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April 2012

Our Minds Are Molded

Dear Friend of Radio Liberty,

“The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country. We are governed, our minds are molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of. This is a logical result of the way in which our democratic society is organized. Vast numbers of human beings must cooperate in this manner if they are to live together as a smoothly functioning society.”
Edward Bernays, the “father” of the modern science of public relations. (1)

"Who are you?"
"Now, that's really not important."
"Who are you?"
"Who decides that the workday is from 9 to 5, instead of 11 to 4? Who decides that the hemlines will be below the knee this year and short again next year? Who draws up the borders, controls the currency, handles all of the decisions that happen transparently around us?"
"I don't know."
"Ah! I'm with them. Same group, different department. Think of me as a sort of middleman, and the name is Justin. Come in — sit, sit. The tea is getting cold."
A conversation between the freedom fighter John Sheridan, and a representative of The Shadows, a secretive, totalitarian entity, in the allegorical science fiction series Babylon 5. (2)

“The three aims of the tyrant are, one, the humiliation of his subjects; he knows that a mean-spirited man will not conspire against anybody; two, the creation of mistrust among them; for a tyrant is not to be overthrown until men begin to have confidence in one another -- and this is the reason why tyrants are at war with the good; they are under the idea that their power is endangered by them, not only because they will not be ruled despotically, but also because they are too loyal to one another and to other men, and do not inform against one another or against other men — three, the tyrant desires that all his subjects shall be incapable of action, for no one attempts what is impossible and they will not attempt to overthrow a tyranny if they are powerless.”
Aristotle, The Politics (3)

No tyrant is sufficiently formidable to control large masses of people through the exercise of his malignant will, and no police state is sufficiently powerful to surveil and terrorize everybody all at once. Accordingly, every despotic regime must engage in what left-wing linguist Noam Chomsky calls “manufacturing consent” (4) – a process in which people are beguiled into accepting a set of prefabricated narratives constructed by the “invisible government” to which Edward Bernays referred. To that end, tyrants employ legions of officials adept in the dark arts of molding minds, defining trends, and – most importantly – inducing the people being manipulated to take jealous ownership of the assumptions and prejudices that are being insinuated into their minds.

This process involves misdirection – getting people to focus obsessively on the wrong set of problems, and then framing the discussion in such a fashion that they are asking the wrong questions. That last step is the best way to guarantee that nobody will blunder into offering an actual solution: Obviously, if people can’t ask the right questions, the correct answers will never be found.

Writing through his cunning literary creation, Screwtape, one of Satan’s diabolical lieutenants, C.S. Lewis offered some characteristically timeless insights regarding the dark art of mass manipulation:

“We direct the fashionable outcry of each generation against those vices of which it is least in danger and fix its approval on the virtue nearest to that vice which we are trying to make endemic. The game is to have them running about with fire extinguishers whenever there is a flood, and all crowding to that side of the boat which is already nearly gunwale under.… Cruel ages are put on their guard against Sentimentality, feckless and idle ones against Respectability, lecherous ones against Puritanism; and whenever all men are really hastening to be slaves or tyrants we make Liberalism the prime bogey.” (5)

A variation on the method described by C.S. Lewis involves what might be called iatrogenic advocacy journalism. The term “iatrogenic” refers to a medical condition resulting from a physician’s treatment of a patient – as when a patient contracts a lethal disease during a hospital visit. Iatrogenic advocacy journalism would result in a severe outbreak of precisely the kind of social affliction the coverage is supposedly intended to cure. And it’s difficult to find a more suitable example of this than the media’s handling of the shooting of Trayvon Martin.

Why did the tragic, avoidable, and – as far as can be told at present – entirely unjustified shooting of a teenager in Florida become a matter of national importance? Martin’s family is understandably disconsolate by their loss, as well as frustrated and infuriated over what appears to be the culpable ineptitude or criminal corruption of local police and prosecutors. Rudimentary human decency would require that we sympathize with those who loved Trayvon Martin, and ask how it was that an unarmed teenager who had apparently done nothing wrong ended up dead – and to exhibit at least a measure of skepticism that justice has been served when the adult who admitted to shooting him was set free without facing criminal charges.

The unvarnished truth is that the killing of Trayvon Martin doesn’t directly implicate the rights and legitimate interests of anybody apart from the shooter and the victim’s family – unless the alchemists of politically convenient alarmism transmute it into support for public policies that would imperil the rights of everyone. This is precisely what is happening here.

