• Alternate Reality Traps Democrats in World of Dumb

    December 26, 2021 // 10 Comments »


     

    In early December Hillary Clinton appeared on the Today show to read aloud her never-used victory speech from 2016. The scene was bizarre, Clinton tearing up as she read in first-person, present tense about becoming the first woman president, something which in real life did not happen. She then layered on another alternate reality, one in which President Hillary travels back in time to tell her dead mother “your daughter will grow up and become the president of the United States.” She glowed; she was hearing applause that never happened.

    The unreality of it all was leavened somewhat by the reveal Hillary is selling a video “masterclass” on resilience and the speech is somehow an example of that. While this may be just another example of a Clinton grift, like selling a Bill and Hillary Bass-o-Matic, the thing that stands out is never before has a Democrat loser been reanimated from the grave like Hillary. Al Gore and Michael Dukakis are two of those people you Google to see if they are still alive, and even an attention hound like John Kerry pretends his own presidential wipe out never even happened. A good political rule of thumb is to usher your losers off stage (or make them ambassadors.) Instead, Hillary was on the flagship Today show, not a late night infomercial where garbage like “masterclasses” in resilience usually is peddled.

    But Hillary’s delusional take is not hers alone. After a second White Claw the faithful will insist Hillary did win the popular vote, which counts as actually winning in Clinton Math. They’ll quickly tell you Hillary only lost because Trump cheated or the Russians helped. The Dems and the media so believed that Trump did not actually win-win that they spent his entire term in office trying (unsuccessfully) to negate him, impeach him, prosecute him, or just magically wish him away with a fan-fiction interpretation of the 25th Amendment which presupposed Mike Pence was more evil then they were. The high point of the delusion was Russiagate, a saga entirely made-to-order by the Clinton team and fluffed by the media. It’s one thing to self-righteously say “Not my president” (some MSM pundits would add an asterisk to the word president* when referring to Trump) but it is delusional to say “and he can’t be yours, either.”

    With Hillary granted a pass because she is using her defeat delusion to sell merch, one would have hoped the whole thing would have gone away with the election of Joe Biden. Democrats, you won! And you got the House! You can right all wrongs! Instead, the delusions just continue, an entire party seeming in the grip of political Alzheimer’s. One delusion is Trump will be pre-defeated ahead of 2024 by a mythical…  something. This has been kicking around since Trump won in 2016, the idea that he’ll soon go to jail over taxes, property valuations in New York, or one of his lady victims successfully suing him. Sure, the IRS has had Trump’s taxes for decades, there is at worst a civil penalty in property valuation tomfoolery, and all those victims only seem to end up dragging Dems deeper into the mud of hypocrisy as we’re told to believe all women except those who accuse Uncle Joe of getting a little handsy. Dems, if this is your best, your best won’t do.

    Nah, that stuff is just chum in the water while the Grand Illusion is tweaked. That one is a dramatic statement democracy is dying in America and only defeating Trump (again, once was not enough) will save it. It is a big ask to a weary voting block because a) it is untrue; b) the only evidence lies in a made-up retelling of the Capitol riot and c) the Democrats won in 2020 in an election, something which strongly suggests democracy did its job. The rebuttal that January 6 was just a rehearsal is fact-free, and after all, real Nazis only needed one crack at burning down the Reichstag.

    One can find examples of the delusion almost by throwing darts at the Internet, but a concise one is MSNBC meat puppet Brian Williams’ farewell address. Williams of course earned America’s trust as a journalist by constantly lying throughout his career, usually in ways that suggested he was studlier than the Rock. Williams said “I will wake up tomorrow in the America of the year 2021, a nation unrecognizable to those who came before us and fought to protect it, which is what you must do now. They’ve decided to burn it all down with us inside… But the darkness on the edge of town has spread to the main roads and highways and neighborhoods… Grown men and women who swore an oath to our Constitution, elected by their constituents, possessing the kinds of college degrees I could only dream of, have decided to join the mob.”

    First of course, an acknowledgement Williams plagiarized the phrase, “darkness on the edge of town,” from Bruce Springsteen, himself given over to the delusion because even as he pals around with Barack Obama all the characters from his songs now vote Republican.

