Author Archives: Edward Curtin

Further signs of more war: A most dangerous game

Donald Trump’s days of playing the passive-aggressive host of a reality-television game show are coming to an end. Either he fires all the apprentices who might slightly hesitate to wage a much larger world war and lets the bombs fly, or he will be replaced by one who will. Signs are that he has learned what his job entails and the world will suffer more death and destruction as a result. Continue reading

Kevin Love: Making a hole in denial

In his moving essay revealing his existential anxiety and panic attack, NBA star Kevin Love has touched a nerve that underlies not just sports and male experience, but life itself. He is right to say, “This is an everyone thing.” In doing so, he has performed a public service far beyond getting men and boys to open up about their fears and feelings. He has, as befits his surname, opened many people to a consideration of the marriage of love and death, and why all efforts to divorce them result in the diminishment of life’s passion and intensity. Continue reading

The shadow of an Israeli/U.S. attack grows larger by the day

Last month, I wrote that “all signs point toward an upcoming large-scale Israeli/U.S. attack on Lebanon and Syria, and all the sycophantic mainstream media are in the kitchen prepping for the feast. Russia and Iran are the main course, with Lebanon and Syria who wll be devoured first, as the hors d’oeuvres.” Those signs are growing more numerous by the day. Continue reading

The coming wars to end all wars

The Trump and Netanyahu governments have a problem: How to start a greatly expanded Middle-Eastern war without having a justifiable reason for one. No doubt they are working hard to solve this urgent problem. If they can’t find a “justification” (which they can’t), they will have to create one (which they will). Or perhaps they will find what they have already created. Whatever the solution, we should feel confident that they are not sitting on their hands. History teaches those who care to learn that when aggressors place a gun on the wall in the first act of their play, it must go off in the final act. Continue reading

Try learning not to ride a bicycle so we can save the world

We are haunted by a specter. Strange as it may sound, I was reminded of this when I saw a photograph of the quarterback of the Super Bowl winning Philadelphia Eagles, Nick Foles, looking and pointing up to the heavens. Or to be more precise, the roof of the aptly named U.S. Bank Stadium, a fitting venue for a national celebration of violence and the warfare state. But if we can assume Foles’ gesture was meant to penetrate the roof and travel up to heaven, then you too may find it a bit odd, if touching. Most people, as the poet Czeslaw Milosz has said, are ashamed to ask themselves a question about the implication of such a gesture. “They have experienced the collapse of hierarchical space,” he writes, “and when they fold their hands and lift up their eyes, ‘up’ no longer exists. Let no one say that religion can manage without such primitive directions to orient people.” Continue reading

Denying the obvious: Leftists and Crimestop

It is well known that effective propaganda works through slow, imperceptible repetition. “The slow building up of reflexes and myths” is the way Jacques Ellul put it in his classic, Propaganda. This works through commission and omission. Continue reading

A genuine actor: Francesco Serpico

The set was real but illusionary: A legendary old New England hotel dressed festively for Christmas and the holiday season. Norman Rockwell’s magical realism. The lobby full with merriment, the cozy fire dancing to the sweet sound of violin and piano Christmas music mixed with a subtle alcoholic fragrance. Main Street, U.S.A. Snow on the street and the classic strains of “White Christmas” in the inner air. A mythic setting for meeting a legendary actor. Continue reading

An Advent calendar to beat the devil

In a capitalist culture of commodification, people have been reified and things reanimated. Our national artists—the advertisers—have mastered this trick. People become persons through things, or the things images can secure; things possess a life of their own which they can impart to their possessors. Conversely, without such things one becomes a nobody, as the poor know so well. As long as you can convince people that objects and people are of equal value, the rest is easy. You can even declare that you are not an object to be used, even as you have bought into the culture of commodification through images. Continue reading

Waiting for the American Dream

It is damp, drizzly November once again, the grim grey in-between month, a time for dying and a time, above all, for waiting. Waiting for the fallen dead foliage to be buried in snow, waiting for the shortest day to come and go, waiting for the New Year to usher in great changes. Continue reading

Thanksgiving for JFK

If he had lived, President John F. Kennedy would have been 100 years old this year. At Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow, his family would be raising a glass in his honor. Continue reading

Reviving the spirit of existential rebellion in a world of propaganda, lies, and self deception

Like existential freedom, honesty and truth-seeking demand a perpetually renewed commitment. No one ever fully arrives, and all of us are blown off course on the journey. Even when we think we have reached our destination, we are often startled by the enigma of arrival, and must set sail again. We are all in the same boat. The search for truth is a process, an experiment, an essay—a trying without end. Continue reading

Three for the road, in light and shadows

It was getting dark on the street as the young man emerged from his high school on New York’s Upper East Side after basketball practice. He had lost track of time as he dreamed his basketball dreams and headed to the subway for the long ride home. It was December, 1961. A man, dressed in a cashmere overcoat and carrying a silver bowl, was walking his dog on the street. The boy asked him for the time. The man told him, adding with a grin that his watch always ran fast. The boy recognized the grin from what seemed like a dream. He pet the man’s dog, and the man asked him about the imposing school next to them. He asked the boy his name and the boy said “Eddie.” While the dog did its business in the street, they chatted for a few minutes. The man wished him luck with his basketball and said his name was Paul. Continue reading

