July 27, 2004


US: Patriotic pride and fear (Ritt Goldstein, 7/08/04, Asia Times)

While some critics of US President George W Bush have charged that his administration is pursuing policies of madness, such a charge is clinically incorrect, but it may convey an extraordinarily disturbing reality. Both an eminent psychologist and a noted political scientist perceive a particularly virulent social pathogen as the basis for much of the present global strife, with Washington at the center of the epidemic.

"It certainly seems that the world is going mad," Canadian psychologist Dr Daniel Burston told Asia Times Online, quickly noting that an increasing retreat into "social phantasy systems" would be more accurate. Burston - whose work has been acclaimed in the mainstream media - noted that famed social psychologist Erich Fromm had written on "socially patterned defects" that enabled large groups of people to adjust themselves comfortably to a system that, humanly speaking, is "fundamentally at odds with our basic existential and human needs". Burston observed that this resulted in "deficiencies, or traits, or attitudes which don't generate internal conflict when, in fact, they should".

He saw the Abu Ghraib prison torture scandal as raising a number of questions, noting that "there seems very little doubt that it was sanctioned from above". Burston labeled the guards' behavior as "sadistic".

Fromm, in his 1941 classic Escape from Freedom , wrote: "A person can be entirely dominated by his sadistic strivings and consciously believe that he is motivated only by his sense of duty." And on June 23, the Associated Press (AP) reported that an August 2002 US Justice Department memo "argues that torture - and even the deliberate killing - of prisoners in the terror war could be justified", with torture being redefined as "only actions that cause severe pain akin to organ failure".

AP also reported that the Justice Department had now "backed away" from the memo.

Burston named Nazi exterminator Adolf Eichmann as representing the "prototypical example" of what the phenomenon of "socially patterned defects" can engender.

Gotta admit, we do think of Canada as Lebensraum.

Posted by Orrin Judd at July 27, 2004 11:11 AM

Too many mosquitos.

Posted by: Robert Duquette at July 27, 2004 12:10 PM

Don't we think of Canada as the wacky sidekick?

Posted by: David Cohen at July 27, 2004 12:10 PM

Ah, but as usual we lag behind you. Burton is a confused mumbler compared to Yale's Dr. Michael Parenti, political scientist, as reported by this same journalist (also American) yesterday in Asia Times:

"In discussing questions of contemporary fascism with Asia Times Online, Dr Parenti said, "When fascism came to power [in the 1930s], what it did was cut back on the public sector, privatize a lot of state-owned industries, abolish inheritance taxes and other taxes on the rich, abolish corporate taxes, cut wages, destroy labor unions, and destroy or undermine opposition parties." He described fascism as simply a tool employed by ruthless power-elites in achieving their ambitions. He added: "There's a concern that we're [the US] heading towards fascism, or that we're replicating fascism today."

Parenti saw citizenry being mobilized by "waving the flag in their face, and wrapping the flag around the leader, and telling them that they're being threatened by one menace or another, from abroad or within." In a parallel, Bush critics have long charged his administration with precisely this. Parenti cited Nazi Field Marshal Hermann Goering's similar explanation of popular motivation, which emerged from the period of the Nuremberg Tribunal."

First they cut the inheritance taxes, and I said nothing.

Posted by: Peter B at July 27, 2004 12:12 PM

As far as I know, only the last two things on Parenti's list actually happened. Neither Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy did any "privatization," while both were big on public works.

But Parenti is a commie clown from way back. Around 1992 I read an article he wrote for the Daily Worker (or whatever the CPUSA paper was called at that point). He went to a Moscow book fair and sat behind a table of Marxist books. He got laughs, frowns, and verbal abuse, and he just could not understand why people in the home of Communism were reacting that way!

By the way, excellent comment, Peter, as was your other one about the dingbat at the party.

Posted by: PapayaSF at July 27, 2004 2:02 PM

I keep thinking about that line Peter quoted about telling the citizenry "that they're being threatened by one menace or another, from abroad or within."

Does Parenti think that we're not threatened by any menace whatsoever?

Posted by: Roy Jacobsen at July 27, 2004 4:08 PM

I am sick to death of hearing about Abu Ghraib. It was at best a trivial event, it was not “torture” or “atrocity”. It is time to get over it. Want some perspective? Read this:

drags the captured heroine Konstanze around on a leash and locks her in a cage. Osmin slits the throat and cuts off the nipples of a prostitute. There is rape and masturbation, drugs, suicide and the drinking of urine. The cumulative effect of it all was so numbing that by the time our hero Belmonte gunned down the all the prostitutes, scarcely a boo was heard.

What is it a description of? Abu Ghraib? Wrong! Can't Guess? It is an avant-guard staging of Mozart's "Abduction From the Seraglio" in Berlin. Oh yeah, and its a smash hit. Posted by: Robert Schwartz at July 27, 2004 9:03 PM

How bout them Slavic Mexicans?

Posted by: M. Simon at July 28, 2004 10:53 PM