The World Wants to Be Deceived

My title comes from a 19th century author whose name does not matter nor would it mean much if I mentioned him.  It’s an old truth that has not changed a bit over the centuries.  I think, however, it would be more linguistically accurate to say that most people want to be deceived, for the world, the earth doesn’t give a damn, as the French poet Jacques Prévert reminds us in “Song in the Blood”:

There are great puddles of blood on the world
where’s it all going all this spilled blood
is it the earth that drinks it and gets drunk
funny kind of drunkography then
so wise . . . so monotonous . . .
No the earth doesn’t get drunk
the earth doesn’t turn askew
it pushes its little car regularly its four seasons
rain . . . snow
hail . . . fair weather
never is it drunk
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
It doesn’t give a damn
The earth

But people, the thinking reeds as Pascal called us, we, who through the support of wars and violence of all sorts, care just enough to want to be deceived as to what we are doing by making so much blood that is inside people get to the outside for the earth to drink.

I could, of course, quote liberally from truth tellers down through history who have said the same thing about self-deception with all its shades and nuances. Those quotations are endless.  Why bother?  At some very deep level in the recesses of their hearts, people know it’s true.  I could make a pretty essay here, be erudite and eloquent, and weave a web of wisdom from all those the world says were the great thinkers because they are now dead and can no longer detect hypocrisy.

For the desire to be deceived and hypocrisy (Greek hypokrites, stage actor, a pretender) are kissing cousins.  I write this to try to say something of value about the mass idiocy of the media’s daily barrage of lies and stupidities that pass for news on the front pages and newscasts of the corporate media.  And the people who believe them.

It is not easy.  No matter how obviously absurd the claims about Chinese “spy” balloons, the shooting down of unidentified flying objects, reports of how Russia is losing the war in Ukraine, all the support for presidents and prime ministers who shill for the war industries, etc. – a list that could be extended indefinitely on a daily basis – these media are relentless in presenting government propaganda juxtaposed with trivia.

When you think they must realize they have gone too far since even a moron could see through their fabrications, they double down.  And I am referring only to what they do report, not what they omit – e.g. how the U.S. has restricted aid to the earthquake victims in Syria or Seymour Hersh’s report on the U.S. blowing up the Nord Stream pipelines, two examples of terror by a terrorist state that must be protected at all costs.  This is the protection racket by omission and commission.

Maybe an anecdote would help. A week ago, I ran into an old friend at a coffee shop.  Hersh’s article, aspects of which I question, had just come out and I asked him if he had seen it.  He said he hadn’t but didn’t know anything about such pipelines being blown up.  I was stunned.  A devout consumer of mainstream media, yet he somehow missed this major September 2022 event in the U.S. war against Russia that was reported widely by the media he relies upon.  Those media went on to suggest that Russia blew up its own pipelines, a claim beyond ridicule but one that was part of its war propaganda narrative.  My friend is a guy who has strong opinions about everything and finds NPR, The Guardian, The New York Times, CNN, etc. to be credible news sources.  How could he have missed one of the major stories of 2022, one that The New York Times, etc. was reporting on into December, still suggesting that Russia did the deed?  How could he have missed the pipeline story whose reverberations spread through all aspects of the U.S. war against Russia via Ukraine when it was referenced in so many reports of gas and oil prices, a cold winter for Europe, and so many other issues?  Its ramifications are manifold and have been reported as such, but he had never heard of it.  I was stunned.

I wanted to quote him Dylan’s facetious words from “The Ballad of the Thin Man”: “’Cause something is happening/And you don’t know what it is/Do you, Mister Jones?”  But I did not.

I have spent a week wondering how it is possible that he didn’t know anything about the pipeline explosions.  I am sure he wasn’t lying to me.  So how explain it?

In the interim, as I have been trying to comprehend these matters, the Super Bowl with its mesmeric half-time spectacle replete with crotch grabbing has come and gone, and I have read an interesting article by Ethan Strauss, a sports journalist, “Why America Needs Football. Even its Brutality” that raises important questions.

Much has been written about football’s violence and the injuries it causes, the most recent example being the near fatal injury to Damar Hamlin of the NFL’s Buffalo Bills that garnered headlines for weeks (even though why he suffered cardiac arrest has been left unanswered since that would raise the COVID vaccine problem, which is also taboo).  Strauss notes the many arguments calling for the banning of football – the war game – because of its violence.  He notes that it is very true that football is very violent but that this is part of its great appeal.  He writes:

And the NFL gives Americans that war, as spectacle, week after week.

