By Dr. Kevin Barrett
Tens of thousands of people have poured into the streets in the U.S.A. and around the world to protest police brutality in general, and the death of George Floyd in particular. Their tagline, recycled from earlier protests, is “I can’t breathe.”
The “I can’t breathe” slogan could also express how many Americans feel about the Covid-19 lockdown—especially working-class Americans, who were locked down in smaller and less pleasant spaces than their social betters, faced more harassment from authorities when venturing out, and lost their jobs and incomes in much greater numbers. But, of course, nobody in the privileged mainstream ever makes that connection. To even suggest that working-class Americans of all races were silently screaming, “I can’t breathe,” during the lockdown is to commit treason and heresy against two articles of mainstream faith: that the lockdown was a good thing, and that the slogan “I can’t breathe” must be reserved for the Black Lives Matter movement.
Taking this analysis one step further, we might wonder whether “I can’t breathe (due to police brutality)” is being promoted so relentlessly in the mainstream media precisely because it replaces the painful memory of “I can’t breathe (due to the lockdown).” American working people were just victimized by the biggest heist in world history, as trillions of dollars were transferred out of their pockets and into the pockets of the world’s biggest banks, corporations, and billionaires, all on the pretext of the Covid-19 emergency. The thieves don’t want their victims to remember or even understand what happened. Telling people that they can’t breathe due to police brutality, rather than the financial brutality of a ruling elite that just dispossessed them, could be a deliberate propaganda strategy designed to deflect anger toward police—fellow working people—and away from the banksters and their hired guns, including public relations experts.
It is also noteworthy that the whole world is chanting “I can’t breathe” in the midst of a pandemic that kills people by preventing them from breathing. If you come down with flu-like symptoms, we are told, the first sign that you should head for the hospital is if you experience difficulty breathing. Those hardest hit by the virus actually turn blue; it seems that alongside the lung infection, they are suffering from cyanide-like symptoms involving damage to the oxygen-processing abilities of their red blood cells. So, putting the slogan “I can’t breathe” front and center in the world’s collective consciousness may tend to subliminally reinforce the mass panic over Covid-19.
This may sound odd to those who haven’t studied the history of propaganda and coercion. But it is exactly the sort of thing that Edward Bernays, the father of those dark arts, used to dabble in. For details, watch the excellent BBC documentary “The Power of Nightmares.”
So, the pandemic makes us feel like we can’t breathe. The lockdown makes us feel like we can’t breathe. The images of Floyd’s death make us feel like we can’t breathe. The image of rioters spreading mass violence, and soldiers in the streets meeting them with pepper spray, rubber bullets, and even live fire triggers an adrenaline reaction, and our breath is constricted into ever-shorter gasps. Meanwhile, the one place where we used to be able to breathe freely and speak our minds—the internet—is being locked down under increasingly draconian censorship. Even the president of the United States is now being censored. When free speech is smothered, our national conversation dies of asphyxiation. And when conversation dies, violence roars in to fill the vacuum.
Maybe it’s time for us to pause, take a deep breath, and reflect on how we got to this place. Why did we let the banksters take over our country in 1913? Why did we let them orchestrate the world wars and drag America into them? Why did we let the bankster-run CIA become the world’s biggest drug dealer? Why did we let them put the final bullet in the brain of our democracy on Nov. 22, 1963—and then seal the deal with the controlled demolition of the American republic on Sept. 11, 2001? And why did we let their agents take over the mainstream media and lie to us so gratuitously about so many of the most important issues, to the point that today we have good reason to doubt so much of what they tell us?
If we can’t breathe, it isn’t just because our police murder people using the chokeholds they were taught by Israeli thugs. The real reason we can’t breathe is much worse: We’re being smothered under an avalanche of propaganda lies, and our opportunities to breathe a word or two of truth are being systematically taken away.
Kevin Barrett, Ph.D., is an Arabist-Islamologist scholar and one of America’s best-known critics of the War on Terror. From 1991 through 2006, Dr. Barrett taught at colleges and universities in San Francisco, Paris, and Wisconsin. In 2006, however, he was attacked by Republican state legislators who called for him to be fired from his job at the University of Wisconsin-Madison due to his political opinions. Since 2007, Dr. Barrett has been informally blacklisted from teaching in American colleges and universities. He currently works as a nonprofit organizer, public speaker, author, and talk radio host. He lives in rural western Wisconsin.