Minister Freeland's Grandfather,
"It takes a village to raise a Nazi" (old African proverb, slightly modified)
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This issue (#68) deals with the mass internment of Ukrainian Canadians, this community's left-right split and the mainstream racist, xenophobic anti-communism of progressive "Social Gospellers" (like the CCF's J.S. Woodsworth) who were so captivated by their false beliefs that they carried out the genocide of First Nations and turned a blind eye to government repression during the 20th-century "Red Scare."
In his post-retirement speeches and writings, Smedley Butler made some blunt and shocking confessions. He had faced with great honesty the ugly truth about his own deep complicity in many unjust American wars. To atone for this personal guilt, Butler tried to make amends by revealing to the public what he knew about state crimes that he had helped commit. "I spent most of my time being a high class muscle-man for Big Business, for Wall Street and for the Bankers," said Butler. "In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism."[i] But, despite his crimes, Butler is now seen as great hero by many antiwar activists who respect the integrity with which he reconciled his personal complicity in war by bluntly speaking truth to power.
Butler's book, War is a Racket, is a classic exposé of militarism. It began with these definitions:
"War is a racket. It always has been.
"It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious. ...
"A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of the people. Only a small 'inside' group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few, at the expense of the very many. Out of war a few people make huge fortunes."[ii]
Butler's use of "racketeering" jargon to describe war is jarring, and his use of terminology from the debased world of organised crime to describe the respectable, glamorous world of politicians, bankers and military elites, was genius. Butler said
"There isn't a trick in the racketeering bag that the military gang is blind to. It has its 'finger men' to point out enemies, its 'muscle men' to destroy enemies, its 'brain men' to plan war preparations, and a 'Big Boss' Super-Nationalistic-Capitalism."[iii]
One the matter of "'finger men' to point out enemies," it is interesting to note who Butler says they targeted. In another article, Butler talked about "military intelligence" saying "[t]he domestic brand of M.I. is mainly unadulterated Red hunting." After naming well-known ultra-right individuals, organisations and a newspaper magnate, William Randolph Hearst, Butler said
"intelligence men further justify their jobs by spy work on radical gatherings, by attending public forums in an attempt to detect political or economic heresy, by keeping tabs on various suspects, and by smelling out what they consider to be subversive activities everywhere.... Radical meetings are attended, notes taken, speakers listed, and as many of the audience identified as possible."[iv]
As to exactly which "radical" heretics were pointed out by these "finger men," Butler then cited a 1933 newspaper article revealing that the US "Secret Service" had used young officers in training to infiltrate campus and city groups to gather "information regarding the activity of communists."[v]
The war-profiteering racket described by
Butler is so vast and so institutionalised that it cannot possibly be kept a
secret. While the minute details of closed-door meetings between
conspirators are hidden from public view, war requires huge programs
of collaboration between vast institutions that can only be hidden in plain
sight. To do this requires concealing the truth behind deceitful veils of
words, cleverly wrapping them in blind-eye ideologies, and hiding them
within the niceties of fine-sounding propaganda. The plutocracy-building
joint efforts of corporations and the military, as Butler well knew, also
involves the active participation of other large social institutions, such
as the churches,
the government and the mass media.
The same was true of course in WWII. With regards
to the Ukrainian churches, both Ukrainian Catholic and Orthodox hierarchy
avidly supported recruitment for the Waffen SS Galicia Division. They
even lobbied for and received special rights from the Nazis to have their
chaplains sent out with the troops. (Note the Waffen SS Galician
symbol, a lion with three crowns, in photo with Bishop at left.)
"Beautiful ideals were painted for our boys who were sent out to die. This was the 'war to end all wars.' This was the 'war to make the world safe for democracy.' No one mentioned to them, as they marched away, that their going and their dying would mean huge war profits. No one told these American soldiers that they might be shot down by bullets made by their own brothers here. No one told them that the ships on which they were going to cross might be torpedoed by submarines built with United States patents. They were just told it was to be a 'glorious adventure.'"
