Widespread ignorance bordering on idiocy is our new national goal. It’s no use pretending otherwise and telling us, as Thomas Friedman did in the Times a few days ago, that educated people are the nation’s most valuable resources. Sure, they are, but do we still want them? It doesn’t look to me as if we do. The ideal citizen of a politically corrupt state, such as the one we now have, is a gullible dolt unable to tell truth from bullshit.
An educated, well-informed population, the kind that a functioning democracy requires, would be difficult to lie to, and could not be led by the nose by the various vested interests running amok in this country. Most of our politicians and their political advisers and lobbyists would find themselves unemployed, and so would the gasbags who pass themselves off as our opinion makers. Luckily for them, nothing so catastrophic, even though perfectly well-deserved and widely-welcome, has a remote chance of occurring any time soon. For starters, there’s more money to be made from the ignorant than the enlightened, and deceiving Americans is one of the few growing home industries we still have in this country. A truly educated populace would be bad, both for politicians and for business.
It took years of indifference and stupidity to make us as ignorant as we are today. Anyone who has taught college over the last forty years, as I have, can tell you how much less students coming out of high school know every year. At first it was shocking, but it no longer surprises any college instructor that the nice and eager young people enrolled in your classes have no ability to grasp most of the material being taught. Teaching American literature, as I have been doing, has become harder and harder in recent years, since the students read little literature before coming to college and often lack the most basic historical information about the period in which the novel or the poem was written, including what important ideas and issues occupied thinking people at the time.
Even regional history has gotten a short shrift. Students who come from old New England mill towns, as I have discovered, have never been told about the famous strikes in their communities in which workers were shot in cold blood and the perpetrators got away scot-free. I wasn’t surprised that their high schools were wary of bringing up the subject, but it astonished me that their parents and grandparents, and whoever else they came in contact with while they were growing up, never mentioned these examples of gross injustice. Either their families never talked about the past, or their children were not paying attention when they did. Whatever it was, one is confronted with the problem of how to remedy their vast ignorance about things they should have already been familiar with as the generations of students before them were.
If this lack of knowledge is the result of the years of dumbing down of high school curriculum and of families that don’t talk to their children about the past, there’s another more pernicious kind of ignorance we confront today. It is the product of years of ideological and political polarization and the deliberate effort by the most fanatical and intolerant parties in that conflict to manufacture more ignorance by lying about many aspects of our history and even our recent past. I recall being stunned some years back when I read that a majority of Americans told pollsters that Saddam Hussein was behind September 11 terrorist attacks. It struck me as a propaganda feat unsurpassed by the worst authoritarian regimes of the past—many of which had to resort to labor camps and firing squads to force their people to believe some untruth, without comparable success.
No doubt, the Internet and cable television have allowed various political and corporate interests to spread disinformation on a scale that was not possible before, but to have it believed requires a badly educated population unaccustomed to verifying things they are being told. Where else on earth would a president who rescued big banks from bankruptcy with taxpayers’ money and allowed the rest of us to lose $12 trillion in investment, retirement, and home values be called a socialist?
In the past, if someone knew nothing and talked nonsense, no one paid any attention to him. No more. Now such people are courted and flattered by conservative politicians and ideologues as “Real Americans” defending their country against big government and educated liberal elites. The press interviews them and reports their opinions seriously without pointing out the imbecility of what they believe. The hucksters, who manipulate them for the powerful financial interests, know that they can be made to believe anything, because, to the ignorant and the bigoted, lies always sound better than truth:
Christians are persecuted in this country. The government is coming to get your guns. Obama is a Muslim. Global Warming is a hoax. The president is forcing open homosexuality on the military. Schools push a left-wing agenda. Social Security is an entitlement, no different from welfare. Obama hates white people. The life on earth is 10,000 years old and so is the universe. The safety net contributes to poverty. The government is taking money from you and giving it to sex-crazed college women to pay for their birth control.
One could easily list many more such commonplace delusions believed by Americans. They are kept in circulation by hundreds of right-wing political and religious media outlets whose function is to fabricate an alternate reality for their viewers and their listeners. “Stupidity is sometimes the greatest of historical forces,” Sidney Hook said once. No doubt. What we have in this country is the rebellion of dull minds against the intellect. That’s why they love politicians who rail against teachers indoctrinating children against their parents’ values and resent the ones who show ability to think seriously and independently. Despite their bravado, these fools can always be counted on to vote against their self-interest. And that, as far as I’m concerned, is why millions are being spent to keep my fellow citizens ignorant.
Tamerlan Tsarnev, the accused Boston bomber who was killed, heard voices.
Slain suspected Boston Marathon bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev said he heard voices in his head and believed in the concept of influencing others by way of “majestic mind control,” according to a new report.
Journalists at The Boston Globe published this weekend the result of a five-month investigation into the Tsarnaev family, and their report reveals new, never-before-released information about the 26-year-old Chechen boxer who, along with his younger brother Dzhokhar, is accused of orchestrating a terror attack at last April’s Boston Marathon race which killed three and left hundreds injured.
