Bill Grigsby: Even Meltdowns Generate Light
Even Meltdowns Generate Light
By Bill Grigsby
Donald Rumsfeld is plenty sore. The media are looking for drama in all the wrong places (that is, not the Pentagon’s official news feed sites). Where once they could be counted on to fight over the movie rights to Jessica Lynch or Pat Tillman mythologies, now commercial media stay focused for minutes at a time on casualties and violence in Iraq (to the extent these can be covered by journalists hunkered down in Green Zone hotels). These are the same media outlets that covered ‘Shock and Awe’ like it was a Super Bowl halftime show.
Now, almost three years, 2,100 plus American casualties and untold Iraqi civilian casualties later, Rummy sez "We have arrived at a strange time in this country where the worst about America and our military seems to be so quickly taken as truth by the press and reported and spread around the world, often with little context and little scrutiny, let alone correction or accountability after the fact."
Talk about projection . . .
Well, when corporate media no longer marches in lockstep with the administration, you know something pretty special has happened. And after all BushCo and the media have been through together—the Countdowns to War, Colin Powell’s masterful theatre at the UN, the Mission Accomplished video, the Baghdad Turkey Platter Sooprize, the faulty exit polls, the amber alerts when diversion was called for, Jessica Lynch and Pat Tillman, the embeds, the boot camps, the bonding with troops, the censored topics (depleted uranium, civilian casualties, U.S. soldier body bags, permanent military bases, war profiteering, the outlandish outsourcing, the fraud and corruption). Never say the BushCo Administration is a fickle weather vane for public opinion. Dick Cheney still pining for the right to torture when he’s not fundraising for Tom DeLay’s defense fund. George Bush only going out to give canned speeches on military bases (oh well, at least he’s committed to recycling!). The ‘Victory Plan’ backdrop as confirmation that BushCo has now entered the self-parody phase ( and only three years to go!). Condi Rice already developing a habit of stuttering when she lies (lately about kidnapping and ‘rendering’ suspected terrorists in torture-friendly locales).
Even the neocon pundits are beginning to look beyond the BushCo presidency. They know George Bush is a lame duck for all but the most rabid partisans and profiteers. The latest example of setting low standards and then failing to meet them: speaking at the Council on Foreign Relations without fielding questions. It’s hard to defend such a pathetic, insecure public figure, especially when he happens to be president, so lately the pundits have resorted to defending the GMs, Exxons, and Waldemarts. The president has never been much more than the pitch man for the NeoCon, complete with the requisite production team and presidential props: cowboy hat, blue workshirt, Christian persona, the practiced swagger, recently-acquired NASCAR accent, an endless supply of camera-ready backdrops, a press secretary to handle the low-level lying, etc. So when the pitch man can’t even sell the product anymore, you either replace him, repackage the product, or clean out the vault before the police arrive.
As for replacement, that’s probably wishful thinking, although one can always hope that whistleblowing becomes suddenly fashionable. Cleaning out the vault is a given—no lame duck administration has accomplished so much plundering of the treasury with so little public scrutiny.
So that leaves repackaging the product. George Bush made a passable pitch man because he clearly didn’t much care about the job—he was willing to let others do the thinking for him. Someone with an independent streak, with strong views, might actually change course. And there will be no changing course. So how, you ask, can so many people in the public spotlight continue to say blatantly silly things about the war, the economy, the environment, and the media? How indeed. ‘Stay the course’ is no doubt comforting code for those industries and individuals who have invested heavily in the White House’s supply-side agenda. Because the NeoCon show, the selling of government on the cheap to private industry, must go on. You just don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.
The secret to the White House’s “success” has always been its ability to manage mainstream media. It’s no longer working in a predictable way, though. As far as strategies for shaping public opinion, fear and intimidation turn out to be pretty two-dimensional—much like Karl Rove’s stunted moral development. This isn’t to say that the commercial media have learned their lesson and will now do their job of reporting news and informing a diverse public about important events, trends and forces that affect their lives. They’re still in the business of bringing together consumers and advertisers. But the independent media are growing, and the blogosphere, for all its collective faults, restores some democracy to the press and has tarnished the veneer of legitimacy in mainstream corporate media.
So to the extent this White House has been exposed as a governing fraud, it has been as a result of pressure from a relentless independent media, a handful of courageous whistleblowers, an increasingly skeptical public, and lethal doses of official incompetence, corruption and arrogance, and linguistic contortion:
- ‘Families and small businesses’—notice how every BushCo policy, including pork rind subsidies, benefits families and small businesses.
- ‘Soft bigotry of low expectations’—a low-cost phrase substituting for actual policy redressing racial and ethnic inequities.
- Conspiracy theorist—low-cost term used to substitute for actual responses to White House critics.
- ‘No child left behind’—to paraphrase a Tom Toles cartoon, we’ll need every last one of them to service the national debt.
- ‘Moral values’—euphemism for homophobia
- ‘Safe and clean’ nucular power—how ‘bout safe and clean radioactive waste??
- ‘Ownership society’—a wholly-owned subsidiary of the financial industry.
- ‘Stay the course’—the NeoCon must go on . . .
- ‘War on terror’—can you say waterboarding, white phosphorous, depleted uranium, extraordinary rendition, shock and awe, daisy cutter, bunker buster, and MOAB?
- Plan for Victory—the White House’s 35 glossy page answer to the State Department’s still-classified Future of Iraq project.
Is it coincidence that the last three two-term republican administrations have ended in scandal? BushCo has hit rock bottom, and responded by passing out shovels. Yet don’t expect corporate news divisions to sully their business models rummaging through the massive dirt piles.
This could be a rare, collective teachable moment in history, a fleeting chance to scrape away layers of varnish on American-style® democracy, to expose the parasites and profiteers pushing fascist drift, and make a case for real, diverse, multiparty representation. And to prepare for the next, inevitable repackaging of supply-side propaganda.
As the bumper sticker sez, someday, in the distant future, Americans will look back on all this, and laugh nervously.