GHDI logo

Herbert Marcuse Denounces the Vietnam War (May 22, 1966)

page 2 of 5    print version    return to list previous document      next document

In my opinion, the same aggressive forces lead from death on the highways and streets to bombings, torture, and burnings in Vietnam. There are 49,000 highway deaths and more than four million injured in traffic accidents each year in the United States. If you compare that with the casualty figures in Vietnam, you might understand why this war did not elicit any mass reaction. As an expression of the aggression, let me further mention the commercial rape of nature, invasion of privacy – which creates “captive audiences” everywhere – and an atrocious brutalization of the language, to which the people are gradually becoming accustomed. I personally did not find such open brutality during the Second World War, even in the Nazi press, as that which is spread daily in American newspapers – in the headlines announcing triumphantly the number of (alleged or actual) deaths and corpses recovered. And from warfare and its language, brutalization invades the sphere of entertainment and amusement.

Here we have an effective acclimatization and dehumanization, and this in turn leads to a kind of mass hysteria. The image of the enemy is blown completely out of proportion, and the insensitivity, the inability to distinguish between propaganda, advertising, and truth is becoming ever clearer. The organs for this discernment seem to be atrophying. You cannot even say that everyone believes what is placed in front of him; the mood instead is: I cannot judge that, the government knows better than I do, and you can’t do anything about it anyway.

Now a few words about the opposing forces; in contrast to the opposition “from above,” now [I want to discuss] the opposition that represents a more radical potential. I repeat: The opposition, too, must be viewed on a global scale, but for the sake of clarity I will divide up these opposing forces, first as regards the United States itself.

Four groups can be identified:
1. intellectuals and young people
2. “underprivileged” groups in the population, i.e., Puerto Ricans, Negroes, etc.
3. a religious, radical movement
4. women

first page < previous   |   next > last page