|The Nossiter Net
The net that shall enmesh them all
Edited, Written, and Published by J.C. Nossiter
|The Morning Mendacity
Monday, September 6th, 2004
|The Nossiter Net is cast to snare some of the riper rascalities of the day. Comments? firstname.lastname@example.org|
|It’s the mystery of the young decade: how is it possible that some 50% of the electorate still thinks George W. Bush is doing a good job? His negligence, arrogance, ignorance, and belligerence has led to the maiming and murdering of thousands at home and abroad, shattered the economy, repulsed friends, encouraged enemies, and changed the image of the United States from the land of liberty to the bastion of bullies. But what is painfully self-evident to half the voters simply doesn’t exist for their compatriots. For them, Mr. Bush is a tower of strength and a paragon of competence.
Because we know for a fact that only a relatively small portion of the electorate gets its information from Fox “news”, there must be another explanation for this puzzling rejection of reality. Of course there is a segment of the citizenry which reflexively ignores facts in favor of received wisdom. For them, Vietnam was both justified and winnable, Nixon was an inspiring leader, Reagan was a hero for invading Grenada (or was it for taking frequent naps?), George Bush senior won a meaningful victory in the Gulf War, and George Bush junior is a genial, regular guy cowboy whose history of academic and business failure and upbringing of elite Eastern privilege didn’t really happen. But it passes belief that half the electorate can be as venal as the Bush-backer financed and GOP operative directed Swift Boat Veterans, as demented as Zell “howls at the moon” Miller, and as self-serving as Arnold “I live a literal dream of personal aggrandizement” Schwartzenegger.
In an era when President Bush is actually admired for his tongue-tied incoherence, it is a great irony that the Republicans succeed in fooling half the people all the time with the deft use of language. The technique is as simple as it is effective: invert the truth and repeat, repeat, repeat, until the opposite of the truth achieves a shady, faith-based credibility. The force of smoked-mirror truth was recently articulated by Mr. Dole, who took a break from pushing sex aids to say of the GOP-allied Swift Boat Veterans that because they can’t all be liars, there must be something to their story.
In the farrago of empty rhetoric, half-truths, distortions, and irrelevancies that was the President’s speech to Republican Convention last week lay buried this gem exemplifying the GOP’s way with words: “Do I forget the lessons of September 11th and take the word of a madman, or do I take action to defend our country? Faced with that choice, I will defend America every time.” The madman in question is Saddam Hussein, and the quotation is what passes for the President’s justification for spending $200 billion and a thousand U.S. lives to invade and occupy Iraq.
It’s a remarkable statement because it contains so many different layers of deception. For Mr. Bush, the lessons of September 11th are the following: don’t spend 40% of your time on vacation, don’t ignore the evidence of your own intelligence services, don’t hire dangerous incompetents like Mr. Ashcroft and Mr. Rumsfeld and Ms. Rice, and don’t listen to misguided fanatics and con men like Messrs. Wolfowitz and Rove. Not one of those lessons, all of which have indeed been ignored, has anything to do with the word of Saddam Hussein. That could have been taken or left at no cost in lives or treasure. The choice which Mr. Bush paints in heroic terms is a false one, a straw man. And the President’s claim to “defend America” is a perfect inversion of the truth. By misdirecting our forces to Iraq, by failing to repair the broken CIA and NSA, by alienating our allies, by allowing Afghanistan to spiral into dangerous anarchy, by countless other sins of omission and commission, Mr. Bush has further exposed us, not defended us.
George Orwell warned about such linguistic warfare in 1984, a novel the Democrats should be passing out to voters like a vaccine against the administration’s epidemic of lies. But assuming that half the electorate is not familiar with Orwell’s prescient fable, can we convince our compatriots to simply translate Republican into English? It’s not hard. Black is white. Up is down. Dishonor is honor, cowardice is courage, lies are truths.
It would be easier to vote Mr. Bush out of office. The wonder is that any sentient being requires convincing of the urgent necessity for doing so, much less half the voters. But perhaps that’s the real point.
©J.C. Nossiter 2004
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