by Butler Shaffer
If you shut up truth, and bury it underground, it will but grow.
- Emile Zola
February 22nd was the 71st anniversary of the murder of Sophie and Hans Scholl and their friend Christopher Probst. They were young people, in their early twenties, who lived in Munich, Germany. They, along with other members of a peaceful, anti-war group known as White Rose, published leaflets informing fellow-Germans of the wrongs being engaged in by the Nazi regime. The three were caught with such leaflets, quickly tried for the crime of “high-treason” and immediately executed by guillotine.
At her trial, Sophie testified: “Somebody, after all, had to make a start.” Her final words were: “How can we expect righteousness to prevail when there is hardly anyone willing to give himself up individually to a righteous cause.” When, in 2003, a nation-wide poll asked Germans to select the most important people in the history of Germany, Sophie and Hans Scholl finished in fourth place. They came out ahead of such men as Bach, Goethe, Gutenberg, Bismarck, Brandt, and Einstein!
Every political system is firmly grounded in lies, deceit, fraud, distortions, corruption, and other falsehoods and acts of dishonesty. Accordingly, it is the nature of such agencies to propagandize lies as truth, and to control the revelation of demonstrable truths by classifying otherwise embarrassing documents as “secret;” as well as using censorship and the threat of trials for treason. Like insects that prefer to live in the protective darkness beneath rocks, sunlight is most disruptive.
The American nation-state is firmly entrenched in this interconnected war against truth and insistence upon propagandized perversions of reality. Through mechanisms beyond the imagination of George Orwell, the NSA is now able to gather the most micro-detailed information about each of us. In order to maintain and extend its control over us, the state presumes itself entitled to know everything it wants to know about each person. At the same time, we are allowed to know only that which serves the state’s interests to have us know, employing its media sycophants to impart the party line.
The statists are well aware of just how liberating the free flow of ideas and information is to people. Gutenberg’s invention of movable type made possible decentralized expansion of the search for understanding. The Italian Renaissance, the Enlightenment, the Reformation, the Age of Reason, the Scientific Revolution, and the Industrial Revolution trace their ancestries to the enhanced capacities for creative people to synthesize knowledge with one another. Modern technologies – of which the Internet is the best known expression – are now extending such means to exponential dimensions.
While the wielders of state power insist on babbling their divisive, redistributionist bromides about egalitarianism, there is one form of “equality” that terrifies them: a world in which knowledge, and the intellectual skills of analysis, are shared equally by all. The specter of intelligent, informed minds, centrifuged across all mankind, would deprive the statists of their most valued quality: the arrogance interwoven into the fabric of their roles of philosopher-kings, armed with the coercive power of the state to enforce their self-serving visions upon the submissive collective of humanity.
One finds this fear of informed, self-directed, rational men and women expressed by such corporate-state enthusiasts as Hillary Clinton and Diane Feinstein. Clinton has long championed the idea of a “gatekeeper” for the Internet, to confine access to this medium only to writers approved by the ruling establishment! Feinstein has offered the proposition that the First Amendment protects only “legitimate journalists” (i.e., those persons who work on behalf of an existing member of the media). Knowing that established broadcasters and newspapers are already a part of the corporate-state order, she is eager to confine “truth”-telling to those under institutional control.
Those outside the stockade are to be subject to censorship; only licensed writers will be permitted. Expressing the arrogance of her elitist class, Feinstein asks does “this privilege [First Amendment protection is but a ‘privilege’ in her mind] apply to anyone? To a 17-year-old who drops out of high school, buys a website for $5, and starts a blog?” Her desire to restrict thought was reflected in a statement she made in China a number of years ago, in which she commented that she was more comfortable with Chinese reporters because “They just write down what we say.” Such compliant, dependent scribblers are less inclined to ask the kinds of questions that might be upsetting to corporate-state interests. More aggressive writers might want to inquire into how Feinstein and her husband have been able to use the powers of the nation-state to help amass their tens of millions of dollars of wealth!
Feinstein’s query raises another concern for the statists. School drop-outs are troublesome for the elitists, who insist upon compulsory school attendance as the primary tool with which to condition young minds in the conflict-driven, institutionally-directed, vertically-structured model of social organization. How can institutions become ends in themselves, their purposes to preempt our own, unless children grow up believing in both the necessity and propriety of living their lives in obedience to the philosopher-kings? To condition people in such a mindset is the raison d’etre of the government school system. Members of the power-elite are among the most vocal advocates for government schools, yet most enroll their children in private schools wherein they can better develop their minds for the day they assume their positions near the apex of the pyramid. Your children are expected to become drones – or drone operators – and for the teaching of such mechanistic skills the government schools are adequate.
The state’s war against truth and clear thinking continues apace. Diane Feinstein’s efforts to confine truth-telling to the establishment-certified and institutionally-employed are reinforced by unnamed persons within the Pentagon and the NSA who, perhaps idolizing Nazi chief-executioner Johann Reichart’s role in beheading Probst and the Scholls, have made such statements as “I would love to put a bullet in his [Ed Snowden’s] head.” “Treason,” to such people, has become any words or acts that discomfort the ruling classes or the hallowed institutions behind which they hide.
This is what statism inevitably produces: the thoroughly institutionalized mind. When the purposes of abstractions (e.g., the corporate-state) are accorded an importance that transcends the interests of real persons; when individuals are demeaned by such systems as “assets” or “citizens” or “collateral damage” or collectivized as “the masses,” it becomes easy for soulless institutional functionaries to treat men, women, and children in the most dehumanizing ways.
Whether it is noteworthy or only a matter of coincidence, each of the aforementioned instances of statist behavior is directed against the minds of those that the state will either control – if possible – or destroy– should less destructive measures fail. What greater symbolism of this ongoing war against the thinking of people than these: school systems that twist young minds to revere and obey institutional authorities; while the guillotine or a “bullet in the head” may await those who fail to maintain the assigned lockstep. With the human head as the target upon which the established order directs its destructive energies, the nature of the threat to all of mankind should be quite evident.
Butler Shaffer is an Associated Scholar of the Mises Institute and is the author of A Libertarian Critique of Intellectual Property.