Speech, Action, and the Human Condition: Hannah Arendt on How We Invent Ourselves and Reinvent the World

“The smallest act in the most limited circumstances bears the seed of the same boundlessness, because one deed, and sometimes one word, suffices to change every constellation.”

Source: Brainpickings.org
Maria Popova
May 17, 2017

“An honorable human relationship — that is, one in which two people have the right to use the word ‘love’ — is a process, delicate, violent, often terrifying to both persons involved, a process of refining the truths they can tell each other,” Adrienne Rich wrote in her piercing 1975 meditation on how relationships refine our truths. But although our words may be the vehicle of our truths, their seedbed is action — we enact the truth of who and what we are as we move through the world. That’s what Anna Deavere Smith spoke to in her advice to young artists: “Start now, every day, becoming, in your actions, your regular actions, what you would like to become in the bigger scheme of things.”

That indelible relationship between speech and action in an honorable existence is what Hannah Arendt (October 14, 1906–December 4, 1975) examines throughout The Human Condition (public library) — the immensely influential 1958 book that gave us Arendt on the crucial difference between how art and science illuminate life.

Hannah Arendt by Fred Stein, 1944 (Photograph courtesy of the Fred Stein Archive)

Arendt examines the dual root of speech and action:

Human plurality, the basic condition of both action and speech, has the twofold character of equality and distinction. If men were not equal, they could neither understand each other and those who came before them nor plan for the future and foresee the needs of those who will come after them. If men were not distinct, each human being distinguished from any other who is, was, or will ever be, they would need neither speech nor action to make themselves understood.

It is useful here to remember that Arendt is living, and therefore writing, nearly half a century before Ursula K. Le Guin unsexed “he” as the universal pronoun — Arendt’s “man,” of course, speaks to and for humanity it is entirety. In fact, she examines the vital complementarity of the universal and the unique. With an eye to the difference between human distinctness and otherness, she writes:

Otherness, it is true, is an important aspect of plurality, the reason why all our definitions are distinctions, why we are unable to say what anything is without distinguishing it from something else. Otherness in its most abstract form is found only in the sheer multiplication of inorganic objects, whereas all organic life already shows variations and distinctions, even between specimens of the same species. But only man can express this distinction and distinguish himself, and only he can communicate himself and not merely something—thirst or hunger, affection or hostility or fear. In man, otherness, which he shares with everything that is, and distinctness, which he shares with everything alive, become uniqueness, and human plurality is the paradoxical plurality of unique beings.

Speech and action reveal this unique distinctness. Through them, men distinguish themselves instead of being merely distinct; they are the modes in which human beings appear to each other, not indeed as physical objects, but qua men. This appearance, as distinguished from mere bodily existence, rests on initiative, but it is an initiative from which no human being can refrain and still be human.

Art by E.B. Lewis from Preaching to the Chickens by Jabari Asim — the illustrated story of how civil rights leader John Lewis’s humble childhood shaped his heroic life at the intersection of speech and action

Not only is the interplay of speech and action our supreme mechanism of self-invention and self-reinvention, but, Arendt suggests, in inventing a self we are effectively inventing the world in which we want to live:

With word and deed we insert ourselves into the human world, and this insertion is like a second birth, in which we confirm and take upon ourselves the naked fact of our original physical appearance. This insertion is not forced upon us by necessity, like labor, and it is not prompted by utility, like work. It may be stimulated by the presence of others whose company we may wish to join, but it is never conditioned by them; its impulse springs from the beginning which came into the world when we were born and to which we respond by beginning something new on our own initiative. To act, in its most general sense, means to take an initiative, to begin (as the Greek word archein, “to begin,” “to lead,” and eventually “to rule,” indicates), to set something into motion (which is the original meaning of the Latin agere).

Action is therefore the most optimistic and miraculous of our faculties, for it alone gives rise to what hadn’t existed before — it is the supreme force of creation. Arendt writes:

It is in the nature of beginning that something new is started which cannot be expected from whatever may have happened before. This character of startling unexpectedness is inherent in all beginnings and in all origins… The new always happens against the overwhelming odds of statistical laws and their probability, which for all practical, everyday purposes amounts to certainty; the new therefore always appears in the guise of a miracle. The fact that man is capable of action means that the unexpected can be expected from him, that he is able to perform what is infinitely improbable.

And yet, contrary to the popular indictment that speech is the cowardly absence of action, action cannot take place without speech. Above all, Arendt argues, it is through the integration of the two that we reveal ourselves to one another, as well as to ourselves:

No other human performance requires speech to the same extent as action. In all other performances speech plays a subordinate role, as a means of communication or a mere accompaniment to something that could also be achieved in silence.


In acting and speaking, men show who they are, reveal actively their unique personal identities and thus make their appearance in the human world… This disclosure of “who” in contradistinction to “what” somebody is — his qualities, gifts, talents, and shortcomings, which he may display or hide — is implicit in everything somebody says and does. It can be hidden only in complete silence and perfect passivity, but its disclosure can almost never be achieved as a willful purpose, as though one possessed and could dispose of this “who” in the same manner he has and can dispose of his qualities. On the contrary, it is more than likely that the “who,” which appears so clearly and unmistakably to others, remains hidden from the person himself, like the daimōn in Greek religion which accompanies each man throughout his life, always looking over his shoulder from behind and thus visible only to those he encounters.

