More on Controlling Politics, USA Style
April 3, 2013
The following comments are drawn from the book, The Time of Illusion, by Jonathan Schell, and they relate to another way the powers that be control our political discourse and practice.
In May, 1972, J. Edgar Hoover died, while Richard Nixon was president. Of course, Nixon spoke at Hoover’s funeral, giving a eulogy. In that speech, Nixon spoke about “The trend of permissiveness in this country, a trend which Edgar Hoover fought against all of his life, a trend which has dangerously eroded our national heritage as a law-abiding people, [but which] is now being reversed.” And Nixon asserted that “The American people today are tired of disorder, disruption, and disrespect for law. America wants to come back to the law as a way of life.”
So, according to Nixon, our public morality was trending toward “permissiveness” and it was the likes of J. Edgar Hoover and, of course, Richard Nixon who were reversing this trend, per the wishes of the American people. It was government that would reverse the declining morality of the nation, a decline whose causes Nixon did not speak about or identify.
It is, however, interesting to note what else was going on at this time. I will quote from Schell’s book:
“The day before the President delivered his eulogy, a White House mugging squad arrived at the foot of the Capitol steps, where Daniel Ellsberg was speaking to a group of anti-war demonstrators….Its task was to beat up Ellsberg. The squad’s leader, Bernard Baker, told his men, ‘Our mission is to hit him – to call him a traitor and punch him in the nose. Hit him and run.’ In the event, members of the squad attacked some of the people listening to Ellsberg but were stopped by the police before they could reach Ellsberg himself. It had, of course, been in part Hoover’s reluctance to ‘nail’ Ellsberg in the manner described by the Administration that led the President to set up the ad-hoc team to destroy Ellsberg. Now a truculent President was standing over the Director’s coffin urging a return to ‘law as a way of life.’”
I would not be surprised if almost every plea by a government official for the government to reinforce, to fortify the public’s morality is merely a disguise meant to conceal violations of basic political principles by that very same government. At the very least, such an agenda diverts attention away from the relationship between government and morality, a relationship that is fraught with conflict because it subordinates moral concerns, and even concerns with justice, to the interests of the state and its actors.