We live in a culture that worships violence and death and mass-produces violence and death, a culture epitomized by such TV shows as "24" with its 21st Century, testosterone dripping, ruthless American male prototype, Jack Bauer. The Fox Network, the semi-official propaganda organ of the White House, has created a complete caricature of the TV heroes I can remember as a kid, such stalwarts as Lorne Greene's Ben Cartwright, Richard Boone's Paladin, and James Arness's Matt Dillon, characters that were fair, honorable and just, slow to anger and measured in their responses to provocations. Hell, Paladin even quoted Shakespeare. But all that was before the era of the arrogant, hate-spewing Neocons, of the descent of the collective American psyche into a paranoid, delusional state of endless victimization and revenge. And art, imitating life, has reflected this.
Our Neocon icon, fair-haired, light-skinned Jack, uninhibited by any moral or legal restraints, thus flaunts his adrenaline-saturated virility weekly in sado-masochistic encounters with darker-complexioned denizens of Manichean evil, serving as a powerful conduit for the sadistic impulses of countless American 24-cultists. Moreover, we now have the confirmed surrealism of life imitating art when it was announced in the media on Tuesday, 2/13/2007, that a percentage of American soldiers (and, I assume, mercenaries) have been role-playing Jack Bauer in their daily routines of tormenting, humiliating and shooting Iraqis, so much so that the Pentagon has now had to ask the Fox producers to tone down Jack's excesses. In other words, televised sadism is rather contagious to the psyches of our emotionally-strained GI's, who, contrary to their idealized, sanitized image, are in reality beset with an avalanche of mental, emotional, ethical and physical problems that are inundating the VA Hospitals when they return from combat.
But with perhaps as many as 650,000 or more Iraqis already dead, two million or more driven into exile, hundreds of thousands more wounded or broken, the Pentagon's concerns come a little late. These are but the fruits of 21st Century American civilization, the flowering of high culture in our political and military leaders' minds. It is as if the Aztec Empire has been reborn in El Norte, after slumbering for so many centuries to the south. How much longer before we have Dick Cheney atop a stone altar in front of the Washington Monument, cutting out the throbbing heart of a spread-eagled, ceremonial "evil-doer" with an obsidian knife? Watch out world! America requires continuous, voluminous human sacrifice to satiate its bloodthirsty gods. Who will be next?
But what are the dynamics that are driving this sadistic American assault upon humanity, which is being enforced, one soldier at a time, with extreme prejudice? Moreover, there is such an obvious sexual component to the extensive sadism uncovered thus far that this must be fully taken account of while exploring the psychopathology of American soldiers involved in the bizarre and voyeuristic treatment of prisoners at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay. For erudition, I turn to several passages by the famous, though controversial 20th Century German psychiatrist, researcher and author, Wilhelm Reich, an arch-foe of Fascism who delved into the depths of human sexuality and its perversions, particularly in relation to mass psychology and political extremism. I quote:
"When sexuality is prevented form attaining natural gratification, owing to the process of sexual repression, what happens is that it seeks various kinds of substitute gratification. Thus, for instance, natural aggression is distorted into brutal sadism, which constitutes an essential part of the mass-psychological basis of those imperialist wars that are instigated by a few. To give another instance: from the point of view of mass psychology, the effect of militarism is based essentially on a libidinous mechanism. The sexual effect of a uniform, the erotically provocative effect of rhythmically executed goose-stepping (a German practice in particular-McKinney), the exhibitionist nature of militarist procedures, have been more practically comprehended by a salesgirl or average secretary than by our most erudite politicians." (Wilhelm Reich, The Mass Psychology of Fascism, Third Edition, p. 31 and 32)
It is not merely a matter of American soldiers, having run out of salt petter, suddenly turning to torture for sexual release. The problem goes much deeper than that. The underlying cause is institutionalized sexual repression in much of America from early childhood on, often first experienced in the devout, moralistic family setting by the hapless adolescent who is taught that sex is both sinful and dirty. This sex-negative ideology is then reinforced in the churches and school systems to varying degrees, and, with the advent of the Bush Administration, now directly underwritten by the State itself in the form of national abstinence programs masquerading as sex education.
