Category Archives: Research Papers

Death and Homosexuality: The Unrecognized Genocides

Death and Homosexuality: The Unrecognized Genocides

Tom Henheffer

St. Thomas University

7 April 2009

There have been four distinct periods of crime committed against homosexuals in the past century. Homosexuals were victims of genocide during the holocaust. After this, they became victims of what some may call a “psychological genocide,” where the western medical world tried to wipe out their lifestyle. Currently, homosexuals are targeted for death and life imprisonment in over a dozen countries. In the future, some scholars fear that in utero testing, combined with research in the human genome project, and discrimination, will lead to the total destruction of homosexuality in some areas. Genocide has been a near constant for homosexuals in the 20th century, and it shows no signs of ending, but the international community has failed to recognize the plight of gay men and women. Homosexuals have no document in international law protecting them from discrimination, and sexual groups are conspicuously left out of the genocide convention. For justice to be served, the genocide convention must be modified, but it must be done so effectively, without becoming overbroad. The psychological genocide provides a good test for overbroadness.

This modification will be very difficult, it will have to be the end result of a long process of human rights advocacy and new human rights documents; many attitudes will have to be changed in the world before this can happen. But the convention must be modified so the genocide of Nazi Germany can be recognized, the criminality of homosexuality on pain of death or life imprisonment cam be eliminated, and human rights can become prepared to handle the future consequences of genetic research.

Homosexuality has been a part of human society since before recorded history. The first evidence of it in human culture comes from cave paintings and sexual toys from 12,000 BC. In western culture, homosexuality has always been synonymous with Greek culture. In 620 BCE Sappho was born (Stuart 5). This female poet, from the island of Lesbos, is believed to have been the first female writer to express desire for the same sex. The term lesbian also comes from the island on which she lived. Socrates, born in 470 BCE, was one of the world’s most influential philosophers, and he was known to be bisexual (5). The warrior Spartan culture also encouraged sexual relationships among men. Even Leonardo da Vinci (6) and Oscar Wilde (Stonewall 1) were both tried and persecuted for homosexuality.

It has only been in more recent times that homosexuals began to undergo systematic and government sanctioned discrimination. As Doris Bergen states in War and Genocide, “in the ancient world certain types of intimacy between people of the same sex did not carry any stigma or preclude sexual relations with members of the opposite sex,” (22). 1290 saw the “first mention in English common law of a punishment for homosexuality,” (Stonewall 1). Ten years later there was a “treatise in England prescribed that sodomites should be burned alive” (1). However, the term homosexual was not coined until 1869 in Germany (1). This discrimination and punishment came to a head in Nazi Germany.

Germany was not a particularly tolerant place before WWII. Homosexuality was outlawed in 1871, and remained so until 1970 (22). But after WWI Germany developed a vibrant, and some might say outspoken, gay culture (Bergen 23). It had a large homosexual club scene and was host to the Institute for Sexual Research, run by the homosexual gay rights activist Magnus Hirschfeld (23). The publicity and openness surrounding the gay scene in Germany may have been part of its downfall. As Bergen says, “for others it seemed to represent the decadence of a society that had abandoned its traditional values,” (23). This meant that homosexuals could be easily victimized, and that they would have no friends when the Nazis came to power.

Hitler himself seemed to have few problems with gay men before the war. His long-time, right-hand man, Ernst Rohm, was openly gay. He was the head of the 2.5 million strong SA (70-71). It was not until the morality of Rohm’s sexual preferences could be expediently used against him that Hitler chose to begin a campaign of hatred against homosexuals. It was a familiar pattern Hitler used, building support for his cause by inciting hatred against marginalized groups (23).

The Nazi persecution of homosexuals started suddenly and escalated rapidly. With the overt and vibrant gay scene homosexuals were an easy target. Bergen says, “many Germans regarded homosexuality as deviant and decadent and urged their government to crack down,” (57). Thanks to the law of 1871, homosexuals were also criminals, and the Nazi’s considered gay public officials to be easily corruptible targets for blackmail (57). Bergen says that Nazis, “struck in dramatic, decisive ways, but they always tested the public response to each move before proceeding further,” (57). This was a litmus test for Hitler; he could start his campaign of hate by attacking the most easily marginalized group in Germany. Then it would be easy to escalate and attack other groups, Roma, Jews, etc. In this way, the persecution of homosexuals was instrumental in bringing about the preconditions for the holocaust and World War II.

The raids started in 1933. Nazis closed down gay clubs and arrested those inside, sending them to the concentration camp at Dachau (66). Students then destroyed Magnus Hirschfeld’s Institute for Sexual Research. As Bergen puts it, “the German public was indifferent or cheered such offensives,” (58). Hitler saw his people did not care, and he could continue with his plan.

The Night of Long Knives came in June of 1934 (70). Hitler used it to remove Rohm, as he was afraid Rohm was gaining too much power. Many high ranking Nazi officials were murdered, anywhere from 150 to thousands. It was called “a cleanup of the movement, a necessary measure against decadence and perversion,” (71). Hitler got a telegram from President Hindenburg congratulating him, his military leaders supported the move, the German people did not care and the German government even made the actions retroactively legal (71). Similar tactics were later used to oust Frieherr Von Fritsch, the head of the German army, in 1936 (80). All of this was able to happen because of the culture of discrimination in Germany; the murders were wrapped in the idea of restoring morality, of removing homosexuals, the decadent and deviant. Gays had no place in the Third Reich; they refused to do their duty and reproduce. This is of course extremely ironic. If homosexuals did not reproduce, they could not possibly be a threat to future generations. But that did not matter to the Nazis.

As war continued, more homosexuals were put into concentration camps. Nazis called them antisocial parasites and enemies of the state (US Holocaust Memorial, Denunciations). They relied on denunciations, and then used torture to force victims to denounce others (US Holocaust Memorial, Denunciations). The camps were difficult and often deadly for everyone interred, but they had especially brutal conditions for homosexual men. Marked with pink triangles (Bergen 189), gay men were marginalized even by their fellow inmates. There was a hierarchy in concentration camps; the bottom was reserved for Homosexuals, Jews and Gypsies. Gays were isolated and tormented. They received especially harsh treatment from homophobic prisoners Nazis put in charge of them (189). They “suffered severely from torture, beating, and medical experimentation,” (192). And their situation would only get worse. [1]

Before the war, gay men were generally put in prisons under definite sentences. At the wars beginning, their sentences were expanded and they were moved to camps, at first for re-education, and later for labour and death. Unlike most other prisoners, gay men were sometimes able to leave some camps. They had the option of castration and reassignment to heavy labour or front-line duty (192). In one camp they would be released to labour duties if they renounced their sexuality and managed to “perform,” with a prostitute (192). But this did not change their status as victims of genocide, this seemingly preferable treatment was a ruse, it only changed the method the Nazis would use to destroy gays.

In 1942, there was a new, specific policy for dealing with homosexuals. It was called, “extermination through work,” (US Holocaust Memorial, Persecution and the War) and was directly issued by Heinrich Himmler, head of the Nazi SS. Although not the same method as the gas-chambers, this campaign had the same goal of eradication. It demonstrates a clear intent by the Nazis to wipe out homosexuals in Germany and its occupied territories.

In all 50,000 men were arrested for “charges related to homosexuality” (Bergen 191) during the Nazi regime. During the war approximately 5-15,000 were put in camps (US Holocaust Memorial, Protective Custody). About 5-7000 died during the war, probably half of them in concentration camps (Bergen 192). Although these numbers are low, it represents one of the highest per-capita death rates of prisoners in WWII at an estimated 60 per cent (192). Political prisoners suffered only 41 percent losses, Jehovah’s witnesses 35 percent, (192). Overall in Europe, 67 percent of Jews were murdered.

Unfortunately for homosexuals, their situation after the war frequently went unimproved. Prejudices against gays were still rampant in many countries. Homosexuality remained illegal in Germany until the 1960s (193). Bergen says, “illegality and social stigma account for the silence that shrouded the treatment of gay men in Nazi Germany until the 1970s and 1980s,” (193). As of 1997, homosexuals had still not received an official apology from the German government (Benetto). It is incredible to think that a country so obsessed with not reliving the mistakes of its past could, for decades, deny the victimization of an entire group of people during WWII. Even worse than this, many gay men were liberated from concentration camps, then tried and sentenced again by occupiers, and thrown into other prison camps.

It is easy to analyze the human rights situation of homosexuals in Nazi prison camps; there were no rights. Basically every tenant of every human rights convention and declaration was violated by the Nazis. The human dignity of those men and woman, dignity being the source of all rights, was as close to being nullified as possible. They had no freedoms or liberties, no freedom of thought, speech or assembly, no security of the person, no freedom of religion; they were as dehumanized as any people have ever been. The only source of dignity these prisoners had was from the fact that they were human beings. Their rights were clearly violated, and a horrible crime was committed against them. But the question remains, did homosexuals undergo genocide during WWII?

The United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (herein referred to as the genocide convention) defines genocide as, “any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such,” (Article II). These acts are,

(a)    Killing members of the group;

(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group (Article II)

The order from Heinrich Himmler that homosexuals were to be exterminated through work clearly shows and intent to destroy on behalf of the Nazi government. This meets the first requirement of the genocide convention. Homosexual men were killed, caused serious bodily and mental harm, and they were placed in situation calculated to destroy them, especially when they were sent to labour camps. This easily meets three of the 5 conditions for genocide in article II. So it seems that the case for calling this a genocide is very clear cut.  However, in order to be a victim of genocide, the genocide convention says that one must be a member of a targeted “national, ethnical, racial or religious group” (Article II). Sexual groups are not included. This means that the treatment of homosexuals during the holocaust is not recognized as such under international law. But what happened to homosexuals was genocide. The lack of recognition in international law is arbitrary, unjust and most likely a product of the prejudice against gays that still existed when the genocide convention was written (and which still exists in many places of the world today). The genocide convention is lacking and must be reformed so that this genocide is recognized, so that ongoing genocides can be stopped, and so possible future genocides can be prevented. However, this change must be done extremely carefully. In order for the genocide convention to remain effective, it cannot be overbroad. The aim of this essay is to further outline the position of homosexuals as victims of genocide, and to provide context and recommendations for creating effective human rights protections.

As evidenced above, homosexuality was not considered amoral, criminal or a disease until fairly recently in western culture. Gender identities were not always so rigid, but once they became stringent homosexuals were in for a world of trouble. After the common outlawing of homosexuality in western society, and after the genocide against homosexuals during WWII, came the psychological war on gays. This started when the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), was published in 1952. Until the DSM was modified in 1973,

homosexuality was a certified psychological disorder by virtue of the fact that it was registered as such in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Psychiatric Disorders (DSM), the primary diagnostic manual for the American Psychological Association and the American Psychiatric

Association. (Rixecker 115)

As a disorder, psychologists treated homosexuality like cancer, something in need of a cure. Non-heterosexual behavior was considered to be an affliction that people could suffer from (Rixecker 114). The disease had to be cured, so people could again “lead a normal, useful life” (Rixecker 115). There was an argument over how to treat homosexuality; Scientists were not sure if homosexuality was due to, “genetic mutation- or poor environmental conditions-e.g. psychological disorders brought on due to a poor childhood” (Rixecker 115). This led to many different forms of treatment under the blanket label of “conversion therapy” (Rixecker 115. Treatment methods included, “masturbatory reconditioning and aversion therapy. … social skills training, cognitive restructuring, hypnosis, (and) abstinence training” (Cramer 95). Some treatments went so far as to use, “electroconvulsive therapy, surgical interventions (e.g., lobotomy, castration, ovary removal), and hormonal therapy (e.g., steroids, androgens…” (Cramer 95). Today, many of the less invasive techniques are still used, and the frequency of religious techniques (like prayer and threats of damnation) has greatly increased (Cramer 95). Unfortunately, there are no clear numbers on the amount of conversion therapies performed at any time in history (Cramer 95).

The most extreme forms of conversion therapy are very obviously harmful, and sometimes in a physical as well as mental way. However, less extreme forms are still known to cause harm. Firstly, they are almost never successful, instead they just “decrease the overall sexual arousal of participants” (Cramer 101). They are also known to increase shame, conflict, fearfulness and vulnerability to conformity. More severe (but still very common) side-effects include, “long-term sexual dysfunction, lowered self-esteem, loss of family and religiosity, and elevated depression and anxiety” (Cramer 101).

As previously mentioned, homosexuality is no longer categorized as a disease in the DSM. The American Psychological Association (APA) and the American Psychiatric Association are generally both opposed to conversion therapy (Cramer 94). However, conversion therapy still continues, and has not been specifically outlawed by the APA, thanks to lobbying from some pro-conversion therapy members (Rixecker 116). Many doctors still believe in conversion therapy and are constantly lobbying the APA to loosen its guidelines toward the practice.  The strongest lobbyist for the re-mainstreaming of conversion therapy is the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH). The organization’s goals and ideas are not based on fact or justice, but it is still a powerful force. As Rixecker says, “NARTH was instrumental in challenging the American Psychological Association’s recent attempts at imposing a professional sanction on those who perform conversion therapies” (116).

The conversion therapy of the 50s through to today is not an isolated incident. It reveals a culture of discrimination against homosexuals that has led to stigma and violence. During that time psychologists attempted to eradicate homosexuality. Like annihilating cancer, homosexuality was a blight that doctors tried to erase. In a culture like this, the rights of gay men and women were often violated. The right to security of the person under article 3 of the UDHR is violated by the harm caused by conversion therapy. Some forms of CT, such as aversion therapy, which often leads to sexual dysfunction, or electroshock, or removal of parts of the body, can be easily labeled as cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment under article 4. The attempt to change sexual orientation is an encroachment on the freedom of thought under article 18. Article 7 is violated by the clear discrimination against homosexuals evident in the DSM’s definition of homosexuality as a disease, and article 8 is violated because no effective remedy for these crimes has ever been given to homosexuals. Other rights are also violated under the UDHR and other international human rights treaties, but they will not be discussed for the sake of brevity.

