This is an excerpt out of Michael Crichton’s book, “State of Fear.” I avidly encourage everyone to read this book – mainly because it challenges ones preconcieved notions of fact – these are the kind of challenges that leads to an open mind. As much as there is a need to care for our environment, the bigger picture Michael Crichton was pointing at here is political advocacy under the name of science. I am not in the least a conspiracy theorist – my concern is the need for each individual’s inquiry into themselves, and that begins with being challenged to reconsider what they think they know beyond a doubt. What the author has done is taken an immensely wide range of information, studies and conclusions, and fashioned a novel using these conclusions – not forgetting to include the real footnotes of these findings for your personal research. Have a read:
“Within modern culture, ideas constantly rise and fall. For a while everybody believes something, and then, bit by bit, they stop believing it. Eventually, no one can remember the old idea, the way no one can remember the old slang. Ideas are themselves a kind of fad, you see.”
“I understand, Professor, but why-“
“Why do ideas fall out of favour, you are wondering?” Hoffman said. He was talking to himself. “The answer is simply – they do. In fashion, as in natural ecology, there are disruptions. Sharp revisions of the established order. A lightning fire burns down a forest. A different species springs up in a charred acreage. Accidental, haphazard, unexpected, abrupt change. This is what the world shows us on every side.”
“But just as ideas can change abruptly, so, too, can they hang on past their time. Some ideas continue to be embraced by the public long after scientists have abandoned them. Left brain, right brain is a perfect example. In the 1970s, it gains popularity from the work of Sperry at Caltech, who studies a specific group of brain-surgery patients. Sperry denies any broader meaning. By 1980, it is clear that the left and right brain notion is just wrong – the two sides of the brain do not work separately in a healthy person. But in popular culture, the concept does not die for another twenty years. People talk about it, believe it, write books about it for decades after scientists have set it aside.”
“Yes, all very interesting –“
“Similarly, in environmental thought, it was widely accepted in 1960 that there is something called “the balance of nature.” If you just left nature alone it would come into a self-maintaining state of balance. Lovely idea with a long pedigree. The Greeks believed it three thousand years ago, on the basis of nothing. Just seemed nice. However, by 1960, no scientist believes in the balance of nature anymore. The ecologists have all given it up as simply wrong. Untrue. A fantasy. They speak now of dynamic disequilibrium, of multiple equilibrium states. But they understand now that nature is never in balance. Never has been, never will be. On the contrary, nature is always out of balance, and that means-“
“Professor,” Evans said, “I’d like to ask you-“
“That means that mankind, which was formerly defined as the great disrupter of the natural order, is nothing of the sort. The whole environment is being constantly disrupted all the time anyway. If you study the media, as my graduate students and I do, seeking to find shifts in normative conceptualization, you discover something extremely interesting. We looked at transcripts of news programs of the major networks – NBC, ABC, CBS. We also looked at stories in the newspapers of New York, Washington, Miami, Los Angeles, and Seattle. We counted the frequency of certain concepts, and terms used by the media. The results were very striking.” He paused.
“What did you find?” Evans said, taking his cue.
“There was a major shift in the fall of 1989. Before that time, the media did not make excessive use of terms such as crisis, catastrophe, cataclysm, plague, or disaster. For example, during the 1980s, the world crisis appeared in news reports as often as the word budget. In addition, prior to 1989, adjectives such as dire, unprecedented, dreaded were not common in television reports or newspaper headlines. But then it all changed.”
“In what way?”
“These terms started to become more and more common. The word catastrophe was used five times more often in 1995 than it was in 1985. It’s use doubled again by the year 2000. And the stories changed, too. There was a heightened emphasis on fear, worry, danger, uncertainty, panic.”
“Why should it have changed in 1989?”
“Ah. A good question. Critical question. In most respects 1989 seemed like a normal year: a Soviet sub sank in Norway; Tiananmen Square in China; the Exxon Valdes; Salman Rushdie sentenced to death; Jane Fonda, Mike Tyson, and Bruce Springsteen all got divorced; the Episcopal Church hired a female bishop; Poland allowed striking unions; Voyager went to Neptune; a San Francisco earthquake flattened highways; and Russia, the US, France, and England all conducted nuclear tests. A year like any other. But in fact the rise in the use of the term crisis can be located with some precision in the autumns of 1989. And it seemed suspicious that it should coincide so closely with the fall of the Berlin Wall. Which happened on November nineth of that year.”
Hoffman fell silent again, looking at Evans in a significant way. Very pleased with himself.
Evans said, “I’m sorry Professor. I don’t get it.”
“Neither did we. At first we thought the association was spurious. But it wasn’t. The Berlin Wall marks the collapse of the Soviet Empire. And the end of the Cold War that had lasted for half a century in the West.”
Another silence. Another pleased look.
“I’m sorry.” Evans said finally. “I was thirteen years old then, and…” He shrugged. “I don’t see where you are leading.”
“I am leading to the notion of social control, Peter. To the requirement of every sovereign state to exert control over the behavior of its citizens, to keep them orderly and reasonably docile. To keep them driving on the right side of the road – or the left, as the case may be. To keep them paying taxes. And of course we know that social control is best managed through fear.”
“Fear,” Evans said.
