Saturday, June 12, 2010

Psycho-biological basis for image leverage and the case of Israel

by Denis G. Rancourt

Psycho-biological basis for image leverage – General model

Family and friends keep the First World financial-corporate elite bosses from murdering brown people in the developing world. Not directly of course but via a psycho-biological survival reflex: We don’t feel secure living with overt psychopaths.

In other words, for the elite bosses to continue practicing genocidal predation for power and profit it is necessary that the predation be cast in a false cover of humanitarian aid, democratic development, solidarity, progress, and the like, and that the most overtly murderous practices be cast as necessary in a fight against evil.

If sufficient care is not taken to secure this cover of mental imagery, then the bosses’ actions will appear more to be what they are, murderous and psychopathic, and the bosses’ children may not feel comfortable sitting on the bosses’ laps and the bosses’ partners may not feel comfortable sleeping in the same bed…

Actually, this problem is solved within the elite nuclear family with a strong family culture of elitism and racism. And it is solved in the bosses’ communities of friends with a strong community culture of classism, elitism, and racism.

But these gated communities are not hermetic. The elite classes have contacts and interactions with the more vibrant broader society. That’s where things get tricky. If the broader society sees the bosses as being psychopathic then by reflection the gated community will see itself as defective and this will represent a serious challenge to its self-image and to its sense of security.

One reaction is for the gated community to further isolate itself, to deepen its elitism, classism, and racism and to build higher walls around its community but this strategy is not sustainable [1]. Often, just the potential for the broader community to develop a negative impression of the elite bosses is enough to somewhat keep the elite psychopaths in check.

A main battlefield therefore is the mental environment in the broader society. The elite bosses own the media and control the schools and the institutions. They work hard and continuously at branding themselves and their finance-corporate projects in a positive light. Energy extraction giants are “green”, in fact greener than ever. Finance giants bring development to the world – one wonders why we need NGOs. NGOs alleviate any guilt or second thoughts from the rampages of exploitation and wholesale destruction. An elaborate mesh of lies is constantly constructed and maintained in order to keep the bosses hidden and their dirty work clean.

The mental environment therefore is a place where elite forces cross swords in winning over hearts and minds (read impulses and impressions) and where activists can have a counter influence. People talk. Errors get through. Interpretations go wrong. New communication platforms suffer temporary democracy.

An important tool in the activist’s arsenal is to go for the jugular. Call murder murder and genocide genocide. Call it displacement, extermination, and a war crime when that is what it is and name the exploiters and murderers. Find them and name them. Expose it in the broad society and flyer it in the gated community if you can.

Once the blood on their hands starts to show they will want to escape the mess that they have created. They will be more constrained than before. Having to create appearances always caries a real price – a new standard to which the mental environment must conform... Expose expose expose and they will need to spend more resources than ever defending their image. And the more they spin the more obvious it becomes that they are spinning.

So our job is to keep them honest by bold, creative, radical and repeated affirmations about their crimes, in the hope that their partners and children will leave them until they come to their senses and discover inter-class and inter-race civility, in the hope that their desires to be accepted in the broader society will reign them in.

This model of leverage on the powerful via public image is applicable at every level of a given control hierarchy and in relationships between individuals, institutions, corporations, and sovereign nations…

Individual Example – Terrorist vs. Freedom Fighter

The military understands this. An essential step in creating a killing machine that follows orders is to separate him/her from his/her nuclear family and community and to displace all self-worth evaluation in the individual to the sole standard of following orders, to replace community with an isolated squadron of death legitimized by orders and to demonize the enemy.

Following this, the more community-tied and morally constrained individuals, if they don’t escape or rebel, suffer “post traumatic stress disorder” (PTSD), no wonder. The more the war is questioned by the broader society and the aggressor home community, the greater the need for soldier and military-community isolation and the greater the incidence of PTSD. “Support our troops” becomes a military exigency.

Soldiers following orders in geopolitical wars of aggression – even if masked in aggressor-nation “self-defence,” like elite finance-corporate boss predators and “facilitators,” are terrorists.

Similarly, an essential step in making a suicide bomber is to kill his/her family, to separate him/her from his/her original community, to isolate him/her both physically and ideologically, and to replace all self-worth evaluation with liberation through martyrdom. The difference is that the suicide bomber is fighting the perceived killer of his/her actually-murdered family and actually-destroyed community in a desperate act of guaranteed death, not playing a video game from the relative safety of a helicopter gunship.

The freedom fighter on the other hand is a self-defence fighter on home territory [2], relatively integrated with the home community during the fighting. The freedom fighter is motivated by his/her ties with community, rather than artificially isolated from it. As a result, freedom fighters do not suffer PTSD but instead are strengthened by the solidarity of a community struggle for survival. This is why the Viet Cong and Northern People’s Army of Vietnam were unbeatable without massive all-out nation-wide aerial and economic destruction.