Down the Rabbit Hole: One of Salvador Dalí’s rare 1969 illustrations for Alice in Wonderland

Echoing the Nobel-winning Indian poet and philosopher Tagore’s assertion that “relationship is the fundamental truth of this world of appearance,” Arendt adds:

This revelatory quality of speech and action comes to the fore where people are with others and neither for nor against them — that is, in sheer human togetherness. Although nobody knows whom he reveals when he discloses himself in deed or word, he must be willing to risk the disclosure.


Without the disclosure of the agent in the act, action loses its specific character and becomes one form of achievement among others. It is then indeed no less a means to an end than making is a means to produce an object. This happens whenever human togetherness is lost, that is, when people are only for or against other people, as for instance in modern warfare, where men go into action and use means of violence in order to achieve certain objectives for their own side and against the enemy. In these instances, which of course have always existed, speech becomes indeed “mere talk,” simply one more means toward the end, whether it serves to deceive the enemy or to dazzle everybody with propaganda; here words reveal nothing, disclosure comes only from the deed itself, and this achievement, like all other achievements, cannot disclose the “who,” the unique and distinct identity of the agent.

In a passage that calls to mind philosopher Amelie Rorty’s taxonomy of the seven levels of personhood, Arendt suggests that action is what propels us from static selves to dynamic agents of change, and considers the immense potential of that agency:

The smallest act in the most limited circumstances bears the seed of the same boundlessness, because one deed, and sometimes one word, suffices to change every constellation.

In a sentiment which Rebecca Solnit would come to echo half a century later in her immensely vitalizing Hope in the Dark, where she asserted that “the grounds for hope are in the shadows, in the people who are inventing the world while no one looks, who themselves don’t know yet whether they will have any effect,” Arendt looks back on the history of humanity’s great intellectual and political revolutions, and adds:

It certainly is not without irony that those whom public opinion has persistently held to be the least practical and the least political members of society should have turned out to be the only ones left who still know how to act and how to act in concert. For their early organizations, which they founded in the seventeenth century for the conquest of nature and in which they developed their own moral standards and their own code of honor, have not only survived all vicissitudes of the modern age, but they have become one of the most potent power-generating groups in all history.

The Human Condition remains an indispensable read. Complement this particular portion with Vincent van Gogh on principles and talking vs. doing, then revisit Arendt on the crucial difference between truth and meaning, the power of being an outsider, how tyrants use isolation as a weapon of oppression, and our only effective antidote to the normalization of evil.

Read more At: Brainpickings.org

99 Quotes By George Orwell

TheBreakaway | BreakawayConciousness
Zy Marquiez
May 16, 2017

Orwell’s landmark piece, 1984, has resonated with millions of readers, and with good reason: it speaks to the pervasive encroaching totalitarianism that seeks to strangle the individual that has historically taken place throughout history.

In the same light, what follows are some of Orwell’s wise words collated to incite some rumination between incisive and inquiring individuals.

“If thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought.”

“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.”

“The great enemy of clear language is insincerity.  When there is a gap between one’s real and one’s declared aims, one turns, as it were, to instinctively using to long words and exhausted idioms, like cuttlefish squirting out link.”

“…to repudiate morality while laying claim to it, to believe that democracy was impossible and that the Party was the guardian of democracy…” [This statement influenced readers to see that lying government leaders were pretending to a moral sense they did not possess.][Subsequent commentary Jon Rappoport of NoMoreFakeNews.com]

“But actually, he thought as he re-adjusted the Ministry of Plenty’s figures, it was not even forgery. It was merely the substitution of one piece of nonsense for another. Most of the material that you were dealing with had no connexion with anything in the real world, not even the kind of connexion that is contained in a direct lie. Statistics were just as much a fantasy in their original version as in their rectified version.” [Generations of readers realized that the government was simply inventing itself as it wanted the public to see it. Government was a hoax. And if government was a hoax, and you wanted to reveal that, you would have to find a way into secret communications. Thus, Orwell spawned untold numbers of independent spies who began looking into the private communications of political power players.] [Subsequent commentary Jon Rappoport]

“Don’t you see that the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought?” Jon Rappoport
[This statement alerted readers that news networks were omitting a whole range of ideas about the true actions of government—and therefore, again, independent citizens would have to dig into the personal communications of leaders, in order to discover what they were actually thinking and talking about.] [Subsequent commentary Jon Rappoport]

“…perhaps the Party was rotten under the surface…” [Readers, generations of readers took to that phrase. If the Party was rotten, then you had to go under the surface to find that out. You had to scrape into the private corruption behind the public face.] [Subsequent commentary Jon Rappoport]

“The two aims of the Party are to conquer the whole surface of the earth and to extinguish once and for all the possibility of independent thought… All rulers in all ages have tried to impose a false view of the world upon their followers.” [The effect of this inflammatory statement is obvious. Rebels, generations of rebels have probed the inner workings of the government, in order to expose what the government is actually doing, in order to prevent a complete takeover.] [Subsequent commentary Jon Rappoport]

“Heavy physical work, the care of home and children, petty quarrels with neighbors, films, football, beer, and above all, gambling filled up the horizon of their minds. To keep them in control was not difficult…. All that was required of them was a primitive patriotism which could be appealed to whenever it was necessary to make them accept longer working hours or shorter rations. And when they become discontented, as they sometimes did, their discontentment led nowhere, because being without general ideas, they could only focus it on petty specific grievances.”
– George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four

“Perhaps one did not want to be loved so much as to be understood.”

“He who controls the past controls the future. He who controls the present controls the past.”

“In a time of deceit telling the truth is a revolutionary act.”

“War is peace.
Freedom is slavery.
Ignorance is strength.”

“All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”

“Every generation imagines itself to be more intelligent than the one that went before it, and wiser than the one that comes after it.”

