January 4, 2014
It is the responsibility of intellectuals to speak the Truth and expose lies. — Noam Chomsky.
My book, The Wizards of Ozymandias, was dedicated “To the memory and spirit of Sophie and Hans Scholl and the White Rose, who reminded us what it means to be civilized.” These wonderful young people — most in their teens or twenties — lived in Germany during the Hitler regime, and spent much of their time writing and distributing leaflets exposing and criticizing the policies and practices of the Nazi state. They were found out; brought to trial; found guilty of treason, the demoralization of the troops, and abetting the enemy, and summarily beheaded. Sophie’s Gestapo interrogator raises the same arguments one hears directed against such modern speakers of truth as Chelsea Manning, Ed Snowden, Julian Assange, Glenn Greenwald, and others. Those whose moral and intellectual standards can rise no higher than to whine “the law is the law,” would do well to consider the exchange between Sophie and her prosecutor. The Nazi functionary declares: “Without law, there is no order. What can we rely on if not the law?” Sophie responds: “Your conscience. Laws change. Conscience doesn’t.”
Our Western culture is in a state of total collapse. Our institutionalized world is increasingly hostile to any utterances of truth that would be upsetting to the status quo. The mainstream media and most of academia long ago gave themselves over to propagandizing on behalf of defending and/or enhancing the coercive power structure of the state. When war policies are under discussion, retired Army generals or officials from “think-tanks” funded by the national defense industry, are trotted out to “debate” such non-issues as how many troops to send in, who to attack, etc., etc., all to maintain the pretense of having a “fully-informed” public. But when was the last time you saw a Robert Higgs, Noam Chomsky, Lew Rockwell, Amy Goodman, Justin Raimondo, Angela Keaton, Karen Kwiatkowski, Chris Hedges, or other critic of the war system allowed to raise the kinds of questions that are not supposed to be asked in this best of all possible worlds? Do you recall the insult to human intelligence perpetrated by the GOP (Grand Old Pettifoggers) in its efforts to prevent Ron Paul from expressing his contrary views?
Noam Chomsky’s above quote doesn’t go far enough: it is the responsibility of all thinking people — not just so-called “intellectuals” — to speak the truth and to expose lies! To this end, increasing numbers of people understand that the sources to whom they have been conditioned to look for truth, analysis, and understanding, have largely failed in their roles. To put the proposition more frankly: more and more people have grasped the fact that the free flow of information is disruptive of the interests of the institutional order, whose established position depends upon suppressing or destroying all evidence of the lies, conflicts, contradictions, and destructive nature upon which its primacy depends. This is why so much of the media and academia are peopled with those unable or unwilling to shed light on the dysfunctional nature of the well-ordered madness of the world; men and women who remain content to tread water at the shallow end of the human gene pool!
The political establishment has implicitly embraced the mindset of Hitler’s Propaganda Minister, Dr. Joseph Goebbels:
The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension the truth becomes the greatest enemy of the State.
This is why the state is so threatened by such modern technologies as the Internet, as well as by the “whistleblowers” who insist on exposing the state’s embarrassing truths to the general public. It is also why the classic The Emperor’s New Clothes needs to be read to every child — as well, perhaps, to adults.
Cable news channels continue providing platforms for those who remind us that the whistleblowers “broke the law,” and need to be punished. They recite their bromides with the kind of self-assurance that comes from the delusion that they are actually saying something profound. I find it particularly amusing to hear such babbling coming from lawyers who ought to know that all laws are meant to be broken. Imagine what would happen if every legal dictate were to be obeyed by everyone: no speeding or reckless driving; no illegal drug use; no murders, rapes, or robberies; no discriminatory hiring practices; no zoning violations; etc. What would be the likely consequences? Men and women might then begin to ask the kinds of questions the state could not afford to have asked: why do we need the police, or courts, or prisons? In the world of realpolitik, those who are driven not by a need for social order, but by the ambition for coercive power over their neighbors, would have to dream up new “wrongs” to be policed. The mania that underlies political programs based on “climate change” is just one example of how those who want power over others must invent more and more “conflicts” with which to rationalize their coercive ambitions. It is this sense that Edmund Burke had in mind when he characterized lawyers as “the fomenters and conductors of the petty wars of village vexation.” The habit is not confined to lawyers!
This also explains Randolph Bourne’s observation that “war is the health of the state.” The war system — whose schemes and chicanery the whistleblowers have been exposing — depends upon the kinds of endless conflicts with the rest of the world that will cause Boobus Americanus to part with his liberty, wealth, and life.
Sophie and Hans Scholl and their White Rose friends had minds capable of distinguishing what was legal and what was right, a skill that depends upon separating what is popular from what is true. Sophie’s insights were reflected, years later, in Hannah Arendt’s observation: “The aim of totalitarian education has never been to instill convictions, but to destroy the capacity to form any.”
Butler Shaffer teaches at the Southwestern University School of Law. He is the author of the newly-released In Restraint of Trade: The Business Campaign Against Competition, 1918–1938, Calculated Chaos: Institutional Threats to Peace and Human Survival, and Boundaries of Order. His latest book is The Wizards of Ozymandias.