Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Torture: A Moral and Psychic Train Wreck (Together with a modest proposal) (5.20.09)

Those who defend torture defend both a dead-end philosophy and a perversion of psychic development.  I will lay this out as succinctly as possible.  Based on two simple charts.  One, the neocon (straussian) building blocks:  Leading inexorably to abominations of governance, including torture.  The other, Erik Erikson's 8 psychosocial stages, a progressive series of developmental conflicts:  For each of which the neocons would choose the negative consequences, thus gradually perverting the soul of a nation.  Since I have previously written on each of these, I will link each chart to its blog for anyone who needs a refresher or further reading and reflection.

The Neocon "principles" below constitute a poisonous recipe for any society.  They are antithetical to our democratic institutions and ideals.  They provide the architecture for a despotic regime, based on instilling fear in the population and its enemies, viewed with contempt, as inferiors, by an elite "leader" class.  In my view, as a psychologist:  Contempt for inferiors is the prime mover toward tortureShame, degradation, the intended result.  But in order to get there, and to justify it to the population, all the other soul-destroying principles work in tandem:
Straussian/Neocon "Principles" 101
(TheraP's cliff notes version)
  1. Noble Lies (lies/secrecy as "virtue" - > 4,10,13)
  2. Perpetual War (war as "virtue" -> 5, 6, 8, 13)
  3. Fear of the masses and democracy (-> 4, 9)
  4. Government by an elite (covert rule of "the wise" -> 1,10)
  5. Instilling a sense of superiority in a nation (-> 8, 13)
  6. Stability/Unity via FEAR of an external threat (->13)
  7. Exploiting moral issues/religion's hold on the people (->1,13)
  8. National survival - supersedes the well-being of others (->2,5)
  9. Contempt for dissenters (->10,13)
  10. Those in power make the rules and call it justice (->1,13)
  11. Combination of religion and nationalism (->7,13)
  12. Fear - greatest ally of tyranny (->1,6,13)
  13. Manipulate the images (media, based on idea of Plato's cave)
Those who govern (via neocon/straussian principles) do so via lies and secrecy (1), instilling in citizens a sense that they are a nation superior (5) to others, while at the same time an elite class of leaders loathe the inferior citizenry (3), viewed as the masses, to be manipulated via propaganda (13).  The sense of national superiority (5) is buttressed above all by perpetual war (2), by fear (12) and contempt (9) for enemies and dissenters.  Religion and nationalism combine (7) to bolster this perverted form of patriotism, based on glorifying war and warriors and the elite (4), whose own judgment substitutes justice (10).  Based on using propaganda (13), FEAR of an external threat (6) is used to justify national survival as more important than anything else (8).

It is this latter "principle" (the primacy of national survival) - together with contempt for enemies, and control over the rules for what is just, that I think leads inexorably to torture.  For if enemies are "nothing" (while a nation's survival is "everything"), then torturing, even murdering, an enemy, becomes no more than squashing a bug.  If one's own nation is "superior" and enemies are "inferior" - so too do the elite view themselves as superior to the inferior masses.  While the leaders rule by fear, they also fear the people they rule.  Thus, repression of dissent becomes a necessityAny means of repression Including torture.

Had I written something like this, even a decade a go, I would have thought I was nuts.  I would have figured I'd gone round the bend.  But we cannot deny what we have seen with our own eyes.  No matter how much we wish we could turn back the clock. Even today, it's pretty horrifying that I could briefly hold moral values in abeyance, long enough, to write the two paragraphs above, trying to understand the mentality of despotism, of torture.  I feel a need to go and wash my hands, simply for having brought myself to write these things.  I want to divorce myself from this.  Deny it.  I feel sick to my stomach and sick at heart for how low we've sunk as a nation.

Thank goodness I have Erikson's Eight Stages to turn to!  They are a balm to the soul.  A beacon in the darkness.  So long as we look at the positive outcomes on the left-hand side of the chart.  The positives are what we need to aim for.  The negative outcomes, on the right-hand side, are what we've come through.  What we must face and deal with and root out from our political arena, to the extent we can.
Vision QuestErikson's Developmental Stages
  1. Trust   vs            Mistrust
  2. Autonomy   vs    Shame/Doubt
  3. Initiative  vs       Guilt
  4. Industry   vs       Inferiority
  5. Identity   vs        Confusion/Negative Identity
  6. Intimacy   vs      Isolation
  7. Generativity vs  Stagnation/Self-Absorption
  8. Integrity   vs      Despair
It's intriguing to me that the straussian principles (above) were derived from the teachings of a man who was deeply pessimistic.  Yet the disciples and acolytes who tried to put them into practice seem not to have foreseen the horrible train wreck they set in motion, when they embarked on a perverted experiment to put these twisted principles into practice, via subverting both the laws of our nation and the building blocks of good mental health.  For if we work backwards, through Erikson's right hand column (of negative outcomes), we find a pessimistic cheney handing on a politics of despair, (8) his stagnant, self-absorbed political party (7), spawning economic stagnation and isolation (6).  And we, as a nation, are currently going through an identity crisis (5) of monumental proportions as we seek to decide whether torture and other abominations committed on our watch can be ignored or must be faced and the consequences dealt with.  Stages 4 is the inferiority dealt by the neocon elite to both We the People and to our enemies, to whom have been imputed (1) mistrust, (2) shame, and (3)guilt.