It is clear that CT and the culture around it led to many violations of the rights of homosexuals. But the real question is whether or not this psychological attempt to eradicate homosexuality can be called genocide. The answer is no. As a group, there was no “intent to destroy, in whole or in part” (Genocide Convention Article II) homosexuals. The target was homosexuality itself. During WWII Nazis tried to destroy Jews, not just Judaism, and homosexuals, not just homosexuality. Also, none of the five conditions of the genocide convention were met by the “psychological genocide”. The third condition is, “deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part” (Article II). The APA did try to bring about the destruction of the condition of homosexuality, but again, not homosexuals themselves. As such, defining this era in western medicine as genocidal goes too far. It is not true to the idea of the genocide convention.  Modifying the convention to include this incident would certainly lead to over broadness and a sharp decrease in effectiveness. But research into the psychological non-genocide is still useful, as it can be used as a test to prevent over broadness when modifying the genocide convention. It proves that there is no reason to modify the five acts in article II.

Behind the idea of homosexuality as a disease is the concept that it is somehow immoral, decadent, or abnormal. This concept has led many countries to criminalize sodomy and lock up “practicing” homosexuals. Same sex unions are legal in only five countries in the world, sodomy is illegal in 70 (Amnesty International love, Hate and the Law). This is a problem inherent throughout the world; sodomy was illegal in many US states until the laws were repealed by the Supreme Court in the 2003 case Lawrence vs. Texas (, USA Laws). Sodomy often has a broader definition then sexual acts between same-sex couples, but frequently is only enforced against homosexuals (, USA Laws). These laws reveal a culture of hatred and discrimination, but are not genocide. However, the argument for a genocide against homosexuals can be made in the case of thirteen countries; Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Iran, Mauritania, Myanmar, Nigeria, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Uganda, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen.  Each of these countries has not only outlawed homosexuality, but has made it punishable by death or life imprisonment (Amnesty International). Also, Islamic Sharia law, which is practiced in parts of many countries, carries a penalty of death by stoning for an act of homosexual sex (Gay Law Net, Nigeria).

Genocides may also be ongoing in other places. Although homosexuality is not punishable by death or life imprisonment in the country, there have been claims made that the government of Columbia has specifically targeted homosexual men for destruction. The murders are carried out by the Columbian police force, who either kill or disappear men known to be gay (Rixecker 122).  In the late 80s, 328 gay men were killed in the city of Medellin alone (Rixecker 122). A male prostitute is quoted as saying, “the only program the government has for (gay men) is a program to kill us” (122). There is also an unlabeled genocide ongoing in Iraq.  Shia death squads are rampantly murdering men suspected of being gay and children forced into same-sex prostitution (Copestake). The murders are considered honor killings, and as such are not punishable by Iraqi law (Copestake). The killings began when a fatwa against homosexuals was issued by Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani  (Ireland).

This is an example of a law enacted against homosexuals from Uganda. Section 145 of the penal code says that anyone who:

(a) has carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature;
(b) has carnal knowledge of an animal; or
(c) permits a male person to have carnal knowledge of him or her against the order of nature, commits an offence and is liable to imprisonment for life.

It is interesting to note that under this law, two consenting adult men engaging in sexual relations are committing a crime equal to bestiality. That dehumanizing comparison is a common feature of the laws in many of these countries. Laws like this help to foster discrimination, and create an environment where dehumanization makes genocide possible.

A government legislating death or life imprisonment onto a distinct social group clearly reveals “intent to destroy, in whole or in part” (Genocide Convention Article II). The same intent is revealed in the gay fatwa in Iraq, and possibly the first-person accounts of police murders in Columbia. The death penalty meets the Genocide convention’s first condition, “killing members of the group” (Article II A), as do the killings in Iraq and possibly those in Columbia. Life imprisonment meets the second condition, “deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part” (Article II B), as the ultimate end of life imprisonment is death.

Unfortunately for the victims of these crimes, their deaths and sentences do not meet the standards of international law. Again, this is because homosexuals are not, as a group, members of “a national, ethnical, racial or religious group” (Article II), as required by the genocide convention. Once again, homosexuals are left in the dark without any defense in the international community. This is not justice; it is an arbitrary and prejudicial exclusion. These genocides are a severe threat to human dignity, and are crimes against humanity that, at least indirectly, affect every person on the planet. The government legislation itself is a violation of that right from which all others flow, the right to human dignity. When governments specifically targeted  Jews in Germany or Tutsis in Rwanda for death, the actions were labeled genocide. But when a government targets homosexuals, who have no choice in deciding their sexuality, just as a person cannot choose race, they are not protected by the genocide convention. This makes no sense. Like political groups, homosexuals are left out. But unlike political groups, homosexuals are much more vulnerable. They are too small a minority to band together and fight and they cannot choose to stop being gay.

There are some possible justifications for not including sexual groups in the genocide convention, but none hold any water. The first justification is that, unlike Jews or Tutsis, the child of a homosexual will not necessarily be a homosexual. This is irrelevant to the genocide convention, as the effectiveness of genocide does not matter, only the “intent to destroy, in whole or in part” (Article II). The second justification is that, unlike destroying all Jews or Tutsis, homosexuality would still exist even if all homosexuals were killed in a certain area. In the next generation, 6-10 percent of people would still be gay, as the causes of homosexuality are probably not entirely hereditary, and even if they are, straight people can still have gay children. But contrary to this justification is that same fact, the effectiveness of genocide does not matter, only intent is important in regard to international law. A possible third justification is that there simply aren’t enough homosexuals being killed to justify international intervention. This may be true; homosexuals are generally a small minority. But the size of targeted group makes no difference if the intent to destroy them is there. Also, including sexual groups in the genocide convention would create pressure for change outside of interventionist methods. Aside from a lack of international consensus, there is no reason to exclude homosexuals as victims. Their exclusion only allows genocides to continue, while making human rights impotent to prevent possible future genocides. And the future holds some very disturbing possibilities.

There is one final genocide left to discuss, the possible in utero genocide against homosexuals. This could be born out of increasing genetic and in utero research. It is thanks in large part to the Human Genome Project (HGP), which is an attempt to map the entire human genome (Rixecker 109). Rixecker says the project itself will ultimately “impact upon the scientific, medical, economic, political and cultural futures of all living and future human beings” (109). Of that fact there is no doubt. However, the way the HGP will impact humanity is debatable. The HGP has potential to lead to cures for certain types of cancer, cystic fibrosis, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and many other diseases. However, genetic research has already been controversial; its identification of down syndrome being linked to a chromosome 21 trisomy, combined with prenatal genetic screening, has led to women being able to abort children with the genetic disorder (National Institute of Child Health and Human Development). There is a large ethical debate to be had around this type of research, a debate which could have serious consequences for sexual minorities.

Stephanie Rixecker, a human rights scholar and professor at Lincoln University, is very critical of the ethics surrounding genetic research and the HGP. She says there are not enough safeguards for the ethics of researchers. She says the laws and societal norms governing research are, “insufficient for protecting people who cannot defend themselves” (110). She also feels that, “ethics, law, policy, justice and human rights … are not sufficiently mature to handle and address the immediate (and long-term) consequences of the HGP” (109). Rixecker feels that in the end, economic interest may win out against moral and ethical interest (109). As the abortions resulting out of the test for Down syndrome demonstrate, the limits of morality are already being tested.

This ethical situation becomes even more interesting when it is turned toward sexuality. There is a division between scientists who feel sexuality stems from nature and those who feel it is biologically determined. However the standard today is generally that which is described in the DSM, that “human beings cannot choose to be either gay or straight” (115). This suggests that there is at least some genetic element to homosexuality, most likely combined with other factors such as in utero chemical balances, and influences a child receives as he or she grows up (118). Many genetic researches are attempting to prove that homosexuality is mostly biological, or at least that it is the result of a biological precondition. Often this is done with the reason of ending discrimination against gays and lesbians by proving their sexuality is “natural” (110). The problem is that proving homosexuality is biological will not necessarily end any discrimination, and finding the genetic markers that indicate a precondition for homosexuality may have serious ethical consequences.

Research into the Xq28 gene has shown a strong link to homosexuality in some men (Rixecker 110, footnote 3), which provides some strong evidence that homosexuality is indeed at least partially genetic.[2] Despite the many factors that may contribute to the development of sexuality, the genetic evidence is particularly striking. When this genetic knowledge is combined with reproductive biology and in utero screening, it is possible to detect and abort fetuses that have the Xq28 gene (or possibly other genes that have yet to be discovered). In the future “genetic alteration and ‘enhancement'” (110) may also be possible. This means that mothers, who can already conceivably abort fetuses with a genetic predisposition to homosexuality, may actually be able to modify fetuses to erase that predisposition. Additionally they could possibly, “through the use of preimplantation genetic diagnosis … embryo selection and cloning … and in vitro fertilization, pre-select for certain traits, including the lack of homosexuality” (110).  This obviously raises incredible ethical questions and could have serious consequences for the gay community. This is what Rixecker fears is the opposite side of the discovery of the so-called “gay gene” and one of the worst possible outcomes of the HGP. The techniques that could facilitate this situation are already in existence, and as the Down syndrome case demonstrates, have already been used to select fetuses for abortion. Rixecker says this means “the eradication of homosexuality in small cultural groups or on a global scale is theoretically feasible” (111).

So what does this mean in the real world, and with the current definition of genocide? In her essay Rixecker outlines a clear climate of hatred toward homosexuals in many countries. She notes that despite pressure from organizations like Amnesty International, the UN has not adopted any documents that provide significant protection for sexual minorities (120). The crux of the question is really this, will there ever be a broad campaign aimed at wiping out homosexuals, through the use of in vitro genetic manipulation or testing, in any specific country or area? The answer is a complex one.

If genetic testing and abortions/manipulation with the aim of removing homosexuality and homosexual children were made legal, the removal/modification of children with homosexual preconditions would probably not become required by law in any developed country. Some women who have had genetic testing done on their babies may choose abortion or modification, but many others would most likely make no change or not have testing done at all. The Down syndrome test has shown that governments and individuals are willing to let fetuses be aborted if they have a genetic disorder.  Homosexuality is not a disorder, which greatly undercuts the chances of abortion or modification based on sexuality, but does not totally eliminate the possibility. This does not mean a campaign to eradicate homosexuality could not exist in a developed country. Germany was one of the world’s highest educated and most cultured countries when Hitler came to power; with the discrimination that still exists today, one should never say never.

Genocide is probably unlikely in highly developed countries, but there is a stronger possibility that Rixecker’s genocide could happen elsewhere. This would most likely be in a country where homosexuality is crime punishable by death or life imprisonment. Most of those 13 countries are not yet developed enough to have the genetic testing and screening technology and use it on a broad scale. But India (where homosexuality is punishable by life imprisonment) and Pakistan (where it is punishable by death), might. It is not a long jump between murdering people for being gay and preventing gay people from being born.  In light of this, Rixecker’s genocide certainly is, at least, theoretically possible.

When these four “genocides,” are placed in context the picture that forms is one of horrible abuse to a vulnerable group across borders and throughout modern history. During WWII the Nazis set out to remove homosexuals, and other groups, from German society. The conditions that gay men were subjected to were as bad or worse as any other group. They were targeted for destruction, and underwent genocide. Homosexuals are still undergoing genocide in more than 13 countries, where they are either murdered or put in prison for life because of their sexuality. And it is conceivable that in the future, in certain countries or areas, generations of homosexuals could be wiped out through genetic screening, genetic modification, and abortions. Homosexuals are vulnerable and are currently not protected by international law, and this needs to change.

An effective international instrument is needed to protect homosexuals from genocide and other crimes. Gays and lesbians have undergone and still undergo treatment that would be considered genocide if they were one of the groups outlined in the genocide convention. There is intent to destroy, there is killing and there are conditions intended to bring about destruction. The most effective way to recognize past, stop current, and prevent future genocides, is to add sexual groups to the genocide convention alongside “national, ethnical, racial (and) religious group(s)” (Genocide Convention Article II). This can be done without making the convention overbroad. Hopefully, if this can be accomplished, it will serve to create international pressure and eventually result in the repealing of anti-gay laws and genocidal practices. Because gays are such a minority and targeted in so many countries, using force to end genocide is not really an option. But simply by recognizing the plight of homosexuals in international law will create some form of protection and justice, and raise massive amounts of awareness that can hopefully bring about change. But changing international law is a complex process, and the genocide convention must not be made overbroad.

The question of over broadness is where the “psychological genocide” must be applied. As mentioned above, it was not genocide and does not meet the requirements of the genocide convention. It would not meet those requirements even if sexual groups were included in the definition. This must remain so. The 5 criteria in article II of the genocide convention should not be removed, added to or changed. Changing them to recognize things like the psychological war against homosexuality would over broaden the convention and make it much less effective. This is where the line must be drawn. To reiterate, simply adding sexual groups to the first part of article II does not remove any power from the convention through over broadness and it stays true to the convention’s original purpose. It is adding to the 5 criteria of article II that would make it overbroad.

But there still remains one large problem. Many countries in the UN will never agree to adding sexual groups to the genocide convention, especially when 70 outlaw sodomy. Some Islamic countries, like Iran, refuse to even admit that homosexuality exists within their borders  (Daily Mail). This essay attempts to establish what justice dictates should be done in the case of the genocide convention. Adding sexual groups to the convention is just, but it is not practical in today’s world. But sexual groups still remain in limbo in terms of international law; there is no effective treaty which protects their rights As such, for practical purposes, a declaration, and eventually a convention, or possibly an optional protocol to the ICCPR,  must be drawn up to protect the rights of sexual groups and sexual minorities. This should take a similar form to the CEDAW and CERD. It must specifically outlaw discrimination based on sexual preference, declare that homosexuality is not a disease, and require governments to repeal sodomy/homosexuality laws and begin education campaigns to reduce stigma. This will help increase international pressure to end the stigmatization, stereotyping and hatred toward gays and lesbians. It will also help to gradually work toward a modification of the genocide convention that recognizes past, helps to end current, and helps to prevent future genocides.

