A Brief Interlude on Being Reasonable.

Conditioning is hugely important. I’ve long noted just how deeply desirous of consensus the US populace is — though this is true in Europe as well, but not to the degree one finds it in the US. The most egregious naked state theft or deceit will be discussed…certainly on corporate media outlets … as if it WASN’T naked theft. This starts at the very top and trickles down to the basest most mundane levels. Iran Contra is to this day spoken of as a small indiscretion. Enron is an amusing bit of corporate shenanegans.

Obama can lie, as Bush lied, and can stage manage his tiny paltry gifts to the liberal class, all the while bombing the poor and invading and stealing and signing away, further, the bill of rights. He can compose, in secret, lists of those he wants killed. Then step on stage and discuss transparency.


The Olympics revealed a scandal — the Azerbajian boxing team had tried to “buy” a gold medal. Not much was done. Now, a week into the boxing and the most outlandish scoring has placed an Azerbaijan boxer ready for a medal. The fact that he was badly beaten by the Belarussian, seems not to matter. Its hard to know where dishonesty ends and just incompetence begins.

The final heavyweight fight sunday featured a trollish Clemente Russo of Italy, holding on for dear life, the entire fight, against the Cuban boxer. But he got a decision, and the ref, in the third round, warned the CUBAN (!!) for holding. It was obvious OBVIOUS incompetence. However, the BBC made it sound as if half the problem for the bad fight should be laid at the feet of the Cuban. Well, NO, it was entirely the Italian. But….consensus. The populace must cling to, however threadbare, a belief that things work. To say, look, this was a fiasco would be to come too close to the borders of anarchy. The “reasonable” meme drives this…that is conceptually…what drives this. Polite and reasonable.

One of the funniest and creepiest terms in modern English is ” I think that went a little too far”. OR “I think he went a bit too far”, or “she went too far”..etc.

“Too far”? Where is too far? What does that mean? The implication is, actually, it went to a place that attacked the conventional thinking on the subject. It went to a place that actually demanded one think about the many assumptions handed down from the establishment.

Another form of this western delusion, western magical thinking, is to believe somehow that things like “smart” bombs don’t actually blow apart the innocent. Narratives about patriotism are trotted out as one of the last bulwarks of this insistence on “it all works”. That, and the hiding of any photograph of war dead.

History is constantly being rewritten, and that’s a topic worth an entire separate discussion. American school textbooks will never tell the young student reader, for example, that between the Civil War and World War 1 there were close to twenty thousand labor strikes in the U.S. Unions have come to mean obstructionist villains who get in the way of honest people trying to make a dollar. Or take Viet Nam. Do you think any U.S. textbook discusses the colonial history of Viet Nam? Do any mention the anti-colonial struggle of the Vietnamese people? Of course not. How many textbooks mention the School of the Americas? I would bet none. How many textbooks discuss the U.S. occupation of the Philippines? I’m guessing zero. Education in the U.S. has followed its British counterpart in predicating its goal as the turning out of compliant obedient workers. Questioning of the status quo — whether of corruption in sports, or politics, or the actual agendas of history, is tantamount to being crazy. Or worse, “unreasonable”. If a dinner party conversation turns to, say, U.S. foreign policy, and one were to suggest the U.S. helped foment the wars in the Balkans, one is going to be accused of “going too far” — or of being a genocide denier, or conspiracy nut. Proof, facts, don’t matter. The meta narrative is in place.

If one today were to mention the Olympic boxing scandal, one will be looked upon as “unreasonable”, and by extension, “unpatriotic”. Questioning is subversive. Conformity is everything. “I think you are over-reacting a bit”.

The U.S. government has spent a good deal of time and effort to suppress documents. In 1995 — as an example — the Department of Justice and the CIA performed over three million classification acts. This has climbed since. Clinton and Obama both have made a big show of de-classification, of transparency, and yet even more classification acts take place. Again, how many textbooks discuss the suppression of government documents? How many official documents are available on the Bay of Pigs, on the coup in Iran (that put The Shah in power), on Saddam’s CIA programs, on Nicaragua or Guatamala?

