Mercury Rising 鳯女

Politics, life, and other things that matter

Watch it

Posted by Charles II on October 21, 2014

Kill the Messenger is worth watching. Aside from the story itself, which is moving, it points to a broader feature of modern American life: we can no longer handle the truth. We have lost that sense of honor that demands that when we have made a mistake, we should acknowledge it and correct it. We imagine that we can become the image of ourselves that we create, independent of reality. And so we crash into reality, and are injured by that collision much more deeply than we ever would be by embracing the truth.

Gary Webb, we miss you.

2 Responses to “Watch it”

  1. I suspected as much when the right-wing reaction to the inconvenient truths laid bare by Vietnam was to play “kill the messenger”. They didn’t want to hear about us being baby-killers, though we most definitely were. The people who act as America’s consciences are mocked as “the ‘Blame America First’ crowd” who are constantly on “apology tours” for America’s alleged puissance.

    Then again, it’s not just Americans who have a hard time looking at their history. We may have well learned how to lie to ourselves from our colonial forefathers:

    The high point of this new strategy was the waning British Empire’s brilliant propaganda campaign against the Kikuyu in Kenya during the Mau-Mau Uprising of the 1950s. If you watched English-language media, all the beheading, mutilating, and other low-tech bloodshed was on the hands of the Kikuyu rebels. The Empire was merely trying to restrain their bloody hands. After a few scare movies and hysterical, blood-soaked radio broadcasts, “Mau-Mau” meant sheer terror.

    Only when Caroline Elkins looked back at the records of the rebellion did the truth come out. The Kikuyu, driven from their lands, revolted with minimal violence, killing only 32 British colonists over the whole war. The Empire killed or maimed 90,000 Kikuyu over the same period, and still came away with the role of peacemaker, restorer of order.

    • Charles II said

      Yeah, I don’t think the US is particularly bad as hegemons go. They’re all pretty rotten. Obama has done pretty well in Iraq by refusing to get baited into sending troops. Less well in Syria and Egypt and of course in letting ISIS get established. I’m more worried about the “constitutional” coups than about the overt violence. These invite copying by competitors like the Russians and Chinese and lead to a degradation in respect for the rule of law. That kind of damage is harder to undo than physical damage. We need to get to a point where there are no hegemons, where every nation can chart its own course. Rising world incomes could, over time, make this a reality.

      I know that most Americans and certainly most policy holders don’t care about the morality of empire. But they should care about the effectiveness of their tactics. So, that’s how I frame my arguments. The Contra War won us almost nothing, but it cost us severely at home. I suspect that the long-term slowdown in GDP that Krugman talks about is a direct effect of relying so much on the war industry and the prison industry, rather than investing in technology and medicine. To get caught by the Ebola epidemic when we should have been upgrading our public health and vaccination programs is pathetic. I wouldn’t be surprised if this latest episode cost us more than developing a vaccine would have. Declining GDP growth (not to mention worsening wealth inequality) means less opportunity, lower morale, and even more social division.

      If an empire can no longer cohere in its heart, its home, then it can no longer rule. We are getting to that point. We need truth tellers. Desperately.

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