Today, at 6:30 p.m., eastern time, begins the biggest spectacle of them all: the Super Bowl, where we channel those ancient animal spirits into a highly commercialized event that ends with fireworks and a shiny trophy.

We should celebrate that.

He doesn’t argue for the celebration of war, which he opposes, but for the war-like game of football.  To Malcolm Gladwell’s statement in support of the banning of football as “a moral abomination” – “This is a sport that is living in the past that has no connection to the realities to the game right now and no connection to American society.” – he responds quite rightly that Gladwell is wrong:

In 2022, 82 of the top 100 TV shows in America were NFL games, and the top 50 most viewed sporting events were football games or events that immediately followed football games. By contrast, in 2016, only 33 of the top 50 were football-related. The country has lost interest in so much else, but football remains a huge draw and, in fact, is gaining relative market share.

Americans love violence, not just the military propaganda that precedes the Super Bowl game, but the smashing hits that players make and take in the games.  It is hard to deny.  Strauss goes on to show how over ninety percent of former NFL players who suffer from daily lifelong pain say they would do it again.  The violence is intoxicating and Americans get drunk on it.  It is the American Way.

I don’t agree with all of Strauss’s points or assumptions, especially his imperative that “we have war within us, whether or not there’s one to wage,” but he clearly is right that despite all the rhetoric about how terrible violence is, there is something about it that Americans love.  D. H. Lawrence’s point a century ago still applies: “The essential America soul is hard, isolate, stoic, and a killer.  It has never yet melted.”

But this killer soul must be hidden behind a wall of deceptions as the U.S. warfare state ceaselessly wages wars all around the world.  It must be hidden behind feel good news stories about how Americans really care about others, but only others that they are officially allowed to care about.  Not Syrians, Yemenis, Russian speakers of the Donbass, Palestinians, et al.  The terrorist nature of decades upon decades of U.S. savagery and the indifference of so many Americans go hand-in-hand but escape notice in the corporate media.  The major theme of these media is that the United States government is the great defender of freedom, peace, and democracy.  Every once in a while, a scapegoat, one rotten apple in the barrel, is offered up to show that all is not perfect in paradise.  But essentially it is one massive deception.

There’s a make-believe quality to this vast spectacle of violent power and false innocence that baffles the mind.  To see and hear the corporate masked media magicians’ daily reports is to enter a world of pure illusion that deserves only sardonic laughter but sadly captivates so many adult children desperate to believe.  This is so even as the propagandists’ trial balloons are popped in the society of the comedic spectacle.

But back to my friend I mentioned earlier. He hates violence in all its forms, is strongly opposed to war, and has a most compassionate heart, yet he remains devoted to the media that have lied us – and continue to do so – into war after war, a media that clearly fronts for the warfare state.  I still can’t explain how he knew nothing about the pipeline explosions.  Nor can I explain his allegiance to the media that lie to him daily.

Even as his government, led by that very media, leads the world toward nuclear annihilation, he remains true to his media informants.

I am stunned.

In the Blood

Born in a normal time,
The periodic slaughter of millions
By the civilized nations of the earth
I grew to adulthood half-crazed
With fear and numbed wonder.

I always wished to believe otherwise,
That people were good at heart,
Wanted to live in mutual peace
And tend the green earth as if
It were a garden
As if pity vivified all living things.

Somehow the blood that was in me
Said otherwise,
Spoke truth to the power
Of my wish,
While everywhere around me lay the lie.

But my blood, this blood that became me
While millions were being butchered
And Bing Crosby crooned I’m dreaming
Of a white Christmas,
This red blood said otherwise.

Do not accept the way they say
“Good Morning”
And the way they nod as they pass,
As though they didn’t want to kill
Each other.

Do not believe their eyes
And the way they pray to the skies
To save them.
Do not believe their beliefs,
All lies woven to deceive.
For at heart they truly hate
The green earth.

Do not believe the way they say
“Good Evening”
For they wish the darkest night
To descend upon us,
The nothingness of their knowledge
To swallow all.

That is what will release them,
That is all.

Thus my blood spoke to me,
A child of a sanguine century,
Born in a normal time,
The periodic slaughter of millions
By the civilized nations of the earth.

And despite all appearances,
I have never believed them.
Never.  Not at all.

25 thoughts on “The World Wants to Be Deceived”

  1. “I am sure he wasn’t lying to me. So how explain it?”

