Myth, History, Mytho-History, and Whitewash
Now, here’s a bit of a representative story of our corrosive “post-Enlightenment” condition. And for a change, I get to say something this time about Australia and the so-called “Anglosphere”.
“ABC may lose Australia Network” is the headline for a story that appears in The Guardian. Again, as with other jurisdictions in the Anglosphere, the role of a public broadcaster is coming under pressure from so-called (euphemistically so-called) “conservative” factions, whether it’s the CBC in Canada, the BBC in Britain, or apparently ABC in Australia.
“Another signal has emerged that the Abbott government intends to strip the ABC of its international broadcasting service – the Australia Network – in a significant concession to Rupert Murdoch and to conservative commentators critical of public broadcasting.”
Something of the real rationale for these attacks on public broadcasting — a rationale typically buried behind public pretensions of deficit fighting — is given in the article. The Aussie foreign minister, Julie Bishop, who apparently also has a bee in her bonnet about the very idea of a public broadcaster, complains that the Australia Network is not doing its proper job of serving as “a tool of public diplomacy”.
“Public diplomacy” is a euphemism for propaganda.
A little later on in the article, current Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott makes what is meant by “public diplomacy” a little more explicit. The Australia Network is insufficiently “patriotic”, or even negligent (as reactionaries understand “negligence”) in broadcasting anything at all that might “cast doubt on Australia’s reputation”.
“Patriotism” is a euphemism for conservative ideology. “Reputation” is a euphemism for “the brand”. And any “doubt” about the truthfulness or adequacy of our beliefs and perceptions is very bad.
Apparently, a commercial broadcaster like Rupert Murdoch of News Corp better understands the requirements of “public diplomacy” (that is to say, propaganda) which in our Brave New World is to be conservative, “patriotic”, and understand how to manage the news in such a way as to protect and project “the brand”, and to extinguish doubts, regardless of whether it is true or not, or whether it conforms to reason at all.
In other words, for Tony Abbott and Julie Bishop, social communication (that is to say, “public diplomacy”) is all about perception management and manipulating the optics and national cheerleading. And the ruling parties in the UK, in Canada, and in Australia aren’t happy that their public broadcasters just don’t get “the new normal” and aren’t “staying on message”, as they say.
So, what’s the “new normal” and the new message the public broadcasters just don’t get about the Anglosphere?
The reactionaries (euphemistically called “conservatives” or “Tories” these days) aren’t very happy about “history”. It is said, truly, that those who don’t know their history are doomed to repeat it. James Joyce’s literary alter ego, Stephen Daedalus, exclaims that “history is a nightmare from which I’m trying to awake”.
“History”, as it turns out, reveals some quite uncomfortable truths about ourselves, truths that contradict our carefully constructed (but fragile) self-image and our tendency to self-aggrandising narcissism, self-righteousness, and attendant ego-inflation (or Wego-inflation, to employ David Loy’s appropriate term). “History”, rather than being educational or illuminating, has become threatening.
So, away with history. History only teaches self-loathing.
History is to be forgotten. Away with history. Let’s put an end to history. History is to be dumped in favour of mythology and fable. This is the essential requirement for a broadcaster who must come to understand the meaning of “patriotism”, “public diplomacy”, “the brand” and “the new normal”. This, too, is part of “post-truth politics” and the post-Enlightenment reaction.
Reactionaries from Edmund Burke onwards have always hated the Enlightenment anyway, which they blame for the French Revolution and, consequently also, for the ideals of “liberty, equality, fraternity” and their appeal to universality. They keep trying to roll back history, even, if possible, to roll it back as far as the Roman Empire (which was the essential meaning of Robert Kaplan’s Warrior Politics: Why Leadership Demands a Pagan Ethos to rationalise neo-conservatism and legitimise the Bush Administration).
A new kind of “history” is to be taught — a hybrid kind of mytho-history which actually ends up as a whitewash of history — a mytho-history, nonetheless, that confirms and approves of the reactionary as an elect human type — as being himself or herself “the new normal”.