leaders – whether in government or other big, powerful institutions. We call it disinformation because “lie” strikes many as too blunt for our sensitive eyes and ears. The New York Times has a strict rule, in fact, not to use the word “lie.” Not even Donald Trump has ever “lied” insofar as its editors are concerned.  In a sense, we have become inured to lying since it is so commonplace. Only the incurable innocents believe what is told them by political candidates or purveyors of electronic gizmos.

Moreover, the line between truth and fiction has become so blurred that reality has lost much of its previous claim to preeminence. Everything, we are advised, is subjective; whatever you want to believe is the truth. So, despite the record of massive mendacity chalked up by the CIA, the Pentagon, the State Department and White House spokespersons over the years, the MSM swallow whole whatever is being sold and then they repackage it as reporting and sell it to us word-for-word.

Here’s a stark example. On March 2 Biden was asked whether Russian forces are deliberately targeting civilian areas in Ukraine, the president says, “It’s clear they are.” An outright lie – picked up and transmitted without comment. The wrinkle in this instance is that this is the same lie that the MSM had been disseminating for days. Two-way mendacity between the chief executive and the so-called Fourth Estate. Cozy. Those who know better will be kept at bay – non-persons.

So, we read in the august New York Times that Russia launches missile attacks on Ukrainian cities, while civilian casualties mount and the Russian offensive on Kharkiv stalls. 

All nonsense, all lies. Never corrected. They are just sub-heads in a fictional story designed to mythologize, to entertain, and to control thought. Straight out of 1984; who needs censorship?

A body politique incapable of enunciating and observing reasonable ethical standards of behavior should still find it within itself to engage in an honest discussion and debate on matters of supposed national consequence. Ukraine has shown, once again, that the U.S. is not so capable.

Why does a president so casually lie in public? Well, for one thing, long experience tells him that he could get away with it. After all, most Americans still take at face value whatever they are told about the international scene despite their being lied to and deceived by their leaders.

They lied about WMD in Iraq; they lied about the reception to be expected from the Iraq people, they lied repeatedly about the insurrection, they lied repeatedly about torture, they lied about General David Petraeus’ magnificent Iraqi national army that fled before Mosul.

They lied for 20 years straight about progress in Afghanistan; they lied about our underhanded dealings with Al-Qaeda and associated jihadist groups in Syria, they lied about the critical support given ISIS by Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. They also lied in denying the comprehensive electronic surveillance of Americans’ communications. So why should we take their word for what they say about events in Ukraine? Yet we do – for several reasons.

Why Are They Are Believed?

Then U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland in her leaked phone call.

One, Americans have become a gullible people. Two, they hold a picture of reality that has been shaped by the MSM which does not prize accuracy. Three, Americans are not terribly interested in the truth. What they want is conformity to the story line that has been laid out for them that compliments the United States, which they have been conditioned to believe, and that doesn’t either strain their mental faculties or challenge their beliefs.

Biden knows all of that. Does he also know that American credibility suffers as a consequence among other governments, which he has to deal with? To paraphrase that master diplomat Victoria Nuland: “Fuck the Russians! Fuck the Chinese! Fuck the Indians!” And don’t even bother to fuck our European allies since they already have fucked themselves.

The current passion and range of reaction in the West calls for close examination. Here, we are in the realm of social psychology and mass behavior — hysteria, at times, in its extreme expressions. Bicocca University in Milan almost canceled a course on Fyodor Dostoevsky taught by an Italian professor. The Munich Philharmonic has fired its acclaimed Russian conductor Valery Gergiev, because he refuses a diktat that he criticize Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Ukraine invasion. They are seconded by orchestras in Rotterdam, New York, Vienna and la Scala which have canceled all his engagements. Silence is not tolerated.

Peter Gelb in 2010. (Peabody Awards – The Metropolitan Opera: Live in HD Series, CC BY 2.0, Wikimedia Commons)

Equally outrageous, the famed soprano, Anna Netrebko, has been forced to drop appearances at the Zurich Opera House because she is deemed irredeemably tainted by having received an award for artistic achievement from Putin personally and having voted for him in a past election.

Long resident in Vienna, married to a Uruguayan baritone, she in fact has issued a statement condemning the war as senseless “aggression” and calls on “Russia to end it right now.” Even that cut no ice with the Inquisition. The general manager of the New York Met, Peter Gelb, who has assumed the authority of New York’s Gauleiter for cultural purity, declared that “denouncing the war is not enough.”

