The text below is a translated and expanded version of an interview with me by the Italian journalist Martina Pastorelli published on 3 August 2023 in the daily La verità, a piece that was itself a much abridged version an recorded interview done on July 26th.
In the West we are being subjected to the “Politics of Fear,” something previously seen in Italy with the “Strategy of Tension” (approx. 1968-1982), in which the government attacks its own population, or “covers” for others that do, with the goal of creating a climate of widespread fear that will induce the people to accept certain, otherwise non-attractive, policy prescriptions.
This is the analysis of Thomas Harrington, professor emeritus of Trinity College in the US city of Hartford, Connecticut, one that identifies our country as a laboratory for management policies that subordinate the rights of the people to the decisions taken by “the experts.”
As he explains in his book, The Treason of the Experts (Brownstone Institute 2023) he believes that the privileged few who lend themselves to these practices are guilty of a betrayal to the society, a point of view that brings to mind the j’accuse levied by Julien Benda in 1927, in which he deplored the servility of French and German intellectuals before the aggressive nationalisms that fueled World War I.
MP: What does this betrayal consist of?
TH: The fact that the social class that has received university education during the last thirty years has taken control of our institutions without assuming the responsibilities that go with this power. As a result we find ourselves in a society that depends on experts who, seeing the people as a manipulable mass, systematically ignore their will. They seek power but no longer even try to establish the moral authority required for the exercise of respectful leadership. We need to oppose this onslaught of dehumanization and reclaim our inherent right to play an active role in public life.
MP: Who are these experts?
TH: It is a transversal collection of people that includes politicians, scientists, and academics, as well as journalists. This last group has undergone an especially dramatic change in recent decades in that its members in many countries no longer proceed, as once was the case, from the lower and middle classes, but from families already belonging to the intellectual and financial elites and who, because of this, tend to identify more with established power than with the people. The rise of the neoliberal order has effectively ensured that all of these credentialed professions are colonized by its logic, something that greatly minimizes the positive social influences that once filtered up from below in most Western countries during the decades immediately following World War II.
MP: It seems that when these experts address the public they always do so in the same way, be it on Covid or on the climate; they frighten, they shout, they issue commands and they monitor us. How come they always succeed?
TH: I think it is rooted in the fact that during the three decades or so following World War II Western governments, mindful of the suffering caused by the war, provided new mechanisms for involving people in governmental matters, leading many citizens to believe these governments were truly interested in their problems and dilemmas. This simulacrum of democracy functioned fairly well until the people began asking for still more of a say in public affairs during the 60s and 70s. Sensing that their ability to control and drive social, cultural, and economic policy was slipping away, the elites turned to the politics of fear, an approach rooted in the belief that when people are fearful they will react by seeking refuge in the arms of the authorities presently in charge. This, no matter how wary they were of such people before the onset of the crisis. Think of the operative modalities of the Gladio Operation (secret military cells placed in various European countries by NATO to neutralize the possibility of a Communist advance on the West that were eventually used in domestic affairs of some of those countries), and more specifically still, the so-called Strategy of Tension in Italy, which confirmed the country’s role as an important laboratory for the Western architects of the politics of fright.
MP: When is this governing technique employed? …