John Reimann's personal blog

Brainwashed

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Uri Avnery is one of Israel’s most thoughtful capitalist commentators. Despite the fact that he is unable to see past capitalism, he often has penetrating commentaries on Israeli politics. This includes his harsh condemnations of the increasingly racist direction of official politics there, as well as the rise of neo-fascist groups.

In his most recent column he comments on a new German film about life in Germany under the Nazis. He explains how ordinary people, just like those we know (and maybe not all that different from ourselves!) went along with one of history’s greatest crimes. He writes:

Even worse is the deadening atmosphere of universal agreement. From the highest officer to the lowliest maid, everybody is repeating endlessly the propaganda slogans of the regime. Not out of fear, but because they believe every word of the all-pervading propaganda machine. They hear nothing else.

It is immensely important to understand this. In the totalitarian state, fascist or communist or whatever, only the very few free spirits can withstand the endlessly repeated slogans of the government. Everything else sounds unreal, abnormal, crazy…. 

It is this element of the situation that is difficult for many people to grasp. A citizen under a criminal totalitarian regime becomes a child. Propaganda becomes for him reality, the only reality he knows. It is more effective than even the terror.

What he misses, of course, is that we see the same thing under capitalist democracy. What is the meaning, after all, of the indifference to the torture of prisoners in Guantanamo or our regular prisons, for that matter (psychological torture through solitary confinement)? Or the murder of civilians with drones? Or the long term disaster that is developing through climate disruption?

It requires a shock to force people to stand up to the entire system. Those shocks are developing, and millions will be forced to reconsider everything about the world around them. But we have to hurry. Due to environmental destruction, we do not have unlimited time.

Oh, and by the way, Avnery’s column is well worth reading in full.

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