STRAWS IN THE WIND: by Max TeichmannNews Weekly
Not so noble a prize / Wickedness / Demonology / Indonesia
, November 6, 2004
Not so noble a prize
The Nobel Peace Prize has enjoyed a roller-coaster ride since its establishment in 1901, and we have been going through a period - probably starting with the Cold War - when it has become a slave of fashion, and passion.
This trend could finish by completely discrediting the Nobel Prize committee, unless they were to resist the temptation of wearing the shape of the last pressure group which sat on them. And the Western media, which it had used to publicise its work, is now setting the agenda, almost defining what type of peace-lover should get the prize.
We worked our way through Henry Kissinger and Le Duc Tho in 1973 (for fixing Vietnam). Israel's Menachem Begin for helping fix something - it wasn't the King David Hotel; Arafat; and then Kofi Anan in 2001. This was presumably for his work in Uganda. But, colonialism, post-colonialism, aid, AIDS and Africa ... have taken over the agenda in recent years.
So it was no surprise that Kenyan Wangari Maethal was awarded this year's Nobel Peace Prize for "sustainable development, democracy and peace".
Her CV sounded impeccable: African, a woman, a conservationist, a feminist, interested in AIDS (a very serious problem in her native Kenya), well-known in the UN and the world of NGOs. Possessed of the correct radical opinions on all manner of things. As Kenya's Assistant Minister for Environment and Resources, she had had 300,000 trees planted. Eat your heart out, Helen Demidenko.
The next day, Maethal, addressing a news conference, said that the AIDS virus was "created by scientists, for biological warfare". Earlier on, she had told the daily Kenya Standard
that the virus "was created for mass extermination". We know that "the developed nations are using biological weapons, leaving guns to the primitive people". (A speech delivered to a public meeting on August 30).
This conspiracy story has an interesting pedigree and an equally engaging new life. It originated in the former Soviet Union from the Disinformation Department of the KGB - yes, there was one such of long standing and considerable power, charged with the simple task of fabricating stories which would damage opponents, destroy critics, deceive and confuse foreign countries, with the help of people in the West, notably media people, academics, politicians, etc etc.
Some were agents of influence, some useful idiots, others dupes who just wanted to believe anything bad against America, against the West. (And, sotto voce
, the Jews).
The accusations that the Allies used biological weapons in the Korean War and that Wilfrid Burchett was right - no matter how often exposed (and Denis Warner and Robert Manne have done their best) - still circulate.
But the story that the West developed AIDS for its own evil purposes, is a regular part of the contemporary repertoire of Louis Farrakhan, the powerful American black leader. And, Colonel Gaddafi was putting it around just a few years ago.
(Incidentally, I'm using material from a riveting history honours thesis written in 2001 by our editor, John Ballantyne, entitled Eastern Bloc Disinformation and Western War Crimes Investigations 1943-91
, and I thoroughly recommend it.)
But not only had Louis Farrakhan and many on the American left been circulating this story about AIDS on websites, via newsletters, etc., but, more importantly, Colonel Gaddafi had been putting around the "evil American scientists" story for many years, giving it wider currency in Africa and in the Middle East.
I assume he has now stopped - for reasons of state - as has President Mbeki in South Africa. So ... our new Nobel Peace Prize lady is taking up the story. She is a politician, so may not care what Western goody-goodies may now think: it's her African and, who knows, Muslim audiences at whom she was aiming.
This story ("The West created AIDS and Other Viruses so as to Destroy Us") provides a kind of justification for African and Muslim countries making or buying (as they were able) biological weapons and using them. And making nuclear weapons can be justified on grounds stronger than that Israel already has them and the West as well.Wickedness
This story of Western - particularly American - wickedness serves to put us beyond the pale, and it has been the message of our Left media and intelligentsia for some time. The Iraq War just brought the whole vengeful demonising mindset into full public operational view.
