I was an apolitical high school student at the time, but I can still remember the national mood concerning the 2003 illegal invasion of Iraq. Left-leaning people tended to be against it. It was widely known that Iraq had no link to 9/11, and most people seemed to, at least at some level, be aware of the fact that there are a lot of dictatorships in the world and that the US’s selective outrage at this one seemed pretty suspicious. This was still in the early days of the internet: before Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Amazon and thousands of blogs. Most people still got their news from corporate-owned TV networks and newspapers, so you would expect people to be less free-thinking in those days, but they weren’t. They were still somehow able to think for themselves. Left-leaning media outlets like the New York Times were spitting out pro-war propaganda everyday, but a lot of people just weren’t buying it.
Now fast forward less than 17 years, America is currently involved in 8 militarily interventions around the world, and you’re are more likely to get caught in a snow storm on Key West than you are to find a single American liberal who gives a shit about stopping these wars. The US is helping to carry out a genocide in Yemen as we speak. And no, using the word ‘genocide’ is not a hyperbole. That is an accurate description of what is happening. And less than one in ten Americans can even point out Yemen on a map much less tell you the reasons for the war and why it’s necessary for us to starve hundreds of thousands of people to death. People are more interconnected than ever. They have all the world’s information at their fingertips, but they have regressed back into the bronze age when it comes to their complicity in state-sponsored mass murder. So what has changed in that time period? What is the reason for this cultural 180? I have a few ideas.
A lot has happened during that same time period. The rise of social media, smart phones, and Netflix have made it to where people always have something to do. People also generally have shorter attention spans. It doesn’t matter how many times you tell someone they need to research Yemen, they simply cannot will themselves to do it.
Another cultural trend that is contemporaneous with the endless wars of the 21st century is the rise to prominence of reality TV shows. I’m proud to say I’ve watched almost none of them, and I couldn’t pick Kim Kardashian out in a lineup. But I have noticed something strange in the people around me. People started talking about famous people as if they know them personally. This is a plunge into the wrong side of this famous truism quoted below.
This personality obsessed culture has given rise to something far more insidious than the Kardashians: Identity Politics. After recently posting something in favor of Bernie Sanders on a Facebook group, I was told to “check my white privilege.” I was a bit taken aback, but I’ve come to understand that this is a sentiment that is quickly catching on. There are blue check-marked Twitter users who are saying things like, “I will not vote for a white person or male in the Democratic primary under any circumstances.” It’s hard for me to keep track of what’s being discussed on Twitter, because Twitter permanently banned me for ‘repeatedly violating the rules’ – ie. telling the truth about Syria and Yemen: another dangerous side effect of the Russiagate hysteria, but I’ve seen them re-posted on Facebook (where less important people go to post) and discussed in some YouTube videos. To some people, identity matters much more than policy. Nowadays feminism and anti-racism are not about celebrating the many things that women and minorities are good at, it’s about whether or not they get to do all the same immoral things that white men do. I guess to those people, the thousands of bombs Obama dropped in the Middle East were good bombs because they were ‘bombs of color.’ Likewise, Trevor Noah claimed Obama is completely welcome to accept retroactive bribes from wall street banks in the form of $400,000 speaking gigs because -and I’m paraphrasing- ‘white people did it before him, and it would be racist to say that a black man can’t participate in the same systemic corruption as white people.’ This is of great concern of Noah because he’s colored. (I can say that with full political correctness since that is the official title of South Africans of mixed-race decent, so I just thought I’d slip it in.) Here is that video.
I think reality TV has a lot to answer for. Everything has become personalized. This along with the decimation of attention spans and unprecedented levels of intellectual laziness have spelled disaster. It’s very difficult to get someone to care about ideas and policy. The news media is also at fault as I discussed in The Dumbing Down of the American Electorate.
The loudest expression of the identity politics extravaganza was a set of pointless ‘protests’ known as the Women’s March. It was the largest single day of protest in US history. More than a million people gathered in Washington and another 4 million or so in other cities across the country. It wasn’t because of the ongoing GENOCIDE IN YEMEN or the MILLIONS of innocent people slaughtered by US imperialist wars in the Middle East. People couldn’t care less about that stuff. It was all because the president is sometimes rude to women.
Another problem is just the never-ending nature of these occupations. Apparently America is now Sparta. Think about someone who was born in the year 2000. That person is probably now 18 years old- an adult- and they have known nothing but war for their entire life. The possibility of a universe where their country is not bombing the hell out of some developing country filled with brown people unimaginable. The generation behind millennials are going to be hard to reach. As older people, we have an obligation to teach them that it doesn’t have to be this way.
The main turning point was the inauguration of Obama. He was a sweet-talking, articulate neoliberal. People who weren’t following along closely simply could not accept the fact that this smart black man was continuing to carry out the same war crimes as his unsophisticated Texan predecessor, so they forgot all about the peace movement. And now that Trump is in office, they know that it would seem a bit hypocritical if they pretended to care about peace again. Besides, it’s so much easier just to watch Netflix. It’s not like they can just turn on MSNBC and watch Rachel Maddow explain the situation to them. Maddow has other business to take care of, which brings me to my next point.
The final nail in the coffin of the anti-war left is the Mueller investigation. Liberals are now insistent that we must stay in Syria forever because Putin and something about the Kurds (who none of them cared about one month ago). Rachel Maddow, the highest rated news reporter in the country, has assured us that if Trump deescalates with another nuclear power by pulling troops of their border it’s proof that he is a traitor and working for Putin. Meanwhile if Russia even moves troops within their own borders this is considered a provocation by the liberal media. And if Russian Facebook users pretend to be someone they’re not and believe something they don’t this is an ‘attack on our democracy,’ and we must sensor the internet and end all free-speech protections, but of course the Hillary campaign and whoever the establishment will push in 2020 are completely allowed to opportune multi-million dollar troll farms like ‘Correct the Record’ where people pretend to be someone they’re not and believe something they don’t
Bazaarly, the FBI is now lionized by the left. A couple decades ago they were widely and accurately viewed as a national menace, cut from the same cloth as the KGB and Gestapo. The FBI has infiltrated, disrupted and smeared every single important left-wing American movement of the past 70 years. Now so-called liberals bash Trump for ‘not respecting the intelligence community.’
Luckily there is a budding anti-war movement on the right. I don’t know whether this is by design or happening organically. I know too much to not first assume that everything is some sort of divide-and-conquer tactic, but at least someone in America still understands that murder is bad.
I never claimed to understand normal people in my home country. I’ve always felt like an outsider there. I’m either the least qualified or most qualified to speak on this, depending on how you look at it. I know the country well, but I’m still speaking from an outsider’s perspective. I don’t see this situation improving in the short term, but I did see one small bit of encouragement this morning: 2020 presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren went against party orthodoxy by supporting Trump’s Syria withdrawal, something not even Bernie or AOC have done. Maybe this will do something to start to change the conversation. I hope she’s able to confidently articulate this view on the debate stage next to her warmongering Democratic primary opponents. Meanwhile, I’ll be cheering on right-wing anti-war voices. (at least on this one topic)
This makes me think of the Strauss-Howe Generation theory. I read in The Fourth Tuning a few years ago that millenials would turn out to be an authoritarian, socially-regressive generation. I’m still not a believer in cyclical history, and I thought the idea was ridiculous at first, but there could be some grain of truth to it.