Presumably, he wants Netrebko to arm herself with Madame Butterfly’s knife, clamber over the Kremlin walls and eviscerate Putin in his pajamas.  The threat to cancel her spring appearances makes as much sense as cancelling performances by Itzhak Perlman at Carnegie Hall because he has dined with Bibi Netanyahu at a time of a Gaza ravaging, and there shook the hand of racist Deputy Prime Minister Avigdor Lieberman whose advocated solution to the Palestinian problem is to expel all Arabs from the Holy Land into the desert, i.e. the Armenian solution.

If Netrebko’s long-time colleagues in the music world had any principles or guts, they’d issue an ultimatum: quit her persecution or we’ll all boycott the Met’s entire season. Of course, that never will happen – these days, all spheres of Western society are pervaded with cowardice.

These distinguished personages thereby join the ranks of the know-nothings like the restaurant owners who are renaming Russian dressing as Ukrainian dressing and Beef Stroganoff as Beef Zelensky. There is precedent, the solons of the U.S. Congress back in 2001 changed their menu to substitute Freedom Fries for the unspeakable French Fries because French President Jacques Chirac did not think that an invasion of Iraq was a great idea. And in WW I, sauerkraut became Liberty Cabbage. Children will be children.

Then there is the Czech government issuing a decree that declares expressing a favorable opinion about the Russian intervention a crime that will make you liable to prosecution and imprisonment. Even the Prague regime is overmatched by this blow struck for peace and freedom: the International Federation of Felines (FIFe) on Tuesday ordered a ban on the importation of Russian-bred cats, presumably anywhere in the world. “No cat bred in Russia may be imported and registered in any FIFe pedigree book outside Russia, regardless of, which organization issued its pedigree,” the FIFe board said in a statement.

To search for an explanation of this behavior, one would have to dive into the turbid depths of the human mind. That is beyond the scope of this essay.  But a couple of thoughts do come to mind.

One is that this overreaction may be propelled in part by hidden feelings of guilt about the West’s irresponsible abstention in doing next to nothing to prevent or even mitigate the atrocities in Bosnia and Rwanda. Silence, then, was golden. 

Perhaps, those feelings were strengthened by the excesses of the American “War On Terror” in which the Europeans were accomplices in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and Yemen. In addition to the provision of tangible aid, every NATO government was an accomplice in the rendition program, in one way or another – with the sole exception of France.

A second, related point of conjecture is that these people have lived “non-moral” lives in an ethically sterile environment. That is to say that they never were placed in or sought circumstances where they faced difficult moral choices – where they had to affirm through action the ideals and virtues to which they nominally adhere.

At some level, certain of these well-educated enlightened elites felt that void to varying degrees. Suddenly, out of the blue comes a golden opportunity to do so. To do so without pain or serious cost, with the mutual support of a large consort of cosmopolitan fellows.

There may be unwelcome consequences, but in the moment of exhilaration they are sublimated. The one negative that may enter the margins of consciousness is that people will freeze or sweat in the dark. Even then, well-heeled elites find ways to avoid freezing or sweating.

As so often is the case in present times, the ‘problem’ lies not out there but rather in ourselves.

Group Think 

(Max Pixel)

Americans pride themselves on their independence, individualism, and autonomy as citizens. “Don’t tread on me! Don’t mess with Texas! I’m from Missouri! Prove it!” Once upon a time, there may have been a semblance of truth to this. There no longer is.

The U.S. has long ago achieved a herd mentality. Skepticism and applying elementary, common logic has become nothing but faded memory and legend. Commercial advertising, TV, and the dumbing down of education have done its work. Public discussion on matters of public interest is shallow and is dropping steadily year by year. Our leaders are at once an effect and a reinforcing cause of this phenomenon.

It is far easier, far more comfortable and more convenient to inhabit a collective world of fable and fantasy. This is most strikingly true in regard to national identity and America’s dealings with the world. 

As the gap between fantasy world and actual world widens, the need for reinforcement through consensus grows stronger, and with it, the intolerance of dissent.  It’s been that way in the War on Terror and now in regard to Russia and China.

An illustrative anecdote: Some of my recent commentaries have evoked an unusually large number of replies. A couple received last week are worth noting. They are both from retired ambassadors with whom I had had friendly exchanges previously, one of whom bears a name that many of you would recognize for notable accomplishments in the past. He writes undiplomatically:

“How much were you paid to write this? You are going to lose what little standing you have left as a serious academic.” 

