Movies in Black and White

Ever since Nixon, the American Right has essentially given up on facts, logic, and evidence, preferring to focus on comic book narratives wherein they’re always the plucky, all-American heroes, fighting valiantly against forces of pure evil.  Unable to sell the efficacy of any of their policy goals on the merits, the world has been imaginatively recast as a no-holds-barred struggle against “sinister forces” at home and abroad, using the most nakedly emotional appeals to our darkest, and most importantly, infantile, urges.  Saddled with an endless war that had already been accepted by the military as lost years earlier, Nixon sensibly turned to cheap demagoguery to silence existing critics and intimidate potential ones, particularly those who spoke uncomfortable truths.  The peace movement, having only reality and decency on its side, was caricatured as a violence-tinged band of America-hating “bums.”  Daniel Ellsberg, armed with thousands of pages of evidence of the Pentagon’s duplicity and mendacity, was hounded, stalked, and prosecuted.  Protesters shot in cold blood at Kent State or bloodied by “hard Hats” in New York were vilified as Communist-loving traitors, while their assailants were  simultaneously heralded as Real Americans.  Over time, these false narratives acquired, to those on the “don’t confuse me with the facts” right, the legitimacy they frankly never deserved, and once such organized lying had proven so effective, it became standard operating procedure.

Stung by the then-unnamed “Vietnam Syndrome,” Reagan immediately sought to equate military adventurism with patriotism just as Nixon had, and in that more honest time, even went so far as to reactivate the hated Selective Service system immediately upon taking office.  Take that, hippies!  Then he embarked upon the most massive and destructive peacetime military buildup in history which, along with his tax cuts for the wealthy, quickly produced unemployment numbers which remained unrivaled until today.  He turned the regulatory agencies of the federal government over to the industries they were supposed to regulate, aggressively attacked the labor movement, and elevated a lot of nutty authoritarians to positions from which they’ve never really been toppled.  But by then, the power of false narratives was so deeply ingrained that even amid an astonishingly brazen scandal in which multiple treaties and laws were broken, government property  in the form of weapons were sold to a sworn enemy and the money thus illegally procured spent on other illegal endeavors, his vice president limped to victory in a racist, nativist campaign that appeared to “vindicate” the corrupt and failed administration.  Amid another inevitable economic collapse that spelled his defeat, the first Bush brazenly shoveled pardons to all the miscreants, including himself by proxy, on the way out the door, and the spin machine took up the daunting task of turning a disastrous twelve years into a singular triumph, and the type of personality cult previously associated only with the world’s worst dictators was urgently embarked upon.  Suddenly, the doddering old B-actor who had nearly bankrupted the country was hailed as the prescient, glorious “victor” in the Cold War, while the roads, airports, lamp posts, and fire hydrants he had routinely denounced as socialistic soon bore his hallowed name.  Having never won a war, balanced a budget, or even run the government with any degree of competence since Eisenhower, the Republicans had, through sheer force of propaganda and the evergreen desire of Americans to believe comforting and familiar lies, a real-life “Hero.”

The hero mantle was one that this movement’s piece de resistance, George W. Bush, was almost embarrassingly eager to wear, the bulging crotch in the flight suit merely gilding the lily of fake narratives that sadly, were his “administration’s” only talent.  To hide the shocking inattention to real dangers that culminated in the 9/11 attacks and the richly deserved opprobrium  they should have brought, the Bushies embarked upon, and in many ways surpassed, the audacious Nixon/Reagan campaigns of vilification of legitimate critics, and were surprisingly effective at it for a time.  New enemies were created every day, for the simple reason that a whole lot more legitimate critics had to be silenced, or the jig would be well and truly up.  Instead of secretive and and implied attacks of the past on journalists, agencies, celebrities…  you name it, Rove and Co, nurtured in the corrupt hothouse of Nixonland, acted quite openly, even as burglary gave way to torture and prosecutorial harassment to indefinite detentions.  Then, as both bloody and expensive wars were being visibly and spectacularly lost, the few skeptics who attempted to speak were loudly and aggressively derided as appeasers, traitors, and worse; careers were vengefully ruined and real problems were temporarily papered over by cheap theater and ever-changing slogans, now conveniently abetted by a self-financing and message-disciplined right-wing media that amplified every false claim as it smeared and vilified those who spoke the truth.

