PSYWAR and Cultural Rights

Are you sure you’re still American?

Well, of course, you’re not some patriotic sucker welling up or jumping up for cheesy Pavlovian cues of ersatz self-worth and belonging, like anthems or flags. Let’s just say you wound up on this land mass under US government control. What’s so American about that?

You can outlive your state-imposed identity. It’s always been that way. Back in the last dark ages, at some point, the peoples of the Mosel-Saar confluence ceased to be Romans and turned into Burghers of Trier. No one noticed at the time. Decades after Augusta Treverorum dropped back behind the frontier into Germany or Gaul, usurpers and invaders would say and do Roman-sounding things to seem legit, provincial swells would speak in paratactic pidgin Latin to show off. No one knew yet what they had become. Eventually, though, it dawns on you: Guntchram Boso has invaded your home and taken you hostage, the King just set your house on fire to free you, and you see that life has overwhelmed the Roman niceties of your thought. Gregory of Tours may chronicle it in his stilted Latin, but you know you’re not a Roman anymore.

We’re encouraged to ruminate about The Spirit of America, but it’s really quite cut-and-dried. Back in 1951 CIA PSYWAR apparatchiks roped in DoD’s freewheeling propagandists and set up a committee to create American culture once and for all. They wrote the Ur-text of American values, that timeless affirmation of American freedom, PSB D-33/2. They classified it secret so you would think you thought it up yourself. A lone sane misfit on the committee asked, “How [can] a government interpose with a wide doctrinal system of its own without taking on the color of totalitarianism?” Then, suspecting that the nuances of rhetorical questions might escape our cultural nomenklatura, he gave them the answer: “That is just about as totalitarian as one can get.” Cultural containment was to counter the threat of your human right to freedom of expression.

So are you sure you’re still American? Oh sure, people still plaster flags inexplicably here and there. The war machine still has its hooks in you, officials of its police state menace you, extracting tax for more and more weapons you don’t want. You may even know people who repeat what they’re told by NPR, or read state organs like the New York Times or Post, or quote TV. But the ground is insensibly shifting beneath your feet.

State-sanctioned discourse obsesses about the fitness of individuals for high office while shying from the institutional impunity that guarantees state crime. The US government sinks to late-Roman depths of predation on the powerless, and falls into the dynamic that Tacitus first noted: as the state becomes more arbitrary and sadistic, factional struggle intensifies – the stakes rise because winners can destroy the losers. Our latest petty civil war pits partisans of CIA’s anointed figurehead Clinton against the mafiya-backed interloper Trump, a minor money-launderer for CIA. And what’s it got to do with you? The no-holds-barred conflict plays out in a civic vacuum: Which industries will hijack crucial functions of the state for gain? That’s the only thing at issue. In response, we seek identities that make us more than victims of a kleptocratic state. The human right of self-determination has come home.

Now again, just as it happened anciently, the outside world is breaking in. The President of the European Union came out and said it: “At this point, we have to replace the United States.” But gradual change is even harder to discern when the onslaught from without is not violent barbarism but civilization and peace. Your country shares a common standard for achievement with the rest of the world. In the customary international law of the UDHR, which is US state and federal common law, everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community. Your community includes the outside world. Everyone wants you to enjoy your rights, especially state enemies Russia, China, and Iran – everyone but the US government currently in power. Your human rights would be the death of this regime.