This is why US-trained and supported “contra” forces kill community. This is why they are trained to root out and murder all community organizers and visible leaders of civil society, to remove the community from the freedom fighters, to destroy the motivation to resist.

Contrary to Empire soldiers and trained killers, freedom fighters readily move from battle to civil society and from defence to community, without suffering overly debilitating adjustments. I have met former civil war freedom fighters with battle scars (including a bullet hole in the head) that were among the most adjusted, rational and authentic community builders I have ever known, including a village mayor, an independent war museum guide, and a community historian. Where are the former Empire soldiers in these positions? – Few and far between.

Nation State Example – The case of Israel

Take the case of Israel [3][4]. It is the local super power in the Middle East and the uncontested military occupier of Gaza and Palestine. From the evidence available, the only thing keeping it from all out genocide of the Palestinians and nuclear extermination of Muslims in the region is public opinion in combination with Israel’s desire to be accepted as part of the broader community of nations.

This is why Israel considers its branding in the world a military priority, because its image limits its military options. This is why the recent flotilla fiasco [1] was a national emergency, because world opinion can tie Israel’s hands and cause the blockade on Gaza to be lifted. This is why jam and crackers are now allowed into Gaza, in order to alleviate public opinion leverage as the international community demands an impartial inquiry.

This is why Israel wants its ballet dancers to tour the world and its scientists to exchange with international laboratories and its perfumes to sell in supermarkets around the world, because positive image is a prerequisite for colonial occupation and indigenous genocide. Ask Canada. Ask the US. Ask Australia. Ask any First World nation that uses immigration labour and practices finance-corporate colonialism.

This is why Boycott-Divestments-and-Sanctions (BDS) for Palestine is such a big deal. BDS alone cannot hurt Israel’s economy. It hurts its image. This in turn produces real leverage regarding Israel’s treatment of Palestinians because it can affect Israel’s relationships even to its closest allies, thereby significantly putting its military economy at risk.

Israel’s image is so low that it is bringing down the credibility of its allies, the US and Canada. How far can this go before the allies want to distance themselves? This is why the Israel Lobby in the US and Canada is part of the real battle [5]. It must constantly fabricate domestic US and Canadian support for Israel and constantly battle infiltration of negative image and opinion from the rest of the world.

Damn it’s hard to practice a proper colonial genocide these days when the indigenous population does not collaborate and has friends in the broader world! It’s tough being Israel.

Our job is to make certain that all colonial exploiters and elite bosses get the image that they deserve. In the case of Israel the violations are flagrant and the leverage is real (thank God).


[1] "Israelis Celebrate IDF Flotilla Attack" - youTube.
[2] "Freedom is what you do with what's been done to you." Jean-Paul Sartre.
[3] "Rabbi Weiss Criticizes Zionist Occupation of Palestine" - youTube.
[4] Norman Finkelstein on the Israel-Palestine conflict - website.
[5] "The Israel Lobby (Marije Meerman, VPRO Backlight 2007)" - youTube.

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Denis G. Rancourt was a tenured and full professor of physics at the University of Ottawa in Canada. He practiced several areas of science which were funded by a national agency and ran an internationally recognized laboratory. He published over 100 articles in leading scientific journals. He developed popular activism courses and was an outspoken critic of the university administration and a defender of student and Palestinian rights. He was fired for his dissidence in 2009 by a president who is a staunch supporter of Israeli policy. [See]

List of other essays by Denis G. Rancourt:


Corinne said...

I hope you really do want honest responses, Denis. Perhaps I'm too cynical these days, but I don't see Israel's apparent gestures toward public opinion as much more than a smokescreen for what's going to come down despite public opinion.

Any "re-branding" attempts (and cries of rising anti-semitism) are primarily aimed at encouraging Jews to make aliyah, because demographics are the State of Israel's biggest concern, and secondarily to facilitate trade and tourism.

I also don't see partners and children getting too upset with the global perpetrators. The partners knew who they were dealing with, just as mafia wives do, and the children, having been inculcated from infancy in their duties as heirs to the dynasty, tend to carry on the legacy - as in royalty, or, for instance in newspaper publishing, and even in TV evangelism.

Ariel Sharon's son, for example, is as deep into financial corruption as was his father, and is even equally as obese.

As well, there will also always be police and military to carry out the really dirty work because it pays well, and there will be more willing bodies for police states as jobs become fewer and farther between.

I've said before that some people would rather die than kill, but most would rather kill (with official permission of course) than have to scratch out a miserable living, especially when they can voluntarily submit themselves to the brainwashing of boot camp that provides them with a rationale and a belief that they are actually doing something good for humanity.

Even so-called activism consists of people pushing various political agendas - communism, anarchism, pumping up the NDP or the Green Party - and humanitarianism was certainly secondary to the real reasons the Turks were on the Mavi Marmara - they are allies of Iran and Russia, and the Palestinians are pawns in a much broader agenda.