Think of Aristotle’s summary of the three chief tactics used by all tyrants: First, the promotion of grievances as a source of group identity; second, the propagation of distrust among his subjects; third, the cultivation of a sense of helplessness. It isn’t difficult to see how that template is being followed in the media’s depiction of the Trayvon Martin affair.

I. Promotion of a grievance-based group identity.

“If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon,” observed President Obama when asked to comment on the incident. This remark banished ambiguity from the matter: Henceforth, it would be discussed as a matter of race relations, rather than a controversy over the proper application of the non-aggression principle – which is what it should be. As is so often the case, the right question went unasked: Rather than inviting Mr. Obama to inject himself into a case involving the shooting of a teenager in Florida, an authentic journalist would demand that he explain and justify his own actions in murdering a 16-year-old U.S. citizen named Abdulrahman al-Alwaki, who was killed by a drone-fired missile while eating dinner with a friend in Yemen.

That innocent young man, like Trayvon Martin, was a “person of color”; if Barack Obama had a son, it’s not inconceivable that he would have looked like Abdulrahman, rather than Trayvon. Yet this question has never been asked of Mr. Obama, who – unless something changes very soon – will never be held legally accountable for a clear and undeniable act of criminal homicide.

Yes, Trayvon Martin looked as if he could have been Barack Obama’s son – but the Regime over which Obama presides behaves a lot like George Zimmerman (a subject addressed in detail below). The central legal and ethical questions here have to do with legitimate self-defense: Which party was the aggressor? Which party escalated the confrontation? Which of the two posed a legitimate threat to the other? These are questions dealing with the actions of two individuals – and, owing to the ministrations of the official propagandists for the Invisible Government, they have been eclipsed by contrived issues rooted in collectivist Identity Politics.

How would the same conservative apologists for Zimmerman have reacted if the circumstances surrounding the shooting were identical, except for one detail – the dead teenager had been white? There are plenty of white teenagers who face suspensions under “Zero Tolerance” policies, just as Martin did. Anybody with even a cursory familiarity with social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter can testify that the casual vulgarity and “Gangsta”-style posturing in which Trayvon Martin indulged are quite commonplace among adolescents of all ethnic backgrounds.

If the unarmed, six-foot, 160-pound, 17-year-old high school football player killed by Zimmerman had been a sandy-haired white kid named Troy, rather than a black kid named Trayvon, would the shooter have received the same, largely unqualified, support Zimmerman has received from right-wing pundits and media outlets?

An unarmed teenager is shot by a 28-year-old man who claims he acted in self-defense – supposedly to avoid being killed when the young man repeatedly struck his head to a concrete sidewalk. Video taken within an hour of this life-threatening episode displayed no cuts, bruises, abrasions, swelling, or other evidence of an injury of any kind. Zimmerman acknowledged pursuing Martin, and Martin’s girlfriend – who was on the phone with him until shortly before the shooting – testifies that he had expressed concerns over the unidentified man who had followed him in a truck and then on foot. Two highly qualified forensic experts, working separately from each other and using different methods, have examined audio recordings from 911 calls and concluded that the frantic screams for help came from Martin, rather than Zimmerman.

Why do so many otherwise sensible conservatives assume that the uninjured shooter acted correctly, and the unarmed teenager who’d been minding his own business must have been at fault? “Race” politics does play a role here, but it’s a more subtle one than many critics of the Right would admit: It’s not so much an irrational hatred of people over ethnicity or skin color, but rather an equally irrational tendency to covet the prized status of victim, which – in our variant of collectivism – is the key to social and political advantage.

Wherever two or more are gathered, and one of them has a television camera, Jesse Jackson will somehow manage to be in their midst – and the “Reverend” Al Sharpton will be panting after him. Whenever and wherever a minor episode of ethnic friction sets off a spark, Jackson and Sharpton will soon appear, accelerants in hand, eager to nurture the flame. (6) But they are not alone in peddling the politics of grievance-based identity: Practically the entire GOP-aligned conservative movement is doing likewise, depicting the unarmed Martin as a seething mass of delinquency who simply must have been the real threat – and insisting that the real scandal here is the refusal of the “lamestream media” to do justice to “racially charged” crimes involving black perpetrators and white victims.

