Preface: before I begin I want to state that my aim is to be briefer than usual because I know that most people aren’t willing to take the time to read anything “too lengthy.” Moreover, many on-line sites that allow you to post your writing, censor how long an article/essay can be. So, don’t criticize me if some of my points aren’t as clear as perhaps you’d like them to be. In fact, I was tempted to just make this a bullet-point list but upon reflection I realized that I must do more to “connect the dots.”
My simple definition of “willful ignorance” is that a person purposely blocks out new information, knowledge, or wisdom because it is basically too threatening to their belief structures. And by contrast, “innocent ignorance” simply means that a person doesn’t know something through no fault of their own, they simply have never been exposed to the new information. My thesis is that a pervasive willful ignorance is killing America and I am very concerned not just because I fear about America’s survival but also because America is such a major player in this global game of Monopoly, the survival of our planet is at stake!
The recent revelations regarding our Justice department’s spying on Associated Press reporters motivated me to write this essay. And the general sense of apathy among the general public regarding our government spying on us so blatantly ever since 9/11 truly saddens me. When I bring this issue up to people I know or have recently met, the usual response is “Oh well, I have nothing to worry about because I’m not doing anything wrong!” This is mind-boggling to me & I ask myself “Then why have our soldiers died or been maimed in this perpetual state of war we’ve been in my whole life?” The constant refrain I hear is “Support Our Soldiers because they are fighting for our freedom, Democracy, etc.” How can this be when our freedoms, democracy, etc. is being seriously undermined & eliminated altogether here in America?
Case in point; President Obama has prosecuted more “Whistleblowers” than All the presidents who preceded his administration. Like so many other terms or words, the word “whistleblower” has been twisted to the point that it is now almost completely understood as a negative thing. This is truly Orwellian because “whistleblowers” are the true patriots & are doing us a great service by warning us of illegal & immoral actions on the part of our government & the corporate cockroach elite.
Some of you may not be familiar with I.F. Stone, George Seldes, Edward R. Murrow, or Robert Scheer but these men were/are amongst a relatively small handful of our greatest whistleblowers & often labeled as “Muckrakers.” Another derisive term implying they just stirred up trouble & threw mud at political officials, corporate Robber Barons, etc. because they were jealous, mean-spirited, unpatriotic, etc. etc. etc. This is another example of willful ignorance and absolutely wrong. These men and women were the most patriotic and courageous people this country has produced because they dared to stand up on their hind-legs and blow the whistle on the thieves in high places by stating publicly how politicians & businessmen were breaking our laws as a nation & the higher laws to which humans are responsible for—the laws of humanity commonly known as ethics!
Today’s America is but a dim shadow of those golden ideals & principles that we were told we believed in & practiced as a nation as we went through public school. Most Americans are now either afraid to speak up or are too apathetic & as long as they have their inane television sit-coms, soap operas, sports, & “reality” shows, don’t give a shit! Willful ignorance is now held up as the way to be & well-meaning friends admonish me to not fight the system, it’s futile. I have been fighting this apathy & willful ignorance all my life and it’s been a lonely journey. For example, several years ago when my son was still in high school, his mother & her brother started saying they believed that it would be a good thing for my son to join the military. This scared the Hell out of me because I was in the U.S. Army and came close to being sent to Vietnam & knew after 30 years of serious searching for facts, knowledge, truth, & wisdom the lies, the needless slaughter of Vietnamese innocents, the death of over 55,000 American soldiers, etc. how wrong & how dangerous a game they were playing with my son’s life!
So, I sat down at the kitchen table & wrote for two days, every reason I could think of as to why my son, or any young person should not join the military. And to this day, I haven’t been able to persuade my son to read this outpouring of my soul in an attempt to save his life. Thankfully he didn’t join the military but I still feel the pain & suffering of all those poor, young people who have joined the military and had their souls crushed.
Continuing on, this isn’t a self-pity party but merely to substantiate my argument regarding America’s general sense of apathy & willful ignorance. I have been mocked & dismissed for most of my adult life because I am almost always in the minority regarding these issues & people take comfort & believe they must be right because they are in the majority when arguments arise about these topics. If we had more courageous journalists like those I mentioned earlier, then perhaps we could have averted invading Iraq and all the horrible aftermath of that war of choice?
