FINDING AN ENEMY FOR THE COLD WAR
The Cold War not only left us a 4 trillion dollar debt, but also changed our social attitudes and values forever. We may not even know to whom we are in debt, but we know we are in debt. We may not know why attitudes and values have changed, but the PARANOIA and PARADOX–CONTRARIETY -- is with us forever. During the period of the Cold War, we learned that we had the power to destroy our planet, and that meant we were also destructible. The world lived with a death threat so immense that the Mediterranean Monomyth seemed helpless and impotent.The angel handed me a book, saying, “It contains everything
that you could possibly wish to know.” And he disappeared,
So I opened the book, which was not particularly fat.
It was written in an unknown character.
Scholars translated it, but they produced altogether
They differed even about the very senses of their own
readings, agreeing upon neither the tops nor the bottoms of
them, nor upon the beginnings of them nor the ends.
Toward the close of this vision it seemed to me that
the book melted, until it could no longer be distinguished from
this world that is about us.
During the 1950's, the people on “both sides” were patriotic, believing that either Capitalism or Communism was the root of all evil. The hippie generation of the 1960's brought flowers to the mix but stirred up antagonisms and suspicion. In the 1970's, the Cold War thawed at times, but the values of paranoia didn’t. Just as Watergate created more distrust in the government in the ‘70's, events in the 1980's fueled the fires of conspiracy which spread into the 1990's and the new millennium. Today, we have a new enemy, but we are still in bondage to the contrarieties of the Cold War. What we won in The Cold War loosed a backlash, a “Blowback,” so terrific that it may change our world entirely. (Either of two propositions that cannot be true of the same thing, but they can both be false, log.)
How can a culture from the Mediterranean tradition believe that winning is everything and that success is imperative if the culture is experiencing the value as HELPLESSNESS, PARANOIA, and FRAGMENTATION? How can WINNING be everything if we can’t fight? This is the dilemma we are in today, and it was the dilemma of the 40 years called The Cold War. We could fight in Korea and Vietnam and other hot spots, but we could never really win, as the Hero of the Mediterranean Monomyth must if we could not fight the real enemy.
Because there was the bomb!
We never knew exactly how to identify the REAL enemy, but without an enemy, the values of the Mediterranean tradition are meaningless. The situation became more and more muddled with time.
So, here was the situation in 1946: having always been suspicious of anti-capitalist philosophies, we had a new enemy, THE SOVIET UNION. We could identify this enemy after Winston Churchill’s 1946 Sinews of Peace speech in which he introduced the phrase IRON CURTAIN. But, wasn’t the REAL enemy COMMUNISM? Well, maybe the real enemy was not exactly COMMUNISM but the COMMUNIST. And, where exactly WAS the COMMUNIST?
Though not public knowledge in 1946, the Soviet Union’s success in building the atom bomb was the result of spies within the ranks of Los Alamos. This threat was real. The enemy, therefore, looked like us; they lived near us; they could be us .This was not simply a game between ideologies, even though ideology was at the heart of the propaganda campaigns on both sides. Victory in this game meant total destruction. We had to find the enemy and be sure at all costs.
One thing was clear: A necessary value of the Cold War Cultural Matrix was PARANOIA. Following closely behind was PARADOX. Paranoia exists whenever an enemy is identified but unrecognizable (contrariety), and when Paradox accompanies it, you have an experience of “WILDERNESS OF MIRRORS” (a CIA phrase). Whom you are afraid of MAY be the very one who may protect you; the one you are depending upon to save you, may be the stalking killer. Everything seems to have two or more sides: like looking through a kaleidoscope, the more you look, the more images you get.
PARANOIA COUPLED WITH PARADOX leads to FRAGMENTATION -- a splitting apart; coming unglued; being “besides oneself.” Fragmentation leads to HELPLESSNESS -- where are the parts, who will explain the rules, who has the directions, who can rescue me?
And HELPLESSNESS leads to FEAR. How can we continue to believe that we are problem solvers when we are dealing with a fear that is bred by Helplessness?
The Cold War crept in slowly and was not at all evident to most average Americans. Then, President Truman addressed a Joint Session of Congress in March, 1947. No US forces overseas, much less within the US, had been attacked, and Americans were obsessed with demobilizing from WW II and preventing a return of Great Depression conditions. So, if Truman were to arouse the nation to resist world communism, he had to do what Senator Arthur Vandenberg recommended, which was
TO SCARE THE HELL OUT OF THE AMERICAN PEOPLE.The President explained that a moment in history had come when nearly every nation had to choose between freedom based on majority rule or tyranny imposed through terror and oppression. He declared it the policy of the US to support all peoples threatened by internal subversion or outside pressure and warned that an American failure to lead would endanger world peace and the welfare of the United States.