“The best books… are those that tell you what you know already.”

“It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.”

“The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.”

“The most effective way to destroy people is to deny and obliterate their own understanding of their history.”

“If you want to keep a secret, you must also hide it from yourself.”

“If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face—for ever.”

“Political language is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind. ”

“We shall meet in the place where there is no darkness.”

“But if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought.”

“If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.”

“Doublethink means the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them.”

“Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout with some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.”

“The essence of being human is that one does not seek perfection.”

“Perhaps a lunatic was simply a minority of one.”

“Until they became conscious they will never rebel, and until after they have rebelled they cannot become conscious.”

“If you loved someone, you loved him, and when you had nothing else to give, you still gave him love.”

“Now I will tell you the answer to my question. It is this. The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake. We are not interested in the good of others; we are interested solely in power, pure power. What pure power means you will understand presently. We are different from the oligarchies of the past in that we know what we are doing. All the others, even those who resembled ourselves, were cowards and hypocrites. The German Nazis and the Russian Communists came very close to us in their methods, but they never had the courage to recognize their own motives. They pretended, perhaps they even believed, that they had seized power unwillingly and for a limited time, and that just around the corner there lay a paradise where human beings would be free and equal. We are not like that. We know that no one ever seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it. Power is not a means; it is an end. One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship. The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power. Now you begin to understand me.”

“In the face of pain there are no heroes.”

“Big Brother is Watching You.”

“Power is in tearing human minds to pieces and putting them together again in new shapes of your own choosing.”

“It’s a beautiful thing, the destruction of words.”

“Being in a minority, even in a minority of one, did not make you mad. There was truth and there was untruth, and if you clung to the truth even against the whole world, you were not mad.”

“People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.”

“The choice for mankind lies between freedom and happiness and for the great bulk of mankind, happiness is better.”

“Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two make four. If that is granted, all else follows.”

“On the whole human beings want to be good, but not too good, and not quite all the time.”

“I enjoy talking to you. Your mind appeals to me. It resembles my own mind except that you happen to be insane.”

“Orthodoxy means not thinking–not needing to think. Orthodoxy is unconsciousness.”

“Man is the only creature that consumes without producing. He does not give milk, he does not lay eggs, he is too weak to pull the plough, he cannot run fast enough to catch rabbits. Yet he is lord of all the animals. He sets them to work, he gives back to them the bare minimum that will prevent them from starving, and the rest he keeps for himself.”

“Four legs good, two legs bad.”

“It could not have been ten seconds, and yet it seemed a long time that their hands were clasped together.  He had time to learn every detail on her hand.”

“For, after all, how do we know that two and two make four? Or that the force of gravity works? Or that the past is unchangeable? If both the past and the external world exist only in the mind, and if the mind itself is controllable – what then?”

“Journalism is printing what someone else does not want printed: everything else is public relations.”

“We do not merely destroy our enemies; we change them.”

“A scrupulous writer, in every sentence that he writes, will ask himself at least four questions, thus: 1. What am I trying to say? 2. What words will express it? 3. What image or idiom will make it clearer? 4. Is this image fresh enough to have an effect?”

“Reality exists in the human mind, and nowhere else.”

“You are a slow learner, Winston.”
“How can I help it? How can I help but see what is in front of my eyes? Two and two are four.”

“Sometimes, Winston. Sometimes they are five. Sometimes they are three. Sometimes they are all of them at once. You must try harder. It is not easy to become sane.”

“Men can only be happy when they do not assume that the object of life is happiness.”

“Confession is not betrayal. What you say or do doesn’t matter; only feelings matter. If they could make me stop loving you-that would be the real betrayal.”

“Sanity is not statistical.”

“Nothing was your own except the few cubic centimetres inside your skull. ”

“The only good human being is a dead one.”

“All the war-propaganda, all the screaming and lies and hatred, comes invariably from people who are not fighting.”

“The object of terrorism is terrorism. The object of oppression is oppression. The object of torture is torture. The object of murder is murder. The object of power is power. Now do you begin to understand me?”

“Of pain you could wish only one thing: that it should stop. Nothing in the world was so bad as physical pain. In the face of pain there are no heroes.”

“At 50, everyone has the face he deserves.”

“To see what is in front of one’s nose needs a constant struggle.”

“To die hating them, that was freedom.”

“No one believes more firmly than Comrade Napoleon that all animals are equal. He would be only too happy to let you make your decisions for yourselves. But sometimes you might make the wrong decisions, comrades, and then where should we be?”

“He wears a mask, and his face grows to fit it.”

“One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship.”

“There was truth and there was untruth, and if you clung to the truth even against the whole world, you were not mad.”

“Your worst enemy, he reflected, was your nervous system. At any moment the tension inside you was liable to translate itself into some visible symptom.”

“There are some ideas so absurd that only an intellectual could believe them.”

“Winston Smith: Does Big Brother exist?
O’Brien: Of course he exists.
Winston Smith: Does he exist like you or me?
O’Brien: You do not exist.”

“Several of them would have protested if they could have found the right arguments.”

“We know that no one ever seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it.”

“Every war when it comes, or before it comes, is represented not as a war but as an act of self-defense against a homicidal maniac.”

“The further a society drifts from truth the more it will hate those who speak it.”

“This work was strictly voluntary, but any animal who absented himself from it would have his rations reduced by half.”

“What can you do, thought Winston, against the lunatic who is more intelligent than yourself, who gives your arguments a fair hearing and then simply persists in his lunacy?”

“We are all capable of believing things which we know to be untrue, and then, when we are finally proved wrong, impudently twisting the facts so as to show that we were right.”

