Political Propaganda in the Military-Industrial Complexes of theUnited States in 2003 and of Nazi Germany in 1934
Full Text of the explanatory essay on the first three classes in thefall 2008 offering of Globalization since 1492
In the paragraphs below I’ll put into writing some of the topics and interpretations I’ve presented in the first three classes.In exploring the relationship between time and globalization we looked into the careers of two Canadians, Sir Sandford Fleming and Marshall McLuhan. The focus on them arose in our consideration of how changes in communications technology help reorient human relationships to time and space. I talked about the institution of a single worldwide system of Standard Time as a classic expression of globalization.
In the second week (part 1 | part 2) I introduced the idea of imperial and anti-imperial globalization. Imperial globalization grows from the empire building of the European powers, It grows from the creation and operation of the empires of Spain, Portugal, The Netherlands (the Dutch empire), Belgium, and, of course, Great Britain. The creation of colonies by these imperial powers, together with those of the Ottomans and Japanese, imposed a host of new influences on Indigenous peoples the world over. Both Canada and the United States have emerged as outgrowths of the British empire, a history that we need to understand as well as possible in order to orient ourselves in this country, no matter what our ethnic background, to the larger global community.
I called attention to the importance of imperial corporations in the building up of the British empire and the Dutch empire. The English East Indian Company was the spearhead of the imperial assault of Great Britain in exploiting the riches of India. Similarly the Dutch East India Company led the process of transforming Indonesia into a colony of the Netherlands. Both these companies have played important roles in the development of capitalism, the system of political economy which presently reigns as the near universal regime of economic relations on the planet. The history of capitalism is an integral part of the history of globalization.
In the second class I introduced the idea that those who resist imperial globalization have sometimes contributed to the development of anti-imperial globalization by making larger and larger confederacies of opposition to the empire building of colonizers. I talked about the important role of Gandhi and his philosophy of non-violent resistance in the movement for the decolonization of India, but also in the consolidation of the broader global movement aimed against the colonization of all peoples who suffer on the yoke of racism, imperial rule, patriarchal sexism, and commercial exploitation.
After looking at Gandhi as something of a role model of opposition to imperial rule we looked at the role of Toussaint L’Overature in leading the slave revolt resulting in the creation of Haiti in 1804. We looked at the role of Simon Bolivar in leading the Bolivarian resistance movement against the Spanish empire in Central and South America in the early years of the nineteenth century. We looked at the leadership of Muslim League by Mohammed Ali Jinnah. As the British were leaving their imperial role as governors of India they gave into the demand of Jinnah and the Muslim League by creating a separate country for India’s Islamic population. India was partitioned to create Pakistan in 1947-48. Much violence took place as a result of this partition. We spent some time looking at the decolonization of the Congo in 1960 and the assassination of its first elected leader, Patrice Lumumba. As I result of a student’s question about the role of the United States and “democracy” in the process of decolonization during the Cold War, I suggested to the class to use google and research the violent transition from the government of Sukarno to that of Suharto in Indonesia in the mid-1960s.
In the third class (part 1 | part 2) I looked at US History as an Aspect of Globalization. I introduced the lecture by drawing attention to the paradox of US history. In one sense the creation of the United States depended on the deployment of rhetoric that condemned the imperialism of the British Empire. On the other hand there is a large body of contemporary literature, including my own The American Empire and the Fourth World, that looks at the United States as the metropolitan country in a modern-day empire. So one might argue that the United States is strategically poised on both sides of the idea of imperial and ant-imperial globalization.The idea of the USA as a superpower surely speaks to the idea of US influence extending far beyond the borders of the so-called US “Homeland (i.e. “Homeland Security”)
I explored the convergence of many ideas, symbols and references in one event with the aim of developing a many-faceted analysis illuminating the orientation of the United States to the global community and global history. That event was the ceremony which took place in May of 2003 on board the air craft carrier, the USS Abraham Lincoln. In that highly-publicized ceremony the current US President, George W. Bush, landed on the deck in a fighter jet. He emerged in battle regalia to announced that the Battle of Iraq was Mission Accomplished. I examined the coverage of this event as an example of political propaganda through the creation of public mythology. In making the case I looked to the similar imagery in the German propaganda film, Triumph of the Will. I also saw parallels to the Hollywood film Independence Day.