Unfortunately, even something as simple as a declaration has little chance of entering into force in the UN. There are simply too many countries opposed to homosexuality. Change is possible, but it must be brought about gradually, through education and pressure from governments, NGOs, IGOs and individuals. Groups like Amnesty International and the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission are already fighting to create pressure for an international document protecting the rights of sexual minorities. Unfortunately, so far they have been unsuccessful. But, to borrow a term from Rixecker, a new “social map” (123) must be created in the world. It is certainly an uphill battle, but it is one that is being and certainly needs to be fought.

In conclusion, it is evident that homosexuals have undergone and still undergo massive discrimination, hatred and even genocide. Their treatment in WWII was genocidal, their treatment in countries where their sexuality is outlawed on pain of death or life imprisonment is genocide, and it is possible that a genetic genocide could be visited upon them in the future. To serve justice and provide protection, sexual groups must be included alongside the other groups in article II of the genocide convention. This will help to recognize past, end current, and prevent future genocides against gay men and women. This change can be done without making the convention over broad or ineffective, and the psychological non-genocide can be used a test to draw the line. Changing the genocide convention will be difficult and probably take many years, and other steps will have to come before any modification. But change is possible, and for justice and human dignity to be served, change must come.

Works Cited

Amnesty International USA. “LGBT Status Around the World.” 2009. Amnesty International USA. 13

January 2009 <;.

Bennetto, Jason. “Holocaust: Gay Activits Press for German Apology.” 1 November 1997. 13 January 2009 <;.

Bergen, Doris L. War and Genocide: A Concise History of the Holocaust. Lanham, Maryland:

Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 2003.

Bull, Chris. “Memories of Nazi Persecution.” Advocate 879 (2002): 14-14.

Copestake, Jennifer. “Gays flee Iraq as Shia death squads find a new target.” The Observer 6 August


Dadrian, Vahakn N. “Children as Victims of Genocide; The Armenian Case.” Journal of Genocide

Research (2003): 421-438.

Daily Mail. Mail Online. 25 September 2007. 30 March 2009


Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. Facts About

Down Syndrome. 15 August 2008. 10 March 2009 <;.

GayLawNet. Laws. 2008. 13 January 2009 <;.

Inernational Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission. Home. 2009. 13 January 2009


Ireland, Doug. “Youths Slain in Anti-Gay Fatwa.” Gay City News 5 September 2006:

Michel Prum, Benedicte Deschamps, Marie-Claude Barbier. Racial, Ethnic and Homophobic Violence:

Killing in the Name of Otherness. Oxon, OX: Routledge-Cavendish, 2007.

Percy, William A. “Humbuldt University of Berlin.” 22 June 2006. Homosexuality and the Holocaust.

13 January 2009 <;.

Rixecker, Stefanie S. “Genetic Engineering and Queer Biotechnology: The Eugenics of the Twenty-

First Century?” Journal of Genocide Research (2002): 109-126.

Robert J. Cramer, Frank D. Golom, Charles T. LoPresto, Salene M. Kirkley. “Weighing the Evidence:

Empirical Assessment and Ethical Implications of Conversion Therapy.” Ethics and Behaviour 18.1 (2008): 93-114.

Romesburg, Don. “The politics of the gay gene.” Advocate (2005): 7-7. Sodomy Laws in the United States. 24 November 2007. 30 March 2009


Stonewall UK. “Timeline of lesbian and gay history.” 2007. Stonewall. 23 January 2009


United Nations. “Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.” United

Nations, 9 December 1948.

United Nations General Assembly. “Universal Declaration of Human Rights.” New York: United

Nations, 10 December 1948.

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. “Lesbians and the Third Reich.” 7 October 2008. United

States Holocaust Memorial Museum. 13 January 2009 <;.

United States Holocaust Memorial. “Nazi Persecution of Homosexuals 1933-1945.” 2009. United

States Holocaust Memorial. 13 January 2009 <;.

Vilanch, Bruce. “Tolerance and Tennessee.” Advocate 939 (2005): 72-72.

[1] Lesbian women received different treatment. They were often ignored because they could be forced to reproduce and were not usually considered a threat. However, some were put in camps and others were forced to work in brothels (Bergen 187).

[2] This study, performed by Dean Hamer, has been disputed by a later study. However, this second study used a smaller test group made up of a different field of subjects. Hamer has stood by his research, and has conducted a second study which further confirmed the link between Xq28 and homosexuality, but only in men.


Filed under Human Rights, Research Papers

Mo’ Money, Mo’ Problem: The Profit Motive and Media Consolidation in the US

St. Thomas University

8 April 2009

Media ownership, like wealth, tends to accumulate into fewer and fewer hands in a capitalist economy. This leads to an increase in the importance of profit over content, a homogenization of opinion and a lack diverse programming. Since the 80s, the United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has consistently revoked regulations meant to prevent a concentration of media ownership and create a diversity of programming and opinion. It has gotten to the point where almost all media is owned by only a handful of companies, where the homogenization of ownership and ideas are greatly damaging society. This homogenization leads to less informed citizens, which leads to the breakdown of democratic society. Media consolidation must be stopped, and reversed. It can be done, but only if regulatory bodies like the FCC put their citizens ahead of the economic gains of corporations.

Marshall McLuhan would say media has always existed. But media in its current form, easily accessible newspapers, radio, and television, has only been around for about sixty or seventy years. The newest media, the internet, is still only a child, accessed by most of the world for just a little over a decade. Because of these four major forms of media, and especially the massively unregulated internet, many people would think there is a far greater diversity of ideas than ever before. But this is not the case. For the vast majority of Americans, ideas are coming from fewer and fewer sources. This trend has a long history, dating back to the founding of the FCC.

The first comprehensive legislation to regulate broadcasting in the US was the Federal Radio Act, which came into existence in 1927. This created the Federal Radio Commission, the first regulatory broadcast body in the US. The Federal Communications Commission came into existence with the Communications Act of 1934. Its purpose was to regulate the limited public radio band and international communications (US Government Title 1). It is not an elected body, rather its commissioners are appointed by the US president. Its mandate, according to the communications act of 1934 (amended in 1996), is to,

make available so far as possible, to all the people of the United States, without discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, or sex, rapid, efficient, Nation-wide, and world-wide wire and radio communication services with adequate facilities at reasonable charges (US Government Title 1).

From its inception the FCC was able to regulate and give licenses to broadcasters. Originally there was no charge for licenses. Once a charge was instituted, many independent radio operators were driven out of business by larger corporations. But the FCC was not always close with large corporations. The report on chain broadcasting, released in 1940, was , “one of the FCC’s earliest efforts to preserve and promote localism, via their efforts to limit the influence that broadcast networks could have over the programming decisions of their affiliates,” (Social Science Research Council). The report required NBC to break up, leading to the creation of ABC, and also limited the amount of air time companies (mainly CBS) could require from its local affiliates. In 1941 regulations were padded to prevent broadcasters from owning, “television stations that reach more than 35% of the nation’s homes,” (Bill Moyers). In 1946 the Dual Television Network Rule was enacted. It prevented any major network from buying another one. In 1964 the FCC created a rule preventing broadcasters from owning more than one television station in a single market (with the exception of very large markets).  The 70s saw cross ownership rules come into existence, preventing broadcasters from owning media in more than one form in a single market (such as a television station and a newspaper) (Bill Moyers).

The FCC was supportive of competition for a brief period in the 80s. Before and during this decade it stopped treating telephone services as a monopoly. In 1982 it helped to split up the American Telephone and Telegraph Company. However, things changed drastically once President Ronald Reagan came to power. Reagan was known for massive deregulation. Under pressure from his corporate buddies and backers, he not only deregulated media, but also banking, business and the economy. This was because of his conservative ideals and pressures from other conservatives who believed in a supply-oriented economy. Essentially this means the government supporting entrepreneurs and business instead of helping workers with purchasing power. The idea was that by allowing the owners of business to generate more wealth by providing a so-called “free marketplace” (which simply means a deregulated marketplace where corporations have all the power), massive amounts of money would  be generated and then trickle down to poorer people. The result of deregulation and trickle-down economics was the rich getting richer, the poor getting poorer, and the media slowly dying. These results are being felt today in both the media and economic crisis.

Under Reagan, the FCC, with the guise of increasing competition, began to roll back its regulations on monopoly and content (Now with Bill Moyers). In 1987, the fairness doctrine was removed. The doctrine was, “an attempt to ensure that all coverage of controversial issues by a broadcast station be balanced and fair,” (The Museam of Broadcast Communications). It stated that stations were public trustees with, “an obligation to afford reasonable opportunity for discussion of contrasting points of view on controversial issues of public importance” (The Museam of Broadcast Communications). The idea was that, with a limited band, multiple viewpoints were needed on the stations available to people. However, some people argued that this prevented some important issues from being covered, as journalists may not want to provide both points of view (The Museam of Broadcast Communications). Although this is a line frequently touted by members of the FCC today, they rarely quote any research showing that the fairness doctrine had such a negative effect. In any case, by 1987, the much more diverse amount of programming available made it seem that this doctrine was no longer needed, and it was removed.

The removal of the fairness doctrine may have been legitimate in keeping with the first amendment, although its removal certainly came with problems (which will be discussed later in the essay) However, the eighties saw other, more harmful deregulation. In 1981 television licenses were extended from three to five years (Now with Bill Moyers). In ’85 the requirement for a minimum amount of information programming was abolished, as were limits on the amount of advertising. More deregulation was to follow.

In 1996 President Bill Clinton signed the Telecommunications Act. It lifted the cap on radio station ownership, which was set at 40 stations nationally. As a result, Clear Channel Communications is now able to and does own over 1200 radio stations (Now with Bill Moyers) across the US. This has led to almost total homogenization of radio programming across the United States.

The trend of deregulation and concentration of ownership came to a head in 2002, when the FCC declared a massive rollback of its regulations on media ownership. It would have increased allowable market shares from 35% to 45%, and eliminated the newspaper/broadcast cross ownership rule. This would mean that newspapers could own and be owned by companies with television and radio stations in the same market. The vast majority of the FCC commissioners voted for the de-regulation. One of only two dissenting commissioners was Jonathan Adelstein. He said, “this approach shatters most of the last vestiges of the consumer protections that weren’t eliminated in the 1980’s. This decision pulls the teeth out of the remaining rules, leaving the FCC a toothless tiger” (1).

The reforms over the decades have been sweeping and have led to a state of incredible concentration of media ownership. Thankfully, the proposed changes of 2002 have been blocked by the Supreme Court, but the FCC still supports them. And more deregulation may be coming. Newspapers are dying, and the US attorney general is considering loosening the pathetic anti-trust laws currently in place to try and bolster them (Craig Aaron). But even without these changes homogenization of content is incredible, with only a handful of companies owning all of the major media outlets in every market in the United States.

The concentration of media ownership is frightening nationally in the United States, and worse in many local areas. Almost every national television network is owned by AOL Time Warner, Viacom, Disney, General Electric or News Corp. These include HBO, the WB, Fox, CBS, ABC, MSNB, and dozens of others (Bill Moyers, Who Owns What). These same companies own the 13 largest film companies in the US, from 20th Century Fox to Walt Disney Pictures, Touchstone, Miramax and others. They own Time Magazine, People, Sports Illustrated, the NY Post and several other major national magazines. Just three, Disney, AOL Time Warner and Vivendi Universal, own almost every major musical production company (a total of 18 labels between the three companies), including Island, Decca, Atlantic, Warner Brothers, MCA and others. They also own major stakes in the internet, theme parks, radio and in the case of News Corp, sports teams (like the New York Knicks and Rangers and the Los Angeles Dodgers) (Bill Moyers). There are “287 (radio) markets in the United States,” (Think and Ask), and Clear Channel Communications Inc. has radio stations in 201 of them. The company owns 1,207 radio stations. Its closest competitor, Cumulus Media, has 250 stations (Think and Ask). This means that, with the exception of the internet, almost all television, radio, music, and movies in the United States are produced by only 7 companies. There is some diversity created as they attempt to carve out a niche market, but with so few hands in the pot, almost every company can have a position in every niche market. With all of them placing a primary emphasis on profit, this means there is a massive homogenization of ideas and a huge lack of diversity.

The concentration of big media owners on generating capital has had a distinct, quantifiable impact on programming. Research into studies conducted before, during and after regulation (in the 1970s, 80s and 90s) reveals interesting findings. Ronald Bishop and Ernest A. Hakanen report that there is a,

pressing need for broadcasters to offer public affairs programming, a need based on the notion that stations not only continue to serve specific geographic areas but also fulfill their role as public trustees, which demands diversity in programming, political programming, and localism (261).

The important thing to take from this statement is the idea of broadcasters as public trustees. They are called to provide citizens in a democracy with the information they need to make informed choices, through diversity of programming. Public trusteeship, acting as if the broadcasters are owned by the public, is the method the US government had chosen to regulate media content. It chose this because it allows for flexible rules that protect both free speech, the idea of an informed public, and a free marketplace of ideas (262). It is an attempt to, “reconcile the competitive commercial pressures of broadcasting with the needs of a democracy,” (262). Unfortunately, after deregulation commercial pressures are crushing the needs of democracy.

The study these authors conducted reveals that once media was deregulated by the FCC, the amount and quality of local, non news, public affairs programming greatly declined (261), suggesting that, “that stations have not maintained their commitment to local public affairs programming” (261). According to Hakanen and Bishop there are three realms in broadcasting which are important for maintaining free speech and a marketplace of ideas. These are, “diversity of programming, political discourse, and localism,” (263). According to the authors, local non-news public affairs programming is a great litmus test of all three of these realms. The symptom of the failure of that programming is indicative of a larger sickness in broadcasting. Their essay goes further, saying localism is the most important aspect. It adds that in the past the FCC required that, “station officials … talk to community leaders of all stripes to learn about problems facing residents and then create programming that dealt with these issues,” (263), a practice which has largely died since deregulation in the 80s.