“If people cannot write well, they cannot think well, and if they cannot think well, others will do their thinking for them.”

“If you kept the small rules, you could break the big ones.”

“So long as they (the Proles) continued to work and breed, their other activities were without importance. Left to themselves, like cattle turned loose upon the plains of Argentina, they had reverted to a style of life that appeared to be natural to them, a sort of ancestral pattern…Heavy physical work, the care of home and children, petty quarrels with neighbors, films, football, beer and above all, gambling filled up the horizon of their minds. To keep them in control was not difficult.”

“Under the spreading chestnut tree I sold you and you sold me:
There lie they, and here lie we
Under the spreading chestnut tree.”

“If you can feel that staying human is worth while, even when it can’t have any result whatever, you’ve beaten them.”

“Pacifism is objectively pro-fascist. This is elementary common sense. If you hamper the war effort of one side, you automatically help out that of the other. Nor is there any real way of remaining outside such a war as the present one. In practice, ‘he that is not with me is against me’.”

“Let’s face it: our lives are miserable, laborious, and short.”

“In philosophy, or religion, or ethics, or politics, two and two might make five, but when one was designing a gun or an aeroplane they had to make four.”

“We are the dead. Our only true life is in the future.”

“All writers are vain, selfish and lazy, and at the very bottom of their motives lies a mystery. Writing a book is a long, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.”

“It is a feeling of relief, almost of pleasure, at knowing yourself at last genuinely down and out. You have talked so often of going to the dogs – and well, here are the dogs, and you have reached them, and you can stand it. It takes off a lot of anxiety.”

“If both the past and the external world exist only in the mind, and if the mind itself is controllable – what then?”

“The masses never revolt of their own accord, and they never revolt merely because they are oppressed. Indeed, so long as they are not permitted to have standards of comparison, they never even become aware that they are oppressed.”

“You’re only a rebel from the waist downwards,’ he told her.”

“The Ministry of Peace concerns itself with war, the Ministry of Truth with lies, the Ministry of Love with torture and the Ministry of Plenty with starvation. These contradictions are not accidental , nor do they result from from ordinary hypocrisy: they are deliberate exercises in doublethink”

“The consequences of every act are included in the act itself.”

“Twelve voices were shouting in anger, and they were all alike. No question, now, what had happened to the faces of the pigs. The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.”

“Man is the only creature that consumes without producing”

“Power is not a means; it is an end. One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship. The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power.”

April the 4th, 1984.  To the past, or to the future. To an age when thought is free. From the Age of Big Brother, from the Age of the Thought Police, from a dead man – greetings!”

“Man serves the interests of no creature except himself.”

This article is free and open source. All individuals are encouraged to share this content and have permission to republish this article under a Creative Commons license with attribution to Zy Marquiez and TheBreakaway.wordpress.com.
About The Author:

Zy Marquiez is an avid book reviewer, researcher, an open-minded skeptic, yogi, humanitarian, and freelance writer who studies and mirrors regularly subjects like Consciousness, Education, Creativity, The Individual, Ancient History & Ancient Civilizations, Forbidden Archaeology, Big Pharma, Alternative Health, Space, Geoengineering, Social Engineering, Propaganda, and much more.

His other blog, BreakawayConsciousnessBlog.wordpress.com features mainly his personal work, while TheBreakaway.wordpress.com serves as a media portal which mirrors vital information nigh always ignored by mainstream press, but still highly crucial to our individual understanding of various facets of the world.

Social Engineering & Conformity Crisis: Liberal College Releases List Of ‘Offensive’ Words We Shouldn’t Use Anymore

Source: YourNewsWire.com
Baxter Dmitry
March 21, 2017

Boston’s elite Emerson College has taken it upon itself to release a list of offensive words Americans should stop using at once.

Emerson College’s “Guidelines for Inclusive Language” has banned the use of the word homosexual when referring to a homosexual. And don’t you dare use the word “disabled.” That’s offensive. Much better to use “person with a disability.

Use gay or lesbian when describing people who are attracted to members of the same sex,” the guide instructs Americans. “Avoid the use of homosexual and homosexual relationship.

The guide does not appear to provide reasons for any of the new rules in its 1,440-word “Inclusive Language” guide, besides the fact that they are “offensive“.

They have also banned use of the word “businessman.”

The handy guide to politically-correct words and phrases also informs writers to use several clunky terms including “business executive” instead of “businessman“, “camera operator” instead of “cameraman” and the potentially confusing “chair” instead of “chairman.”

Other words that have been consigned to the dustbin of social justice history, according to Emerson College, are policeman, manmade, mankind, layman, spokesman and manpower.

Additionally, the Daily Caller reports, Emerson demands that you should use the phrase “person with a disability” instead of the totally different “disabled person.”

Community members should avoid using language that is insensitive to cultural differences or that excludes or offends any group of people (based on their ability/disability, age, ethnicity and race, gender, gender identity and sexual orientation, etc.),” a general statement at the beginning of the language guide says.

Student, faculty members and officials on Emerson’s campus in Boston should ask themselves “whether it is appropriate” in any piece of writing “to share a particular fact about a person (pertaining to social identity, e.g., age, ethnicity).

Campus Reform, which first spotted the Emerson guide, reached out to Emerson officials for additional background.

No Emerson spokesman replied.

The cost for a single year of tuition, fees and room and board at Emerson is $59,728.

Notable Emerson alumni include Jay Leno, a bunch of random actors and, of course, Henry Winkler.

