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Sunday, January 02, 2011


B-b-but... Jon Stewart and the other Obama apologists have told us that nothing new was learned from this batch of leaks - didn't you get the memo?!

Where does one begin with this one? It should make anyone think about what corporations pull domestically with our courts.

Why in heaven's name would anyone in El Salvador have a problem with the US? It's not as if we've ever meddled in their affairs before, right..? Geez, you read this and you wonder if the embassy staff knows anything at all, the slightest tiniest bit, about the history of the country. Economic development is what we fought there forever.

And how exactly is it that with a massive debt and about 20% real unemployment and the wealth distribrution of Brazil and massive bailouts needed for our morally and literally bankrupt business sectors that we're in a position to be suggesting what would be best for anyone else's economic development?

This is typical doublespeak -- I'm reminded of the notion that a "stable" country is one that, no matter how close to complete oblivion, is willing to serve the interests of our aristocracy, while an "unstable regime" can be the very model of civility but insist that our kleptocrats, being criminals, are unwelcome.

And Chris -- the fact that our government managed to stick its citizens with the bill for its own collapse is, indeed, a sign of success. Those silly El Savadorian judges need correction because they keep insisting that the people of El Salvador are, in fact, people.

"Economic development" here is another term of art, like "U.S. interests", "politicized", and "anti-Americanism", so it actually makes sense in the technical sense in which they're using it. You can get closer to the actual meaning by replacing "development" with "colonization".

It's hard to find a word that's not being used in a technical sense in these cables.

What drives me nuts John is that you can go to plenty of "liberal" colleges and not have those terms described that way. I am (nearly) utterly convinced that, because of this, it is easier to teach a thoroughly uneducated person about politics than someone with a B.A. in any social science.

As such, I'd bet the majority of cables' authors actually believe their own press as well.

There's also Upton Sinclair's observation that it's difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it, but even beyond that I'd say you're right, to the (large) extent that "uneducated" overlaps with "unindoctrinated". One of the functions of higher education in the US and at elite educational institutions in particular is to weed out independent or heretical thought, as people who've ventured too far in those directions discover.

I recently happened across an excellent and wide-ranging Chomsky interview in which he touched on exactly this point (and how it applied to both him and the interviewer):

[T]he people we call intellectuals are those who have passed through various gates and filters and have made it into positions in which they can serve as cultural managers. There are plenty of other people just as smart, smarter, more independent, more thoughtful, who didn’t pass through those gates and we just don’t call them intellectuals. In fact, this is a process that starts in elementary school. Let’s be concrete about it. You and I went to good graduate schools and teach in fancy universities, and the reason we did this is because we’re obedient. That is, you and I, and typically people like us, got to the positions we’re in because from childhood we were willing to follow orders. If the teacher in third grade told us to do some stupid thing, we didn’t say, “Look, that’s ridiculous. I’m not going to do it.” We did it because we wanted to get on to fourth grade. We came from the kind of background where we’d say, “Look, do it, forget about it, so the teacher’s a fool, do it, you’ll get ahead, don’t worry about it.” That goes on all through school, and it goes on through your professional career. You’re told in graduate school, “Look, don’t work on that; it’s a wrong idea. Why not work on this? You’ll get ahead.” However it’s put, and there are subtle ways of putting it, you allow yourself to be shaped by the system of authority that exists out there and is trying to shape you.

As such, I'd bet the majority of cables' authors actually believe their own press as well.

Totally agreed on that point as well. I think some people expected to see these State Department functionaries taking off the mask and talking openly about their evil plans in these cables, but the fact is that this really is how these people talk, and that's because it's also how they think. I don't doubt that the authors of these cables would adamantly dispute my characterizations of what they wrote, and not dishonestly.

The funny thing is that I actually do have a BA in poli sci from an elite university. I was very political from a very young age but when I entered college I thought I was going to major in the hard sciences, and drifted toward what I enjoyed more and knew more about already, poli sci.

I have to say I absorbed what I learned there having already read a good deal of Zinn, Chomsky et al on my own while in high school. No doubt coming in a blank slate I'd have been a different person. I read everything through a filter.

I have zero doubt that to this day any academic career of mine in poli sci would be stiffled based in trying to chart an independent path, writing theses and articles that questioned the general order of things. Some other departments this might not be the case.

There was some pressure to avoid my course of inquiry and several sources from my advisor (who wasn't tenured incidentally, he was a visiting professor) on my senior thesis project, which was a comparison of the 70s/80s revolutionary movements in a few Central American countries.

On the whole the tenured staff was very establishment/ right of center, although there was at least one left-leaning fellow teaching intro classes. It seemed like there was a scattering of actual leftists in other departments, such as sociology and medical anthro (in the latter case one could actually hear about the effect of IMF and World Bank austerity measures on health care provision).

The lefties seem to cluster in communications and women's studies and whatever isn't going to be taken too seriously by the think tanks.

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