The point is, if one attempts to discuss say, U.S. foreign policy, the CIA history, or if one is only discussing the reasons for the latest domestic carnage, one is going to be met with a deeply entrenched insistence to “be reasonable”. The justification for this is an attempt to be “mature” (a whole other trope worth exploring) and “fair”. In reality, its a fear on the part of the individual demanding this — a fear driven by a recognition, no matter how deeply buried, that the rug not be pulled out from under my sense of self. Its the panic that the world I know is a lie. And that fear is deep. One is taught that a sign of ‘maturity’ is reflexive unquestioning acceptance of injustice.

The longing for order, for trust in the master narrative, is profound. Denial is the parallel psychological mechanism here. Climate change, poverty in the developing world, inequality, the spike in cancer … these are topics best kept in the dark. if they surface, best to resort to basic bromides of affirmation. The prison complex, that’s too depressing — at least for white america. Bring up The School of The Americas….

(These are a few graduates of the School of the Americas with their actions.)
*COL Augusto Moisés García Ochoa 1977, Jungle Operations Suspected drug-trafficking, 1997: Listed by the Mexican news magazine El Proceso as one of the 32 Mexican officers under investigation in drug trafficking.
Lt. Col. Julian Guerrero Barrios 1981, Commando Operations Charged with murder, 1997:On Dec. 26, 1997, La Jornada reported that Guerrero was charged with the murder of Salvador Lopez, one of a dozen young men in Jalisco that were kidnapped and tortured by the Airborne Special Forces Group.
*TCL Rene Herrera Huizar 1980, Operaciones de Patrulla Suspected drug-trafficking, 1997: Listed by the Mexican news magazine El Proceso as one of 32 Mexican military officers under investigation by the Mexican government for suspected ties to drug-trafficking.
*GEN Juan López Ortiz 1959, Infantry Arms
1959, Infantry Tactics Ocosingo Massacre, 1994: Troops under his command massacred five persons in the Ocosingo market; the prisoners’ hands were tied behind their backs before the soldiers shot them in the back of the head.
*GEN Luis Montiel López 1962, Counterinsurgency Intimidation of human rights activists, 1992: Forces under Gen. Montiel’s falsely accused human rights activists in Chihuahua of “aiding drug traffickers” in an attempt to intimidate them. (CAR)
*GEN Fernan Perez Casanova 1962, CIO Contrainsurrección Suspected drug-trafficking, 1997: Listed by the Mexican news magazine El Proceso as one of 32 officers under investigation by the Mexican government for suspected ties to drug-trafficking.

Bring up this topic….pretty unreasonable.

“On September 20, 1996 the Pentagon was forced to release training manuals that were used at the US Army School of the Americas and distributed to thousands of military officers from 11 South and Central American countries, including Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Panama, where the U.S. military was heavily involved in counterinsurgency. These manuals advocated targeting civilians, extrajudicial executions, torture, false imprisonment, and extortion.[17][18][19]

In “Teaching Human Rights Violations,” a Washington Post Editorial commented on it’s report, “US instructed Latins on Executions, Torture:” The U.S. Army advocacy of terror methods reaches far beyond the question of whether or not the U.S. Army School of the Americas ought to be shut down {“Army Instructed Latins on Executions, Torture,” front page, Sept. 21}. It has to do with U.S. complicity in human rights crimes.”[20]

In “School of the Dictators”, the Editors of the New York Times commented: “Americans can now read for themselves some of the noxious lessons the United States Army taught to thousands of Latin American military and police officers at the School of the Americas during the 1980’s. A training manual recently released by the Pentagon recommended interrogation techniques like torture, execution, blackmail and arresting the relatives of those being questioned. Such practices, which some of the school’s graduates enthusiastically applied once they returned home, violate basic human rights and the Army’s own rules of procedure. They also defy the professed goals of American foreign policy and foreign military training programs.”

U.S. policy to countries such as Haiti are routinely ignored. When Aristide was “escorted” out of country in 1995, the U.S. made sure documents pertaining to U.S. funded death squads were confiscated. If the topic comes up at all, the usual blanket position is to make heroic the military figures that took part in the torture and and this mechanism extends directly to media outlets and Hollywood film. From the genocide of Native Americans, to colonial wars in the Philippines, Mexico, and Africa, the master narrative starts with a mythology of militarism. How many public monuments are devoted to radical labor leaders or civil libertarians? How many to generals and warriors?