The other retired diplomat wrote this:

“Forgive me, but you’re sounding like a number of old FSO’s, so-called strategic foreign policy ‘Russian experts’ with whom I’ve lost patience.  We are NOT still in the 20th c., generations and history and modernity have moved forward ….It is NoT humiliated, historic Russia in the abstract that is choosing to invade Ukraine now; it is Vladimir PUTIN in particular…..  It is about the man, more than the country or its interests and government.  The main problem is that both our law and international law and order have never been able to deal with damaged, insecure and delusional Aging leaders a priori!! “ 

So it goes. Enough said.

Michael Brenner is a professor of international affairs at the University of Pittsburgh. mbren@pitt.edu

The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.

41 comments for “War, Conflict & Enemies of Truth

  1. March 7, 2022 at 16:36

    Omg, the morass is so thick that it defies climbing out of. How about an end-run around it?

    I am posting everywhere to be looking for outside-the-box solutions. Many soldiers don’t know where they are and who they are fighting who are largely their blood relatives. Treat Russian soldiers like family – Ukrainians bring food to the convoy, drop leaflets to tell them who they’ve been sent to kill. Look at this: “Ukrainians returning captured Russian soldiers to their mothers: hxxps://tinyurl.com/muhjd4bu. What else? Some worldwide meditation to send love to Putin? Come on, we can be the spiritual grownups. Put our money where our mouth is – use this as a time to test out theories we have about distant healing and the power of love.

  2. Guy St Hilaire
    March 7, 2022 at 15:05

    So very honestly well said and dido for Canada , with a special touch a la Chrystia Freeland . I find it unbearable to even listen to the CBC anymore . Whatever happened to journalism if indeed it ever existed .There are always 2 sides of every story but we are now privy to it.
    Most of the Western world’s population are hypocrites ,with short memories and are ignorant of geopolitics altogether .
    The world desperately needs many more Michael Brenner s .

  3. ursel doran
    March 7, 2022 at 12:57

    EXCELLENT work here sir!
    One of the really big deals on the Ukraine / Putin situation that I have been aggressively distributing is Putin’s speech he released
    prior to going in. Linked below with a couple of extracted paragraphs up front for emphasis.

    A little history for background is important. The USA / CIA controlled MSM regarding NATO and the rational for all the countries that joined NATO surrounding Ukraine on its west side is not publicized at all, of course. Getting the small countries to join NATO was easy. “Join NATO and we will give / loan you money to set up our military bases and missiles there for your continuing cash flow.” We are doing the same thing now in Africa. See a map of our military bases in Africa!!!
    Just imagine if the USA had Chinese or Russian missiles laid out along the Canadian or Mexican borders.

    Also none of the MSM will ever report that when Obama / Biden, and their attack dog, Nuland did did the well advertised regime change in Ukraine, it was to get a stooge in place to use Ukraine as a money laundering operation sending a couple Billion over and getting the commissions grifting back to Obama / Biden through the son Hunter. Commission, IMHO, would have been 10 – 20% of the Two billion. Biden famous order to the Ukraine, ON CAMERA, “You must fire the prosecutor investigating my son’s crimes or I will not send the next BILLION to you.” Done and done obviously.

    Here is the Putin speech with the two paragraphs of interest up front.
    “Properly speaking, the attempts to use us in their own interests never ceased until quite recently: they sought to destroy our traditional values and force on us their false values that would erode us, our people from within, the attitudes they have been aggressively imposing on their countries, attitudes that are directly leading to degradation and degeneration, because they are contrary to human nature. **This is not going to happen.** No one has ever succeeded in doing this, nor will they succeed now.

    Despite all that, in December 2021, we made yet another attempt to reach agreement with the United States and its allies on the principles of European security and NATO’s non-expansion. Our efforts were in vain. The United States has not changed its position. It does not believe it necessary to agree with Russia on a matter that is critical for us. The United States is pursuing its own objectives, while neglecting our interests.”

    hxxps://consortiumnews.com/2022/03/01/text-of-putins-announcement-of-military-action/

  4. March 7, 2022 at 12:50

    An extraordinary, and extraordinarily lucid, essay. Thanks very much! I cannot stand the anti-Russia hysteria all around me and the hypocrisy. The same people who are eagerly pushing sanctions against Russia are trying to criminalize sanctions against Israel. How can people not notice the double standards and racism?