Brand someone an enemyView that enemy as inferior, an object of mistrust, shame, guilt.  Then, how easy is the step to torture.  Erikson's Stages, if you use them backward, seem to mesh with the straussian/neocon, Machiavellian world. 

We've got to get out of this.  And I think the developmental positives, the ones in italics on the left side of the chart, are the ones we need to look to, to concentrate on.  We need leaders of Wisdom (not elitism).   We need elders whose self-less giving (generativity), toward those who come after us, can provide the developmental building blocks which lead to trust, autonomy, initiative, and industry (not to mistrust, shame, guilt, and inferiority).  Who pass along the Rule of Law.  A sense of community, of intimacy as persons.  We need to do this as individuals.  We need to do this as a nation.  I personally think it unwise to foster identities of warriors or a warrior nation or a war president.  Let us instead foster and prize:  compassion; peace; wisdom; hope; trust; cooperation; and service.  At home as well as abroad.

Please join with your fellow citizens in facing and redressing what has been done:
The only motivation for this great task should be justice and love for those who suffered and for those who will be spared if the truth can be displayed for all to see.

[Larry H]

DD's wonderful post, annotating the straussian principles can be found in its entirety (following comments to my own blog HERE.)


Interesting post Thera. The notion of the last administration's use of the Straussian "depth guage" is not new but is tragically accurate. About a year ago I remember reading a similar list used to describe how close our nation was (and unfortunately still is) to a totalitarian dictatorship.
You write:

While the leaders rule by fear, they also fear the people they rule. Thus, repression of dissent becomes a necessity. Any means of repression. Including torture.

I'm not sure fear drives the Cheneys of the world to repress dissent. I'm sure fear is a motivating factor, but I don't think it's fear of their "subjects" but rather fear of losing power. People who follow the neocon/Straussian pattern of thought and behavior seem to me to be consumed with the delusion that not only are they Right but they are divinely guided and thus cannot be wrong so they become Messiahs to their own delusional cult. That idea translates the notion of fear of losing power into something more like a fear that they might be wrong and since they have a Messianic delusion that represents a crisis of faith, something, in their mind, the avoidance of which can justify anything. You go on to say:

Brand someone an enemy. View that enemy as inferior, an object of mistrust, shame, guilt. Then, how easy is the step to torture.

