Aug
01
2005

Slavery, Genocide and Nuclear War

Disney/ABC radio personality Paul Harvey, one of the most widely heard commentators in the United States, presented his listeners on June 23 with an endorsement of genocide and racism that would have been right at home on a white supremacist shortwave broadcast.

Harvey's commentary began by citing a speech by British Prime Minister Winston Churchill (12/30/41):

After the attack on Pearl Harbor, Winston Churchill said that the American people...he said, the American people, he said, and this is a direct quote, “We didn’t come this far because we are made of sugar candy.”

Actually, it's not a direct quote; Churchill's actual words, from a speech he gave to the Canadian parliament, were, " We have not journeyed all this way across the centuries, across the oceans, across the mountains, across the prairies, because we are made of sugar candy."

As one might expect, when Churchill said "we" he was not referring to the citizens of the United States, but to "the peoples of the British Empire." And he followed the "sugar candy" line with a vow that "we shall never descend to the German and Japanese level." But Harvey, repeating Churchill's phrase throughout his commentary, turned it into a call for utter ruthlessness.

"And that reminder was taken seriously," Harvey continued. "And we proceeded to develop and deliver the bomb, even though roughly 150,000 men, women and children perished in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. With a single blow, World War II was over."

That's a dubious summary of the war against Japan, which was won by three and a half years of bloody fighting, not by two atomic bombs. At the time the bombs were dropped, U.S. officials knew that Japan was on the verge of surrendering, which is why Dwight Eisenhower in his memoirs called the bombings "completely unnecessary" (Mandate for Change, p. 312; Extra! Update, 4/95).

But Harvey presented the incineration of Hiroshima and Nagasaki as a very literal guide to how the U.S. should have behaved in its current wars:

Following New York, Sept. 11, Winston Churchill was not here to remind us that we didn’t come this far because we’re made of sugar candy.So, following the New York disaster, we mustered our humanity...and we sent men with rifles into Afghanistan and Iraq, and we kept our best weapons in our silos.

Given that the U.S. did indeed use its most powerful conventional weapons in Afghanistan and Iraq, this can only be taken as a complaint that the U.S. failed to target these countries with nuclear weapons. This remarkable viewpoint was followed, appropriately enough, by a plea for the U.S. to ignore considerations of morality and civilization:

Even now we’re standing there dying, daring to do nothing decisive, because we’ve declared ourselves to be better than our terrorist enemies--more moral, more civilized.Our image is at stake, we insist.

But we didn’t come this far because we’re made of sugar candy.

Harvey concluded with a startling depiction of U.S. history as a series of necessary, even praiseworthy atrocities:

Once upon a time, we elbowed our way onto and across this continent by giving smallpox-infected blankets to Native Americans. That was biological warfare. And we used every other weapon we could get our hands on to grab this land from whomever.And we grew prosperous. And yes, we greased the skids with the sweat of slaves.

So it goes with most great nation-states, which--feeling guilty about their savage pasts--eventually civilize themselves out of business and wind up invaded and ultimately dominated by the lean, hungry up-and-coming who are not made of sugar candy.

Feeling guilty about slavery and genocide, in Harvey's worldview, will lead to the elimination of American civilization--apparently because the U.S. hasn't turned quickly enough to nuclear and biological warfare.

The Disney media conglomerate, which cultivates a family-friendly image, syndicates Harvey to more than 1,000 radio stations, where he reaches an estimated 18 million listeners. Disney recently signed a 10-year, $100 million contract with the 86-year-old host.

In 2004, Disney blocked its Miramax subsidiary from distributing Michael Moore's film Fahrenheit 9/11, even though Miramax was the principal investor in the film. A Disney executive told the New York Times (5/5/04) that it was declining to distribute the film because, in the paper's words, "Disney caters to families of all political stripes and believes Mr. Moore's film...could alienate many."

One wonders whether Disney executives are worried about alienating families who oppose slavery, genocide or nuclear war.