The opening shot — piercing the soft underbelly of the rogue GOP elephant — hit the target on August 31, on the front page of the bravest little newspaper in America: The Lone Star Iconoclast of Crawford, Texas. It announced production of a Fellini-style film titled:Deflating the Elephant, to be directed by the author of this article, a 75-year old anti-fascist film maker who collaborated with one of the world’s greatest directors, Federico Fellini, almost half a century ago.
There you’ll find the following paragraph:
Americans must deflate Bush’s ugly and false frame of « war on terror, » created to justify siphoning billions of our tax dollars into an overblown war machine and stuffing the pockets of his corporate cronies. Terrorists are criminals. They are not nations Congress could declare war against. We don’t need generals to stop international crimes. We need James Bond. We need international police action to find killers like Osama and Omar that our chicken hawk pResident let escape. We need to neutralize the box cutters and homemade bombs by learning from Scotland Yard how to catch bombers in a couple of days without moving an army half way around the world to hunt insurgents among oil wells and without bombing innocent villagers out of existence. We don’t need nuclear bunker busters and Abraham tanks.
On September 7, by natural coincidence, another 75-year old man, George Soros, who also, like this author, lived through the horrors of Nazism in his early youth, published an advertisement in the Wall Street Journal containing the same idea:
I should like to challenge the very concept of the « war on terror. » It is a metaphor that needs to be challenged because it has been accepted uncritically and applied literally. If anybody dares to say that there is something wrong with framing the struggle against terrorism as « the war on terror, » it is immediately assumed that there is something wrong with him. So nobody dares to say it yet it needs to be said because the war on terror as we have waged it since 9/11 has done more harm than good. It has not prevented terrorist attacks around the world yet it has diverted our attention from other vital tasks (like strengthening the levees in New Orleans), damaged our dominant position in the world and endangered our open society.
This was indeed a natural coincidence demonstrating that George Soros and Aldo Vidali both share a clear understanding of how fascists cunningly abuse the art of framing. Such understanding comes from first-hand experience of right wing oppression. Though never having met, Soros and I, both expressed the importance of understanding the framing of language, not only for the survival of democracy, but for the survival of humanity.
Understanding the art of framing is essential to regaining control of the steering wheel of history. The importance of this fact cannot be overstated in a time when life, liberty, and justice are in perilous balance on the edge of a deadly abyss.
These circumstances compel all sane people to urgent united action. Immediate cultural transformation is now a matter of life or death.
What Republicans have been concealing behind their false « war on terror » frame was starkly revealed by the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina. That frame, as Soros has written, was used to divert our attention from other vital issues facing our nation, especially the widening gap between wealth and poverty. The top 1 percent of the U.S. population owns about one third of the wealth in the country, while the middle class and the rest of the population are sinking evermore into poverty. It is ridiculous for most of the wealthy upper class to claim that this obscene wealth imbalance has been earned by honest work.
Deflating the Elephant is a mind-expanding co-production by a growing association of multi-media professionals and activists, aimed at cultural transformation by empowering of citizens to reclaims their civil and human rights.
The first net-streaming trailer, which progressive organizations are invited to link to, is already online. Similar online capsules will be streamed to prepare audiences for an entirely new experience: a nation-shaking Fellini-style movie that will intriguingly reveal how the American people have been taken on a long dupe-ride by a bunch of greedy con men. Through unforgettable entertainment the film will give audiences the skills and tools to debunk false conservative frames and will reveal the way to positively re-frame the national dialogue, as taught by George Lakoff in his bestseller: Don’t Think of an Elephant.
Framing is intrinsic to human language. Over the ages it was applied in both positive and negative ways to advance political and religious agendas. Lakoff’s unique merit lies in his revelation of how Republicans, through acquisition and control of mass media and the financing of multi-billion dollar think-tanks, deftly used this art in dark ways to subvert America’s liberal and progressive culture into a narrow, regressive, non-compassionate, ultra-conservative, class-divided society that protects the selfish rich and exploits middle class families and working people into increasing poverty.
