"The force possessed by totalitarian propaganda - before the movements have the power to drop iron curtains to prevent any one's disturbing, by the slightest reality, the gruesome quiet of an entirely imaginary world - lies in its ability to shut the masses off from the real world." - Hannah ArendtRick Salutin asked recently if Stephen Harper was the last Straussian, referring to followers of the German emigre and political philosopher, Leo Strauss.
Banality and True Believers
People keep asking why Stephen Harper acts as he does, it looks so buttheaded. He seems to muck up his own prospects: firing decent people, lashing out, raising the partisan rhetoric, proroguing Parliament haughtily, binging on military toys, mauling the census – he’s a bright boy, it’s hard to figure.
I used to favour a theory of political Tourette’s, the kind portrayed by Robert Redford in 1972’s The Candidate. You suppress your political ideals for the sake of electability as long as you can; then the buildup leads to random outbursts. But there’s another explanation: Straussianism. (1)
A contemporary and friend of Leo Strauss, was Hannah Arendt, herself a political philosopher. Arendt covered the trial of Adolf Eichmann at Nuremberg, and found herself surprised that he was so banal. "Unimaginative, ordinary and unthinking".
Others may have hoped to see Bluebeard in the dock, she wrote, but for her, the horror lay in the fact that "there were so many like him, and that the many were neither perverted nor sadistic ... [but] terribly and terrifyingly normal." She was one of the first to refute the "monster theory" of less-than-human Nazis. (2)These men were driven by pure ideology based on ignorance and the notion of superiority.
Erna Paris questioned in part the notion of banality (2) because many of the men on trial were well educated. But maybe the best example of this is Jason Lisle, who works for the Creation Museum in Philadelphia. Lisle lectures to students and teachers, providing "proof" that man walked with Dinosaurs*.
He tells the students he did not admit he was a creationist to his professors at Ohio Wesleyan, or at Colorado where he received his PhD in astrophysics. He speaks of the dilemma faced by creationists at secular schools, urging that students not "come out" until after graduate school. "Some professors will just stop you from getting your PhD if you're a creationist." (3)Lisle has a degree in astrophysics. He can lecture as a doctor, but uses scientific jargon to sell creationism as "scientific" fact. James Dobson, the man who helped Stephen Harper's career by supporting his anti same-sex marriage tour, is a child psychologist. However, if you read his advice on child rearing, he uses terms like "original sin" to justify corporal punishment.
And this brings us to an important element of Straussian theory: Religious fervour.
Leo Strauss felt most people will never do the right thing for rational reasons; they need to be motivated by the myths and emotionality of religion. (1)And this infallible belief system helps to create a kind of totalitarianism where lies become truth. Again using creationism as an example:
The danger of creationism is not that it allows followers to retreat into a world of certainty and magic—which it does—but that it allows all facts to be accepted or discarded according to the dictates of a preordained ideology. Creationism removes the follower from the rational, reality-based world. Signs, miracles, and wonders occur not only in the daily life of Christians, but also in history, science, medicine and logic. This belief system becomes the basis for understanding the world, and random facts or data are collected and made to fit into the belief system. If facts can't be made to fit, they are discarded or treated as misguided opinions. (4)This is why Stephen Harper ignores facts and paints the learned as "elites". He's afraid that their proofs will interfere with his ideological agenda. Or at least the ideological agenda of his infamous "base".
When facts are treated as if they were opinions, when there is no universal standard by which to determine truth in law, in science, in scholarship, or in the reporting of the events of the day, the world becomes a place where lies become true, where people can believe what they want to believe, where there is no possibility of reaching any conclusion not predetermined by those who interpret the official, divinely inspired text ... In the promulgation of the totalitarian belief system, at first we are told we all have a right to an opinion, in short, a right to believe anything. Soon, under the iron control of an empowered totalitarian movement, facts become worthless, kept or discarded according to an ideological litmus test. Lies become true. And once the totalitarians are in power, facts are ruthlessly manipulation. (5)Puzzle Boxes and Secret Agendas
Several years ago I bought an antique puzzle box (the puzzle now is where I put it), which could only be opened through a series of intricate manipulations. I spent days trying to get into it and when I finally did, was disappointed that it was empty. If this box was supposed to contain secrets, as per Japanese custom, the secret must have been the fact that the box was empty.
And just as Salutin correctly suggests that Harper has always been a puzzle, unravelling why he acts as he does, requires work. A good puzzle box will contain many "tricks" that often lead you in the wrong direction. It's main purpose was to protect a secret.
Secretiveness, an aura of manipulation and a sense of hidden agendas. From a Straussian view, these are good things as means to noble ends. (1)But these noble ends are not necessarily noble in any traditional sense. They are simply the fulfillment of an ideological agenda.
