We’re taking bets, too. We bet not one fucking thing is going to happen as a consequence of this fancy study (see below).
I can’t find the news in this news. What, in 2003 we only knew there were half a dozen or so vast and criminal lies, spoken by the foremost leaders in the foremost venues, essentially identical to lies spoken in analogous situations countless times since the Second World War? If only we had known then that there were actually 935…or rather the same half-dozen repeated 935 times in various combinations…then we would somehow have had the perspective and means to…what?
Anyone willing to look was quite aware of the lying, and its magnitude and implications, five years ago. The crux of the issue is the willingness to look, not the number of iterations. Moreover, I think it is a red herring to blame the media for not having exposed the lies more assiduously. Yes they should have done so but I doubt any difference in the outcome; it is unreasonable to insist that the media somehow carry all the responsibility for informing a citizenry that is blinded by doctrine.
I’m glad George Soros’ millions have finally produced something worthwhile.
Clearly the government and media propaganda onslaught in 2002 and 2003 had a dramatic effect on public opinion in regard to attacking Iraq. War planners obviously thought such a campaign was necessary, hence the 935 “methodically propagated” lies, predictably repeated ad infinitum by corporate news outlets.
The sentiment expressed [above … ] — that people are unwilling to look at the facts and are “blinded by doctrine” — is one I hear fairly frequently among anti-war activists. Even at the US Social Forum I observed a panel with several notable activists who resorted to essentially blaming people for not knowing what we know and being involved like we are. While this may satisfy a need to feel right and moral and even righteous, I think it is ultimately counterproductive. One, it’s impossible to organize people you look down on or even despise. Two, it violates one of the most basic tenets of organizing, which is that you have to meet people where they are, not wonder why they aren’t meeting you where you are. I’d also say it’s a form of elitism that we need to get rid of if we really want to attract the kinds of people and the numbers of people we will need to win.
Unfortunately, right now we aren’t winning. The problem could either be with us or with them. I’d suggest focusing on what’s wrong with us, since that’s what we can control. Plus it turns out that’s where most of the problem lies.
Of course, one must not denigrate the general population who are “blinded by doctrine” in order to “satisfy a need to feel right and moral and even righteous”. On the other hand, how can one develop an effective organizing strategy that takes into account the irrefutable fact that most Americans are wallowing in reactionary beliefs that have been and continue to be successfully foisted upon them by the ruling class, schools, the corporate media and the culture in general? I asked my father-in-law, a WWII veteran, if he could possibly imagine the US intentionally committing an immoral or evil act. He proudly asserted that he could not even consider such a proposition. That’s “patriotism”, the euphemism for nationalism, the principal modern manifestation of tribalism and the bulwark of false consciousness. Do we just acquiesce to its rejection being too big a transition for people to make on the road to enlightenment and opt instead for something more manageable, perhaps like voting for corporate Democrats such as the Clintons?
The US is an imperialist aggressor nation and a corrupted democracy and, thus, the principal enemy to wellbeing of humanity and the survival of the human species. As an internationalist, my first concern is not necessarily what is in the best interest of the 4% of the world’s people who consume 25% of the world’s resources and propel humanity toward self-destruction with their compulsive consumerism and stalwart defense of the overarching rights of capitalism. What we can realistically accomplish here in the belly of the beast in the foreseeable future will be to hinder the destructive forces of American imperialism. Don’t hold out for a socialist revolution in the citadel of capitalism, at least not until it has been defeated on a worldwide scale and the “objective conditions” become far much more propitious. Even then the primary reaction of the majority of the American people will probably be to embrace fascism in the pursuit of the preservation of their privileges.
Still, we must continue to fight the good fight as an existential imperative. To do otherwise is to capitulate to a premature spiritual death.
I share the frustration.
I do not think that was what Marcus was saying. Did I miss something? He did not say to ignore people’s ignorance. The question remains, How do we get our message across in a way, a language, that our intended listeners can hear or see. There are many who do not know the truth of U.S. foreign policy. I remember even many leftists who were taken in by the anti-Aristide propaganda or who couldn’t figure out that it was not o.k. to bomb all the Serbs. There is a deafening silence about Gaza right now.
Ask your father-in-law about the U.S. military personnel who have been refused health benefits: the atomic veterans of WWII, those injured by Agent Orange, Gulf War Syndrome, and the military health crisis that is going on now. What about the gutting of the G.I. Bill? I am saying that you have to use examples people not only can but, in some cases, must relate to because they are part of the category in question. I like to ask people if it would be o.k. to bring back slavery and deny women the right to vote. If they say no then one may move into current slavery conditions and vote denying practices. One can ask questions about the acceptance of slavery in the birth of this nation and why it took so long to officially stop it. Nothing to be proud of there except the anti-status quo abolitionists. They had to break the law in order to change it. You can’t win them all, one fellow soldier in Vietnam told me he would have killed his own mother if he was ordered to. He knew in the back of his mind that he could admit no exception, that I would take that one exception and run it up into millions. But most people are not that crazy even if they are deathly afraid of having their worldview crushed. Some people are genuinely shocked when I start rattling off all of the covert wars the U.S. has started since WWII. And as for WWII, they never heard of the Lincoln Brigade or any of the real reasons for that war.
