I read this post of yours several months ago, and I agree with it.

Recently I read a book titled "The Great Leveler" and it had some passages that are relevant to the idea you are presenting, so I will post some fragments here...

[I]t is worth noting that the world wars were closely associated with the expansion of the franchise. Max Weber had already identified the underlying dynamics:

>The basis of democratization is everywhere purely military in character . . . . Military discipline meant the triumph of democracy because the community wished and was compelled to secure the cooperation of the nonaristocratic masses and hence put arms, and along with arms political power, into their hands.

Since then modern scholarship has repeatedly linked mass warfare and the extension of political rights. Insofar as raising mass armies requires societal consent, extensions of the franchise may be regarded as a logical corollary of intense military mobilization. As I argue in the next chapter, this principle already applied as far back as ancient Greece. In the more recent past, all French men aged twenty-five or older were entitled to elect assembly members in revolutionary France. Universal male suffrage was granted in Switzerland in 1848 after a civil war between cantons the year before, in the United States in 1868 (and in 1870 for blacks) in the wake of the Civil War, in Germany in 1871 after its war with France, and in Finland in 1906 in the wake of reforms prompted by the Russo–Japanese War. More limited suffrage extensions in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries have been interpreted as responses to concerns about unrest and possible revolution. By contrast, early instances that are not related to war or threats of violence are rare. Broadly speaking, European peacefulness after 1815 had retarded political reform. This changed dramatically with the unprecedentedly massive mobilizations of the world wars. Full male suffrage was introduced in 1917 in the Netherlands and in 1918 in Belgium, Ireland, Italy, and the United Kingdom. Universal suffrage became the law in Denmark in 1915; in Austria, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Poland, and (technically) Russia in 1918; in Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and Sweden in 1919; in Anglophone Canada, the United States, and Czechoslovakia in 1920; and in Ireland and Lithuania in 1921. In the United Kingdom women thirty or older also received the vote in 1918, an age restriction removed ten years later. World War II resulted in the next big push, as universal suffrage was introduced in Quebec in 1940, in France in 1944, in Italy in 1945, in Japan in 1946, in the Republic of China (soon limited to Taiwan) and Malta in 1947, and in Belgium and South Korea in 1948. The connection between mass war and mass franchise is not merely implicit in this chronology but was expressly made. To give just two examples, Woodrow Wilson sought to sell women’s suffrage “as a war measure”:

>essential to the successful prosecution of the war of humanity in which we are engaged . . . . We have made partners of the women in this war. Shall we admit them only to a partnership of sacrifice and suffering and toll and not to a partnership of privilege and of right?

The judicial ban of white-only primaries in the United States in 1944 could be said to have been prompted by a turn in public opinion against the exclusion of minorities who shared in the “common sacrifices of wartime.”

[...] The generally slow pace of democratization in countries that were remote from the great wars and free from the need to offer concessions or rewards in return for mass mobilization has also been noted. Exposure to total war created a uniquely important impetus for formal democratization

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Great find. Thanks for bringing it to my attention.

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Democracy, Democracy, Democracy! What is that thing? Everyone talks about it as if it is a reality instead of an ideology. The United States of America is a constitutional republic, Great Britain is a constitutional monarchy. Nowhere on this planet will you find a national government that is a democracy. Voting in these "Democracies" is the process of electing representatives to fill the positions of government in a republic, where we the people are NOT the makers of government policy. Honesty in speech is important.

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Sep 8, 2022Liked by Jonathan Cook

A brilliant and insightful essay on the nature of western democracy. People of the so called global south, at the receiving end of their largess will immediately understand. Not so, their own enlightened population. To help such people break out of their mental cages, you might consider writing on the asset stripping (cannibalizing) of their own citizens that is underway. "They will own nothing, and be happy" - Charles Schwab.

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Jonathan Cook does very well to point out the way our media and elite interests lull us into a smug stupor about western actions across the World, and that this prevents honest self-reflection. While I remain uncertain of my own view of the Ukraine war, I observed genuine and well-informed critics of the western approach receiving minimal airtime on the mainstream media. Jonathan also points to the collusion of big tech. The difficult task of reforming and restructuring the media remains a central priority.

However, Jonathan sometimes seems to over-stretch his historical arguments, for example when he says that “industrial processes that were the flowering of that enlightenment made feasible, for example, the slave trade”. That trade was already well established way before the enlightenment started, around 1685; Portugal was already deeply into the African slave trade from the 15th century. The idea of “Liberty” was central to the enlightenment period, inspiring abolitionists as well as slave uprisings, notably in Saint Domingue (now Haiti).

