I’ve long marveled at the capabilities of the human mind. In a Michelangelo, Einstein or Zappa, that blob of gray matter can yield sublime creations that measurably advance the human race. Even monsters such as Hitler, Pol Pot or an uncatchable serial killer possess a form of evil brilliance unique to humankind.
Most of us associate the mental dexterity inherent in exceptional human thinking with famous geniuses, good or bad. But I am more and more convinced that exceptional cerebral capacity resides in all of us.
One of the most potent manifestations of this innate mental skill is what George Orwell, in 1984, called doublethink: “the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously … two opinions which cancel out, knowing them to be contradictory and believing in both of them.”
Including capacity for doublethink in the definition of genius makes former Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-MI), ex-chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, one of the great minds of our time. After all, the mental gymnastics needed to sustain his level of hypocrisy are nearly superhuman.
Congress’ Latest Hypocrisy
On December 29, The Wall Street Journal reported that the National Security Agency (NSA) intercepted private communications between the Israeli government and U.S. organizations and members of Congress. Rep. Hoekstra and others exploded in fury at the news, calling for the criminal prosecution of the NSA and other administration officials.
It’s important to understand that Hoekstra et al aren’t upset at NSA spying on foreign governments per se. Hoekstra himself has said that “Spying is a matter of fact … foreign governments who are shocked they’ve been spied on should relax, because they, too, gather information.” Hoekstra is only upset because this incident involved a government he likes.
Nor does Hoekstra object to the discretion the NSA employed in deciding to include communications from “U.S. persons” in their intelligence reports. NSA rules governing intercepted communications “to, from or about” Americans require obscuring the identities of U.S. individuals and U.S. corporations. Nevertheless, senior U.S. officials can ask for names if they want to. Moreover, the rules say communications between foreign intelligence targets and members of Congress should be destroyed — but the NSA director can issue a waiver if he likes.
These rules have been in place since Pete Hoekstra was in Congress, where, as chairman of the Intelligence Committee, he stridently defended the NSA’s right to do whatever it felt necessary to protect U.S. “interests,” including using the private information of U.S. citizens seized through NSA spying.
This pattern — whereby politicians who loudly support the government’s ability to spy on Americans transform instantly into crusading privacy advocates once they learn that they are the targets — is so entrenched that it is scarcely noticeable.
For example, Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA) wanted The New York Times to be tried for treason when it revealed the Bush administration’s warrantless wiretapping. When she was caught in an NSA intercept in which she tried to trade political favors with a foreign government, she said, “I’m just very disappointed that my country — I’m an American citizen just like you are — could have permitted what I think is a gross abuse of power.” Similarly, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), who was once called “the biggest booster of the CIA in Congress,” was enraged when that very same agency searched her staff’s computers during a Senate investigation.
Do you remember the mainstream press commenting on the hypocrisy involved in either one of these incidents? Probably not — because it didn’t.
Indeed, as Nazi Propaganda Minister Josef Goebbels understood, that is precisely the nature of “doublethink” — if a lie or contradiction is repeated often enough, nobody will notice it anymore. It becomes part of the mental furniture.
Freedom for Me, But Not for Thee
As we head into an election year, it’s critical to understand that America is a deeply unequal society … one in which you need allies who can help you develop a survival — and prosperity! — strategy.
I’m not talking about economic inequality — although that’s certainly bad. I’m talking about justice and the rule of law, as illustrated by the recent NSA case.
Whether they are politicians, bureaucrats or corporate leaders, America’s ruling elite is increasingly untouchable. The surest evidence is that they no longer bother to defend contradictions in their thinking and their actions … they simply ignore them, safe in the knowledge that most of us will simply tune them out.
By all means, tune out those who would violate your privacy, plunder your wealth and abuse your rights.
But whatever you do, in 2016, tune in to the thinking of those of us who devote our own mental capacity to finding and explaining ways you can prosper in spite of them.
Offshore and Asset Protection Editor