The "war to end all wars" line, which spread like wildfire through the print media, was the brainchild of Orson Wells. It evolved from his August 1914 propaganda articles in British newspapers.[vii] The catchy line about making "the world safe for democracy" came from Woodrow Wilson's April 2, 1917, speech to Congress in which he sought a Declaration of War against Germany. Butler, as usual, drew the attention back to one of his favourite topics, the duplicity of war profiteers.
The nightmare of war is indeed a dream come true for those who profit from the sale of weapons, the theft of land, the plunder of resources, and the murderous eradication of enemies. Camouflaging these crimes as if they are noble achievements requires the deftness of a social magician who can hide an elephant in a crowded room, or, as the Russians would have it, an elephant in the museum.[viii] To make such a large creature disappear is quite a stunt. While a stage magician would rarely attempt such a daring performance, it is done by propagandists on a daily basis. In fact, those who become the masters of vast and mighty news Wurlitzers barely give it a second thought. What's worse, the trick is designed to be replicated by members of the audience who, after leaving the theatre, repeat the stunt for their unsuspecting friends and family.
Propagandists, whether writing newspaper articles, history textbooks, political speeches, religious sermons, business reports or any number of other types of sheer fiction, can conveniently leave out disturbing, elephant-sized aspects of the truth. With the stroke of a pen (or a magical wand), these same propagandists also have the power to make nonexistent elephants seem to appear out of thin air. In this case, although there is no huge beast in the room, people believe they can see one. This propaganda trick is especially useful in the creation of national enemies and the triggering of wars using that particular genre of provocative fake news events which I have referred to elsewhere as "war pretext incidents."[ix]
Enamoured by the corporate media's fixation on fake news since the 2016 US presidential election, some mainstream propaganda junkies seem to have forgotten the mighty Wurlitzer's long history of cranking out "fake news." Has some huge black hole absorbed the media's guilt in spreading phoney weapons-of-mass-destruction stories that launched the Iraq War in 2003?[x] That war pretext rivalled the fake news of exactly seven decades earlier when the Nazis set fire to Germany's parliament, the Reichstag, blamed it on communists, usurped emergency powers, ended civil liberties (like the free press), and arrested thousands of leftists.[xi] And who can forget the US government's fabrication of the so-called "Gulf of Tonkin incident" in 1964? This fake news, that North Vietnamese forces had attacked the USS Maddox, was the pretext President Johnson used to spark a massive escalation in that US war against communism which led to the murder of millions of innocent people.[xii] Does anyone even "Remember the [USS] Maine!" and the key role played by W.R.Hearst's newspapers in fabricating the fake news that triggered that "fine little war" in 1899 whereby the US grabbed the Spanish colonies of Cuba, the Philippines, Guam and Puerto Rico?[xiii] Despite the fact that throughout its history the mass media has been using fake news to garner public support for imperialist wars, these facts seem to have all but disappeared into a bottomless pit of historical amnesia.
Those who literally practice the stage craft of hocus pocus are loath to reveal the conjuring secrets of their profitable profession. They must guard sleight-of-hand tricks in order to retain the illusory power of their performance and to prevent competitors from repeating the illusion in their own shows. This however is where conjurers and propagandists part company. The propagandist's whole purpose is to spread their delusion as far and wide as possible. The trick for them is to package the deception into symbolic memes, narratives and myths that are simple enough for others to repeat. That way, everyone who is subjected to the trick not only becomes a dupe of the delusion, they also become accessories in its dissemination. Once planted in the mainstream media, a good propaganda story can take on a life of its own: spreading, growing, mutating and evolving to deal with counter-propaganda.
But social actors ‑ even the propagandists themselves ‑ can easily be victimised by social illusions. Because many of them actually believe that certain falsehoods are true, they become unwitting accomplices in the spread of misinformation. These unsuspecting marks may actually become so good at bringing others into the belief that they are richly rewarded by the institutions which profit from the scam.
Over the millennia, these institutions ‑ populated largely by true believers ‑ have evolved like living species. This has required the development of cultural mechanisms for self-perpetuation. To ensure the multi-generational survival of institutions, individuals within them devise processes to help organisations to adapt to social changes. One such institutional survival mechanism ensures that the system's best propagandists are promoted and encouraged in their work. These individuals rise to the top in such professions as journalism, politics, law and business.