Left-leaning commentator Alex Pareene is an undisguised partisan, but he made a compelling point in his April 2 essay for Salon: Prior to March 23, most Republican-aligned media figures were either indifferent to the Trayvon Martin case, or somewhat sympathetic to the shooting victim. On that date, President Obama – reacting to a reporter’s question – made his oft-quoted remark about Martin looking as if he could have been his son. Suddenly, Pareene notes, “The story of an unarmed teenager shot dead while walking home and a police force that decided that didn’t constitute a crime became a partisan issue with numerous points of contention.” (7)

Why did the GOP-aligned Right erupt in outrage? The conventional answer is that Obama’s remarks made this episode into a “race” issue, presumably because he, like Martin, is black. However, on the day before Obama offered his brief and largely platitudinous comments, Florida Republican Congressman Allen West – another black man – offered a lengthy and detailed comment about the case in which he described the shooting, and its handling by the Sanford PD as “an outrage”:

“First of all, if all that has been reported is accurate, the Sanford Police Chief should be relieved of his duties due to what appears to be a mishandling of this shooting in its early stages. The US Navy SEALS identified Osama Bin Laden within hours, while this young man laid on a morgue slab for three days. The shooter, Mr. Zimmerman, should have been held in custody and certainly should not be walking free, still having a concealed weapons carry permit. From my reading, it seems this young man was pursued and there was no probable cause to engage him, certainly not pursue and shoot him….against the direction of the 911 responder. Let’s all be appalled at this instance not because of race, but because a young American man has lost his life, seemingly, for no reason. I have signed a letter supporting a DOJ investigation. I am not heading to Sanford to shout and scream, because we need the responsible entities and agencies to handle this situation from this point without media bias or undue political influences. This is an outrage.” (Emphasis added.) (8)

Rep. West’s view of this case is difficult to distinguish from that of Mr. Obama – in fact, West’s criticism of both Zimmerman and the police was, if anything, more pointed than that offered by the President. Why didn’t Fox News and the Republican-aligned media establishment excoriate West, as they did Obama? One likely answer is that West is seen as part of the Republican “tribe” – so his very sensible remarks on the episode were consigned to the Memory Hole in the aftermath of Obama’s statement, which transformed the issue into a partisan talking point.

Whatever else can be said about Rep. West’s record and ideology, he was absolutely correct to insist that outrage over the Trayvon Martin shooting should focus on the specific wrong done to an innocent individual. Yet collectivists on both sides of the contrived political divide insist that the “real” issue is defined in terms of larger, more abstract categories – and that the most important question is which collective group has the better claim to victim status.

II. Propagation of distrust.

Left-wing groups such as the so-called Southern Poverty Law Center compile lengthy and detailed lists of “hate groups,” which are shared with law enforcement agencies in the hope that such people will be kept under surveillance and, eventually, rounded up. The SPLC thrives on episodes like the Trayvon Martin shooting, which supposedly illustrates the resilience of racism in American life, and the purported need for the SPLC and other “anti-hate” vigilantes to tutor police departments in the fine art of tolerance.

Interestingly, the same tendency is manifest among “law and order” conservatives, who champion more aggressive surveillance and enforcement action in the “war on terror,” the “war on drugs,” and the “war on crime” in general. George Zimmerman, a self-commissioned "captain" in a Neighborhood Watch program with which he had no formal affiliation, was in some ways the embodiment of that tendency.

For reasons yet to be explained, the Sanford Police Department saw fit to treat Zimmerman more like a cop than a criminal suspect. Zimmerman was taken into custody, but released without charges – despite the fact that the detective who initially investigated the shooting wanted to see Zimmerman charged with negligent homicide. (9) It’s almost as if he had been granted the kind of "qualified immunity" provided to law enforcement officers when they kill or injure innocent people. This might have something to do with the fact that Zimmerman, the son of a retired magistrate judge, had previously attended a "Community Police Academy" sponsored by the Seminole County Sheriff’s Office. (10)

Zimmerman’s actions would be understandable – not justifiable, but understandable – if he had absorbed the contemporary police doctrine that anything other than immediate, unqualified submission constitutes a "threat" to "officer safety." The Sanford PD’s decision to accept his account at face value is more difficult to understand – and more difficult still to defend in light of the fact that this is not the only recent episode in which they have refused to charge someone who assaulted an unarmed man.