Walter Lippmann gave the conflict its name -- THE COLD WAR -- and the implications of a long conflict indicated that the US might be drawn into unlimited commitments, Machiavellian ploys, and collusion with foul bedfellows.
The problem was that American needed an enemy. What transformed the Communist threat into a national obsession was not its plausibility but the involvement of the federal government. After all, Communist Parties were far more powerful in Europe. In America, however, patriotism must come from the top and propaganda must be skillfully directed to win the hears and minds of the American people and to “Scare the hell out of them.”
An important element of the power of the modern state is its ability to set the political agenda and to define the crucial issues of the moment through its actions as well as its words. During the Cold War, the actions of the Federal Government helped to forge and legitimize the anti-Communist consensus that enabled most Americans to condone or participate in the serious violations of civil liberties in the period we call “The McCarthy Era.” But, it was not just the McCarthy madness. The Cold War extended through nine Presidents, both Republican and Democrat, and all the Presidents held the line.
The media was the government’s partner; it amplified messages that came from Washington. When, for instance, in the late 1940's, the Immigration and Naturalization Service began to round up foreign-born Communists and labor leaders for deportation and then detain them without bail, the media was there to validate the move. A strong signal was being sent about the alien nature of Communism and its dangers. Almost every agency became involved in the anti-Communist crusade.
The developing popularity of the television and movie industries brought us into the game as players. We were face to face with LIVE events. Not only was Vietnam brought to the dinner table each night, but the congressional hearings were brought into homes by television and radio, and live interviews and court decisions made the public aware and alert. And, there was the execution of the Rosenbergs.
As a child at the time of the Rosenbergs’ execution, I wanted them to be innocent. All my adult life, I hoped they were innocent: they looked innocent -- scholars, Jews, meek and simple, and they had two sons. Now, we know from KGB and CIA files that the Rosenbergs were, indeed, spies who aided in the transfer of nuclear secrets to the USSR. Whether or not execution was the proper punishment or a powerful propaganda tool is beside the point. Communists WERE within the borders of the United States.
By putting Communists on trial, the Truman administration shaped the public’s view of domestic communism. It transformed party members from political dissidents into criminals -- with all the implications that such associations inspired in a nation of law-abiding citizens. Criminalization of Communism was a great success. The major trials got enormous publicity and gave credibility to the notion that Communists threatened National Security and the moral fiber of freedom. Prosecuting espionage agents reinforced the image of Communists as Russian spies. Putting Communist labor leaders on trial allowed the government to raise the issue of industrial sabotage. The crowning glory came with the Smith Act trial of American Communist Party members in 1949 to bolster the contention that the party was an illegal conspiracy, linked directly to the Soviet Union.
The government rarely lost a case at the trial state. Treating Communists as criminals made them seem dangerous. This fact strengthened the characteristic of the Mediterranean Monomyth that the “problem comes from outside.” Moreover, because of the political nature of these trials, much of the evidence had no relation to the case at hand but was designed to reinforce the negative image of the defendants. In order to create an enemy, IMAGE IS EVERYTHING!
It was Constitutionally difficult, however, because being a Communist was not a crime. As a result, the charges the Cold War defendants faced -- usually perjury or contempt -- often bore little connection to the presumed offense for which they were on trial. In addition, it was hard to obtain evidence necessary for a conviction. Accordingly, prosecutors relied on the testimonies of professional ex-Communists and undercover agents. The FBI established COINTELPRO, a secret program of political sabotage, unauthorized surveillance, and disinformation designed to cripple the Communist Party and later other radical groups.
Anyone with liberal ideas could be the enemy. Defining the enemy during the Cold War was tricky, however, because hundreds and thousands of people would affiliate themselves with moderate and liberal causes, and they were not all Communists.
Imagine yourself in America in the 1920's. We had won a world war; business was very good; if you were so inclined, religious fundamentalism was on the rise; if you were not, you could delve into artistic and philosophical pursuits. Despite Prohibition, you could play and drink. Technology was giving you more than you could ever have dreamed of. Motion pictures, radio, the automobile -- it seems as if we had invented everything. THE BUSINESS OF AMERICA IS BUSINESS, President Calvin Coolidge said. There was nothing you couldn’t buy in the United States.
Now, look around you. Jim Crow and defacto segregation are rampant in all sections of the United States; immigration is feared, and laws are passed to limit immigration from non-white areas of the world. Anti-Semitism is on the rise. The most dreaded threat to our stability is Communism, often coupled with Anarchy. The Ku Klux Klan responds and grows more rapidly than it had after the Civil War, gaining 8 million members. They march down Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C. in 1925, 30,000 strong, wearing hoods and gowns with no one protesting. President Warren G. Harding was sworn into the Klan in a ceremony in the White House.
Tension is growing between the haves and have-nots; women are still struggling for recognition despite the 19th Amendment granting women suffrage. Prohibition brings crime and mob violence; labor strikes are numerous and violent, and urban poor are poorer.
