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"Preemptive Strikes of the (Pseudo) Progressive Kind", Thomas S. Harrington

"Preemptive Strikes of the (Pseudo) Progressive Kind", Thomas S. Harrington

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Published by Giuliano Valverde
Aware that the use of carefully tested, innocuous sounding euphemisms is the cornerstone of the corporate and military “perception management” campaigns, I have made a great effort to be stark and simple in my descriptions. When people anywhere get killed by others, I call it murder. When countries that have done nothing to us get invaded I call it wanton aggression and compare it to other times in recent history when countries suffered the unprovoked losses of sovereignty. I refer to people as “war criminals” who have gone on TV and admitted planning and carrying out, well, war crimes.
Aware that the use of carefully tested, innocuous sounding euphemisms is the cornerstone of the corporate and military “perception management” campaigns, I have made a great effort to be stark and simple in my descriptions. When people anywhere get killed by others, I call it murder. When countries that have done nothing to us get invaded I call it wanton aggression and compare it to other times in recent history when countries suffered the unprovoked losses of sovereignty. I refer to people as “war criminals” who have gone on TV and admitted planning and carrying out, well, war crimes.

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Published by: Giuliano Valverde on Oct 08, 2011
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02/01/2013

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Preemptive Strikes of the (Pseudo)Progressive Kind
By
October 8, 2011
 – 
For reasons related mostly togeography and the positive experiences of an uncle and a number of familyfriends, I attended an undergraduate college run by the Society of Jesus, a
Catholic religious order known more colloquially as “the Jesuits”.
 In making the choice to attend this place, neither my parents nor I wereparticularly driven by the desire to insure that I be inculcated with the
“right values” during my first extended sojourn outside the nest. Rather, we
all just hoped that I would get the type of solid education needed for me tobe relatively happy and productive in the adult world.Looking back I can say, with some gratitude, that the Jesuits deliveredhandsomely on their part of this bargain.When, later on, Spanish friends would get to the point (always much laterin a friendship with a Spaniard than in a relationship with an American) of asking me where I had gone to college, I was surprised at their sharpreactions to the news that I had studied at a Jesuit institution.In so doing, they provided me with one of my first great lessons about thedeeply contextual nature of meaning. What was for me mostly an
organization that ran, as we used to say, “a good school” relatively close to
my home, was for them something quite different and much more freightedwith meaning.
In the Spanish context, “studying with the Jesuits” carries with it strong
suggestions of family wealth, a belief in a militant and often martialCatholicism, and above all, a devotion (albeit with occasional bouts of insouciance and rebellion) to maintaining and strengthening the existingsocial order.The Jesuits were founded more or less simultaneously with theCounterreformation, a movement designed to insure that Spain, whosegovernmental system in the mid- sixteenth century was inextricably
 
entwined with the hierarchy of the Catholic church, retain its role as thesole super-power of the world. This effort obviously involved a great dealof military strategy.But the Spanish elites also knew that all the military force in the world wasus
eless if they were to lose the “hearts and minds”
of the people (mostlyfrom the Germanic principalities) whom they hoped to keep within their
sphere of control. They also knew that that this “long war” against
religiously fueled insurgents would require ideological discipline in the
“homeland”. It would not do, they reasoned, to have the nation’s future
leaders perceive the world-view of the insurgents as having even theslightest shred of legitimacy.Enter the Jesuits.One of the great attractions of the beliefs of the insurgents, a family of faiths we now refer to as Protestantism, was their accent on the legitimacy
of the individual’s
 
 personal search
for God. No truly thoughtful personever wishes to have their search for meaning circumscribed by
a priori
barriers or considerations. Insofar as these new faiths promised tostrip away at least some of these strictures, they tended to appeal to themore intellectual sectors of society.
In this context, one of the Jesuits’ prime functions was to provide
thosewho found themselves attracted to the relative intellectual freedom of Protestantism with a competing intellectual option from within the motherChurch.In other words, their job was to demonstrate that the organization thatwould, in short order persecute Galileo and burn Giordano Bruno at thestake and that was backing huge and very brutal military campaignsdesigned to make people stop thinking in the way they were thinking aboutthe church and the Spanish state, was really a great precinct of intellectuallife.Faced with this evidently very hard if not impossible sell, the Jesuitsbecame the masters of the rhetorical misdirection play.
Realizing that they could not win most of the arguments about the church’sand Spain’s long records of perfidy “on the facts”, they got very good at
 
tying their intellectual opponents up in knots with the discussion of smalland relatively insignificant shades of rhetorical meaning, a practice of intellectual pre-emption often referred to as casuistry.Over the past several years I have tried to dialogue with certain friends andacquaintances--almost all of them self-professed liberals and/orprogressives--my sense of deep alarm at the destruction of the most basicelements of democratic behavior in this country.I have shared with them a lot of information about things like extra-judicial
killing, the destruction of the most basic constitutional rights, Obama’s real
as opposed to imagined comportment, the terrifying cost in both life andmaterial destruction to the millions of people living in the countries wehave invaded and occupied during this period.Aware that the use of carefully tested, innocuous sounding euphemisms is
the cornerstone of the corporate and military “perception management”
campaigns, I have made a great effort to be stark and simple in mydescriptions. When people anywhere get killed by others, I call it murder.When countries that have done nothing to us get invaded I call it wantonaggression and compare it to other times in recent history when countries
suffered the unprovoked losses of sovereignty. I refer to people as “war criminals” who have gone on TV and admitted planning and carrying out,
well, war crimes.The hope, of course, is to encourage people to transcend the normalizingrhetoric craftily employed by the powers that be and begin usetheir
empathetic imaginations
, to ask what it would be like to be the personsent away forever with no charges, to watch your country destroyed forhaving done absolutely nothing to the country of the invaders, to be beatenby cops for no reason other than you wish to exercise the most basic of democratic rights, to live in a place where the wealthy own not only thecorporations you work in, but most of the venues where you might want toexpress yourself freely as an individual. In other words, the goal is to havepeople contemplate and in some sense
 feel
the reality and magnitude of what being done in their name.But rather than this, I most often get what I can only call casuisticresponses in return, statements designed to make the conversation among

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