This is no obscure historic process. It’s the outside world’s law. In law the US government has forfeited its sovereignty with crimes against humanity and peace, invoking the world’s Responsibility to Protect or “R2P.” The international community must curb US government incitement of grave crimes. Their first recourse is Pillar 2: encourage, build capacity, assist – despite what you might have heard here behind the Iron Curtain, R2P isn’t all about dropping bombs. Assistance comes from all quarters: from development agencies, cooperative diplomacy of UN member nations, regional treaty parties, or the public worldwide. Developed regions help less-developed countries like our own. Intergovernmental bodies work with domestic human rights defenders at confidential or public suasion, education, or training. They must restore the things the US government has ruined: “rule of law, a competent and independent judiciary… human rights, robust civil society, an independent press and a political culture that favors tolerance, dialogue and mobility over the rigidities and injustices of identity politics.” ((Implementing the Responsibility to Protect, (A/63/677), p. 20.)) The outside world will renew and propagate basic civic skills such as mediation, dialogue, dispute resolution, and development without predation. All have atrophied under US state repression. This is no extraordinary effort. Governments go off the rails all the time, and the world knows what to do.

Your government senses this assistance as an existential threat and attacks it ferociously as fake news, foreign interference, propaganda, even aggression. That is the origin of this panicked state and corporate censorship. But the queasy confusion of this atavistic state blinds it to much of what is happening. Human rights do not fit recognized rituals of state-sanctioned party politics, so they escape official public notice. Human rights advocates invisibly undermine repressive US ideology.

Human rights education is the law: US state and federal common law, UDHR Article 26(2). The Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights has instituted an educational program. The dominant class in the US learns it, as they must, to function in the wider world, from the International Baccalaureate (IB) or elite institutions. ((Finally, some Glasnost for us. After decades of awkward silence when you could educate yourself to the teeth and never hear the words “human rights,” students can now actually study them at respectable institutions including Barnard, Trinity College or Chicago. That makes it harder for CIA to puff up your patriotic self-importance with “American studies,” or soften you up for Zionist genocide with “the Judeo-Christian tradition.”)) Universities and non-governmental organizations propagate it independently. In the ‘New Planet’ exercise, grade school students skip the institutional rote of traditional civics and apply the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, constituting new nations for themselves. The American Friends Service Committee in Washington, DC teaches human rights to local youth and turns them loose on Congress to exercise those rights, eliciting highly educational blank looks from the legislature that ratified them.

International civil society promotes human rights education directly. Human rights tribunals teach a new politics: public indictment of state derelictions by human rights chapter and verse. In Philadelphia, local officials and activists from the human rights hotbed Penn worked with a UN special rapporteur to expose government abuses. In Arizona two local organizations, Puente Human Rights Movement and the Border Network for Human Rights, conducted a tribunal in Phoenix under the auspices of the US Human Rights Network. The tribunals applied formal training in human rights. They showed how we can go over the government’s head to the wider world. Citizens learned how to supplant futile four-year electoral cycles with different and more efficacious cycles: expert international review in terms of comprehensive world-class standards for state performance. Instead of trusting US statist propaganda, we work from documented fact. ((As human rights defenders we’ll go directly to the facts that CIA’s captive media screen from us: treaty body documents, charter body recommendations, and the proceedings from which they are drawn.))

Certain segments of US society are particularly sensitive to the outside world’s engagement. Local and especially provincial society is not so brainwashed with US statist dogma. International NGOs work with the public to infiltrate human rights standards from below. The bottom-up “power building” of the National Economic and Social Rights Inititiative (NESRI) renews concerns traditionally confined to stereotyped factions like labor and the left. NESRI grounds longstanding popular demands in world-standard legal guarantees. Local activists work with municipal officials to write human rights into law. The People’s Decade of Human Rights Education (PDHRE) an international organization, lets the public learn by doing, by establishing human rights cities. In the US, the effect is to propagate human rights in a decentralized manner that circumvents central government suppression. The US Human Rights Network links these cities domestically. PDHRE integrates them worldwide. UPR-INFO draws domestic civil society into the concerted international pressure of the Universal Periodic Review. New connections based on human rights standards moderate US isolation and counter state indoctrination. Citizens teach governments human rights and rule of law.