When Jonathan speaks of “the production of ever more powerful weapons to subjugate ‘inferior’ dark-skinned peoples”, he seems to suggest this was a deliberate European plan. I would argue by contrast that European powers developed these weapons to subjugate their European rivals in the 30 Years War, the War of Spanish Succession, and series of other wars (often fought in far-off places). As a by-product of this, these more powerful weapons greatly assisted in colonial expansion – a process which was largely opportunistic. Nobody planned for the actions of Robert Clive.

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Sep 4, 2022·edited Sep 4, 2022

What a load of absolute nonsense. You claim that Putin is not deranged and then in the same article blame Ukraine for "poking the bear" by aligning with the West. If Putin is a bear that can be provoked by self-defence, does that not make him deranged?

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Some good observations (and journalism). But... democracies are not correlated to colonialism or slavery. Firstly, they are consequences of human nature and have occurred in all societies throughout history. Secondly, the inter-continental colonialism (let's say, following Columbus, Vespucci etc) coming from the West was hardly the result of democracy, which didn't exist in any of the colonial countries at the time - it was indeed the adventures of ruling elites (who created the corporations of the time), not the vast majority of poor peasants or white slaves in the factories of the industrial revolution. Similarly, the trans-Atlantic slave trade (of which the Portuguese and British were champion nations) had no particular connection to any real democracy. It was just a more efficient version of the same trade carried on since ancient times, particularly by Arab nations (also by everyone since).

These are false equivalences, and don't serve a purpose in this piece, and indeed, I'd say they hinder your main thread. The concept of the 'noble lie' is also nothing to do with democracy as such. The whole history of the Soviet Union is noble lies, one after the other. Some believed by those who spoke them, some not.

You are completely right to call out particular 'noble lies' (Zelensky, Harris/US etc) but they're not the results of democracy, they're what threatens it most.

It's an astute observation that Corbyn and Trump are outside the hidden consensus of controlling elites, and had to be dealt with by extraordinary measures.

But to think that Corbyn is any kind of democrat is misguided - he was the most ideologically rigid politician the UK has had for years - a true Utopian socialist, waiting for the moment to impose his perfect social order on the country. Only problem is, the real world has things like the 2008 GFC, Brexit, Covid, Ukraine, and climate change. Socialists can't deal with any of that.

In sum there are good thoughts here, but somewhat obscured by a certain political bias.

Democracy remains for the most part an aspiration, but at least we have an idea of what it might be like.

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None of these points seem to relate to my piece. I didn't say democracy was correlated to slavery or colonialism, or that it invented the "noble lie". My argument about slavery, for example, was that it was entirely consistent with ideas of rationalism and an enlightened western culture (in fact, these ideas justified slavery). I was making the point that one can do pretty atrocious things while thinking of oneself as morally superior. It was meant to shake the reader's confidence a little in the idea that we are morally superior just because we think of ourselves as rational, enlightened democrats.

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Well you did say:

"It was, after all, an earlier idea of an enlightened, rational west that justified colonialism – resource theft from the “dark continents” across the seas. Industrial processes that were the flowering of that enlightenment made feasible, for example, the slave trade: ...

What if it was not a superior morality but callousness and self-interest that brought about democracy? We were simply first off the blocks in the race to strip the planet of its riches."

You seem to be saying that democracy is an artefact of Western self-interest (possibly uncontrolled capitalism).

Slavery is pretty clearly not consistent with any specific enlightenment values. Perhaps you want to tie it to the rationalism of the enlightenment, i.e. since it is a rational economic strategy to obtain cheap labour, if morality, human rights etc are completely absent. But in that case slavery would have appeared with the enlightenment, whereas it was an industrial scale operation since antiquity. There's no doubt that technology advances made the hideous trade more efficient later on, but technology makes everything more efficient.

I agree with your main point in principal (democracy and moral superiority), I just don't think colonialism or slavery help the argument. However, we don't really have a proper democracy, we have a democracy narrative and a naive belief on the street that it is true. Its not really the fault of the average citizen with little training in critical thinking, or limited knowledge of the near-total control of the truth exercised by the major nation states along with their corporate friends.

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I'm not sure how I can make my meaning any clearer to you. Last go: The idea we were rational enlightened beings justified to us the enslavement of people we saw as less rational, less enlightened, less human. I'm arguing that seeing yourself as more enlightened makes you feel justified in being depraved. If we think of democracy as making us better people, we are justified in bombing "worse" people. As we have been doing in Afghanistan, Iraq etc.

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Geez. I used to like Sam Harris. I’ve been watching him slip for a while now. But this latest gaff reveals his intentions for all to see. Censorship is okay if you are on the side holding the whip. My team is allowed to cheat because … well … we’re educated and rich and white n shit so … Oh Sam it’s such an ugly look.

