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May 24, 2018 | Introducing “Bad Guy” Theory

Is an American author of books and articles on economic and financial subjects. He is the founder and president of Agora Publishing, and author of the daily financial column, Diary of a Rogue Economist.

YOUGHAL, IRELAND – Nothing much to report from the markets…

So we gird our loins, put on our armor, and go into battle.

We’re anticipating a fight.


Power Corrupts

Has Israel become a “bad guy”? we asked yesterday. Iran, the U.S… Who’s bad and who’s good?

Our guess yesterday was that power really does corrupt. And when you have too much of it – a near monopoly on power – you give yourself permission to do things you otherwise wouldn’t do. Because you know you can get away with it.

What prompted this line of thought may have been the news… or indigestion. As for the news, here is Jeremy Scahill, editor of The Intercept:

Israel has once again conducted a premeditated, full-scale massacre in broad daylight, in front of the cameras of the world. Once again, it took place in Gaza.

On May 14, Israeli snipers and other forces gunned down more than 60 Palestinians, and wounded thousands of others, including civilians, journalists, and paramedics.

Among those killed by Israeli forces was an 8-month-old infant. Her name was Laila al-Ghandour. They also killed at least seven other children and a man in a wheelchair, and that man had lost his legs after they had to be amputated following an earlier Israeli attack.


“Bad Guy” Theory

Here at the Diary, we try to connect the dots. There are the bare “facts,” which are squirrelly enough. And there are the ideas, myths, and delusions surrounding them.

These latter dots, like ball bearings on a sidewalk, are the ones that cause the broken bones.

People think they know, for example, not only what happened, but why it happened. They think they can look into black hearts and see corrupted souls – even from thousands of miles away.

They think they know who the real bad guys are. In the case at hand…

The Palestinians were fiends from Hell, said one Diary reader:

When faced with a screaming horde of fanatics who want to exterminate your existence, do what it takes. Be glad that Mexico is not dominated by Islamists.

They had blood dripping from their hands, said another:

A significant number of Palestinians killed were unquestionably identified by independent sources as terrorists.

They were mass murderers, said a third:

They intend to kill indiscriminately and create a fifth column within Israel to destroy it.

In other words, “Bad Guy” Theory says they all deserved to die. They – not the Israeli gunmen who shot them down – were the evil ones.

No charges were ever filed. No evidence presented. No verdict rendered. And no sentence pronounced. But they got the firing squad anyway.

That’s the advantage of power. You don’t need to hold a trial. And you never need to say you’re sorry. Because, you’re never the bad guy.

Some readers are okay with this. Others are appalled. But look beyond the bare facts. You can see anything you want.

So let’s leave the Holy Land and turn to the question sitting close by, riding shotgun: What about Americans? What does “Bad Guy” Theory tell us about them?


Saints in the Mirror

Dear readers will look again beyond the bare facts and into their hearts and minds. Americans will see saints in the mirror and angels dancing on the White House lawn. Foreigners will probably see something else. But what about the accusing dots?

We could look at the bloody conquest of the Philippines at the dawn of the 20th century, for example.

U.S. troops took over the Philippines after a fake battle with Spanish forces (the two armies agreed to a mock battle in Manila to justify the handover to Americans rather than to the natives).

“Hooray,” said the Filipinos. “America is a beacon of independence. Now we will be independent, too.”

America would have its day in the imperial sun. But it was still only early morning and it was already drinking heavily from the cup; power was going to its head.

Instead of handing over the Philippines to the Filipinos, the Americans chose to hold onto their colonial prize.

Alas, the ungrateful inhabitants resisted. As many as 1.5 million of them died – mostly civilians – from fighting, massacres, concentration camps, and disease.

American soldiers told the tale in their letters home. One wrote to his kin in New York:

The town of Titatia was surrendered to us a few days ago, and two companies occupy the same. Last night, one of our boys was found shot and his stomach cut open. Immediately orders were received from General Wheaton to burn the town and kill every native in sight; which was done to a finish. About 1,000 men, women, and children were reported killed. I am probably growing hard-hearted, for I am in my glory when I can sight my gun on some dark skin and pull the trigger.

Back home, Americans had little doubt who the bad guys were; the natives were “terrorists”… They were “savages”… The devils were caught up in some unholy cause.

But a few had second thoughts. In his diary, Mark Twain referred to American soldiers as “our uniformed assassins.” He described the war as:

…a long and happy picnic with nothing to do but sit in comfort and fire the Golden Rule into those people down there and imagine letters to write home to the admiring families, and pile glory upon glory.

Who were the bad guys then? We flip ahead to preview the answer: maybe nobody.

People are neither always good nor always bad… but always subject to influence. “Bad Guy” Theory may not help.

More to come…




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May 24th, 2018

Posted In: Bill Bonner's Diary

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