Necessary Illusions Copyright © 1989 by Noam Chomsky
Appendix V Segment 33/33
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Yet another problem, in Lewy's view, is that the FBI "now ignores the entire range of subversive activities that are neither illegal nor linked to a foreign power." The "United States" is thus deprived of means previously available to "cope with" enemies who are so deceitful as to operate within the law, and who are "politically dishonest by hiding one's true political aims or knowingly planting lies and disinformation." Prominent in this category are the church-based groups and others that opposed the Vietnam war and are carrying out similar "calculated political deception" with regard to our crusade for freedom in Central America. The "lies and disinformation" of these subversive elements in the service of their hidden agendas or foreign masters "may poison the marketplace of ideas and damage a democratic society more seriously than the overt advocacy of forceful overthrow." A serious problem indeed, for those committed to "democracy."
"Private initiatives" to control these subversives and foreign agents are inadequate to the awesome task, Lewy concludes. This is so despite the contributions by groups that "expose leftist-sponsored manipulation," including the John Birch Society, "the American Security Council, established in the mid-fifties to help corporations check the political background of potential employees" (evidently a worthy objective in a free society), and "Lyndon Larouche, founder of the U.S. Labor party."197 It is therefore necessary for the state itself to assume the "valid undertaking" of "throwing light on subversive designs."
The state must become directly engaged in a form of "consumer protection" to ensure that the public will "know when an individual or organization is in effect an agent of a foreign state" and to protect the public "against deception in the marketplace of ideas." "Ideas should compete openly and honestly," but "with full information available about the motives of those who would sway the body politic," information that must be provided by the state authorities. The state, then, must register what is True and identify those who deny Official Truth as subversive if not foreign agents, exposing their hidden motives and deceitful practice, and letting the public "know when an individual or organization is in effect an agent of a foreign state." In this way, it can guard against "subversion of the democratic process."
Given that the state is all-knowing and wise, we need not be concerned that it will err in its formulation of Official Truth and exposure of "deception," "subversive designs," "disinformation" and other devices of those who pursue their malicious "hidden agendas" while publicly professing a concern for peace, justice, international law, human rights, and other values. And those who are devoted to (a certain conception of) democracy must therefore accord the state the right, even the duty, to conduct this enterprise.
But identification of hidden foreign agents and subversives who dare to question what the state determines to be True does not suffice. Lewy urges that the state also maintain surveillance and "gather information on potentially subversive groups," thus enabling it to "protect citizens from falsely labelled ideas as it does already protect them from falsely labelled commercial products" (to be sure, "without infringing on individual rights," in his conception of such rights, at least). He suggests the model of the West German Basic Law of 1949, which permits state authorities to "focus the glare of publicity on anti-democratic political forces -- an innovative and successful feature of West Germany's `militant democracy' that bears a closer look." While the FBI "probably" cannot use such techniques as robbery, break-in, and electronic surveillance freely, it can still find means "to publicize the activities of extremists" and thus "check the machinations of the enemies of the democratic system before they constitute a `clear and present danger'."198
To guarantee the workings of the free market, there must be "accurate labels on the package" (quoting Morris Ernst), and it is the responsibility of the state to provide these labels for ideas. It is necessary to expose the hidden Communist agenda of such segments of "the radical left" as Clergy and Laity Concerned about Vietnam, which secretly sought "victory for North Vietnam" and "worked to create a political climate in which the United States was seen as the aggressor and perpetrator of evil in Vietnam," conclusions which must be labelled by the state authorities as False, because Lewy asserts them to be false. Departing from his general procedure, Lewy actually provides evidence for his charges about the hidden agenda of Clergy and Laity Concerned and the Washington-based Indochina Resource Center. The evidence is that "Fred Halstead, a member of the (Trotskyite) Socialist Workers Party and one of the movement's leading figures, revealed after it was all over that `our central task...was to put maximum pressure on the U.S. to get out of Vietnam'" and thus "help the Vietnamese revolution." Halstead and the SWP said exactly the same thing, quite openly, long before "it was all over," indeed always; and Clergy and Laity Concerned, the Indochina Resource Center, and other "New Left" criminals will be intrigued to learn that Halstead was one of their leaders -- or will at least feign surprise, in pursuit of their hidden agenda.
Similarly, those who "allege that the Sandinistas are democratic socialists and dedicated to Christianity...are not staking out another legitimate political position but are manipulating a falsehood," and such misdeeds must be exposed by the state authorities, to protect democracy and the free market of ideas; the state "consumer protection" agency must act, for example, when Conor Cruise O'Brien, in the Atlantic Monthly, deceitfully pretends to discern Christian elements in the Sandinista revolution. The same is true of those who "deny or minimize Soviet-bloc support for the Marxist-Leninist guerrillas of Central America" (joining ex-CIA analyst David MacMichael and the International Court of Justice, among other subversives) while "decrying U.S. aid for the democratic regimes" of Central America, just as their predecessors claimed "to seek peace while surreptiously working for a communist victory" in Vietnam (the entire New Left). Among those pursuing such subversive designs in secret are the liberal lobbying group Coalition for a New Foreign and Military Policy, the research organization NACLA, Women's Strike for Peace, and others who try to conceal their "hidden agendas" with their "machinations." All such elements should be identified by the state authorities in "an American report on extremism and subversion irrespective of whether they have formal links with the Soviet Union or other communist regimes."
To a totalitarian, Lewy observes, "an opponent is by definition subversive" (quoting Jean François Revel). This point, at least, is accurate, as he demonstrates throughout, apparently unwittingly.
Such thoughts elicit neither contempt nor ridicule. Rather, they appear in the respected journal of the Foreign Policy Research Institute in Philadelphia edited by Daniel Pipes, with a distinguished board of editors.
I have mentioned only one case, admittedly extreme. But there are substantial currents that resonate to such sentiments, and other forms of attack on free expression are all too easily illustrated. The victories for freedom of speech that have been won are far from stable.
Still, there have been victories. In other domains as well, there is detectable progress in the guarantee of fundamental human rights, difficult as it may be to pronounce such words in the century that has given us Hitler and Stalin, agonizingly slow as the process may be. There remains a long path ahead, and without constant vigilance and popular determination, there is no "guarantee of security" for what has already been attained.
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197 Among their dramatic exposures is the fact that Marcus Raskin of the Institute of Policy Studies and I are "terrorist commanders" who, working with the CIA, the KGB, and other cohorts, control the international terror network, planned to set off atom bombs in American cities to disrupt the bicentennial, etc., while our colleagues such as the Queen of England control the international drug racket, linked with international Zionism and other nefarious elements. All of this, of course, is "hidden agenda," though penetrable by the skilled investigator.
198 Emphasis added.