Posts Tagged ‘parenti’

Lies Wars and Empire

By Michael Parenti (2007)

In this presentation, Michael Parenti focuses on the science of media manipulation and mass indoctrination. He makes his most important point at the end: mass indoctrination never works perfectly. Spontaneous skepticism tends to be a natural outcome of a steady diet of media propaganda. I suspect this healthy skepticism is a major reason why Trump’s attacks on the corporate media have been so popular – and why counterattacks by US intelligence and the mainstream media have been so savage.

Trump is the highest profile politician to ever publicly challenge the official version of 9-11, the job-killing effects of free trade treaties such as TPP and NAFTA, the threats to democratic process posed by investing power in a private central bank (the Federal Reserve) and the long term safety of America’s multiple vaccination regime in children.

Parenti begins with an explanation why, in most cases, peoples’ beliefs are totally impervious to facts. He reminds us that our perceptions are shaped by a number of factors beyond our control, particularly income, status, background assumptions and disinformation.

He maintains that what passes for objectivity in the mainstream media is really conformity of bias – nearly always in favor of corporate capitalism and the status quo. Owing to this emphasis on conformity, expressing a dissenting viewpoint viewed as a radical activity, mainly because it helps expose and expands the boundaries of permissible debate. Because the corporate media only allows an extremely narrow range of debate, you will never see a open discussion of evidence implicating the government in 9-11 or  the JFK, Robert Kennedy or Martin Luther King assassinations.

This lecture examines numerous world events deliberately censored or distorted by the corporate media:

  • The war crimes trial of Slobodan Milosevic (who died under suspicious circumstances in prison in 2006).
  • The stolen 2004 election (in which election fraud in Ohio, New Mexico, Florida and Arizona wrongly awarded the electoral vote to Bush).*
  • The repeated claim that the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979 – the Afghan government requested assistance from the Soviets to restore order in the face of a major CIA destablization campaign.
  • Saddam Hussein’s 40-year role as a CIA asset in the coup overthrowing Iraqi prime minister Abd al-Karim Qasim and declaring war on Iran.

*See Stolen Elections

The Assassination of Julius Caesar

Michael Parenti (2012)

Film Review

In this presentation, Michael Parenti discusses the fraudulent history we are taught about the late Roman Republic. In particular, he focuses on the popular resistance movement that led to the rise of the Populares in the Roman senate in the second century BC. The revolt of the Roman proletariat was largely a reaction to the privatization of Rome’s collective agricultural lands as latifundia (plantations owned by Roman aristocrats). Historically there was no private land ownership in Rome until thugs hired by aristocrats drove the peasants off their land around 200 BC.

Parenti starts by demolishing the myth promulgated by mainstream historians that Rome was a republic. The Roman senate was a self-appointed oligarchy. For the most part Roman senators paid no taxes though. Instead they loaned money at interest to the Roman government (sound familiar?). The lower classes, in contrast, were heavily taxed.

The first great Populares to serve as consul was Tiberius Gracchus in 133 BC. He and his brother Gaius, who succeeded him, fought for land reform to break up the latifundia and redistribute them to the landless. Despite their aristocratic background, all the Populares consuls challenged a Roman economic system that was rigged in favor of the elites All were assassinated by aristocratic death squads.

Julius Caesar would be the last Populares consul, and he, too, would be assassinated in 44 BC. Among the reforms he enacted were

  • Lowering interest and fines on debts
  • Building exceptional public libraries to be used by all Roman citizens
  • Guaranteeing freedom of religion to Roman Jews
  • Ending the practice of forcing people with unpaid debts into slavery
  • Introducing a democratic constitution
  • Creating state jobs in Rome and the colonies for the unemployed
  • Ending Cicero’s* witch hunts and extrajudicial executions

The aristocrats in the senate, who detested Caesar because he threatened their wealth and privilege, responded by labeling him a brutal tyrant and assassinating him. Ironically the emperors who succeeded him were far more tyrannical. Yet the senate aristocrats supported them as they protected their wealth and privilege.

What strikes me most about this presentation are the clear parallels with the current period, with the liberal elite and intelligence establishment portraying Trump as an unspeakable fascist tyrant based on little evidence other than his rhetoric. I’m aware that much of the liberal establishment is justifiably frightened of the ultraconservative bent of Trump’s appointees. However most of the strident anti-Trump rhetoric seems over the top to me.

For me the two main ways the parallels break down are 1) the absence of a genuine reform movement from below similar to the Roman resistance movement that led to the formation of the Populares 2) the absence in Trump of the towering intelligence, charisma and military and political ingenuity that Caesar displayed. Trump’s lack of political experience raises the vital question whether he or his conservative cabinet will be in control. Despite his promise of numerous populist reforms, I’m extremely skeptical whether the prominent conservatives in his cabinet support them.

dirty truths

Dirty Truths

by Michael Parenti (City Lights Books, 1996)

Book Review

Nearly 17 years old, Michael Parenti’s 1996 Dirty Truths offers an analysis of the national security state that props up monopoly capitalism which is largely missing from scholarly “leftist” literature.

