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Works and Days

I No Longer Quite Believe . . .

June 8th, 2009 - 7:45 am

I am afraid I no longer believe . . .

…That we have an inquisitive American media as we once knew it. There has emerged something as bad as state-sanctioned coercion—which we could at least identify, and thus struggle against.

Now comes a more insidious, brave new self-imposed censorship of the Orwellian mode. It is not just the perennial embarrassment Chris Matthews describing his Obama ecstasy on camera, or even Newsweek’s Evan Thomas comparing his President to God, or even CNN execs being exposed trashing the US abroad at Davos, or whitewashing Saddam, but rather a more incremental new groupspeak in which basic words and ideas—from terrorism to war itself—have been reformulated according to political dictates.

Iraq, from good to bad back to good?

Suddenly a Thomas Friedman and Fareed Zacharia (for the war, against the war, now for the war) are talking about victory in Iraq, and the chance to see its democracy foster change throughout the region. Bravo, but I think this is what Bush proclaimed in October 2002, when the House and Senate, in bipartisan fashion not only voted for 23 writs to justify the removal of Saddam, but praised him for his promise not to replace Hussein with another Gulf thug, but to try to foster a real democracy. What suddenly has transpired to suggest that mainstream pundits no longer think Iraq is ‘lost,’ but a keystone in a wider new Middle East policy to promote change? Had Bush listened to 90% of the pundits in those dark days of late 2006-mid 2007, there would be no democracy now for Obama to privilege as a cornerstone of US foreign policy. Or is that simple statement now also inoperative?

Cannot we wish Obama well, hope that the United States prospers under his leadership, appreciate his rhetorical skills—and yet still hold him accountable for what he says, and what he does?

Depression to Recovery in a blink of an eye?

From mid-November to mid-March, the media assured us that, as Obama warned, we were in a mess analogous to the Great Depression, a crisis, a morass. Then suddenly the stimulus passes (as of yet largely undistributed), the nearly $2 trillion deficit budget is approved—and? Yes, now the panic is over, the tide has been reversed, there are now time and resources to do healthcare, cap and trade, and massive education “reform.” The media went from Bush was Herbert Hoover to Obama is far better than FDR in a matter of a few days this winter, as the tanked economy, almost by sorcery, was suddenly ‘over the worst of it.’

Unemployment figures are now conditioned with contexts about new jobs created and new trends apparent—not that the aggregate jobless rate is still climbing. (What happened to “jobless recovery” serially evoked in the 2004 election?).

“They” and “Some” did it, not me…

Straw men are everywhere. The President, the First Lady, and the Attorney General cannot begin a speech without “some say”, “there are those who believe,” or “I am not convinced by others who argue”—all followed by their own enlightened antitheses. We are perennially back to Michelle Obama’s “they” who raised the bar, or the nefarious “some” in the Bush-Cheney-Halliburton nexus that shredded the Constitution with military tribunals and renditions in order to steal Iraqi oil.

No one points out that almost every historical reference Obama invoked in Cairo—from the supposed Muslim role in great world discoveries to Islam fueling the Renaissance and Enlightenment to the Inquisition and Spain—was inflated, but, more importantly, always inflated from a politically-correct point of view.

Sorry, it’s probably wrong

When our President talks about his relatives’ war experiences, his own family’s Muslim connections, or anything much about the past, I expect it to be flat-out ahistorical, misleading, or contextualized by an aide over the next two months. So yes, I do not believe that any of this relatives liberated Auschwitz or knew those who freed Treblinka. I do not believe any of his numbers concerning, or analysis about, Muslims in America. I do not think he has a clue about the Renaissance and its relationship to the flight of Greek-speaking scholars to Western Europe from the fear of Turkish Muslims, or the Enlightenment’s interest in a Greece suffering under the yoke of an oppressive Ottoman fundamentalism.

Get with the party line

To the extent that one reads that Obama has flipped on key points of national policy—NAFTA, renditions, military tribunals, Predator attacks, wiretaps, intercepts, Iraq, etc.—we hear from conservative and moderate pundits not that his past demagoguery on these issues helped to demonize here and abroad American foreign policy at a critical time. Instead, we are supposed to be overjoyed that we can now appreciate his new flexibility and be thankful that his contradictions at least now led to the right way of thinking.

I no longer believe . . .

…That I can quite trust mainstream science and scientific elites as I once did. When world leaders and Nobel Prize winners meet to decry global warming, I don’t believe that there is a true give-and-take. I doubt what follows is empirical discussion of what is causing global warming and whether it is a natural, temporary phenomenon or a long-term permanent threat.

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