In a civil and un-disturbed mind, the idea that inferior, mistrusted, shameful or guiltful things are to be harmed, squashed, killed (tortured) should be anathema. I don't buy for a minute that the "step to torture" should ever be "easy". An un-disturbed mind does not lash out that things that make it uncomfortable. This is where we all bear some responsibility for allowing our country to get in the moral straits we're in. We should not give in to our lesser selves and allow for a second that even if we buy into the "we are superior" crap, inferiors are to be harmed. The fact that it could seem to us that that idea is at all "easy" is shameful. Thus we torture ourselves ;-)
Yes, you point to the Contempt which I think is the root of the torture for them. They are Right and We the People are nothing.
Read Stanley Milgram. If you go back two blogs, I believe I have a link there. But you can easily google it. You'll see how easy it is. If an "authority" (one of the elite) orders it. (Some of us might stand up, but we too would be cut off, like limbs being pruned, as I wrote in my previous blog).
I thank you for your well-considered comments.
Katrina, to my mind, was the ultimate proof of the contempt these people have for the poor and the downtrodden.
I know the Milgram experiment. I'm not arguing that power begets opression, I'm saying it shouldn't be like that. If only wishing would make it so. Oh, the pain of being a Utopian in today's society ;-)
Ok. I get you. Yes, it should not be such an easy step for some to take. How true. Sorry I misunderstood. Makes sense now.
Katrina was an opportunity, like the war, for the business interests that support the GOP to achieve tremendous profits from the American taxpayers all the while providing shoddy service, if any. I believe it was Blackwater on the bridge keeping the people from leaving the stadium. It's truly chilling that this private army has so many "employees".
You have pointed to one of the horrors there, GregorZ. They have a new name now: X something. But the whole contractor thing is out of control. I believe they, or a similar company, are behind the goons squads at Gitmo also.
They are now Xe, which is a Chinese letter. Probably suggesting they wish to emulate the Chinese military, or work for them like every other Big Box store in this country.
Jon Stewart used to complain that w would speak to us as if we were fourth graders.
"I am the decider"
And w would only speak to a crowd if the people were properly screened and had signed loyalty oaths.
Or the grand color scheme for danger. Orange alert. ha Looked like a preschool chart for teaching four year olds their colors.
w was supposedly the grownup working with other grownups to keep us safe.
And all the while, the Defense Secretary was bundling briefings in religious comic books.
We at least have a President who speaks to unscreened audiences. A man who does not speak down to his audiences.
The tone is different. I have hope.
You give us a lot to ponder.
Marvelous comment, dd! You broaden the picture here so well.
I keep wondering, however: What saved us?
I somehow think it's important for all of this to come out. So we also know who, working in the background, may have saved the day. We know who worked in the foreground against them. But what about the bowels of the intelligence community? What about the military? Who may have even saved tapes of torture for a future day? Or sent vital info on what was going on abroad to judicial authorities?
I want to know more.
But I am also very focused on how we need to educate our young people, to inoculate them, if possible. I think of Josh Marshall, his wife, and his two young children. And so many others.
I think of the tortured. Who need restitution. Rehabilitation.
So much to do. But first we must get all this out into the light of day!
Put a bounty on video tapes of torture at Gitmo and elsewhere and there will be tapes made public. We act as though only the government can release these tapes. I suspect they are pervasive and available at the right price.
Gregor, you are a genius! What an idea! If they could put out bounties for detainees, why not for the tapes?
TheraP --
Closet Luddite writes: "About a year ago I remember reading a similar list used to describe how close our nation was (and unfortunately still is) to a totalitarian dictatorship...."
I, too, read that list and, at the time, banished it from my mind as being vaguely melodramatic. Now? I'm astonished at my own (and our collective) naivit é/denial.
Facing the facts is step one. Certainly coming up with specific goals in solution is step two. But how long will it take? It certainly won't end during Obama's term -- there is an entire generation (maybe almost two) that was inculcated with this "trick and trickle down" theory of power; it's been at work, not only in our government, but also in every aspect of our individual lives, including our neighborhoods and schools. For example, when parents and/or school administrators hold these beliefs, and base their decisions and actions accordingly, how can our children avoid modeling their own attitudes and behaviors, as Cheney might say, just "SO?"
I see demonstrations of this every day. Granted, I teach the sons and daughters of Wall Street (as well as their Chinese and Korean equivalents) so my fears about the long-term legacy of the Neocon whatever it takes mindset might well be overblown by demographic concentration. But I wonder. There are plenty of ultra-conservatives everywhere and, therefore, there are hundreds of thousands of teenagers who are graduating from high schools across the country this month who effectively grew up with these attitudes being viewed as not only acceptable, but desirable.
Perhaps that is why cheating and plagiarism in schools is not only rampant but looked on so nonchalantly by those who are guilty. Hey -- why not? Nine times out of ten, they get a metaphoric slap on the wrist and move on, thereby learning that no matter what the handbook says, rule (of law) is for inferiors, people who are not smart enough or connected enough to get to the top, by whatever means necessary.
Incidentally, I overheard a group of students talking about Maureen Dowd. Their take? Not shock that an NYT journalist would plagiarize, but derision that her excuse "was so lame." Apparently, today's teens could run rings around MoDo in the profered excuse department.
But I ramble. Thank you, TheraP, for your great, ongoing effort to both document issues and offer solutions for them.
BTW, there are many students here I admire and care for -- of all nationalities mentioned. I did not mean to suggest that all our students demonstrate this attitude; nor did I wish to impugn American, Chinese or Korean students in particular -- it is just that our student population falls roughly into these demographics and I find it sad that the attitude exists, to one degree or another, in all three.
Never fear. Mr. TheraP used to teach students of similar backgrounds. I understand. No problem.
Wonderful analysis, Wendy. And I so agree. There's a "what's in it for me?" attitude that you're describing. An entitlement. A sense that deceit is not only ok but valued. I'm not sure if you read my post on: Systemic Deception and the Breakdown of Civic Trust:
But I deal with some of that there. Plagiarism and padding resumes. And everything being a commodity to be "packaged" and marketed.
Please ramble more! This is very important. And you are seeing part of it on a daily basis. The children of the "elite" - being groomed to be "elite" themselves. And how to reach them? How to help them see beyond the confines of the "worldview" they live and move and have their being in?
Very provocative comment!
I look forward to re-reading this. But my first reaction is this: the Straussian principles have been instilled into people forever--to greater or lesser degrees. We happen to have experienced some of the greatest degrees the past several years. But it's all founded on a belief that people are not on the same level: it's a belief that domination/suppression or predation/prey is a basic fact about the world. It ignores instances of mutualism and co-evolution (just on a simple biological level). It pretends co-operation is just a farce.
MBH, I missed out on the indoctrination you describe as "forever". I'm not kidding! Now maybe it was my religious upbringing. But in a public high school I didn't get this in the late 50's, early 60's. And I didn't get it at ALL in college, where service and education in the service of others was very much stressed. But I had concluded the same thing on my own at an early age. (I'll add as an aside that it was the very same college that Nancy Pelosi graduated from, 5 years ahead of me and I have no doubt she would have received the same spirit and message I received there - it was very overt. We had an honor system and it worked!