Propaganda elites also have the almost magical ability to walk through walls. They can move between these powerful social institutions in a flash, jumping effortlessly from one career to another. These transitions are eased by the fact that the spheres of discourse within the upper echelons of each siloed profession, share some of the same basic propaganda themes. For much of the last 100 years, western propagandists in all professions have shared a dominant underlying motif, anticommunism. For much of that century, this mass paranoia was closely linked to another common social phobia, antiSemitism.
Certain communities have a long historical tradition associated with such social phobias. In his article "Organized Anti-Semitism in Contemporary Ukraine," Swedish-American historian Per Anders Rudling explained that
"From the perspective of the anti-Semites, Jewish domination of Ukraine began in the Middle Ages and [has] lasted until today. The Jews have ruled through 'Jewish' tsars, Judeo-Communists, Judeo-Nazis and the current, 'a-national' Jewish oligarchs and criminals, bent on destroying Ukraine and the Slavic world. The anti-Semites weave together an overall picture where Ukrainian history during the past one hundred years turns into something of a Dolchstoss legend[xiv]: throughout the 20th century, Ukrainians have been stabbed in the back repeatedly by Jews and/or Zionists...."
Rudling, who earned his PhD at the University of Alberta, goes on to say that in his study of this "under-researched" phenomenon among some Ukrainians "[o]ne of the central themes in the anti-Semitic literature I have analyzed is the equating of communists, oligarchs, mass murderers and sexual predators with Jews."[xv]
Having been swept up in their culture's
all-encompassing worldview ‑ whether antiSemitism, anticommunism, or both ‑
propagandists are blinded to the fact that they have fallen headlong into a
swirling cultural Wurlitzer. Many of the most effective propagandists have
no idea that, beguiled by their cultural programming, they are themselves
being spun by the mighty Wurlitzer. Not knowing that they have been
captivated by their communities' false ideologies, they don't realise that
the narratives they weave are drawing others in the same webs of deceit in
which they themselves are entrapped. What's worse, they believe their myths
are liberating truths freeing others from the tyranny of lies spread by
devious enemies. Wurlitzer, they say. What Wurlitzer?
Sources and Notes
This speech is
Smedley Butler on Interventionism
Major General Smedley D. Butler, War is a Racket, 1935.
Major General Smedley D. Butler 1933 Armistice Day speech, Philadelphia,
cited in R.E.McMaster, Wealth for All: Religion, Politics and War,
This speech is
Smedley Butler on Interventionism
[vi] Major general Smedley D. Butler, War is a Racket, 1935.
[vii] His newspaper articles were reprinted in book form in October 1914.
[viii] This expression, which exemplifies the problem of blind spots in history, evolved from a fable called "The Inquisitive Man" (1814) by Russian fabulist, Ivan Krylov. A character in one of his short stories tells a friend about all of the exhibits he has just seen at a museum. When his friend asks what he thought of the huge elephant there, the man is shocked because he did not see the gallery's biggest and most obvious display.
Richard Sanders, "Unravelling the Tangled Web of Pretext Stratagems,"
Press for Conversion!, Going to War: The American use of War Pretext
Incidents (1846-2003), January 2003, pp.1-28.
"30-year Anniversary: Tonkin Gulf Lie Launched Vietnam War," July 27,
[xiv] The Dolchstoss (literally "Daggerstab") legend is a mythology, popular among right-wing Germans, that WWI was lost because they were "stabbed in the back" by civilians on the home front. These treasonous Germans were said to be communists, socialists and antimonarchists, but most especially Jews.
For a Ukrainian use of the "Back Stabbing" metaphor, see this detailed analysis of Ukrainian documents regarding antiSemitism in the preWWII Organisation of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN), and particularly the OUN(B) faction, led by Stepan Bandera, which predominated after the 1940 split see:
Marco Carynnyk, "‘A Knife in the Back of Our Revolution’: A Reply to Alexander J. Motyl’s ‘The Ukrainian Nationalist Movement and the Jews: Theoretical Reflections on Nationalism, Fascism, Rationality, Primordialism, and History."
Per Anders Rudling, "Organized Anti-Semitism
Influence and Ideology," Canadian Slavonic Papers, March-June