    If you haven’t guessed it, Williams is referring to the delusion that the Capitol riot was the seminal event of American democracy. Williams, like others, believes Hillary won in 2016, that the Trump years saw America held prisoner, and that Trump spun up a mob on January 6 to overturn the election and remain in the White House as dictator. That none of that happened, and in fact could never have happened, matters not if you believe in it hard enough.

    Williams is far from alone. “Democracy will be on trial in 2024,” the Atlantic’s Barton Gellman writes. “American democracy is tottering,” warns Vox. “Can American democracy escape the doom loop?” says one Salon piece. “If America really surrenders to fascism, then what?” asks another. “If Merrick Garland Doesn’t Charge Trump and His Coup Plotters, Our Democracy Is Toast,” says the Daily Beast.

    “Are we doomed?” writes the once sentient George Packer. Packer actually imagines “A blue militia sacks Trump National Golf Club Bedminster; a red militia storms Oberlin College. The new president takes power in a state of siege.” Google up as many examples as you want, they are as common as anti-anxiety meds should be on Brian Williams’ night stand. Even Hillary has weighed in, warning “[2024] is a make-or-break point. Are we going to give in to all these lies and this disinformation and this organized effort to undermine our rule of law and our institutions, or are we going to stand up to it?”

    Charles Blow in the NYT seems to take the prize, in an article headlined “We’re Edging Closer to Civil War.” Blow claims “this war won’t be only about the subjugation of black people but also about the subjugation of all who challenge the white racist patriarchy. It will seek to push back against all the ‘others’: black people, immigrants, Muslims, Jews, LGBTQ people and, yes, women, particularly liberal ones.”

    So looking ahead to the democracy dies in the darkness delusion which appears to be the centerpiece of the Democratic campaign of 2024, Americans must be tutored to believe the Capitol riot was part of a massive conspiracy involving Trump, hoping to end democracy in the United States by overturning the 2020 election results via some means no one is able to articulate. All that could have happened was Congress delayed its largely ceremonial blessing of the electoral college results for a day, assuming they just did not convene the afternoon of January 6 somewhere else besides the chaotic Capitol. There is no realistic scenario that could have changed anything that mattered, and no evidence of any national-scale conspiracy underlaying the riot. It was just a bunch of angry people who got out of control for a couple of hours then went home to wait on being arrested months later. None of the rioters has been charged with treason or terrorism, mostly just trespassing. None of the arrested claimed they acted under any organized structure set in place by Trump or anyone else. In their trials each basically said the same, things got out of hand.

    After selling voters that something that did not happen happened, the Democrats must then explain how after four years in power they have not really done much to bulk up democracy except whine about stuff that’s unfair, such as Republican gerrymandering (but not Democratic gerrymandering) and Republican poll watchers (but not Democratic poll watchers) and Republicans not accepting election results (but not Democrats like Stacey Adams not accepting election results.) Never mind out-and-out garbage like the same court system is racist when it acquits one shooter and on-the-mark when it finds another guilty based on the races of shooter and victim. Voters will also have to buy in to the Democratic delusion all the bad stuff they said Trump was gonna do but did not do — LGBT concentration camps, war with Iran, fascism — will for certain happen the next time.

    Elect us to save democracy, say the delusional Democrats, ignoring the reality that democracy is bumbling along pretty much as it was intended to do. The Dem line would all make more sense if Trump had appeared bare chested at the Biden inauguration atop an M1 tank or something, but that is the nature of delusion.

       

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    Copyright © 2020. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity.

    Posted in Democracy, Trump

    The Seduction of Brian Williams: Embedded with the Military

    February 11, 2015 // 27 Comments »

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    Brian Williams was seduced.

    He is a liar of course, someone who did not tell the truth no matter the reason or excuse, a bad trait for a journalist. Williams lied about being RPG’ed in a helicopter over Iraq; he did not see any variant of what you can see in the photo above. And that’s not a hard thing to “misremember.”

    But if there is any reason to forgive Williams, it was that he was seduced by both his own conflation of his sad little life as a talking head and the “brave troops,” and, more clearly, by the process of embedding with the military. I know. I saw it.



    Journalists into Liars

    What is it about the military that turns many normally thoughtful journalists into liars? A reporter who would otherwise make it through the day sober spends a little time with some unit of the U.S. military and promptly loses himself in ever more dramatic language about bravery and sacrifice, stolen in equal parts from Thucydides, Henry V, and Sergeant Rock comics.