So what you describe either doesn't fit women or doesn't fit my generation or something. But it seems in line with what Wendy above you is saying. I'm not suggesting that it's not "out there" - but you know, a number of people who read and write at emptywheel read the post and commented over there this morning, and what you're saying did not come up. So now I'm puzzled. Does it fit with the kind of group you used to belong to? Was that part of the message? Because, like Wendy, I feel naive in some ways to this kind of worldview.
I look forward to hearing more from you. And I guess I'm troubled to see the degree to which this has percolated. I'm not saying I've led a pollyannish life, but it surely was never inculcated that I think or behave this way or that such a worldview was to be envied or emulated. Not at all. I'd say the opposite.
Thera, that fills me with relief. I suppose it does come from a certain culture. Living in Alabama my whole life, I have always had a sense of servitude instead of service. So whenever anyone would champion service throughout my youth it would ring especially hollow since I only understood servitude. That doesn't mean that the spirit of service and personhood was not present, but the door was always open to misunderstanding--or what Nhat Hahn would call wrong perception. Given my privileged (although isolated) upbringing, I felt no reason or incentive to understand service. When I started growing up and understanding the difference, I started to formulate a hunch that the door was left open intentionally. While that may or may not be true--that the door to wrong perception was left open intentionally--it certainly was true that those with the power to close it believed it someone else's business to do so.
Now that puts a whole other spin on it! By servitude, do you mean that you experienced a sense of others viewing you as inferior? As an "object" of servitude? Or, you say, privileged, so do you mean, growing up in Alabama there was a sense of you being an "elite" person and others being in servitude to you? Doesn't really matter actually. Because when you are on either end of that elitism-servitude type relationship, you internalize both sides of it. You internalize a kind of rigidity. Where everybody knows their role and you're not free, due to the society, to break out of that. But Nhat Han helped you to see the "conditions" were not "really there" but part of how everyone was perceiving things. Thus, you realized you could see them "differently".
Not sure if I'm getting all of it. But if I am, then you are in a good position to see how the straussians can inculcate that across large groups. Or can seek groups, like fundamentalists, where this is second nature. And make use of that to their advantage.
Thanks for your willingness to explain, to open up about it.
And peace be with you in your journey.
I can't believe I missed the last post on Strauss. I've been very busy with school. (although I find these posts more educational than any part of my ciriculum)
Let me just say this about the perspective from which I understand servitude: I grew up with two mothers--one exercised, the other wore a uniform and did all the work. Everything I wanted was supplied (including a $40,000 car in high-school). If it weren't for sports, I would have lacked a work ethic entirely.
When I read Strauss, I feel like I'm reading the blueprint for my upbringing. Had I not taken the time to introspect my second year in college (after the death of a loved one and the aid of a drug or two), I would have been the prototypical result of the Straussian system: a well mannered, great looking, incompetent, insensitive, emotional invalid.
Strauss, like all "pure" idealogues, refuse to synthesize their views with reality--the ideas are analytic a priori as opposed to synthetic a priori or synthetic . As a consequence, anyone (who embraces the ideas), any family (infiltrated by the ideas), and any culture (structured by the ideas) will--by definition--remain out of touch with reality in order to maintain itself/themselves. To them, anything consistent with reality is perceived as crazy.
So when I grew up with "help" all around me, Strauss would say, "Oh, that is natural--the secret is that some groups' labor must be owned by other groups. If every group were entitled to the fruits of their own labor, it would be chaos. Therefore, we have to conceal what could, on the surface, look like slavery, and make it seem necessary--otherwise no one could command others and then we would all be in great danger. It's much better to choose the sacrifice of some people's labor for the safety of other people's property. If we didn't do that, then no one would be safe."
Thera, I think we've talked about "false choices" before. Strauss' whole philosophy is built on a false choice between a Hobbesian jungle and despotism.
Should read "synthetic a priori or synthetic a posteriori" Instead, half the thing turned red. Oops.
Well, don't worry about the "red" - McCarthy died long ago! ;)
I like your point about the false choice. I wasn't even thinking outside his box, just trying to move around within it and get a sense of the assumptions underlying his system. But you point out the assumption of even choosing that system to start with. So, in effect, a kind of Manichean choice it would seem. Which sure fits. Fits bush to a T! He's not intellectual enough to be a real straussian, but he was the chosen "figurehead" I'd say.
When you have time, read down the thread of the prior blog. Because one person is a former straussian and says it's a waste of time to read strauss. That it's the conscription by profs into little private groups and providing them with internships and so on.... opening doors into the "elite" network. So it would seem they derived ideas from Strauss, but it's the cult-like atmosphere together with the ideology passed along in these groups.
That person may do a blog. We need to watch for it! I hope so.
Yep. It's true.
My first year out of high school, I worked as an intern for a local news outlet. When we covered the election of a new member of the house, I ran into a "friend" of the "family." I'll never forget what he said--in straussian language exactly--"when you're ready for a real job in D.C., you let me know."
He died a couple years ago. At his funeral I looked Mitch McConnell in the eyes for at least five seconds. I made sure that my body language said, "you are not a positive force in this world." His body language said, "I don't care."
"Contempt for inferiors is the prime mover toward torture."
I've thought that was the key to engaging in the torture of another human being. In many respects, acceptance of torture is an extension of the dehumanizing mind-set which armies have always instilled in soldiers to enable them to kill other human beings, the enemy. That's one of the reasons I feel that the correct definition of torture is any act we would view as torture if done to one of our own soldiers.
By placing the definition of torture in to the context of our own soldiers it removes the dehumanization inherent to approving and committing such acts, laying bare the underlying raw brutality of it.
Well put, new10. And incidentally, I love the new user pic, you've got! I just love it!
Very interesting take on this. And accurate too. And a good way of trying to help people put themselves in the shoes of others.
Thanks, TheraP. My handle is an anagram of my family name, one which is shared with a certain well known physicist and mathematician, hence, the apple.
It was about time. Procrastination is one of my many flaws.
That makes it even more perfect! And you found the greatest apple! :-)
new10: I just found in one of my blogs some confirmation for our joint view that torture begins with contempt. And it comes from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Preamble, where it says:
Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind...
See this blog of mine below, where I quote that and then some of the "rights" enumerated:
I had forgotten that fact when I wrote this blog. But from a psychic point of view this totally fits the dynamic. I am just blown away, however, to see that international legal experts thought the same way at the time that Declaration was written.
(It also shows how easily one could be assumed to have plagiarized. Though I assure you I did not. In my view it's confirmatory evidence coming from several sources now.)

