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Works and Days

Kingdom of Lies

April 3rd, 2011 - 10:12 am

I am a subject in a kingdom of lies. At 57, I have grown up with decades of untruth — advanced for the purposes of purported social unity, the noble aim of egalitarianism, and the advancement of a cognitive elite in government, journalism, the arts, and the universities.

Alger Hiss really was a communist operative, albeit an elegant and snooty sort of one. The Rosenbergs were tag-team spies. Noble Laureate Rigoberta Menchu did not really write her own memoir. I admire the lives of Gandhi and Martin Luther King, even as I sensed there were large areas of their biographies that simply could not be disclosed and that the censorship was apparently for our own good. I know that if I did what Eliot Spitzer did I would not be hosting a TV show.

I did not quite know how “witch hunt” characterized the often disreputable tactics of Joe McCarthy — cruel and obnoxious were the better adjectives. You see, there were really communists in Hollywood at a time of a dangerous global cold war against communism, in a way there were never any witches at all in Salem.

But then for some reason I sensed that a murderous, camouflaged Fidel Castro killed more innocents than a murderous, gold-braided Augusto Pinochet. I accepted that we were to be silent about the former’s crimes since his ends were said to be good, while the latter’s crimes were for the bad — though economists of no particular political affiliations have shown that Chileans escaped poverty and dictatorship while Cubans were, and are still, plagued by both.

As far as Hollywood, goes, as I have said, I do not go to the cinema at all. The choices are meager. We can watch a George Clooney, Matt Damon, or Ben Affleck — multimillionaires all of mediocre talent — uncover some corporate or CIA conspiracy that threatens the environment (their employers and distributors are not corporate?), the non-white male, or global peace — or sit through yuppie crises whose double entendres and cute repartees are known mostly only to metrosexuals between New York and D.C., or from Malibu to Newport Beach. We are told they are films, but those too are lies; they are mere transcripts of the daily psychodramas of a privileged and bored class whose efforts are spent searching for global causes that might balance — as penance if you will — their own often angst-driven quests for influence, notoriety, and the material good life.

The media is our ministry of truth of the Oceania brand: one day Guantanamo, renditions, tribunals, preventive detention, Predators, the Patriot Act, and Iraq were bad; then one day in January 2009 I woke up and heard of them not all. I then recognized that they were now either good or at least necessary — or perhaps sinister IEDs of a sort left behind by the nefarious Emmanuel Goldstein administration, now too dangerous to even touch.

The Goldstone Report, I thought when I first scanned it, was worse than most undergraduate research papers I have graded — and therefore I expected it to be praised by the international community. And it was until even the author, like the rare guilty undergraduate who confesses to plagiarism, wants his signature off the report. But then long ago I got used to Israel being damned by reporters, NGOs, and the UN and EU types as apartheidists, racists, imperialists, and Nazis in direct proportion to the fact that visitors to the Middle East usually prefer to go Israeli cafes, hotels, and hospitals. Reporting on the West Bank is a 10 AM-2 PM day job, with a commute back across the green line. Half a million Jews ethnically cleansed in the 1960s from Baghdad, Cairo, and Damascus were opportunists; half a million who fled to the West Bank twenty years earlier are still recently arrived refugees. But then I don’t know why Jerusalem is a divided city and Nicosia is not; or why the Kuril Islands or East Prussia are not similarly said to be “occupied”; or why the fence in Israel is worse than the fence in Saudi Arabia.

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