Sunday, 15 September 2013

The Terror of Forbidden Thoughts on the War on Terror

"Again and again, just when you think you’ve reached maximum possible cynicism about politics, you discover that, actually, you haven’t been cynical enough. It’s almost always worse than you think."
"I admit that at this point one of my biggest concerns was to avoid coming off like a crank. After all, if I got quoted sounding too much like an NSA conspiracy nut, my colleagues would laugh at me. Then I might not get invited to the cool security parties.

All of this is a long way of saying that I was totally unprepared for today's bombshell revelations describing the NSA's efforts to defeat encryption. Not only does the worst possible hypothetical I discussed appear to be true, but it's true on a scale I couldn't even imagine. I'm no longer the crank. I wasn't even close to cranky enough."

I've recently been involved in discussions about our thoughts, and the mental filters we operate, and how they operate and how they change, and what this means for changing the way we think about and/or perceive our world.

The connection to my two opening quotes will – I hope – become clear later, but before that I want to go into a little bit of discussion about our mental filters. It is a simple fact that our minds are constantly bombarded by far more information than we can consciously process. Our senses are always active, even in sleep, but when awake they receive a staggering volume of information every moment. To allow us to function in *real-time* as it were, our minds operate filters that act to remove or de-intensify relatively unimportant information and highlight important information.

This, plainly, leads to the question of what is important? The answer is that what is important to me is what is allowed to penetrate my filters and be perceived most clearly by my conscious thought processes. We see this very obviously in the purchase of a new car. Prior to our ownership of the particular model we have purchased, we dont really take much notice of them. They are simply background, grey noise of little import to the progress of our lives. But upon purchasing a particular model, suddenly we begin to see them everywhere. We never realised there were so many of them! Because our ownership of that model has made the peculiar shape, colour, and other features of that vehicle important to us. Our mind is responding to a basic idea: 'Mine!'

That idea has tuned our mental filter to permit entry to, and highlight, that peculiar set of information which identifies my car.

You also see this highlighting effect clearly when driving your new car. When a tattooed Hell's Angel approaches the intersection at which you are waiting to cross, you never pull out in front of him. Your mind has automatically highlighted him as dangerous and therefore important to note and avoid. By contrast, when Mr Bicycle Clip approaches on his daily commute to his accounting firm, you tell the judge 'But I just didnt see him!' ... and this is literally true. Because he's not dangerous and he's not your husband/brother/father, he is unimportant. His very existence did not penetrate the mental filters that allow you to operate your car without killing yourself.

The most pertinent aspect of these mental filters is that they are, themselves, invisible to us. We see only what they allow through, but we do not see them. However, if by deduction or education we become aware of them, we are able to deliberately and consciously tune them to desired parameters. Driver training programmes of the 'defensive driving' sort, for example, are partly effective because they tune our mental filters that relate to self-preservation while driving, towards a more immediate sense of the negative personal consequences of careless driving (even if those consequences are only of the emotional kind, e.g. guilt for having negligently harmed another).

These meanderings connect to our opening quotes at the level of social politics. Here too I believe we have been conditioned by the operation of filtering mechanisms that do not permit certain subjects, ideas, thoughts, and questions, to be publicly perceived and therefore, discussed. Further that, because these filters are largely invisible to us, we are (A) not often aware that we're being steered like cattle, and (B) not able to avail ourselves of the same capability to adjust the filters according to our own priorities, that we have on the personal level.

Further, and most pertinently and dangerously, that too many of us have too often failed to perceive the momentous lacunae in our collective informational input, and have thus internalised these filters to such a degree that many actively resist any attempt to show us ideas or ask us questions that relate to what is being blocked from our view.

Many are, indeed, irrationally yet implacably hostile to these efforts.

In this article I will ask a few questions that illustrate this concept in action. I got to thinking about these questions because of the foregoing train of thought, which fortuitously (maybe) combined with the foregoing quotes. It occurred to me to wonder why is it that even the most whacked out fringe nutjob conspiracy theorist 9/11 truther Ron Paul supporters dont ask these kinds of questions? What is it that is beyond our most cynical and cranky imaginings that is nonetheless true?
  1. How is it that the CIA, the most practiced torturers in the world today, can accidentally torture one to two hundered people to death?

