Polls show that a majority of the public disapprove of Obama’s handling of the BP oil spill. This shouldn’t be terribly surprising, since the feds have essentially done nothing and the spill continues; indeed, some scientists are speculating that this is an extinction-level event.

It’s not clear that Obama or the federal government can do much about this, but we’ll see. My concern is how this reaction has been seized upon by the Right to show that the president has made some sort of disastrous error, on par with the Iraq invasion.

I have no particular investment in Obama, but this is not the case.

Now, suppose Obama declared: “Citizens of America, I strongly believe that the terrorists are hiding 5,000 feet below the surface in the Gulf of Mexico, dressed as dolphins. We have clear evidence, which Robert Gates has presented to the United Nations, showing that dolphin costumes and oxygen tanks are amassed off the coast. In order to deal with this problem, we must ask British Petroleum to blow a hole in its piping to release oil, thus blinding our attackers. True, oil will be spilling into the ocean, but the end result of our actions will be to bring democracy to the region.”

In that case the situations would be parallel. Such is not the case.

Bertrand Russell

As we have discussed many times the world is a complex place; and over time, I have come to realize that someone like Noam Chomsky is very probably a plant whose job at MIT is not accidental.  Chomsky’s analyses are perfect as far as they go, but stop at a crucial point, never going below the surface of a structural interpretation — which, crucially, enables him to explain events without ever discussing real human motivation.  H.G. Welles worked for MI6 and supported eugenics programs his whole life.  Margaret Sanger hated blacks and participated in mass sterilization programs.  Gloria Steinem owes her entire career to CIA funding.  Alduous Huxley gave a famous speech in 1962 in which he said that Rome fell due to the lack of bread and circuses and that he didn’t see why a perfectly managed scientific dictatorship shouldn’t last forever.  Many large-scale popular culture changes in our society have been orchestrated, with one example being the move away from representational art and toward postmodern or pop art.  This change was funded by, among others, the Rockefellers, because in nonrepresentational art forms one can only comment about the aesthetic of popular culture, and not social injustice, as had been done by Diego Rivera, for example.

Funding two sides of an argument is a known and accepted technique practiced by the elite.  Amy Goodman gets her financing from the Ford Foundation (incidentally, control of this was wrested from the Ford family many years ago – it’s an interesting story but a diversion from the present subject) and thus a line is drawn to what subjects Democracy Now will cover – and how.  The same American and British financiers (in some cases literally the same names) financed the rise of Bolshevism and the rise of Hitler.  The Communist Party in the United States was so infiltrated that more than 50% of its adherents were FBI agents.  The British government, in a more recent scandal, was found to have so seriously infiltrated the IRA that it was virtually run by the Brits (shades of “Brazil”).

Now to Russell.  This is a real hero of mine; perhaps my first intellectual hero, even before Borges.  I convinced my parents to buy me Why I Am Not a Christian for a Christmas present when I was 13, to the amusement of my father and the anger of my mother.  And many of his pronouncements are good common sense.  He was a master of English prose and he protested the Vietnam War in his 80’s.

And yet…

He was greatly influenced by Welles as a young man, and spent a great deal of time with T S Eliot, who of course was an American poet who turned himself British, adopting a ridiculous accent and writing a poem, “The Hollow Men,” making the case that the world was doomed if the world did not become Anglican.

Many times during his life Russell spoke openly of a first-strike nuclear attack against the Soviets.  And then there are his views on eugenics.

Here are some quotes that you may be less familiar with, taken from his 1952 book The Impact of Science on Society:

“Scientific societies are as yet in their infancy. It may be worthwhile to spend a few moments in speculating as to possible future developments of those that are oligarchies.

It is to be expected that advances in physiology and psychology will give governments much more control over individual mentality than they now have even in totalitarian countries. Fichte laid it down that education should aim at destroying free will, so that, after pupils have left school, they shall be incapable, throughout the rest of their lives, of thinking or acting otherwise than as their schoolmasters would have wished. But in his day this was an unattainable ideal: what he regarded as the best system in existence produced Karl Marx. In the future such failures are not likely to occur where there is dictatorship. Diet, injections, and injunctions will combine, from a very early age, to produce the sort of character and the sort of beliefs that the authorities consider desirable, and any serious criticism of the powers that be will become psychologically impossible. Even if all are miserable, all will believe themselves happy, because the government will tell them that they are so.” (61)

“A scientific world society cannot be stable unless there is a world government… unless there is a world government
which secures universal birth control, there must from time to time be great wars, in which the penalty of defeat is widespread death by starvation… Unless, at some stage, one power or group of powers emerges victorious and
proceeds to establish a single government of the world with a monopoly of armed forces, it is clear that the level of civilization must decline until scientific warfare becomes impossible – that is until science is extinct.”  (117)

“To deal with this problem [increasing population and decreasing food supplies] it will be necessary to find ways of preventing an increase in world population. If this is to be done otherwise than by wars, pestilence, and famines, it will demand a powerful international authority. This authority should deal out the world’s food to the various nations in proportion to their population at the time of the establishment of the authority. If any nation subsequently increased its population it should not on that account receive any more food. The motive for not increasing population would therefore be very compelling. What method of preventing an increase might be preferred should be left to each state to decide.” (124)

He appears to have swallowed the propaganda that is Malthusianism whole in these pages, and his writings parallel the views of such notables as Cecil Rhodes.  He had a number of highly questionable associations in his life, and one wonders about this…it certainly gives me pause.  I still treasure some of his writings (and his one-volume History of Western Philosophy is just a great read) but it is entirely possible that he, like so many others in our time, is part of the managed opposition.