Roger L. Simon

Why it all happened

This is a momentous morning. The Washington Post has written a remarkably honest editorial about the Valerie Plame Affair:

It follows that one of the most sensational charges leveled against the Bush White House — that it orchestrated the leak of Ms. Plame’s identity to ruin her career and thus punish Mr. Wilson — is untrue. The partisan clamor that followed the raising of that allegation by Mr. Wilson in the summer of 2003 led to the appointment of a special prosecutor, a costly and prolonged investigation, and the indictment of Vice President Cheney’s chief of staff, I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, on charges of perjury. All of that might have been avoided had Mr. Armitage’s identity been known three years ago.

No kidding. After giving ‘Scooter” et al a perfunctory slap on the wrist, the editorial goes on to say what was obvious to many of us from the get-go:

Nevertheless, it now appears that the person most responsible for the end of Ms. Plame’s CIA career is Mr. Wilson. Mr. Wilson chose to go public with an explosive charge, claiming — falsely, as it turned out — that he had debunked reports of Iraqi uranium-shopping in Niger and that his report had circulated to senior administration officials. He ought to have expected that both those officials and journalists such as Mr. Novak would ask why a retired ambassador would have been sent on such a mission and that the answer would point to his wife. He diverted responsibility from himself and his false charges by claiming that President Bush’s closest aides had engaged in an illegal conspiracy. It’s unfortunate that so many people took him seriously.

Of course Mr. Wilson’s narcissistic drivel was bought hook, line and sinker by that bastion of reactionary liberalism the New York Times and parroted by its myriad followers. Wouldn’t it be interesting to be a fly on the wall of their editorial offices at this moment? In a loose-lipped moment, Bill Keller once called blogs a ‘circle jerk,’ one of the most classic uses of projection since Freud. What will they do now? Their onetime employee Judith Miller went to jail over this farce (and speaking of hooks and lines – we at the burgeoning PJ Media bought into the whole charade, inviting Ms. Miller to our debut).

But what interests me is how the Plame Affair fits into the whole framework. It may be opera bouffe, but it is far from unrelated to the way the press has conducted itself in recent years. Is it so different from Pallywood and the Mohammed Al Doura case, the Reuters photographs, the Jenin “massacre” and so forth – all lies swallowed whole by a gullible Western media? At first glance they would seem far apart, but in this small world one concept draws them all together – narrative. The truth is less important than the weltanschauung of the publication. But we knew that, didn’t we?

So next step – why this phenomenon? Why the acceptance of this narrative whose result is so negative to world history and seems in continuous aid of the destruction of the Enlightenment itself? Is it just Bush Derangement Syndrome? Well, I think that’s a large part of it. But the term (BDS) is too narrow to encompass the phenomenon. A variety of psychological forces are in the mix, but most notable to me is a sense of deprivation. 9/11 stripped the left of its self-perceived idealism that was the mainstay of its “personality.” Forces (like Bush) that lefties once dismissed as reactionary were taking the lead in the preservation of the West instead of supporting dictators as they once did. Furthermore, in the old days the left could take concilation that the enemy (communism) had at least a theoretical rationale – economic fairness to all. The new enemy was more troublesome – on the one hand poor (only seemingly, of course, considering the oil rich) and on the other hand medieval, anti-woman, anti-gay and anti-modern… essentially anti-liberal. What to do…. what to do?

In the beginning the left went along with Bush, but the minute things began to lag in Iraq, they deserted him in a flash. At first glance the reason was political but on a deeper (and I believe more important) level the reason was psychological. The left was in a rush to reclaim its lost idealism (the “it’s about oil” nonsense was but an obvious example of this), to preserve its disintegrating sense of self. Of course the big loser in all this is the truth. Sure Bush made a bunch of mistakes (who wouldn’t?) but it should be obvious to anyone that we are at the earliest stages of a very long war. Nevertheless, a culture of media corruption set in almost instantly that ended up creating absurdities like the Plame Affair. We are lucky this one got unmasked. We will also be lucky if the conclusions drawn in the WaPo editorial stick for that publication at least. We shall see.