    Of course, Putin should not have intensified the shooting war (it’s arguable that the war started eight years ago, not days ago). My heart breaks for all the innocent civilians. But it breaks for the Russian people, too, and for the people of Yemen and Palestine.

    • JoAnn Henningsen
      March 7, 2022 at 17:12

      Thank you, Mary. My sentiments exactly!

  5. vinnieoh
    March 7, 2022 at 11:58

    Professor Brenner has penned some very powerful pieces these last few weeks, and this, trying to elucidate the psychology of mendacity, is excellent.

    There is something though we must consider which is a consequence of all the lying, that like the ongoing tragedy in Yemen must someday be laid at the feet of the liars. How seriously are we to take the call to arms to Ukrainian civilians to resist a professional army possessing artillery, tanks, command and control, and air superiority? Civilians armed with small arms and Molotov cocktails, almost certainly without any organized command and control or workable communications.

    Friends don’t encourage friends to commit suicide. True leaders don’t encourage their very own people to sacrifice themselves for an effort that can not and will not succeed. The longer the fighting goes on, the more surely the foolish and the innocent will be chewed to hamburger. The US was the main protagonist that goaded Ukraine to commit suicide – and for the sole purpose of advancing their latest moves in the geopolitical great game they continue – and now sits on the sidelines and enables the corrupt press to flood us with stories of the horrors and tragedy “perpetrated solely by Russian aggression.”

    Even understanding the full truth of the tragedies of Vietnam, Iraq, Libya, and anon, did not prepare me for the despicable duplicity now on display. Words fail me; I can’t summon harsh enough condemnations to express the shame, horror, and sadness. So, forgive me for the following crude language.

    Something I would suggest to Prof. Brenner that also lies at the base of the empire of lies, something that I have suspected for several decades now is that the liars know that the whole construct of lies can not last forever, it will collapse, and:

    That when the shit hits the fan, that payback is going to be a bitch.

  6. March 7, 2022 at 11:23

    Excellent and accurate, albeit unpleasant observations.

    • duane
      March 7, 2022 at 12:55

      Excellent analysis. I hope that it will be inscribed onto clay tablets and stored in a cave somewhere, so that some future sentient being may find it among the burnt cinders of our civilization and piece together the staggering, blundering stupidity that led to our end.

  7. Lois Gagnon
    March 7, 2022 at 11:18

    What’s been most striking is that US Americans so easily ignore their own government’s atrocities for decades on end and atrocities carried out by allies, but suddenly care deeply as soon as they’re told to by the media when a government targeted for regime change for daring to remain independent from the clutches of the bankster empire takes military action. People’s minds have been totally hacked. The power trippers don’t need artificial intelligence to control people’s thoughts. They already do.

  8. susan
    March 7, 2022 at 09:29

    By “this country” I mean the United States of Atrocities! Shame on every single one of us for turning a blind eye…

  9. Vesa Sainio
    March 7, 2022 at 03:08

    Finland has been a neutral state for long time but this has gradually changed after joining EU. Finland has no independent opinions anymore but in every issue we follow what the EU says (read USA via Germany and France). The hate speech towards Russia has increased all the time. It is so stupid because we have 1300 km border with Russia and would have infinite opportunities to build deep cultural and economic reations with russians. But the European union blocks all that with sanctions and hostile ultimatums.
    Ukraine crisis has speeded all this to total madness, the herd thinking and mass behaviour is unbelievable. Everything that has link to russians is demonized, russians are like the jews in nazi Germany, their culture, inheritage, sport, all is made intolerable. I am ashamed to be finnish and EU citizen.

  10. Sam F
    March 6, 2022 at 19:37

    A great summary of the moral failures of a US government, mass media, and people corrupted by economic power. Most Americans are indeed “used to lying and deceit from our leaders…a gullible people… shaped by the MSM” and want “conformity to the story line …“non-moral” lives … logic [a] faded memory” because “advertising, TV, and the dumbing down of education have done its work. Public discussion … is shallow … a collective world of fable.”

    The US failure to conduct honest policy debate is a failure of government structure. See CongressOfDebate dot org for the solution to this problem. Of course that awaits reforms to eliminate economic influence upon all branches of the US government and mass media, which has destroyed democracy.