Furthermore, I contend that because of our general sense of apathy and our willful ignorance, the powers that be have been, are, & will continue to erode & destroy America as a nation. And lest you think me an alarmist, conspiracy nut, or whatever, I challenge you to do a little research for yourself starting with the late, great Gore Vidal and his book “Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace.” In this simple little book, Vidal lists the over 200 military incursions or whatever you care to refer to them as, since 1945. Here is a blurb relevant to this point:
In all, the United States has only made 11 separate formal declarations of war against foreign nations encompassing 5 wars.
- War with Great Britain 1812 (Act of June 18, 1812, House 79-49; Senate 19-13)
- War with Mexico 1846 (Act of May 13, 1846, House 174-14; Senate 40-2)
- War with Spain 1898 (Act of April 25, 1898, House & Senate voice votes)
- War with Germany 1917 (Act of April 6, 1917, House 373-50; Senate 82-6)
- War with Austria-Hungary 1917 (Act of December 7, 1917, House 365-1; Senate 74-0))
- War with Japan 1941 (Act of December 8, 1941, House 388-1; Senate 82-0)
- War with Germany 1941 (Act of December 11, 1941, House 393-0; Senate 88-0)
- War with Italy 1941 (Act of December 11, 1941, House 399-0; Senate 90-0)
- War with Bulgaria 1942 (Act of June 5, 1942, House 357-0; Senate 73-0)
- War with Hungary 1942 (Act of June 5, 1942, House 360-0; Senate 73-0)
- War with Rumania 1942 (Act of June 5, 1942, House 361-0; Senate 73-0)9
Since 1942, of course the United States has not led the world in a seventy-years’ peace. Despite Roosevelt’s relative ease in obtaining six formal declarations of war, since World War Two Americans have been drawn time and time again into war without a congressional declaration. Gore Vidal commented:
“Since V-J Day 1945 (‘Victory over Japan’ and the end of World War II), we have been engaged in what the historian Charles A. Beard called ‘perpetual war for perpetual peace.’ I have occasionally referred to our ‘enemy of the month club’: each month we are confronted by a new horrendous enemy at whom we must strike before he destroys us.”
Vidal goes on to list several hundred wars and operations conducted against Communism, terrorism, drugs, or as he puts it, “sometimes nothing much” that occurred between Pearl Harbor and September 11, 2001. Based on casualties alone the costliest conflicts following the last official declaration of war include the Korean War with 33,686, the Vietnam War with 47,424, Iraq War with 3,542 and Afghanistan at greater than 2,000. http://inconvenienthistory.com/archive/2013/volume_5/number_1/war_is_declared.php
And with the latest brainstorm on the part of the Pentagon & the politicians, we now “embed” our journalists in military units so they can “report” the facts of war protected by the units they are embedded with. Is it just me or does anyone else see the dangers inherent in this new version of war coverage by journalists? This is a very clever tactic designed to keep an even tighter leash on journalists by making them dependent on soldiers for their very lives, journalists will naturally be a lot more reluctant to report on abuses, crimes, etc. committed by the soldiers they are embedded with. And as a result, we, the American public will be left even more in the dark regarding the truth about the wars, police actions, incursions, etc. that we are continually involved in around the globe.
One of the most pernicious myths about the Vietnam war is that it was the “liberal media” which caused us to lose that war because they were broadcasting all those horrible images of war back to our homes and as families sat around the T.V. and watched those images day in and day out, Americans gradually began to turn against the war. The movie “The Killing Fields” showed how bogus this claim was because it revealed the fact that most of the journalists covering the Vietnam war would wait until after a battle and the military had brought them to the battle scene after it had been “cleaned-up” and take their pictures & accept the military commanders’ version of what happened and dutifully transcribe it for their newspapers. Noam Chomsky clearly proved the falsity of these claims and the myths regarding the liberal opposition to the Vietnam war, etc. And again because i don’t have the space to go into great depth, you’ll have to check out the truth of what I claim for yourself.