Deregulation itself is the cause of the problems (264). Where in the 70s the FCC required detailed reports on community contacts and time dedicated to local issues programming, in the 80s these reports became less important (264). The FCC eliminated the strict 10 percent non-entertainment programming requirement and 5 percent public affairs requirement (264). It replaced this with an overbroad and almost unenforceable requirement to air, “‘some’ programming that meets the community’s needs,” (264). To meet this standard, most broadcasters have opted to create more local television news (264). Unfortunately, this often comes in the form of facts without analysis or context, with “sensationalism … at the expense of coverage of local government and politics” (265). Hakanen and Bishop criticize this type of news for not giving enough information to citizens. Once again, profit is shown to be more important than content as broadcasters choose, or create, stories that draw audiences instead of ones that inform the public (265). And just as sinister, broadcasters have created a, “ghetto,” (265) for what little public affairs programming they are required to produce. This means they place public affairs and local programming during the early morning and weekends. These are timeslots where ratings won’t be lost. As such, broadcasters won’t lose advertising money.

Hakanen and Bishop also address the broadcasters’, and the FCC’s, argument that more channels lead to more voices, and as such each broadcaster needs less public affairs programming. They say, “while the range of programs may grow, their relevance to the communities served by broadcasters may not,” (266). In other words, there are more voices, they just are not saying anything worthwhile.

So what does all this information mean? The best way to look at it is in the context of the idea of the free marketplace of ideas suggested by John Milton and advocated by John Stuart Mill. Mill advocates a system where there can be a free exchange of ideas and opinions, and believes that the best ideas will win out. In a modern context some limits, such as hate speech legislation, must be placed on this marketplace. In the past limits on content and ownership were meant to, and did, serve the idea of a free exchange of diverse opinions and ideas. The lack of regulation has allowed companies to regulate their own content, but for profit instead of for actual quality programming. There must be no mistake; there is not a free press, or a free marketplace, in the United States. Unregulated does not equal free, unregulated equals corporate control, the opposite of free. Government regulation is far preferable, as it can at least be restrained by the democracy and a constitution. There is nothing to limit the limits corporations can put on content as they search out more and more profit.  The homogenization of ownership of important media is causing local, diverse, and public affairs programming, to be drowned out by safe fluff that boosts ratings.

This fluff means that content is losing in a battle against profit. In his book, On Liberty, Mill riles against government interference and against people who prefer to have, “peace in the intellectual world,” (On Liberty Ch. 2) over “free and daring speculation on the highest subjects” (Ch 2). He warns that such people narrow, “their thoughts and interests to things which can be spoken of without venturing within the region of principles, that is, to small practical matters” (Ch 2). This is exactly what is happening thanks to a concentration in media ownership. In the past government regulation actually helped to create these controversial conversations Mill advocated. Now, newspapers and broadcasters are choosing these polite conversations, and are doing so at the price of real, important discussion.

Mill says that opinions must be, “fully, frequently, and fearlessly discussed” (Ch 2), or else they “will be held as a dead dogma, not a living truth,” (Ch 2). Opinions are not being fully, frequently and fearlessly discussed, especially controversial opinions. There is an interesting case study which supports this idea. The concentration of media ownership has, in the recent past, had a quantifiable impact on the United States. This is best shown in the case of the Iraq war. After September 11th, many, probably most, journalists in the US were caught up in a kind of patriotic zeal. They often unquestioningly supported the Bush administration. This led to reporters towing the “company line,” and providing the American public with lies from the Bush administration. There was a massive failure in the American media to investigate US intelligence and report accurate news, and the media is largely to blame for the illegal, difficult and costly war that is now ongoing.

It could be said that the poor reporting following 9/11 has little to do with the owners of media, that it was the fault of the patriotic surge at the time and the fault of reporters for going along with it. Although individual reporters are certainly at fault and the zeitgeist was a powerful force to overcome, it is the situation set up by media concentration and deregulation that allowed such poor reporting to happen. This is demonstrated in several cases.

The most interesting case is that of Phil Donahue. He was the host of Donahue, MSNBCs highest rated show during the post 9/11 years. His show was one of very few that allowed anti-war voices on the air (Democracy Now). He was fired in 2003 for the thinly veiled excuse of low ratings (again while having NBCs highest rated show). The real reason, as outlined in a memo from NBC, was that the network,

didn’t want to have their flagship show, no matter how successful it was, the most popular show on MSNBC, being one that provided a forum for anti-war voices. They didn’t want an anti-war face when the other networks were waving the American flag. (Democracy Now)

Donahue was only trying to host, “a place where dissent could be heard” (Democracy Now). He recognizes that, “today, that collective middle is occupied not by a whole lot of people, but by fewer and fewer corporations, larger and larger in size, much more concerned about the bottom line than they are about sticking their nose under the tent” (Democracy Now). As Donahue puts it, “everybody is under pressure to shut up and sing” (Democracy Now).

As Donahue suggests, the real problem is that, when media ownership becomes centralized and content becomes deregulated, profit is emphasized over content. NBC was afraid of losing viewers when the zeitgeist was so pro-war, so they cut off the man who was one of the only responsible mainstream journalists in the United States at the time. They chose polite conversation over free and fearless discussion. This reveals a culture where rational dissent was silenced for profit.

The mindset present in media today, the one that got Phil Donahue fired, has a serious consequence. It is that many journalists will now not only censor themselves for fear of losing their jobs, but that the owners of media are hiring people who they do not need to intimidate. These are journalists and editors who willingly choose fluff stories, know not to dig to deep, know to tow the company line, and know to give Americans what they want to hear instead of what they need. Phil Donahue stepped outside of these bounds, and was made an example as a result. This is the real cause of the poor reporting following 9/11. To further illustrate that point, this essay will examine a great example of the type of reporters and reporting that flourishes in such an atmosphere.

Judith Miller was an investigative reporter at the New York Times, and also worked as an embedded reporter once the war on Iraq began. She had seemingly incredible access to Bush administration insiders, and was great at getting early scoops. She was one of the first journalists in America to report that Saddam Hussein, “embarked on a worldwide hunt for materials to make an atomic bomb” (Miller 1) and co-wrote the notorious aluminum tubes line, “Iraq has sought to buy thousands of specially designed aluminum tubes, which American officials believe were intended as components of centrifuges to enrich uranium” (1). Her smoking gun article only mentions, “Bush administration officials” (1), and “a senior administration official” (1), and does not give names for sources.

Miller’s reporting was incorrect. The Bush administration fed her, and others, false information about the WMDs, even though the administration had hard intelligence saying there were none (The Huffington Post). This reveals a horrible situation in the United States. Journalists were no longer a check on the government, instead they were pawns used to mislead a country into a costly and illegal war. Miller was not alone, many other journalists (such as her co-author Michael Gordon) reported information from anonymous sources in the Bush administration, and fuelled a cycle of speculation about WMDs in Iraq that helped lead to the war.

Miller was apologetic about her coverage of the war. She is quoted as saying, “I got it totally wrong. … If your sources are wrong, you are wrong. I did the best job that I could” (Don Van Natta Jr. 2). Unfortunately this apology seems to place the blame on the people who lied to Miller. She ignores the fact that, as a journalist, she is responsible to delve deep and to not take her sources words as gospel. Although she has an incredible body of work behind her, her reliance on and ties to administration officials are inexcusable when considering the disastorous results of post 9/11 reporting, especially in the context of the concentration of media ownership.Even the editors of the NY Times criticised their own paper for its post 9/11 coverage, labelling the errors of Miller and other reporters as “institutional … failures” (Don Van Natta Jr. 2). It was not just shoddy reporting, it was encouraged by the entire organization. And although the post 9/11 zeitgeist is gone and the apologies have been made, the root cause of this problem still exists.

Miller had already lost much of her credibility as a result of her pre-war reporting. But terrible mistakes continued. She was still being used by Bush officials. In an outright attack against Joseph Wilson, a former diplomat who was critical of the War on Iraq, the Bush administrates leaked that his wife, Valerie Plame, was a CIA agent (Don Can Natta Jr. 2). I Lewis Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney’s Chief of Staff, was the insider who told Miller and other reporters(Don Can Natta Jr. 2). Miller did not write a story about Plame, but others did, and an investigation into the matter found out she knew about Plame. She refused to testify, wanting to keep her source secret (Don Can Natta Jr. 2), and was imprisoned until she eventually testified.

This entire affair was a circus. Miller did not to write a story about Plame, but she tried to write one; she was told no by her editors (Don Can Natta Jr. 3). She was willing to write a story that could lead to the death of an undercover CIA agent, a story that had no value to the public interest, a story that would probably sell lots of papers, and a story that was really nothing more then an attempt by the Bush administration to silence a critic. Miller was willing to go to prison to protect an official who was committing a serious crime in telling her the information about Plame. He was from an administration that had knowingly lied to and used her in the past. And the worst part is that the New York Times backed Miller. Again, Miller shows the shoddy reporting, and the Times shows the institutional failure, that has stemmed from deregulation and media consolidation.

Miller eventually had to retire from the Times. She was an irresponsible journalist. But her stories followed the Zeitgeist, and they sold papers. She was backed by her organisation right up until the end, when it chose to distance itself from her after her reputation was ruined. Miller is gone, but the biggest problem of the concentration of media ownership remains, the emphasis on profit over content.

This emphasis is still ruining responsible media in the United States. There are few better examples than that of the absence of reporting on the US Senate Select Committee on Intellegence findings about intellegence leading up to the war in Iraq. The report was released in the summer of 2008 and said “the president and his top officials deliberately misrepresented secret intelligence to make the case to invade Iraq” (The Huffington Post). The report was a damning indictment of the Bush administration, one which should have been on the front page of every newspaper and at the top of every newscast in America. But it was not. No major news network covered it, except for a very brief mention on ABC. It was even passed over by most major newspapers. The New York Times ran a story but it was buried deep inside the Washington section. Basically the only media outlets to give the story the attention it deserved were the Huffington post, an online news blog, and Comedy Central. The Daily Show not only covered the story, but called out major news networks for avoiding it (Daily Show 6 June 2009). It is a travesty that the American people should have to rely on comedy programming to inform them on such crucial issues. It represents a failure by journalists, and reveals serious institutional problems in American media.

There was a very similar situation in the United States before deregulation began to allow media ownership to be concentrated. It was in the seventies, during the Vietnam War. Like Iraq, Vietnam was a bloody and unjust war, founded on false pretenses. A study was commissioned by President Nixon’s administration into historical relationships between the US and Vietnam. The results were a top secret 7,000 page report dubbed the Pentagon Papers (Ellsberg). It was photocopied by Daniel Ellsberg who worked at the Pentagon and the RAND corporation, and then leaked to the New York Times and several other papers (Ellsberg). The newspapers published sections of the Papers, which “demonstrated unconstitutional behavior by a succession of presidents, the violation of their oath and the violation of the oath of every one of their subordinates” (Ellsberg). The newspapers did this knowing that legal prosecution would be brought down on them and Ellsberg. The government did get several injunctions to stop publication, but in the end were not very successful. They also brought charges against Ellsberg, which could have put him in prison for life (Ellsberg). His case ended in a mistrial thanks to the discovery of underhanded tactics on the part of the prosecution.

The point of comparing the reporting of the Intelligence Committee’s report and the pentagon papers is to demonstrate the actions of the press before and after deregulation. The press of today is broken. The Times and other papers risked serious consequences to publish classified documents that had the power to ruin an administration in the 70s. Today, at the height of media concentration, a public report that was even more damning was ignored, even though publishing stories on it would come with no legal consequences. This comes after the patriotic journalism of the post 9/11 era has mostly subsided. The press, as it exists today, is impotent. That impotence is not strictly caused by media concentration; but the concentration of media ownership makes it possible. This is because, as Bishop and Hakanen have shown, content has become less important than profit. It is only in a situation such as this that reports as crucial as the one produced by the Senate Select Intelligence Committee could be overlooked.

But of course, not everyone feels the same way about the concentration of media ownership; if they had the FCC would never have allowed deregulation. So to best understand the position of those that support deregulation, and thus indirectly the concentration of media ownership, one should look right into the belly of the beast; FCC chairmen Michael Powell. The following is an analysis of his press statement in support of the deregulatory measures the FCC attempted to bring in 2002.

Powell says that the FCC will be successful if it completes three goals,

(1) Reinstating legally enforceable broadcast ownership limits that promote diversity, localism and competition … (2) Building modern rules that take proper account of the explosion of new media outlets for news, information and entertainment… (3) Striking a careful balance that does not unduly limit transactions that promote the public interest, while ensuring that no company can monopolize the medium (1)

Powell acknowledges the importance of localism and diversity. He says they must be maintained through modern rules that balance public interest and the economic interest of business, while preventing monopoly. He feels that the FCC’s recommendations, which include an increase in allowable media ownership from 35 percent to 45 percent and a rollback on the newspaper/radio cross ownership rule, struck this appropriate balance. He says that they do this despite public concerns over excessive consolidation (1). What he calls public concerns, Adelstein, a dissenting member of the FCC, calls a near unanimous public outcry (Adelstein 3). Powell claims that rules are being modified and not eliminated (Powell 1), implying that if the rules are not modified the way he wants them to be, they must be eliminated. He says that in the past the FCC has refused to modernize, instead leaving rules to stagnate, which he says will eventually lead to the destruction of the American media market (1). He does not seem to realize that change in the other direction is possible. Powell fails to address the fact that thinkers like Adelstein, Bishop and Hakanen feel the rules in existence are already far too lenient and must be strengthened. He also ignores the fact that a ten percent increase in allowable market share will only strengthen monopolies already in existence. He even goes so far as to use fear tactics, saying “the stakes are perilously high” (1). He speaks about a massive examination of media and media standards, but does not mention the simplistic decision the FCC based its new regulations on. This decision is that new media such as the internet has led to more voices, which means there needs to be less regulation for diversity. Again, Adelstein, Bishop and Hakanen have all demonstrated that more voices do not mean quality and diverse programming. Powell sounds very much like a politician, saying that, “I believe that our actions will advance our diversity and localism goals and maintain a vigorously competitive environment” (2). That statement is the opposite of the real consequences of the proposed changes. There has been a sharp decline in diversity and localism since deregulation started; competition still exists, but only for profit, not quality. Competition, in this case, does not mean diversity, quality and localism, it means homogenization and safe national programs that attract broad audiences and grant lots of advertising revenue. Powell is dead wrong, and totally full of it. As Craig Aaron, a reporter for the Guardian says, “media consolidation is the problem, not the answer” (Craig Aaron). Powell simply represents the institutional failure of the FCC and reveals that the organization needs to be cleaned out and overhauled with new people who put the American public ahead of the interests of corporations.

