Facing Democracy: A Long Journey into a Nightmare.



Ariella Atzmon




"You can not hear God speaking to others; you can only hear Him
when he speaks to youâ"



The relevance of this Wittgenstein remark (Zettlel sec:717), hints at the
rhetorical language of propaganda employed by contemporary democracy and its
links to illusions of sovereignty and freedom of choice.

Even though we are accustomed to praise democracy, to suggest that
everything that happens in the course of democracy is right, and whatever is
related to other regimes entirely evil, we all agree that propaganda plays a
major part in each and every regime.

The distinctiveness of western propaganda is founded upon the fact that both
liberalism and the scientific revolution came into the world arm-in-arm. The
main characterization of western propaganda is a latent commitment to
support pervasive statements by well-established, evidential proof.
Actually, all those I-philosophies (from Descartes to Husserl) that stress
that human rational ability can facilitate a close correspondence between
the realm of abstract meanings and the realm of reality as perceived by the
senses, have supported and protected liberal democracy ever since.

Taking the Heideggerian stance regarding the human subject as being shaped
by language rather than by his mind and his personal experience, undermines
the human self-image as an individual empowered with the capability of
rational free choice. Since the concept of individuality is the cornerstone
of liberal democracy, Heideggerian philosophy endangers the whole texture of
the western rhetorical machine. Heidegger⤙s view of language as the â¤"home of
being⤙ affords us an innovative gaze into the route taken by propaganda for
trapping peoples⤙ minds in the webs of the hegemonic discourse.

The language of propaganda reflects a fierce clandestine battle over
meanings waged by all ranges of socio-political and cultural thought. Highly
politically charged words such as â¤"democracy⤙ or â¤"terror⤙ are continuously
changing their meanings. Hence, by getting lost in the ocean of echolalia,
we become deaf to the kaleidoscopic nature of the meanings given to words.
Words become materialized through the media in the form of narrated events
and thus people are blunted to the trickeries of the text/context game. In
other words, their competence for gestalt switching is mislaid.

Liberal democracy, launched with the vast belief in human rationality,
critical reasoning and the freedom of choice, ends here and now with the
conviction that it is an inherent machine, maintained by professional
experts, supposed to convey us through the obstacles of life. As long they
provide us with evidential reports, what is left for us to do, is to
extrapolate and jump to the right conclusion

I would argue that the more citizens are dependant upon professionals
supposedly supplying digested information as a foundation for the â¤"personal⤙
process of decision making, the more they lack a sense of
self-responsibility for their own fate. Enlightened western citizens put
their lives in the hands of medical doctors despite the fact that they lack
an understanding of the kind of treatment they are getting. In the same
negligent manner people relate to their bodies, they are led by the nose to
fight nebulous enemies, and are asked to sacrifice their lives in
unnecessary wars. Faith in clusters of data presented by professional
experts leads to civic irresponsibility and alienation. I would say that
despite the song of praise to â¤"democracy⤙ we are withdrawing to the
pre-democratic era!

Liberal democracy is epitomized by a principal malady - a constantly growing
tension caused by individuals⤙ attempts to extend their freedom of action
within the limits of the social order imperatives. Liberal democracy
protects itself by establishing a consensual environment where citizens are
totally dependent on the professionals⤙ analytical reports. Therefore, the
more people are tied to the apron strings of the pundits⤙ expertise, the
more they fail to interpret political, social, and economic revisions by
themselves. The gloomy conclusion is that liberal democracy has failed to
keep the promise of emancipation. The narrative of emancipation from
ignorance and servitude through knowledge and egalitarianism turns into a
reckless commitment, to keep in harmony with the democratic rule as an aim
in itself.

I would argue that cynical politicians manage to achieve their goals because
the â¤"new believers have lost the capacity to criticize governmental
decisions according to a coherent system of ideas. To put it bluntly, I
would say that the majority of the population in the free democratic state
is incompetent when it comes to developing a proper deductive inference.
Apparently, this is the reason for holding most of the press conferences
before and during the war against Iraq around the disclosure of evidential
findings, air maps, and the pitiful farce of exhibiting discoveries of
missiles and remains of chemical or biological material. Even the inspectors
⤙ failure to prove, did not stop the political leaders from repeatedly
pushing on in an endless attempt to trace those hidden treasures for mass

Those millions of people taking to the streets to demonstrate against the
war felt defeated when G.W. Bush declared the end of the war. The question
is whether the protests were against the actual operation of attacking Iraq,
or were morality and ethics the matters at stake? If we assume that the
reason for the huge mass marches all over western metropolises demonstrated
disapproval of the arrogant crushing of ethical values, then we should ask:
how did it happen that all those masses disappeared from the streets[1]?