    I’m neither a soldier nor a journalist. I was a diplomat who spent 12 months as a Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) leader, embedded with the military in Iraq, and let me tell you that nobody laughed harder at the turgid prose reporters used to describe their lives than the soldiers themselves. They knew they were trading hours of boredom for maybe minutes of craziness that only in retrospect seemed “exciting,” as opposed to scary, confusing, and chaotic. That said, the laziest private knew from growing up watching TV exactly what flavor to feed a visiting reporter.

    In trying to figure out why journalists and assorted militarized intellectuals from inside the Beltway lose it around the military, I remembered a long afternoon spent with a gaggle of “fellows” from a prominent national security think tank who had flown into Iraq. These scholars wrote serious articles and books that important people read; they appeared on important Sunday morning talk shows; and they served as consultants to even more important people who made decisions about the Iraq War and assumedly other conflicts to come.

    One of them had been on the staff of a general whose name he dropped more often than Jesus’s at a Southern Baptist A.A. meeting. He was a real live neocon. A quick Google search showed he had strongly supported going to war in Iraq, wrote apology pieces after no one could find any weapons of mass destruction there (“It was still the right thing to do”), and was back to check out just how well democracy was working out for a paper he was writing to further justify the war. He liked military high-tech, wielded words like “awesome,” “superb,” and “extraordinary” (pronounced EXTRA-ordinary) without irony to describe tanks and guns, and said in reference to the Israeli Army, “They give me a hard-on.”


    Fearing the Media vs. Using the Media

    Such figures are not alone. Nerds, academics, and journalists have had trouble finding ways to talk, write, or think about the military in a reasonably objective way. A minority of them have spun off into the dark side, focused on the My Lai, Full Metal Jacket, and Platoon-style psycho killers. But most spin in the other direction, portraying our men and women in uniform as regularly, daily, hourly saving Private Ryan, stepping once more into the breach, and sacking out each night knowing they are abed with brothers.

    I sort of did it, too. As a State Department Foreign Service Officer embedded with the military in Iraq, I walked in… er, deployed, unprepared. I had never served in the military and had rarely fired a weapon (and never at anything bigger than a beer can on a rock ledge). The last time I punched someone was in ninth grade. Yet over the course of a year, I found myself living and working with the 82nd Airborne, followed by the 10th Mountain Division, and finally the 3rd Infantry Division, three of the most can-do units in the Army. It was… seductive.

    The military raised a lot of eyebrows in my part of the world early in the Iraq invasion with their policy of embedding journalists with front-line troops. Other than preserving OpSec (Operational Security for those of you who have never had The Experience) and not giving away positions and plans to the bad guys, journalists were free to see and report on anything. No restrictions, no holding back.

    So, in 2003, we diplomats sat back and smugly speculated that the military didn’t mean it, that they’d stage-manage what embedded journalists would see and who they would be allowed to speak to. After all, if someone screwed up and the reporter saw the real thing, it would end up in disaster, as in fact happened when Rolling Stone’s Michael Hastings got Afghan War commander Stanley McCrystal axed as a “runaway general.”

    We were, however, dead wrong. As everyone now agrees, journalists saw what they saw and talked to whomever they chose and the military facilitated the process. Other than McCrystal (who was redeemed by the same president who fired him), can anyone name another military person whacked by reporting?

    I’m waiting.



    Embed in Action

    I saw it myself in Iraq. General Ray Odierno, then commander of all troops in Iraq, would routinely arrive at some desert dump where I happened to be, reporters in tow. I saw for myself that they would be free to speak about anything to anyone on that Forward Operating Base (which, in acronym-mad Iraq, we all just called a FOB, rhymes with “cob”). The only exception would be me: State had a long-standing policy that on-the-record interviews with its officials had to be pre-approved by the Embassy or often by the Washington Mothership itself.

    Getting such an approval before a typical reporter’s deadline ran out was invariably near impossible, which assumedly was the whole point of the system. In fact, the rules got even tougher over the course of my year in the desert. When I arrived, the SOP (standard operating procedure) allowed Provincial Reconstruction Team leaders to talk to foreign media without preapproval (on the assumption that no one in Washington read their pieces in other languages anyway and thus no one in the field could get into trouble). This was soon rescinded countrywide and preapproval was required even for these media interactions.