There is an extremely simple solution to improving the media climate in the United States. The answer is to create more variety in ownership and content by bringing back pre 80s regulations. This must come about to decrease the concentration of media ownership, as that concentration is the spring from which crap journalism and media bubble. It also must be done so that once monopolies are broken up, companies will have to emphasize quality programming instead of for-profit programming. Regulation is not difficult to enact, what is necessary is a change in the minds of the FCC. It needs an overhaul; people like Powell have to be kicked out and new people with a more realistic outlook put in their place. There was obviously a serious problem when the Supreme Court blocked the FCCs proposed changes in 2002, and the problems have only gotten worse. Hopefully the Obama administration will see these problems and bring about change.

There are many specific actions the FCC must take to change the landscape of media ownership in America. Firstly, effective anti-trust laws must be established to prevent monopoly nationally and in individual markets (Baker 171), and to break up current monopolies and near-monopolies. Secondly, government approval must be required for mergers so companies can not get around the anti-trust law (172). There also must be regulation in terms of what mergers the government can allow. Specifically “mergers that increase concentration or invlove takeover by nonmedia firms” (176) must be prevented. Also, cross-ownership regulations must be reintroduced, the cap on media ownership must be lowered back below 35%, and the cap on radio ownership must be recreated, to further weaken the concentration of media.

Finally, governments must require special responsibilities from large firms (186) in the form of content regulation. These responsibilities should include the things which Bishop and Hackanen recommend; a large increase in the minimum requirement for diverse, local, political and public affairs programming with specific requirements for concentration on the public interest (such as requiring media companies to  maintain community contacts and report on community issues). These requirements must also ensure that this programming is not relegated to late night and early morning time slots. The fairness doctrine must also be reintroduced, although in a weaker form then the original doctrine. It is needed to increase a diversity of opinion and break up the right- and left-wing dichotomy in US media. But this must be done in updated way which does not force irrationally overbalanced pieces (ie. giving equal time to both non-racists and white supremicists) and which does not steer journalists away from reporting on difficult issues.

It must be remembered that these content regulations are meant to reign in for-profit programming and to increase diversity. They must be limited by the constitution to prevent encroachment on free press. This limit is what makes these regulations much more effective then allowing corporations to govern themselves; the government has to abide by rules, corporations only have to make money. Regulations must be constantly held up to a test that examines their effectiveness in limiting for-profit programming and encouraging a diversity of opinion, localism and public affairs programming. Also, the government must create these regulations while ensuring that editoral freedom remains in the hands of journalists, so as to prevent an undue infringement on free speech. This has worked in the past, and can work again.

Unfortunately, enacting this regulation will not be easy. The fact that the Bush administration was in power for 8 years, despite its unpopularity, constitutional violations and clear incompetence, reveals the incredible power that conservatives and corporations still hold in the United States. Corporations control the media, and deregulation will mean a sharing of capital and a loss of profits. It is difficult to believe that the leaders of industry will support this. But after an unpopular war, an economic crisis, and the revelation of the Bush administration’s crimes, change may be coming. The election of Barrack Obama, a liberal minded democrat and a former human rights lawyer, is certainly a step in the right direction, as is the election of a Democrat majority to both the Senate and Congress. After all, regulation ultimately has to come from the government. But the government will only bring change if it is what the American people want. So change must come from the ground up. It has to come through educated citizens working at grass roots levels. Profit motive makes the corporate controlled media very critical of change in the United States. As such, educated citizens must strike out on their own to find information. The internet is the perfect place for change to start, as it is the form of media most free from the influence of corporate America. Unfortunately it is also full of false information and useless entertainment, so people must be careful what they look for. But a culture of critical thinking will have to develop; hopefully the internet can be the free marketplace that fosters such a culture.  The Obama administration already seems to be moving in the right direction by introducing plans to increase funding for education and possibly reintroducing some media regulation, hopefully these initiatives will also help in developing a culture of critical thinking.

In conclusion, the American media system is broken. It is full of poor programming and irresponsible journalism. People are spoonfed easy stories and shows that bring big ratings and big advertising dollars. Localism, diversity and public affairs and political programming are dying and being replaced with national content that has little public importance. These problems can be traced back to one source, deregulation. Deregulation leads to the concentration of media ownership and a concentration on profit over content. These problems have persisted since the deregulation of media ownership and content control in the eighties and nineties. They have led to Phil Donahue getting fired, to a climate of bad, patriotic journalism that helped lead America into an illegal war, and to the biggest story of 2008 being swept under the rug. Media is showing no signs of recovery on its own, and may in fact be getting worse as more deregulation is proposed. Action must be taken by citizens to put pressure on the US government to re-regulate the industry. The FCC has to return to its roots before more irreversible damage is done to American civil society. This is a very difficult and uphill battle. It has all of corporate and most of conservative America against it. But hopefully, for democracy’s sake, a true and just free marketplace of ideas will win out in the end.

Works Cited

Baker, C. Edwin. Media Concentration and Democracy: Why Ownership Matters. Cambridge:

Cambridge University Press, 2007.

Craig Aaron, Joseph Torres. “Consolidation won’t save the media.” The Guardian 26 March


Democracy Now. “Phil Donahue: “We Have an Emergency in the Media and We Have to Fix

It”.” 24 March 2005. Democracy Now. 3 March 2009 <;.

Don Van Natta Jr., Adam Liptak, Clifford J. Levy. “The Miller Case: A Notebook, a Cause, a

Jail Cell and a Deal .” The New York Times 16 October 2005: 1-8.

Ellsberg, Daniel. How the Pentagon Papers Came to be Published by the Beacon Press Amy

Goodman. 2 July 2007.

Hackanen, Ronald Bishop and Ernest A. “In the Public Interest? The State of Local Television

Fifteen Years After Deregulation.” Journal of Communication Inquiry 26.3 (2002): 261-276.

Miller, Michael R. Gordon and Judith. “THREATS AND RESPONSES: THE IRAQIS; U.S.

SAYS HUSSEIN INTENSIFIES QUEST FOR A-BOMB PARTS.” The New York Times 8 September 2002: 1-5.

Now with Bill Moyers. Media Regulation Timeline. 30 January 2004. 26 January 2009


Powell, Michael. “Press Statement of Chairman Michael Powell.” Press Statement. 2002.

Social Science Research Council. Report on Chain Broadcasting. 26 January 2009


The Daily Show 6 June 2009. Perf. Jon Stewart. 2009.

The Huffington Post. “Senate Report: Bush Used Iraq Intel He Knew Was False.” The

Huffington Post 5 June 2008: 1.

The Museam of Broadcast Communications. Fairness Doctrine. 26 January 2009


Think and Ask. “Media Giants: Who Owns What?” July 2004. 9 February

2009 <;.


Filed under Political Science, Research Papers

East and West and Paranoia: The Origins of the Cold War in Germany

East and West and Paranoia: The Origins of the Cold War in Germany

St. Thomas University


The cold war was started by both the United States and Russia. It began because two  countries with very different governments, a lot of power, and expansionist, competing foreign policies, found themselves interfering in each others spheres of influence. The US wanted to spread democracy and capitolism, the USSR wanted to be surrounded by communist nations. Each country was afraid the other would attack, afraid there was no place for it in the others view of the world. This fear was unfounded and born of the US and USSR’s misunderstanding of each other’s foreign policy and dream for the world. Germany was a microcosm for the situation in the world and the division of Eurpe into Soviet and American spheres of influence. It was where the line of the iron curtain was drawn, and where the struggle between the nations first became evident and almost led to war.

Berlin was where Western powers and the USSR met. As the Protocol of the Proceedings of the Berlin Conference Shows, there was to be trouble right from the beginning of Germany’s occupation after World War II. The protocol divided “supreme authority,”[1] between the US, UK, USSR, and France, “each in his own zone of occupation, and also jointly, in matters affecting Germany as a whole.”[2] Dividing power up in this manner set the stage for the cold war. It literally drew a line between the western democratic, capitalist nations and the communist USSR.  The protocol required that Germany, “be treated as a single economic unit,”[3] despite the fact that it was being administered by powers with economies based on different principals. Both the US and USSR wanted to expand their political policies, and their joint administration of a nations economic policy would have to lead to problems. Uniform treatment in Germany was all but impossible with such different countries governing it, and the differences that came out of this led to a lot of international tension.

The line between the USSR and western powers is well illustrated on the Map of Europe after World War on in Discovering the Western Past.  Germany is right in the middle of Europe, between the western countries and Russia. Its location and the tension between the countries occupying it proved to be a microcosm for the cold war internationally. On top of the line dividing Germany, its capitol,  Berlin, is further divided. Not only is it divided, but it is deep within the Russian zone. Governing territory within a rival country’s control area was a big problem, it made Berlin blockade possible.

There were no shots fired in the cold war, but there was an instance when warfare in its true sense almost broke out. The Berlin blockade happened when Soviet forces blocked the western forces from rail and road access to Berlin. This was not seen as an act of war because of Berlin’s location. Being deep in the USSR’s zone, the Soviets only had to block western forces from access through the territory they controlled in order to cut off access to Berlin. They also covered this blockade under the guise of “technical problems,”[4] like unsafe bridges. The fact that Berlin was the site of such an important conflict helps to prove the importance of Germany in the cold war.

The blockade was not viewed as an act of war, but it was seen as very aggressive by American’s. This is evidenced in the personal letter General Clay sent to Under Secretary of the Army William Draper. In the letter Clay calls the soviet move “violent,”[5], in reaction to “programs to restore and build up democracy in Europe.[6] He sees that the Soviets feel threatened by gains in the US government’s spread of influence over Europe, especially because of the US government’s implementation of a new currency in West Germany, without Soviet approval,  and believes they may be willing to risk war over it.

Clay thinks the Soviet’s could only have two motives in blockading Berlin. One possibility is that they are bluffing, and will continue to bluff until their bluff  is called, because “recognizing the rising tide of anti-communistic forces under European recovery, are [sic] determined to exert pressures to retard such recovery to the point of, but short of, war.”[7] This quote shows that even Clay sees the tension of the cold war is a result the posturing for world influence between the west and the USSR.

Clay’s letter dedicates far more space to his concern over USSR’s second possible motive. He is afraid that “the Soviet Government has now made up its mind that European recovery can be stopped only by war,”[8] a quote which shows the American government is afraid of and misunderstands Soviet policy, as the USSR’s government did not actually want to start a war. Clay believes the point of the blockade is to cause the US to commit the first act of war, thereby making the USSR look better internationally. Again, this shows the entire conflict boils down to a competition over world influence and paranoia. Clay feels the Soviet’s bluff must be called, because otherwise they will push the US to back down out of other areas. He thinks his country must respond by moving an armed force through Eastern Germany and into Berlin, with the purpose of either breaking through the blockade or starting a war before the USSR can become more powerful.

Clay’s hasty proposal to get through the blockade shows how paranoid he is. He says diplomatic efforts to solve the conflict are wasting time, and assumes “the Soviet Government, during the same period of time, with its absolute control of the Soviet economy, can be increasing its own efforts to prepare for war at an accelerated rate.”[9] He greatly overestimates the soviet willingness to go to war.

In the end the US decided to fly supplies into Berlin. This was somewhat of a compromise. They did not force the soviet hand by entering their zone on the ground. It revealed that neither side really wanted war, as the Soviets also did not provoke the US by attempting to stop their planes, and stopped the blockade in 1949. This shows the paranoia both countries had was unfounded. The fact that these events happened in Berlin showed just how crucial a location it was during the cold war.

The US and USSR had opposing foreign policy. The US wanted to spread democracy and capitalism, the USSR communism. This desire for international influence was one of the principle factors that started and drove the cold war.

The US and USSR were out of touch with each others foreign policy. Both countries wanted to expand their influence, but neither wanted war. Despite this, both the US and USSR were worried about each other’s intentions. This is demonstrated in the Weekly Summary of the CIA from 6 May 1949. It says there is a “Soviet objective to establish a Germany which will eventually fall under Soviet domination,”[10] despite the USSR’s “agreement to lift the Berlin blockade and enter into four-power discussions on Germany.”[11] The report also says the USSR wants to create more German nationalism, establish a central German government, remove troops on all sides and give control of production in the Ruhr to the Western powers. The report shows American  paranoia, as it claims the Soviets want a “a centralized Germany not wholly western-oriented,”[12] which seems reasonable enough. The problem is that the American’s are afraid, and justifiably so,  that without that western influence, Germany will be “susceptible to eventual Soviet domination.”[13] The Soviets did want to gain more influence over Germany, but not in the aggressive or total way American’s envisioned. This evidence also shows just how important Germany was in the cold war as the country where Soviet and American style governments met.

Kruschev’s Aide-Memoire was handed to President John Kennedy during their meeting in Vienna as a proposal for a new treaty concerning Germany. It also created a second Berlin crisis. It called the US-controlled western Federal Republic of Germany “aggressive,”[14] and claimed it wanted to, “kindle a dangerous bed of conflicts on German soil.”[15] Kruschev asks for the demilitarization of West Berlin, an extremely difficult demand. In the middle of the cold war, the US was terrified of gains in Soviet influence, and would never want to give up west Berlin, especially when east Berlin is still in the hands of the Soviets.