Of course, over time, many of these myths have been exploded, often literally, but many still live on.  Thus the “victory” in Iraq, brought about by a concocted media event popularly known as “The Surge,” is regularly trotted out as a template for “victory” in Afghanistan.  Never mind that the only winner in the Iraq war to have surfaced so far is Iran, and victories have historically not been declared until the war was over; the power of false narrative is now so overwhelming that even in the supposedly “liberal” media, such laughably spurious claims are treated not just with polite tolerance, but as proven fact.

Fortunately, most Americans are not so gullible, and a majority of them, preoccupied by such hard realities as a ruined economy and a government too overextended to do much of anything about it, want the wars to stop.  To this end, they have dealt the Republicans a series of stinging and deserved electoral defeats.  Less fortunately, the media has raised a whole generation of preening simpletons who have relentlessly embraced and echoed these false narratives for so long that their positions and, for lack of a better word, “credibility,” depend on their clinging to the lies they’ve endorsed, and they attack truth-tellers even more ruthlessly than the original liars themselves, most of whom they’ve now hired as spokesmen.

In the battle between truth and lies, we’ve reached a stalemate wherein the losers are still loudly declaring victory, with even the craziest teabaggers calling themselves, just as Nixon had, part of some “Silent Majority.”  Like the “Moral Majority,” they are neither.  I wish someone would alert the media.


  1. rmp says:

    Is it because of American arrogance and the false belief that we are better than everyone else that causes so many to learn virtually nothing from history? Even as history is being written like in the Iraqi surge myth, the politicians, including military politicians, weave an imaginative story to fit their political goals. Then as you point out, they now tell us that the same tactic can work in Afghanistan when the two countries and cultures are so vastly different.

  2. nailheadtom says:

    “aggressively attacked the labor movement,”

    Perhaps you’re speaking of nuclear Ronnie’s dismissal of the air traffic controllers. Let’s not forget that when an individual signs on with the federal government, he takes an oath not to engage in a work stoppage. Reagan had no choice but to tramp the controllers. That was the consequence of violating their oath.

    • cocktailhag says:

      Interesting that out of the 1100 or so words in this post, that was the only opening you saw. As we’ve seen with the congressional testimony of Chesley Sullenberger (sp?) the end result of Reagan’s bold stance against airline unions was that people we used to think of as solidly middle class, like pilots and controllers, have now been reduced to the status of Wal-Mart greeters. If that’s the world you like to live in, more power to you. I hope you don’t have to actually work for a living, much less fly the plutocratic skies, though, because if you do you must be retarded.

      • nailheadtom says:

        Boston Globe: “With Democrats in control of Congress and the White House, organized labor had hoped to be celebrating a long list of legislative successes this year. Instead, labor’s agenda has been pushed down on the priority list by the very lawmakers they helped elect, leaving some union backers frustrated.”

        With our bipolar political system, Democrats can make any promises (or no promises) to organized labor in exchange for their vote without ever having to deliver, secure in the knowledge that labor will never vote for the hated Republicans. You’ll notice that when Iraq set up a new government, there was no electoral college and room for more than two parties in their parliamentary system.

        • cocktailhag says:

          Organized labor has two choices: be ignored by Democrats or actively attacked by Republicans. As we saw in the health care debate, what the majority wants is irrelevant; politicians of both parties answer only to their campaign donors.

          • sysprog says:

            The basic tactic of political canvassing is to classify people and groups as

            1. supporters
            2. those leaning towards support
            3. neutral / DKDC (don’t know don’t care)
            4. those leaning towards opposition
            5. supporters of the opposition

            Politicians who are husbanding their resources will waste as little time as possible sweet talking group 1.

            If you want to be courted, you have to move out of group 1.

            Or at least pretend to be coy.

          • nailheadtom says:

            “As we saw in the health care debate, what the majority wants is irrelevant . . .”

