Only The Good Die in Silence

The father of modern warmaking Henry Kissinger died, and every major media outlet made a lot of noise — millions of articles on the internet. Fair enough. What would contemporary coup-making or genocide be without his seminal work?

But when the father of peace studies Johan Galtung died, not a single corporate media outlet said a single word. Not even an obituary. Not even a paragraph. And even decent people said and knew nothing. And even peace activists and progressive, radical, engaged people who talk about concepts Galtung invented, like structural violence and positive peace, said and knew nothing. And you said “Johan Galtung died,” and they said “Who?”

Some places made note and published recollections:

“When a Danish cartoonist depicted the Prophet Mohammad as a terrorist and Danish embassies around the world were being firebombed, they asked Galtung to help. He set up a mediation session and disappeared from view with three influential imams and three representatives from the Danish government. The firebombings spread. Three days later he and the others emerged with an agreement. All violence stopped. This is the power of the advanced conflict worker. Galtung showed the way, this time and others.”

Galtung wrote 100 books and 1,000 scholarly articles, and who knows how many emails and interviews. He taught at dozens of universities around the world and mediated 150 conflicts. He received the Right Livelihood Award.

He also used very broad strokes, made wild claims and predictions, and focused on the long shadow of historic culture to a fault. He predicted the collapse of U.S. empire by 2020. He said things that I think can fairly be called antisemitic, which is a horrible shame in itself but even more so during the current epidemic of false accusations of antisemitism.

But Galtung never, to my knowledge, ever supported harming anyone, violently or otherwise. In fact, he broadened the definitions of violence and harm and then worked to eradicate those enlarged evils. Peace Studies is a rapidly growing academic discipline that draws heavily on Galtung’s work. Here’s a short bio and a recording of Galtung on my radio show.

I think this case, his silent unnoted death, is an extreme example of the power of omission. Media outlets are of course excellent at demeaning, degrading, demonizing, and dismissing. But if they can avoid mentioning someone or something at all, that’s far more effective. Is Galtung being treated fairly by people who’ve appropriately studied his work? It’s not even a question. He’s not being treated in any way at all.

Omission is the tool of the master propagandist.

Should weapons shipments to Israel be banned? What a radical proposal! Especially if you never mention the six laws currently violated by every U.S. weapons shipment to Israel.

Should you elect this sociopathic servant of oligarchy or that other one to the White House? The obvious answer (“No”) is erased when all the decent candidates are never mentioned as even existing.

Boy is that Jon Stewart hilarious pointing out what a jackass Tucker Carlson is for not knowing that you have to choose between a police state and subways full of rats and urine (the price of freedom)! But this is easier if no one mentions all the countries that are both more free than the United States and in possession of nicer subways than Russia.

Should an expert in conflict resolution or unarmed civilian defense or peace studies ever be consulted on the wisdom of launching another war? That’s not a question that can be asked by people who have never heard of the existence of conflict resolution or unarmed civilian defense or peace studies.

But you couldn’t memorialize Johan Galtung without mentioning those things.

And so, the good must die in silence.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.