Manufacturing Consent

The first thing I saw on the news this morning was a dozen or so Iraqi citizens pulling the head of a toppled Hussein statue around the town square. Free at last? A few moments later the station I was watching replayed the tape from the beginning–as they would many times–and more of the context of this historic event was revealed: an American soldier draping the American flag over the statue’s head (the same flag that flew over the pentagon on 9/11, according the the BBC’s Paul Wood), followed by a massive U.S. military armored vehicle pulling the statue down.

How glorious! It put me in mind of the fall of the Berlin Wall, when U.S. troops hacked away at the wall so that the people of Berlin could dance on them… Oh wait, that didn’t happen. The people of Berlin dismantled that wall.

Maybe there’s a stronger parallel then with the monuments of Lenin, which the U.S. military tore down as part of its drive for regime change in the last days of the USSR. But wait, that didn’t happen either. They were pulled down by, among others, the oppressed people in Ukraine.

So what’s the difference?

Something about seeing that desert-tan military vehicle tugging away at a central symbol of the opposing regime doesn’t sit right with me, and on impulse I turned the channel. It confirmed my suspicion as every channel was showing the same scene, shot from the same angle, shot with the same camera. Apparently this was the scene we were all meant to see. Not a block away, not in the rubble where peoples’ homes had stood, not in the next city over where, even now, the battles rage on.

The Americans are in that square to show the natives how to celebrate their liberation, and to allow us to watch. The Iraqi citizens had gone about it in the wrong way, apparently, having spent the past few days “looting” goods as their city burned. The U.S. soldiers, meanwhile, showed the Iraqis the true path by taking sledgehammers to ceramic portraits of Hussein.

Why are we in Iraq again?

Professor Robert Jay Lifton said that those who seek to control history are doomed to failure. I find that thought incomplete however. I think that those who seek to control history and fail are doomed to failure, but it’s the people who seek to control history and succeed that you have to really watch out for.

Fearless Leaders

· A master; a lord; especially, an absolute or irresponsible ruler or sovereign.
· One who rules regardless of a constitution or laws; a tyrant.

· Being on one side only; affecting but one side; one-sided.

· The jurisdiction of a patriarch; patriarchship.
· Government by a patriarch; patriarchism.

· characteristic of an absolute ruler or absolute rule; having absolute sovereignty; “an authoritarian regime”; “autocratic government”; “despotic rulers”; “a dictatorial rule that lasted for the duration of the war”; “a tyrannical government”
· expecting unquestioning obedience; “he was imperious and dictatorial”

· a policy of extending your rule over foreign countries
· a political orientation that advocates imperial interests
· any instance of aggressive extension of authority

· characteristic of someone who employs terrorism (especially as a political weapon); “terrorist activity”
· a radical who employs terror as a political weapon

Wait, which leader is this referring to?

The Mysterious Stranger

Next the statesmen will invent cheap lies, putting the blame upon the nation that is attacked, and every man will be glad of those conscience-soothing falsities, and will diligently study them, and refuse to examine any refutations of them; and thus he will by and by convince himself that the war is just, and will thank god for the better sleep he enjoys after this process of grotesque self-deception. – Mark Twain, The Mysterious Stranger

Morning Mayhem

If it bleeds, it leads. Nowhere is this seen more consistently than on the local fake morning news. Good morning, KTVU. Enjoying your breakfast, KRON? If I’m not then it’s mainly because I’m being subjected to a daily freakshow horrorfest peddled by fearmongers who wouldn’t know actual news if Edward R. Murrow rose from his grave to deliver it to them personally… though I’m sure they would televise that. I decided to jot down some of the headlines on a few random mornings just to see if my suspicions were accurate. Let’s tune in, shall we?

Day 1: Possible hijack attempt! Holiday travel precautions! Traffic+Weather. Teacher victimizes children! Earthquake! Weapons inspections! Bin Laden healthy! Snipers!

Day 2: Missing toddler+suicidal father! Missing plane! Car vandalism! Triple shooting! Traffic+Weather. Priest assault! Earthquake!

Day 3: Criminal investigation on freighter! Companies going bankrupt! Weather+Traffic. Child molestation!

Day 4: Church shooting! UC sex scandal! Weather+Traffic. Cell phone accidents! Cable rates on the rise! Assisted living fire!

I’m pretty sure that these stories aren’t pure fabrication, and I’m just as sure that the picture we’re being presented with here is about as accurate as a dream I had last night about people with cat heads (traffic and weather notwithstanding). It’s great material if you’re feeling the need to feed the little macabre maw. Otherwise, I think you’ll generally get a more accurate picture of the daily zeitgeist from

America Has Gone Mad

entry_52The following are two of the most accurate, lucid accounts of this rogue nation that I’ve come across.

In The Times, John le Carré writes: “America has entered one of its periods of historical madness, but this is the worst I can remember: worse than McCarthyism, worse than the Bay of Pigs and in the long term potentially more disastrous than the Vietnam War.” [read more] [alternate link – until timesonline gets its act together]

In Time, Brian Eno writes: “How is it that a country that prides itself on its economic success could have so many very poor people? How is it that a country so insistent on the rule of law should seek to exempt itself from international agreements? And how is it that the world’s beacon of democracy can have elections dominated by wealthy special interest groups?” [read more]

Wait–You’re Serious?

The audience had barely finished roaring from that whole “Bush declares a National Sanctity of Life Day” thing last week when the inevitable question was asked: “How will Mr. Bush top himself?” This would surely be a challenge, but he has risen to meet that challenge with aplomb. Witness: “Bush plan gives huge tax break to buyers of big SUVs“. Sterling performance, Mr. Bush! Now I need to wipe the snot off my monitor.

False Dilemma

Are people really buying into this administration’s false dilemma? “Either they disarm, or we have to go to war with them.” Oh, really? From what crevice did you pull that one? There’s a logical fallacy that describes this brand of thinking quite nicely, and what I don’t appreciate is the unyielding stream of rhetoric sluicing from Capitol Hill that seems as much geared to intimidate Them as it does to coerce Us. You know, the great unwashed. Today Bush says, “We are ready for war.” Warmonger I think they call it, and passive aggressive at that. “We’re ready, just in case. Not that we’ll need to, though we probably will. But either way, just saying.” Really, are people buying this?

All of this will seem annoyingly familiar to anyone who experienced any kind of social difficulties in school. It’s the old story: Bully accuses little kid of passing notes calling him names. Bully sends team of locker inspectors to rifle through little kid’s locker checking for evidence of hate-notes. Pieces of paper that may or may not be notes are found in little kid’s locker. Bully issues decree that little kid must surrender all pieces of paper, or he will have no choice but to liberate the little kid from his lunch money. Little kid explains that he was not passing notes about the bully’s mother, and declines to forfeit his entire paper supply. Bully calls little kid defiant, and says that the options are clear, and the choice is his.

Can I Please Have Some More?

You know when your kid brother slides his pudding onto the floor, and then you laugh and give him another pudding? And then your mom says, “Don’t do that, you’re just going to encourage him!” Well George Bush is your kid brother, and last night you people–and you know who you are–bought another pallet of pudding from the bulk aisle. Friends, you’ve made a lot of old white men very happy. Enjoy! Now, if you’ll pardon me, it’s time that I explored the world of misanthropy.