Propagating Myths for Empire
Every empire needs a holy day to rest before the next crusade begins. This poses a problem when society has become secular. But secularism is too often overestimated in modern society, credulity underestimated. The triumph of scientific rationalism is but a dim light when skepticism is disarmed and society’s credulity is the vulnerability the empire exploits. What happens when the great triumphs of modern science rather than dispelling myths were used to fashion them?
Media conglomerates and the advertising industry have come to construct reality in such a way that an illusory spectacle has replaced the real with the fantastic. Beauty, fame, power and miracle-promising gimmicks dominate American mass society. Behind the glib world of image, phantoms are conjured to set the scene for a dramatic narrative. For reality to be wholly transmuted into mythology reminiscent of the epics certain conditions must surface, “a fresh context at once mythical and believable” must emerge to make even the few remaining skeptics tremble in the face of a new reality, terror.
9/11 was the consecration of the holy day the American Empire awaited. The moment was “forever printed on the national consciousness”, a primal event played over and over again until the images of America’s symbol of economic hegemony burning to the ground was permanently ingrained in the mind of the bewildered herd. But why were those images played repeatedly to the detriment of investigative reporting? How is it that America’s free press responded unanimously to 9/11 not raising an eyebrow at official explanations of the event nor questioning the governement’s handling of the aftermath? In a country that purportedly celebrates a diversity of opinions in the press, why did the media opine in unison diffusing a single account of what transpired to the public? America was threatened by people who hate freedom. Was it really that simple? Well, that depends on the authors of the myth.
In Adam Smith’s model of the free market goods circulate throughout the economy competitively and the best ones prevail over the inferior. America’s market place of ideas works differently. Media conglomerates are the sole producers and buyers must adapt to what is on the shelf good or bad. Those in positions of authority- the politico corporate elite- understand this quite well. They become the elite, because they understand that certain ideas must be engineered and propagated and that one of those ideas must represent some kind of grave threat. That’s why 9/11 was made a holy day, to mourn the loss of people who love freedom before embarking on a crusade against those who hate it. Radical oversimplifications like this are a favored tool of the political elite. Dichotomies pave way for dramatic clashes between those holding the beacon of civilization and the barbarous enemies of darkness trying to tear down the ramparts. Immediately after 9/11 America declared war to “rid the world of evil”.
Sheldon Wolin succinctly breaks down the post 9/11 sequence in his book Democracy Incorporated: 1. Immediate declaration of war “against an enemy whose nature, number and location were unknown” 2. Internal suspicion toward enemy aliens (Recall National Security Entry Exit Registration and the thousands of deportations of Arabs by the INS for the most minor infractions) 3. Periodic state of alert were aired as seen in the color-coded threat system 4. The constitution becomes “sufficiently flexible to be suspended by the chief executive” 5. Government power expanded and made more intrusive, while social welfare programs were scaled back 6. Amidst faltering economy and surging national debt new “class actions” we’re taken, the Bush Tax Cuts, favoring the wealthy over the poor 7. The less wealthy and the poor remain politically apathetic because they have no way of participating in directing policy domestic and foreign 8. New enemy states are defined. But they are not hostile. They are evil. 9. Preemptive war made official doctrine of foreign policy and now America is ready to defend the world against the enemies greatest ally chaos, for an indefinite period of time. Obama’s secret expansion of the war on terror as seen in increased drone attacks, “disposition matrix”-Obama’s clandestine blueprint for targeting terrorists that is now overseen by the National Counterterrorism Center- and the use of post-9/11 legislation to target domestic terrorists, who more often than not are political dissidents is a testament to America’s unending war against a parade of enemies, real and imaginary.
This sequence shows us the power of myth. Even when all of the “elements of a free society are in place-free elections, free media, functioning congress and a Bill of Rights” freedom can tarnish while tyranny abounds. The elements of free democratic society can be ignored when the president unifies all the power of the executive branch and assumes the position of coequal to the judicial and legislative branches as Obama like his predecessor have done. As reality transmutes to myth the president becomes emperor asserting his role as interpreter, creator and executor of the law all at once. After 9/11 America set out on its new crusade engaging terrorism across the world to provide the images needed to makes its mythical battles against a barbarous enemy real. This is how America went about justifying its own war of terror against really poor people in impoverished resource rich countries, a war that continues today as Obama’s reminds America that this is the first Veterans Day that American troops aren’t being killed in Iraq. They are killing in the name of empire elsewhere even if their operations are carried out behind some computer screen at Hancock Airfield’s Reaper station.