    Working with Dynamite, Sadism & Neurosis

    Karen Horney [whose work Ellul credits greatly] stated, circa 1945:
    “They operated between contradictory sets of neurotic trends, and though they originally concerned contradictory attitudes toward others, in time they encompassed contradictory attitudes toward the self, contradictory qualities and contradictory sets of values.

    “A crescendo of observations opened my eyes to the significance of such conflicts. What first struck me most forcibly was the blindness of patients towards obvious contradictions within themselves. When I pointed these out they became elusive and seemed to lose interest. After repeated experiences of this kind I realized that the elusiveness expressed a profound aversion to tackling these contradictions. Finally, panic reactions in response to a sudden recognition of a conflict showed me I was working with dynamite. Patients had a good reason to shy away from these conflicts: they dreaded their power to tear them to pieces.”

    She said, rather than face up to the chasm between what they are and what they may imagine/pretend to be, oftentimes, the doubling down on denial inevitably lead to . . . .a final solution. . . manifest as “the inevitable impairment of moral integrity.”

    Saying: “only after I had grasped the significance of neurotic hopelessness” — the refusal to address contradictions — “that the meaning of sadistic trends finally come into view.”

    “And the all-consuming passion which can so often be observed in sadistic pursuits grew out of such a person’s insatiable need for vindictive triumph. It became clear to me that the need for destructive exploitation was in fact no separate neurotic trend but only a never-failing expression of that more comprehensive whole which for lack of a better term we call sadism.”

    1. Hi Jim, this reminds me of a story about an anthropologist who spent some time with an Indigenous Culture. He was explaining something to a group of tribesman, only to discover the Indigenous group knew more about the subject than he did.

  2. A few years ago at a neighbors party I attempted to engage four guys I knew about events in Iraq. As I
    started sentence number two another guy entered our group vigorously and i found myself speaking to the wind as all four formed a new semi-circle around the new guy. I chuckled to myself, cause, well, its what we are talking about here and i expect ed nothing less. I couldnt figure what electrified the group much that they would abandon me so abruptly. It took me a bit to catch on as I tried to catch up over a dudes shoulder…..turns out he was praising the qualities of a new cooler that had just come out. “You can drag it around the golf course all day in the sun and the beer still stays cold. Its amazing !”. I kind of treasured the moment especially because the excited interloper was known for his long winding stories that often lead nowhere. I mean it wasnt that my pitch was lame or even that i too often tell unhappy stories. They just didnt want to be challenged by reality. So be it. About a year later strolling through mainstreet Great Barrington I spotted what probably was the cooler in guestion proudly displayed center window inside a deli. I laughed uproariously… myself again which sadly so often is the case nowadays….At over $200 I somehow wasnt wooed into a purchase.

  3. I can’t help but comment on the title alone. The apostle Paul called it out way back:
    (2 Thessalonians 2:10-12) “And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. {11} And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: {12} That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.”

    1. Thanks Darin…The female can nurture and bring forth life. The male…well…the male for the most part has turned into a beast, a predator, a dominator. We see some females admire the behavior of males, but for the most part it is the male and most institutions are male oriented.
      I don’t know that humans are inherently a gang of insane organisms. Where did this violent tendency come from ? It appears only a small fraction of humans ‘want their way’ to prevail. And do we really want to be a cooperative species, but out of fear allow ourselves to be ruled by those who speak roughly and the loudest? Sorry, but look out for popular religions ! Which ones? All of them !
      Can we learn to pronounce the word ‘No’ ?

      1. In addition…, it appears at some time in human history, the female, able to bring forth life was seen as powerful and the male apparently felt very inadequate or fearful/respectful of the female. If that is true, how did all of that change. The myths. J. Campbell had everyone celebrating myths in orgasmic delight about 35 years ago. WHY ? Why do we cling to some stories and ignore other stories that might explain some aspects of the present? Why do we allow ourselves to be deceived in so many ways? I really don’t believe humans want to be deceived. I’m sure many people do not want any truth about any subject. Why do we ‘dance’ around the truth with deception or lack of clarity. But then, we pretend to teach when we know nothing. That’s all very confusing to me! In fact it feels insane. The package of crap that the authorities give us should be thrown away immediately. All of it !

  4. The world wants to be deceived because it’s dominated, ruled, and nourished by “untruth addicts” — see (“The 2 Married Pink Elephants In The Historical Room”)

    It shows that humans are NOT good at all. A diseased collective of humans can only create a diseased world where “the world wants to be deceived” …

    The fact that anyone STILL in 2023 is “stunned” by the world’s absurdities only further proves that “the world wants to be deceived” as living in a willful sleep state is the preferred mode of some 99% of individuals anywhere.

