I’m devouring the new Orhan Pamuk book Nights of Plague, an historical novel about an imaginary island where plague management challenges the decaying Ottoman Empire. He’s one of my favorite authors on the power of ideas in contradiction to facts on the ground, and he always makes me laugh as when the nonstop spying of the island’s mythical Department of Scrutinia is headed by a Chief Scrutineer.
Just yesterday I read that a big hospital in the SF Bay Area reinstated a mask mandate due to a surge of covid cases there, and that an average of ten people are still dying of covid in California every day.
Cue the chorus of covid is a hoax, people masking are sheep easily led, more people were injured by the covid vax than saved by it, and so on. The divisiveness of the U.S. empire’s response to this pandemic is a subject I’ve written about before. Originating in a lab, it’s not the first but only the most novel of pathogens weaponized by those who would wield power over restive populations. It turns out that the purpose is murky: smear China via its Wuhan lab? Divide and conquer the U.S. masses seething for change that never comes? Or hasten the information control that kicked off with the post 9/11 Patriot Act and may be cemented into place by claiming free speech can be “weaponized” against the ruling class?
Anyone who joined the Empire’s 65 year old quarantine establishment would quickly realize that their first and most important duty to the Sultan and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was not so much to stop outbreaks of cholera, as to stop the news of those outbreaks from spreading.
Which reminds me that I was busy with family and did not manage an Earth Day post bemoaning the deadly assault of the empire of capitalism on climate and life. Politically motivated information management abounds in this arena, too, where a billionaire’s rocket uses taxpayer funding to crash and burn on liftoff, allegedly because key safety equipment was deemed too costly by the billionaire himself. Even if Starship had not exploded over the Gulf of Mexico its effect on both climate and coastal environs would have been terrible. All rocket launches, now proliferating rapidly, are terrible for the environment. So space is constantly sold to kids as hooray for science, technology, engineering and math.
Meanwhile, liberal rags like Common Dreams provide sophisticated information management around military harm to the environment, well-documented but largely unaddressed as the U.S. military budget continues to metastasize (Space Force requested a 100% increase in its annual budget to pollute and militarize outer space). I noticed and disliked the subtle bias of CD’s Earth Day article with the ironic headline: “Can you fight for climate justice without being antiwar?” No, you cannot — as some of us have been pointing out for years.
But the author used tried and true grammatical sleight of hand to shield some culprits while vilifying others. The U.S. and NATO conspired over the biggest release of methane, the worst of the greenhouse gases, into the Baltic Sea off Denmark, but that act of war on the environment just happened in the passive voice: “the sabotage of the underwater Nord Stream pipelines.” Ditto “the shelling of Ukraine’s nuclear power plants, particularly the Zaporizhzhia plant” as if the shelling had mysterious origins rather than emanating from Ukraine.
The U.S. public has been told in both cases via its subservient corporate press that “Russia did it.” That is, destroy its own newly completed gas pipeline and attempt to blow up a nuclear power plant its military had captured quickly. These lies are easily refuted, but you won’t read about it in Common Dreams or the New York Times.
What you will read or hear in every imperial media “news” channel is the active voice when it comes to their current favorite villain. Common Dreams again: “Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has mutated the global fuel market.”
See the difference? Grammar matters.
Truth, however, is merely an inconvenience to our imperial rulers. If evidence of the president’s deep involvement in corrupt energy schemes in Ukraine might threaten his election, the press stampedes to suppress it and silence those who don’t go along.
Similarly, if the national conversation is about how best to respond to a deadly pathogen, social media platforms obediently silence dissenting voices at the behest of the federal government. The Twitter files are largely, though not exclusively, about sharing evidence of this.
When Pamuk has an Ottoman public health doctor say, “Quarantine is the art of educating the public in spite of itself, and of teaching it the skill of self-preservation,” he might also be thinking about empires and their strategies for preserving their reign.
Nowadays you can be silenced for pointing out enforcement of the preferred narrative, or just for not agreeing with the imperial version of their destructive, expensive wars.
Prior to Earth Day the FBI and DOJ collaborated on the indictment of four members of the African People’s Socialist Party for allegedly colluding with Russia to affect the outcome of an election. Hmm…
According to HandsOffUhuru.com:
On April 18, 2023, indictments were issued by the U.S. Department of Justice against African People’s Socialist Party Chairman Omali Yeshitela, African People’s Solidarity Committee Chair Penny Hess and Uhuru Solidarity Movement Chair Jesse Nevel.
Donate to our legal fund at HandsOffUhuru.org/Donate.
“I ain’t ever worked for a Russian. Never ever ever ever,” said Omali Yeshitela. “Their problem is, I’ve never worked for them.”
Pamuk is a writer from the last bit of the once powerful Ottoman Empire who knows: not working for the imperial forces is the ultimate crime.