The Karma of Spin
January 6, 2004
By Rodger Stevens
"At a time of universal deceit - telling the truth is a revolutionary act." - George Orwell
It isn't nice to knowingly deceive others. It isn't nice to mislead them, to present in a self-serving manner motivations and events which eventually affect everyone else in a negative way.
Religious and philosophical teachings throughout history disparage those who deceive others, and propose, one way or another, that such deceit will rebound eventually to the detriment of those who instigated it. Whether or not one accords with such declarations, be it the Golden Rule or the so-called Laws of Karma, most people understand that all actions are somehow answerable in their results... the greater the moment, the greater the effects.
But "always tell the truth" has come on hard times, particularly among those who in recent years have ascended to positions of influence and power. No longer is honesty seen as an advantage; too often, the pretense of rectitude has masked its absence. This state of things is painfully apparent in considering the pervasive influence of advertising, wherein the 'sizzle' of the ad eventually cools to reveal the congealed grease of the real product. Spin is little more than false advertising, and no more honest.
So I find it very interesting that over the span of the past couple of years, White House-generated spin has begun to congeal in a most karmically revealing way. Events which were grandly presented as having happened one way turn out to have happened in quite another. Those of us who yearn for peace, and for honest disclosure by those in power can hope that maybe we're seeing an emerging trend.
Consider these few among the many such instances:
The president's May 1 'Top Gun' burlesque on the deck of the Abraham Lincoln, while at first praised as a rousing, gung-ho endorsement of the success of the Iraq invasion, soon evolved into the shallow PR ploy it was from the beginning… the flight suit worn by a man who shirked his own military commitments was fittingly stuffed with an appropriately unmasculine cod-piece; the huge "Mission Accomplished" banner strategically placed in the background turns out to have been not a spontaneous gesture by the crew of the carrier, but a White House-provided prop. The carrier had to be turned back to sea and positioned so the nearby California coastline remained out of camera view, and so that the afternoon sun would provide the most striking shadows. The whole event was a very expensive cheap shot, particularly in light of the continuing devastation of humanity on both sides in that war. One must wonder just which 'mission' was 'accomplished'… it certainly wasn't the one advertised. And since this arrogant and self-serving event is now generally held to be such, you will probably be spared seeing reruns in the upcoming campaign.
Pfc. Jessica Lynch's experiences turn out to have been starkly different from the spin given them by the Pentagon. She didn't fight it out heroically - her gun jammed; she wasn't stabbed and shot - she was knocked unconscious in a vehicle mishap; she wasn't mistreated by Iraqi medical personnel - they saved her life; she wasn't rescued from the clutches of bands of bloodthirsty Iraqi terrorists - her rescuers staged an assault against an unprotected hospital which was guarded by exactly zero enemies. Lynch herself, in most heroic fashion (when you're a Pfc, everything else that moves is a superior) bucked the PR and insisted that she was just a normal person who only joined the Army because there were no jobs available in her part of the country and she needed the money for college. You will probably not see footage of this farce either in the upcoming campaign.
The heavily-spun reasons for going to war in the first place - enormous stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons available for use in a mere 45 minutes, nuclear weapons programs on the brink of deploying working bombs, operational links to Al Qaeda, aluminum tubes for nuclear materials centrifuges, and the enormously overblown threat to the United States which must be crushed at the earliest moment - all turned out to be false, and those who accuse others of revisionism are themselves frantically respinning those intense PR efforts to sell America on why we should subdue the entire oil-rich Middle East. The outing of the wife of Joseph Wilson, the ambassador who effectively debunked the oft-repeated claims that Iraq was seeking Nigerian yellowcake, has yet to be accounted for, but even despite the continued spin, the prospects are not encouraging for those in the administration who orchestrated this treasonous rebuke to the truth.
The harebrained trip the president took over Thanksgiving to Iraq to 'serve turkey to the troops' also turned out to have been rife with deception. The reported contact with a BOAC pilot en route was later shown to have been a total fabrication. The hastily organized turkey dinner served to the troops consisted not of turkey and all the trimmings, but airline meals, served at the traditional Thanksgiving hour of 3 a.m. local time. And the famous picture of the president toting a tray heaped with holiday fare turns out to have been just another sizzling deception, because the turkey was made of plastic. This costly but ultimately farcical extravaganza, like the others, will probably not serve its intended purpose as campaign footage, since too many people now see it for what it was: Pure spin. Pure deception.
"Who makes the fairest show means most deceit." - William Shakespeare
And now we have Saddam. No doubt the spin-meisters are frantically working on another presentation, but this time there are too many other interested parties who insist on being invited to the… party. The last thing the administration wants is for Saddam to testify in open court, because he would no doubt have some rather revealing and embarrassing things to say about how the United States supported his regime with weapons, chemicals, and logistics all through the 80's while he was busy gassing Iran and his own Kurdish populations. But further, Saddam's capture means very little to the future of Iraq, and its value as cover for administration SNAFU's remains in serious doubt.