If you are a recovering victim of Fundamentalist brainwashing, you likely know very well what I mean. Many of our youths' psyches have thus become bridled with guilt and fear regarding healthy sexual relationships by the time they reach high school. Some overcome this inhibition; others do not, especially since every social artifice is introduced to make it difficult for our teenagers to develop satisfactory sexual liaisons with each other. This is considered a shocking taboo by our guardians of "civilization". But what kind of civilization?, for the worst thing about sexual repression in the early formative years is this, to again quote Reich:
"The moral inhibition of the child's natural sexuality, the last stage of which is the severe impairment of the child's genital sexuality, makes the child afraid, shy, fearful of authority, obedient, 'good' and 'docile' in the authoritarian sense of the words. It has a crippling effect on man's rebellious forces because every vital life-impulse is now burdened with severe fear; and since sex is a forbidden subject, thought in general and man's critical faculty also become inhibited (a profound subconscious censorship having been implanted-McKinney). In short, morality's aim is to produce quiescent subjects who, despite distress and humiliation, are adjusted to the authoritarian order." (ibid, p. 30)
This mind-job on susceptible male youth, in particular, is a bit like gelding horses, making them more manageable and at lower risk to impregnate the mares. Moreover, "gelded" youth are much more amenable to the Hell-fire and damnation sermons of Evangelical preachers, with their otherworldly cult of pain and suffering. Having estranged such youth from their own bodies and negated their experience of ecstatic worldly pleasure through internalized guilt and denial, and instead having saddled them with recurring, unrelieved sexual tension, it is an easy step to convince them that the world is truly a veil of tears and sorrows. And to emulate Christ's suffering through your very own anguish is deemed a high and worthy goal, a goal that, however, inevitably breeds masochism. There is no better proof of this inclination culturally than the phenomenal success of Mel Gibson's The Passion of Christ, with its orgy of sado-masochism that was fervently embraced by the Christian Right, and even showcased in church auditoriums.
Moreover, according to church dogma, this is a world beset by evil, which must be battled incessantly until the Second Coming. Now, thanks to this doctrine, all of a sudden we have an outlet for all that sexual tension. This is where the Church Militant, that launched endless Crusades, Inquisitions and Holy Wars, has traditionally entered the picture. "My children, you will not be allowed to enjoy natural human love, but you will be allowed to get off on self-righteous and unnatural hatred and savagery. This will allow you a temporary catharsis of sorts, on your way to death, insanity or dismemberment."
Fascism is the modern successor to the Church Militant, institutionalizing war and/or repression on a permanent ideological and organizational basis in the modern industrial state. Fascism transforms, moreover, as Reich points out, the masochism inherent in otherworldly religions of suffering, such as embodied in the image of Christ upon the Cross, into a new and worldly religion of State-sponsored sadism. This is the hallmark of all Fascist movements, and they find their own appropriate religious symbols and ceremonies, such as the Swastika and candle-light marches of the Nazis, to ritualize their new religion.
They all, as well, incorporate their sacrificial scapegoats into the new litany, for the Nazis this meaning the Jews, Gypsies and homosexuals. For our metamorphosing American Warfare State, Neocon ideologues have largely scapegoated and demonized Moslems, with other ethnicities or religions likely to be added later, all the while they hypocritically pontificate on morality and family values, just like the Nazis used to do. It is certainly no coincidence that the Bush Administration has been promulgating, as already noted, a culture of abstinence in American youth, even now trying to extend such precepts to young adults, with sexual repression and the resultant alienation from the natural universe being central mechanisms of the authoritarian state in developing human canon fodder for the War Machine.
George Orwell, by the way, was also one who understood these dynamics, incorporating these themes into his famous novel, 1984. So Reich is far from alone in his analysis of the modern Fascist state, which I might add, he also categorized totalitarian Communism under, as but another variant, Red Fascism.