It may be asserted that we are triggered to react to the concrete, actual
events while remaining oblivious to the process of the keyword formation.
Following Heidegger I would contend that the maladies of democracy stem from
obliviousness to the abuse of language. In the essay â¤The Way to Languageâ¤*
Heidegger asserts that human beings are not in a position to commandeer
language but simply respond to it[2]. Responding blindly to rhetorical
devices manifests peoples⤙ ignorance of being â¤"spoken⤙ rather than
autonomous speaking subjects.

By taking Heidegger⤙s path, we may say that poststructuralism inverts the
traditional Marxist model about base and superstructure so that what we used
to think of as superstructure, namely culture, language and political
institutions, actually takes precedence over what we used to think of as
basic. Contrary to the Marxist view that culture and language, including
its coordinates, are reflected by the economic system, it is stressed that
language authorizes reality. Using the notion of â¤"superstructural-ism⤙ for
the â¤"poststructuralist⤙ overview (Herland (1987), language is seen as the
basic ground for marketing and pricing. We shall reveal that the invisible
battle on the signification of the linguistic sign determines, at the end of
the day, the exchange value of the oil barrel. The semantic notion imposed
on a verbal sign triggers the power relations in economics and politics. The
meaning we impose on a word is the departure point from which rhetorical
dribbling gains its momentum.

â¤"Terrorist words⤙ according to Roland Barthes are not words such as â¤"fascism
⤙, â¤"dictatorship⤙ or â¤"despotism,⤙ that trigger instant aversion, but rather
.words such as â¤"autonomy⤙ â¤"democracy,⤙ â¤"emancipation⤙ or â¤"liberation,⤙
which are currently enjoying a positive aura. In this way their
elusive-subversive character is veiled. Those words which by their appealing
connotation pre-determine peoples⤙ attitude to distributed messages, are in
fact the main tool for blurring our awareness to the subversive power of

As we have seen in the two gulf wars, imposing a positive or negative
connotation on a word predestines the value of consumer goods. It specifies
who is going to trade in these goods and who is excluded from the game. The
connotation given to the word â¤"terror⤙ entails embargos, which are followed
almost simultaneously with a reward to the â¤"liberators⤙ in the form of
contracts and access to the best of the third worlds⤙ natural resources. The
connotation given to the word terror makes my argument clear. Taking account
of the complicated, tricky relationship between words and facts calls into
question some moral, ethical and legal aspects of the meaning of terror and
its vicissitudes.

The word â¤"terror,⤙ which means the use of fear to intimidate people,
especially for political reasons, was coined by the ruling Jacobins,
dominated by Robespierre (1793-1794). in order to overthrow the old regime
in the name of â¤"Fraternite and Liberte⤙ for all people. The Jacobins
enforced the age of terror, ruthlessly by executing anyone considered a
threat to their regime. The word terrorist was originally applied to those
who advocated violence in pursuit of democracy and equality. They titled
themselves as terrorists without any pejorative connotation[3].

Do some current western leaders, who openly declare their attempts to
democratize people in other parts of the globe by means of violence and
aggression, consider themselves terrorists as well? The meaning of the word
â¤"terror⤙ has been changed to and fro during the years. It has altered
ambiguously from the coercive act of putting people in terror in order to
achieve political aims, to the notion of counter-terror, where those who are
terrorized try to rebel against their oppressors in a violent struggle.
Thus, a rigorous analysis of the terminology of terror and counter-terror,
is needed. â¤"Liberation terrorism,⤙ for instance, should be defined as
peoples⤙ acts of resistance directed against those who violate basic human
rights (visibly or invisibly), in order to maintain beliefs, traditions and
lifestyles in their homeland. A people⤙s violent struggle to achieve freedom
and power in its homeland can be viewed as counter-terror. This should be
seen as legitimate resistance, and morally justified in terms of violation
of the law.

To facilitate the argument about the substantial role of language in
disguise, I shall refer to some expressions which have become so rampant
that people have stopped being aware of the cynical, rhetorical game that
these expressions signify. Before, during and after the last gulf war the
expressions â¤"war against terror⤙ and the â¤"axis of evil⤙ were our daily
bread. Such statements should raise a philosophical query regarding the
correspondence between a theoretical term and its observable attributes. For
example, how can the old enigmatic word â¤"evil,⤙ as an object of an idea, be
depicted as a concrete axis, laid between two points in the frame of a two
dimensional map?

Hence, The word â¤"terror⤙ reflects a bitter struggle waged over the canonic
meaning given to a word in the political lexicon. The obscure meaning
bestowed on the word terror determines the political struggle over economic
power. The word â¤"terror⤙ which is extremely politically charged, acquires
its meaning in accord with the contemporary hegemony of power. The meaning
under the Bush administration is kidnapped twice. First it obscures the
distinctions between terror, counter-terror and liberation terrorism, and
then it enables the demonization of Palestinian resistance, including it in
the â¤"axis of evil.⤙

Reading Kant after Heidegger, triggers some insights into the moral and
legal aspects of ethical judgment. It is the role of writers and
philosophers because of their linguistic sensitivity, to raise public
awareness to the polyphony of meanings in propaganda maneuvering. In seeking
the legitimization of its rule, the liberal paradigm, turned to the legal
system as the main source of stabilization. The fact that any society is
comprised of a variety of interests and communal ethoses, necessitates the
foundation of a social apparatus that will be accepted by all. Hence,
secular ideology established the civic legal system as an all-inclusive
means for the resolution of conflicts.

