Ain’t Necessarily So
One of the chief reasons GOP politicians and the Village Media who love them are able to maintain any semblance of credibility was on vivid display at the Hagel confirmation hearings: for wrongness, there is always strength in numbers. What really lay at the heart of John McCain’s cartoonishly crabby badgering of Hagel about the overhyped “surge” (which, if nothing else, did cause an additional 1000 American deaths), was just another episode of the big, tough, dumb kids bullying the four-eyed nerds for the crime of being, well, right.
No, you lumpy old ball of carcinoma and impotent rage, forcing someone to say something false, however widely believed, does not make you right and your opponent wrong, it just makes you an asshole. And despite Hagel’s almost universally panned performance, when he deferentially said history would be the judge, that had to leave a mark, not just on McCain, but on every other war cheerleader in the Village, too. Being wrong about something is evidently perfectly okay, as long as you don’t ever admit it, and thus make a lot of Very Serious People look as foolish as you do.
Preference for the counterfactual isn’t just confined to such vividly enormous, groupthink-related debacles like the Iraq War; if fact, nearly every issue being breathlessly fretted over within the beltway is so ethereal as to make cotton candy seem substantial. Tune into the Sunday shows, McCain’s natural habitat, and it’s easy to see why even people who aren’t seething, superannuated rage-oholics get confused sometimes. In this alternate universe, America’s most urgent problems range from things that might happen to things that will, never in a million years, happen, while the mere mention of things that are currently happening goes over like a fart in church.
Thus, we are supposed to worry about the (currently shrinking) deficits while ignoring a half-decade unemployment crisis, scandalously underfunded public services, tottering infrastructure, and third-world inequality. Multiple current wars, declared and undeclared, are far too stale and boring to even talk about when future wars are so much more enticing opportunities for tough talk and jingoistic bluster. Real crime, like the ongoing Wall Street larceny that left the economy in tatters, is shunted aside faster than a pedophile priest can be transferred to a new parish, while imaginary hordes of dusky-hued intruders, be they “terrorists” or “gangs,” are the “real killers” in this OJ Simpson-like beltway operetta.
To this toxic bipartisan litany of imaginary fears, the Republican noise machine piles on ever more fanciful ones, from FEMA camps to creeping Sharia Law, headless corpses in the desert and union-thug beatdowns, and never does anyone mention that the formerly merely naked emperor is now performing unnatural acts with a factory-farmed chicken on Meet the Press.
All this would be tolerable, albeit embarrassing, were there not so many things Americans ought to be worried about right now; urgency and consequence have become inversely proportional to airtime and column inches, and for good reason. A visibly unfolding climate crisis has, just this year, caused an unrelenting and unprecedented drought over vast swaths of the US, record wildfires, a “superstorm” that swamped New York, and freak tornadoes that picked off teabagger-infested areas with almost Godlike accuracy. The increasingly desperate fossil fuels industry lurches from disaster to disaster, leaving a trail of poisonous detritus and dead bodies in its shiny wake, and yet we have to listen to transparent energy shills natter on about a new “boom.”
You see, behind every false narrative that muddies our discourse and stupefies the voters, there is someone laughing all the way to the bank, generally but not exclusively a big Republican donor. The Military/Industrial/Surveillance/Incarceration Complex. The Fossil Fuel Industry. Wall Street. All have grown so powerful that even their most demented fantasies seem within reach, so they’ve simply pulled out all the stops to get while the getting’s good. A preschooler could see through this, but, conveniently, none of the cossetted media are so gifted, or at least that’s what they’d have us believe.
History will be the judge, and I expect that judgement to be harsh.