The super patriotic Draft Dodger’s Rag: ‘Fire the son-of-a-bitch’

In the true spirit of patriotic opposition, Colin Kaepernick took a courageous knee when he protested the current and historical treatment of black Americans and people of color during the playing of the national anthem. For his patriotism, the NFL has made sure he remains unemployed, and now, when our reality-television president urges NFL teams to fire any “son-of-a-bitch” who dares follow Kaepernick’s example, the NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell releases a sanctimonious statement calling Trump’s demented words “divisive comments,” revealing an “unfortunate lack of respect” for NFL players. NFL owners and others chimed in with the word of the day—“divisive.” Exactly who is being divided from whom is left to speculation? Continue reading

A child’s truth in a country of lies

It is heartening to know that there are young children still reading books. While a growing majority of parents, who aren’t, have been seduced into destroying their children’s imaginations by placing them in front of screens, there are still holdouts who realize that if their children are ever to become free-thinking adults, they must grow up expanding their minds in the meditative space of beautiful literature on paper pages. Only there will they find the freedom to dream, to stop and close their eyes as they travel through unknown realms of wonder. Continue reading

The ‘deep state’ then and now

Have you ever seen a photograph of yourself from the past and laughed or grimaced at the way you were dressed or your hair style? It’s a common experience. But few people draw the obvious conclusion about the present: that our present appearance might be equally laughable. The personal past seems to be “over there,” an object to be understood and dissected for its meaning, while the present seems opaque and shape-shifting—or just taken-for-granted okay. “That was then,” says the internal voice, “but I am wiser now.” Historical perspective, even about something as superficial as appearance, rarely illuminates the present, perhaps because it makes us feel ignorant and unfree. Continue reading

The assassination of Senator Robert F. Kennedy: Questions, hints and allegations

If you were going to arrange a political assassination in an indoor crowded setting, would you have one of your operatives (not the assassin) at the murder site be a strikingly curvaceous young woman in a conspicuous white dress with black polka-dots, and then have her flee the scene, yelling, “We’ve shot him, we’ve shot him,” so that multiple witnesses would see and hear her as she made her escape? Continue reading

Vacation reading

Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity: so advised Thoreau more than a century ago. It’s the kind of advice rarely heeded, then or now. For some perverse reason, most of us prefer to labor ceaselessly to make our lives more complex, to clutter our minds and fritter away our days in the trivial pursuit of superfluous things or meaningless experiences. Essential questions, not to say living, get lost beneath the clutter. Continue reading

Escaping the iron cage of hopelessness

In a previous article, I argued that those who think science can solve our major social problems—in particular, world destruction with nuclear weapons and the poisoning of the earth’s ecology and atmosphere—were delusional and in the grip of the myth of science and technology. These problems were created by science when it became untethered from any sense of limits in its embrace of instrumental rationality. Once it became wedded to usefulness and the efficiency of technical means, it lost its original aim: the search for truth. (Obviously this doesn’t include all scientists.) In embracing means as ends, it produced an endless loop of means justifying means that has resulted in what Weber called an “iron cage.” Concomitantly, the ideology of pure objectivity and impartial innocence was joined to elite state power and the capitalist profit motive where it was supported and instantaneously and completely applied to technical applications, including nuclear, biological, chemical and “conventional” weapons; bio-engineering; GMO foods and people; eugenics and cloning; and chemical/oil production, etc. It is indisputable that if our planet is incinerated or slowly destroyed through toxic pollution that modern science with its Faustian “prohibition to prohibit” will stand indicted, if anyone is left to make the case. Continue reading

Marching in circles: Faustian thinking and the myth of science

The recent marches on April 22 to promote science and to celebrate Earth Day were perhaps well-intentioned, but they were delusional and conducted without any sense of irony. They served power and its propaganda. Obviously, science has benefited us in certain ways, but it has become untethered from any sense of moral limits in its embrace of instrumental rationality and its unending efforts to sabotage faith in human freedom by rationally “proving” its illogical deterministic credo. And in doing so it has created and sustained a nightmarish world on the brink of destruction and undermined people’s will to resist this death march. Ostensibly rational, it has engendered a spiritual alienation that goes to the roots of the world crisis. Continue reading

Trump comes in from the cold—gets media and political respect

You have to love the twisted system of propaganda and moral hypocrisy that reigns in the United States today. Continue reading

The silent cries of hiding children: Fifty years after MLK’s Riverside Church speech