I agree, however, that it's important to name the crimes, call them what they are, and point to the faces if possible. If only so that they know that we know.

Corinne said...

One more thing and I'll shut up: Granted most ordinary Palestinians do not collaborate, but enough of them do that's it a real problem. Ask someone who actually lives in Gaza if he doesn't think that the PA and Hamas are totally corrupt and working deals all the time. And what about people like Mohammed Dahlan who organized, on behalf of the US and Israel, the Fatah/Hamas battle in attempt to bring down the elected government?

Alan Kerns said...

I agree, Denis, that psychobiology is central to human affairs; and I agree with your implicit assertion that the driving psychobiological force is /feeling/: “We don’t /feel/ secure living with overt psychopaths”.
I've just been acquainting myself with your prolonged clash with the UoO hierachical windmill. Please correct my impressions if they are wrong.
You take your work very seriously, and after years of teaching the orthodox way where grades are more important than understanding, you came to understand via experience that this orthodox approach was actually counterproductive with regard to student understanding of the subject matter.
This realization /felt/ bad, and motivated you to seek a more productive approach which required students to engage exhaustively with the subject matter where the only criterion of success was satisfying Denis (Socrates) Rancourt that they had in fact achieved understanding where you - like Socrates - would not let them get away with anything less than unequivocal understanding.
This alternative approach was far more productive of student understanding and was intensely satisfying (/felt/ very very good) for both you and most of the students. Not to use this far more productive approach now makes you /feel/ very bad; and has indeed become an issue of conscience for you. The idea of reverting to the orthodox way now /feels/ extremely bad - repulsive.
That's far enough down that path. Does it sound relevant?
All of this relates to Aristotle's concept of chrematistics - the art of making money, the antithesis of the original concept of economy. He described how money corrupts the motivation of providers of goods and services by being accorded a higher priority than the quality of the good or service. He mentioned two arts by name - medicine (the physician) and the military (the soldier). Twenty four centuries later we find ourselves faced with immensely large and corrupt medical and military industrial complexes where the making of money is all.
And of course, Denis, how can your extremely labour intensive alternative approach to teaching compete with the orthodox approach with regard to making money? The educational industrial complex is, like nearly every aspect of every society, dominated by money and the people who own and control this “largest exploitation scam (private money creation as debt) ever enacted”.
The references to Aristotle are to Chapters 8-10 of Book 1 of The Politics which can be accessed easily via
I hope I haven't irritated you too much with this interpretation.
Alan Kerns [

Caroline Wang said...

This reminds me of the Second World War : how Hitler worked his image and used the media so that the mass (that was not really into fighting again after the First World War...) followed him and his ideas.

Public manipulation via promotion of a good image of the leader (and its partners) or the nation and hidden acts. Blinded followers.

It is certainly how war and genocide can survive...

jimprues said...

Denis confirms what many of us already know about framing, propaganda and power. The powerful are masters at establishing the parameters of discussion and using their media control for dissemination. We have no such advantages, but we do have truth on our side.

There's this idea, World 5.0, which suggests an entirely new perspective to interpreting ourselves and our place in time.

It's a fresh wind, that blows against The Empire.

Shazz said...

If collective consciousness is anything like individual consciousness then the part we actively experience isn't driving the process, instead it plays a game of catch up trying to rationalise what the subconscious already decided to do for whatever reasons.

Perhaps similarly political consciousness is actually merely playing catch up to the underlying realities of environments and economies.

For example, Hitler, while undeniably skilled in manipulating public sentiment, was utterly reliant on the economic turmoil in Germany for a decade beforehand and the geopolitical issues over access to oil and coal resources.

Denis Rancourt said...

Good points Shazz!

I would add the following.

(1) What we "actually experience" (conscious or not) drives, constrains, and legitimizes what we do individually.

(2) "Collective consciousness" is communicated to the individual via (inter-class, etc.) inter-person interactions and is moderated by the broad mental imagery that is partly shaped by public discourse (media, etc.).

(3) "Economic turmoil" on the ground is largely fabricated-facilitated-caused-allowed by top-level elite forces and their decisions. For example, who benefited from WWII? Who benefits from war and comes out stronger than before?

Cause is as important as "catch up." The macro-micro runs both up and down with the psycho-biology of the social individual as an atomistic building block.

Anonymous said...

Hi Dennis,

I am a 61 year young retiree, who just found you on the web. I am enthralled with your articles, activism, and feel the wake up call!

I am a reader of Jiddu Krishnamurti; watching my mind, and the collective mind attentively.

the_last_name_left said...

"From the evidence available, the only thing keeping it from all out genocide of the Palestinians and nuclear extermination of Muslims in the region is public opinion in combination with Israel’s desire to be accepted as part of the broader community of nations."

Are you serious?! What on earth do you base this claim on?