The myth or “truism” that there is a “liberal media bias” in America is just that, a myth. And it has been mostly been thanks to FOX News and the “mainstream” or corporate media which have vested interests in maintaining the status quo in America. It’s very well known that FOX News, especially during the Gulf war and the Iraq war, took their daily “talking points” directly from the White House so as to keep all their talking heads on the same page and hammering the same pack of lies day in and day out. And this brings me to an extremely important point e.g. just because a newscaster, a politician, or anyone keeps on repeating something it’s not necessarily true or a fact. I have gone round and round with people, including my ex-wife, on this matter and in particular, far too many naive people don’t recognize the difference between opinion and objective fact. Facts can be backed up or substantiated and yes everyone has a right to their opinion but not all opinions are valid or perhaps I should say, equally valid. FOX News is the farthest thing from news because it is mostly opinionated, loud-mouth bullies who believe that if they scream loud enough to drown out their disagreeing guests, they’re right and the guest has been proven wrong. Moreover, even sticking to mere opinions, if one person in an argument is arguing about a subject they have formally studied for years & have earned a degree in the subject is arguing with someone else who has never even read a book on the subject, their opinions are not equally valid. One is arguing from knowledge & experience and the other is arguing from an emotional perspective or a set of beliefs. And this is not elitist but simply logical or scholarly and is the basis for most of human progress. I know that for a lot of people I have met over the course of my adult life, this point regarding the validity of arguments is a bitter or hard pill to swallow. It sounds very arrogant of me to make such statements but consider it from this point of view if you will; I have next to no knowledge when it comes to mechanical aptitude or matters and if I tried telling some guy who had 30 years of experience as a mechanic that he was definitely wrong about some mechanical problem I was having, it would be just as absurd for him to tell me I was off my nut about some political issue which I had spent 30 years of my life studying.
Naturally, the power elite or the 1% want to keep the general public as ignorant as possible because it’s much easier to control an ignorant populace than a well-informed one. Why do you think they cracked down so hard on the Occupy Wall St. movement? These protestors were constantly derided on FOX News as dirty, lazy, young kids who didn’t want to work, etc. They weren’t allowed to use microphones at their meetings, they weren’t allowed to even carry a backpack but at the Tea Party rallies, they were allowed to use microphones, they could even bring their guns, and they were covered by the corporate media because they were the dupes of FOX News and the so-called conservative Republican party. Free speech in America? Yeah, right. Only if you agree with the corporate cockroaches are you allowed to be heard.
I didn’t start listening to what was going on politically until Ronald Reagan became president because I grew up in L.A. and I’d seen what he’d done as governor of California. Reagan the “great communicator,” cracked-down on student protestors with a vengeance & probably would’ve like to have them all shot down like dogs. So when he became president I got worried and ever since his presidency, there has been a steady & stealthy building of power on the side of the rich in America. They built a network of think tanks and hammered away at the American public with their rhetoric & propaganda telling the public ad nauseam that it was the government that was making their lives tough & it was the liberals, the students, the illegal immigrants, gays, in short, anyone who wasn’t rich was the problem.
And just as Hitler’s minister of propaganda, joseph Goebbels realized, the more you repeat a lie and the greater the lie, the more people will accept it as truth. The Right-wing extremists in America now have the microphone almost exclusively & when people like myself who have been paying attention, try to speak up, we are shouted down as communists, terrorists, etc. It’s gotten so bad e.g. we’ve become such a corporatocracy that the Democratic party which once stood for the working Americans has now almost completely gone over to the corporate controlled side.
I thought I was pretty savvy politically speaking but Obama even fooled me but only for a few weeks. After he was elected and appointed Bernanke, Summers, & Geithner to the top financial & economic positions in America, I knew I & America had been duped yet again. And if you still need convincing of this, as many “liberals” do, note Obama’s speech where he said he wasn’t interested in “looking back” in reference to calls for Bush, Cheney, et al being prosecuted for lying us into the Iraq war and wrecking the U.S. economy. Yet Obama is going after ‘Whistleblowers’ with a vengeance & he has prosecuted those who are trying to protect America more than all the other presidents did in total. Obama the Oreo as I call him (black on the outside, white on the inside) not only hasn’t given up any of the illegal expanded powers of the presidency that Georgie Bush stole, he has expanded the imperial presidency and he personally participates in a weekly meeting where he & his advisors act as judge, jurors, & executioners as they select people to assassinate around the world, even American citizens.