    If democracy can be restored in the US, it must be stabilized by amendments to protect elections and mass media debate from economic power, better checks and balances within the government branches, purging the corrupt judiciary and Congress, monitoring of government officials for corruption, and regulation of business so that oligarchic bullies and scammers do not rise to control economic power. Only then can literature, media, education, and public interaction encourage moral community, and only then can public debate find the policies that honor the rights of all.

  11. evelync
    March 6, 2022 at 18:29

    This criminal enterprise we fund with our tax dollars feels no shame, never bothering to stop and listen to wiser heads. THEY KNOW….AND THEY PLUNDER ON…

    Intentionally threatening Russia for 20 years via NATO encroachment, breaking the promises we made to not move 1 inch east if the Soviet Union agreed to German unification; ignoring the consequences and dangers that we’d reap (really the innocents would reap} if they succeeded in pushing Russia to the brink.
    Gloating over it.
    They have no shame. Never having apologized for all their other crimes of death and destruction for profit.

    Julian Assange ‘s punishment is seen by them as absolutely necessary to continue the charade that they are in the right.
    Thus our justice dept, our state dept, our executive branch and our congress are complicit in torturing whistleblowers/publishers of proof of our war crimes.
    They know deep down that if they recognized the whistleblowers’ rights to speak out and let them go free, it would rip off their veil of lies and at long last be an admission of wrongdoing. Therefore the cruel whistleblower punishment is endless. Their power over free speech also controls those who have said, as Senator Schumer said, that the national security state can get you 6 ways from Sunday.
    And people who should know better are frozen with fear of the monster.

    The cruelty and crimes of drug lords and mob hit men have nothing on the criminals who run this empire including the corporate sponsors who they serve and who profit from their wrongdoing.

  12. delia ruhe
    March 6, 2022 at 17:19

    “Denouncing the war is not enough.” So sayeth the Washington arm-twisters who have clearly covered the Earth in pursuit of every head of government or state, telling them that they’ll have to do more than denounce the war. They are also required to drink the Kool Aid—i.e., internalize the propaganda narrative that has been running 24/7 since at least the onset of the Orange Revolution in 2004—a narrative that has since ballooned, thanks to all the BS the Dems and the intel community fed us, trying to kill two birds with one stone: Putin and Trump. In short, you can blame all those purges of ethnic Russian artists and artifacts on orders received from above.

    As for our Head of Government, Trudeau agreed to denounce the war but refused the Kool Aid. That was yesterday. I haven’t checked in today to see if Washington has come back to twist the other arm or slap a few sanctions on Canada. The American being interviewed on CBC last evening to bad-mouth Trudeau couldn’t come up with any evidence for other allegations he wanted Trudeau to buy into, so he just said that “intelligence” concluded that they were true. As if anybody takes American intelligence seriously post-Snowden.

  13. bevin
    March 6, 2022 at 15:59

    There’s a lot of competition- I’m happy to say- but this really is as good as, if not better than any of the responses to the outbreak of Goebbels style propaganda we have seen in the past few weeks.
    Sad that the two diplomats responded as they did- I guess even private social media communications can endanger a man’s pension now.
    Consortium News is a must bookmark for honest people in this culture. Just as IF Stone once was.

  14. Robert Emmett
    March 6, 2022 at 10:50

    “… and it’s erupting at a time when one would have thought the country’s appetite for this sort of thing (was) satiated by two decades of endless, failed wars in nearly every part of the world.”

    Apparently not. Seems more like it’s “business as usual”, another spin of the casino wheel of endless war. With a disturbing whirr & ratchet of Russian roulette this time.

    To see the faces of so many ordinary, well-to-do Amiercans looking sort of depraved and yet at the same time indifferent is unnerving. Yeah, I get not wanting to look at what we’ve become as a people, though it gives me no comfort to say that. Doomed, it seems, by the big & small minded alike.

    But the government itself, its poseurs? Fuckin’ A, don’t get me started.

    Thanks for adroit insights, well expressed.

  15. Henry Smith
    March 6, 2022 at 10:24

    Plenty of recent examples of the herd mentality.
    Would it be so bad if Social Media wasn’t there as the prime enabler ?
    Everyone has an opinion, but now we are all exposed to every inane thought spouted by the ill informed and the stupid. Government policy is now decided and implemented over social media. Oxygen thieves calling themselves ‘influencers’ are now admired by the masses. the technical oligarchs have placed powerful technology into the hands of fools.
    Has the dumbing down of educational standards had a part to play ?
    The UK and USA are well down on the international league table of literacy and numeracy (Eg. OECD Pisa Report). If our education standards are so low is it any wonder that people begin to believe without question the corrupt and false utterances of their governments.
    What’s the solution ? Certainly, in my mind, better education of the masses is a primary requirement.