Black advocacy draws on the internationalist history of W.E.B. Dubois, William Patterson, and the We Charge Genocide indictment, as well as the collaborative human rights advocacy of Martin King and Malcolm X. With those traditions Ajamu Baraka seeded two organizations, the US Human Rights Network and the Black Alliance for Peace. The US Human Rights Network draws the public into the international review process of human rights treaty bodies, charter bodies, and special procedures. The Black Alliance for Peace (BAP) undercuts nationalist manipulation and isolation with international solidarity. BAP attacks US statist culture at its root, opposing diversion of our resources from economic rights to instruments of state repression. BAP poses the most subversive question: Why you have to pay to get your teeth fixed, but you get fighter jets and cops in tanks for free.

Indigenous peoples have autonomy, national identity, and influential human rights defenders in UN special procedures. The poor have developed a culture of grit and ingenuity to survive repression. Where these strengths intersect, Cheri Honkala has assembled a subversive force. The Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign (PPEHRC) confounds political stereotypes. They want more than narrow technocratic benefits or programs. They want the comprehensive standards of human rights law. The campaign asserts our human right to food and housing with housing takeovers, food distribution, and urban farming. It complements cheeky public assembly of Clintonvilles and fart-ins with economic-predation truth commissions on African and Latin American models. With negligible financial resources and under corrupt and arbitrary police harassment, PPEHRC hosted a US tributary of the World Social Forum on American Street, Philadelphia’s most downtrodden slum. The World Social Forum is a conduit of unconstrained civil innovation from around the world, an invasive species of political action based on solidarity and human rights.

The Green Party plays a unique role in publicizing these movements. The Greens ran Ralph Nader, who defined the overarching threat of globalization as “subordination of human rights… to the imperatives of global trade and investment.” Jill Stein, Nader’s successor, has become an impresario of human rights advocacy, giving Honkala and Baraka a public platform to expose state suppression and attacks on domestic human rights. In world-standard human rights, Greens offer an alternative to US electoral rituals of inbuilt futility.

The two state-sanctioned parties highlight the Green’s non-electoral results with their confused denunciation. Democrats attack the Greens as spoilers, and in the same breath deride their negligible share of the vote. With gingerly racist xenophobia, Democrats attempted to defuse the subversive import of Baraka’s human rights platform by labeling him solely with the focus-grouped byword ‘weird.’ Democrats charge treachery when Greens join Republicans in litigating electoral manipulation that is domestic, not Russian, and provable, not fabricated. In panic over looming electoral failure, both parties corruptly restrict Green access to the ballot and arrest Greens when they show up to debate.

By straying from the two official party cattle chutes, Greens expose the Democrats’ role in absorbing, dissipating, and forcibly suppressing real reform. By showcasing human rights defenders, Greens perform an educational role. With mischievous public solidarity in international forums, Stein twits statist Red-scare hysteria. The spectacle confounds party loyalists who dimly sense that getting elected has nothing to do with Green subversion. It suggests the unthinkable: that there’s more to civil society than rigged electoral politics. The Green vice-presidential candidates have organizations independent of any party. After the electoral burlesque their supporters get back to work, implementing human rights.

When it all takes hold, what then? What have we become? The overreaching US state is undermined by internationalism from above and below. State-imposed American culture is superseded by a new culture built on human rights and rule of law. No more passive rooting for periodic electoral pageants. Instead, our four-year cycles revolve around independent review of US state duties.

No more taking one of two permitted sides, Dem or GOP, and being force-fed with their predetermined platform. Instead of having party platforms crammed down your throat, you can feed testimony of state derelictions directly into binding recommendations. Unlike the US duopoly parties, human rights review procedures want to know what you think. Treaty bodies and charter bodies actively incorporate our grievances into their public shaming of the state. The US Human Rights Network, formally incorporated into UN consultation procedures, acts as a liaison. In 2014 local US activists worked with the Human Rights Committee to pin down government evasions, feeding panel experts damning information on trial-and-error use of poisons for lethal injection. In a tightening series of inescapable public questions, US citizens confronted state sadism more directly than ever before. US activists worked hand-in-glove with the Committee Against Torture to expose criminalization of the homeless, effectively voiding inhuman and degrading local laws. Citizens’ input to human rights review exposed US psychological torture of dissidents with solitary confinement, and compelled reforms. The Sentencing Project bypassed toothless US anti-discrimination law and held the government to world standards in the most public forum on earth.

