Propaganda & The Moustache of Neoconservatism
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Today, the Moustache of Neoconservatism endorses a book by Johns Hopkins University foreign affairs specialist Michael Mandelbaum, which says "The greatest threat to America's role in the world today is not China. It's Medicare." Friedman then advocates for gutting Social Security and Medicare in order to fund the military engagements necessary to secure the world's petroleum reserves to satiate the U.S.'s out of control oil consumption - consumption that is increasing because the oil industry has bought off our corrupt government, and coerced it into having no real energy policy at all.
But that's not the worst, most neoconservative part of the piece. You see, the defining characteristic of today's neoconservative movement isn't the fact that its a bunch of chickenhawks who refused to serve in the military but who advocate sending young Americans to die in their ill-conceived wars. And it's not their desire to gut all of the programs Americans overwhelmingly support in order to have the resources to push foreign policies most Americans oppose. It is their total and complete lack of understanding of and appreciation for how the rest of the world views America these days.
That is epitomized by Friedman today, as he claims the world "know[s] that the U.S. is not a predatory power, so they are not afraid of the order it provides. They like it because this global order is helpful to every country in the world."
It's hard to really quantify how incredibly insane a statement like that really is, other than to say it's quite clear Tom Friedman is one of the most out of touch, politically disconnected people on the planet earth. Whether you think it is fair or unfair, much of the world believes the U.S. is a predatory power, and much of the world sees the so-called "global order" that the U.S. enforces as destructive to any interests other than Big Business's and its own.
The proof is everywhere. For instance, just look at how South American countries are electing populist leaders who base their entire campaign on railing on U.S. economic policies. These policies are pushed by the U.S. government in the name of the "global order" Friedman claims the world loves so much, and they are fueled by Friedman's constant stream of "free" trade propaganda and advocacy for gutting basic worker rights. But as these "free" trade, neoliberal policies that Friedman venerates so much create worse and worse poverty throughout the world, country after country is revolting, helping to fuel an already problematic rise in anti-Americanism.
And that rise is problematic. Late last year, international newspapers commissioned a poll of world opinion and found that the U.S. image is severely worsening, with many countries - even those in the industrialized world - seeing America as a hegemonic power. That is, of course, in part to the Iraq War, which Friedman aggressively pushed. But it is far deeper than one conflict. Even when it comes to America's perceived attitude towards democracy, the world sees us as a potentially anti-democratic force. A Pew analysis of world public opinion just a few months ago found that while some countries viewed the U.S. as pro-democracy, many countries had sizable percentages who believe the U.S. opposes democratic efforts in their countries.
And let's be honest - why shouldn't they? For all the rhetoric we hear from Friedman and the neocons about American foreign policy being used as a pro-democracy spear, all you have to do is look at pictures of our Neocon-In-Chief, President Bush, hanging out with the Saudi royal family, Egypt's dictator, Pakistan's strongman, or China's Communist autocrat to realize that the reality the world sees is very different from the propaganda Americans hear on a regular basis from the neoconservative machine. Many parts of the world see the U.S. government allying itself with corrupt regimes that viciously subvert democracy in their own country. And, just ask yourself - is that view so totally inaccurate?
It would have taken Friedman all of 5 seconds on google to figure out just how ridiculous his statements are. But that's not what Friedman is about - he is about worshipping and paying homage to economic and political power. That has made him a very dangerous force of propaganda on America, using his neoconservative spin to further disconnect the population from reality. Just look at this question in the 2005 Pew Poll of global public opinion. Three quarters of Americans believe U.S. foreign policy "considers others' interests" while no other country in the world has a majority of opinion saying the same thing about our foreign policy. Then look at this question, showing that large majorities in the developing world are worried that the U.S. could be a military threat to their country. Basically, thanks to Friedman and his ilk, we think the world "knows the U.S. is not a predatory power" and that the world likes American foreign policybecause it supposedly "is helpful to every country in the world." But the world thinks exactly the opposite.
Friedman's steady stream of neconservative fantasy helps to totally warp foreign policy debates in America, especially because the corporate media continues to worship him as some sort of guru (Fortune Magazine, the bible of corporate PR, recently billed him as "The Oracle of the Global Century" - that should say it all about just how corporate and conservative Friedman's ideology really is). Thanks to him and his neoconservative colleagues, the political debate in America never looks critically at U.S. foreign policy and the ramifications on world opinion of policies being waged by the U.S. government in America's name, but which most ordinary Americans do not support. That's by design, of course. If the public can be brainwashed by a steady stream of neoconservative B.S., the economic/ideological powers that be can pursue their own personal extremist agendas all they like in the name of national security - even though the policies they pursue severely undermine America's long term national security.
This isn't to denigrate the great things America has done and continues to do in the world. But it is to say that we would likely be far more successful in our foreign policy engagements if neoconservatives like Friedman were not so intent on skewing the terms of the foreign policy debate to the point where decisions are totally divorced from planetary reality.Originally published here on Working for Change
David Sirota is a full-time political journalist, best-selling author and nationally syndicated newspaper columnist living in Denver, Colorado. He blogs for Working Assets and the Denver Post's PoliticsWest website. He is a Senior Editor at In These Times magazine, which in 2006 received the Utne Independent Press Award for political coverage. His 2006 book, Hostile Takeover, was a New York Times bestseller, and is now out in paperback. He has been a guest on, among others, CNN, MSNBC, CNBC and NPR. His writing, which draws on his (more...)