  16. Georges Olivier Daudelin
    March 6, 2022 at 10:02

    La démocratie n’existe pas au pays de Washington. Les médias nationaux sont tous sous le contrôle des affidés de la BÊTE IMPÉRIALISTE OCCIDENTALE WASHINGTONIENNE.

    La population du pays de Washington se développe dans la matrice même d’illusions de la BÊTE. Le formatage des esprits débute dès la conception, alors même qu’il n’y a pas fœtus. C’est de l’ordre génétique.

    Tant et aussi longtemps que la constitution et les institutions de Washington ne seront pas totalement rejetées du revers de la main, le fascisme, le militarisme, le racisme, l’affairisme, le cléricalisme, le libéralisme, le nombrilisme et le féodalisme économico-politique resteront à demeure dans cet État voyou, criminel, barbare, tueur, assassin et meurtrier washingtonien.

  17. HJ
    March 6, 2022 at 02:05

    One of the best analyses of the roots of Western hypocrisy and hysteria I’ve read this month.

    • Consortiumnews.com
      March 6, 2022 at 06:20

      How many articles have you read on the roots of Western hypocrisy have you read this month? Can you share them with our readers?

  18. Seby
    March 5, 2022 at 23:43

    from Moon of Alabama

    “…A fascist controlled government with nukes on Russia’s border? This is not about Putin at all. No Russian government of any kind could ever condone that…”

    • Henry Smith
      March 6, 2022 at 10:27

      One has to question what WW2 was all about.

      • Ghost Ship
        March 6, 2022 at 20:52

        Good point.
        According to Greatest Events of World War 2 on Netflix it:
        German invasion of France
        Battle of Britain
        Pearl Harbour
        Battle of Midway
        “Siege” of Stalingrad – it wasn’t a siege but a battle
        D-Day
        Battle of the Bulge
        Dresden Firestorm
        Liberation of Buchenwald
        Hiroshima
        And that is it.
        Not surprising most Americans believe America with some British support won World War 2.

  19. Johnny
    March 5, 2022 at 23:19

    Even rabid dogs don’t bite the hands that feed them.

  20. Eddie S
    March 5, 2022 at 22:25

    Excellent analysis and ponderings about this subject that has always bothered me for the 50-some years of my adult existence. I entirely agree with the author’s criticism of the blatant double-standard in the US regarding victims of international violence— ‘worthy’ victims (ones our enemies killed, or we accuse them of doing-so) vs ‘unworthy’ victims (those killed by us or our allies) as Chomsky & Herman sarcastically classified them in their classic book ‘Manufacturing Consent’. And the jaw-droppingly short memory (or is it indifference?) of the FACT that the PTB – virtually the entire US government and ~98% of the MSM — lied to us (or in the case of the MSM, showed child-like credulity) about the whole WMD’s debacle in 2003! Then, even as the facts about this deception were known, the US populace proceeded to RE-ELECT Bush the younger, in spite of him being knee-deep in the whole thing!

    The only additional thoughts I would add is that I’ve come to agree with the proposition that the US was founded by a combination of greedy, amoral gold-seekers and religious zealots, so we don’t have the purest of pedigrees that we often mythically imagine. Add to that the abundant natural resources and geographic isolation, and you get the ‘exceptional America’, the ‘benign hegemon’ of today…

  21. Antoinette Starkiewicz
    March 5, 2022 at 20:16

    Michael Brenner, thank you for shining a searchlight into those murky depths of the American mindset…I have been similarly appalled by the disconnect at my first visit to your country & NYC, 1976, when that pinnacle of world power & culture still had beggars in the streets… OK, I was young, naive & MOMA had just acquired my first animated film & I admired the USA for everything it had so assiduously advertised about itself . Now, for all the reasons you so well describe, the Big Ad has been nothing but a ludicrous, monstrous lie…

  22. Jonathan
    March 5, 2022 at 19:10

    A thousand thank yous. Yes. The US is pretty dead. Not a country. An auction. All the opportunistic double standards. All of these same people happy to use Ukraine as the proxy against Russia. Going to be thrown under the bus whenever convenient.
    When will pass the child tax credit. BBB. Voting rights act. Abortion rights.create free health care. Education. Cancel student debt. I suppose Americans enjoy be exploited to death. All of this virtue signaling is just misdirection. We should deal with our own vast problems. Good luck with that.

