Bill Grigsby: A Culture Of Lies
A Culture Of Lies
By Bill Grigsby
The neoconservative pundits are hard at work, attempting to convince their readers that ‘Plamegate’ is an isolated incident, hardly worth the cost of the newsprint. The ever-spry George Will leap-frogged effortlessly from Harriet Miers over indicted Scooter Libby to Samuel Alito. Charles Krauthammer ignored Libby’s indictment, instead navigating unfamiliar territory [for him] by attacking persons of intellectual integrity (in this case, Brent Scowcroft). David Brooks tells us all that’s needed to prevent the BushCo Administration from descending into irrelevance is the standard, garden variety Ronald Reagan-style housecleaning. Historical fiction, written in the passive voice, apparently mollifies the base. Rich Lowry goes after U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald’s $2 + million inquiry, drawing false parallels with Kenneth Starr’s $70 million, zero-indictment, public video sex sideshow leakfest, which according to Lowry caused such a savage liberal press-bashing that Starr was forced into the special prosecutor protection program, reappearing as Dean of Pepperdine University’s Law School. The unique combination of arrogance and bald-faced disingenuousness has brought these pundits, and the far right movement they defend, to Desperation Point. But don’t expect them to jump.
They would probably serve their masters more effectively if they’d sacrificed Scooter Libby as news fodder for the mainstream media buzzards, who apparently have been fearing that this fetid carcass in front of them might rise up, or with its last breath, yell out liberal media! The case for war in Iraq has failed the smell test for almost three years now, and the prosecutor’s office will likely focus on the fundamentally dishonest media campaign waged by the White House and Pentagon, an inquiry the Elite Republican Guard (DeLay, Hastert, Frist, etc.) has effortlessly resisted. Yet lurking beneath the surface of Attorney Fitzgerald’s investigation is an administration so immersed in scandal, corruption and abuse of power, it makes the Watergate cover-up look like a bake sale gone bad. And as columnist Mark Shields once suggested, it's not the crime that gets you in trouble, but the cover-up (rule 1). And (rule 2) those in power never remember rule 1. But as every prosecutor must know, the cover-up is often launched to conceal more widespread criminal activity. As dirty secrets are exposed, will the White House be able to keep a lid on defectors? How many insiders will be willing to wait for the radio talk show, the book deal, or a pardon? The courageous whistleblowers—Richard Clarke, Paul O’Neill, Karen Kwiatkowski, John Brady Kiesling—faced ferocious personal attacks by the White House but were otherwise quickly dismissed by a hopelessly compromised commercial news media. Fitzgerald is clearly high on the hit list. But now defectors may have a more powerful incentive than the public interest working for them: self-preservation. No amount of document shredding or computer handiwork could cover all the tracks this White House has left. And the fear factor seems to be fading (just ask Trent Lott!).
There is much to be exposed, because the BushCo administration has sold every major policy with tortured logic and carefully calculated deception. It had little choice. The neocons’ pitch man ‘won’ the election, and was the appointed folksy spokesman for a supply-side renaissance. But if the public had known what White House was planning: handing over public assets to its private benefactors, concentrating wealth and power to secure long-term partisan advantage, and mortgaging the country’s fiscal future and civil liberties to pull it off—we would have long ago seen angry torch-wielding mobs storming the castle. Hence the deception. After all, it’s a neocon:
The war in Iraq, sold with geopolitical hyperbole (here’s the latest), unwarranted fear, American flags, and an exemption from deficit statistics; tax cuts—sold as a ‘benefit small businesses and families’ (much like subscriber cable TV was the end of commercial advertising), adding tens of billions to the deficit and trillions to national debt; Medicare—the White House covered up the true cost, provided no funding mechanism, and slipped in a Christmas bonuses worth billions to the ever-struggling private insurance and pharmaceutical industries. Social Security—Hey! Where’d the trust fund go? Better privatize this sucker and sell more treasury bonds to our Chinese friends! Enron policy—planned in secret, calling for more oil and gas drilling, and perhaps invasion of Iraq? Oh, I mean energy policy. To make us energy independent. On fossil fuels. Torture—it was only abuse, a few low-level bad apples, pay no attention to that legal ‘finding’ from the White House calling the Geneva Conventions obsolete! Terror alerts—great for changing the subject and whipping up fear. Based on non-specific threats, and color-coded for the kids! General propaganda—fancy photo-op backdrops with repeating mantras that flagrantly misrepresent White House intention; fake news videos and op-ed pieces penned by journalists on the Executive Branch payroll; Compassionate conservatism—watch your step, this stuff’s hard to scrape off your shoes; Moral values—bringing homophobes to the polls to preserve the institutions of marriage, divorce, and GOP control; No child left behind—don’t let the soft bigotry of low expectations rob you of your dignity: WalMart and Burger King have a job for you; War on terror—the 9/11 commission report was mainly notable for its glaring omissions and errors; Fiscal conservatism—cut taxes; borrow to finance unfunded mandates; repeat as necessary; Global warming—tried to outsource the EPA report chapter to the American Petroleum Institute; The economy—never better! Did I mention ‘families and small businesses’ lately? Leadership—only if behind every great leader there’s a good script, 17 camera angles, and a fancy, taxpayer-financed backdrop that says ‘leadership.’ The Patriot Act—spying on Americans, denying due process, and criminalizing dissent. In the name of patriotism; Freedom and democracy—really, has any administration in history done more damage in less time? Sound science—this is what is lacking when government reports aren’t vetted by Karl Rove; actually, the only science that matters under this White House is the science of spin, and the psychology of persuasion, brought to you by the best propagandists money can buy. Culture of life—the Terri Schiavo fiasco didn’t fully cover the Gas Chamber Guv’ner, whose military ‘doesn’t do civilian body counts’ in Iraq;
The accumulative effect of all of this dishonesty is that the White House legacy won’t be a culture of life, but a culture of lies, one so successful it’s become habit. Pundit damage control is working several angles—personal smear, distraction, trivializing, phony historical analogy, etc. And the cumulative effect of White House policy has been a massive and unprecedented redistribution of wealth up and away from the lower and middle classes. This is the story that the unraveling of the BushCo presidency will eventually tell.
And therein lies the problem. Barring impeachment, BushCo has three more years in office. Mainstream media couldn’t get the story right even if all they had to do was reprint someone else’s words. The damage BushCo has done and will do to the executive branch, to U.S. international standing, to the environment, to the most vulnerable groups in our society, and to the economy, is worth at least an amber alert. And we’ve seen no signs of a slowing of the outsourcing of government to the highest bidders. Not when Congress debates $1 billion in food stamp cuts to help defray costs of a disastrous war, private reconstruction on the Gulf Coast and permanent tax cuts.
So how do Americans keep the White House from dragging down the country with it? There’s plenty to choose from, but most have to do with paying attention. Minimize news from TV, and from commercial news media (except maybe Keith Olbermann on MSNBC or PBS). Codify the independence of the FCC. Encourage and support media literacy and media democracy—multibillion dollar corporations aren’t the ones who can be trusted to report the news, much less define it. Demand transparent government. What kinds of secrets is BushCo hiding from the people who pay their salaries? Support election and campaign finance reform, locally and nationally—restore democracy to the presidential elections. Americans are stuck for three more years—again, barring impeachment—with an administration that has squandered any mandate to govern, but still has GOP majorities and long laundry lists of political opponents to punish and investigate. Along with lists of corporate benefactors who, like the neocon pundits, would like to change the subject and return to bizness as usual.