Tamerlan Tsarnaev died during a shootout with police days after the event, and his brother is currently awaiting trial in federal court in Massachusetts. With the high-profile terrorist case likely a long way from being settled, little attention has been paid to the story in the months since the dust cleared after the event.
Sally Jacobs, David Filipov, and Patricia Wen of the Globe have spent nearly half a year probing the Tsarnaevs’ past, and with their latest report they raise new questions about the brothers - particularly regarding the mental state of the supposed mastermind, Tamerlan.
“He believed in majestic mind control, which is a way of breaking down a person and creating an alternative personality with which they must coexist," Donald Larking, a 67-year-old man who attended a Boston mosque with the older brother, told the Globe.
Larking said that once he befriended the older Tsarnaev, the two quickly shared their thoughts on conspiracy theories and politics.
“He felt the US should not get involved in other people’s affairs and should stick to its own business,”Larking told the paper. “He did not like the country’s involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq at all.”
Then before long, Tsarnaev opened up even more.
“As their relationship grew closer, Tamerlan confided in Larking his troubling secret about the voice inside his head,” the Globe reported. “Tamerlan told him that he had been hearing the voice for some time, and that he had a theory of what might be afflicting him.”
“You can give a signal, a phrase or a gesture, and bring out the alternate personality and make them do things. Tamerlan thought someone might have done that to him,” Larking explained.
Others close to the bombing suspect knew about this secret too, but little was seemingly done to treat Tamerlan. He confided to his mother that it “felt like two people” were inside of him, and Larking said those voices got louder with time.
“He was torn between those two people,” said Larking. “He said that several times. And he did not like it.”
A family acquaintance told the Globe that he also believed Tsarnaev was suffering from a form of schizophrenia, which could have been exasperated by his frequent marijuana use and the physical toll of boxing. Tsarnaev’s parents did little to get their son treatment, however, and instead sought assistance for themselves. Anzor Tsarnaev, the boys’ father, reportedly suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder that developed after he fled embattled Chechnya “and often woke up screaming or weeping in the middle of the night." He, along with wife Zubeidat, made visits to a psychiatrist.
Their research, the Globe reporters say, “Establishes that the brothers were heirs to a pattern of violence and dysfunction running back several generations.”
Tamerlan's uncle, Ruslan Tsarni, worked (works?) for a Chechen rebel aid group out of his father-in-law's house. His father-in-law, Graham Fuller, was a key CIA figure during the Reagan Administration.
Not that this is surprising to people who've followed the JFK assassination, but it turns out that high-ranking CIA official David Atlee Phillips, while using the cover name "Maurice Bishop," was seen talking to Lee Harvey Oswald.
When he first confirmed that David Atlee Phillips was the CIA contact known as "Maurice Bishop," Cuban exile leader Antonio Veciana did so tacitly. But Veciana's meaning was so clear, and his guile so transparent, there was no doubt; both he and House Select Committee investigator Gaeton Fonzi began laughing.
Now, decades later, Veciana has explicitly stated that Phillips (right) was indeed Bishop, and that he did indeed see Phillips with Lee Harvey Oswald in September 1963 – thus formally linking a high ranking CIA officer with the JFK assassination.
Veciana's admission came in a written statementissued November 22, 2013, the fiftieth anniversary of the assassination. In a letter to Fonzi's widow Marie, Veciana, the aging, former leader of Alpha 66, said, "Maurice Bishop, my CIA contact agent was David Atlee Phillips. Phillips or Bishop was the man I saw with Lee Harvey Oswald in Dallas on September 1963."
Fonzi wrote of his encounters with Veciana in his 1993 book The Last Investigation, which describes his experience with the House Select Committee on Assassinations in the 1970s.
At the time of his first meetings with Veciana, Fonzi was a staff investigator for Sen. Richard Schweiker (R-Pa.), a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and co-chair of the Sub-committee on the John F. Kennedy Assassination. Fonzi told Veciana he was exploring links between government agencies and Cuban exile groups.
On March 2, 1976, Veciana told Fonzi that two months before the assassination he rendezvoused with his CIA contact "Maurice Bishop" in the lobby of a downtown Dallas office building. Bishop was already there when he arrived, Veciana said, and in the company of a young man he later recognized as Lee Harvey Oswald, the alleged JFK assassin.
In subsequent HSCA testimony, however, Veciana did not identify Phillips as Bishop. But Fonzi independently determined that "Bishop" and Phillips were one and the same.
Phillips was also called before the HSCA, and under oath, denied both using the name Maurice Bishop and knowing Veciana. That ended the matter. Although Fonzi believed they could make a case for perjury, HSCA Chief Counsel G. Robert Blakey declined to bring charges against Phillips.
In the early 1960s Alpha 66 was a leading anti-Castro organization, funded by the CIA. During the course of their meetings Veciana never explicitly told Fonzi that Bishop was really Phillips. Fonzi believed that Veciana would not make the identification because he thought Bishop/Phillips could further aid him in his goal of toppling Cuban leader Fidel Castro.
David Atlee Phillips was a CIA officer for 25 years. At the time of the assassination he was Chief of Cuban Operations, based in Mexico City. He died in 1988.