A matching conspiracy story - again, compliments of the KGB's Disinformation Department - concerns American blacks, drugs and the CIA, and surfaced in the late 1960s and took firm hold subsequently.The fact:
The Vietnam protest movement, the Civil Rights movement and the pop music scene were ravaged by hard drugs (forget marijuana): heroin, acid, speed and cocaine. The Left just about stoned itself out of serious calculations. Cheap cocaine - known as crack - became available and swept through young blacks.The story:
The CIA organised the production and distribution of cheap cocaine (hitherto expensive) and sent it through the black population. Aim? To politically neuter them and, ideally, depopulate them. Masses of American blacks still believe this, including many black Muslims.
One advantage of such stories is that you remove all responsibility for one's actions - e.g., taking drugs, contracting AIDS.
It was/is caused by the wicked whites - especially the CIA and evil scientists. (Reminiscent of German silent films or Bergman's The Serpent's Egg
I suppose what alarms me is the spread of conspiracy stories: a form of magical thinking, of superstition and its steady advance over the political spectrum.
After the end of the 19th Century, most Western socialist parties gave up on Great Men of History pulling the strings of cabals and cliques running the world: be they Jewish bankers, Wall Street industrialists, or super-cunning men in the Vatican. The system was too complex for that, but it could be studied scientifically, its laws discovered, and its future outcomes predicted.
And it was about classes, not individuals. While ethnicity and nationalism were distractions, often deliberate ones, to keep the masses divided and to set worker against worker.Demonology
Much of the West saw World War One in this light. So demonology, racism, anti-Semitism and simplistic accounts of complex systems - such as economies - became the lost property and the lost causes of the Far Right.
Even with the rise of irrationalism in Europe in the 1930s, the Left, the Liberals and most Catholics kept their basic reality sense, even though it sometimes cost them their heads. The Communists were protected by their own increasingly dogmatic standpoint.
But now something different seems to be happening, with irrationalism, Wicked Men theories (the devils: Bush, Blair and that monster Howard) and dark theories of social causation. Also, tacitly working in with similar people from other cultures, e.g. Islamic fundamentalists.
The internet is facilitating the sharing of paranoid conspiracy stories and hate propaganda across the cultures and the countries. Tales such as our Nobel laureate is peddling is allowing old KGB fabrications a new lease on life.
Of course, these stories never completely go away; The Protocols of the Elders of Zion
still has a loyal following, even in Australia, has it not?
But one can see how many Africans, in particular, those with recent backgrounds of charms, potions, evil spells, magical thinking and dark, non-specific fears, might be especially vulnerable to the paranoid blandishments of African demagogues.
These people are in crisis, with an epidemic like the Black Death. And we know how many Christians reacted to that. Then, the Jews were blamed and driven out. Now it's the whites; and witch-hunts and magic threaten to take over the system.
The Western intelligentsia and their green magic, has some explaining to do. But that needs another story.Indonesia
The lightning visit of John Howard to attend the swearing in of the new Indonesian president could turn out to be one of the most important developments for us in recent times. The ice around Megawati is broken, and our two could be headed for a close, informal relationship of a kind which in a sense, we have never had before.
A number of issues are going to appear far more manageable; some may even disappear. There is more and more common ground on Islamic terrorism - for that is what it is - and it extends to the states and waters around our two countries. People-smuggling from Indonesia seems virtually off the agenda, as does its use as a political weapon. East Timor and the Timor Gap seem far more manageable items than if Mr Wiranto had been running affairs.
Some sad Sydney paper insisted Mr Howard hadn't been invited to the investiture; he had gate-crashed. Alas, the obviously close relationship between the two leaders, including their body language, indicated otherwise.
Furthermore, Mr Howard thanked the new president on behalf of the international leaders during the diplomatic gathering after the ceremony - a gathering which included Singapore, Malaysia and Brunei.
Mr Howard is then going to the ASEAN and APEC meetings with a very strong hand. Only our Chelsea Pensioners of the Sydney press have evaded this.
Indonesia and Australia have another powerful shared interest: Neither is enamoured by any unrestrained advance of Chinese power or influence; nor her habit of making herself a law unto herself. Other states in our vicinity feel the same.
So the new stability in relations between Jakarta and Australia is a general godsend. Our reliance on America for many things should be eased, greatly to the relief of Washington, no matter who rules in the White House.
The new Indonesian president has many problems facing him and we shall just have to wait and see while wishing him good luck.