    Detouring around me, the reporters would ask soldiers their opinions on the war, the Army, or even controversial policies. The reporters would sit through the briefings the general received, listening in as he asked questions. They were exposed to classified material, and trusted not to reveal it in print. They would go out on patrols led by 24-year-old lieutenants, where life-and-death decisions were often made, and were free to report on whatever they saw. It always amazed me — like that scene in The Wizard of Oz where everything suddenly changes from black and white into color.


    Fear Not: The Force Is With You

    But the military wasn’t worried. Why? Because its officials knew perfectly well that for reporters the process was — not to mince words — seductive. The world, it turns out, is divided into two groups, those who served in the military and those who didn’t. For the rare journalists with service time, this would be homecoming, a chance to relive their youth filtered through memory. For the others, like me, embedding with the military felt like being invited in — no, welcomed — for the first time by the cool kids.

    You arrive and, of course, you feel awkward, out of place. Everyone has a uniform on and you’re wearing something inappropriate you bought at L.L. Bean. You don’t know how to wear your body-armor vest and helmet, which means that someone has to show you how to dress yourself. When was the last time that happened? Instead of making fun of you, though, the soldier is cool with it and just helps.

    Then, you start out not knowing what the hell anyone is saying, because they throw around terms like FOB and DFAC and POS and LT and BLUF and say Hoo-ah, but sooner or later someone begins to explain them to you one by one, and after a while you start to feel pretty cool saying them yourself and better yet, repeating them to people at home in emails and, if you’re a journalist, during live reports. (“Sorry Wolf, that’s an insider military term. Let me explain it to our viewers…”)

    You go out with the soldiers and suddenly you’re riding in some kind of armored, motorized monster truck. You’re the only one without a weapon and so they have to protect you. Instead of making fun of you and looking at you as if you were dressed as a Naughty Schoolgirl, they’re cool with it. Bored at only having one another to talk to, fellow soldiers who eat the exact same food, watch the exact same TV, and sleep, pee and work together every day for a year, the troops see you as quite interesting. You can’t believe it, but they really do want to know what you know, where you’ve been, and what you’ve seen — and you want to tell them.

    Even though you may be only a few years older than many of them, you feel fatherly. For women, it works similarly, but with the added bonus that, no matter what you look like, you’re treated as the most beautiful female they’ve seen in the last six months — and it’s probably true.

    The same way one year in a dog’s life equals seven human years, every day spent in a war zone is the equivalent of a month relationship-wise. You quickly grow close to the military people you’re with, and though you may never see any of them again after next week, you bond with them.

    You arrived a stranger and a geek. Now, you eat their food, watch their TV, and sleep, pee, and work together every day. These are your friends, at least for the time you’re together, and you’re never going to betray them. Under those circumstances, it’s harder than hell to say anything bad about the organization whose lowest ranking member just gave up his sleeping bag without prompting because you were too green and dumb to bring one with you.



    Why It Matters

    So, take my word for it, it’s really, really hard to write about the military objectively, even if you try. That’s not to say that all journalists are shills; it’s just a warning for you to take care when you’re hanging out with, or reading, our warrior-pundits.

    It is also to say that journalists who embed and do write objective pieces are to be read, revered and respected.

    And yet having some perspective on the military and what it does matters as we threaten to slip into yet more multigenerational wars without purpose, watch the further militarization of foreign affairs, and devote ever more of our national budget to the military. War lovers and war pornographers can’t offer us an objective look at a world in which more and more foreigners only run into Americans when they are wearing green and carrying weapons.

    I respect my military colleagues, at least the ones who took it all seriously enough to deserve that respect, and would not speak ill of them. Some do indeed make enormous sacrifices, including of their own lives, even if for reasons that are ambiguous at best to a majority of Americans. But in order to understand these men and women and the tasks they are set to, we need journalists who are willing to type with both hands, not just pass on their own wet dreams to a gullible public.

    Civilian control of our military is a cornerstone of our republic, and we the people need to base our decisions on something better than Sergeant Rock comic rewrites.



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    Copyright © 2020. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity.

    Posted in Democracy, Trump