As I see it, the staging of the event on board the USS Abraham Lincoln in 2003 was meant to symbolize the idea that President George W. Bush had freed the Iraqis from the tyranny of the ousted Iraqi leader, Saddam Hussein, in much the same way that Abraham Lincoln had freed the slaves in the southern US with the Emancipation Proclamation of 1862. The reference in Bush’s speech to government of, by and for the Iraqi people referred back to Lincoln’s famous Gettysburg Address in 1863. Throughout the US Civil War 600,000 people lost their lives in a conflict whose outcome was finally to eliminate the most overt form of slavery in the country of our neighbours to the south.
The comparison between the USS Abraham Lincoln event and the Nazi propaganda film, Triumph of the Will, helped me to introduce the importance of HenryFord as one of Adolf Hitler’s early backers and heroes. It helped me to introduce the role of US-based cartels like Ford, GM, IBM, General Electric and the Rockefeller/Morgan financial/oil interests in building up the war machine of Nazi Germany. This analysis led me to the thesis that the militarized economy of the United States draws on the industrial, economic and political experimentation that took place on both sides of the Second World War, which took place between 1939 and 1945.
From there I went right to the origins of the United States in the Declaration of Independence of 1776. I emphasized the connections between the reference to merciless Indian savages in this document and the ideological structure of the current War on Terror. I briefly explained my thesis that the reference to the lawless, violent Indian savages in the founding Manifesto of the United States was direct reponse to the recognition of the land rights of Indian people in King George’s Royal Proclamation of 1763.
In trying to illustrate the contrast between the historical origins of Canada and those of the United States I looked at a cartoon dipicting those inside and outside the fort of Daniel Boone in 1778 during the civil war in British North America, an event that is now remembered as the American Revolution because of the success of the rebels in founding a new country. I touched on how Theodore Roosevelt, a US historian who became a US president, wrote about Daniel Boone and the westward expansion of Canada in his book published in the late 1800s. Meaningfully it is called The Winning of the West. From whom was it “won.”? Does the conquest of other people equate to the winning of prizes?
I emphasized Roosevelt’s interpretation of the Winning of the West as as an expression of what he believed to be the superiority of the Germanic race and the English-speaking peoples. My intent was todemonstrate that the racist preoccupations of the Nazi regime and their quest for Lebensraum, Living Space, in eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, was not completely isolated from what had happened in North America. The backing of the Nazi regime by elite US interests before and during the Second World War had much history behind it.
The United States took in much of the machinery of Nazi anti-communism into its own anti-communist machinery during the Cold War. What Ford and Hitler shared in common was an intense dislike of socialist trade unionism as taken to its most extreme rhetorical application in the governing ideology of the Soviet Union. Both men interpreted the founding of the Soviet Union as one part of a vast global conspiracy which they blamed generically on a cabal of Jews. Ford gave detailed articulation to his hatred of Jews in his newpaper, The Dearborn Independent. The articles in it were translated into European languages and published as books, but especially in Germany. These books ended up helping the Nazis to gain power by scapegoating Jews as the reason for all Germany’s problems after the First World War. The ascent of Nazi anti-communism led in time to the creation of the gas chambers at Auschwitz, ground zero in the genocide assault on European jewry known as the Holocaust. Auschwitz began as a slave labour camp created by the IG Farben Company, a corporation with many corporatepartners in Britain and the United States. The most important backer and partner of IG Farben was Standard Oil of New Jersey, the central enterprise in the Rockefeller family’s commercial empire.
This history helps to put in historical context the background of the ceremony on board the USS Abraham Lincoln. I see this event as a classic example of political propaganda aimed at convincing the people of the United States and the rest of the world that the waging of the so-called War on Terror is a campaign to realize freedom and democracy. How do you see the so-called War on Terror and the official interpretation of what caused the events of 911?