What an interesting document. I'm struck by how the preamble kept referring to concepts such as; the right to be seen as a person, human dignity, and the illegitimacy of slavery. All of those seem directed at ensuring people are never objectified. Objects are not human and are open to dehumanized treatment. The writers of that preamble clearly understood that objectification is at the beginning of the dehumanization leading to torture.
The document dates from '48. It's no wonder they wrote it as they did, given all the Nazi conscription of slave labor, incarceration of persons, relentless killing of certain groups.
We have so much work to do!
I also have considered Piaget's developmental stages in trying to understand the "torture crowd," especially the 20%ers in the populace who cannot give up their allegiance to the Bushers, even Cheney. Perhaps they never moved beyond Concrete Operations and even tho their bodies matured, and they graduated from high school, they're stuck at about age 12 mentally. They truly do not seem capable of abstract, logical thinking. I'm not sure Cheney is capable of such, for that matter.
Boy, Ravenwind, now that is something worth thinking about. Especially as that implies the inability to put oneself in the place of another, the view of life as "only my perspective" or "only the perspective of our special group" - a very intriguing angle to this. Which I promise you I'll give more thought to. It's an "egocentric" view of things - or "cultocentric" - which fits with the fundies actually. And then the "elite" manipulating that to their advantage. And certainly bush may fit there.
Thanks so much for that. :-)
Quite frankly, all of the work that you have been doing on Strauss/Erikson/Torture should all be combined into an essay. I had a real light bulb moment, because it ties into (in my mind at least) Wilhelm Reich's "Mass Psychology of Fascism," with his thesis that Fascism begins with the family. The idea that Straussian principles of power retention contradict the process of individuation is a monumental tragedy for our nation which was founded on the rights of the individual.
Thank you... I need to digest this. I am very very impressed.
Thanks for your encouragement and feedback. I may even have a book here! But events move so swiftly that I can hardly keep up. It actually is good practice to synthesize info for a blog. Forces me to be concise.
Your opinion is very valued here! Thanks.
Thanks also for the Reich idea. Bears consideration.
Sustained standing O!
Low Bow of gratitude from your humble servant. ^\
Very well done TheraP!
I add to this the 'worldview/developmental level' of leaders involved especially as it relates to christianity and what an explosive combo...
Who cares what kind of mess you make of the earth, democracy, economy, wars, etc. if you believe you will land in heaven. It seems neither GW nor the average Iraqi suicide bomber.
I am very pissed about this Gitmo fear mongering crap right now. It is all just a cover up for not wanting to face accountability by bringing detainees into the US where they might get some 'god forbid it' 'rights'! I am spitting mad that their playing the public with their 'not in my backyard'BS. What a bunch of losers.
Great Post, a culmination of a lot of work! Thank you.
You're right - it's like a culmination.
Just finished reading a bunch of stuff about Abu Zubaida. Very tragic that they took his diaries away.....
Yes, the Gitmo speech tomorrow.
Obama says: Hold your breath. Hold your horses. Hold your fire. And the NIMBY lusers are voting against themselves. Again. This must be what they mean by “killing time.”
I’m stuck in both number 8’s up there.
8. National survival - supersedes the well-being of others - Strauss
The well-being of others is the reason we will survive.
8. • Integrity vs Despair - Erikson
Integrity IS our well-being. Without integrity we will end up in despair.
Your work TheraP has brought so much light to this darkness. I really appreciate your incredible diligence and heart. We and our children have to heal from this torture disaster, and integrity is a start. Honesty, honor and truth. Thank you.