  5. I have similar friends. An author & her husband. Both “well-educated” and were what I thought to be, thinkers.
    They are not.
    Devout to NPR as well, 3 years into this, they continue to believe in the big, scary “virus” and follow all the narratives that the government has put out.
    Ukraine, BLM, the “pandemic”. Nothing I say gets through. I was astonished to find they literally believe the “conspiracy theorist” excuses given by the media as well as the “fact-checkers”.
    Had another friend who understood what I was saying, Believed that these things were happening, but “did not care” unless he was being personally affected. He has kids. He was most frustrated that football wasn’t happening in 2020 and would get angry if it did not start back up.
    My mother. No amount of information I give her lasts for long. She “knows things aren’t good”, but will not go beyond the most trivial of discussion with it. “It is what it is.” She also had 0 knowledge of the Ohio disaster, but was fraught with concern after the recent MSU shooting.
    These people; many of them claim to not even watch the news, but somehow take on the narratives being fed to them. They don’t go further than that. They just STAY where they are unless being directly confronted with a problem. They DO want to be deceived.

    1. As always Ed, thank you for the WISDOM and TRUTH you impart. Though difficult to contain one’s anger at the blatant lies of craven political actors and their propagandizing media, there remain brave souls who stand up to the “evil” pulling the strings of this world. For this Canadian, you stand foremost among the courageous and the good! As has been the case so often over the years, your essay inspires. Together, we must remain ever diligent in pursuing truth, understanding of that truth, real justice and wellbeing for all. WISDOM and TRUTH will, some how, prevail!

  6. Thank you Mr. Curtain,

    It is very refreshing to read your posts (and book) which help maintain some sanity in this upside down, mind fu*k, world we live in nowadays, especially here in the heart of the crumbling empire.

  7. There is indeed “a wall of deceptions” when it comes to war. A clear pattern: every empire eventually faces the conflict it is desperate to avoid – its own collapse. The most dangerous deception of all, the reason wars are fought – is power; because power is an illusion, cannot be held forever. Rulers cannot accept that truth. That is why mankind is facing into the abyss of nuclear Armageddon.

    1. Hi Peter…I wonder if citizens unknowingly own the guilt of politicians, the generals, the priests, the nuns and so on ?
      There is really little objection to anything on a scale or approach that will accomplish anything. Citizens are always reacting instead of being pro-active and the various considerations that can mean!

  8. (“One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.”) – Carl Jung

    I can’t help but wonder if it is that personal act – in Jungian terms – of facing the darkness (including our own internal darkness) and making it conscious that is somehow at the deepest heart of the matter. Having just returned from a visit with family and friends who are as dear, kind and loving people as one could ever imagine – I must also say that individually and collectively they have absolutely not the slightest clue of what is actually taking place on planet earth – and instead live in a complete fantasy bubble created by their incessant viewing of MSM. Unable to imagine “themselves” carrying out actions that would deliberately cause harm or even kill other people – they can’t really “allow themselves to imagine” – our government corporate officials being so amoral, greedy and sociopathic that they could engage in such behavior. Even though many such kind souls can look back in history and acknowledge the brutality of past kings, emperors, dictators and presidents – these same individuals seem incapable of imagining that our “current oligarchy” might be just as vile, corrupt and morally bankrupt as at any other point in history. They operate through a sort of blanket denial of the fact that “our own leaders” could be corrupt – while seemingly having no trouble at all believing the worst of a “Putin” or an “Assad” – based upon whatever PBS or NPR has told them today.

    Perhaps it is only when we have done the painful personal soul searching that allows us to realize that in different circumstances any of us could be capable of the unimaginable – that as humans we are all possessed of both “angels & demons” – that we can finally begin to view and see the world with any objectivity at all. It seems that over the past few years the circle of family and friends with whom I can openly and honestly talk about the world has dwindled to less than a handful. More and more I’m feeling not so much a “stranger in a strange land” – so much as a visitor from another planet – lost and unsure of how to find my way home. Wondering if “home” even exists.

    I am thankful for your writing Ed, as it is one of the few “reality checks” that transcends simply examining the “objective truths” of a topic, in order to explore deeper into the spiritual and existential issues at play.