Keep on keeping on.
Thanks for your response. I appreciate your contributions to the list and the group and all the thoughtful posts like these that people send out. Your email brings up an important issue and I hope we can eventually all come to some sort of shared understanding about it.
I disagree that it’s an “irrefutable fact that most Americans are wallowing in reactionary beliefs.” Polls show that on most policy questions, from Iraq to healthcare to income inequality, most Americans are far to the left of either major party, which is remarkable considering the current size of the radical left in the US, and we can imagine how those numbers would shift in the presence of a coherent left movement that was noticeable, even if still a significant minority. We also know from looking around us that pretty much everybody feels the whole system is broken.
Even on those issues where Americans are to the right of us, rather than being immutable facts I think we’re dealing with a large amount of rationalization and apologetics for a way of life that is obviously having its share of problems but in which people — like your father-in-law — are personally invested, or that provides them privileges they don’t want to relinquish, or that offers them a sense of security in a world where the other possibilities (communism, islamo-fascism, etc.) seem frighteningly bad.
For all of these different types of people — those who agree with us but aren’t involved, those who disagree with us, and those who are just plain apathetic — the biggest barrier to their active participation and shifting consciousness isn’t consumerism or television or laziness or whatnot, but rather cynicism that anything better is possible and that it could be attained even if it were.
Should we be surprised? We spend the majority of our time telling people how terrible the world is in every possible dimension of social life. We discuss how powerful racism, sexism, capitalism, authoritarianism, imperialism, anthropocentrism, heterosexism, ableism, carnivore-ism, etc. are. We tell them that even when you act against these forces they manage to push back any gain we make and to manifest themselves in other ways. We tell them their pain hurts. And guess what? They believe us! And then, as in your email, we tell them the best we can do is to try to temper the ongoing destruction around us, and not to hold out hope for a revolution (at least not until nebulous forces beyond their control align correctly).
I don’t mean to be flippant, but can we really blame people for not getting involved when our message is, “Join us and lose”, when we tell them to “fight the good fight,” which really means to sacrifice the little extra time, energy, and money they have for a cause that is doomed to fail. Obviously most people — including most activists — will choose to invest their resources in bettering their lives and the lives of their friends and family. They will “go along to get along” and I don’t blame them one bit.
Fortunately this is largely within our control. It is up to us to provide people with alternatives that are worth fighting for, strategies for how we can reach those visions, and ways for people to see how their contributions are part of a trajectory leading to a new society, which includes winning reforms that relieve suffering but also empower us to make further gains. If we were to put our focus there I think we’d see the things we find so frustrating, such as apathy, consumerism, patriotism, etc., begin to melt before our eyes.
WASHINGTON (CNN) — President Bush and his top aides publicly made 935 false statements about the security risk posed by Iraq in the two years following September 11, 2001, according to a study released Tuesday by two nonprofit journalism groups.
President Bush addresses the nation as the Iraq war begins in March 2003.
“In short, the Bush administration led the nation to war on the basis of erroneous information that it methodically propagated and that culminated in military action against Iraq on March 19, 2003,” reads an overview of the examination, conducted by the Center for Public Integrity and its affiliated group, the Fund for Independence in Journalism.
According to the study, Bush and seven top officials — including Vice President Dick Cheney, former Secretary of State Colin Powell and then-National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice — made 935 false statements about Iraq during those two years.
The study was based on a searchable database compiled of primary sources, such as official government transcripts and speeches, and secondary sources — mainly quotes from major media organizations.
The study says Bush made 232 false statements about Iraq and former leader Saddam Hussein’s possessing weapons of mass destruction, and 28 false statements about Iraq’s links to al Qaeda.
Bush has consistently asserted that at the time he and other officials made the statements, the intelligence community of the U.S. and several other nations, including Britain, believed Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.
He has repeatedly said that despite the intelligence flaws, removing Hussein from power was the right thing to do.
The study, released Tuesday, says Powell had the second-highest number of false statements, with 244 about weapons and 10 about Iraq and al Qaeda.
Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Press Secretary Ari Fleischer each made 109 false statements, it says. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz made 85, Rice made 56, Cheney made 48 and Scott McLellan, also a press secretary, made 14, the study says.
“It is now beyond dispute that Iraq did not possess any weapons of mass destruction or have meaningful ties to al Qaeda,” the report reads, citing multiple government reports, including those by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, the 9/11 Commission and the multinational Iraq Survey Group, which reported that Hussein had suspended Iraq’s nuclear program in 1991 and made little effort to revive it.
The overview of the study also calls the media to task, saying most media outlets didn’t do enough to investigate the claims.
“Some journalists — indeed, even some entire news organizations — have since acknowledged that their coverage during those prewar months was far too deferential and uncritical,” the report reads. “These mea culpas notwithstanding, much of the wall-to-wall media coverage provided additional, ‘independent’ validation of the Bush administration’s false statements about Iraq.”
The quotes in the study include an August 26, 2002, statement by Cheney to the national convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars.
“Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction,” Cheney said. “There is no doubt he is amassing them to use against our friends, against our allies, and against us.