Thank you for your very kind words, stratofrog. They mean a lot to me. Really.
Blessings upon you.
Good post Thera, I'm going to have to think about what you've written here--I don't know that I have anything cogent to add on this subject just yet, but I see I might be the last one to comment on this post and that's a lot of pressure--I feel obligated to wrap it up nicely for those who take the time to read down this far.
But I can't. I got nothing. Sorry.
It's my birthday today, at least for another hour. That's all I got.
Happy Birthday!!!!
Honestly, I had very long day today. And I'm tired too. Get rest. And enjoy another hour of your special day. :-)
Happy Birthday most excellent creator of metaphors and magic! We'll have to celebrate soon with some belated Blundertales! He's hiding in Widdledub's remote.

Excellent work TheraP - both with this post and across the posts where you have been putting together the pieces.
The comments below are to add to information. It is NOT meant to sidetrack from your excellent piece - just another puzzle piece.
I have been sniffing around this conspiracy - and I mean that in the full sense of the word - for some time. There is an incestuousness around the neo-con "movement" that is frightening. Having read quite a bit about Illuminati and Bilderberg group et al, they got nothin on this crew - and we have the documentation to prove THESE connections.
A nice tracing to the genealogy can be found here - US History Encyclopedia: Neoconservatism, but the quote below points to some of it.
Although a caricature in many respects, this interpretation of American life and recent politics attracted the attention of Republicans seeking to build a majority coalition. Ronald Reagan courted the neoconservatives during the 1980 presidential campaign and subsequently recruited many of them into his administration. (Jean) Kirkpatrick was appointed ambassador to the United Nations, Novak served as lower level diplomat there, and Gershman headed the newly created National Endowment for Democracy. Second-generation neocons from the political rather than the intellectual world held important midlevel positions. Richard Perle, a former aide to Henry Jackson, became assistant secretary of defense. Assistant Secretary of State Elliott Abrams, Podhoretz's son-in-law, helped to formulate policy toward Central America and played a major role in the Iran-Contra scandal. Other neocons served on government advisory boards dealing with education and foreign policy. Outside of the Reagan administration, neo-conservatism thrived in the more conservative climate of the 1980s. ... Kristol began publishing National Interest in 1985 to analyze foreign policy from a "realist" perspective. The centrist New Republic and many mainstream newspapers welcomed articles by neoconservatives.
Wolfowitz and Feith are alumni of Chicago:

Wolfowitz attended the University of Chicago where Leo Strauss was teaching. He completed his PhD dissertation under Albert Wohlstetter. In the summer of 1969, Wohlstetter arranged for his students Wolfowitz, Wilson, and Richard Perle to join the Committee to Maintain a Prudent Defense Policy which was set up by Cold War architects Paul Nitze and Dean Acheson.
From 1970 to 1972, Wolfowitz taught in the Department of Political Science at Yale University, where one of his students was I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby.[17] (wikipedia - look under Wolfowitz)
All the above is one of the reasons why I turn apoleptic over the repetitious chanting of "Reagan." The "Reagan Revolution" indeed.
Of course, one has to wonder what the hell was going on at Chicago. There is Strauss (teaching political philosophy), but there was also Milton Friedman (teaching economics) - the architect of "shock and awe" as a mechanism of radical national reorganization (Naomi Klein). Perhaps it is not too surprising that their approaches bear such striking similarity to each other.
In relationship to the Ericksonian schema, there is merit there in analyzing and understanding what the heck brought us to this place. I believe that the path to torture and other atrocities of today were deeply embedded in the "science" of the 1930s and 40s. Of note with psychology, Strauss, and Friedman, is a psychiatrist by the name of Donald Ewen Cameron who "experimented" with radical elecro-shock therapy and was intimately involved in the CIA's MKULTRA program on "mind wiping" and "reprogramming" as an interrogation "technique."
On one hand all of these "endeavors" are twisted from health and wholeness into a dimension of control and anti-life. However, they are not an accidental perversion but a deliberate path chosen and nurtured over decades.
I am concerned that people may think we have "survived," and come out the other side. I firmly believe that we are still in the midst of this, and that the "movement" goes on (as it did through other periods) with positioning for next "strike." The new generation of this crew is in place - in the Pentagon, the Justice Department, and many "trainees" were sent to Iraq to cut their teeth (and expand their resumes) serving in the Coalition Provisional Authority.
Given the manufactured argument over torture under BushCo, the ongoing attempt to legitimate this practice publicly, and the Obama administration's "reluctance" to pursue this, we are not even in "remission" phase from this insanity.
Your ongoing work grappling with this issue is invaluable. I KNOW how much of an assault it is on our souls to shine a light here. I send you a big hug for support.
Thank you for your wonderful, wonderful comment, Rowen, my dear. And you have not at all strayed from what I'm doing. Indeed, you've penetrated to the heart of it. My concern, as it would seem yours, is the future. The future of this conspiracy, this cult, which seems to begin in "cells" via recruiting conservative students. And the future of our young people, who somehow need forewarning, inoculation if possible. How to pass along the fault lines and the need to hew to ethics and the Rule of Law.
Indeed, my first attempt to take a look at the straussians was to google U of Chicago Strauss and Feith - just to see where it took me. (The guy whose posts are at the Lyndon LaRouche site, Jeffrey Steinberg, has done more to trace their origins, comings, and goings, than many have.)
How they operate, and recruit, reminds me of the Opus Dei, the communists, any group that has a lifelong mission for people, that operates like a "cult" in that meetings and interconnections with others in the "movement" become one's "life" - and shape one's thinking, one's career, one's relationships, and so on.
Here's what I wonder. Have they positioned people at some of the christian colleges, especially the ones that feed the christian law schools? Monica Goodling and her ilk - the young women, one of whom spoke of an "oath" to the president. So, capitalizing on the religious fervor of someone, then slowly redefining that, slowly conscripting them in such a way that they bit by bit may even violate their original ideals, but once you're drawn into these kinds of groups, which gain your adherence in both positive and negative ways (getting you to do things which they could later use to blackmail you, for example...) That kind of thing. Like they do with spies or whomever. Because this is also related to Israel. The shadowy world of trying to ferret our info and influence policy. I think we're both sniffing around the edges with the same ideas here. Though you are surely better positioned to do that than I.
Incestuous. That captures it!
I suspect they draw people in via different avenues. And they may prey upon their different desires. Religious. Intellectual. But it's all to get conscripts for a cause. Lifetime conscripts. Intense commitment. A sense of mission.
One thing that fascinates me about conservatives is the top-down structure. Obeisance to those higher up. I suspect that's how cheney has worked. Via that kind of structure. And the secrecy.
Whereas liberals are mostly all independent. We collaborate - but only in so far as our autonomy and free thinking will allow us. It's our salvation. And our achilles heel.
I hope that one person does put up a blog about experiences as a young straussian.
I highly recommend School of the Assassins: Guns, Greed, and Globalization by Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer for any who are interested in the U.S. use of torture (and other "interventions") as a tool of foreign policy and control of populations.
Thanks, Rowen. I knew you'd be able to point out further places to look. :)
I am glad to be able to contribute to the conversation. One problem when dealing with the torture issue is that it truly has tentacles in to all kinds of areas - something which you and others in the TPM community have been illuminating with diligence and insight. For me, ONE of those issues is that torture is not confined to the Bush administration. Rather, it has been employed as official policy in international relations for some time. The School of Assassins book, also grapples with many aspects of torture - some of which have been discussed here at TPM. It also provides a historical, political, and human context into which the Bush Administration policies extended and were publicly institutionalized.
Battery my heart, three person'd God; for, you
As yet but knocke, breathe, shine, and seeke to mend;
That I may rise, and stand, o'erthrow mee,'and bend
Your force, to breake, blowe, burn and make me new.
I, like an usurpt towne, to'another due,
Labour to'admit you, but Oh, to no end,
Reason your viceroy in mee, mee should defend,
But is captiv'd, and proves weake or untrue.
Yet dearely'I love you,'and would be loved faine,
But am betroth'd unto your enemie:
Divorce mee,'untie, or breake that knot againe;
Take mee to you, imprison mee, for I
Except you'enthrall mee, never shall be free,
Nor ever chast, except you ravish mee.
Er, Batter, not Battery.
Wonderful quote and so good to see you again. I love Donne.
Your comments are often so cryptic. Thus, I must reread and reread. And either allow my heart to be battered - even more - by these events which force me to go deeper and deeper into this tragic subject matter or perhaps you'll stop by again and elucidate me further.
Either way
Is fine.
Peace and blessings.
Are you saying that torture
is a religious concept?
Ouch, the violence of gawds.
John Donne it.

It may be a comment re me or the subject matter, which continues along the same vein. He and I have met before. His poem has meaning - as a true commentary. And I'm blessed he stopped by.
I sometimes can’t resist talking with poets and the people who understand them. Sorry. I wish he'd come back.
I've never seen this issue addressed in terms of a specific school of thought before - always more in terms of groups ... individuals are focused on the trilateral commission, Bilderbergers, Council on Foreign Relations, neocons, etc. It's weird to address it on the basis of what they are thinking (the game is usually "who the hell *are* these assholes?"). There is a pretty big significance in the fact that, some version of the "Straussian" tactics/principles you highlight have been alleged to guide each of them. The principles feel like a distillation of mechanisms controlling mass populist movements, reverse-engineered, and employed by the elite/powerful to more efficiently manage those under their care/command ("gentle"/"brutal" nihilism).
It seems like an overarching school of thought that Strauss is part of. Maybe a more accurate way of viewing this is that around the time of Strauss the science of engineered mass movements was realized. For instance, Strauss asserted that Heidegger's thinking must be understood and confronted before any complete formulation of modern political theory is possible. A quick Wiki-learn on Heidegger seems to show where one of the neocon favorite tricks comes from:
to be able to describe experience properly means finding the being for whom such a description might be followed by the “dismantling” (Destruktion) of the history of philosophy, that is, a transformation of its language and meaning, that would have made of the existential analytic only a kind of “limit case” (in the sense in which special relativity is a limit case of general relativity).