The memoire is full of propaganda-ish sounding statements. It all but says the US wants war if it does not accept the treaty Kruschev is proposing. This illustrates the differences in US and Soviet interests, and shows how the conflict over their attempts to gain influence in the world is especially concentrated in Germany. It also reveals how important propaganda is in this conflict, as both countries want to be seen as the “good guy” on the world stage.

The difference between American and Soviet interests, and the paranoia that fuels the cold war, is brought to bear in the presidents’s addresses to their countries concerning the Aide-memoire. Krushchev’s television address was on 15 July 1961.  He  again uses propaganda to bring people to his side, claiming that the cold war stems from the absence of a peace treaty over Germany, and that western powers want to continue the war because they still refuse to sign. Krushchev makes what can either be taken as a thinly veiled threat or a wish to end what could escalate into something drastic when he asks, “who can say where lies the borderline between a cold war and a war in the full sense of the word?”[16] He claims western countries are aggressive, saying their refusal to sign a peace treaty “is trampling on the most elementary norms in relation between states,”[17] and that it shows a “desire to preserve a state of extreme tension in international relations, and moreover, it is a threat of war.”[18] In this same speech, Krushchev also says that his allies will not go to war unless they have to, and that they will not initiate conflict. Krushchev is trying to look strong in the face of a difficult situation. His threats are qualified by a reluctance to go to war, but they show he is worried about what could happen if American’s encroach on his country’s territory. As such, he says that if no one starts a conflict or encroaches on Soviet territory, there will be no war. This illustrates how paranoid Krushchev is over the possibility of war. He is trying to look strong to prevent the US from starting an attack, while at the same time saying he will not start anything. Unfortunately, his appearance of strength built more tension.  Ten days later, president Kennedy gave his speech about their meeting in Vienna.

Kennedy’s speech on 25 July 1961sounded similar to Krushchev’s. He spoke of soviet aggression and militarization, and said that America will be ready for war if Soviets attempt to encroach on West Germany. He announced a large increase in the US military, and warned of the possibility of nuclear war. These increases and warnings were reasonable given the strength of the Soviet Union, but they also show a fundamental misunderstanding between the two nations. Despite Kennedy and Krushchev’s aggressive appearances, neither side was willing to be an aggressor. Again on Kennedy’s side, his appearance of strength and build up of forces, which were an attempt to prevent the Soviet Union from starting anything,  only led to a build up of tension.

The US and Russia  misunderstood each others intention when it came to going to war. Nikolai Novikov, Soviet ambassador to the US,  illustrates this point in his telegram to foreign minister Viacheslav Molotov.

Novikov had legitimate concerns about US foreign policy. War or no war, the US was competing with his country for influence over the world. The misunderstanding lay in how aggressive Novikov thought US policy was. He calls the US “imperialist,”[19] and said it was “striving for world supremacy.”[20] The fact that the two powers never went to war proves that neither was really interested in world domination, and as such neither had to be beaten out in a race for it. Novikov says the US wanted the Soviet Union, “exhausted or even completely destroyed as a result of [World War I],”[21] wanted to, “infiltrate,”[22] the economies of European nations hurt by the war for, “world domination,”[23] and that the US saw the Soviet Union’s influence in Euorope “as an obstacle in the path of [its] expansionist policy.”[24] Novikov also expressed fears over the United States’ expansion of its peacetime armed forces, and of the bases it had been setting up on Atlantic and Pacific Islands. He claimed those bases indicated “the offensive nature of the strategic concepts of the commands of the US army and navy.”[25] Novikov also outlines other evidence for the US’ aggressive nature. He says it wants disunity among the great powers so it can impose its will on the USSR, supports “reactionary forces,”[26] in order to stop countries from democratizing and stop Soviet influence over them, and wants to stop Germany from democratizing in order to continue its history of imperialism and use it as an ally. Novikov fears the US’ foreign policies are leading up to another war where the US will try to “win world supremacy.”[27] The fact that his letter is addressed to a foreign minister and not the public shows that his opinions are not just propaganda, but real fears he thinks the Soviet government needs to know about. The fact that Novikov criticises the US’ aggressive foreign policy suggests that the USSR was not interested in world supremacy, especially in the way the US intelligence suggests. This means the paranoia US documents expressed was unfounded. Novikov was obviously out of touch about the US’ international intentions, Americans did not want the USSR destroyed in World War II, and although they do want to expand their influence internationally, the US was not interested in world domination, but his fears were prevalent on both sides of the cold war. It was these fears that led to the viscous escalation of the arms race and near war.

Western paranoia is made evident in the establishment of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. The treaty does not specifically say anything about the USSR, but it links western democratic powers together against any country that would attack them. It says the nations signing onto it are determined to protect democratic values, as opposed to socialist or communist values, and the treaty was created  at a time when the USSR was seen as possibly the greatest threat to western democracies in the world. This evidence  shows that one of the main principles of the treaty is to unite the west so as to protect it from the USSR, a protection wanted because of fears of a Soviet interest to dominate the world.

The paranoia of the US is further outlined in the weekly reports of the CIA during the cold war. Report 60-48 calls the USSR a threat, and says it is “essentially and implacably inimical towards the united states.”[28] It says the Soviet Union will exploit the unwillingness of the US to go to war to spread its influence in Eurasia, will try to build a greater military, will prevent the stabilization of Europe in order to “expand Soviet domination,”[29] and that if the US makes a single mistake or allows the balance of power to slip towards the Soviets, they will start a war. This report shows the American’s feel the same way about the Soviets that the Soviet’s feel toward them. Neither side wants to go to war, but both are afraid that the other does, and that fear heightens tensions. This fear is the reason for the arms race, as each side is afraid to let the other grow too strong and gain a position where war would seem profitable and victory likely.

The cold war was made possible because the Soviet Union and the United States were large powers attempting to expand their influence world wide, and they ended up expanding into each others spheres of influence. However, despite this expansion, tension really escalated because the US and USSR were so afraid the other side was willing to start a war. In truth neither side actually wanted war or was willing to fire the first shot. Symptoms of this tension were the conflicts over Germany,   where a real war was almost started twice; during the Berlin blockade and because of Krushchev’s demands for a peace treaty that would demilitarize West Germany.


Merry E. Wiesner, Julius R. Ruff, William Bruce Wheeler. Discovering the Western Past: A Look at the Evidence. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2004.

Source 1 – Protocol Proceedings of the Berlin Conferece

Source 4A – Report 60-48 CIA, Office of Reports and Estimates

Source 4C – CIA Weekly Summary, May 6, 1949

Source 6 – The Berlin Blockade, The Papers of General Lucius D. Clay

Source 8 – Department of State Bulletin 45, Soviet Aide-Memoire of June 4, 1961

Source 9 – Radio and Television Address to the Soviet Union by Nikita S. Khrushchev, July 15, 1961

[1]Chapter 13 Source 1

[2]Chapter 13 Source 1

[3]Chapter 13 Source 1

[4]Chapter 13 Source 6 Footnote 16

[5]Chapter 13 Source 6

[6]Chapter 13 Source 6

[7]Chapter 13 Source 6

[8]Chapter 13 Source 6

[9]Chapter 13 Source 6

[10]Chapter 13 Source 4C

[11]Chapter 13 Source 4C

[12]Chapter 13 Source 4C

[13]Chapter 13 Source 4C

[14]Chapter 13 Source 8

[15]Chapter 13 Source 8

[16]Chapter 13 Source 9

[17]Chapter 13 Source 9

[18]Chapter 13 Source 9

[19]Chapter 13 Source 3

[20]Chapter 13 Source 3

[21]Chapter 13 Source 3

[22]Chapter 13 Source 3

[23]Chapter 13 Source 3

[24]Chapter 13 Source 3

[25]Chapter 13 Source 3

[26]Chapter 13 Source 3

[27]Chapter 13 Source 3

[28]Chapter 13 Source 4A

[29]Chapter 13 Source 4A

1 Comment

Filed under History, Political Science, Research Papers

End It: Mandatory Retirement and the Charter

End It: Mandatory Retirement and the Charter

St. Thomas University

26 November 2007

Mandatory retirement should be banned in Canada, with a few exceptions allowed. It can do a lot of harm to those it forces to retire, and does little to benefit employers.  Employers should be able to retire employees when they can not do their job, but allowing mandatory retirement across the board is not the most effective way for this to be done.

The federal jurisdiction and several provinces in Canada do not consider mandatory retirement a human rights violation.  British Columbia, Saskatchewan, and Nova Scotia (to an extent),  allow mandatory retirement at the age of 65. New Brunswick and Newfoundland and Labrador allow  mandatory retirement if there is a,  “bona fide retirement or pension plan,” (Labour Law Analysis, Human Resources and Social Development Canada). A recent New Brunswick Court of Appeal decision, Human Rights Commission v. Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan, Inc. found that a retirement plan is bona fide as long as it is made in good faith. This rejects the Supreme Court’s three part test for Bona Fide Occupational Requirements (BFORs) outlined in the Meiorin case.

A Department of Justice study says that, in the debate over mandatory retirement, there are three important things to look at These are the rights of older workers, employers and the broader community (Mandatory Retirement and the Canadian Human Rights Act, Naresh C Agarwal). There are other issues as well, such as the aging workforce, the shortage of skilled workers and the impact of the baby boomer generation.

There should be no doubt that mandatory retirement is discriminatory, “the discriminatory practice,” is the term used by the judges in Potash. It is age discrimination, and it can greatly and negatively effect those forced to retire. Evidence has shown that, “mandatory retirement may cause major economic and non‑economic hardship to those older workers who would have continued working if they had not been required to quit their jobs upon reaching a certain age.”(Agarwal). Agarwal adds, “if forced to retire, (some) workers face the prospects of falling into poverty.”

The workforce is shrinking as baby boomers begin to retire, and there aren’t enough people to replace them. Agarwal says, “given these trends, it would be in the economic interest of the employers and the society at large to not force retirement on those older workers who otherwise want to continue working.” There is a lot of evidence to support Agarwall. In an article about mandatory retirement and the nursing shortage in the UK, Kevin McNerney, a Royal College of Nursing official says, “nurses who want to go on working are key to the country’s growing retention crisis.” (No Need to Retire, Carol Davis). An article from quotes David Dodge, the governor of the Bank of Canada, saying,  “he calls the policy (of mandatory retirement) ‘silly’ in the face of a coming labour shortage.”

According to the Labour Law Analysis, “case law indicates that, in some circumstances, laws or government policies permitting mandatory retirement are justified under section 1 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms,”(Human Resources and Social Development Canada). Section one says that reasonable limits on freedom can be made as long as they are, “reasonable limits prescribed by law that can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society,”(The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms). Mandatory retirement, except in a few cases, is not reasonable, nor has it been demonstrably justified.

The evidence in favour of mandatory retirement, in most cases, simply does not show that it is justifiable as a reasonable limit on freedom. Agarwal says, “empirical studies do not reveal a consistent relationship between age and job performance.”(Mandatory Retirement and the Canadian Human Rights Act). He adds, “far more significant performance differences exist within individual age groups than between different age groups.” To give a real world example, a study on air traffic controllers in the United States found that mandatory retirement practices were adopted based on, “anecdotal reports,” (Broach and Schroeder, 364), and without, “testimony or scientific studies,” (Broach and Schroeder, 364). Mandatory retirement has been banned in the US, except for in certain cases. Because of the stress and intellectual requirements of air traffic control, this was one of the last jobs where mandatory retirement is still allowed.  However, there is now a fight to change that practice. Some people believe in mandatory retirement because they are afraid older workers will be a safety hazard, but as that report says, there is little evidence to prove that assumption. With this lack of empirical evidence, it is very difficult to make an argument in favour of mandatory retirement.

There are several reasons some people advocate mandatory retirement. Some companies are afraid that older employees will hang on forever, doing little work but drawing pay and benefits and, increasing their pension. Some are afraid older workers will keep jobs from younger workers. These claims are unfounded. Agarwall says, “elimination of mandatory retirement is not likely to render organizational human resource planning more difficult.” (Mandatory retirement and the Canadian Human Rights Act). In other words, removing mandatory retirement would not take jobs away from new hires or lead to a massive cost in supporting older, unproductive workers. Agarwall adds that a lot of people retire before the maximum age, and,  “only a very small number of older workers decide to delay retirement beyond age 65 and those who do stay on do so for only a short period of time.”

With these facts in mind, it is easy to see that across-the-board mandatory retirement is not needed. Instead, it can be applied as a BFOR on a case-by-case basis. That way, employers in jobs where age may play an important role, such as firefighting, can set their own standard for retirement.

There is another option that is even better then applying mandatory retirement as a BFOR. Adopting  minimum physical fitness and health standards, instead of setting a maximum age would work well. It can remove workers of any age that are not fit for their jobs. It will also allow older workers who can still perform their jobs to continue to work. Many jobs, say in the military or police force, already have these fitness standards.  A study of the physical fitness of firefighters in a major city the United States showed that, “38% of fire fighters aged 40 to 45, 60% aged 50 to 55, and 96% aged 60 to 65 would be considered poor in their overall fitness for fire fighting..” (Aging and the Fitness of Fire Fighters, Saupe, Kurt, Sothmann, Mark, et al.) These results suggest that a mandatory retirement age may not be a bad idea when it comes to firefighting. However, since a large number of firefighters well under retirement age had a poor fitness rating,  minimum physical and health requirements would be much more effective at removing unfit workers of any age. It would also allow the few firefighters in good shape at 65 to keep their jobs. Either adopting a case-by-case BFOR standard or having certain jobs adopt a physical and health fitness test would greatly cut back on discrimination, help with the worker shortage and still get older workers out of their jobs when they are no longer fit.

Mandatory retirement is discriminatory. It is not the best method for removing ineffective workers. Removing mandatory retirement would not cause undue hardship on employers, or risk the health of the public. In jobs where age may have more of an impact on performance, fitness standards can be adopted, or mandatory retirement be allowed as a BFOR. As such, mandatory retirement should be banned in Canada.

