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If Only Glenn Greenwald Would Learn to Say "They" Instead of "We"

by John Spritzler

May 25, 2013


All of us who hate the crimes against humanity committed by the American ruling class love to read Glenn Greenwald's brilliant, almost daily, exposures and denunciations of these crimes, and his careful refutations of the lies and detailing of the hypocrisy with which the criminals operate. But Greenwald is experiencing frustration at the limited persuasiveness of his arguments among the audience he seeks to influence--the great general public. Greenwald's recent article, "Andrew Sullivan, terrorism, and the art of distortion," for example, is entirely devoted to trying to understand exactly why his arguments fail to persuade people like Andrew Sullivan, who, Greenwald asserts, is a basically honest man and not, like the professional neocons, a deliberately lying propagandist.

Greenwald's frustration with Sullivan is this: Sullivan refused to agree with, and even egregiously distorted, Greenwald's eplanation of why the recent meat cleaver beheading of a British soldier in London was an unforgivable crime* but, because it was violence against a soldier and not a civilian, was not "terrorism." It was particularly frustrating because, as Greenwald notes, Sullivan had earlier used exactly Greenwald's logic to explain why the attack on the CIA in Benghazi was wrong but not terrorism.

Greenwald explains Sullivan's wrongheadedness as being due to the natural human tendency to view one's own "tribe" as having noble aims and anybody who attacks one's own tribe as necessarily having despicable aims. Thus people like Sullivan want violence committed by "their own tribe" to never be stigmatized as evil, e.g. "terrorism"; and want violence committed by "the other tribe" to be so stigmatized as much as possible. This is an emotional, not rational, phenomenon. Greenwald develops this thesis with all of the incisiveness that he is famous for--be sure to read it!

But as true as Greenwald's analysis is, he fails to draw the conclusion from it that would enable him to be far more persuasive with far more people (maybe even with--who knows?--Sullivan himself.) What do I mean?

The conclusion that should be drawn from Greenwald's own analysis of why he fails to be persuasive is this. If people are strongly inclined emotionaly to defend "their tribe" and view acts of the "enemy tribe" as pure evil, then it makes sense to stop telling people (like Sullivan) that "their tribe is doing bad things" and instead to tell them that "their REAL tribe consists of the people who are not doing bad things; and the REAL enemy tribe consists of the people who are indeed doing bad things." This would entail talking about our tribe as the tribe of ordinary people around the world (regardless of race or nationality or ethnicity), and talking about the enemy tribe as the tribe of ruling elites (and wannabe ruling elites) who commit crimes against humanity to dominate and control people, to foment divide-and-rule hatreds, and to thereby gain wealth and power and privileges.

It would mean referring to the rulers of the United States, for example, as "they" not "we." This is something that Greenwald unfortunately fails to do. Instead, Greenwald uses "we" and "our" to refer to criminals like Obama. Thus, in a concluding paragraph about why Sullivan is emotionally unable to grasp the truth, Greenwald writes the following:

"Once that framework is implanted, then our violence is understandable, noble, well-intentioned, necessitated by their pure evil. By stark contrast, their violence is sub-human, senseless, and utterly unrelated to anything we do."

Come on Glenn! Stop telling ordinary people that they're in the same "tribe" as mass murderers. As long as you do that you're part of the problem; you're spreading the lie that the ruling elites need people believe, the lie that causes emotion to overrule reason and make them identify with and defend--no matter what the facts are--"their own" war criminals.

It's time to fight for our REAL tribe and defeat the REAL enemy. It's time to start Thinking about Revolution.

* It is beyond the scope of this article to consider the merits, pro and con, of Greenwald's view that the killing of a British soldier was an unforgivable crime; but suffice it to say here that whatever one's opinion about this specific act of violence is, that opinion should be consistent with, and not just ignore, the general principle that oppressed people have the moral right to fight back violently in self defense against those who use violence to oppress them; that opinion should also be consistent with the fact that the British military oppresses people, including Muslims around the world.

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