The CIA coined the term “blowback” to describe the unintended results of U.S. covert operations abroad. It was first used in connection with Operation Ajax, the Agency’s 1953 coup in Iran overthrowing the democratic government of Mohammad Mossadegh. The United States today has hundreds of military bases around the world. It’s a form of domination that greatly expanded under the Bush Administration’s post-9/11 so-called War on Terror. Supporting a far-flung military empire generates large profits for many U.S. corporations. It’s terrific for weapons manufacturers like Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, Boeing and Northrop Grumman and for contractors like Halliburton, DynCorp and Fluor. Not surprisingly, many people from Iraq to Japan are angry with having to live with Uncle Sam in uniform in their backyard.
There’s a famous quote in George Orwell’s 1984: “Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.” Orwell understood how important knowledge of history is and how it can be manipulated by the powerful to serve their interests. If the past disappears down the memory hole society is at risk. History is not some neutral ideologically-free zone. It is a highly contested battlefield. The contents of textbooks are subject to partisan bias, often tilting to the right. Inadequate history textbooks help produce adults who can’t distinguish evidence from opinion, fact from fiction. Progressive voices such as Frederick Douglass, Emma Goldman, and Dorothy Day are often omitted from textbooks or just appear without context. James Loewen said, “Telling the truth about the past helps cause justice in the present. Achieving justice in the present helps us tell the truth about the past.”
In liberal democratic societies, it has long been understood that the use of force to control the population is generally not a viable option. Therefore, controlling what people think is critical. Thus, an elaborate system of propaganda is needed. For that system to be effective it must appear invisible. In totalitarian states there is no ambiguity. Citizens know they are getting the party line. But in countries like the U.S., where ownership is private and formal censorship is absent, there is an appearance of a free flow of information. However, that flow passes through successive filters, leaving only the cleansed residue fit to print. Recorded at the University of Texas.
Chalmers Johnson, a distinguished political scientist, was professor emeritus at the University of California, San Diego. He was the author of Blowback, Sorrows of Empire, Nemesis and Dismantling the Empire. He warned, “A nation can be one or the other, a democracy or an imperialist, but it can’t be both. If it sticks to imperialism, it will, like the old Roman Republic on which so much of our system was modeled, lose its democracy to a domestic dictatorship.” He died in 2010.
James Loewen is the author of Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong, winner of the American Book Award. He also wrote Lies Across America, Lies My Teacher Told Me About Christopher Columbus, and Sundown Towns. He also wrote Teaching What Really Happened and The Mississippi Chinese: Between Black and White and edited The Confederate and Neo-Confederate Reader. He won the Oliver Cromwell Cox Award for Distinguished Anti-Racist Scholarship, the Spirit of America Award from the National Council for the Social Studies, and the Gustavus Myers Outstanding Book Award. Loewen was a professor emeritus of sociology at the University of Vermont. He died in 2021.
Edward Herman was an economist who taught at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. He was also highly skilled at exposing media lies, fabrications and propaganda. He was the author of many books, including Beyond Hypocrisy, The Real Terror Network, The Politics of Genocide and The Myth of the Liberal Media. He was author with Noam Chomsky of Manufacturing Consent, one of the most influential books on the media ever written. He passed away in November 2017 at the age of 92.