No more tolerance for partisan finger-pointing. Instead, the state as a whole stands or falls by the same legal standards regardless of the faction in power. Instead of joining autocratic state-controlled parties, we form organizations of our own to disgrace the government’s failures in front of the whole world. We bring this mechanism home as a National Human Rights Institution, and expert international oversight keeps it free of government subversion. We take this mechanism in hand with ad hoc public tribunals and truth commissions backed by international experts and institutions.

No more government propaganda siccing us like trained dogs on an endless succession of ridiculous enemies. Instead we pursue our own rights and freedoms as we choose. Or we rally round other human victims of overreaching states. Palestinians against their occupiers? Syrians against their foreign-backed invaders? Latin Americans against US government coups? Okinawans and Koreans against their US military occupation? Maybe all of these and more. We decide as human rights defenders based on our own understanding of human rights and rule of law. In turn the population of the world unites with us against the violent kleptocrats in power, demanding all our rights. No more central government preemption of our rights. Instead, our core human rights, written into law in our own town. We see to it ourselves with the whole world looking on.

Yet human rights can only be the skeleton of a culture. There’s much more to cultures that develop organically over time. The government tries to reduce cultural rights to non-discrimination. But free cultural development is acknowledged in Article 1 of the ICESCR, one of the core human rights covenants that the government withholds from us.

CIA hijacked your culture long ago. They published a thousand books. In accord with the classified American values of PSB D-33/2 they set up a front called the Congress for Cultural Freedom. They paid off American PEN. They infiltrated spooks into The Kenyon Review and The Partisan Review and bought up the copies that we didn’t want. George Plimpton promoted the eye-glazing ritual war of football as a spindle-shanked figure of fun, and with the Partisan Review he browbeat you into pretending to like books full of boring navel-gazing pap. Lots of little complicated Henry James emotions, that’s the ticket. Or else some sensory impressions arranged just so in that stolid stupid Hemingway monotone drone. The Partisan Review published seminal Eric Auerbach work on realism – but only the chapter on passive observers Stendhal, Balzac, and Flaubert, not the one on Zola, because CIA realism stops short of people resolving to get rid of the bosses. CIA drilled soporific interiority into handpicked eggheads at Iowa and subsidiary academic bureaus, taking great care to avoid ideas or anything about the world. Because if you think wrong, you might become a radical or commie.

It wasn’t just a matter of picking favorites. The State Department pulled Melville and Thoreau off its shelves at US Information Agency showcases worldwide – the American renaissance turned out to be too Bolshy. Active suppression of unauthorized culture fell to J. Edgar Hoover, chief of CIA’s secret police. FBI cultural policemen persecuted lots of dissidents: Norman Mailer, Langston Hughes, William Carlos Williams, Arthur Miller, Richard Wright, Dashiel Hammett, Lilian Hellman. They even spied on their exemplary harmless bore, Hemingway. In the epitome of selfless public service, the man immortalized by Nixon’s affectionate epithet as that old cocksucker went so far as to interdict publication of Spartacus, chilling the film’s gayest scenes along with its beefy pinko slaves.

They ruined everything. Admit it, you too have been tricked into standing in front of the large paintings of Jackson Pollack, that bad draftsman and boisterous drunk, anointed by CIA because he couldn’t draw socialist workers. Or sitting still for all those stupid movies they rewrote. One must have a heart of stone to watch the cinematic death of Todd Beamer without laughing. “Let’s roll!” he cries, as the doomed frequent flyers roll a lunch cart presumably stocked with tasty rolls. Face it, you got your most revered cultural touchstones from nun-rapers, torturers, drug-smugglers, assassins, and the pimps who raided Boys Town to blackmail perverted VIPs. CIA knuckle-draggers taught you everything you know. ((Movies, books, art, history, philosophy, religion, you name it, CIA fingered all your food for thought. Saunders, Bennett, and Greg Barnhisel documented how CIA bureaucrats taint your culture.))