  2. Is it really plausible that two hundred people could be tortured to death, by the world's most experienced torturers, accidentally?

  3. How is it that they can also disappear the video of their torture sessions, against the orders of a federal judge, and still few wonder what was on those tapes apart from evidence of the crime of torture itself? (A crime they have admitted repeatedly in other contexts.)

  4. What if those people are dead because the CIA wanted them dead, and including them amongst their torture victims was the most untraceable means of doing it?

  5. What or who was in Fallujah that it was treated to the most ruthless and barbaric destruction of a civilian population centre, by a developed nation, in modern times?

  6. What or who was in Fallujah that held information the occupying forces would go to such criminal and inhuman lengths to erase?

  7. What if the deaths by torture were not accidents, what if Fallujah was not a tactical error in the 'fog of war', and what aspect of the War on Terror would account for all of these events if they were not accidental or incidental but deliberate and connected?
Pondering these question brought to mind the different fates of two television series: Fox TV's '24' and 'Firefly'.

24 was blatant torture propaganda, lovingly designed and produced to acclimatise Americans to the notion that torture is justifiable in an extreme enough scenario. It fit perfectly into Fox's political prejudices. It ran for 8 tediously tendentious seasons.

Firefly was an altogether different animal. It was defiantly subversive – 'I aim to misbehave!' - and anti-authoritarian; raucous, intelligent, individualist, and revolutionary. It was cancelled after one season.

Interestingly, perhaps the most subversive idea of all appears only in the film ('Serenity') made by writer/director Joss Whedon with his own money, because he wanted to finish the story he'd begun in the series. Speaking of 'the Reavers', the perversely brutal humans who stand in the place of the modern terrorist archetype for the narrative purposes of the story, the pilot says:
'they made them!'
This is the dirty secret the central government doesnt want everyone to know. That the deaths of millions, and the creation of brutally murderous enemies of all mankind who have to this point been the cover for the government's own over-reach, all trace back to the government itself. They made the thesis and then used it to justify the antithesis.

This is the truth that burned up River Tam's brain, that launched a thousand agents and a million missiles …

Firefly/Serenity and 24 were all fictional. The selection, the training, the funding, the arming, and the design of Al Qaeda were in fact all done by our own governments. Mostly the US government, but with witting and unwitting assistance from others in the self-styled 'western liberal democracies'.

That is not even controversial. What is controversial is to question the narrative claim that the US ended its alliances and entanglements with Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden at some point during the early 90's, and that it neglected to treat them seriously – or to treat with them at all – until after 9/11.

What if all these events, including 9/11 and its even more horrific aftermath, were all connected at the level of deep politics?

Please bear in mind that the above discussion does not purport to answer any of these questions, only to ask them.

But these are questions worth asking. Is it really credible that the world's best intelligence agency kills people in the hundreds by accident? Is it really credible that the world's self-styled policeman destroys a civilian population centre in a remorseless and criminal fit of pique, without plan or purpose? Is it really credible that the same SEAL team that ostensibly murdered the worlds most wanted fugitive during the commission of an act of war against a sovereign nation, and dumped that man's corpse in the ocean under cover of darkness, themselves died in an accident a few months later?

Is it really credible that there is no connection between crimes committed by the same government(s), in pursuit of a single unvarying objective; ultimate power and global dominance?

Are we so conditioned to believe that the criminals that run our governments are inept, stupid, clumsy, or incapable of learning, that we cannot even attempt to consider other explanations?

That not even the most extreme political weirdos among us are asking these kinds of questions, let alone the more respectable dissenters?

As long as the filters remain invisible to us, it is the filters that control us, and not we ourselves.

When intelligent, educated, insightful, articulate, and independently-minded commentators, not bound to the government but hostile to it, still keep making the same errors, something is going wrong.

When they consistently and repeatedly underestimate the sheer criminal malice of our governments and their agencies, something is going wrong.

Some critical piece of information, somewhere, is being hidden. Suppressed. De-intensified. Filtered.

Dont be afraid to seem like a conspiracy nut, to those who are blind and senseless.

Dont be afraid to ask questions, the answers to which are the stuff of nightmares.

Only by confronting the true state of things can we ever hope to change them for the better.

I aim to misbehave.

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