14 Jan 2009

Smoke and Mirrors

This is going in tomorrow's Star, really I suppose it is dedicated to Haim Bresheeth and Richard Seymour

Smoke and mirrors
(Wednesday 14 January 2009)

RULING-CLASS ideology turns workers into shirkers and civilians into 'our enemies,' says DEREK WALL.

Now, who was it who said that ideology works like a camera obscura, projecting the picture on to a screen but making it appear upside down? Don't tell me. It's on the tip of my tongue.

In capitalist society, a huge effort is made to disguise reality. It's part of the process that keeps the whole show rolling along.

Examining ideology and combating it is both vital and a task to which every Star reader can contribute.

In ecology, ideologists motivated by very material considerations either deny that ecological problems occur or see them as best solved by bankers and corporate green business.

When it comes to the economy, instead of recognising that workers are the ones who produce wealth, bankers are seen as productive and the rest of us are labelled as shirkers. I could go on.

Ideology also enables bloodshed.

Every invasion sees newspapermen and women, priests and academics publicly defending killing and enslavement.

Current events in Gaza provide a gruesome case study.

Demonisation is an important part of the process. It is easier to justify the death of civilians by depicting Hamas as a brutal, reactionary force.

Pro-war commentators label Hamas anti-women, anti-gay and intolerant. They also play on Islamophobia.

Yet it is overlooked that George W Bush is also anti-women, anti-gay and a slave to fundamentalist religion, while Washington's second-favourite state in the Middle East is Saudi Arabia, a country with perhaps the worst human rights record in the world where gays are routinely executed.

While I am far from sympathetic to Hamas, it looks Liberal Democrat compared to the House of Saud. In any case, many Palestinians are Christians or secular, but they are still killed by falling bombs.

One can imagine how the current crop of pro-war ideologists might have labelled the anti-colonial movements.

The pro-war left in the form of "thinkers" like Christopher Hitchens could have described Gandhi as a rightwinger because of his Hindu faith.

The pro-Israeli Defence Force bloggers at Harry's Place would no doubt have cheered on the 5th Cavalry as it killed the Sioux Indians.

One can even imagine Mel Gibson producing a film showing Catholic priests arriving on the shores of Latin America to liberate the suffering Indians from the Aztecs. He could call it Apocalypto.

Any kind of ammunition will do for the skilled ideological operative.

In the case of Israel, those opposed to the killing project are labelled as anti-semitic. Typically, when a call is raised to boycott Israel, it is denounced as racist. Yet how often do we hear the blockade of Cuba, which has gone on for decades and caused terrible problems, described as racist against Cubans?

Many activists have been attacked for describing the blockade of Gaza as similar to the Warsaw Ghetto, where the nazis starved the Jewish population before annihilating it.

Any comparison between the nazis and the state of Israel will lead to understandable offence. But, in a truly obscene remark, Israeli Deputy Defence Minister Matan Vilnai noted last March that "the more Qassam fire intensifies and the rockets reach a longer range, they (the Palestinians of Gaza) will bring upon themselves a bigger Shoah because we will use all our might to defend." Shoah is a term for the Holocaust.

The media also overlooks the fact that there are many Jewish voices for peace - Rabbis For Human Rights, to take one example. In Britain, we have the impressive Jewish Socialist Group, whose magazine is one of the best on the left. Ideology disguises what's really going on.

While Israel may have mounted this horrifying assault, it, like Saudi Arabia, is a US client state. The current bloodshed would be quite impossible without US permission and arms. US arms manufacturers, though, love seeing their products used. It boosts orders.

You and I may be critical of Hamas. But such criticism can easily be used to justify the killing of civilians by the Israeli army.

George Orwell, quite rightly in my view, opposed Stalin. But he also worked with the CIA. The excesses of Stalin from the gulags to the Katyn massacre were later used to justify murderous CIA adventures in Chile and dozens of other countries.

One can even imagine Mel Gibson producing a film showing Catholic priests arriving on the shores of Latin America to liberate the suffering Indians from the Aztecs. He could call it Apocalypto.

The point is to oppose oppression, not to allow one's opposition to be used to justify a bigger form of totalitarianism.

The aim is to put a few cracks in the glass. This is where you, the reader, come in.

In the age of the internet, there is no hard and fast division between readers and writers. We can all get involved.

If Harold Pinter had lived just a few days more, there is no doubt in my mind that he would have been one of the most effective opponents of the assault on Gaza. The most powerful antidote to ideology that I have seen is his astonishing Nobel prizewinner's speech. You can see the whole thing on the web.

Some impressive bloggers have been providing detailed accounts of the oppression in Gaza.

Haim Bresheeth (www.haimbresheeth.com/politics/political-writing), an Israeli academic and film-maker living in London, has been working around the clock to post an essential account of events in Gaza.

Richard Seymour at Lenin's Tomb (leninology.blogspot.com) has been providing encyclopaedic research into the present conflict. His new book The Liberal Defence Of Murder provides a good account of the humanitarian drive to murder.

The Socialist Unity blog is essential reading too. And don't forget the Morning Star, where I think that it is fair to say that all commentators, despite having a variety of political perspectives, are working to try to blow away the ideological fog.


lenin said...

I appreciate all the plugs, thanks. You must come to my launch do when it's announced.

Derek Wall said...

Well I appreciate your research and writing, do catch up with Haim's work as well!

And may be put a whole 60p towards a copy of the Morning Star tomorrow

Anonymous said...

You Jews are all the same a threat to this world.
We need a new Hitler as soon as possible and this time make sure that all of you Jews are exterminated.
Hell to all the Jews

Anonymous said...


fuck off mate

you might think your time has come but get your head down

bnp fascists, muslim fascists, whatever, we'll stop you.