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Posts Tagged ‘japanese nationalism’

Some Thoughts on the Best Way to Destroy Pathological Ideologies: 3

July 25, 2018 12 comments

In the previous post of this series, I pointed out that WW1 (and WW2) led to a marked reduction in the number of mediocre men in Europe who were willing or able to support the ideology of race-based colonialism. FYI- I am not implying that remainder of population in those countries experienced enlightenment and became liberal after 1945. It just so happened that the survivors finally realized they were just disposable tools who did not benefit from sustaining and working for the ideology in question which hen lost it critical mass of followers.

Also said something about discussing the effect of WW2 on continued viability of ideologies such as German Nazism, Japanese Nationalism and associated belief systems such as Eugenics. Well.. I am going to do that now. But before we go there, let us talk about how all or any of this relates to the world we live in right now. So let us start by asking ourselves with a few questions about why things in the world around us are the way they are.

Why did all the non-violent movements which began in response to the global financial crisis of 2008 (Occupy Wallstreet etc) not translate into anything beyond spicy memes and memorable slogans? Why have large public demonstrations against extra-judicial murder of black men by police in USA not reduced their incidence? Why does the debt load of students attending universities in USA keep on climbing every single year to even more ridiculous levels? Why do costs of mediocre healthcare in USA keep on rising every year?

Why do elected officials, bureaucrats and the ‘system’ in general act is if they can get way with anything they want? Why do working conditions for the average person keep on getting worse with each passing year? Why do large corporations feel so confident in their ability to abuse their customers without any real consequences? Why does the militarization of “law enforcement” apparatus in USA continue unabated? Why do petty bureaucrats, alt-right supporters and SJWs think they can harass and abuse others at will?

The very simplistic answer to those questions is that all those people, groups and entities firmly believe that they can get away with whatever they want because they will no repercussions or accountability for their actions. A significantly longer answer starts with acknowledging something that most people are unwilling to, namely that you cannot convert assholes, parasites and viruses into someone who is not noxious. People who build their existence around being an asshole, parasite, virus or an ardent supporter of noxious ideologies are never going to have an epiphany or willing give up being abusers.

Nazism did not decline into insignificance and become disreputable because its supporters saw the light of reason. Nazism became a disreputable and insignificant ideology because most of its ardent supporters were killed on the eastern front in WW2 or died in soviet ‘labor’ camps after WW2. Oh.. and most women in the eastern part of Germany were raped by Russian soldiers after WW2. To put it another way, even marginal supporters of Nazism had to pay a very heavy price for their previous support of that ideology.

Lets just say that it took a lot of effort to make sure that Nazism became a highly disreputable and marginal ideology. And you know something else.. there was realistically no other way to reach that endpoint. Do you really think that ardent believers in Nazism would have changed their ways if they had just been exposed to another viewpoint, received a better education, read more books or witnessed non-violent demonstrations against that ideology? Do you think they would have changed their viewpoints if they had interacted with more Jews or Russians?

The point I am trying to make is that supporters of ideologies which attract members through the promise of a license to inflict pain and death on innocent people cannot be reasoned or bargained with. The ultra-nationalists who flourished in Japan between 1919-1945 did have genuine grievances with international system of that era. They were also correct about Japan being short-changed after WW1. The Nazis too rose to public popularity based on genuine grievances such the highly unfair nature of Versailles treaty and the Great Depression which started in 1929.

But that does not excuse what Nazis did to millions of Eastern Europeans and Jews or Japanese did to millions more in China and Korea. But more importantly, a large part of the mass appeal of both ideologies was that they provided an opportunity and excuse for mediocre CONservative men in both countries to torture and kill millions in other countries. Let us not pretend that the vast majority of ardent supporters of Nazism and Japanese nationalism actually cared about the ideology they allegedly believed in, other than as justification for torture and murder.

Ideology, you see, is simply a self-justification for behavior. You cannot, therefore, destroy a noxious ideology by exposing its internal contradictions, hilarious irrationality and general emptiness. Ardent supporters of noxious ideologies use them as mental crutches to justify what they want to do while still being able to claim to themselves that they are “good”, “moral” and “law-abiding” persons. Noxious ideologies can only be destroyed once most of their ardent supporters are dead and the rest discredited as losers in conflicts.

In the next part, I will write more on how the mental crutch provided by ideologies such as Nazism and Japanese nationalism allowed its supporters to perform truly horrible acts in the 20th century. I will also compare that to how belief in race-based colonialism was used by mediocre CONservative men from European countries to justify equally horrific acts in the 19th century.

What do you think? Comments?

Propaganda and Advertising have Poor Real-Life Efficacy: 1

December 2, 2017 4 comments

The title of this post might, at first glance, seem almost counter-intuitive to whatever most of you desire to believe about the efficacy of advertising and propaganda. After all, why would all those super rich and therefore allegedly “smart” people spend tens of billions on advertising if it was largely futile? Or why would various governments spend even more money and devote a lot of personnel to create and disseminate propaganda. Surely, even semi-competent people would not spend that much money and effort on something of negligible efficacy. Or would they?

Let us start by talking about all the disastrous, expensive and ultimately ruinous wars initiated by “great leaders” and “highly trained generals” throughout human history, such as WW1 and WW2 and the present. Or think about all the giant multi-national corporations (Xerox, Kodak, Motorola, Blockbuster etc) that have failed because their leadership kept on making bad and ultimately disastrous decisions. My point is that there is no evidence that all those supposedly “smart” leaders of large corporations and nations (and their underlings) are even reasonably good at their jobs- in spite of being paid a lot of money and wielding much power.

