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Loaded Language and Loaded Guns: The Meaning of Opposites

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Message Charles Sullivan
One can no longer understand US governmental policy on the basis of conventional language or traditional wisdom. Language itself and its long-established meanings were long ago twisted and distorted in order to deceive the people. Now war is peace and terror and occupation is liberation. In order to make sense of what is happening, it is important to understand everything within the context of a specific economic philosophy, and the distorted capitalist system that spawned it.

That ideology was crafted by a diminutive economist named Milton Friedman, at the University of Chicago some five decades ago. The holy trinity of Friedman’s version of capitalism—privatization of the public domain, corporate deregulation, and deep cuts in social spending—has resulted in enormous societal inequity and socio-economic classes. It has given us the haves and the have-nots, the haves and the have-mores.

Friedman and his disciples, collectively known as ‘The Chicago School’ do not believe in a minimum wage—much less a living wage, unions, worker rights, environmental protections, worker safety, or any other kind of restraint imposed upon corporations. In Friedman’s view, the market should rule and profitability should be the guiding principle, the end results always justifying the means.

The implementation of Friedman’s version of unfettered capitalism relies upon munificent corporate welfare, tax cuts to the wealthy, exploitation of workers, and the outright theft of other sovereign nation’s natural wealth through military force—including oil and minerals, water supplies and other societal infrastructure; cheap labor, and a procession of consumers of goods and services without limits—an impossibility in a closed ecological system.

Convincing the public to support policies that are, in fact, detrimental to them, requires enormous marketing skill, as well as a corporate owned and operated propaganda apparatus that is second to none. This is accomplished by cloaking harmful policies in patriotic language, and other forms of seduction.

In order to achieve this objective, which is really nothing less than unqualified global corporate dominance, the public domain must be privatized and run not for use, but for profit; and the unparalleled might of the US military brought to bear against any nation or people who stand in the way.

It is this thinking—the dominant economic paradigm that shapes all US policy—that has brought us an endless succession of wars and other human tragedies; exacerbated global warming, and unprecedented rapacious planetary destruction, including the mass extinction of much of the world’s flora and fauna — all for corporate profit.

Decades ago, in order to field test the economic theories that were formulated by the right wing think tanks at The Chicago School, Friedman and his disciples descended like locusts upon Latin America. The results were devastating: Democratically elected governments were systematically overthrown and brutal dictators friendly to US business interests were installed in their place—all of which were subsidized by US tax dollars with the complicity of the CIA.

As a result, US-trained death squads roamed the countryside torturing, murdering, and disappearing dissidents, union organizers, and indigenous land holders—a process that continues to this day. The corporate media, itself, an essential cog in Friedman’s capitalist machine, referred to these death squads as freedom fighters, and canonized the likes Ronald Reagan as champions of liberty.

But the recipients of US policy in Latin America—those who survived them—know better. Now the same policies are being implemented in the Middle East, and with the same disastrous results. Elements of Friedman’s policies have been in play here in the US for decades, and the intent is to do to the US what was done in Latin America and Iraq.

Language is a tool that can be used to either conceal or reveal truth; it can be used to inform or to distort. Given the track record of private enterprise, it is not surprising that everything associated with Milton Friedman’s capitalism has been hopelessly perverted, and language is no exception.

Understanding the role played by Friedman and his disciples in shaping US policy—a doctrine adopted and praised by Republicans and Democrats alike, is critical in order to bring the big picture of world events, including our own domestic policies, into clear focus.

The disciples of Friedman’s economic theorem have skillfully manipulated the language to deceive the subjects of those policies. Stripped of the garments of seductive language, the hidden kernel of truth is clearly seen: unregulated corporate power that masquerades as free market trade. The nations that have undergone Friedman’s economic shock therapy: Chile, Argentina, Brazil and Indonesia, and many others, were opened up to privatization and corporate plunder that soon left them impoverished and wasted.

The once sustainable and vibrant local economies, most of them characterized by broad public ownership, were thoroughly globalized, as capitalism was forced upon those who had rejected it at the ballot box or through armed revolution. Local manufactures were no longer protected from multi-nationals: prices soared, wages fell, workers lost their jobs, unemployment rose astronomically, and the infrastructure that once provided inexpensive or free public services—among them, potable water and inexpensive food—were privatized and rendered unaffordable to the multitudes.

Shared prosperity quickly gave way to abject poverty and misery; while predatory US corporations bled nation after nation of their natural wealth, and kept the profits to themselves.

Here in the US, the people of New Orleans and other Gulf Coast cities in the wake of Hurricane Katrina experienced the same economic shock and awe as Latin America. The poor were relocated and resorts for the rich quickly supplanted affordable public housing. The public school system was virtually dismantled and privatized. Contractors such as Halliburton and Blackwater reaped enormous profits on the misery and suffering of the Gulf Region’s working poor. Corporate profits mattered more than the lives of the people. New Orleans will never be the same.

All of this was accomplished by stripping language of its traditional connotations and perverting it into its opposite meaning. Thus lies became truth and predatory capitalism morphed into beneficent public service. The new definitions are designed to conceal the real intent of the perpetrators of crimes against humanity, and are employed as marketing tools to make blatant theft and exploitation appear palatable to the multitudes, and to the helpless victims of unfettered capitalism.

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Charles Sullivan is a photographer, social activist and free lance writer residing in the hinterland of West Virgina.
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