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Excellent article that I agree with wholeheartedly except for the “climate breakdown” part

Without the medias constant amplification of every weather anomaly I, as a 60 year old, would not have noticed anything abnormal. Certainly the old farmers I know feel the same.

There is an agenda at play as far as I’m concerned, one that exerts a powerful control over our behaviour and our ability to fight back against the establishment who have, as Sunak announced, 130 Trillion in assets lined up to profit from the “window guidance” mandates the lie allows

It’s a lie to act virtuous about but it’s vacuous virtuosity as far as I’m concerned.

We have just ended a 44 year, 4 * 11 year Solar cycle that started in 1976. As SunSpot activity, (cooler areas on the Sun), climbs again we will see the climate start to cool. There’s a desperation now for Net Zero policies to seem like the reason for that 4 decades of cooling we are entering

I believe we are falling for a cleverly crafted trap very hard to argue against as most can’t see the wood for the trees, Including “climate scientists”.

Even Wallace Broecker , the father of “CO2 induced climate change” referred to the 4 decadal cycle in 1975 when he claimed the then cooling cycle was masking the effect of CO2

Like I said, other than that, spot on!

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Aug 29, 2022Liked by Jonathan Cook

Thank you JC for exposing the nature of the beast with such clarity. You are right the other beast with pitch forks is now waking up.

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Aug 29, 2022Liked by Jonathan Cook

Sometimes you realise something that nobody else seems to have noticed and you try to tell other pple about what you've realised, but they look at you like you've lost it.

Decades ago in the run-up to the invasion of Panama I realised that what I was being told by most MSM outlets and even the BBC and The Guardian, that I had replied on for honest news, was nothing of the sort.

I have relatives in CA so was familiar with its politics, and I suddenly understood with a certainty that the news we were being told was simply a narrative preparing the way to justify invasion. And, I was proven correct.

It seems, once you've seen something you can't unsee it, and once you understand that the media's job isn't to report the news, but to manipulate it and to persuade us of something, then everything gains some clarity and becomes clear.

Your journalism brings reality and sanity back to the world of journalism, so thank you for that.

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Appreciate the article. It's a depressing reality. It doesn't have to be this way! It shouldn't be being this way...

It's not that everyone is evil. I hesitate to use "we" when describing the actions of the US or the UK. The future isn't a foregone conclusion. The neoliberal coda isn't a fait accompli.

Don't you think, in a fundamental sense, Britain, America and the Anglo-European nations (to varying degrees) are bipolar societies?

For centuries there have been two competing traditions: one that’s humanist, devoted to ideas of freedom, justice, science, ars gratia artis, education, equity, and democracy, a spectrum of anti-imperialists, anarchists, radicals, communists, suffragettes, unionists, feminists, Bertrand Russell liberals; and another that’s ethno-authoritarian, white supremacist, genocidal, purblinded by power and bent on the perpetuation of a cynical rentier lineage for whom social democracy is a mere fig leaf for brutal domestic and colonial exploitation that's been going on unabated since the 18th-century.

The 'noble lie' is one of many palliatives for the masses, to keep them docile, compliant and consuming while the permanent carceral state is constructed - on a blighted planet, if need be - and the transition from landowner feudalism to financier fascism can be completed before any of the lower classes get organised enough to prevent it.

The last few decades have been a succession of losses for the anti-imperialists. We're an unprepared, naive population.

More people are waking up to the stark reality of this long-standing bipolar battle - and at a much faster rate since 2008 - but, let's call a spade a spade: past emancipatory victories we believed were part of a definitive arc of progress towards a better future have been corrupted to serve the interests of a merciless ruling class. The bad guys are moneyed, well-armed, and in control of what people know and see. They've cognitively captured the overwhelming majority of the public, their intended victims.

It's a sad state of affairs. Any ideas how to save the world?

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Aug 28, 2022Liked by Jonathan Cook

"There are differences between open and closed societies, to be sure."

True. Mainly that in our "open" society we just can't see who the dictator is.

Forwarding this to my lists and contacts, with the message, "If you read only one thing the rest of 2022, this should be it.


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Thank you for so lucidly articulating what is going on. In a time of deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act and anyone reading this should share it because in a time of manipulative repression sharing is also a revolutionary act.

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Aug 27, 2022Liked by Jonathan Cook

Congratulations on this tour de force! It connects so many important dots. It also gives great insights in your typical no nonsense style. Your last topic is a favourite of mine: the moral flaw of the ends justifying the means. Thank you!

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Aug 27, 2022Liked by Jonathan Cook

I absolutely love your pure journalism! You are far more aware then even some of the best bell ringers I listen to. I can not tell you how much I look forward to each and every article you present as there appears to be only one light in the darkness! Thank you for this and all the past spotlights on the activities of the Criminal Elite!

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