The liberal class does not want its modest comforts disturbed. The intractable insistence is on following the script. Consensus. Don’t make waves. Don’t be impolite or unreasonable. The sheer madness of modern American life — the traffic jams and poor air quality, of a new generation that seemingly, in its entirety, suffers ADD and the wholesale medicating of this generation, is rarely really thought about. After all, one has to get to that soccer game for Junior, one has to figure out the car payments and the insurance premiums and the mortgage. The anxiety of all this is explained to one’s self in terms of responsibility. There is no bigger club with which to hit people then the meme of “responsibility”.

And the system provides its distractions, from Chik-Fil-A to Romney’s social ineptness to, well, the Olympics. Protests are ok if its against some crummy backwater fast food franchise — (and note how the workers at this dump probably aren’t thought about at all) — but to protest the toxins in your food, well, thats going a bit too far. Now you will be labeled a Birkenstock wearing tree hugging vegan nut case. Har har har.

In the end, to examine the state, to really reflect on one’s own exploitation, and the inherent dishonesty of the news that corporate media spews out — thats also going a bit too far.


  1. My first experience complaining to the nytimes i remmber. An article just in passing mention when Duarte was “elected pesident of el salvador.” So i called and said on the frint page of your paper for weeks you covered hiw jesse helmes in loyalty to the fascist aubuisspn blew open on the senate floor how the cia went in and fixed that elction. I will never forget the tone of that “oh come on.” enough with the truth thing already!that was rhe times. ..Mainstream a little bit of this around nader but never from left then. ..It from aclu to rcp none if this. But now its all over dissident indy pubs.

  2. Oh and great post. Frustrating still pn phone. Next week they say.

  3. “How many textbooks mention the School of the Americas? I would bet none. How many textbooks discuss the U.S. occupation of the Philippines? I’m guessing zero”

    You, you don’t want to actually check that?

  4. Why didnt you check and leave a helpful comment with the info?

  5. john steppling says:

    hahaha, let me put it this way. Im wondering in what way they cover it, if they do. I mean I can imagine a mention of the US being in the philippines…..sure….but I wonder how that might be covered. How thats described. I can guess of course. But please michael, feel free to bring in particulars.

  6. Taking a quick break from a meeting deadline so excuse the rushed my comments. Two instances come to mind of when I was “questioned” about being unpatriotic.

    1) Last Saturday night when the American women relay swimmers won the gold medal and they sang along to the American national anthem with tears in their eyes. I muted the tv and walked out of the room. The blatant display of sentimentality was too much for me. To see these beautiful, athletic, blonde, white, privileged, happy, young girls get so serious and proud as the Star Spangled Banner played for them was quite disturbing. They stopped becoming who they are for, and like if brainwashed, place their hand over their heart, fight back tears, and honor their country. Their medals are for their country, after all.

    (To be fair, I got this same feeling when the German national anthem played over the perfect specimens of Aryan men known as the German national team in the World Cup. )

    2) Last year at a Diamondbacks-Dodgers game in Arizona. After 9/11, baseball fields across the country have stopped playing Take Me Out to the Ball Game during 7th Inning Stretch and will now only play God Bless America (well, Wrigley will play the classic baseball tune afterwards). I refused to stand, place my hand, over my heart and sing. I can see faces staring at me, resentful. Even my friend was embarrassed and he stood up and sang as if to make up for my own refusal.

    Nationalism can be very dangerous. It’s lead to racism, wars and bloodshed.

  7. Katy Hilton says:

    SO much covered here, but a small comment on textbooks – once had a favorite high school history teacher give me my textbook at the end of the year. School system was switching to a new edition and I thought he was just making a kind gesture. But when I thanked him and started to leave his classroom, he stopped me and pointed to the shiny new books stacked up along the wall. He wanted me to look at what had been changed from one edition to the other (which was quite a bit). I’ve never forgotten his anger or this small lesson on American ‘history.’

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