Works Cited:

Broach, Dana and Schroeder, David J. “Air Traffic Control Specialist Age and En Route Operational Errors.” International Journal of Aviation Psychology 16.4 (2006): p363-373, 11p. 19 November 2007. <>

Davis, Carol. “No Need to Retire,” Nursing Standard 22.3 (2007): p72, 1p. 19 November 2007


“Mandatory Retirement and the Canadian Human Rights Act.” Department of Justice Canada. Agarwal, C. Narash.. 17 November 2007. <;

“Mandatory Retirement in Canada.” Human Resources and Social Development Canada. 17 November 2007 <;

New Brunswick Human Rights Commission v. Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan, Inc. NBCA 74. Supreme Court of Canada. 2006 <‑Potash.pdf&gt;

Saupe, Kurt, Sothmann, Mark, et al. “Aging and the Fitness of Fire Fighters: The Complex Issues Involved in Abolishing Mandatory Retirement Ages.” American Journal of Public Health 81.9 (2007): p1192-1194 3p. 19 November 2004 <>

“The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.” Justice Canada. 19 November 2007.


Leave a comment

Filed under Human Rights, Research Papers

NB Human Rights Code: Enforcement and Funding

NB Human Rights Code: Enforcement and Funding

St. Thomas University

5 December 2007

The New Brunswick Human Rights Code does a lot of things right. In many ways it matches the rights guaranteed by Canada’s international obligations and the conditions of other province’s human rights codes. However, it is lacking in several crucial areas, and has some severe handicaps in terms of enforcement. These problems can be overcome with more funding and by adopting some aspects of other provinces’ human rights codes.

The New Brunswick Human Rights Act (NBHRA) fulfills many of Canada’s obligations. It conforms well with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, all of which Canada has ratified. The NBHRA prohibits discrimination on grounds that are essentially the same as the UDHR and the conventions. It has a very similar goal, the total elimination of discrimination (except when justified by something like a BFQ). It sets up all of the things the conventions require for their enforcement; laws to make discrimination illegal, a body to educate people to stop discrimination, and a body to find and enforce remedies for victims of discrimination. The ICCPR specifically outlines this where it says, “adopt(ing) such laws or other measures as may be necessary to give effect to the rights recognized,”(Article 2 Section 2), and, “ensur(ing) remedies are enforced,” (Article 2 Section 3).

The NBHRA tries to eliminate discrimination through two main methods. The first is education, making people aware of their rights and what practices may be discriminatory. This is a very effective way to help end discrimination and is a mandate shared with all of the other provinces in Canada. The commission is founded on the idea that discrimination stems from ignorance. By educating people, the commission hopes to reduce ignorance and as such reduce discrimination.

The second way the commission tries to end discrimination is through enforcement. This, again, can be accomplished through two methods. The first method is non-adversarial. All cases start with this process, and the commission prefers that they end there as well. What generally happens is, the two parties sit down and talk in the presence of human rights officers. The parties are encouraged to compromise, and the human rights officer tries to show the person who discriminated how he or she was wrong. This is the best way to go about enforcing human rights. By using non-adversarial means, the commission looks for the best in people and tries to teach, as opposed to order, them to stop discriminating. As such, it gives the parties involved a chance at maintaining a relationship.

The second method of enforcement is the adversarial process. This means the case is taken to a tribunal, which acts as a court. If it finds someone guilty of discrimination it can order him or her to do anything or stop doing anything to comply with the NBHRA. The tribunal can also award damages or, force the person who discriminated to reinstate the victim to his or her position, or even charge the defendant with an offence. This method is needed when everything else fails. It is the only way to ensure that discrimination is ended in a fair and just manner. It is also better then using the courts system, which was all that was in place before the commission. The court system required that discrimination be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, which made convictions extremely difficult. It was also very slow and expensive.

The New Brunswick Human Rights Act has an important advantage over some other provinces built in to its tribunal process. Unlike provinces like Alberta and Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick’s act stipulates that tribunal members may not be chosen from the human rights commission. This means the investigators of complaints cannot try a complaint. This helps to ensure that those sitting on a tribunal are objective, and is instituted in most other provinces. New Brunswick does not have a permanent tribunal, as many other jurisdictions do, but this is a minor problem when compared to ensuring the neutrality of tribunal members.

New Brunswick does a good job of meeting the goals of the CEDAW. Its prohibited grounds of discrimination include pregnancy, something absent from the human rights acts of some other provinces, like Ontario and Nova Scotia. A woman should not be discriminated against because she has to take time off during or immediately after a pregnancy, nor should she be discriminated against if she has to take sick days to tend to her children. Women deserve all the same rights as men on the workplace, and equality is better ensured by protecting pregnancy.

New Brunswick’s Human Rights Act, and the acts of all the other provinces, allow for discrimination based on a Bona-Fide Qualification. This means that an employer, or landlord or anyone else who could discriminate, may discriminate if they can meet certain standards. They must prove they are discriminating in good faith, in a way rationally connected with their business, and in a way that is reasonably necessary. They also must prove that not discriminating would place an undue hardship on them. Some people are not strong enough to do the job of a firefighter. They should not be hired out of consideration for their safety, and the safety of others. Religions would most likely want their leaders or priests to follow their belief system, so it is understandable if the Catholic Church refuses to hire and atheist as a priest. Some discrimination is necessary, and a BFQ is the best way to allow it without violating Canada’s international obligations.

Another important thing the NBHRA does right is allow for affirmative action. This is recognized in all of the covenants. It is important to give specific groups, like women and visible minorities, a leg up in a society that has historically been unfair to them.

For all the things New Brunswick does right, it also has some severe handicaps. The NBHRA has some big problems with conflict of interest and a backlog of cases. Also, like almost every other commission in Canada, it the New Brunswick Human Rights Commission has big problems with funding.

The Commission in New Brunswick has no set term for its members. They are appointed by the Lieutenant Governor in council, which basically means they are appointed by the cabinet. The cabinet is also in charge of the commissioners’ salaries. This means the cabinet can appoint whomever it wants to the commission, set their pay, and fire commissioners at will. As such, if a commissioner decides to crusade against the government he or she could be fired. This means commissioners may be less willing to act on complaints made against the government over fear for their jobs. There has been one instance of a commissioner being fired after pursuing a complaint against the government in New Brunswick. It cannot be proven that the commissioner was actually fired as a result of acting on that complaint, but it is a possibility. In practice, this may not be much of a problem and they government may never intervene to stop a complaint against itself. However, a lack of independence makes the commission look bad. People may be less willing to go to the commission if they think it is a pawn of the government. Other commissions, like Newfoundland’s, have their commissioners on a set term of office. This gives them more freedom, as the commissioners do not have to try and please the government to keep their jobs. Quebec has an even better system. It’s commissioners must be elected by 2/3rds of the province’s national assembly, giving them even more independence.

New Brunswick also has a problem with its tribunal process. It is mandatory for the commission to investigate any complaint with merit, but it is not mandatory for any unresolved complaint to go to the tribunal. With an ever-increasing workload and a lack of funding, this means some less important or non-unique complaints could get passed over. An even bigger problem is that complaints must have approval from the Minister of Post‑Secondary Education, Training and Labour to go to the tribunal stage. This is another conflict of interest. The commission actually has to get approval from the government if it wants to pursue a case against the government. Again, in practice this may not be much of a conflict, but it looks terrible and could easily discourage complaints. Other provinces, such as Manitoba, Alberta and British Columbia require that all valid complaints, which cannot be solved through non-adversarial means, go to a tribunal. This is far more effective when it comes to giving a chance for remedy to every complainant.

New Brunswick, like all the other provinces, has a big problem with funding. Funding for human rights commissions has increased fairly steadily since their creation. However, the mandates of commissions continues to grow and the amount of complaints has increased far faster then the amount of funding. This means a huge backlog of cases and not enough officers to deal with them. This is a problem in every jurisdiction, except the well funded federal jurisdiction. Provinces without a mandatory tribunal process may dismiss a lot of cases, and provinces with a mandatory tribunal process may have a gigantic backlog. Cases can take so long to resolve that the tribunal’s decisions may do little good for victims. Also, some defendants have managed to win trials by claiming that their right to a trial in a reasonable amount of time was violated. This lack of funding hits even harder when combined with New Brunswick’s lack of a mandatory tribunal process and its requirement for ministerial approval.

The NBHRA does not allow for appeals. This is a problem because a tribunal’s decision could be wrong just as easily as a court’s decision. Court’s have two levels of appeals, and tribunals are generally made up of people with much less legal experience then judges. As such, there is a greater chance for a miscarriage of justice, and basically no way to rectify it. The only saving grace is that penalties are much less harsh with tribunals, (maximum fines are under $6000), but a bad ruling could be very damaging to a person’s reputation and/or business. Newfoundland is a better example in this case, as its human rights code allows for appeals.

All of the UN’s covenants that Canada has signed on to require that the countries party to them, in the words of the ICCPR, “undertake to respect and to ensure to all individuals the rights in the covenant,”(Article 2). The covenants make it mandatory for a country’s laws to forbid discrimination, to create practices that stop discrimination, to ensure victims of discrimination have an effective remedy, and to enforce remedies. The New Brunswick Human Rights Act brings these laws into force, and creates a body to help stop discrimination, find remedies for victims and enforce remedies. However, a lack of funding, the requirement for ministerial approval and the lack of a mandatory tribunal stage and a set term for commissions are crippling for the Human Rights Commission. These problems mean that not all victims of discrimination will be able to get an effective remedy. As such, the NBHRA needs some serious revisions.

The government of New Brunswick has to do several things to make its human rights commission better. First, it must eliminate any possibility of a conflict of interest. It has to do two things to accomplish this. To begin with, the government has to give its commissioners set terms of office that cannot be renewed. This way commissioners can be free to pursue complaints against the government without fear of reprisal. Also, if commissioners have no way of renewing their term, they have no reason to suck up to the government to be reappointed. The other possible solution to the problem of terms that are not set, a life-long term, has its own set of problems (namely that commissioners with poor performance cannot be removed) and should be avoided. To go even further, the commission should be made even more independent by adopting a practice from Quebec. Commissioners should be elected by 2/3rds of the legislature. This is a more fair and democratic way to appoint commissioners than leaving that power in the hands of the cabinet. The second thing the government must do is remove the requirement for ministerial approval for cases going to the human rights tribunal. It is ridiculous that an agent of a government that could have a complaint lodged against it must approve of the complaints.

The New Brunswick government also must make it mandatory for every case with merit, that cannot be solved through non-adversarial means, to go to tribunal. This will ensure that every complainant can get a chance at receiving a remedy. Because making this process mandatory would almost definitely lead to a huge backlog, both the New Brunswick and federal governments must invest more money and resources into the human rights commission. A remedy is much less effective if it comes after years of legal battling because of a backlogged system. Giving the commission the resources it needs is the only way to ensure cases are dealt with in a timely matter.

The New Brunswick human rights commission is very similar to the commissions across Canada. It endeavours to eliminate discrimination through education and two forms of enforcement. It is a great tool in the fight for human rights. However, it has a lot of problems that handicap it in living up to Canada’s international human rights obligations. These handicaps can be removed with more funding, and by adopting some of the practices from other provinces.

Works Cited:

Comeau, Michael. NB Human Rights Code. Codes and Commissions. St. Thomas University, Fredericton, NB. 12 September 2007.

Comeau, Michael. Canada’s International Obligations. Codes and Commissions. St. Thomas University, Fredericton, NB. 26 September 2007.

Comeau, Michael. Chapter 2. Codes and Commissions. St. Thomas University, Fredericton, NB .

3 October 2007.

Leave a comment

Filed under Human Rights, Research Papers

Law According to Bonhoeffer, King, and Socrates

Socrates, Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Martin Luther King all believe that human laws are not, in and of themselves, perfect. They argue that laws can not stand alone, but must rest on something much more fundamental, the divine laws, the laws of God. They claim society can not survive without being grounded in God, and humans can not live full lives without following a universal code of morality.  Socrates’ speech in Plato’s Apology is based on the idea that Athens is a city founded on the divine laws, and his criticism is of men that have an “eagerness to possess as much wealth, reputation and honours as possible, while {they} do not care for nor give thought to wisdom or truth”[1], instead of an eagerness to follow those laws.  Bonhoeffer says society is doomed without respect among mankind for human individuality, individuality which finds its roots in God. Finally, Martin Luther King stated that there are two types of laws, just and unjust. He claims the just laws are  in accordance with the divine laws and benefit humanity, the unjust laws are in disharmony with the divine laws and must be fought against in order to save society from self destruction.

In, the Apology, Socrates’ central argument is that, although Athens has great laws, ones which reflect what he perceives as the divine laws, they are of no use until its people begin to implement them in a just way. He says that in order for the people to listen to justice, they must ground themselves in the gods, admitting that “the human wisdom is worth little or nothing”[2], and seeking “truth”[3] and “excellence”[4] instead of “wealth”[5] and other worldly things.  He does

not state the difference between just and unjust laws as clearly as Martin Luther King, but Socrates does draw a difference between his just behaviour and the unjust behaviour of the “dangerous accusers”[6]. He claims his actions are made just because they are rooted in “service to the god”[7], and a great respect for both Athens and the divine principals it was founded on.

Throughout the Apology Socrates’ criticises  men who, without breaking any laws, led others to believe lies, “accused [him] quite falsely”[8], and “spread rumour”[9]. This criticism reveals what is right to ground ones values in, by showing what the Atenians are doing wrong. Socrates accuses Meletus of  “attempting to have a man executed unjustly”[10], because he is grounding his work in “insolence, violence and youthful zeal”[11]. He claims the jurors are only willing to vote for his death because they “are not ashamed of [their] eagerness to possess as much wealth, reputation and honours as possible, while {they} do not care for nor give thought to wisdom or truth”[12]. It can be seen that wisdom in this sense refers to the divine wisdom, as Socrates has already said human wisdom is “worth little or nothing”[13] .  Because Athens is a democracy in which the populous is in charge of making laws, Socrates’ argument also applies to what those laws must be grounded in. He says men must “judge according to law”[14], and must look to divine wisdom, to the divine laws, and to truth in order to do so.