In the course of liberalism, rhetoric turned from being engaged in politics
as related to ethics, into exercising an acrobatic, instrumental pursuit of
how to contain politics in accordance with the law, and vice versa.
According to this utilitarian approach ethics are pushed into being
interpreted in calculative terms for the assessment of harm caused and wrong
done to the â¤"other.⤙ By this argument I contend that liberal democracy,
supported by representational rhetoric, put up a barrier between morality
and ethics on the one side of the division, and legality on the other.

In praising of democracy, the way that determines that whatever is related
to terror is entirely evil, leads to the rhetorical, prevailing language of
propaganda reflecting a distortion of some other words as well. An example
is the notion of the word â¤"innocence⤙ as linked to ethics vs. legality. We
acknowledge that Israeli â¤"democratic⤙ children who are killed (murdered) by
martyrs are considered by official Israeli spokesmen as more innocent than
Palestinian children killed or murdered by Israeli helicopters, bulldozers
or by mere bombardment (always by mistake!).

It is suggested that citizens of the democratic free world should start
becoming more engaged in ideas and less in searching for proof, more in
analyzing terms such as weapons of mass destruction than in searching for
their location. If we are more attentive to what is meant by terms such as
â¤"weapons of mass destruction,⤙ as related to the terminology of terror,
counter-terror, resistance, liberation terrorism, we shall find that the
weapons of mass destruction are easily pinpointed. We may discover them
located in some very well known sites on the western front of the middle

In the glorification of philosophy, we are reminded of Kant⤙s saying that
there is relief in the act of philosophizing â¤even though one is not a
philosopher.â¤* It is a kind of agitation of the mind that means to undertake
the role of an insomniac night watchman, a vigilant sentinel who defends
himself against the torpor of doctrines by the practice of criticism

Ethics just as Aesthetics have no rules for justification. There is no
simple viable rout for a moral or ethical proof. Even if there are rules for
what should be described as moral consideration, they are inaccessible by
their ethical nature. Since legality belongs to a calculative culture, it
needs proofs, supported by factual evidence. Legality has to do with the
complications of statutes and regulation of the law. But there are no proofs
for morality. Liberal democracy⤙s obsession with legal assessments and
evidential proof in order to validate statements ends with a disregard of
the ethical judgment. Contrary to the doctrines of legality, ethical
judgment can not be learned at school by imitating the scientific method.
The ethical judgment reflect the eternal war between the rule and the case,
the doctrine and the exceptional, where the case must be found for the rule,
or the rule for the case, and that is something that cannot be learned,
neither cannot it be taught. The ethical judgment must be exercised, â¤for
more we judge the better we judgeâ¤*

In the name of Lyotard I will say that to be confronted with the exceptional
case that necessitates the ethical judgment, is a kind of spasm, a salutary
insomniac illness because it shakes us out of doctrinal torpor. If
â¤Doctrines weave a spell that prefigures death, then insomnia prevents us
from the very rest of forgetfulness.â¤* In the Kantian sense, the ethical and
the aesthetic experience is not an experience, but the effect of experience
which is not empirical. We may conclude that to bring democracy forward by
recommending that the ordinary citizen play the role of an insomniac night
watchman means to stop being trapped by the rhetoric of the referent.
Butâ¤|to stop being persuaded by proofs, involves misery, agitation, and

Spurning the proofs provided by â¤"smoking guns⤙ in favor of insomnia is the
turning point at which we start becoming restless, insomniac night
atchmen - who stay alert to the vicious abuse of language. Just at the
moment when our illusion concerning freedom of choice conditioned upon
findings and proofs collapses, contemporary forms of liberal democracy will
give way, in favor of insomnia. The gloomy conclusion is that liberal
democracy by its nature keeps us in a permanent dream, providing us with
endless observable referents. This is why positivism, phenomenology and
constructivism are the leading philosophies in liberal democracies. These
philosophies were invented to prevent us from being insomniacs. While
totalitarian regimes invented prisons and guillotines for agitated, restless
people, democracies discovered more ingenious means for narcoticizing its

Hence, if after all this we choose to escape the rhetorical disguise and
take the hermeneutical path regarding meanings, are we ready for that long
journey into the night?






[1] People are demonstrating in the name of political lobies

[2] Heidegger⤙s writings thematize the topic of language in a unique manner.
Other great thinkers like as Wittgenstein, Carnap, Russel and Austin also
stressed the same subject of language.

[3] L.M.Palmer (2002) Philosopy and Terrorism, apaper submitted to the IMISE
Conference (Univ of Delaware, USA)