  23. ted markstein
    March 5, 2022 at 18:30

    PAX AMERICANA
    The Hypocritica

    you must really think we’re sleeping
    where is all that peace you’re keeping?
    people crying, people dying
    all we get from you is lying

    you kill and maim, it’s plain to see
    for your fake democracy
    what makes you think you have the right
    to carry on your evil fight?

    you say you kill, the peace to keep
    we say the price is far too steep
    you’ve gone too far, you can’t deny
    the pain you’ve caused, don’t even try

    and when the final bell has rung
    and when the final song is sung
    and you collapse in blood and gore
    we’ll see you gone for evermore

    • Tedder
      March 7, 2022 at 10:25

      Very nice!

  24. bobLich
    March 5, 2022 at 17:59

    Thank you professor Brenner for a great article.

  25. Paul Flynn
    March 5, 2022 at 17:50

    The West has become Oz. Most (not all) of the inhabitants exist in a near permanent dream state; where Oz and the lands beyond it are concerned. As fanciful as it sounds the comparison stands up well enough. The MGM movie fairytale has morphed into an MSM living nightmare. And of course there’s the obvious great difference – in the MGM version the protagonist wakes from the dream, in the real world reinterpretation there is no sign of an awakening. Because it is induced. We are kept there. It’s decades long now and nothing seems to be bringing us round. The internet was heralded as some kind of alarm clock. Grit thrown at the window. A shout in the street. If anything it’s become more like white noise, soporific in its effect. Alternative media. Social media. Backgroind noise, a pat on the hand at best. The slumber is heavy. The inhabitants of Oz have very little sense of being under; how could they? The doctor is in charge.

  26. Jon McCoy
    March 5, 2022 at 17:47

    Nice article, Michael. As I’ve grown older I’ve realized more and more that people will do anything to avoid the feeling of shame. To truly be able to process the immense political and economic and social failures of the US would entail forming an entirely new worldview. To admit the extent of our failures would be a symbolic death of sorts because one would be forced to create and assume a new national identity. This is all hard inner work that most folks would rather not have to go through. The tragedy of it all is our failure to grasp the truth about the human condition will in all likelihood be our undoing. If the crisis in Ukraine erupts into wide-scale nuclear war, mankind is going back to the stone ages. We’ll be living in caves, what few of us survive. And the vast majority–if not all–of those that do will only last a few months or a year tops. The other scenario is runaway global warming, which seems a little more likely with each passing year. Could we overcome these potentially extinction level obstacles? Sure it’s possible but more than half the battle lies in actually thinking things through in an intellectually honest, empirical manner. As you pointed out, we are not taught or encouraged to think critically. Our technology is far superior to our ability to reason. I have no idea how to resist our Orwellian social order apart from organizations like the Catholic Worker and perhaps not paying taxes via living as close to the poverty line(i.e., the 12.5K standard deduction) as possible. Going vegetarian and shopping as little as humanly possible are also good ideas. Not owning a car or driving as little as humanly possible, too. Otherwise? Contact the representatives on the House Foreign Affairs Committee and plead for high level diplomacy with Russia in Ukraine, I suppose.

  27. irina
    March 5, 2022 at 16:36

    Thank you for the perspective. One of the most horrifying (to me) TV moments was during the breakup of Yugoslavia.
    (Then) General Wesley Clark (later in charge of NATO) was on the screen and, in regards to NATO’s aerial campaign
    against Belgrade, he literally said, “We had a brisk day of bombing”. Emphasis on the ‘brisk’. You could practically see him rub his hands together in gleeful satisfaction.

    I also remember the 1990’s, after Gulf War 1 (triggered by April Glaspie telling Hussein that ‘the US has no interest in your
    border disputes’ — until we did). We bombed Iraqi water treatment plants and then sanctioned the parts necessary for
    repairs and the chemicals needed to treat the unsafe water (parts and chemicals can, after all, be used to make explosives).
    This resulted in hundreds of thousands of deaths, mostly of children, and was the backdrop behind Madeleine Albright’s
    statement (regarding the deaths) that ‘it was a very hard choice, but we think it was worth it.’