Read More At: YourNewsWire.com

Manufacturing Normality

Source: Counterpunch.org
CJ Hopkins
December 6, 2016

Sometime circa mid-November, in the wake of Hillary Clinton’s defeat (i.e., the beginning of the end of democracy), the self-appointed Guardians of Reality, better known as the corporate media, launched a worldwide marketing campaign against the evil and perfidious scourge of “fake news.” This campaign is now at a fever pitch. Media outlets throughout the empire are pumping out daily dire warnings of the imminent, existential threat to our freedom posed by the “fake news” menace. This isn’t the just the dissemination of disinformation, propaganda, and so on, that’s been going on for thousands of years … Truth itself is under attack. The very foundations of Reality are shaking.

Who’s behind this “fake news” menace? Well, Putin, naturally, but not just Putin. It appears to be the work of a vast conspiracy of virulent anti-establishment types, ultra-alt-rightists, ultra-leftists, libertarian retirees, armchair socialists, Sandernistas, Corbynistas, ontological terrorists, fascism normalizers, poorly educated anti-Globalism freaks, and just garden variety Clinton-haters.

Fortunately, for us, the corporate media is hot on the trail of this motley of scoundrels. As you’re probably aware, The Washington Post recently published a breathtaking piece of Pulitzer-quality investigative journalism shamelessly smearing hundreds of alternative publications (like the one you’re reading) as “peddlers of Russian propaganda.” The piece, a classic McCarthyite smear job perpetrated by the Post‘s Craig Timberg, was based on the groundless, paranoid claims of what Timberg unironically describes as “two teams of independent researchers,” The Foreign Policy Research Institute, a third-rate, former anti-Communist think tank, and an anonymous website, propornot.com, that no one had ever heard of prior to its sudden appearance on the Internet last August, and which, based on the tenor of its tweets and emails, appears to be run by Beavis and Butthead.

The Washington Post has been catching some flak for taking this courageous “pro-Truth” stand against the forces of Putinist falsehood and fakery. A host of dangerously extremist publications, like CounterPunch, The Intercept, Rolling Stone, The Nation, The New Yorker, Fortune Magazine, Bloomberg, and US News & World Report, have lambasted The Post for its “shoddy,” “lazy,” or otherwise sub-par journalism practices. The Post, of course, is “backing its boy,” and refusing to apologize for defending democracy, as it has throughout its storied history, like when it smeared Gary Webb as retribution for reporting the CIA-Contra connection, more or less destroying his career as a journalist, or when it blatantly shilled for Hillary Clinton throughout her ugly, fear-mongering campaign, notably publishing sixteen negative pieces on Sanders in sixteen hours, or when it ran this piece on how Clinton might have been poisoned by secret Putinist agents … and these are just a few of the highlights.

But I don’t want to single out The Washington Post, or its Executive Editor, Marty Baron, who is clearly a paragon of journalistic ethics. The rest of the corporate media have also been mercilessly flogging the “fake news” hysteria, and the “Putinist propaganda” hysteria, and the “normalizing of fascism” hysteria, and beating the “post-Truth” drum to death. The Guardian, The New York Times, et al., NPR, the TV news networks, the entire mainstream media chorus is barking out the message in perfect synch. So what is really going on here?

As I suggested in these pages previously, what we are experiencing is the pathologization (or the “abnormalization”) of political dissent, i.e., the systematic stigmatization of any and all forms of non-compliance with neoliberal consensus reality. Political distinctions like “left” and “right” are disappearing, and are being replaced by imponderable distinctions like “normal” and “abnormal,” “true” and “false,” and “real” and “fake.” Such distinctions do not lend themselves to argument. They are proffered to us as axiomatic truths, empirical facts which no normal person would ever dream of contradicting.

In place of competing political philosophies, the neoliberal intelligentsia is substituting a simpler choice, “normality” or “abnormality.” The nature of the “abnormality” varies according to what is being stigmatized. Today it’s “Corbyn the anti-Semite,” tomorrow it’s “Sanders the racist crackpot,” or “Trump the Manchurian candidate,” or whatever. That the smears themselves are indiscriminate (and, in many instances, totally ridiculous) belies the effectiveness of the broader strategy, which is simply to abnormalize the target and whatever he or she represents. It makes no difference whether one is smeared as a racist, as Sanders was during the primaries, or as an anti-Semite, as Corbyn has been, or a fascist, as Trump has relentlessly been, or peddlers of Russian propaganda, as Truthout, CounterPunch, Naked Capitalism, and a number of other publications have been … the message is, they are somehow “not normal.”

Why is this any different from the shameless smear jobs the press has been doing on people since the invention of the press and shameless smear jobs? Well, hold on, because I’m about to tell you. Mostly it has to do with words, especially binary oppositions like “real” and “fake,” and “normal” and “abnormal,” which are, of course, essentially meaningless … their value being purely tactical. Which is to say they denote nothing. They are weapons deployed by a dominant group to enforce conformity to its consensus reality. This is how they’re being used at the moment.

The meaningless binary oppositions that the neoliberal intelligentsia and the corporate media are supplanting traditional opposing political philosophies with (i.e., normal/abnormal, real/fake), in addition to stigmatizing a diversity of sources of non-conforming information and ideas, are also restructuring our consensus reality as a conceptual territory in which anyone thinking, writing, or speaking outside the mainstream is deemed some kind of “deviant,” or “extremist,” or some other form of social pariah. Again, it doesn’t matter what kind, as “deviance” in itself is the point.

Actually, the opposite of deviance is the point. Because this is how “normality” is manufactured. And how consensus reality as a whole is manufactured … and how the manufacturing process is concealed. Apologies for getting all Baudrillardian, but this is actually how this stuff works.