This new religion of sadism defines itself by its enemies, to focus and fulfill the emotional angst and sexual tensions of its worshippers by providing them with real, live scapegoats. Thus, just as the Nazis had their Jews to demonize, so do the Neocons have their Moslem "radicals" to demonize, with the lines of demarcation between radicals and moderates always rather blurry and arbitrary. If you Google the phrase "destroy Islam", prominent among the thousands of hits registered you will find Fundamentalist Christian websites that make no distinction at all between the two, who associate Islam with Satan and Evil, period, and accordingly call for its utter destruction. Some of these apocalyptic types are officers and enlistees in the American military, who are carrying on their own little Jihads as I write.
When our Neocon officials and ideologues are describing this enemy, they generally slip into moralistic and archetypal terms devoid of any reality-based factuality. George Bush consistently employs such adjectives as "evil", "bloodthirsty", "totalitarian", "rapist" and "terrorist" when defining the "enemy", never acknowledges any cause and effect between our military operations in Iraq and elsewhere and the inevitable violent reaction by said "enemy", and goes on to inflate "their" powers as vast enough to threaten world domination, quite a tall order for ragtag Jihadists when Hitler's vast war machine couldn't even pull it off. Jewish survivors of the Nazi Holocaust may recall all the vitriolic and fantastic rhetoric that Nazi propagandists employed against them. Nowadays, it is as if the Protocols of the Elders of Zion have been rewritten as the Protocols of the Elders of Islam, a task made easier because Islam, in its long history, has also had its own "Church Militant", so to speak.
But such Manichean language and imagery of pure evil is also a telltale giveaway of another dynamic at work in the psychology of our ideologues. Psychiatrists and psychologists recognize that when one is excessively denigrating someone or something, one is really engaging in negative projection, projecting one's own negative "shadow", to use Dr. Carl Jung's term, by which he meant the subconscious, repressed and suppressed parts of oneself, in particular those aspects that one refuses to even acknowledge, so inimical are they to one's self-identity. Thus the stridency with which one accuses and assaults those same aspects in another is often an indication of the depth of intensity with which they exist in oneself, particularly when the accused bears no resemblance whatsoever to the accusation. In this latter case, such accusations would be pure projection, a veritable mirror of one's own negative shadow.
Concrete examples of one's projections mirroring one's shadow would include Reverend Ted Haggard, the recently dismissed Evangelical, firebrand preacher against homosexuality and other perceived evils, who turned out to have been regularly visiting a male prostitute who outed him for his hypocrisy. Then, going back some years, there was old Jimmy Swaggart, scourge of pornography and all manner of immorality, who was finally exposed as a female prostitute's client, and a rather pathetic one at that.
So what does this indicate about George Bush and his War on Terror? Time and again he conjures up an almost supernatural juggernaut of a diabolical enemy that threatens the very foundations of Western Civilization. Yet we know how little relation that characterization bears to reality, as symbolized by the hundreds of detainees in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, who, Bush assured us while acting as both judge and jury, were the worst terrorists on the planet and yet, after some five years, only a handful have even been charged, and many have been quietly let go. The obvious inference here is that Bush is projecting his shadow, as is the entire Neocon movement that he is the figurehead of.
Basically, when the White House, Fox News and the scores of Neocon ideologues world-wide project elemental evil, terror, mass murder and totalitarianism onto the "Other", the archetypal "Enemy", they reveal much about themselves and their collective shadow. And because action always speaks louder than words, what we need to do is compare their track record with their rhetoric. Who has invaded and devastated two countries, bombed or shelled others and is a stone's throw from attacking Iran? Who has set up a world-wide torture network? Who runs Black Operations globally that utilize terrorism, murder, sabotage and false flag ops routinely. Who has precipitated another Cambodia-style human rights catastrophe in Iraq? Who is building more and more military bases globally while setting up the infrastructure for a police state in America? The answer in each case is this American-led incarnation of Fascism, the Neocon quasi-religious movement, which has even put out strategy papers stating that they seek global hegemony. The unmistakable conclusion is that this movement is, in its psychological depths, profoundly attracted to the archetype of evil that Jung has described, and increasingly influenced by its power and essence.
