War is an anachronism

War is a poor way to control and influence others.

A better way is propaganda. It surprises me that Russia resorts to war in Ukraine when its propaganda machine is so effective. Invasions leave enemies who just want to kill you.

image: book cover

The best way is to use propaganda that’s not even recognized as propaganda.

That’s what U.S. does so well. They call it the “entertainment industry.” Others call it the exportation of U.S. culture. Fundamentally, its propaganda. It portrays the American way of life as ideal; despite the fact that millions of Americans who face poverty, discrimination and poor access to health care.

Tanner Mirrless, in his book Hearts and Mines, The US Empire’s Culture Industry details the U.S. propaganda machine. The way of winning the world was formulated long ago.

“On April 14,1917, a week after the US joined the Allied forces by declaring war on Germany, President Woodrow Wilson used his executive power to establish the Committee on Public Information (CPI) for the purpose of rallying US and world opinion to the cause of defeating Germany and promoting the supremacy of the United States’ liberal democratic capitalist ideals,” says Mirrless.

“The CPI mobilized every sector of the US culture industry, especially the PR wing, in order to engineer public consent to its version of America and to censor expressions of dissent.”

The U.S. cultural industry has had a profound effect on the spread of American values. With the advent of rock ‘n’ roll in the sixties, The Rolling Stones and Elvis Presley were all sporting blue denim. This aesthetic penetrated the Soviet Bloc and Russian youths clamored for the apparel of the rebel U.S. culture.

Bruce Springsteen released Born In The USA in 1984. The cover, shot by Annie Lebovitz, featured Springsteen’s ass in all its American glory, clad in a pair of jeans – these were jeans that had been worn by a red-blooded, all-American male. “It was the ass of free-market capitalism (dazeddigital.com).”

Russian youths enthusiastically embraced jeans and all that they represented. It was a propaganda coup.

Despite the successes of the mighty U.S. propaganda machine, the U.S. continues to go to war with bad outcomes.

The American invasion of Canada in the War of 1812 didn’t go well for the Yankees. In retaliation, we invaded Washington City and burned down the Capitol. It was the only time since the American Revolutionary War that a foreign power has captured and occupied the capital of the United States.

In echoes of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, then past U.S. President Thomas Jefferson declared in August,1812, “The acquisition of Canada, this year, as far as the neighborhood of Quebec, will be a mere matter of marching.”

Russian president Putin displays the same hubris as Jefferson when he imagines a walk in the park as Ukrainians throw flowers and kisses at the liberating troops.

If you want to gain influence and control of others, don’t corner them in a back alley with a gang of thugs at your back and beat them up –win them over with entertainment that carries your culture.

Persuasion is far more effective than war.  It’s time we sent the military types like Putin to the corner with a dunce cap on and let them reflect on the error of their ways.

 “Keep your friends close; keep your enemies closer. (Sun Tzu).”

Canada could have stopped pandemic earlier -but at what cost?

Two nations have contrasting approaches to the control of COVID-19. One uses state-control, the other appeals to the individual’s sense of citizenship.

image: Forbes

China’s approach was to seal off the source of the outbreak in Wuhan in January. It was a draconian step to halt the spread of the deadly virus but by all reports, it seems to have worked.

On January 25, 2020, a man flew to Toronto from Wuhan and became the first presumptive case of the coronavirus in Canada. Airports were such an obvious point of vulnerability. Canada could have taken similar drastic measures by sealing off airports and by doing so, halted the virus in its tracks.

However, Canadians would have never accepted such heavy-handed a tactic. Instead, passengers arriving by air were asked to self-isolate, a tactic that depended on compliance.

I can imagine how I would have felt if, after arriving back from Mexico in March, I was herded into holding facilities and subjected to forced quarantine. Instead, some nice young people handed me an information sheet and advised me to stay at home for two weeks.

Sweden is trying a different approach. That county has no lockdowns, no school closures, and no ban on going to the pub.

Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven is appealing to citizenship, calling this a “common sense” response to the pandemic. Rather than the heavy hand of the state in controlling the pandemic, Sweden is depending on the power of citizens do the right thing. “We who are adults need to be exactly that – adults. Not spread panic or rumours,” said Lofven. “No one is alone in this crisis, but each person has a heavy responsibility.”

Faith in Swedish common sense is admirable but it doesn’t seem to be working. While Denmark, Finland, and Norway have seen some reductions in hospitalizations pre million, Sweden is still on the rise as of April 8. Swedish public opinion regarding the tactic is divided about 50/50. The Swedish government will likely change its mind if public opinion opts for more isolation.

I suspect that the public opinion of the citizens of Wuhan matters little. The Chinese state is not moved by public opinion.

Maybe some state intervention during a health crisis might be a good thing.

While an informed citizenry is a powerful democratic tool, reliable information is becoming scarce in this fractured newsworld of “true facts.”

An ill-informed citizenry leads to a chaotic response and the spread of disease.

Take vaccinations, for example. Some parents are informed by what they are led to believe are reliable sources; sources that say vaccinations cause autism and disease. In that case, the state has stepped in some jurisdictions to impose vaccinations for the health and safety of all.

The common good has to outweigh the misguided opinions of a few.

Canada has adopted a balance of heavy-handedness and public education. We accept that schools, restaurants, and stores have been shut down. Those who disagree with the fact of the pandemic, as an expression of their liberty to think as please, face limitations of movement and social censure.

Canada falls somewhere between state-intervention and freedom of expression. Sometimes the powers of government have to be used judiciously to outweigh the whims of individualists in order to protect greater society.