The media’s current obsession with “fake news” conceals the fact that there is no “real news,” and simultaneously produces “real news,” or, rather, the simulation thereof. It does so by means of the binary opposition (i.e., if such a thing as “fake news” exists … then, ipso facto, “real news” exists). Likewise, the focus on “not normalizing Trump” conceals the fact that there is no “normality,” and simultaneously manufactures “normality” … which is always only a simulation.

Similarly, the stigmatization of Trump as a modern-day Hitler, or Mussolini, or some other type of fascist dictator, conceals the fact that the United States is already virtually a one-party system, with concentrated ownership and control of the media, an omnipresent militarized police force, arbitrary enforcement of the rule of law, the maintenance of a more or less permanent state of war, and many other standard features of authoritarian systems of government. At the same time, this projection of “fascism” conjures, or manufactures, its opposite, “democracy” … or the simulation of democracy.

This neoliberal simulation of democracy, and normality, and reality, is what the corporate media, and the entire neoliberal intelligentsia, is desperately working to shore up at the moment, as they took quite a hit with this election mess. Trump was not supposed to win. He was supposed to be another Hitlerian bogeyman that the neoliberals could save us all from, but then, well, look what happened. The problem for the neoliberal ruling classes, and the mainstream media, and liberals generally, having gone balls out on the Hitler schtick, is that they pretty much have to keep it up now, which is going to get increasingly weird as Trump turns out to not be Hitler, but, rather, just another Republican plutocrat, albeit one with zero government experience and some certified bull goose loonies on his staff. I’m sure Trump will want to help them out, though (i.e., his neoliberal “enemies”), with the occasional racist or misogynist tweet, as he will need to maintain his “white working class” creds, at least until the “War on Islam” gets going.

In any event, we can all look forward to some serious pathologization of dissent throughout the coming four (and perhaps eight) years. And I’m not referring to Trump and his boys, though I’m certain they’ll be in there slinging it too. I’m referring to our friends in the corporate media, like Marty Baron and his smear machine, and the Guardians of Reality at The New York Times, The Guardian, and other “papers of record.” WNYC is already airing a daily “descent into fascism” segment. And of course the neoliberal left, Mother Jones, The Nation, et al., and The New York Review of Books, apparently (they just can’t get enough of this Hitler stuff), will be monitoring liberals’ every thought to ensure that fascism does not get normalized … which God have mercy should that ever happen. Who knows how America might end up? Torturing people? Attacking other countries that pose no threat to it whatsoever? Indefinitely imprisoning people in camps? Assassinating anyone the president deems a “terrorist” or an “enemy combatant” with the tacit approval of the majority of Americans? Surveilling everyone’s phone calls, emails, tweets, and reading and web-browsing habits?

Imagine the dystopia we would all be living in … if things like that were considered “normal.”

Read More At: Counterpunch.org
C. J. Hopkins is an award-winning American playwright and satirist based in Berlin. His plays are published by Bloomsbury Publishing (UK) and Broadway Play Publishing (US). He can reached at his website, cjhopkins.com, or at consentfactory.org.

In 1967, the CIA Created the Label “Conspiracy Theorists” … to Attack Anyone Who Challenges the “Official” Narrative

Source: ZeroHedge.com
February 25, 2015

Conspiracy Theorists USED TO Be Accepted As Normal

Democracy and free market capitalism were founded on conspiracy theories.

The Magna Carta, the Constitution and Declaration of Independence and other  founding Western documents were based on conspiracy theories. Greek democracy and free market capitalism were also based on conspiracy theories.

But those were the bad old days …Things have now changed.

The CIA Coined the Term Conspiracy Theorist In 1967

That all changed in the 1960s.

Specifically, in April 1967, the CIA wrote a dispatch which coined the term “conspiracy theories” … and recommended methods for discrediting such theories.  The dispatch was marked “psych” –  short for “psychological operations” or disinformation –  and “CS” for the CIA’s “Clandestine Services” unit.

The dispatch was produced in responses to a Freedom of Information Act request by the New York Times in 1976.

The dispatch states:

2. This trend of opinion is a matter of concern to the U.S. government, including our organization.


The aim of this dispatch is to provide material countering and discrediting the claims of the conspiracy theorists, so as to inhibit the circulation of such claims in other countries. Background information is supplied in a classified section and in a number of unclassified attachments.

3. Action. We do not recommend that discussion of the [conspiracy] question be initiated where it is not already taking place. Where discussion is active addresses are requested:

a. To discuss the publicity problem with and friendly elite contacts (especially politicians and editors) , pointing out that the [official investigation of the relevant event] made as thorough an investigation as humanly possible, that the charges of the critics are without serious foundation, and that further speculative discussion only plays into the hands of the opposition. Point out also that parts of the conspiracy talk appear to be deliberately generated by …  propagandists. Urge them to use their influence to discourage unfounded and irresponsible speculation.

b. To employ propaganda assets to and refute the attacks of the critics. Book reviews and feature articles are particularly appropriate for this purpose. The unclassified attachments to this guidance should provide useful background material for passing to assets. Our ploy should point out, as applicable, that the critics are (I) wedded to theories adopted before the evidence was in, (II) politically interested, (III) financially interested, (IV) hasty and inaccurate in their research, or (V) infatuated with their own theories.