At the risk of being dismissed as just another “conspiracy nut,” I think all these racist attacks against Obama on FOX News may serve the financial elite’s hidden agenda because it keeps the yokels, both the innocently ignorant & the willfully ignorant occupied & focusing their anger on Obama rather than the truly heinous criminal class who are sucking the lifeblood out of America. We have witnessed the largest transfer of wealth from the poor, the working class, & the middle class to the obscenely wealthy in the top 1% of our population over the past 30 years or so. The traitors at the top have almost completely eliminated unions, have outsourced almost every manufacturing plant that used to be in America, have gained ever more tax breaks, have made our land, air, & water toxic, and are now focused on getting their bloody talons on Social Security & completely gutting Medicare & privatizing our public education system.
By keeping the ignorant public focused on guns & gays & abortion, they have emptied the federal treasury and bankrupted America & turned us into a Third World nation. And the horrific events of 9/11 was the perfect excuse for them to hide their sinister agenda behind. With the passage overnight with no Congressional review & very few even took the time to read it, of The Patriot Act and Homeland Security, they have almost completely eviscerated our Constitution & Bill of Rights. We more closely resemble Stalinist Russia than the America I was born into in the 1950s. We hear the talking heads on television, the political pundits, the politicians, the corporate crocodile C.E.O.s, the televangelist preachers, etc. constantly telling us how great America is and how proud we should be of our soldiers fighting in the steady stream of wars overseas for freedom & democracy right? So then why are so much less free here in America? We are truly living that book by George Orwell “1984” here in the United States in 2013.
Again, as Gore Vidal has pointed out, just about every month there is some new enemy of the month and we must again spend billions of dollars fighting this never ending stream of villains. As they slash our programs that were supposed to act as a Social Safety Net such as Head Start, food stamps, welfare, health care, etc. they keep spending billions & trillions on weapons systems that often don’t work & kill our own soldiers. They lose pallets of money in Iraq. They pay warlords in Afghanistan hundreds of thousands of dollars month in, month out for the past decade, those same warlords who also control the poppy fields that produce the majority of the world’s heroin. Yeah, it must be nice to be stupid & not realize that all these blatant contradictions & hypocrisies are going on. We were forced to bail-out the Wall St. wolves and the Banks too big to fail as they stole our homes, our pensions, our health care, our self respect & dignity but hey, let’s go beat up some gays, some illegals, some Occupy Wall St. protestors because they are the ones causing our pain.
If you want to be a “success” in America, it’s real simple, all you have to do is ignore your conscience & be as cutthroat, ruthless, cold-blooded as you can be. Look at Colin Powell who made it up the ranks to the highest position in the military services. He showed the powers that be that he was their boy back in the 1960s when he was sent to investigate the My Lai Massacre and returned a report saying nothing had happened or no wrongdoing had been done. If you’re tired of being ignorant about the Vietnam war, check out a book by Lt. Colonel David L. Hackworth called “About Face.” This guy was a true Audie Murphy and had been wounded more times than is almost believable. He fought in N. Korea, Vietnam, etc. and after a few years of serving in Vietnam, he couldn’t take the lies & the waste of human life anymore and started speaking out and finally resigned in disgust. And Lt. Colonel David L. Hackworth was the most decorated soldier of his time & created and commanded a unit he called ‘Tiger Force’ which used guerrilla warfare tactics to fight against the Vietnamese guerrillas.
Furthermore, we have the case of another highly respected officer who tried also to wake up our military commanders in the Pentagon & the political leadership as to the folly of our involvement in Vietnam:
John Paul Vann became an adviser to the Saigon regime in the early 1960s. He was an ardent critic of how the war was fought, both on the part of the Saigon regime, which he viewed as corrupt and incompetent, and, as time went by, increasingly, on the part of the U.S. military. In particular, he was critical of the U.S. military command, especially under William Westmoreland, and their inability to adapt to the fact that they were facing a popular guerrilla movement while backing a corrupt regime. He argued that many of the tactics employed (for example the strategic hamlet relocation) further alienated the population and thus were counterproductive to U.S. objectives. Often he was unable to influence the military command but used the Saigon press corps including Neil Sheehan, David Halberstam and Malcolm Browne to disseminate his views.