Frames, used skillfully, are powerful brain-invasive devices. Millions of hard working Americans have been mesmerized into voting against their own economic interests by being made to believe that if they keep « pulling themselves up by their bootstraps » (an old false frame), they will some day strike it rich. This ridiculous frame paints a literal impossibility because no one can pull oneself up by his or her own bootstraps, and the frame becomes even more absurd when one is too broke to buy boots, no matter how much one may wish to believe in Horatio Alger fairy tales.
To advance their religious agenda, both Christianoid and pseudo-Muslim fundamentalist fanatics have crafted false frames couched in ancient Biblical and Quoranic metaphors that underpin the forma mentis of each tradition. For example, the centuries-old Islamic vision of paradise implanted in millions of minds provides the background upon which evil leaders can erect new mind-distorting frames, frames never intended by the founder of any religion, such as the false promise of 72 virgins waiting to delight young warriors willing to commit suicide to kill innocent Christians or Jews for the cause of Allah. The Biblical Samson committing suicide to kill 3000 Philistines by bringing down the temple is probably the first recorded act of God invoking suicidal terrorism. The number of victims is eerie — almost the same as the number killed in the falling WTC towers, the temple of modern commerce.
Similarly, distorted Christian frames couched in the same Abrahamic tradition are invoked to justify sacrificing the lives of thousands of young men and women for the « noble cause » (a Bush false frame), a « crusade » to « liberate » a Moslem country from its oil.
For thirty-five years, Republicans deceived the public. They financed and erected a massive framework of false metaphors designed to devalue traditional American ideals of Liberty and Justice and to destroy the separation of powers that has protected us from despotism since we got rid of King George. A very rich minority of corporate powers bought control of Congress through campaign finance bribery and acquired a near monopoly of mass media, thereby transforming our government into an obedient vassal. Millions of TV-addicted citizens were intimidated into fearful, exploitable, and dependent subjects willing to surrender their freedom for false security. All this was done while cleverly maintaining the transparent illusion that America is an enduring Democracy fighting evildoers. Remember the Bush frame: « enduring freedom? »
To document the offensive falsity of this « enduring freedom » frame and many others like it, I quote Dr. Paul Craig Roberts’ September 16, 2005 article: « America Has Fallen to a Jacobin Coup. » Dr. Roberts is a John M. Olin Fellow at the Institute for Political Economy and Research Fellow at the Independent Institute. He is a former associate editor of the Wall Street Journal, contributing editor for the National Review, and assistant secretary of the U.S. Treasury. Dr. Roberts co-authored The Tyranny of Good Intentions.
The most important casualties of September 11 are respect for truth and American liberty. Propaganda has replaced deliberation based on objective assessment of fact. The resurrection of the Star Chamber has made moot the legal protections of liberty…
Two and one-half years after the March 2003 invasion, the US Congress and the American people still do not know the reason Iraq was invaded. The US is bogged down in an expensive and deadly combat, and no one outside the small circle of neoconservatives who orchestrated the war knows the reason why. Many guesses are rendered – oil, removal of Israel’s enemy – but the Bush administration has never disclosed its real agenda, which it cloaked with the WMD deception.
This itself is powerful indication that American democracy is dead…
There is an even greater cost of the war – the legal system that protects liberty, a human achievement for which countless numbers of people gave their lives over the centuries. The Bush administration used September 11 to whip up fear and hysteria and to employ these weapons against American liberty. The Orwellian-named Patriot Act has destroyed habeas corpus. The executive branch has gained the unaccountable power to detain American citizens on mere suspicion or accusation, without evidence, and to hold Americans indefinitely without a trial.
Foolishly, many Americans believe this power can only be used against terrorists. Americans don’t realize that the government can declare anyone to be a terrorist suspect. As no evidence is required, it is entirely up to the government to decide who is a terrorist. Thus, the power is unaccountable. Unaccountable power is the source of tyranny.