“Exactly. For fifty years, Western nations have maintained their citizens in a state of perpetual fear. Fear of the other side. Fear of nuclear war. The Communist menace. The Iron Curtain. The Evil Empire. And within the Communist countries, the same in reverse. Fear of us. Then, suddenly, in the fall of 1989, it was all finished. Gone, vanished. Over. The fall of the Berlin Wall created a vacuum of fear. Nature abhors a vacuum. Something has to fill it.”
Evans frowned, “You’re saying that environmental crisis took the place of the Cold War?”
“That is what the evidence shows. Of course, now we have radical fundamentalism and post-9/11 terrorism to make us afraid, and those are certainly real reasons for fear, but that is not my point. My point is, there is always a cause for fear. The cause may change over time, but the fear is always with us. Before terrorism we feared the toxic environment. Before that we had the communist menace. The point is, although the specific cause of our fear may change, we are never without the fear itself. Fear pervades society in all its aspects. Perpetually.”
He shifted on the concrete bench, turning away from the crowds.
“Has it ever occurred to you how astonishing the culture of Western society really is? Industrialised nations provide their citizens with unprecedented safety, health, and comfort. Average life spans increase fifty percent in the last century. Yet modern people live in abject fear. They are afraid of strangers, of disease, of crime, of the environment. They are afraid of the homes they live in, the food they eat, the technology that surrounds them. They are in particular panic about things they can’t even see – germs, chemicals, additives, pollutants. They are timid, nervous, fretful, and depressed. And even more amazingly, they are convinced that the environment of the entire planet is being destroyed around them. Remarkable! Like the belief in witchcraft, it’s an extraordinary delusion – a global fantasy worthy of the Middle Ages. Everything is going to hell, and we must all live in fear. Amazing. How has this world view been instilled in everybody? Because although we imagine we live in different nations – France, Germany, Japan, the US – in fact, we inhibit exactly the same state, the State of Fear. How has that been accomplished?”
Evans said nothing. He knew it wasn’t necessary.
“Well, I shall tell you how,” he said. “In the old days – before your time, Peter – citizens of the West believed their nation states were dominated by something called the military-industrial complex. Einsenhower warned Americans against it in the 1960s, and after two world wars Europeans knew very well what it meant in their own countries. But the military-industrial complex is no longer the primary driver of society. In reality, for the last fifteen years we have been under the control of an entirely new complex, far more powerful and far more pervasive. I call it the politico-legal-media complex. The PLM. And it is dedicated to promoting fear in the population – under the guise of promoting safety.”
“Safety is important.”
“Please. Western nations are fabulously safe. Yet people do not feel they are, because of PLM. And the PLM is powerful and stable, precisely because it unites so many institutions of society. Politicians need fears to control the population. Lawyers need dangers to litigate, and make money. The media need scare stories to capture an audience. Together, these three estates are so compelling that they can go about their business even if the scare is totally groundless. If it has no basis in fact at all. For instance, consider silicon breast implants.”
Evans sighed, shaking his head. “Breast implants?”
“Yes. You will recall that breast implants were claimed to cause cancer and autoimmune diseases. Despite statistical evidence that this was not true, we saw high-profile news stories, high-profile lawsuits, high-profile political hearings. The manufacturer, Dow Corning, was hounded out of the business after paying $3.2 billion, and juries awarded huge cash payments to plaintiffs and their lawyers. Four years later, definitive epidemiological studies showed beyond a doubt that breast implants did not cause disease. But by then the crisis had already served its purpose, and the PLM moved on, a ravenous machine seeking new fears, new terrors. I’m telling you, this is the way modern society works – by the constant creation of fear. And there is no countervailing force. There is no system of checks and balances, no restraint on the perpetual promotion of fear after fear after fear….”
“Because we have freedom of speech, freedom of the press.”
“That is the classic PLM answer. That’s how they stay in business,” Hoffman said. “But think. If it is not at all right to falsely shout “Fire!” in a crowded theater, why is it right to shout “Cancer!” in the pages of The New Yorker? When that statement is not true? We’ve spent more than twenty-five billion dollars to clear up the phony power-line cancer claim. “So what?” you say. I can see it in your face. You’re thinking, we’re rich, we can afford it. It’s only twenty-five billion dollars. But the fact is that twenty-five billion dollars is more than the total GDP of the poorest fifty nations of the world combined. Half the world’s population lives on two dollars a day. So that twenty-five billion would be enough to support thirty-four million for a year. Or we could have helped all the people dying of AIDS in Africa. Instead, we piss it away on a fantasy published by a magazine whose readers take it very seriously. Trust it. It is a stupendous waste of money. In another world, it would be a criminal waste. One could easily imagine another Nuremburg trial – this time for the relentless squandering of Western wealth on trivialities – and complete with pictures of the dead babies in Africa and Asia that result.”
He hardly paused for breath. “At the very least, we are talking about a moral outrage. Thus we can expect our religious leaders and our great humanitarian figures to cry out against this waste and the needless deaths around the world that result. But do any religious leaders speak out? No. Quite the contrary, they join the chorus. The promote “What would Jesus Drive?” As if they have forgotten that what Jesus would drive is the false prophets and fearmongers out of the temple.”
~ by revolutionwithin on December 4, 2009.
Posted in 7 - Politics, Social Control
Tags: brain-surgery, catastrophe, Cold War, critical question, dynamic disequilibrium, environmental, environmental crisis, equilibrium, left brain, Michael Crichton, Michael Moore, newspaper headlines, right brain, Salman Rushdie, Social Control, state of balance, State of Fear, thought, world crisis