Just as Hitler romanticized marauding German troops and the brutal Nazi movement as bearers of light and high civilization against the darkness of international Jewry and Bolshevism, which must be defeated with uncompromising ruthlessness, so too does George Bush romanticize American troops as noble protectors of freedom and democracy against the darkness of radical Islam, while the military knocks down entire cities, as with Fallujah, and subjects thousands to daily outrages and horrors, to raids, imprisonment, humiliation, brutality and death. It is not Islam that threatens civilization, but Neocon Fascism. Islam has been a part of civilization for well over a thousand years, while Fascism has been the scourge of civilization since its inception in the 1920s.
The reality is that the Bush Administration has been trying to colonize Iraq, with only partial success. From the perspective of ideological Fascism, their only recourse now is to magnify the slaughter, to multiply the killing fields, to extend their control over the planet and the country. They can only do that through even greater fear and repression and an endless supply of cannon fodder, which returns us to icons like Jack Bauer and the cultivation of sadism through the perversion of human love. Yet the fictional Bauer, serving as both glamour boy and recruiting poster for self-righteous barbarism and the demonization of a large segment of humanity, can only exist in a culture that gives credence to the negative values of fear, hatred, violence and alienation, alienation from humanity, nature, the cosmos and oneself.
Wilhelm Reich realized that only a society that is still connected to nature and capable of natural love can withstand the Fascist onslaught. Fascism can only devour human love. It cannot generate love, upon which civilization ultimately depends. Or as Reich put it at the end of World War II:
"In our society, love and knowledge still do not have the power at their disposal to regulate human existence. In fact, these great forces of the positive principle of life are not conscious of their enormity, their indispensability, their overwhelming importance for social existence. It is for this reason that human society today, one year after the military victory over party fascism, still finds itself on the brink of the abyss. The fall of our civilization is inevitable if those who work, the natural scientists of all living (not dead) branches of knowledge and the givers and receivers of natural love, should not become conscious of their enormous responsibility quickly enough." (ibid, p. xvi, Preface to the Third Edition)
It is time to take on this enormous responsibility on all fronts, by debunking the lies and upholding the truth in every avenue of political and social life, by disrupting the media monopolies that suck at our brains, by exposing this culture of sadism for what it truly is, by rolling back the inroads of Right-wing Fundamentalism in controlling our institutions, and by as many other ways as we can countenance that are effective. In reality, a revolution in values and paradigms is what is required to uproot this entire anti-life system. Needless to say, life-enhancing religions that integrate the human psyche and soma and embrace nature and the long repressed Divine Feminine are essential to this goal. Let us brainstorm on how to go about this in our articles, comments and discussions.
Here are two very recent pieces detailing the cultural and political influence, as well as ethical consequences, of Fox's "24":
1) This is the headliner article and summary on the Media Matters for
America website from February 2nd:
"Conservatives continue to use Fox's 24 to support hawkish policies."
"Summary: Cal Thomas is the latest conservative figure to use the TV show 24 to forecast a nuclear attack on the United States. Conservatives have also looked to the TV series for justification of aggressive interrogation procedures....."
This article details how truly pervasive the personna and sadism that Jack Bauer represents have become in the Right-wing media, intelligentsia (a misnomer), and power structure. Bauer has basically become a metaphor for rationalized torture. For the full article, please see: http://mediamatters.org/items/200702020015
2) This is the headline of an Amy Goodman interview on Democracy Now on Thursday, February 22:
"Is Torture on Hit Fox TV Show “24” Encouraging US Soldiers to Abuse Detainees?"
"Summary: This past fall, the Dean of West Point, Brigadier General Patrick Finnegan, along with experienced military and FBI interrogators and representatives of Human Rights First, met with the creative team behind the hit Fox Television show “24” and tell them to stop using torture because American soldiers were copying the show’s tactics. We speak with two of the delegation’s members -- former Army interrogator Tony Lagouranis, who served one year in Iraq and David Danzig, director of the Prime Time Torture Project for Human Rights First. [includes rush transcript]"
For the full interview, please see: http://www.opednews.com/maxwrite/linkframe.php?linkpg=http://www.democracynow.org/article.pl?sid=07/02/22/1448252&linkid=31212