THE SHINING CITY ON A HILL - PART 2
THE SHINING CITY ON A HILL - PART 2
The Lexicon Of Totalitarianism
In Part 1 of this alert ( ), we analysed Justin Webb's recent BBC Radio 4 series on "anti-Americanism", 'Death to
It is worth considering Webb's premise that "anti-Americanism" is a meaningful concept that merits 'balanced' analysis.
In fact the term must be adjudged essentially meaningless, or at least hopelessly misapplied. Few serious critics of
But the deeper point about "anti-Americanism" has been expressed well by Noam Chomsky:
"The notion 'anti-Americanism' is a revealing one. It is drawn from the lexicon of totalitarianism. Thus people who think that the US is the greatest country in the world are 'anti-American' if they criticize the acts of the Holy State, or join the vast majority of the population in believing that the corporate sector has far too much influence over government policy, or regard private corporate institutions created by state power and granted extraordinary rights as 'a return to feudalism' (to quote old-fashioned conservatives, a category that now scarcely exists). And so on." (Interview with Noam Chomsky, Media Bite, May 5, 2007; )
In totalitarian societies, such terms are reflexively used to condemn dissidents as 'anti-Soviet' or 'anti-Russian.' Chomsky comments:
"If people who criticize Irish government policies were condemned as 'anti-Irish,' I suppose people would collapse in ridicule in the streets of
Putting the absurdity of his premise to one side, Webb's willingness to smooth over the brutal realities of
"Even in conditions where there have been wrongs committed in the past (obviously Latin
"I am talking about the limited but important fact that
The Latin American 'Failure'
Consider Webb's two central claims concerning the "failure of Latin economies" and the merits of "a [
It would be wrong to deny that there are local, intrinsic problems in
The so-called 'Washington consensus' - a range of policies demanded by US corporate-dominated institutions, especially the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the World Trade Organisation - has wrought havoc on countries around the world. Structural Adjustment Programmes and 'free trade' treaties have forced many developing countries to orient their economies to the benefit of transnational corporations (TNCs) and investors.
For instance, a rapid increase in poverty across
Under pressure from imposed 'austerity measures', and the forced opening up of Third World economies, governments have slashed education, public health programmes, social welfare safety nets and environmental measures.
So why have
Latin America has become "one of the central areas for
All of this is consistent with the testimony of John Perkins, who worked as an "economic hitman" for US corporate power. ('Ridiculing Chavez - the Media Hit Their Stride,' Part 2, May 18, 2006; )
Perkins was first hired by American big business in 1971 to forecast economic growth in Third World countries, including
A fundamental aim of
This is but a tiny sample from the stark reality underlying Webb's platitudinous comments on "the failure of Latin economies". The "failure" was expressly designed in
Democracy And The Rule Of Law
Next, consider Webb's point that the
Webb's claim is simply unsustainable, transparently so in light of the vast crime that is the
Historical examples abound of the
The pattern continues to the present era, and is not restricted to Bush I and II. As Madeleine Albright,
"We will act multilaterally when we can, and unilaterally when we must." (Robert Jensen, Writing Dissent, Peter Lang Publishing, 2001, p.56)
The rhetoric of 'freedom' and 'democracy' is of course forever deployed, with much bandying around of phrases such as "new world order". Thus, one US official said in September 1991:
"If you're going to build any kind of credibility for a new world order, you've got to make people accountable to legal procedures, and Saddam's flaunted every one."
Around the same time, the
by the International Court of Justice, as recompense for
Bear in mind, too, that the
"The boycott yielded the usual 'double veto': the decisions are blocked, and the events are barely reported and erased from history. The conference reaffirmed the applicability of the Fourth Geneva Convention to the occupied territories, so that many US-Israeli actions there are war crimes under
Webb, who claims the strict
And what are we to make of Webb's grandiose assertion in closing his BBC radio series, that the
The claim was characteristic of the series as a whole: big claims of benevolent intent based on wishful thinking, with a blind eye turned to a mountain of factual counter-evidence.