Due to the passage of time and the numerous and repeated revelations concerning the verity of administration spin, the American people are not nearly as receptive of such deceptions as they were immediately after 9/11. Their trust, and the world's trust, in the American government has been shaken profoundly by such revelations as those described above. Unfortunately, a liar has no fall-back position but to continue to lie when he's been found out, and we can expect no less from the Bush administration as we approach the 2004 election. They are in serious trouble, and they know it.
As if acknowledging their loss of control over our abilities to add things up for ourselves, we are once again under another dreaded Orange Alert, and the word 'terrorist' is once again being crammed into our ears by the media… "We're under heightened threat of terrorist attack - have a nice holiday." A tyrant will always appeal to fear, and when fear doesn't work, the solution is yet more fear.
But perhaps the biggest lie yet (not counting for the moment the highly suspicious manner in which Bush was handed the last election) is the one that catalyzed all that followed. I refer, of course, to 9/11 itself. Unless he has something to hide, why does the president continue to stonewall all meaningful efforts to discover who, in fact, actually carried out the attacks, and what evidence existed before the fact that might have been used to prevent it? Why did he sit for 20 minutes with that famous deer-in-the-headlights look on his face after Andrew Card whispered in his ear that a second plane had impacted the WTC, reading a story about a goat at a bunch of 2nd graders in a school in Florida?
Administration officials were quick to pin the atrocity on al Qaeda, a presumption which still hasn't borne the burden of evidence, yet it strains the imagination to conceive how a bunch of religious zealots living in caves in Afghanistan, normally occupied by sniping at people and fashioning car bombs, could successfully orchestrate such a vast and complex enterprise as simultaneously hijacking not just one commercial airliner, not two, but four, within minutes of each other, how pilots supposedly trained to fly single engine prop planes could have guided those huge jets with such precision, and how they could have arranged that NORAD, the FAA, and the US Air Force would remain docilely uninvolved until it was all over, to mention only a few of the more significant elements of this fiasco. If nothing else, the 9/11 operation was as far from al Qaeda's expertise as would be an infiltration of the nation's top secret military installations by the junior varsity cheerleader squad from Hofstra. Only the patriotically myopic could fail to discern the repeated and blatant inconsistencies put forward by administration officials as credible explanations. But then, spin needn't - and probably can't - be consistent with the facts. Half-truths make up in glitter what they lack in substance.
As noted in an earlier piece, the present administration appears to have yearned for 'another Pearl Harbor' in order to cover, if not justify, its unprecedented grab for power. These people don't care about the lives of others… in their eyes, power is its own reward and fulfillment. Morality is useful only insofar as it can be used to impart spin to an ulterior agenda. Sadly, the media is largely complicit in what has transpired since the still-disputed 2000 election.
It is questionable whether, in the past, such momentous attempts at spin have ever come unraveled as quickly and convincingly as we are seeing Bush's do. Even the Warren Commission's whitewashing of the Kennedy assassination, the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, and Pearl Harbor itself have festered for decades without falling apart as resolutely as Bush's escapades. Is there some cosmic message being delivered here?
Sooner or later, truth will out. The purpose of spin is to delay such revelations long enough to distract attention to other arising crises. So far, as judged by the tenor of national polls, this deception has succeeded in befuddling any concerted efforts to reveal the deceptions behind most of the administration's public strategies.
But sooner or later truth will out. This holds not only in international arenas, where the stakes are geopolitical money and power, unimaginable human suffering, and unmeasured environmental devastation, but also in those less grandiose circumstances that most of us interact with on a daily basis: the assurances of the used car salesman, the doctor, or the insurance peddler … the 'sizzle-enhanced' ads on TV, the solemn and measured pronouncements by mayors and lawyers and school boards, the brimstone-etched utterances of religious zealots, and the smooth assurances from anyone else who stands to gain from convincing us of the worth of their motives.
Spin is intentionally deceptive. Only later do we discover the rancid layers of coagulated deception clogging our lives, chiding us that we've once again been had, and reminding us yet again that we should have trusted our own intuitions instead of others', we should have thought things through a little more completely.
Perhaps in these early years of the 21st Century we are seeing the beginnings of an imminent collapse of the engines of deception whose power and reach have never been greater than they are today. Perhaps mankind really is reaching a crisis point which will, in whole or in part, determine the course of things for the next decades. Perhaps there really is a bifurcation taking place, whereby those whose lives thrive on deception will fall away, one way or another. After all, it is probably still true that 'the bigger they are, the harder they fall,' and there's no doubt that we've set all-time terrestrial records for 'big' and 'powerful.'
Rodger Stevens is just this guy who lives for a writing. He's from Earth, and can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.