America's Alternate Reality

- by Igor Volsky

During the first presidential debate, President Bush said, "there's 100,000 troops trained: police, guard, special units, border patrol. There's going to be 125,000 trained by the end of this year. Yeah, we're getting the job done. It's hard work." But on Nov. 24, the Washington Post reported something quite different. The paper noted that "U.S. authorities have concluded that plans to provide new police officers with a two-month introductory course followed by some on-the-job mentoring will not be enough to ensure their effectiveness. With many police officers intimidated by killings and threats, some U.S. officials have begun questioning the notion of trying to establish a system of local policing at this time."

Thus, in a sense, we on the left have been vindicated. The president has in fact been living in an election-induced alternative reality - and that's putting it mildly. A more honest columnist would call the president a liar - U.S. authorities must have known of the ineffectiveness of Iraqi security forces three weeks ago (before the election).

What's more, consider the following quote from Ron Suskind's pre-election New York Times exposť :

"We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality - judiciously, as you will - we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors ... and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do."

Such candid comments are a rarity for any government, but coming from the ultra-secret Bush administration, they are almost unheard of. (A new report by OpenTheGovernment.org revealed that "the federal government spent $6.5 billion last year creating 14 million new classified documents ... more than it has for at least the past decade.")

One almost feels sorry for the "unnamed senior aid" that spilled the beans to Ron Suskind; she or he will most certainly be joining the unemployment rolls, for if there is one thing we know, the administration's lust for secrecy is second only to its infamous thirst for retribution. But, while the quote is derogatory, even insulting, it is in no way unique.

This sentiment was once expressed by Walter Lippmann, a leading public intellectual of the 20th century. Lippmann believed that societal elites should "manufacture consent" for the rest of the population. That is, the small influential minority should use lies and propaganda to control the minds of the spectators (the great masses of the public). Consent, Lippmann argued, should be manufactured in the realm of policy and politics. The president and his administration (like many before him) have brought Lippmann's theory into the 21st century.

Most recently, consent has been manufactured for the invasion in Iraq. Our intelligence agencies were engaged in what was later described as "group think," undoubtedly encouraged by the Pentagon which set up an office of special plans and staffed it with conservative ideologies to cherry pick intelligence that rationalized an invasion of Iraq. Meanwhile, the media did their best to ignore the critical voices of former head weapons inspector Scott Ritter - who claimed that Iraq had no stockpiles of weapons - and those of countless others in the intelligence community.

We were told that Saddam had used weapons of mass destruction on his own people, yet our role in their acquisition and our support for his mass graves was almost never reported. And thus, dissent was taken out of the permissible spectrum of public discussion; consent for an invasion of Iraq was manufactured.

Meanwhile, the moral, legal, economic, and security ramifications of such an invasion went entirely unreported. For instance, while we were being told that Saddam Hussein had violated 17 U.N. resolutions, our own defiance of international law was ignored. After Hussein had been toppled and the insurgency erupted, "other new realities" were created. As our soldiers began coming home in body bags, and the war became increasingly unpopular, we were lied to again. This time, "history's actors" got into the game. They told us that war in Iraq was of last resort, and in the process rewrote history, expunging from it the inspector's requests for three more months of diplomacy. (Rule of thumb: if history doesn't support official rhetoric, it's expunged from the records.)

In such a governmental system truth has no place. The president all but admitted this in mocking John Kerry's "truth standard." The president bragged that his administration would not pass a "truth standard to its own citizens." And who's to blame them? They can regurgitate lies, and half truths and we will all "be left to just study what [they] do." By repeating lies incessantly, the truth becomes history.


Igor Volsky is an undergraduate student at Marist College and the host of Political Thought, a public affairs program airing every Friday from 4-6 p.m. on WMAR Marist Radio, 1630 AM or at www.politicalthought.net. He can be contacted at Igor.Volsky@marist.edu

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