Another Fine Specimen
13 May 2004



The world is a republic of mediocrities.... - Carlyle

Nothing is more durable than a hog's snout

Weapon of War


By Olavo de Carvalho


Since the Algerian war (1954-1962), the idea of an “asymmetric war” became the guiding principle of the anti-West strategy.  Inspired on the “indirect combat” of Sun-Tzu – whose “The Art of War” already circulated in official editions in the USSR and its satellites in the 1950s –, the concept is essentially that of a fight in which one of the contending parties does not admit any kind of constraints to its actions. It may do whatever it pleases and still use as a weapon the moral , legal and social commitments that tie the hands of its adversary. It is the military expression of the adage formulated in 1792 by delegate Collot d'Herbois at the French Convention: “Everything is permitted to those who act in favor of the revolution.”

A strategic analyst, Canadian navy commander Hugues Letourneau, remarks that the Algerian National Liberation Front usually resorted to general strikes, ambush, terrorism against its own population and against other Algerian organizations of liberation, assassination, torture, mutilation, appropriation of great amounts of money from the civil population, industrial and agricultural sabotage, destruction of public goods, intimidation and assassination of presumed collaborationists, disinformation campaigns, etc.” Meanwhile, the slightest illegal act on the part of occupation forces was used, by activist intellectuals in Paris , as an instrument of moral blackmail designed to keep the French government paralyzed by fear of a scandal.

In order to achieve its goal, the asymmetry must impregnate itself deeply in the judgment habits of people, so that public opinion does not detect the intrinsic immorality of the supposedly moral demands that it exacts from one of the disputing parties, while granting to the other the benefit of an indifferent or complicit silence. One example is the unevenness in the treatment given to the occupations in Iraq and Tibet, directed in a way to instill the public with the impression that a temporary military operation − calculated as no other before in history to avoid damages to the civilian population − is a more serious crime than the continuous occupation, the premeditated destruction of a 1000-year-old culture, and the permanent genocide that has already made one million victims.  The asymmetry, in this case, has become so normal and obligatory that the simple suggestion of comparing the American behavior to the Chinese already sounds not only extemporaneous, but also in bad taste and suspect of some questionable connection with “shady interests”, invariably “paid for by Wall Street” (this very article obviously falling under this category!).  Likewise, half a dozen bloody abuses committed by American soldiers in Iraq − which are inevitable in any war, even under a strict oversight of the troops – appear in the media as more heinous cruelties than the routine practice of torture and the political assassination in time of peace, common in communist and Islamic countries, not to mention the religious persecution (which is never reported in Brazil), that has already killed over two million Christians in the past few decades.

Asymmetric war is more easily carried out by revolutionary organizations, which are not accountable to the same standards applied to organized States.  But some States may also use that same strategy.  A recent book by two Chinese colonels, “The War beyond the Rules”, published in 1999, shows that the Chinese government is deeply involved in the anti-American asymmetric war.  And this war would not be asymmetric if, as soon as its concept fell into public domain, the responsibility for the massive recourse to its dreadful techniques was not blamed upon no other than its main victim. A few days after September 11, the French weekly Le Monde Diplomatique, in undisguised hypocrisy, referred to “the official American strategy of asymmetric war”.  It evidently failed to explain how could the U.S. engage in an asymmetric war while being, at the same time , the country in the world most exposed to the judgment of public opinion and one which does not count with an organized network of supporters – in international or even in American media –  as the one available to leftist movements, which today are capable of imposing to the whole population of the planet, in a few hours, their own version of events, thus simulating a sort of spontaneous convergence. “The force of terrorism is the media” says Jacques Baud, author of “Asymmetric War or the Defeat of the Vanquisher” (“La Guerre Asymétrique ou la Défaite du Vainqueur”, Paris , 2003).

The whole operation gains even more efficiency when carried out in a terrain which has been previously prepared by the “occupation of spaces” preached by Antonio Gramsci. By blocking some sources of information while selecting others, it predisposes the public to accept as natural and innocent the most deceiving ideological manipulation in news coverage.

In Brazil , for example, access to the opinion of American conservatives has been banished.   Their books – thousands of titles, many of them classics of political thought – are never translated and cannot be found in any university library. Their ideas are only available to public knowledge distorted as a caricature in the official communist version, created in 1971 by Soviet historian V. Nikitin in the book “The Ultras in the USA ”. It is still submissively passed on today, from generation to generation, in schools and in newspapers, by a bunch of knowing sly militants and by a multitude of useful fools who do not have the least clue as to the origin of their own opinions.

Who, raised in this environment, can suspect that there is anything wrong with the media onslaught that turns George W. Bush into a sort of right-wing Stalin?

The challenge of tearing apart this blockade can be met only by hardworking and learned individuals , through research efforts that lie outside the reach of the average citizen.  And the voice of those individuals sounds ridiculously inaudible when they try to warn the population against this frightening reality: since the advent of the asymmetric strategy, disinformation − in the technical and literal meaning of the term − disinformation as a weapon of war, has become the most constant and regular pursuit of big media, almost entirely supplanting the task that used to be journalism.

The danger to which the population is thereby submitted to is indeed monstrous. It will not diminish while civil society does not take upon itself to exercise an “external surveillance” of the media, taking to court all those who refuse to convey in a faithful and quantitatively balanced way the information and opinions coming from sources opposed to each other.




Brazilian writer and philosopher, b. 1947, Olavo de Carvalho is the author of, among others, “Literary Genres and Their Metaphysical Foundations”, 1996, “Aristotle in a New Perspective”, 1997, “The Garden of Afflictions: An Essay on Materialism and Civil Religion”, 1998, “The Future of Brazilian Thought”, 1998, “The Collective Imbecile”, I and II. Presently in charge of the Philosophical Seminar at the Centro Universitário da Cidade ( City University Center ) of Rio de Janeiro . Columnist of the newspapers O Globo (Rio de Janeiro), Jornal da Tarde (São Paulo), Folha de São Paulo (São Paulo) and Zero Hora (Porto Alegre). Website:

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