CIA’s persistent problem was that these sensitive imaginative types tend to be loose cannons. Wealthy zoomer Robert Lowell wouldn’t fight in World War II and wrote oblique disarmament Samizdat ((Lowell lacked Anna Akhmatova’s brass ovaries, but Joe McCarthy was easy to outsmart.)) to stay out of trouble. When horny masher Arthur Koestler got locked up by fascists, surmising where the CIA money is he wrote about communists doing it to him instead. We got Darkness at Noon. Did CIA make him put in all that cloying Jesusy treacle? Maybe it went to his head. The poor lamb fell from favor by writing one too many books, to wit, The Thirteenth Tribe, when he pointed out that Zionism appeals to a pseudo-nation who are Yehudi only in the elastic sense in which we’re all more or less Irish when it’s time to get drunk on Saint Paddy’s day. Mutatis mutandis, Hadassah is fake ethnicity like the Knights of Columbus, only instead of cheap drinks at the sodality bar, the main club perk is you get to exterminate indigenous Palestinians. Even when their writers were securely on the take, CIA struggled to squelch stray insights of that sort.

ICCPR Article 19 mandates the artistic and investigative freedom needed for cultures to develop. It is a breach of our cultural rights when communities or peoples balk at war and commercial predation, and the government brutalizes them into reverting. The light touch of snobbery was seen to be unsuitable when the public at large started to think for themselves. The counterculture arose spontaneously when US state authorities and doctrines discredited themselves. The state mobilized to crush that efflorescence. The government forthrightly massacred dissident students at Kent State and Jackson State. More discreetly, the government undertook to associate political causes with drugs and criminalize the drugs. The government made intricate attempts to infiltrate counterculture and divert its peace demands to quietist passivity or off-putting satanic misbehavior. The government killed Martin King and Malcolm X to repress their shared human-rights aspirations as its informers displaced African Liberation Day ((The All-African Peoples Revolutionary Party celebrated African Liberation Day in Chicago, Oakland, Washington, Orlando, Baltimore, Cincinnati, Brooklyn, and Atlanta with 16 other cities worldwide and nobody here knew it but the spies in the fusion centers.)) with the fake African mumbo-jumbo of Kwanzaa. CIA poisoned popular culture when it threatened to escape state control. Contemporary observers saw it clearly, but the government human-rights blackout ensured they didn’t know their cultural rights. ((The full scope of your cultural rights are interpreted by ECOSOC General Comment 21, by a special procedure of the Human Rights Council, and by UNESCO.))

When we start again, thinking for ourselves, what will our culture be? No one will emit excruciating verse like “fiery spear-shaft of American song,” that’s for sure. ((One of CIA’s Iowa cutouts penned that.)) We don’t know what our culture is. We’ve never been free of US state violence and fear. We can’t know what it’s like without indoctrination and state-censored dogma. We’ve never had education to promote full development of the human personality, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms and peace, as the law requires. We’ve never lived in a state that will not torture you or kill you if you don’t watch what you say. All we can expect is less regimentation and more variety, in a country where livelihoods and means of life are ours by right, when we’re not made to scrabble or crawl or contend for them. When we’re not forced to propitiate a jury-rigged predator economy or starve, we’ll do what’s important to us. Who knows what that will be? It will be better than now, that’s all we know.

When all that has begun to happen, then you’re not an American any more. Congratulations, you’re a human. You’ve got all your human rights.

Brian Littlefair is the author of Desert Burial. As a consultant specializing in foreign direct investment he worked with foreign joint ventures, international financial institutions and bilateral aid agencies, with volunteer work in food security, transparency, and human rights in the global south. Read other articles by Brian.