The English-speaking world has not seen such power since the 16th and 17th centuries when the Court of Star Chamber became a political weapon used against the king’s opponents and to circumvent Parliament. The Star Chamber dispensed with juries, permitted hearsay evidence, and became so reviled that « Star Chamber » became a byword for injustice. The Long Parliament abolished the Star Chamber in 1641. In obedience to the Bush regime, the US Congress resurrected it with the Patriot Act. Can anything be more Orwellian than identifying patriotism with the abolition of habeas corpus?…
Federal officials have sensed the sea change in American law: arbitrary actions and assertions by federal officials are taking the place of statutory legislation. We saw an example recently when the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announced that news media covering the New Orleans hurricane story were prohibited from taking pictures of the bodies of inhabitants drowned when the levees failed. Nowhere is FEMA given authority to override the First Amendment. Yet, FEMA officials saw no reason not to issue its decree. Rome had one Caesar. America has them throughout the executive branch.
We see the same exercise of arbitrary authority in break-ins by police into New Orleans homes in order to confiscate legally owned firearms. No authority exists for these violations of the Second Amendment. No authority exists for the forceful removal of residents from non-damaged homes. Tyrannical precedents are being established by these fantastic abuses of government authority.
In the US today nothing stands in the way of the arbitrary exercise of power by government. Federal courts have acquiesced in unconstitutional detention policies. There is no opposition party, and there is no media, merely huge conglomerates or collections of federal broadcasting licenses, the owners of which are afraid to displease the government…
As Professor Claes Ryn made clear in his book, America the Virtuous, the neoconservatives are neo-Jacobins. There is nothing conservative about them. They are committed to the use of coercion to impose their agenda. Their attitude is merciless toward anyone in their way, whether fellow citizen or foreigner. « You are with us or against us. » For those on the receiving end, the Nazi and Jacobin mentalities come to the same thing.
The Bush administration has abandoned American principles. It is a Jacobin regime. Woe to its citizens and the rest of the world.
Fellini experienced the horrors of tyranny in fascist Italy, so he dedicated much of his art to ridiculing and demolishing the insane frames of fanaticism with stunning images.
I was a child under Mussolini’s dictatorship. Now at 75, I still remember my own fears. An SS officers club had requisitioned the third floor of the ancient building where my family lived in Rome. I remember the terror and trembling of a family of friends hiding in our eighth floor apartment, fearing a knock on the door and deportation to Nazi death camps in Germany. For more about that story read the interview .
Restoration of our original liberal and progressive tradition is possible if enough American leaders come to understand the amazing power of the art and science of framing and unite behind a vigorous restoration movement that can demolish the deceitful Republican framework by engaging as many Americans as possible in the exciting sport of « deflating the elephant. » It only takes a few leaders to move millions into action. That is all we need: a few leaders who understand clearly the utter urgency of deflating all the hot air out of the elephant.
The production of Deflating the Elephant answers that need by setting up a creative battle station for leading thinkers and movers willing to make this project their own and able to participate both creatively and financially in re-framing our culture and re-taking control of the national dialogue. It took 35 years and billions of dollars for Republican corporations to erect their ugly framework to transform America into the most insecure, truculent, and hatred aggressor in the world. The good news is that it takes a fraction of that time and money to demolish the ugly structure. All we need is a wrecking ball. Deflating the Elephant is it!
The Fellini way is a proven wrecking ball that has knocked down walls and revealed human folly. Fellini is to cinema what Shakespeare is to the theater, and both changed society in progressive ways.
America appeared on the stage of history with grandiose ideals framed in heart-lifting, unforgettable metaphors:
Land of the free, home of the brave.
One nation indivisible with liberty and justice for all.
We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal.
Our team is seeking creative minds, co-producers, and financial supporters to help complete and distribute this first production and to launch a collective plan of nationwide action as soon as possible.