    There must be many people who remember these things, including the huge marches against the 2003 Iraq War, which was ushered in by the ‘Shock & Awe’ bombing campaign over Baghdad. That was treated in the Western press like a fireworks display. Nothing about the devastation on the ground. How can the US even pretend to moral superiority ?

    • ursel doran
      March 7, 2022 at 12:28

      Further to the Iraq war crimes.
      When Madeline Albright was asked on camera by a 60 minutes lady what her view was about the slaughter of 500,000 CHILDREN
      in the war there, she replied, “Regrettable, but necessary.”
      She of course later denied / amended the statement.

  28. alley cat
    March 5, 2022 at 16:03

    “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.”
    –Mike Tyson

    Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.
    –Proverbs 16:18

    “Whoever tries to hinder us, and even more so, to create threats to our country, to our people, should know that Russia’s response will be immediate. And it will lead you to such consequences that you have never encountered in your history.”
    –Vladimir Putin, speech to Russians on February 24, 2022

    “Why do we need a world if Russia is not in it?”
    –Dmitry Kiselyov, Russian state television host.

    American leaders have a plan for world conquest, and it’s beginning to look like the only thing that might snap them back to reality is a collective punch in the mouth–in the form of unstoppable hypersonic missiles. Or worse.

  29. Jana
    March 5, 2022 at 15:35

    Great article. Thank you for helping me keep my sanity. Thank you for your courage to write what needs to be said. I feel helpless.

  30. bobzz
    March 5, 2022 at 15:24

    I am on Dr. Brenner’s mailing list and have greatly benefited from his commentaries through the years.

  31. JMF
    March 5, 2022 at 14:55

    Professor:

    Thanks for yet another remarkably insightful essay. I’ve read your work several times recently and have invariably been impressed.

    Thus particular American has not been successfully “dumbed down”, thanks to sites like CN. I watch little to no TV. preferring to get my news the “alternative” way — online, from reputable sources I’ve identified over the years. I only wish that Bob Parry and William Blum were still with us — both contributed heavily to “removing the scales from my eyes” during the Iraq propaganda blitz.

    You (and Mister Putin) are entirely correct in identifying this “empire of lies” and its blatant hypocrisy.

    Kudos!

  32. David Ryan
    March 5, 2022 at 13:09

    Perfect truth of the current state of the United States failing DC establishment and failed MSM. It is very sad that after all the failed wars and propaganda pushed via DC, MSM, CIA etc. that Americans wouldn’t step back to re-evaluate the LIES. I live in the United States yet I hate what we stand for and what we have done on the world stage. It’s all been a lie and it just keeps getting worse. Propaganda is truth to the average American nowadays. You can no longer trust any news network. Each has their own agenda and it’s all about money and survival amongst the wolves.
    It surprised me how NATO just fell right in line with the US fed Ukrainian lies. No word about the Neo-Nazi’s established roll with the Ukrainian government. Every thing tweeted nowadays is bullshit lies. NATO should no longer exist.
    When will the world stage finally ignore the US as it should.

  33. Alan
    March 5, 2022 at 13:01

    What a fine, probing essay. The part that resonated most strongly with me was Prof. Brenner’s pointing out that most Americans have avoided facing moral choices in the past and now, perhaps out of a deep-seated sense of guilt, they can comfortably take a stand on what *appears* to be a clear case of good vs evil. These have been my thoughts exactly. Where were the tears, the hair-pulling and the rending of clothes when the US military was demolishing Mosul, Fallujah and Aleppo? Why is there so little outpouring of emotion and sympathy for the people of Yemen? The simple answer is that most Americans are hypocrites. The causes of their hypocrisy, of course, lie much deeper.

    • TP
      March 6, 2022 at 07:05

      Well said, Allen. Hypocrisy abounds, and I wish it were a commodity cornered by the USA. Alas, we see how deep it infects Canada and all Western Europe as well. Why the universal outrage from these countries for one nation’s war while USA presidents been given a pass for astounding levels of war crimes for decades?

      They (and we) now finally have an evil empire to which they (and we) feel distant enough from so as not to be directly complicit. (Of course you have to ignore how we created the perfect storm in the first place, but clearly, doing so requires no effort.) Canada and Western Europe are so inextricably complicit in all our evil deeds including mass consumption and its associated global exploitation, we hail any distraction for our quest to be morally superior however morally pathetic we are in reality.

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