Come, let’s play hide-and-seek, America’s favorite game. Continue reading

Snow, death, and the bewildered herd

As I write these words, the house is being buried in a snowstorm. Heavy flakes fall slowly and silently as a contemplative peace muffles the frenetic agitation and speed of a world gone mad. A beautiful gift like this has no price, though there are those who would like to set one, as they do on everything. In my mind’s eye I see Boris Pasternak’s Yurii Zhivago, sitting in the penumbra of an oil lamp in the snowy night stillness of Varykino, scratching out his poems in a state of inspired possession. Outside the wolves howl. Inside the bedroom, his doomed lover, Lara, and her daughter sleep peacefully. The wolves are always howling. Continue reading

The deep state goes shallow: A reality TV coup d’état in prime time

It is well known that the United States is infamous for engineering coups against democratically elected governments worldwide. Voters’ preferences are considered beside the point. Iran and Mosaddegh in 1953, Arbenz in Guatemala in 1954, Indonesia and Sukarno in 1965–7, Allende in Chile in 1973, to name a few from the relatively distant past. Recently the Obama administration worked their handiwork in Honduras and Ukraine. It would not be hyperbolic to say that overthrowing democratic governments is as American as apple pie. It’s our “democratic” tradition—like waging war. Continue reading

Without poetry we are dead; with it we die living

Most Americans dislike poetry, or at least are indifferent to it. That is probably an understatement. We live in an age of prose, of journalese, and advertising jingles. Poetry, the most directly indirect, mysterious, condensed, and passionate form of communication, is about American as socialism or not shopping. Unlike television, texting, or scrolling the Internet, it demands concentration; that alone makes it suspect. Add silent, calm surroundings and a contemplative mind, and you can forget it, which is what most people do. Silence, like so much else in the present world, including human beings, is on the endangered species list. Another rare bird—let’s call it the holy spirit of true thought—is slowly disappearing from our midst. Continue reading

Symbolic seduction: Women’s rights, partisan politics, ethnocentrism and ‘American Narcissism’

In 1929, Edward Bernays, Sigmund Freud’s nephew and U.S./CIA war and coup propagandist, and the founder of public relations, conducted a successful mind-manipulation experiment for the tobacco industry. Continue reading

A valiant verbal warrior demythologizes the CIA

Like Odysseus, Douglas Valentine is a wily warrior who managed to enter the enemy’s stronghold disguised as a gift. Not Troy, and not within a wooden horse, but in the guise of a nice young “Nobody,” he was able, thirty or so years ago, to breach the walls of the CIA through William Colby, a former director of the Central Intelligence Agency. The guileful thing he brought was his proposal to demystify the Phoenix program, “the controversial CIA assassination program that resulted in the deaths of thousands of civilians during the Vietnam War,” with which Colby was notably associated. Continue reading

Remembering Albert Camus’ ‘The Plague’: It is the U.S.

On January 4, 1960, Albert Camus died in a car crash at a point when he thought his true work had not even begun. He was 46 years old. He had already written The Stranger, The Fall, and The Plague, among other works. He had won the Nobel Prize for Literature. Yet he felt that in his writing he had to hide behind a mask that stifled him. After all these successes, as well as criticism from the left and right French intelligentsia, he was looking forward to a time when he would be able to speak his own truth without the mask of depersonalization—to enter a period of création en liberté. Continue reading

Bob Dylan doesn’t exist

Because there is no Bob Dylan, he did not attend the Nobel Prize Awards Ceremony in Stockholm, Sweden, to accept his prize in Literature. He is a figment of the imagination—first his own and then the public’s. Perhaps behind the character Bob Dylan there is a genuine actor, but if he had shown up and given a truthful speech about his actor’s life, he would have been dismissed as a charlatan, an impostor. His ardent fans would have received it as a slap in the face, and their illusions would have transmogrified into delusions as the spell was broken. Continue reading

The gift of words

Things, possessions, life on the installment plan. This is the season to buy, to accumulate more folderols, to give things to one’s children and each other, which, we like to believe, will bring joy. It’s make-believe, of course, an adult lie conjured up out of guilt and fear that our lives, the stories we live and the stories we dream, are insufficiently meaningful to bring our children and ourselves the joy we say we seek. Continue reading

The masquerade ball: fall’s ghosts and our political farce

The idiocy of the presidential election race will soon be over, as will the endless pseudo-debates and the droning of the commentators, who have been prattling on for more than a year, as if there were something to consider about this sick farce; as if the deep state had not been directing this life-movie from the start. Continue reading

The wonder of the uncanny

As a sociologist, I teach college students to think logically, to make connections, to observe closely, to keep careful notes, and to seek and confirm facts. But I also teach them that sociology is an art form, as the conservative sociologist, Robert Nisbet, so beautifully maintained; and I teach them that as artists they must use their imaginations, as the radical leftist sociologist, C. Wright Mills, so cogently argued. Continue reading

Why I don’t speak of 9/11 anymore

Tuesday, September 11, 2001, was a non-teaching day for me. I was home when the phone rang at 9 A.M. It was my daughter, who was on a week’s vacation with her future husband. “Turn on the TV,” she said. “Why?” I asked. “Haven’t you heard? A plane hit the World Trade Tower.” Continue reading