    1. Your comments have described my thoughts and family experiences to a tee!! I have only one friend left with whom I can discuss anything of a political or spiritual nature. Maggie and I are both 85 years old and have known each other since high school…we remember when it was possible to discuss anything without losing a friendship or causing others to think we were weird. Thank you for expressing the current state of our society so cogently…If there are two of us who are “getting it” then rest assured there are many others out there! Marianne O’Connell

  9. Ed, thanks again for providing a point of understanding and as such a means to put forth something I’ve concluded.

    First, football is no more an American institution than the gladiators of the old Roman empire. It serves from an early age to reinforce the violence of our state’s demand for “warriors” who say, after losing limbs, “I’d do it all over again”.

    Over the ages, struggles, revolts, rebellions as a portion of the masses have, the ruling class has not simply maintained control but pacified virtually all 330 million people in this nation. It begins very early, the indoctrination, that is. Human fodder is cultivated.

    It is the arrangement of the state, the system of control which leads the charge. This, sadly, has been the case for thousands of years. I don’t think it’s a natural human “characteristic”, quite the opposite. It needs to be bred, like cock fights. But the battle creates the warrior, and once engaged the population becomes a mix of moot and “patriotic screamers”: USA USA USA…

    The domestication and obedience has been cultivated.

    If anyone desires this situation to change, than it is essential that the authoritarian arrangement, of which no state differs, must end. Otherwise, the story will be solemnly told over and over again as it has been.

    1. Thanks Art….so, The world wants to be deceived?
      This literally makes me cry real tears ! ( many things do these days ) as the poet said, “some men are too gentle to live among wolves”
      Indigenous activist Leonard Peltier in plea for clemency after 47 years in jail
      Exclusive: Peltier, 78, convicted of murdering two FBI agents in 1975, tells Guardian of desire to return home to tribal land
      47 years in prison ? Perhaps we have adapted to this prison entirely too well !

      1. Joseph this comes to mind: The degree of a civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons. (Fyodor Dostoevsky).

  10. As Joseph says, I think the word ‘anesthetized’ best describes the situation. The anesthetic takes different forms though; myopia, money, fear, averice, contentment, and of course, ignorance and sheer stupidity. Thus your friend who missed the terror attack in the Baltic, simply didn’t want to see, didn’t want to know, had no desire to know, he is, like many, numbed to the world, he has no feeling, his nerves are shot, burnt out. Worst of all, he doesn’t even know it.

  11. Busy or preoccupied people can’t, or won’t be bothered by the Truth.
    They are too busy, working, Wastebooking, being entertained, distracted, dumbed down and being made numb by trivia.
    I think it’s more an unconscious choice to be deceived, and a conscious choice to be titillated.

    1. Thank you Johnny. On deception, or perhaps unintentional deception. I wonder how many people know the person who sits across the dinner table from them and who call themselves family. First name, last name, sure ! But I ask if they ever get beyond superficial, intellectual B.S. Do they know what is going inside of the other person? What they are feeling and any emotional trauma they are experiencing yet do not know how to express these feelings or might be afraid to express these feelings for various reasons?
      Are we somewhat anesthetized by fear, uncertainty, not knowing, minds filled with lies, fraud, contradictions? Do we pray or do we prey? Are children simply to carry out the demented wishes of adults? Oh how we love our children. In my opinion it is selfishness and child abuse by default to bring children into this violent, insane place ! Lust before love and common sense is the reason someone might say? The man and his wife made a decision NOT to have children. They felt there were already too many homeless children. They adopted 2 youngsters. Comfortably NUMB are the lyrics we have just recently been reminded of. And so we might take a few minutes away from all distractions…, and feel the area around our naval….which was once connected to someone else !

  12. Yes…it appears much of the population are content with marching in place in quick sand, playing with twitter, tweeter, twotter, accepting B.S. as information, consuming energy drinks, driving solely with cameras because people’s terrible physical condition won’t allow them to move their bodies and on and on and on.
    So we know all of this. There needs to be questions asked! How can we transcend all of this? How can we help each other transcend this terrible human condition? How can we develop the capacity to say no to just about everything accept what truly nourishes life?
    I think we really need to ask these questions. I know of people who are genuinely frightened because some barbarian who is wearing a suit might pull the big trigger. Are WE the enablers of the insanity? Do we justify being an enabler due to our fear we do not understand and do not know how to deal with and resolve, thus we continue to enable, grant permission for the clowns to send people off to wars or some other stupid act for profits. I think we need to ask questions, ask each other questions and help each other so to help each other. We still are social beings even if we only respond to the B.S. due to habit, convenience, lack of awareness. If we hear something that is REAL and feel that aura of sameness, change occurs!

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