The most obvious point to make in response is that the
In their February 2005 analysis of the sources of
Public opinion, by contrast, had "little or no significant effect on government officials". (Ibid)
Turning abroad, Thomas Carothers, director of the Democracy and Rule of Law Project at the Carnegie Endowment, has found a "strong line of continuity" running through US government policy in Latin America in the post-Cold War era; namely:
"Where democracy appears to fit in well with US security and economic interests, the United States promotes democracy. Where democracy clashes with other significant interests, it is downplayed or even ignored." (Quoted, Chomsky, Failed States, Hamish Hamilton, 2006, p.149)
Another establishment figure - Robert Pastor, director of Latin American and Caribbean Affairs on the National Security Council through the Carter years - said of the
"It wanted Nicaraguans to act independently, +except+ when doing so would affect
In reality, a limited form of 'democracy' at home or abroad is just about acceptable to US elites; as long as it does not lead to a 'virus' of independence and self-development that might infect other nations, and thus interfere with US strategic interests and private profit.
Anti-American = Anti-Human
In light of all that we have discussed in this alert, it is perhaps worth quoting at length from Webb's emotive conclusion, spoken from the heart of Washington DC:
"A journey that began in France and took us to Venezuela and Egypt, ends here in a city many Americans refer to without blushing as the 'capital of the free world'. I'm standing underneath the Washington Monument, the pointy one across from the White House, where huge Stars and Stripes flags [are] blowing in the breeze - you can probably hear them flapping - there are tourists from America, and from around the world, queuing to get to the top and get a bird's-eye view of the city.
"Is this the capital of a nation that deserves to be despised? Is this the heart of an evil empire seeking global domination? There are those who've told us - eloquently, passionately - that that is precisely what it is.
"But it seems to me the empire complaint only has real justification if the world is given no say in the project, no choice about whether or not to be on board. Those questions are debatable. And here I am anyway, talking about having a say, proposing the idea of limits on power. Well, where do those ideas come from, if not this place? Even if you don't buy the argument that modern democracy was really born here, you have to accept that this nation has done more than any other on the face of the Earth to democratise life on this planet; to sell the idea to itself and to foreigners.
"You can argue, I suppose, as some have done in these programmes, that individual freedom is anyway a mirage; that Americans are actually enslaved by commercial interests or by the media. Well, I live here and I don't think they are. None of us is truly free, of course. But Americans have real access to information about the world and a real freedom to know and speak their minds - men and women."
With music from Aaron Copeland's 'Fanfare for the Common Man' beginning to swell in the background, Webb revealed the open mind with which he had approached his task:
"I've always felt that to be truly anti-American, to hate the essence of
When challenged about the deep bias in Webb's series, Helen Boaden, head of BBC news, answered blithely:
"The purpose of the article and the series is make people consider their own views; Justin is trying to examine anti-Americanism - as opposed to anti-Bushism - and in doing so he doesn't promote his own point of view but looks at all shades of opinion. For example, in
The idea that the series was "internally balanced" is chucklesome indeed. True, Webb did interview both pro- and anti-Chavez supporters in
On the basis of the evidence we have presented here, and in numerous other media alerts, we can justifiably conclude that Justin Webb, Helen Boaden and other senior media professionals at the BBC are doctrinal managers whose task - unwittingly or not - is to protect the powerful from scrutiny; and to deflect analysis from the interests and goals of power that therefore remain hidden.
The goal of Media Lens is to promote rationality, compassion and respect for others. If you decide to write to journalists, we strongly urge you to maintain a polite, non-aggressive and non-abusive tone.
Write to Justin Webb, senior BBC Washington correspondent
Write to Mark Damazer, controller of BBC Radio 4
Write to Helen Boaden, head of BBC news
Please send a copy of your emails to us