4. In private to media discussions not directed at any particular writer, or in attacking publications which may be yet forthcoming, the following arguments should be useful:

a. No significant new evidence has emerged which the Commission did not consider.


b. Critics usually overvalue particular items and ignore others. They tend to place more emphasis on the recollections of individual witnesses (which are less reliable and more divergent–and hence offer more hand-holds for criticism) …


c. Conspiracy on the large scale often suggested would be impossible to conceal in the United States, esp. since informants could expect to receive large royalties, etc.


d. Critics have often been enticed by a form of intellectual pride: they light on some theory and fall in love with it; they also scoff at the Commission because it did not always answer every question with a flat decision one way or the other.


f. As to charges that the Commission’s report was a rush job, it emerged three months after the deadline originally set. But to the degree that the Commission tried to speed up its reporting, this was largely due to the pressure of irresponsible speculation already appearing, in some cases coming from the same critics who, refusing to admit their errors, are now putting out new criticisms.

g. Such vague accusations as that “more than ten people have died mysteriously” can always be explained in some natural way ….

5. Where possible, counter speculation by encouraging reference to the Commission’s Report itself. Open-minded foreign readers should still be impressed by the care, thoroughness, objectivity and speed with which the Commission worked. Reviewers of other books might be encouraged to add to their account the idea that, checking back with the report itself, they found it far superior to the work of its critics.

Here are screenshots of part of the memo:

CIA conspiracyCIA conspiracy2

Summarizing the tactics which the CIA dispatch recommended:

  • Claim that it would be impossible for so many people would keep quiet about such a big conspiracy
  • Claim that eyewitness testimony is unreliable
  • Claim that this is all old news, as “no significant new evidence has emerged”
  • Ignore conspiracy claims unless discussion about them is already too active
  • Claim that it’s irresponsible to speculate
  • Accuse theorists of being wedded to and infatuated with their theories
  • Accuse theorists of being politically motivated
  • Accuse theorists of having financial interests in promoting conspiracy theories

In other words, the CIA’s clandestine services unit created the arguments for attacking conspiracy theories as unreliable in the 1960s as part of its psychological warfare operations.

But Aren’t Conspiracy Theories – In Fact – Nuts?

Forget Western history and CIA dispatches … aren’t conspiracy theorists nutty?

In fact, conspiracies are so common that judges are trained to look at conspiracy allegations as just another legal claim to be disproven or proven based on the specific evidence:

Federal and all 50 state’s codes include specific statutes addressing conspiracy, and providing the punishment for people who commit conspiracies.

But let’s examine what the people trained to weigh evidence and reach conclusions think about “conspiracies”. Let’s look at what American judges think.

Searching Westlaw, one of the 2 primary legal research networks which attorneys and judges use to research the law, I searched for court decisions including the word “Conspiracy”. This is such a common term in lawsuits that it overwhelmed Westlaw.

Specifically, I got the following message

“Your query has been intercepted because it may retrieve a large number of documents.”

From experience, I know that this means that there were potentially millions or many hundreds of thousands of cases which use the term. There were so many cases, that Westlaw could not even start processing the request.

So I searched again, using the phrase “Guilty of Conspiracy”. I hoped that this would not only narrow my search sufficiently that Westlaw could handle it, but would give me cases where the judge actually found the defendant guilty of a conspiracy. This pulled up exactly 10,000 cases — which is the maximum number of results which Westlaw can give at one time. In other words, there were more than 10,000 cases using the phrase “Guilty of Conspiracy” (maybe there’s a way to change my settings to get more than 10,000 results, but I haven’t found it yet).

Moreover, as any attorney can confirm, usually only appeal court decisions are published in the Westlaw database. In other words, trial court decisions are rarely published; the only decisions normally published are those of the courts which hear appeals of the trial. Because only a very small fraction of the cases which go to trial are appealed, this logically means that the number of guilty verdicts in conspiracy cases at trial must be much, much larger than 10,000.

Moreover, “Guilty of Conspiracy” is only one of many possible search phrases to use to find cases where the defendant was found guilty of a lawsuit for conspiracy. Searching on Google, I got 3,170,000 results (as of yesterday) under the term “Guilty of Conspiracy”, 669,000 results for the search term “Convictions for Conspiracy”, and 743,000 results for “Convicted for Conspiracy”.

Of course, many types of conspiracies are called other things altogether. For example, a long-accepted legal doctrine makes it illegal for two or more companies to conspire to fix prices, which is called “Price Fixing” (1,180,000 results).

Given the above, I would extrapolate that there have been hundreds of thousands of convictions for criminal or civil conspiracy in the United States.

Finally, many crimes go unreported or unsolved, and the perpetrators are never caught. Therefore, the actual number of conspiracies committed in the U.S. must be even higher.

In other words, conspiracies are committed all the time in the U.S., and many of the conspirators are caught and found guilty by American courts. Remember, Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme was a conspiracy theory.

Indeed, conspiracy is a very well-recognized crime in American law, taught to every first-year law school student as part of their basic curriculum. Telling a judge that someone has a “conspiracy theory” would be like telling him that someone is claiming that he trespassed on their property, or committed assault, or stole his car. It is a fundamental legal concept.

Obviously, many conspiracy allegations are false (if you see a judge at a dinner party, ask him to tell you some of the crazy conspiracy allegations which were made in his court). Obviously, people will either win or lose in court depending on whether or not they can prove their claim with the available evidence. But not all allegations of trespass, assault, or theft are true, either.

Proving a claim of conspiracy is no different from proving any other legal claim, and the mere label “conspiracy” is taken no less seriously by judges.

It’s not only Madoff. The heads of Enron were found guilty of conspiracy, as was the head of Adelphia. Numerous lower-level government officials have been found guilty of conspiracy. See this, this, this, this and this.

