“The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed [and hence to clamour to be led to safety] by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins” Michael Rivero
FEAR: as a weapon of warfare
Fear is a deep and powerful human emotion, which once having taken hold is difficult to shake off. This is true whether it is an irrational fear of spiders or fear instilled by politicians pursuing their own ends. Fear is a tool almost custom-built for propagandists, awakening as it does the survival instinct within us. In using fear as a weapon, the purpose is to play with our deep-seated anxieties. It may be the fear of crime, economic worries, fear of disease, fear of foreigners or most often non-existent threats. None of these is necessarily grounded in reality. Nothing has yet happened and this is the trick: it just might happen. Should something dreadful happen, then the fires are stoked for next time and the fear perpetuated even although nothing has actually happened to us. We just think it might. A good mixture of fear, misinformation, added to doubt and uncertainty, then there is a potent concoction. Also, where there is the slightest suspicion of information being withheld there remains sufficient uncertainty not to be able to rule out a possible genuine cause to fear. So it goes on.
It was never shown that Saddam Hussein had any weapons of mass destruction, but the idea that he could have some was used by the British Government to justify war. At the time, the government of the day under Blair brought out its ‘dodgy dossier’ full of unsubstantiated assertions sold to the public as truth in order to justify a criminal invasion of Iraq It was an invasion without UN agreement and in clear contravention of international law. No way would Iraq’s rockets have been able to reach Cyprus in the time suggested in the House of Commons. The US and the UK were going to invade and topple Saddam come what may. All that was needed to do this was the co-operation of the media in order to fool the public and the deed was as good as done.
As NATO’s armies right now congregate at Russia’s borders in Eastern Europe and the American navy menaces in the Black Sea, it all needs to be justified to the world. They need to be shown to be the ‘good guys’. The problem for these people now is that they have cried ‘wolf’ so often in the past that only the politically illiterate or the profoundly gullible will give any credence to either the establishment media or to politicians. Facebook, Twitter and the social media in general give us all direct access to what is happening on the ground in places like Syria or the Ukraine. It is all ‘false news’ we are told. Yet press officers and spokespersons lie through their teeth, genuine false news. So, who is really peddling misinformation instead of real news? Now it is the establishment that is trembling in its boots and not we. Calamity, calamity, the people are actually getting to know what is going on from reliable sources! They have direct access to people on the ground; censor them, ban them, the cry goes up. Too late, the governments have already lost control.
NATO is in truth a redundant institution and so its existence and necessity needs to be demonstrated. ‘Russia is a major challenge’ ― what nonsense. NATO has long outlived its usefulness, if it ever had any. There must be a bogeyman, and enemy for them to fight, and Vladimir Putin will do nicely. NATO can only survive if Russia is a real threat. Russia is not a threat, so NATO’s days, unless they start a conflict, are hopefully numbered. The appalling warmongering rhetoric coming from Britain’s defence minister, Michael Fallon and NATO’s general secretary, Jens Stoltenberg, is as nauseating as it is dangerous.
Social networking is a threat and we are told that to ‘protect’ the public, there may have to be censorship or even a shutdown. In 2011, the then Home Secretary, Theresa May, examined the possibility in the face of ‘credible threats’. Cameron went on to tell parliament that they would look to ban people from Facebook and Twitter if there was a suspicion of incitement to violence. We have moved on since then with the argument surrounding ‘fake news’ on the internet. Clinton supporters claim that it was intentionally misleading information on these sites that contributed to electors choosing Trump. No, it is recognised by users of the internet that they are able to access more reliable sources of news than by turning to establishment media and TV channels; notwithstanding any real fakes that are usually easily recognised. Hypocrisy of course, the establishment media is full fake news, deliberately so.
This reaction of the elites is predictable and not without precedent. Rockets and missiles landing in Iraq early on in the conflict deliberately targeted power supplies, telephone exchanges, TV and radio stations. The effect was to spread confusion among the population, sitting in the dark, all lines of communication cut, the result was disorientation, no one knew what was going on. In a non-combatant situation, governments will try gradually to regain control a little at a time, that is unless there is some ‘national emergency’ or war when they may well find some pretext to limit or shut down everything at once. Complete shutdown is difficult, but censorship is not and there are examples enough already around the world of this right now.
Close to home, Germany’s interior minister, Thomas de Maiziere, just dropped by the German Facebook headquarters for a chat, calling for a more proactive approach to crack down on racist and violent posts. Find an apparent point of agreement, but then how far will they go after this? Afterwards he said: “Facebook has an immensely important economic position and just like every other large enterprise it has an immensely important social responsibility.” What is this but the usual pious guff? What constitutes hate speech and anti-immigration comment?
Theresa May [oh dear, not again], when still Home Secretary, once more announced the return of the Snooper’s Charter or Investigatory Powers Bill. Well, if we cannot stop you, we can at least find out about everything you get up to on line. Not that we should worry too much, it is only putting on a legal footing what Edward Snowden has revealed is going on already illegally. They well know whether you have a drink or drugs problem; whether you are short of many and need a loan. They will spin the usual scare stories about intercepting terrorists. It is they who are scared, scared of you, terrified of any dissent from establishment doctrine. They scare you to shut you up, friend.
There is a real contradiction in the approach to the ‘terrorist threat’. Real or imagined, it seems to have been with us in Britain for a long time, going back to the IRA. On the one hand, we are asked to stay on full alert. Unusual things are to be reported and luggage that is left unattended means the station, bus depot, or airport must on occasions be cleared. But then, we are to ‘carry on as usual’. Of course, security operations are wrapped in the closest secrecy and little is revealed to the public. The effect is to create within the general public an impending sense of doom, of the inevitability of an outrage, exacerbating fear if not bringing about paranoia.
Gene E. Franchini, retired Chief Justice of the New Mexico Supreme Court, made these remarks on 12th September, 2003: “A fearful people are the easiest to govern. Their freedom can be taken away, and they can be convinced to believe that it was done for their own good ― to give them security. They can be convinced to give up their liberty voluntarily.” Fearmongering took on proportions hardly seen before in the USA after the 9/11 attack. There was declared to be a need for heightened security to prevent such an event as at the twin towers ever happening again. In the event, it rather seems that the US security forces, for all their spying, could do little to prevent that attack or guarantee the prevention of any future terrorist outrage. The rhetoric achieved little more than to generate an atmosphere of fear than the confidence of being protected and relatively safe. It justified, first of all, any number of assaults on various freedoms previously taken for granted, and all in the name of anti-terrorism. Then, it also provided President Dubya Bush the excuse to finish the job his father began and crush Saddam Hussain once and for all. No real reasons were ever given for the security measures nor were the reasons for Iraq adventure were never adequately explained. Uncertainty in the midst of certainty keeps the fear alive. Contributing to this atmosphere were the hardly reassuring words of Donald Rumsfeld that the eventual acquisition of weapons of mass destruction was inevitable. FBI director, Robert Mueller, “There will be another terrorist attack. We will not be able to stop it.” In this case, they are failing to provide the adequate protection they owe us all. ‘It is not if, but when’. How often have we heard that? The cries for investigation of government mistakes will die, but the lost freedoms, the tighter grip of government over its citizens, the manufactured fear will all remain.
D. William Norris
“Once a government resorts to terror against its own population to get what it wants, it must keep using terror against its own population to get what it wants. A government that terrorises its own people can never stop. If such a government ever lets fear subside and rational thought return to the populace, the government is finished.” Michael Rivero