Parenti is one of the few theoretical Marxists to formally acknowledge the impeccable scholarship of Sylvia Meagher, Mark Lane, Carl Oglesby, Peter Dale Scott, and others in uncovering the role of the national security state in John Kennedy’s murder. Noam Chomsky, Alexander Cockburn, the Nation and other high profile mouthpieces for the American left are all highly critical of leftists who subscribe to so-called “conspiracy theory.” In addition to eye opening chapters on the JFK assassination and the apparent 1970 assassination of labor leader Walter Reuther, Dirty Truths also features an excellent chapter on the bloody US-supported coup Russian president Boris Yeltsin carried out in 1992.

 “Selective Fascism”

Most of Dirty Truths is dated and of mainly historical interest. In his introductory chapters, Parenti, a PhD historian whose anti-Vietnam activism ended his teaching career, offers a Marixian analysis of the structural origin of poverty, corporate media censorship, and American military empire that are now taken as a given by most liberal intellectuals. Yet already in 1996, Parenti writes at length about the fascist nature of the national security state and its role as an all-powerful shadow government. Like Chomsky and other media analysts, Parenti believes the modern state mainly uses propaganda and brainwashing to prevent the working class from agitating for social justice. However when ideological control fails, it freely indulges in a a “selective fascism” of unrestrained violence, particularly against minority communities.

According to Parenti, most Americans fail to recognize the fascist nature of the national security state because the corporate media sugarcoats the militaristic violence and brutality that has crept into community policing.

Yeltsin’s 1992 Coup

His chapter on Yeltsin’s 1992 coup casts a whole new light on the break-up of the Soviet Union. In 1992, the corporate media glorified Boris Yeltsin as a hero of democracy when he behaved exactly like the puppet dictators the US props up in the Middle East. After ordering Russian troops to shell the parliament building (while the Russian Parliament still in session) and killing upwards of 1,000 people, he officially disbanded both Parliament and the constitutional court, nullified the new Russian constitution, banned labor unions, jailed all the opposition leaders, abolished city and regional councils and outlawed fifteen political parties. He took these actions when a parliamentary majority voted down some of the “market reforms” Wall Street and the IMF were trying to impose on Russia.

Once Yeltsin had a free hand to end price controls and sell off the state-owned industries (to foreigners and Russian gangsters), the result was an economic disaster that transformed Russia into a 3rd world sweatshop for US investment. The rampant inflation turned the Russian people into instant paupers. This, along with the collapse of the health care system, led to mass starvation and epidemics of typhoid, TB that reduced Russian life expectancy by an average of twenty years.

The JFK Assassination and the Gangster State

Parenti’s discussion of the conspiracy to murder John Kennedy fits neatly into his analysis of the national security state as a large unaccountable state power with a primary purpose of protecting the ruling elite. Any individual or group who poses a serious threat to the corporate elite is automatically subject to neutralization in the form of illicit surveillance, sabotage, infiltration, false arrest, tax harassment, and violence and assassination. I suspect Parenti’s depth of knowledge relates in part to personal experiences as an anti-Vietnam War activist, which he describes at the end of the book. It’s also a matter of public record that the CIA, FBI and other intelligence agencies enlist the services of mobsters, drug traffickers, and assassins to target peasants, intellectuals, clergy, student and labor leaders and community activities who threaten US financial interests, both overseas and domestically.

Parenti devotes most of this chapter to Oswald’s role as a low level intelligence operative (and patsy) and the aggressive role corporate media has played in suppressing volumes of documentary and research evidence linking the assassination to the national security state.

He’s also highly critical of what he describes as a “conspiracy phobia” on the part of Chomsky, Cockburn, the Nation and other high-profile leftist and progressive publications. He includes excerpts of his lengthy correspondence with Chomsky, highlighting the illogic of the MIT linguist’s principle arguments against serious consideration of the assassination literature: 1) studying conspiracies (supposedly) “distracts” activists from focusing on the structural problems of capitalism, 2) the US government (supposedly) had no reason to assassinate the Kennedy brothers because they were both cold warriors and mainly acted in the interests of the ruling elite, and 3) focusing on assassinations (supposedly) leads activists to idealize the Kennedys and overlook their shortcomings.

Parenti also notes that Chomsky and Cockburn both condemn the meticulous and extensive work of Sylvia Meagher, Mark Lane, Carl Oglesby, Peter Dale Scott, and other scholars without ever reading any of it.

 Free from the Open Library

I borrowed Dirty Truths from the Open Library. Following registration, borrowers can download a PDF or Epub version of a large selection of books. All have a two week due date and vanish from your hard drive two weeks after you borrow them.