Stephen Harper himself is smart, but he is not brilliant. And while he is often given credit for strategic moves, those moves are being stategized by others. Because Stephen Harper is a narcissist (5)and so long as his ego is fed on a regular basis, he will consent to anything. I believe it is those pulling the strings, who follow Strauss. I don't think Harper is that deep.
All Hail (heil?) King and Country
Neoconservatism as espoused by Leo Strauss, called for unbridled patriotism, or nationalism. Stephen Harper has never been very patriotic. In fact he was always very clear how he felt about Canadians. During the 2004 election campaign he started touting a Belgian style federalism, where the country would be divided along cultural or linguistic grounds. '"He seems to want all francophones to speak with one voice, and the same for anglophones, and this is not the reality of Canada." Harper is quick to point out that his idea is still in the embryonic stage and it will be further developed before the party's policy convention next March.' (6)
Doesn't sound like a devotion to nationalism.
The PM may have shown his real feelings about Canada in 2000 when he called it “a second-tier socialistic country.” Still, for Straussians, nationalism ranks alongside religion as a way to motivate people to great things beyond the vapidity of liberalism. This may help explain the Harper Arctic sovereignty initiatives, or even his curious focus on hockey. (1)That kind of fierce nationalism allowed the German people to accept their country's aggression. They were hypnotized with symbols and brilliant propaganda. Hannah Arendt once asked whether Nazi Germany was in fact a full totalitarian dictatorship, since it depended so heavily on a "certain societal consensus". (7)
What Could we Possibly be Asked to Consent to That is so Bad?
As we open the doors and find the hidden compartments of the puzzle box, they all lead to something that goes beyond this government's silencing of the press, scientists and experts.
Our foreign policy.
As Stephen Harper is being paraded about from one photo-op to the next, the men behind the curtain have been operating through American Straussians, who not only ascribe to the notions of deception, religious fervour and nationalism, but use them to carry through an aggressive imperialistic agenda.
Council for National Policy: James Dobson, mentioned above is the founder of Focus on the Family, a group with strong ties to the Harper government. Many of Harper's caucus members belong to Focus, including Maurice Vellacott and Rob Anders. Tony Perkins is an employee of Dobson and his political mentor is a man by the name of Woody Jenkins**:
Jenkins and some 50 conservative men gathered in May 1981 at the northern Virginia home of direct-mail pioneer Richard Viguerie to plot the growth of their movement following Ronald Reagan's presidential victory. They formed the Council for National Policy (CNP), a secretive, right-wing organization that brought together dominionists such as R. J. Rushdoony, Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell with right-wing industrialists willing to fund them, such as Amway founder Richard DeVos Sr. and beer baron Joseph Coors. As DeVos quipped, the CNP "brings together the doers with the donors.
Jenkins, then a Louisiana state lawmaker, became the CNP'' first executive director. He told a Newsweek reporter: "One day before the end of this century, the Council will be so influential that no president, regardless of party or philosophy, will be able to ignore us or our concerns or shut us out of the highest levels of government."'(8)In 1997, Stephen Harper delivered a speech (9) to the Council for National Policy, dissing this country and the Canadian people. The CNP approved. But they also approved of others who spoke later:
In 1999, Texas Governor George W. Bush addressed the group as he launched his bid for the presidency. The media were barred from the event. But those who wrote about the meeting afterward said that Bush, who refused to release a public transcript of his speech, promised to only appoint anti-abortion judges if he was elected. The group, which meets three times a year in secret, brings together radical Christian activists, right-wing Republican politicians and wealthy patrons willing to fund the movement. During Bush's presidency, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld have attended CNP meetings.' (8)The American Enterprise Institute: The American Enterprise Institute is one of a myriad of think tanks that have become part of the infrastructure of the neoconservative/Religious Right movement. The fortunes of the AEI have fluctuated depending on who was in power, enjoying their greatest success under the Bush administration. George Bush pulled 20 staffers from AEI, including David Frum ***, the person who organized the Winds of Change, dedicated to uniting the right, and is now a voice in our own neoconservative government.
Michael Novak, a prominent member of the group, is a regular speaker at the Fraser Institute and according to Lloyd Mackey has influenced the thinking of Stephen Harper. (10)Others belonging to the group are Dick Cheney, his wife Lynn Cheney, William Kristol and Richard Perle. Straussians all.
Foundation for the Defense of Democracies: In early 2001, a tightly knit group of billionaire philanthropists conceived of a plan to win American sympathy for Israel's response to the Palestinian intifada. They believed that the Palestinian cause was finding too much support within crucial segments of the American public, particularly within the media and on college campuses, so they set up an organization, Emet: An Educational Initiative, Inc., to offer Israel the kind of PR that the Israeli government seemed unable to provide itself. (11)
Members of this group represent the cream of the Neoconservative movement, including Richard Perle, William Kristol and New Gingrich. And while Frum was plucked from the American Enterprise Institute, to act as a speech writer for George Bush, Alykhan Velshi was plucked from the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, to act as legislative assistant for none other than Jason Kenney.
