Sunday, August 31, 2014

Canadian Monarchist Advises: Rally 'Round the President'

Response to William Thomas, “America – He’s Your President for Goodness Sake!”[1]

In 1990, the famed M.I.T. Professor Noam Chomsky famously - or, from the opposing perspective, infamously - stated that: “If the Nuremberg laws were applied, then every post-war American president would have been hanged.”[2]

There is no reason to think that Chomsky exempts subsequent presidents from this assessment.

For instance, Chomsky notes that Obama is implicated in “a global assassination campaign.”

“There’s a global assassination campaign going on... [T]he New York Times story... is more or less a leak from the White House, because they are apparently proud of how the global assassination campaign works. Basically President Obama and his national security advisor, John Brennan, now head of the CIA, get together in the morning. ...[T]hey decide who is going to be killed today.”[3]

Elsewhere, explaining that “easy suppression of one’s own crimes is virtually ubiquitous among powerful states,” Chomsky asks readers to “consider,” as an example, “Obama’s terror weapons (drones) in Pakistan.”[4]

Despite these facts, one writer urges Americans to “rally around” the president, complaining that Obama is being treated “disrespectfully.” Perhaps unsurprisingly, the blogger in question hails from Canada.

Of course, Canada is part of the “Commonwealth” countries whose head (some say “titular” only) is the woman more commonly designated the “Queen of England.” In reality, she is just as much the Queen of Canada as of “England.”

The “Official Website of the British Monarchy” reports, concerning the Queen’s “unique relationship with Canada”: “The Queen personifies the state and is the personal symbol of allegiance, unity and authority for all Canadians. Legislators, ministers, public services and members of the military and police all swear allegiance to The Queen. It is for this reason that all new Canadian citizens swear allegiance to The Queen of Canada. Elections are called and laws are promulgated in The Queen’s name.”[5]

Given this frame of reference, one can imagine that this unfortunate Canadian is possibly projecting his country’s fascination with “royalty” onto his southern neighbors.

Indeed, there may even be a movement to elevate the “chief executive” to a status whereby he “personifies the state and the personal symbol of allegiance,” etc., etc.

This is not the heritage of the United States, however.

Even today, school children do not “pledge allegiance” to the president. They “pledge allegiance to flag of the United States of American; and to the Republic…”.[6]

Setting aside the questions of whether this is wise or historical, it is surely a far cry from swearing allegiance to the president.

The idea that Americans should fall lockstep into line behind the head of one of the three separate-but-equal branches is first of all ahistorical.

Arguably, the federal-level governmental figure with which the average American might, from a Constitutional point of view, feel close camaraderie, would be his or her Congressional Representative. After all, it is the House of Representatives that is supposed to be the clearest and most direct vehicle for the People’s voice in the corridors of power.

Beside this, it is highly questionable that Obama – alone among presidents – is suffering under some disproportionate level of mockery.

“Comics had mimicked presidents as far back as Theodore Roosevelt’s time…”.[7]

The famed columnist and wit, “H. L. Mencken mocked [Calvin Coolidge’s] daily naps,” seemingly ranking him below the brutal Roman dictator, Nero, who at least “fiddled” while “Coolidge only snored.”[8] In fact, Coolidge was mocked to such a degree that when the president’s death was reported in the press, the satirical writer “Dorothy Parker reportedly asked, ‘How could they tell?’…”[9]

Other presidents have been mocked as well. One thinks immediately of the comedy show Saturday Night Live’s portrayals of Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford.[10]

Various lists of “most hated presidents” are readily available through easily conducted Google searches. Investigation will show that many of these figures were ridiculed in their lifetimes – and often during their presidential tenures.

It may be suggested that such derision is, collectively, a sign of healthy dissent. As an oft-repeated proverb has it: “Dissent is the highest form of patriotism.”

The United States is not ruled by a dictator. Or is it? And if it is, should this matter in terms of whether the subjugated peoples express their displeasure about the crimes of “their” leaders?

When repressed populations have a healthy sense of indignation, even genuine kings are not immune from humiliation. During the period before America’s Revolution: “The King himself was pelted with rotten fruit when he appeared.”[11]

“Rally around the leader” is a game of population control.

Speaking of the absurdity of cheering for his high school’s sports teams, Chomsky once stated: “[I]n high school …I suddenly asked myself at one point: ‘Why do I care if my high school team wins the football game? I don’t know anybody on the team. They have nothing to do with me. Why am I cheering for my team? It does not make any sense.’”[12]

Answering his own questions, Chomsky noted: “But the point is, it does make sense: It’s a way of building up irrational attitudes of submission to authority and group cohesion behind leadership elements. In fact it’s training in irrational jingoism.”[13]

I say: Keep mocking the president – any president, every president. Derision, I think, puts a check on blind “submission to authority” and “jingoism.”

[1] <>.

[2] Noam Chomsky, "If the Nuremberg Laws were Applied...," speech, ca. 1990, reproduced online, Chomsky[dot]info, <>.

[3] Steven Garbas, “Noam Chomsky on the era of the drone,” Satellite, Sept., 2013, <>.

[4] Noam Chomsky, "There is Much More to Say," ZNet, May, 2011, <>.

[5] <>.

[6] “Pledge of Allegiance,” <>.

[7] Louis Liebovich, The Press and the Modern Presidency: Myths and Mindsets from Kennedy to Election 2000, Westport, Ct.: Greenwood, 2001, p. 99.

[8] Jacob Heilbrunn, “The Great Refrainer: ‘Coolidge,’ by Amity Shlaes,” New York Times, Feb. 14, 2013, <>.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Liebovich, loc. cit.

[11] Daniel P. Mannix, The Hellfire Club, reprint ed., New York: Ibooks, 2001, p. 110.

[12] Quoted in Peter Wintonick and Mark Achbar, Manufacturing Consent: Noam Chomsky and the Media, video, 1992, reproduced on YouTube, <>.

[13] Ibid. For the specific quotation, see YouTube, <>.

No comments: