Friday, December 10, 2021

Note from a Dark Day in the United States, Not Long Ago

I posted the following essay to the Member's Message Board of the American Psychoanalytic Association, during the night of the January 6th 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol Building. The post begins as a response to an eminent psychoanalytic historian, Peter Loewenberg.

Dear Peter,

Thank you very much for the passion of your post about this mad coup attempt, which I share. But it seems to me your experience of outraged bewilderment at "incompetence" among the gendarmes is only one option among several. You wrote, "It reminds me of the Dallas Police who let Oswald, the one person who had unknown answers to the assassination of President J.F. Kennedy (Russian stay, trip to Cuba), be murdered in the Dallas courthouse just hours after the event."

"One person"? Suffice it to say, this begs the question; there were many people who had answers that were "unknown" at the time, and became well known later; people did talk. Decades of FOIA releases, depositions, and other vetted sources populate the current understanding of 11-22-63, best codified in JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died and Why It Matters, by James Douglass, S.J., among many other superb accounts.

The active role of the Dallas Police Department in 11-22-63 is well documented, but in some circles, it's still not respectable to discuss it. C. Fred Alford's Whistleblowers: Broken Lives and Organizational Power is a brilliant analysis of why that is.

I was for several years (2003-2006) the editor and collaborator of such a whistleblower, a former LAPD officer whom the CIA had attempted to recruit in the late 1970's. He refused when he learned their mission involved participating in the narco-economy in his precinct (Mid-Wilshire) and beyond. Michael Ruppert (1951-2014) was eventually driven to suicide, partly due to the strain of advocating for a dissident narrative with a detective's passion for evidence and argumentation, rather than the mere resentment and fantasia that we all deplore. Gary Webb met a similar fate. Some dissident American journalists, historians, and whistleblowers are incarcerated; others are more fortunate, living to work and thrive, by the mysteries of resilience and the love of friends and family. We increase the safety of them all, and our own, when we take their positions seriously.

Part of the reason Capitol Hill is currently under siege is the Forty Year Assault on the Public University; part is the work of right-wing think tanks shaping the public airwaves; and part is the complacency of American intellectuals who allowed the national security state to get away with domestic political assassinations for fifty years. This happened because the social and professional price of political truth-telling was and remains high, the world over.

America is no more immune to the quiet, complacent pressures against reasoned dissent than it is immune to state crimes against democracy. I believe what is happening tonight is a right-wing populist insurgency, saturated with racist ideology, information, misinformation, and abundant disinformation, continually egged on by Trump, Giuliani, and their authoritarian allies. The insurgents are, it seems, incompetent, poorly organized, enraged, thoughtless, and terrified of weakness, which inspires their sadism. But to emphasize the "incompetence" of the police is, in my view, to risk excusing their cynicism and their deceptively passive participation, as if  dangerous inaction against the insurgents were due to the armed authorities' lack of skill or training.

The FBI established back in 20o6 what the Black community and aspiring allies had known for many years: U.S. law enforcement, federal and otherwise, is (to a limited but alarming degree) pervaded by white supremacists. Surely the failure to purge police departments (and other armed authoritarian elements of the domestic national security state such as I.C.E.) of these persons is the work of more than incompetence, inertia, and faceless structural forces. And of course, the militarization of American police installations across the country can't be pinned on a "lone nut."

Much of the reason these pro-fascist insurgents will believe anything they are told, even if hateful and/or demonstrably false, is because the public state and its institutions abused the public's trust so many times, promulgating official falsehoods from 11-22-63, to 4-4-68, to 6-5-68, to Iran-Contra, to the WMD hoax of the Bush-Cheney administration, and so on. Leo Rangell's enduring work on Watergate: The Compromise of Integrity is exemplary of how psychoanalysis can bring its ethical commitments to bear on public life without falling prey to the seductions of disinformation (including official discourse at its worst), nor to its mirror image in misinformation (good-faith efforts at research that come to grief one way or another). That is, arguably, one of the vocation's responsibilities.

The "deep state" (a formerly obscure idiom from 
Turkish political science, recently appropriated and rendered useless by the MAGA right) triumphs over the public state when "anything can be believed, and nothing can be known." All this shock that a coup d'etat could possibly "happen here" is, I feel, rather obscene, since one succeeded 57 years ago, to the destruction of millions (mostly children, it seems), who perished in the ensuing regional conflicts in Southeast AsiaIndonesiaLatin and Central America and Africa. There is plenty of outrage to go around.

This is essentially my first foray into public discourse on APsA's listserv, having graduated as an analyst last July. I had no wish to marginalize myself by posting such a position, but I do myself a moral injury if I keep silent on this point. And Dr. Katz' posting of today's Black Lives Matter statement is a welcome harbinger of more frank public discourse---in which I repose my civic and, I suppose, even my professional hopes. If that BLM statement is intuitively acceptable to APsA members, as it seems to be, perhaps this one will be, too, since it is by no means unconnected (see, e.g., John Potash's bookon COINTELPRO, that I blurbed in 2007).

Civic debate can be hollowed out from above and from below, neither by omnipotent but unprincipled authorities acting alone, nor by rightist mobs out of nowhere---but by a long history of relationships between our best governing institutions, and those whose cynicism leads them to exploit these from within and from without, using deception and violence. Much of the liberal class makes this possible by complacently repeating the phrase "conspiracy theory" (which, I note, has not been done here) without noticing that it precludes discussion of any and all deliberate crimes against the public, except those committed by collective abstractions, by some "lone nut," or by accident. The phrase should be discarded.

I believe (1) Truth and Reconciliation---especially about the domestic political murders of the American 1960's to the present---is a necessary ingredient in any stable recovery of our political culture in the United States, along with (2) the active deconstruction of the toxic fiction of "whiteness," by European-Americans and others with white privilege, partly through (3) reparations for Black Americans and American Indians. The work of national recovery will fail unless it reckons with these extremely divisive issues, which must surely be named if they are to be addressed.

I hope my voice is not unwelcome here, though it may be unfamiliar in more than one way.

I usually talk about other things. Not tonight.

Thank you.
Jamey Adam Hecht, PhD, PsyD, LMFT ca/ny