That could pretty much describe what's happening with the torture debate. The meaning of the description is dependent on the time in which it is applied and why it is being asked for. Any interpretation can be construed as a "one time" deal. (sounds a lot like Yoo). Another thing popping out at me is another U. of Chicago connection that may be as significant an influence as Strauss: Albert Wohlstetter (Mutually Assured Destruction). He chaired the dissertation committees for both Wolfowitz and Zalmay Khalilzad and put Wolfowitz and Perle on a Nitze-run cold war think tank in '69. (Fun fact: Wolfowitz taught Libby in the early 70's at Yale).
But I've gotten a little off track. The neocons weren't the only (or even the first) group to dabble in mass manipulation. The Birchers are worried (among other things) about the trilateral commission and other related Rockefeller groups. Sort of the old-school typified by the likes of Tower, Nitze, Henry Jackson, Scowcroft, etc. As best I can tell, this group holds a concept of a "multinational elite"; coming together in a more traditional view of consolodating nations (as the Soviets, Chinese, Nazis, French, etc.). This group's objective looks to be a mirror of the Soviet's. I think the original idea was to project into Europe, Asia, and S. America using the tactics; the think tanks would be the leadership farm-teams; the rich and powerful always get a seat while a few token spots would go to the nations as they come on board. Another big part of the equation is establishing control over commerce/markets.
A piece Strauss adds is the belief that forced creation of a world-state will always lead to tyranny. This would seem to put students of Strauss somewhat at odds with the objectives of the trilaterals who wanted specifically to form a cohesive world-state washing over the Communist movement. They would also be fervent warriors against communism which would be seen as a far worse tyranny. One thing I notice is that "casual Strauss" doesn't seem to resolve the implications of his conclusion on this.
I have no idea where I was going with this, so I'll just stop ... but while plowing through the ideas of all these "deep thinkers" something occurred to me: philosophers who are correct should all say the same thing ... but when several philosophers say the same thing, it by no means indicates correctness.
My comment to you ended up below. :)
Thanks for your thoughts here. None of us really knows where we're going in trying to understand this. But to me, it has more the flavor of a "cult" than anything else. And, as you say, there are lots of these types of "cults" - maybe political cult is a better word.
Language plays a role. Assumptions play a role. Definitely relativism plays in here - in that the "elite" are "free" to be relativistic, while the "masses" must be controlled via authoritarian rules it would seem. They actually can't stand if others are relativists. Just them. The elite.
Keep thinking about this.
I myself once tried to read Heidigger, in the 60's, for a course on existentialism. And gave up on that!
Philosophy is a mind game for sure! It's a field of study. People make a living by teaching it. But I'm not really sure it's a way to actually get at "truth" - though there's the illusion of that.
As a psychologist I'm always trying to find "motives" (covert or overt) And overt ones are usually the most powerful actually - since unconscious. Thus easily manipulated.
Assumptions, "principles", are also important - and irregardless of the genesis of those principles (because I'm willing to buy that in some ways they "hung" an ideology on a willing philosopher's name and fame), there is no doubt the "principles" one can extract here run through their crimes, their propaganda, their drive for power and money and influence. That's the trail I'm following. I have no theory to prove. Just trying to do my little part to untangle what's occurred and try to get us back on track.
As soon as we understand that two plus two can equal any damned thing that keeps us in power we will have the key to understanding Strauss.
If I'm understanding correctly, only if the interested observer asks the question: "How can 2 + 2 be used to keep us in power?".
Oh man ... this is supposed to be to LuLu down a couple of messages :-)
Torture Resource: Just about everything collected in one place!
We are witnessing a train wreck alright. However, it's about a lot more than just torture.
While I accept no defense of the neocons, I have heard a defense, or maybe just an explanation, of Strauss personally that points out that we common folks couldn't know what the hell he believes to begin with. We are not capable. Strauss discovered how to interpret what all the great philosophers actually meant, as opposed to what other scholars thought they meant, because he could read the esoteric meaning of their writing. This would be the real meaning that they had obscured to protect themselves but which spoke its true meaning to Strauss.
Strauss no doubt also wrote his own philosophy in code and we are no doubt unable to understand what he really meant when he said, for instance, that it was necessary to lie to us.
It is quite possible that the key to understanding him is a knowledge of numerology which Strauss apparently believed in. [I would personally find it easier to believe in a personal God who was running the show but Strauss knew better] As soon as we understand that two plus two can equal any damned thing that keeps us in power we will have the key to understanding Strauss.
Correctiin, we will have the key to understanding the neocons.
These folks - being of the "elite" - always want to tell the rest of us that things are waaaaaay more complex than we inferior beings could possibly understand....
Well, I had no trouble "getting" the insidiously treasonous principles they tried to put into practice under bushco. Thankfully these "elite" folks, who believe they understand more than all of the rest of us put together, proved to be a bunch of incompetents. So much so that they may have taken down the entire repub party along with them.
Thank you for this article. WAKE UP AMERICA. If we are ever going to be truly free, we have to take charge of our lives. Spend the time to stay informed. Don't blindly accept what government tells you. Ask questions. Demand answers.
Torture is wrong, plain and simple. There is no reason to justify it. It isn't ok because we are the GOOD guys and THEY are the bad guys.
Thanks for your comment. If you've been following the blogs I've written on this theme, you already know I agree with you.
Welcome to TPM! :)
Posted by TheraP in reply to a comment from Rev. Lynn
May 21, 2009 7:03 PM | Reply | Permalink

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