This should set off a lot of alarms on it's own, but there is more to this story. In December University of California professor, Michael Allen wrote for the Democracy Digest, under the title: The D-word out of favor? Don’t tell the Canadians:
Canada is poised to set up a new democracy assistance organization, based on the experience and structures of existing foundations, but reflecting distinctively Canadian characteristics and priorities ... A new poll by the US-based Council on Foreign Relations suggests that supporting democracy has fallen out of favor with the US foreign policy elite. But, perhaps perversely, international commitment appears to be growing, judging by relatively recent democracy assistance initiatives. (12)Of course spreading democracy is code for exploitation, as we've seen with Haiti and the reasons that country is so poor.
I've been watching for our media's reaction to this new initiative, under the guise of the 'D' word, and only recently found an excellent one by Gerald Caplan, who wonders why Stephen Harper is now so interested in Canada obtaining a seat on the UN Security Council, when he has always hated the UN. It's a good question.
Next week the world gathers at the United Nations ... Mr. Harper has a deep vested interested in this meeting. The ultimate fate of his under-the-radar drive to have Canada elected to a rotating seat on the mighty Security Council might well be decided there. No one is entirely sure why the Prime Minister is so anxious for his government to be represented on that august body, and he, of course, has never said. But he’s spent millions of our dollars having senior civil servants and cabinet ministers jet around the world wooing foreign leaders. (13)Caplan does an excellent job of outlining how Canada's reputation has been destroyed by the Harper Government, so you would wonder why Harper would dare show his face. (A link is provided below. be sure to read it all. It's very revealing)
So Let's Open the Puzzle Box
1. Silencing of the press
2. Demonizing of anyone who contradicts his ideology
3. Exploiting religion
4. Using symbols like yellow ribbons and hockey to pump up nationalism
5. Cozying up to American Straussians
6. Placing American Straussians in his administration
7. Taking over the "D" word. aka: Coup business.
8. Suspending democracy.
9. Buying fighter jets
10. Testing martial law
11. Building more prisons when our crime rate is the lowest in our history. (see 2 and 10)
I think we already know what secrets were in that box. Stephen Harper is picking up where George Bush left off. And if Glen Beck's Tea Party is successful, and the Republicans again assume control after the mid-terms, Harper will have accomplices.
We need an election NOW!
*Stockwell Day believes the same thing. See the Tyee: The Man Who Walks with Dinosaurs
** Perkins, like other leaders in the movement, has troubling associations with white supremacy groups. They work hard now to distance themselves from these relationships, often quoting Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. [like Glen Beck] and drawing parallels between their movement and the civil-rights movement. But during the 1996 Senate campaign of Woody Jenkins, Perkins, who was Jenkins's campaign manager, signed an $82,500 check to the head of the Ku Klux Klan, David Duke, to acquire Duke's phone bank list.' And as late as 2001, Perkins spoke at a fund-raiser for the Council of Conservative Citizens, a white nationalist group that has called blacks "a retrograde species of humanity" on its Web site.' The ties by Christian Right leaders such as Perkins with racist groups highlight the long ties between right-wing fundamentalists and American racist organizations, including the Klan, which had a chaplain assigned to each chapter. (8)
***Frum's sister, Linda, was one of Stephen Harper partronage senate appointments.
1. Stephen Harper – the last Straussian? This might explain why the Prime Minister acts as he does, By Rick Salutin, September 17, 2010
2. Long Shadows: Truth, Lies and History, By Erna Paris, Alfred A. Knopf, 2000, ISBN: 0-676-97251-9, Pg. 318
3. American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America, By Chris Hedges, Free Press, 2006, ISBN: 10-978-7432-8443-7, Pg. 127
4. Hedges, 2006, Pg. 114-115
5. Harper gallery leaves MPs speechless: Citizens who really want a national portrait gallery in Ottawa can rest easy. The government already has one. By The Ottawa Citizen, January 29, 2008
6. Harper suggests 'Belgian-style' federalism, CBC News, October 20, 2004
7. The Third Reich: Politics and Propaganda, By: David Welch, Routledge, 1993, ISBN 0-203-93014-2
8. Hedges, 2006, Pg. 135-138
9. Full text of Stephen Harper's 1997 speech, Canadian Press, December 14, 2005
10. The Pilgramage of Stephen Harper, By: Lloyd Mackey, ECW Press, 2005, ISBN: 10-1-55022-713-0 , Pg. 94 and 209
12. The D-word out of favor? Don’t tell the Canadians, By Michael Allen, Democracy Digest, December 4, 2009
13. Stephen Harper does the UN - but shouldn't: If he really wants that Security Council seat, he’d be wise to cancel lest he reveal exactly how badly Canada is failing the developing world, By Gerald Caplan, Globe and Mail, September 17, 2010