The volume begins with a prologue giving an account of Vann’s funeral on June 16, 1972, following his death in a helicopter accident in Vietnam. The author, Sheehan, a personal friend, was present. The subsequent account is divided into seven “books” detailing Vann’s career in Vietnam and America’s involvement in the conflict. Book I tells of Vann’s assignment to Vietnam in 1962. Book II “The Antecedents to a Confrontation” tells of the origin of the Vietnam War. Book III gives a detailed account of the shambolic Battle of Ap Bac on January 2, 1963 in which the South Vietnamese army suffered a humiliating defeat at the hands of the Viet Cong. Book IV details Vann’s criticism of the way the war was being fought, his conflict with the U.S. military command and his transfer back to America. Book V tracks back to give Vann’s personal history before his involvement in the war. In the final chapters, Books VI and VII give an account of Vann’s return to Vietnam in 1965 and his doomed attempt to implement a war winning formula for the beleaguered U.S. army and how he eventually compromised with the military system he once criticized.
(A Bright Shining Lie: John Paul Vann and America in Vietnam)
But of course if you don’t mind sending your sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, fathers, or mothers to slaughter or being maimed for life in these wars to make the rich even richer then by all means enjoy your blissful ignorance! Moreover, we are kept in the dark about the epidemic of sexual assaults against not only women in the military services but of men as well. We are also ignorant of the fact that a good percentage of the homeless wandering our streets like ghosts on the landscape are veterans who were used, chewed-up and spit out on the street with little to no assistance by the government who had promised them the world to get them to enlist.
As for me, I will continue to speak out, to argue, to scream about the true betrayers of the American promise, the real traitors like the politicians, the top officers in the Pentagon, the corporate cockroaches, & the cowards who crow so brazenly on television. Against the wolves in sheep’s clothing claiming to be Christians as they preach hatred, fear, & call for the murder of those whom they don’t agree with. Against the Bush administration who “leaked” Valerie Plame’s identity but weren’t prosecuted by Obama, the Constitutional law professor. True Christians know that Jesus focused all his time & energy on taking care of the homeless, the sick & disabled, those shunned by society such as the prostitutes, etc. and that he detested the rich for their greed, oppression of the poor, & their apathy. And I know what the true agenda or the motives behind the prosecution of whistleblowers are, it’s to silence the true patriots who sound the alarm warning us, the willfully ignorant, that the power elite are killing America just as surely as an inoperable cancer but under the guise of National Security. But what they mean by National Security is the military/industrial/congressional complex that gives the overwhelming majority of our tax dollars to the already obscenely wealthy while impoverishing the rest of us, the 99% forced to work for slave wages & pay taxes or be imprisoned! I choose to inform myself and will fight to inform others but of course if you prefer to be willingly ignorant, there’s nothing to be done and I feel no sympathy for you as you wither & die!
—Rob DeLoss, Gearhart, Oregon, May 16, 2013
“Men fear thought as they fear nothing else on earth — more than ruin — more even than death…. Thought is subversive and revolutionary, destructive and terrible, thought is merciless to privilege, established institutions, and comfortable habit. Thought looks into the pit of hell and is not afraid. Thought is great and swift and free, the light of the world, and the chief glory of man.”
—Bertrand Russell, winner of the Nobel Prize
Addendum: just dawned on me as I was searching for pics to illustrate this essay, the man who epitomizes those who fight against ignorance because they are “our better angels,” is Aaron Swartz. And this gentle, young soul’s crime was “illegally” making available the knowledge of scientific journals reserved for paying customers. Tell me again that there isn’t any anti-intellectualism in America or a deliberate effort to keep us ignorant!
Swartz was involved in the development of the web feed format RSS, the organizationCreative Commons, the website framework web.py and the social news site Reddit, in which he was an equal partner after its merger with his Infogami company.[i] Swartz also focused on sociology, civic awareness and activism. In 2010, he became a research fellow at Harvard University’s Edmond J. Safra Research Lab on Institutional Corruption, directed by Lawrence Lessig. He founded the online group Demand Progress, known for its campaign against the Stop Online Piracy Act.
On January 6, 2011, Swartz was arrested by MIT police on state breaking-and-entering charges, in connection with the systematic downloading of academic journal articles fromJSTOR. Federal prosecutors eventually charged him with two counts of wire fraud and 11 violations of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, charges carrying a cumulative maximum penalty of $1 million in fines plus 35 years in prison, asset forfeiture,restitution and supervised release.
On January 11, 2013, two years after his initial arrest, Swartz was found dead in his Crown Heights, Brooklyn apartment, where he had hanged himself.
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