Zimmerman’s original story, as summarized by the Miami Herald, was that “he had stepped out of his truck to check the name of the street he was on when [Martin] attacked him from behind as he walked back to his truck.” Subsequent leaks from the police department reported that Zimmerman claims to have been knocked down and seriously injured in a fight with Martin, and that he shot the teenager “because he feared for his life.” An anonymous witness confirmed seeing the two of them struggling, and Zimmerman apparently getting the worst of it — and then seeing the prone figure of Martin following the shooting.

How did the fight begin? Zimmerman’s account, as made available through second-hand sources, is that Martin pursued him to his SUV and then lunged at him when Zimmerman reached for his cell phone. He insists that the unarmed and demonstrably frightened teenager he confronted – after being explicitly instructed not to – was the aggressor. Interestingly, he made a very similar claim seven years ago in response to a domestic violence petition filed by his ex-fiancee.

In her court filing, the woman claimed that Zimmerman had visited her home in Orlando to demand documents from her. When she ordered him to leave her property, Zimmerman allegedly insisted on staying, then he grabbed her cell phone and shoved her. He filed a petition of his own claiming that she had been the aggressor, claiming that she had struck him in the face. Both of them acknowledged that their relationship had been plagued with violence – and each of them was granted a restraining order against the other. (11)

In the same year he had those troubles with his ex-fiancee, Zimmerman – who clearly aspired to be a police officer – lost his “under the table job” as a security guard at what were described as “illegal house parties.” A former co-worker interviewed by the New York Daily News claimed that Zimmerman was terminated because he was prone to fits of “pure rage” that resulted in at least one unnecessary injury to a house guest. (12)

After moving to the “gated community” in Sanford, and appointing himself “watch commander” in the neighborhood, Zimmerman began to wear out the local 911 line, pestering the police with calls about “suspicious” people – generally black kids as young as 7-9 years of age. Shortly before the fatal encounter with Martin, Zimmerman was criticized by a neighbor at a Homeowner’s Association meeting for being too aggressive. (13)

Sociologist and public affairs analyst William Tucker, whose conservative credentials are impeccable, sees something very familiar in George Zimmerman’s career as an amateur “security” activist :

“I spent several years going out with a neighborhood crime watch in Brooklyn, a much tougher neighborhood than Sanford, Florida. One thing I can tell you is that every one of these patrols has at least one wannabe cop. This guy lives by the police radio, knows every officer by name, and is just itching to get out there and show he can collar a perp as well. Reining these people in is a principal task of the police advisors. `You never confront a criminal yourself. You never try to make an arrest. You never intervene in a situation. You are not a police officer. You are only there to observe. If you see something, call us and we'll handle it.’ That's the mantra.

Zimmerman had pestered the station for months with reports of `suspicious 12-year-olds’ walking through the neighborhood. He was an overenthusiastic pest at best. He was definitely headed out of bounds. That he would get out of his truck and shadow Martin after specific instructions of the 911 officer is bad enough in itself. That he was doing this while carrying a gun in his pocket says to me he was definitely courting trouble.” (14)

Whatever else can reliably be said about Mr. Zimmerman, this much seems indisputable: He is an exemplar of the “If You See Something, Say Something” school of government-centered public vigilance. He was convinced that he was immersed in a sea of unpunished wrong-doers, and eager to sic the forces of “law and order” on anybody who triggered his overdeveloped tendency toward suspicion. Once again, he is probably not a racial bigot – but, like those who reflexively defend his actions, Zimmerman apparently succumbed to the Regime’s relentless campaign to promote incurable mutual distrust among Americans.

III. Cultivating helplessness.

According to Marxist social agitator Van Jones, a former Obama appointee-turned-pundit, “as an African-American parent, I have two boys. I think I'm going to have to go broke dressing them in tuxedos every day so they can walk down the streets to buy a Snickers bar or Skittles. I don't — the standard just seems to keep up and up. As a black parent, I don't know how to protect my sons.” (15)

From that perspective, “Americans of color” are utterly helpless in the face of ubiquitous racism and widespread private ownership of firearms. This is in keeping with the central theme being promoted by the Custodians of Acceptable Opinion in response to the shooting – the supposed need to rein in private firearms ownership, and to repeal laws, such as Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” statute, that protect the natural right to armed self-defense.

