Scholars have speculated that Shirley Jackson’s timeless story The Lottery (1948) was a contemplation of and attempt to make sense of the ghastly forms of rationalization at work in Nazi death camps uncovered during the postwar Nuremberg trials.
While the major theme of Jackson’s story, man’s general inhumanity toward humankind, continues to reverberate, the development of a certain character within the tale speaks even more profoundly to the present. Old Man Warner and his unblinking obedience to strange abstractions embody a banality of evil that appears in many of his fellow townsfolk and the codes of behavior and speech they are goaded by bizarre norms to embrace.
Questioning these abstractions and the traditions that animate them comes at a substantial price, however.
“Every man has his price” (Walpole, 1734) — an utterance on the lips of both despots and saints, past and present, eager to embrace or repel tyranny. The observation has the ring both of a universal truth and a hasty generalization.
In Jackson’s story, the price for the old man, intent to guard the prevailing socioeconomic order, was his own humanity. In the present, the saying resonates with those whose minds have been effectively dazzled by the global Pavlovian project observable in state-corporate propaganda which claims that a virus with a 99.8% survival rate spells certain doom for the world. They who demand that every living creature obey, without question, the unscientific irrational contradictory plans of the unfolding state-corporate global medical hegemony.
The competitively compliant masses, armed with faculties of reason effectively effaced, are all too happy to publicly signal their subservience and submit their civil and human rights to a technocratic global lordship consolidating the kind of control and power that will remain, forevermore, impervious to any challenge. How observable facts such as these elude the notice of so many people today is covered, most notably, in a popular university course in propaganda at New York University.
Mark Crispin Miller, world-renowned professor of media, culture and communication, has given Mass Persuasion and Propaganda for decades. In these times, however, of state-sanctioned “woke totalitarianism” enforced by its global big tech guardians, the course and its most famous professor was bound to become a target for cancellation.
The operation against Professor Miller began in earnest last year when a disgruntled student falsely claimed that her teacher was nurturing a student-led mutiny against the NYU administration for its masking policies. The latest and most baffling attack on Miller has emerged, however, with the publication of a hit piece titled “The Professor of Paranoia” in the Chronicle of Higher Education — a rank illustration of the truths we might see in the aphorism that every man can be bought.
Inexplicably, its author Mark Dery marks out his territorial criticism of Miller by explicitly signaling his own ideological presuppositions — a liberal pose that can only pretend to be progressive, open-minded, balanced and enlightened by an unflagging pursuit of unvarnished truth. What profits the man who gives up his intellectual integrity for an ideology demanding all empirical knowledge pass through the politically correct filters set by the Federal Ministry of Truth?
Dery muses over decades past, reading Miller’s classic 1988 volume, Boxed In: The Culture of TVand cites our mutually favorite chapter, “Big Brother Is You, Watching.”
He references a salient passage that (in his mind apparently) should serve to chasten Miller for his contemporary transgressions:
TV ‘reduces all of its proponents to blind spectators of their own annihilation’”
Boxed In: The Culture of TV, 1988, p. 331.
Dery proceeds to call up a host of Miller’s supposed offenses against all accepted expressions of scholarly integrity — uninvestigated 9/11 intrigue, stolen elections, CIA-backed psychological operations against domestic populations, and now the new social and economic “Normal” promulgated by a transnational network of elite Davos movers and shakers.
Scoffing, as he does, at the very idea of addressing such pressing issues comes at the cost of one’s own intellect, a mental annihilation akin to that bizarre period of public discourse in the wake of 9/11 when FOX News was the unrivalled PR arm of the GOP. The passage from Boxed In that Dery selected as a weapon against Miller serves as the most glaring example of irony.
The very examples Dery cites in his critique show that only those weaned on TV have not yet sampled the solid foods of scholarship — the disinterested science that political institutions have tried for years to marginalize, ignore, or erase. What does Mark Dery receive beyond keeping up perverse social appearances like those erected in years past by likes of Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity — major cheerleaders for the annihilation of countless souls in the post-9/11 regime-change wars?
Today, is it any wonder to academics who steadfastly refuse to betray the call of their vocation, no matter the cost, that such a criticism of Miller would be featured in a journal advocating for higher education? For anyone in the education field who has witnessed larger forces of the corporate-state complex prevail upon academe and reengineer institutions over the past number of decades, it is impossible not to see the sort of friendly fascism that Bertram Gross had warned about in 1980 when he saw an emerging new order in which:
more concentrated, unscrupulous, repressive, and militaristic control by a Big Business-Big Government partnership preserve[s] the privileges of the ultra-rich, the corporate overseers, and the brass in the military and civilian order”
Friendly Fascism (Gross, 1980) p. 167).
Gross showed plainly how public discourse controlled by the gatekeepers helps centers of power frame the reengineering of the social world as “reasonable” and inexorable because it is overtly friendly — to business — and, thus, integral to the logic of an efficient and free market.
The problem for public intellectuals like Miller who work tirelessly to preserve natural and civil rights is disarming the dissemblers and blind servants of power who come with a wink and a smile trying to reassure the masses to trust the plan.
Since 9/11, the ethos of business as usual has been focused on normalizing the tyrannical demands of security as asserted by the transnational partnerships among “the corporate overseers and the brass in the military and civilian order” (Gross, 1980, p. 167).
Old Man Warner would be proud to see so many of his heirs today maintaining the lottery and asserting the need to follow hideous traditions no matter where they lead. Dery notes that:
Extreme disbelief — a skepticism so radical it dismisses nearly every official narrative as propaganda — can make for strange bedfellows.”
In a sane world, this could not be any truer.
Daniel Broudy, Ph.D., is a professor of applied linguistics at Okinawa Christian University. His latest book, co-authored with Miyume Tanji, is Okinawa Under Occupation: McDonaldization and Resistance to Neoliberal Propaganda (Palgrave, 2017).
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