If all that evidence doesn’t satisfy you, ponder a bit about how a mediocre reality TV star such as Trump won the republican nomination by steamrolling 16 “professional” life-long politicians and then defeated the darling of the neoliberal establishment, aka HRC, in the 2016 presidential general election. My point is that people who are supposed to be “elite” are, for all practical purposes, incompetent posers who just happened to get a lucky break or hit a lucky streak in their past. Their choices and decisions should not, therefore, be interpreted as evidence of deep thought, competence or efficacy.

But what about all those books you have read touting the amazing effectiveness of propaganda and adverting? What about all those documentaries made by Adam Curtis? What about all those books written by Noam Chomsky, especially this one? Surely, all these supposedly brilliant left-leaning “intellectuals” must have some wondrous insight into the power of propaganda and advertising that is not obvious to “non-experts”. Or maybe they want to pretend to believe in something which can explain their own impotence while simultaneously making a decent amount of money and fame?

To make a very long story a bit shorter, I shall now talk about a few examples of what are often considered to be best examples of success for propaganda and advertising to show you that the real reason why most people appear to go along with that crap is very different from what you are willing to accept.

Example 1: Propaganda in World War I

The attempts by all belligerent European governments to sell the idea of fighting WW1 to their subjects.. I mean citizens.. is sometimes seen as the first instance of governments deploying mass propaganda on a large and systematic scale. But was it really effective? Or were the other reasons behind the public support for war? Have you ever considered that the real reasons for public support for that war might have something to do with the expectations and mindset of people in that era?

Ok, let me ask you a question. What percentage of the population, including the “elites”, of that era could even imagine a war on such a gigantic scale going on for four years? If you don’t believe me.. read the correspondences of both soldiers and generals who fought in that war. It quickly becomes obvious that even 2-3 years into WW1, most of those involved in the actual fighting and planning believed that some new military tactic, weapons system or strategy would somehow magically translate into a swift and decisive victory.

Furthermore, the general public in European countries had not lived through such a large war on their soil, let alone one that could last more than a few weeks. Perhaps most importantly, the very high number of deaths and casualties in each participating nation, within even the first few months of that war, made it basically impossible for either the people of those nations or their leaders to settle for anything short of “total victory”. It was really about an uncontrollable and escalating cycle of vengeance at a time when contemporary culture was characterized by social darwinist thinking.

I would go so far as to suggest that the total absence of propaganda during that time would have no worthwhile effect on the conduct, length or outcome of that war. The sheer amount of wishful thinking based on past experiences in pre-modern societies based on social darwinism combined with the high number of children per woman and the second stage of the industrial revolution made every single aspect of that war pretty much inevitable. The government support of propaganda and advertising were, at best, avenues for creating patriotic sounding jobs for the sons of rich and connected people who did not want to risk their lives at the front.

Example 2: Militaristic Nationalism in Japan between 1920 and 1946.

Another important, though less commonly discussed, alleged example for success of propaganda concerns the rise of extreme militaristic nationalism between 1920 and 1946. It is, for example, common knowledge, that the Japanese armed forces fought bravely and often to the last man even in seemingly futile battles such those for Iwo Jima and Okhinawa. Then there are all those accounts of Kamikaze plane attacks and Banzai charges. By any measure, the soldiers and other personnel of the Imperial Japanese forces during WW2 were highly driven and ideologically motivated. But was it due to propaganda?

Many conventional historical accounts of 1920s-1930s era Japan strongly suggest, or just outright say, that the government- especially factions controlled by the military establishment put in a lot of effort and resources to inculcate a certain nationalistic ideology among the Japanese people. This extended from simple censorship of media to elaborate mock training of schoolchildren to fight in wars. But how much effect did any of these traditional and non-traditional avenues of propaganda have on the type of nation that Japan became in the late 1930s and really 1940s?

In my opinion- very little and here is why. Understanding the reasons which led to the Japanese people embracing an extreme right-wing nationalistic ideology predicated in their racial superiority requires us to put ourselves in the world as seen by the average Japanese person in the that era. Japan, you see, went from a medieval feudal society to a modern industrialized one within less than 50 years from the beginning of the Meiji period. By the beginning of WW1, and certainly by its end in 1918, its industrial, academic and engineering achievements had surpassed almost every other country but a few (USA, UK, France and Germany).

All these achievements and competencies had, however, not been helped it increase its global prestige, power or access to raw materials. In contrast, even third-rate European powers like Portugal, Netherlands and Belgium had large colonies in Asia and Africa. The treaty of Versailles simply confirmed that Japan, as an Asian country, would never be welcome as an equal in the imperialist white man’s club. At that time, Korea was the only real overseas colonial possession of the Japanese empire- and it was hardly a desirable one.

But it was a much bigger problem than diplomatic slights at the hands of white European nations. Japan had a large population but only a small part of it was arable or inhabitable. One unintentional, but somewhat welcome, consequences of the industrial revolution in Japan was that many millions of newly educated and skilled Japanese started moving to Korea, China and other East-Asian countries to make a living. There they encountered nation after nation of subjugated Asian people living in a pre-industrial era.

It is therefore not surprising that the idea of racial superiority was so readily accepted by Japanese people in that era. They could see that their country was the most developed and powerful country for thousands of miles in any direction. And yet, this did not translate into any material advantage for them. It is therefore not surprising that leaders spouting right-wing militaristic ideas about conquering and exploiting the resources of surrounding countries became popular in Japan. They were just saying out loud what everyone else was thinking.

In the upcoming part of this series, I intend to talk about why Nazi propaganda appeared to be so effective until the final year of WW2, why soviet propaganda appeared to succeed until the early 1970s and why american propaganda appeared to succeed for decades before entering its death spiral after 2008. Here is a hint.. in all three cases, people appeared to go along with the propaganda only as long as the underlying system provided at least part of what it had promised.

What do you think? Comments?