Enacted in 2005, Florida’s "Justifiable Use of Force" statute (Title XLVI, Chapter 776) recognizes that an individual has the natural right to use deadly force when confronting the threat of "death or great bodily harm" from an intruder or an aggressor. This does not apply when "The person against whom the defensive force is used has the right to be in … [a] dwelling, residence, or vehicle," or if the individual who employed the defensive force "is engaged in an unlawful activity…."

The Sanford Police Department, acting on the orders of an assistant state prosecutor, released Zimmerman, claiming that this was made necessary by the “Stand Your Ground” law. This doesn’t make sense: As noted above, the detective who initiated the investigation thought Zimmerman’s story didn’t add up, and subsequent disclosures have validated that view. Under the terms of the Florida state statutes, Zimmerman most likely committed an act of criminal homicide (most likely of the negligent variety), not justified self-defense. Yet the civilian disarmament lobby – most likely working in collaboration with police unions – moved quickly to implicate the "Stand Your Ground" law in the killing.

Police unions, the civilian disarmament lobby, and the state-centric media all subscribe to the idea that the government should have a monopoly on the use of force. This is why they oppose "stand your ground" and "castle doctrine" laws recognizing the individual right to armed self-defense – and why the Trayvon Martin shooting was welcomed eagerly by Sen. Charles Schumer, Vice President Biden, and other proponents of civilian disarmament. This is one reason – probably the most compelling one – that the mind-molders employed by the “Secret Government” are doing their formidable best to ensure that the right questions are never asked about the episode, so the correct answers will never be found.



REFERENCES

(1) Edward Bernays, Propaganda (1928, 2004 ed. Ig Books), pg. 37.
(2) “Z’ha’dum,” Babylon 5, episode 3/22, screenplay by J. Michael Straczynski
(3) Aristotle, The Politics, Book V, chapter 11; accessible on-line at http://www.constitution.org/ari/polit_05.htm
(4) See generally Noam Chomsky, Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media (New York: Pantheon, 2002).
(5) C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters, chapter XXV; accessible on-line at http://members.fortunecity.com/phantom1/books2/c._s._lewis_-_the_screwtape_letters.htm
(6) “Al Sharpton: Civil Disobedience will Escalate if Zimmerman Remains Free,” Orlando Sun-Sentinel, March 31, 2012.
(7) “Why Rush Limbaugh and the Right turned on Trayvon Martin,” Alex Pareene, Salon, April 2, 2012.
(8) Posted on Rep. Allen West’s Facebook page -- http://www.facebook.com/notes/congressman-allen-west/i-have-sat-back-and-allowed-myself-time-to-assess-the-current-episode-revealing-/320362644683436
(9) “Trayvon Martin Investigator Wanted Manslaughter Charge,” ABC News, March 27, 2012.
(10) “Who is Fla. neighborhood crime watch volunteer George Zimmerman?” McClatchy News Service, March 20, 2012.
(11) “Trayvon Martin: New details in George Zimmerman domestic-violence petitions,” Orlando Sun-Sentinel, March 21, 2012.
(12) See http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/george-zimmerman-lost-job-party-security-guard-aggressive-ex-co-worker-article-1.1053223#ixzz1qZQsPhKR
(13) A 47-page log of Zimmerman’s 911 calls can be found at -- http://www.documentcloud.org/documents/327330-george-zimmerrman-911-call-history.html
(14) “Count Me Out on Trayvon Martin” by William Tucker, American Spectator, March 29, 2012.
(15) A video excerpt containing Van Jones’s remarks (as well as a partial transcript) is accessible at -- http://crooksandliars.com/karoli/van-jones-black-parent-i-dont-know-how-prot

Written by William Grigg



The death of Trayvon Martin was a tragedy, and should not have taken place. Who was responsible? I believe both participants acted inappropriately, and should share the responsibility for what happened. On the other hand, the “controlled media” has focused our attention on the incident in an effort to distract us from the disastrous events that are taking place in the United States, and throughout the world today.

The U.S. economy is on the verge of collapse, and there will be hyperinflation in the U.S. within two years.

I suggest you prepare for the difficult times that lie ahead and warn others.

Barbara and I appreciate your loyal support and your faithful prayers.

Yours in Christ,

Stanley Monteith


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