[Paleopsych] Daily Kos: Framing Idea: Lies of the Bush Administration
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Sun Feb 6 16:46:23 UTC 2005
Framing Idea: Lies of the Bush Administration
[Article by Jim Lobe appended.]
Who would have thought that a secular Jew, 1938 refugee from Germany, is
the inspiration for American fascism? Read on.
Fri Jan 28th, 2005
I recently read that one of the most influential philosophers to the
neoconservative movement was a guy named Leo Strauss, and that one of the
key features of his philosophy was that he believed that those in charge,
who really know what is going on, need to lie to the masses for their own
good because only they know what is really best for everyone. Well, hey,
look at all the lies of the Bush Administration...
...Saddam has WMDs, Saddam has ties to al Quaeda, Social Security is in a
crisis, NCLB is working, etc., all repeated ad nauseam on Fox News and
via payola until the masses believe it "for their own good." This is
more than just putting one's best foot forward or exaggerating one's
better qualities and successes--this is part of a strategy based of lying
to the masses.
Those of us on the left aren't really the ones being lied to because we
already know Bush is full of it and he doesn't really care what we think.
But there are a great many on the right ("paleoconservatives") and in
the middle out there who have no idea that the neoconservatives consider
them to be the ignorant masses who deserve to be lied to for their own
good. Personally, I'd get really pissed off if I learned that someone who
I respected and believed in was just misleading me because they thought I
was just a stupid peon who didn't know what was good for himself. And I
think there just might be a way to help these people learn what is really
Hitting them over the head with it won't work because it is just too
polarizing. But maybe some of them could figure it out for themselves if
we just popularize the name of Leo Strauss a bit. Maybe we could do this
by reframing general references to Bush's lies, whenever and wherever
they occur in the media, as something such as "Straussian tactics." Let
people start speculating about the influence of Leo Strauss behind every
Bush lie, let them start paying even more attention to Bush's lies, and
perhaps encourage people do some simple research on Strauss for
themselves. We don't have to polarize people by accusing Bush of lying
everytime that he does so, perhaps we only need to publicly speculate
about the influence of founding neoconservative strategist, Leo Strauss,
and his many pupils.
Instead of calling a misleading statement by the Bush Administration a
"lie," speculate about the "Straussian tactics" behind the deception.
This is my first diary entry and this idea still needs some work, but
maybe someone reading this will have something interesting to add. Does
anyone have any idea how to put this idea more in the format of a
Lakoff-style frame? I'd also be particularly interested in reading
comments from students of political philosophy and others who may already
be aware of Strauss' influence. For everyone else, here are some
weblinks to the neoconservative philosophy of Leo Strauss to get you
http://www.alternet.org/story/15935 [see below]
http://tinyurl.com/68nt3 (Googlecache of antiwar.com)
Leo Strauss' Philosophy of Deception
By Jim Lobe, AlterNet
Posted on May 19, 2003, Printed on January 29, 2005
What would you do if you wanted to topple Saddam Hussein, but your
intelligence agencies couldn't find the evidence to justify a war?
A follower of Leo Strauss may just hire the "right" kind of men to get
the job done - people with the intellect, acuity, and, if necessary, the
political commitment, polemical skills, and, above all, the imagination
to find the evidence that career intelligence officers could not detect.
The "right" man for Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, suggests
Seymour Hersh in his recent New Yorker article entitled 'Selective
Intelligence,' was Abram Shulsky, director of the Office of Special Plans
(OSP) - an agency created specifically to find the evidence of WMDs
and/or links with Al Qaeda, piece it together, and clinch the case for
the invasion of Iraq.
Like Wolfowitz, Shulsky is a student of an obscure German Jewish
political philosopher named Leo Strauss who arrived in the United States
in 1938. Strauss taught at several major universities, including
Wolfowitz and Shulsky's alma mater, the University of Chicago, before his
death in 1973.
Strauss is a popular figure among the neoconservatives. Adherents of his
ideas include prominent figures both within and outside the
administration. They include 'Weekly Standard' editor William Kristol;
his father and indeed the godfather of the neoconservative movement,
Irving Kristol; the new Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence,
Stephen Cambone, a number of senior fellows at the American Enterprise
Institute (AEI) (home to former Defense Policy Board chairman Richard
Perle and Lynne Cheney), and Gary Schmitt, the director of the
influential Project for the New American Century (PNAC), which is chaired
by Kristol the Younger.
Strauss' philosophy is hardly incidental to the strategy and mindset
adopted by these men - as is obvious in Shulsky's 1999 essay titled "Leo
Strauss and the World of Intelligence (By Which We Do Not Mean Nous)" (in
Greek philosophy the term nous denotes the highest form of rationality).
