All posts by Thomas L. Knapp

Imperial Delusion is the Enemy of Peace and Prosperity

The "Ozymandias Collossus", Ramesseum, Luxor, Egypt. Photo by Charlie Phillips. Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.
The “Ozymandias Collossus,” Ramesseum, Luxor, Egypt. Photo by Charlie Phillips. Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

As Russia’s war in Ukraine drags into its eighth month, the European Union scrambles for energy to heat its homes and power its industry in the coming winter, the US and China continue to rattle sabers at each other over Taiwan, and smaller actual and potential conflicts rage around the world, it seems like a good time to take stock of two old, busted, worn-out terms: “American hegemony” and “unipolar world.”

Addressing the United Nations General Assembly last week, the Russian Federation’s Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov  condemned both: “[A]t some point, having declared victory in the Cold War, Washington elevated itself almost to the position of the messenger of the Lord God on Earth, who has no obligations, but only the ‘sacred’ right to act with impunity.”

Washington, Lavrov declared, is trying to “stop the march of history” against “sovereign states ready to defend their national interests … resulting in the creation of an equal, socially-oriented, multipolar architecture.”

While Lavrov and the government he represents clearly have a hand in the empire business themselves, he’s not wrong in pointing out the US regime’s hubris, which stretches back to well before the end of the Cold War.

In fact, notions of a “unipolar world” and “American hegemony” were always delusional. While the US came out of World War 2 in better shape than other world powers and ruthlessly exploited its advantageous position to extend political and military tentacles toward every corner of the earth. But it never achieved those two goals despite the expenditure of trillions of dollars and the endings of millions of lives in the pursuit.

With the Russian empire trying in vain to stave off final collapse, the US empire clearly in terminal decline, the EU threatening to come apart at the seams, and any near-future Chinese imperial ambitions likely to fail, the future of humanity might best be served by discarding the notion of empire itself. A 200-year-old poem by Percy Bysshe Shelley points in the right direction:

Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desart. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed:
And on the pedestal these words appear:
“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
Nothing beside remains.

That’s how all empires end, though usually only after stealing and wasting untold quantities of  blood and treasure from both their opponents and their subjects.

Governments — especially states with the ambition to expand their rule across mutually agreed turf lines, which all of them become at some point — are the pedestal upon which empires stand and the component parts of which empires are built. They are not our benefactors. We are their victims.

So long as we continue to tolerate political government, we deny ourselves peace and prosperity.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.

PUBLICATION/CITATION HISTORY

Biden, Immigration, and Fentanyl: Republicans’ Strange Version of “Logic”

Fentanyl. 2 mg. A lethal dose in most people. Source: US Drug Enforcement Administration. Public Domain.
Fentanyl. 2 mg. A lethal dose in most people. Source: US Drug Enforcement Administration. Public Domain.

“Arrests at the southern border will set new records this year,” Joe Walsh reports at Forbes. “Border Patrol apprehended 1.998 million people at the U.S.-Mexico border from October to August, already blowing past the 1.659 million arrested in all of fiscal year 2021, which was the agency’s busiest year on record.”

Republicans have noticed, but their response is, well, a bit odd.

US Senator John Thune (R-SD) blames Joe Biden’s “de facto open border policies.”

US Senator Rick Scott (R-FL) blames Biden’s “amnesty agenda and open border policies” not only for “record-breaking illegal [sic] immigration” but for a supposed “fentanyl crisis.”

In what universe does “more arrests than ever before” translate to “open border policies?” And how does the seizure of “9,962 thousand pounds” (I don’t know if that’s a typo or if Scott really means 9.9 million pounds) of fentanyl translate to an “unchecked deluge of drugs pouring into the United States?”

Our mutual friend Bob doesn’t drink, and I can prove it — see that trash can full of empty bourbon bottles on his back porch? Airtight case! High-quality deductive sleuthing on my part. You’re welcome.

Look, I get it: Republicans are miffed that after trying to out-Democrat the Democrats on immigration authoritarianism for 20 years,  finally nominating life-long Democrat Donald Trump as a “Republican” for president in 2016 to get the job done, they STILL lag Barack Obama and Joe Biden on pretty much every “immigration enforcement” metric.

But the immigration and fentanyl “crises” aren’t due to insufficiently vigorous enforcement.  People are going to travel, and use drugs, no matter how much effort the state puts into trying to  stop them and no matter how many are arrested.

The notional “fentanyl crisis” comes down to fentanyl being more powerful than other opioids and therefore easier to smuggle — because smaller quantities are needed — past US drug enforcers.

Scott’s solution isn’t to endorse ending the disastrous war on drugs. Instead, he’s introduced no fewer than three bills to step up the very “drug enforcement” that makes fentanyl an attractive alternative to traditional, less dangerous, opioids.

Our choice isn’t between “secure borders” and a “drug-free America” on one hand, or “open borders” and a “fentanyl crisis” on the other.

Our choice is between open borders and legal drug use on one hand, or open borders and illegal drug use, plus an expensive and overbearing police state on the other.

Politicians — Republican and Democrat alike — clearly prefer the latter.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.

PUBLICATION/CITATION HISTORY

Journalism: “Objectivity” and “Neutrality” Aren’t the Same Thing

The Yellow Press by L.M. Glackens. Public Domain.
The Yellow Press by L.M. Glackens. Public Domain.

“With the possible exception of things like box scores, race results, and stock market tabulations,” Hunter S. Thompson wrote in 1973, “there is no such thing as Objective Journalism. The phrase itself is a pompous contradiction in terms.”

Someone forgot to tell George Washington law professor Jonathan Turley, who bemoans the rise of “advocacy journalism” (which he himself  prominently practices) in general and what he characterizes as Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin’s “call to abandon the foundational principle of impartiality in journalism” specifically.

Like many, Turley seems to long for a return to some Golden Age of journalism when journalists merely provided facts in a “neutral” manner, giving readers the necessary evidence to reach their own conclusions instead of inserting their own biases and opinions into the matter.

There are two major problems with Turley’s desire.

One is that the existence of such a Golden age is pure myth. The idea of “objectivity in journalism” is largely a product of Walter Lippmann’s 20th century call for a “detachment” he himself didn’t practice as a journalist, in reaction to a previous era (indeed, the entire previous history) of journalism in which reporters wore their biases on their sleeves and readers chose the newspapers most compatible with their own biases.

The “objectivity” of the post-Lippmann press didn’t consist of eliminating bias. It consisted of smothering bias under a bland gravy of pretended neutrality.

Which brings us to the second problem: Neutrality and objectivity are different — and, moreover,  completely incompatible — things.

Objectivity is about discerning reality as it actually is, or at least attempting to do so.

Neutrality is about not taking sides on issues.

As an example of the two approaches, let’s take the subject of Anthropogenic Global Warming. Earth is, or is not, warming. It is warming, or not, for particular reasons (including, possibly, human activity). And there are, or are not, specific consequences.

A truly “objective” journalist would work hard to find out (and tell us) whether or not Earth is warming, for what particular reasons it is or isn’t warming, and what the consequences of its warming or non-warming are or aren’t.

A truly “neutral” journalist would neither hold nor express any opinion on what ought or ought not to be done about the answers to those questions.

Objectivity doesn’t forbid us to form opinions. In fact, it usually requires us to do so. Trying to keep one’s opinions out of one’s communications is both unrealistic and counter-productive.

Rubin says we should “burn down the Republican Party.” Turley says we shouldn’t. Either or neither of them may have reached their positions “objectively.”  But neither of them owes us a pretense of neutrality, and both enrich us by showing their work.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.

PUBLICATION/CITATION HISTORY