On top of pointing out that his accusers are grounding their values, and thus the laws of Athens, in the wrong things, Socrates also shows how he has grounded his life in the right things. He is in the court to “obey the law and make [his] defence”[15]. The entire reason he is being tried is because his “investigation in the service of the god”[16] caused him to “[become] unpopular”[17], to the point where those he questioned wanted him dead. He had “live[ed] in great poverty because of [his] service to the god”[18] and is not ashamed of dying because he believes a man “should look to this only in his actions, whether what he does is right or wrong”[19]. Socrates even goes so far as to say that he will follow his “course of action, even if [he is] to face death many times”[20], and will wake  people in the city from the sleep of ignorance, even if they “strike out at [him]”[21]. He shows again and again that his life is a just one, and that it is so simply because he is completely dedicated to serving the god.

The purpose of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s letter, After Ten Years, is to prove that humanity must ground it’s values in God in order to prevent self-destruction and create a just society. Bonhoeffer argues that not having a respect for the individuality of humans, an individuality which stems from God, causes  people to be very easily led astray. This can be seen when he says, “Unless we have the courage to fight for a revival of wholesome reserve between man and man, we shall perish in an anarchy of human values”[22]. This argument also applies to law in that,

without this same respect and grounding of values in God, there will be nothing to prevent lawmakers from  writing laws contrary to what is right and just. This is what happened during the Nazi regime, when Bonhoeffer saw people following evil laws and objectifying their fellow man, leading to the murder of millions solely because of race. Unjust laws were written because lawmakers did not ground their values in God and  have the respect for humanity that is required to live justly, and those laws were followed because the populous lacked exactly the same thing. As such, Bonhoeffer believes, like Socrates, that in order for society to function, society must be grounded in the divine and universal laws of God.

Bonhoeffer claims,

The great masquerade of evil has played havoc with all our ethical

concepts. For evil to appear disguised as light, charity, historical

necessity, or social justice is quite bewildering to anyone brought

up on our traditional ethical concepts, while for the Christian who

bases his life on the Bible it merely confirms the fundamental

wickedness of evil[23].

This quote is a great summation of Bonhoeffer’s argument. “The great masquerade of evil”[24], can be taken to mean Facsim, which disguises itself in a manner that “traditional ethical concepts”[25], cannot see through. Bonhoeffer shows the Christian, to whom this “merely confirms the wickedness of evil”[26], as seeing through the disguise. This is because a Christian does not simply rely on “traditional ethical concepts”[27], or even “his reason, his principles, his conscience, his freedom or his virtue”[28], but “is ready to sacrifice all this when he is called to obedient and responsible action in faith and in exclusive allegiance to God”[29]. In other words, only the man with his faith grounded in God is able to resist evil disguised as good. This reflects Bonhoeffer’s vision of what law must be grounded in. The fundamental reasons these people follow evil is because they, and the writers of the laws they follow, do not have their lives grounded in God.

Bonhoeffer also claims that “In the subordination of all personal wishes and ideas to the tasks to which we have been called, we have seen the meaning and greatness of our lives”[30]. He is saying that, in order for a life to have meaning, a person must submit to a greater power and cease living for themselves. The problem with subordination is that man has, “misjudged the world; he did not realize that his submissiveness and self sacrifice could be exploited for evil ends. When that happened, the exercise of the calling itself became questionable…”[31]. Submissiveness, when it is not to God, can easily be corrupted. In this case, the German people have submitted to Hitler’s evil Nazi regime. It was evident that the calling of Fascism was questionable because it resulted in the deaths of millions. It was obviously fundamentally wrong because it had not been grounded in God and respect for human individuality, which made it extremely easy to justify so many horrible deaths.

Martin Luther King Jr.’s attitude towards justice and what society’s values must be grounded in is very similar to that of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s and Socrates’. In his Letter From Birmingham Jail he responds to a letter, written by fellow clergymen, which says the civil rights

movement he leads is moving to quickly. King’s response is a biting one, in which he reveals the horrors of racism and segregation, and shows that there is no better time to act then the present. He justifies his position by clearly defining just and unjust laws, saying exactly what society needs as a base in order to function properly, and revealing the relationship between time and justice.Unlike Bonhoeffer and Socrates, King is not at all subtle. He comes right out and states that “a just law is a man-made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God.”[32], and that “An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law”[33].  He shows how a law can be recognized as aligning with morality when he states, “Any law that uplifts the human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust”[34]. King applies this rule to the segregation when he says, “All segregation statutes are unjust because segregation distorts the soul and damages the personality. It gives the segregator a false sense of superiority and the segregated a false sense of inferiority”[35]. King is claiming that laws must be rooted in morality for them to be just, and that people have a moral obligation to break unjust laws. This disobedience, King says, “is in reality expressing the highest respect for law”[36]. The reason breaking laws can show the, “highest respect”[37], for law is because the person breaking the unjust law is, in reality, fighting for true law. This is the universal moral law of God, under which all men are free and equal. This true law was written into the American constitution, and is exactly what King is attempting to have implemented in the south.

The fact that, as King sees it, some people in the south are considered inferior and others superior, is objectification. This objectification is something which Dietrich Bonhoeffer also saw in Nazi Germany, and is caused by a lack of respect for the human person. King explains this when he says segregation “substitutes an ‘I-it’ relationship for an ‘I-thou’ relationship, and ends up relegating persons to the status of things”[38].  This, “I-it”[39], relationship can only be changed when people garner a respect for the value every person has, stemming from their individuality, and rooted entirely in God.

When King says that the white moderate are “more devoted to ‘order’ then to justice”[40], he is making a very similar point to that of Socrates. The philosopher criticised the citizens of Athens for their “eagerness to possess as much wealth, reputation and honours as possible, while {they} do not care for nor give thought to wisdom or truth”[41]. Seeking order, while sacrificing justice, is similar to a lust for wealth. This is because order allows for the peaceful enjoyment of possessions and status, while the implementation of justice can threaten both false peace and unjustly achieved status. Those were the very things the white moderate wished to defend.  King continues this argument when he says the white moderate  “paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom”[42]. Because this moderate only cares about order, choosing to ignore the fact that the God given rights of Black persons hardly exist in the southern United States, they are setting up “dams that block the flow of social progress”[43]. They fight against a “substantive and positive peace, in which all men will respect the dignity and worth of human personality”[44], and are using time as an excuse to build these “dams”[45]. King calls time “neutral”[46], saying, “it can be used either destructively or constructively”[47], and that “the time is always ripe to do right”[48]. In his analysis of time and criticism of the white moderate,  King reveals that when it comes to God given rights, there is no bad time for implementation, and friction will never be absent in the fight for equality.

The speech of Socrates in Plato’s Apology, the letter Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote to his friends in response to the complacency of and horrors caused by the people in Nazi Germany, and Martin Luther King’s Letter From Birmingham Jail, all carry the same message. They argue that in order for people, and society, to be successful and just, they must have their values grounded in the divine laws, and thus in God. Socrates believed this meant people must seek truth and the true, just application of law . King and Bonhoeffer, seeing the objectification of persons destroying so many lives, believed that grounding values in God meant moving past racism. It requires forgetting conventional morality, being strengthened in the divine laws , and achieving a respect for all mankind through an appreciation for the individuality in every person.


Bonhoeffer, Dietrich.”After Ten Years,” Letters and Papers from Prison. Ed. Eberhard Bethge. New York: The Macmillan Company, 1967.

King, Martin Luther. Letter from Birmingham Jail,” Why We Can’t Wait. New York: Harper & Row Publishers, 1963

Plato. “Apology,” The Trial and Death of Socrates. 3rd ed: Translated by G.M.A. Grube. Revised by John M. Cooper. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, 2000.

[1]Plato, “Apology,” The Trial and Death of Socrates. 3rd ed: Translated by G.M.A. Grube.                 Revised John M. Cooper. (Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, 2000), 32.





















[22]Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Letters and Papers from Prison: After Ten Years. (New York: The                 Macmillan Company, 1967), 35.










[32]King, Martin Luther. “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” Why We Can’t Wait. (New York:                 Harper & Row Publishers, 1963), 85









[41]Plato, “Apology,” The Trial and Death of Socrates. 3rd ed: Translated by G.M.A. Grube.                 Revised John M. Cooper. (Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, 2000), 32.

[42]King, Martin Luther. “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” Why We Can’t Wait. (New York:                 Harper & Row Publishers, 1963), 87.







Leave a comment

Filed under Human Rights, Political Science, Research Papers

Lacking Causation: Putnam and Civic Disengagement

Lacking Causation: Putnam and Civic Disengagement

St. Thomas University

2 March 2006

In his article, Civic Disengagement in Contemporary America, Robert D. Putnam is arguing that there has been a huge disengagement in civic life. He claims that people are not as socially connected as they once were, and that this is having a lot of negative effects.

Putnam’s basic argument is that “social capital…the social norms and networks that enhance people’s ability to collaborate on common endeavours” (125), is drastically decreasing in the United States. He claims this capital “makes individuals-and communities-healthier, wealthier, wiser, happier, more productive and better able to govern themselves peaceably and effectively” (125). This greater ability to self govern is due to social capital bringing people together so they can be more productive through trust for one another and a collective pooling of skills.

Putnam cites several surveys that he believes deal with social capital. An American National Election Studies survey shows that there has been a drastic decline in people’s trust of government, and Putnam claims there has been a similar decline in regards to “the performance of religious institutions and unions and business and universities and so on”(125), and even in relationships with other individuals. Also, Putnam says that membership in bowling leagues, Parent Teacher Associations, fraternal organizations, and other clubs or organizations that promote “civic engagement” has gone down. He goes on, using bowling as an analogy, to explain exactly how meeting in groups promotes this “civic engagement”. Sitting around and talking while waiting for your turn to bowl often leads to the deliberation of important civic matters, matters that might not otherwise be discussed.

Putnam goes on to give more empirical evidence of civic disengagement. He begins to talk about the membership of organizations like 4-H and the Knights of Columbus, saying that it was steadily increasing in the early and mid 20h century, with the exception of the depression years. However, the percentage of eligible members joining these clubs began to decline after the 1960s.

Playing the devils advocate, Putnam says “that evidence in itself does not prove anything. Although suggestive, it is not conclusive insofar as membership data from specific organizations do not necessarily reflect an underlying propensity to join groups in general” (128). He says that it is possible that “this analysis is limited to old fashioned organizations on their way out” (128), and that “maybe Americans are no longer formerly joining groups … but people are still hanging out together, maybe even more then they used to” (128). Because there was no way to test for this, Putnam was up against a wall, until he found datasets from several different surveys asking questions relevant to engagement in many forms  of group and social activities. According to the survey, every aspect of civic and political engagement it tested for has seen a huge decline.

Putnam found that participation in some sorts of activities was not down nearly as much. “The sorts of activities that a citizen can do alone without coordinating with anyone else… are down just 10 to 15 per cent” (129), where as public meetings and activities like picnicking are down forty to fifty percent. Card playing, what Putnam claims was once a very important social activity, is also down.

According to Putnam, the disengagement from social activities has been replaced by engagement in much less social ones. There has been a rise in casino gambling, internet card playing, and uncivil behaviour like giving the finger and cheating on taxes. Putnam also cites the decline in families eating together, claiming it could be a “troubling trend” (131) because it is a tradition stretching back millennia.

Putnam then goes on to explain why civic engagement is down. He claims that it is the same across all demographics, except for the elderly, and this makes it difficult to pin point what is causing the decline. This is because there can be no applicable  analysis of changes within a single group that could have caused a decline in civic engagement. Putnam also claims that because people in their sixties or seventies participate today, but there is no indication that people who will be in there sixties or seventies will participate tomorrow, there will be a further decline in civic engagement. He says “the process of ‘generational replacement’ is the single most important reason for the erosion of social capital and civic participation. It accounts for about half of the overall decline” (132-3) He believes that the rest of civic disengagement is made up in small part by an increase in work hours, urban sprawl (because more time spent in transit means less time spent investing in social capital) and television.  The urban sprawl problem “has fragmented citizens’ sense of community” (133), and Putnam correlates television with a decline in civic participation because it sucks up a lot of free time, and became popular around the same time the decline began. Putnam says television replaces the feeling that social bonds give people, and this “keeps people… in their living rooms” (133)

Putnam cites a study done in Italy which he claims proves that a decline in social capital is a big problem. It was proven that communities with a lot of choral societies were wealthier then communities with fewer of these societies. Putnam claims that because the communities had about the same economic status before developing the choral societies, those societies help to make communities with more of them wealthy. As such, Putnam believes civic engagement leads to prosperity, and thus disengagement leads to decline.

In the early 1900s America had very little social capitol. Putnam believes that the creation of new institutions led to a boom in civic engagement back then, and that the same thing will work today if it is carefully thought out and implicated.

Putnam has written an interesting article. He has managed to show a strong correlation between civic engagement and prosperity, but he has not shown causation. As he himself said, it is difficult to find empirical evidence to support his theories, and it seems that more is needed to prove what he is trying to say. Putnam’s solution to the problems he associates with a decline in civil engagement makes sense, but we live in a very different society from that of one hundred years ago, and creating more, and more appealing, organizations sounds like a quick fix. Also, the article is somewhat unconvincing that there really is a true civic disengagement in the United States. Membership in clubs is down, as is attending PTA meetings and having picnics, but Putnam does not really address new activities that could also generate social capitol. Things like discussions on the internet, relationships at work, hanging out at the mall are all left out of the article. There also does not seem to be a lot of proof that civic disengagement leads to decline in society, the article could use more evidence. Although there is a correlation between the amount of choral societies in a town and the town’s general wealth, Putnam fails to establish causation.


Putnam, Robert D. “Civic Disengagement in Contemporary America.” Braving the New World.  Ed. Thomas Bateman. Canada: Nelson, 2004. 124-137

Leave a comment

Filed under Political Science, Research Papers