Then, Depression hits!
Meanwhile, the Soviets are embarking on their 5-year plans that include international conquest. In 1919 the Communist Party USA is founded with funding from thee Bolsheviks in Russia. In 1930, the Communists demonstrate against unemployment in America. The Communists defend the Scottsboro Boys, young black men falsely tried and convicted of raping two white women, with money, propaganda, and legal aid..
Now, if you are an idealistic young person, you might easily be attracted to some group that seems to be the lone voice in the wilderness against inequality and injustice. The Communists are standing up for minorities, labor, and women; artists, writers, intellectuals, and idealists are attracted. But, if you were affiliated with any group that supported these causes or attended even one meeting, you might be haunted and hounded later. One visit to a meeting in 1933 could lead to questioning, humiliation and even ruin in 1953.
YOU WOULD BE THE ENEMY.
So, the Cold War Enemy was created out of a Conflict of Values -- remember, to win, there must be a loser, and the threat must come from without.
Watch how the values of paranoia and paradox help to identify the Cold War enemy.
1. In 1946 Stalin said: “Communism and Capitalism are incompatible.” This becomes a premise by which all further arguments can be made.
2. Churchill argues to Truman that a unified Anglo-American opposition to Stalin was necessary. It is now an US vs THEM in human terms. The camps have been drawn. It is clear who is the hero and whom he will oppose.
3. In a telegram to Truman, George Kennan said that Soviet power was the product of a MONOLITHIC ideology and the RUSSIAN BEHAVIOR was determined by a “traditional and instinctive Russian sense of insecurity.” The identification of the enemy broadens to indicate a people, not just a political philosophy or Beast-Dragon.
4. “Communism is a malignant parasite which feeds only on diseased tissue” (George Kennan). Here, we have a replay of Hitler’s tactics against the Jews. The enemy becomes a personified Evil, not a person or a people, or a political philosophy, but a force that has power to corrupt. The problem is that only a culture that is weak is vulnerable to this force. Therefore, if Communism exists in America, we must get rid of the “diseased tissue.”
5. “The greatest danger is that we shall allow ourselves to become like those with whom we are coping” (George Kennan to Truman).
Here is the rationale for paranoia: to rid the culture of any who appear to have the characteristics of the enemy. The threat is greater than the reality.
To SUCCEED, we had to convince the public that nuclear war was no big thing–that we could survive easily. In other words, you too can have a bomb shelter. Your children are safe when they duck, roll, ‘n cover. On the other hand, there is imminent danger all around us. At any moment we can die and the person next to you in church or the supermarket may carry the lethal means to destroy the world.
One way to get across this sense of paradox and paranoia was to use television and movies. One interesting phenomenon was the use of science fiction. Science Fiction films could be pure entertainment and escapism but they could also plant a message in every paranoid American’s psyche. The greatest movie of all was “The Invasion of the Body Snatchers.” The idea that body-searching extraterrestrials could take over the world was a perfect metaphor for how Americans should feel every day. The primary goal of these pod-people was to convert all humans into members of their emotionless army. After the transformation, the “pod People” lack feelings of love, desire, ambition, and faith. Americans feared that communists could live and work among them without being detected. No one would know who they were, but eventually they could rise to power.
Hundreds of movies were released during the long period of The Cold War (40 years). Although the movies went through various changes, two currents always remained: WE CAN SURVIVE THIS WITH RELATIVELY LITTLE EFFORT and WE ARE SURROUNDED BY INFILTRATORS AT ALL TIMES. This sense of Fragmentation undermines stability. In the movies, technology was a giver and a destroyer. The movie “2001" is an example of technology controlling its human master. HAL, the computer becomes at one with and then greater than all human intelligence. “Demon Seed,“ a B- movie in 1977, brings uncontrolled technology into the home when the computer PROTEUS rapes the wife of its master, desiring an offspring.
Even if these films were not intended to instill fear in the American people, they fed an already gaping wound: There is no way that I can ever know when I’m going to be completely controlled by the unknown force. And, underneath the fear was the reality of 25,000 nuclear warheads on each side of the globe.
The Cold War finally ended, but even the CIA isn’t certain why. Some say the Soviet economy was doomed and the Afghanistan War was the final nail in the empire’s coffin; others like to attribute the end to the Star Wars Initiative of Ronald Reagan and his hard line.
If winning is everything, then I guess the Hero-of-Achievement won the
Cold War. The thousands and thousands and thousands of killed and injured
in all the proxy and real wars, the enormous cost to environment and health,
the terrible legacy of Blowback still don’t give us the answer. Who was
the REAL enemy in the COLD WAR CULTURAL MATRIX? I suppose when paranoia
rules the culture, and fragmentation is the consequence, there is no definitive
answer. Our culture doesn’t understand CONTRARIETY. Perhaps that’s the