            We don’t really know what the majority want, except in the most general terms: ie. they want state of the art medical care at little or no personal expense. Well, Norwegians in Hades want free Copenhagen snuff, too. Sick polar Eskimos that had never heard of a white man were in hock for years to a shaman that might or might not have cured their illness. While everyone, with perhaps the exception of radiologists, feels that medical care is too expensive, none of the proposals suggest whose income will be eliminated, except the dastardly insurance companies. Nobody has mentioned imminent unemployment or dramatic decreases in income for doctors, nurses, hospital administrators and functionaries (Michelle Obama’s $300K a year plum position in Chicago wasn’t filled after she left.), pharmacists, scientists, share holders, etc., etc. An MRI here costs 5 times more than it does in Japan. How come? The much lauded NHS of Britain is the third largest employer in the world, right after the Red Chinese Army and the Indian National Railways. How many would we need?

  3. cocktailhag says:

    It’s too bad that you hold your fellow citizens in such contempt. It’s voters on the right that want free wars, tax cuts, and everything else… Most people just want access to health care that isn’t padded by 20-30% overhead; they’re willing to pay, but not for advertising, corporate jets, and bloated executive pay.
    Further, all of the public systems in the world cost less and deliver better results. That’s just a fact.
    It’s funny how righties react when large sums of money disappear… they look past the people sitting on large sums of money and think the poor did it. I don’t know why that is.

  4. NW Woods says:

    Well done!

  5. nailheadtom says:

    Why start with Nixon? Lyndon Johnson, Democratic juices flowing from every orifice of his body, was in charge of the conflict escalation in Southeast Asia for six frustrating years, leaving office with over half a million GIs stationed there and a body count of 1000 a month. Wouldn’t you say that Nixon “inherited a problem” kind of like you maintain that BHO did? And as far as problem inheritance goes, neither of the two was conscripted for the position, they both did every thing in their power to advance to the POTUS throne, knowing full well that they would face problems.

    • cocktailhag says:

      Unlike the Right, Johnson accomplished a lot at home, and later admitted that the war had been a mistake. And yes, Nixon inherited the war, but that didn’t stop him from using it to advance his own ends, a strategy which proved so irresistible to Rove and Bush that they started a war just to have that much fun. Johnson also bowed out of seeking reelection, did Nixon or Bush? No.
      As usual, your arguments work quite well for you, but somewhat less so for the sentient.

      • nailheadtom says:

        Johnson didn’t run again because he knew that he’d lose. And as for his domestic accomplishments, maybe we should rejoice that he did more to create dependency and expand government than any previous officeholder.

        • cocktailhag says:

          Well, since I wrote my senior theseis about this in 1986, and you got your information from Sean Hannity, I’d like to clear up a few things. If you think that the Cicivl Rights and Voting Rights Acts just created a lot of freeloaders, well, good for you. But little do you know, obviously, that the central programs of the Great Society, like Head Start and Community Colleges, allowed an unprecedented number of people from the baby boom generation and previously shut-out minorities to flood the workforce and schools without creating more poverty and social upheaval, which had always happened before with such demographic blips.
          True, poverty was never ended, because then as now, people were convinced to waste all their money on wars instead of helping people at home, for a lot less money.
          There’s real history, and then there’s fake right-wing history. Please make a note of it.

          • nailheadtom says:

            So Head Start, taxpayer subsidized daycare, was a “central program of the Great Society”? Holy cow! Back in the fabulous ’50s, Americans ridiculed the Soviets because all their mothers were in the work force while the state raised their children during the formative early years. Guess LBJ learned something from those Kremlin apparatchiks. Anyway, this “central program” sure has helped to raise those school test scores. Probably helped raise the Neilsen ratings for Oprah, too.

          • cocktailhag says:

            My, but you say the most retarded things. Have you tried googling “Head Start?” Do you know anything about the rest of the Great Society programs?
            Are you aware how much cheaper such endeavors are than wars? Have you ever seen a pie chart that illustrates where our taxes actually go? (Hint: freeloaders get less than Halliburton and Blackwater…) I thought not. Anyway, there have been two new posts, one by RMP, and one by me that have been up subsequent to this one, and I’m currently working on a third, so if you’d like to continue to offer silly and counterfactual talking points, please do so on a newer thread. I have a day job, too, although to your addled mind we liberals all make sand candles and do bong rips all day while we wait for the welfare checks, it isn’t true.