Time Magazine’s financial columnist Justin Fox writes

Some financial market conspiracies are real …

Most good investigative reporters are conspiracy theorists, by the way.

And what about the NSA and the tech companies that have cooperated with them?

But Our Leaders Wouldn’t Do That

While people might admit that corporate executives and low-level government officials might have engaged in conspiracies – they may be strongly opposed to considering that the wealthiest or most powerful might possibly have done so.

But powerful insiders have long admitted to conspiracies. For example, Obama’s Administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, Cass Sunstein, wrote

Of course some conspiracy theories, under our definition, have turned out to be true. The Watergate hotel room used by Democratic National Committee was, in fact, bugged by Republican officials, operating at the behest of the White House. In the 1950s, the Central Intelligence Agency did, in fact, administer LSD and related drugs under Project MKULTRA, in an effort to investigate the possibility of “mind control.” Operation Northwoods, a rumored plan by the Department of Defense to simulate acts of terrorism and to blame them on Cuba, really was proposed by high-level officials ….

But Someone Would Have Spilled the Beans

A common defense to people trying sidetrack investigations into potential conspiracies is to say that “someone would have spilled the beans” if there were really a conspiracy.

But famed whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg explains:

It is a commonplace that “you can’t keep secrets in Washington” or “in a democracy, no matter how sensitive the secret, you’re likely to read it the next day in the New York Times.” These truisms are flatly false. They are in fact cover stories, ways of flattering and misleading journalists and their readers, part of the process of keeping secrets well. Of course eventually many secrets do get out that wouldn’t in a fully totalitarian society. But the fact is that the overwhelming majority of secrets do not leak to the American public. This is true even when the information withheld is well known to an enemy and when it is clearly essential to the functioning of the congressional war power and to any democratic control of foreign policy. The reality unknown to the public and to most members of Congress and the press is that secrets that would be of the greatest import to many of them can be kept from them reliably for decades by the executive branch, even though they are known to thousands of insiders.

History proves Ellsberg right. For example:

  • A BBC documentary shows that:

There was “a planned coup in the USA in 1933 by a group of right-wing American businessmen . . . . The coup was aimed at toppling President Franklin D Roosevelt with the help of half-a-million war veterans. The plotters, who were alleged to involve some of the most famous families in America, (owners of Heinz, Birds Eye, Goodtea, Maxwell Hse & George Bush’s Grandfather, Prescott) believed that their country should adopt the policies of Hitler and Mussolini to beat the great depression”

Moreover, “the tycoons told General Butler the American people would accept the new government because they controlled all the newspapers.” Have you ever heard of this conspiracy before? It was certainly a very large one. And if the conspirators controlled the newspapers then, how much worse is it today with media consolidation?

  • The government’s spying on Americans began before 9/11 (confirmed here and here. And see this.) But the public didn’t learn about it until many years later. Indeed, the the New York Times delayed the story so that it would not affect the outcome of the 2004 presidential election
  • The decision to launch the Iraq war was made before 9/11. Indeed, former CIA director George Tenet said that the White House wanted to invade Iraq long before 9/11, and inserted “crap” in its justifications for invading Iraq. Former Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill – who sat on the National Security Council – also says that Bush planned the Iraq war before 9/11. And top British officials say that the U.S. discussed Iraq regime change one month after Bush took office. Dick Cheney apparently even made Iraqi’s oil fields a national security priority before 9/11. And it has now been shown that a handful of people were responsible for willfully ignoring the evidence that Iraq lacked weapons of mass destruction. These facts have only been publicly disclosed recently. Indeed, Tom Brokaw said, “All wars are based on propaganda.” A concerted effort to produce propaganda is a conspiracy

Moreover, high-level government officials and insiders have admitted to dramatic conspiracies after the fact, including:

The admissions did not occur until many decades after the events.

These examples show that it is possible to keep conspiracies secret for a long time, without anyone “spilling the beans”.

In addition, to anyone who knows how covert military operations work, it is obvious that segmentation on a “need-to-know basis”, along with deference to command hierarchy, means that a couple of top dogs can call the shots and most people helping won’t even know the big picture at the time they are participating.

Moreover, those who think that co-conspirators will brag about their deeds forget that people in the military or intelligence or who have huge sums of money on the line can be very disciplined. They are not likely to go to the bar and spill the beans like a down-on-their-luck, second-rate alcoholic robber might do.

Finally, people who carry out covert operations may do so for ideological reasons — believing that the “ends justify the means”. Never underestimate the conviction of an ideologue.


The bottom line is that some conspiracy claims are nutty and some are true. Each has to be judged on its own facts.

Humans have a tendency to try to explain random events through seeing patterns … that’s how our brains our wired. Therefore, we have to test our theories of connection and causality against the cold, hard facts.

On the other hand, the old saying by Lord Acton is true:

Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power tends to corrupt absolutely.

Those who operate without checks and balances – and without the disinfectant sunlight of public scrutiny and accountability – tend to act in their own best interests … and the little guy gets hurt.

The early Greeks knew it, as did those who forced the king to sign the Magna Carta, the Founding Fathers and the father of modern economics. We should remember this important tradition of Western civilization.

Postscript: The ridicule of all conspiracy theories is really just an attempt to diffuse criticism of the powerful.

The wealthy are not worse than other people … but they are not necessarily better either. Powerful leaders may not be bad people … or they could be sociopaths.

We must judge each by his or her actions, and not by preconceived stereotypes that they are all saints acting in our best interest or all scheming criminals.

And see …

The Troll’s Guide to Internet Disruption