As Hersh notes in his article, Shulsky and his co-author Schmitt
"criticize America's intelligence community for its failure to appreciate
the duplicitous nature of the regimes it deals with, its susceptibility
to social-science notions of proof, and its inability to cope with
deliberate concealment." They argued that Strauss's idea of hidden
meaning, "alerts one to the possibility that political life may be
closely linked to deception. Indeed, it suggests that deception is the
norm in political life, and the hope, to say nothing of the expectation,
of establishing a politics that can dispense with it is the exception."
Rule One: Deception
It's hardly surprising then why Strauss is so popular in an
administration obsessed with secrecy, especially when it comes to matters
of foreign policy. Not only did Strauss have few qualms about using
deception in politics, he saw it as a necessity. While professing deep
respect for American democracy, Strauss believed that societies should be
hierarchical - divided between an elite who should lead, and the masses
who should follow. But unlike fellow elitists like Plato, he was less
concerned with the moral character of these leaders. According to Shadia
Drury, who teaches politics at the University of Calgary, Strauss
believed that "those who are fit to rule are those who realize there is
no morality and that there is only one natural right - the right of the
superior to rule over the inferior."
This dichotomy requires "perpetual deception" between the rulers and the
ruled, according to Drury. Robert Locke, another Strauss analyst says,
"The people are told what they need to know and no more." While the elite
few are capable of absorbing the absence of any moral truth, Strauss
thought, the masses could not cope. If exposed to the absence of absolute
truth, they would quickly fall into nihilism or anarchy, according to
Drury, author of 'Leo Strauss and the American Right' (St. Martin's
Second Principle: Power of Religion
According to Drury, Strauss had a "huge contempt" for secular democracy.
Nazism, he believed, was a nihilistic reaction to the irreligious and
liberal nature of the Weimar Republic. Among other neoconservatives,
Irving Kristol has long argued for a much greater role for religion in
the public sphere, even suggesting that the Founding Fathers of the
American Republic made a major mistake by insisting on the separation of
church and state. And why? Because Strauss viewed religion as absolutely
essential in order to impose moral law on the masses who otherwise would
be out of control.
At the same time, he stressed that religion was for the masses alone; the
rulers need not be bound by it. Indeed, it would be absurd if they were,
since the truths proclaimed by religion were "a pious fraud." As Ronald
Bailey, science correspondent for Reason magazine points out,
"Neoconservatives are pro-religion even though they themselves may not be
"Secular society in their view is the worst possible thing,'' Drury says,
because it leads to individualism, liberalism, and relativism, precisely
those traits that may promote dissent that in turn could dangerously
weaken society's ability to cope with external threats. Bailey argues
that it is this firm belief in the political utility of religion as an
"opiate of the masses" that helps explain why secular Jews like Kristol
in 'Commentary' magazine and other neoconservative journals have allied
themselves with the Christian Right and even taken on Darwin's theory of
Third Principle: Aggressive Nationalism
Like Thomas Hobbes, Strauss believed that the inherently aggressive
nature of human beings could only be restrained by a powerful
nationalistic state. "Because mankind is intrinsically wicked, he has to
be governed," he once wrote. "Such governance can only be established,
however, when men are united - and they can only be united against other
Not surprisingly, Strauss' attitude toward foreign policy was distinctly
Machiavellian. "Strauss thinks that a political order can be stable only
if it is united by an external threat," Drury wrote in her book.
"Following Machiavelli, he maintained that if no external threat exists
then one has to be manufactured (emphases added)."
"Perpetual war, not perpetual peace, is what Straussians believe in,"
says Drury. The idea easily translates into, in her words, an
"aggressive, belligerent foreign policy," of the kind that has been
advocated by neocon groups like PNAC and AEI scholars - not to mention
Wolfowitz and other administration hawks who have called for a world
order dominated by U.S. military power. Strauss' neoconservative students
see foreign policy as a means to fulfill a "national destiny" - as Irving
Kristol defined it already in 1983 - that goes far beyond the narrow
confines of a "myopic national security."
As to what a Straussian world order might look like, the analogy was best
captured by the philosopher himself in one of his - and student Allen
Bloom's - many allusions to Gulliver's Travels. In Drury's words, "When
Lilliput was on fire, Gulliver urinated over the city, including the
palace. In so doing, he saved all of Lilliput from catastrophe, but the
Lilliputians were outraged and appalled by such a show of disrespect."
The image encapsulates the neoconservative vision of the United States'
relationship with the rest of the world - as well as the relationship
between their relationship as a ruling elite with the masses. "They
really have no use for liberalism and democracy, but they're conquering
the world in the name of liberalism and democracy," Drury says.
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