This is an important story, that the news media tried to just sort of … slip past, without dwelling on it. But it’s an important indicator of how and why our political media has become such a mess. Of course I believe it has always been a mess – for example, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison founded a newspaper [wik] as a self-propaganda arm against the federalists, and it has just gone downhill from there.
I am referring, of course, to two recent media events:
- The disclosure by Katie Couric that she chose to omit some character-revealing comments from an interview with Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
- The death of Colin Powell.
One could, I suppose, add the death of John McCain to that list, but it no longer qualifies as “recent” and Powell is a good enough case to look at. Let’s start with the Couric story, though. [the hill] In an interview, Ginsburg said some things that, if they were said by Tucker Carlson, would be derided as ultra-nationalist or (because they carried an implicit criticism of Colin Kaepernick and Black Lives Matter) racist. So, Couric just – left those comments out of the transcript of the interview. It’s no big deal, right? Well, actually it is a big deal because – at the time – Ruth Bader Ginsburg was being puffed up into a sort of liberal icon, and that was a pretty un-liberal thing for her to say. Gotta keep the public behind/believing in their false gods. Remember, this was right before the supreme court became a dominated by extreme conservatives instead of merely hidden conservatives with an overtly conservative legislative agenda. Anyhow, it’s just another particularly glaring example of how we shouldn’t believe the supposedly “liberal” press any more than we should believe FOX News.
I am categorically not saying “all of the media is as bad as FOX News” or anything close to that, but rather that they all lie by omission. The US political system has always depended on celebrity cults, fueled by its media – we are not ever to be allowed to get an idea of the true people behind the public facades. In some cases we are shocked to discover that the public personas of our leaders are profoundly at odds with their private selves, in which case it is a “scandal”; personally I find the whole idea of political scandals to be ridiculous: we should expect very little but scandalous behavior from any bunch of oligarchic rulers, or hereditary aristocrats. I mean, seriously, what kind of idiots do we have to be to be shocked by the backstage behavior of the british royals? The whole point of being a king is to be able to take advantage of your power to defraud and abuse the people, what else should we expect? We should expect no better from a supreme court justice or a congressperson. Sure, there are a few who seem to take public service seriously, but advanced-level cynicism to have doubts about them, too. American politics is full of people who started out as idealists (or who pretended well, anyhow) and turned out to be run of the mill corrupt jerks after a while, and their career ends when they are discovered to be stealing from the cash register. Or, if they are republicans like Matt Gaetz or Strom Thurmond, they’re sort of put on hold for a while, during which everyone waits to see if the stench blows away.
It never blows away, it’s just overpowered by new stench.
On to Colin Powell. If there was a more overrated secretary of state in US history, it would have to be all of the others. It’s not unreasonable, in fact, to ask why the US bothers to have a secretary of state and what a secretary of state does other than act as a sort of liaison between the executive and the combined intelligence services. Before Powell was secretary of state, he had an undistinguished career as a war criminal, helping to paper over the My Lai massacre [nation] and then he achieved notability for cooking up “The Powell Doctrine” which was, in a nutshell, “don’t fight a war you are not able to win.” Napoleon Bonaparte would not even bother rolling his eyes at that one, but it was highly revelatory stuff to the US’ leaders at the time, who ignored that obviously good advice, anyway. Powell’s notable great moments in the sun were where he chose not to run for president and when he helped sell the illegal war against Iraq with his ridiculous presentation about weapons of mass destruction. Here is where I really have some hate to share for Powell: his concern, after that shit-show, was that it had ruined his reputation. Cry me a river, Powell.
Remember, Powell was a Vietnam veteran who had been involved in the cover-up and whitewash of the My Lai massacre – he had no excuse at all, ever, to not be highly skeptical of anything the CIA told anyone. Yet he claims that he sat there in the UN and eventually was shocked to discover that the CIA (who sent their top brass, George Tenet, to sit over his shoulder and make sure he didn’t say anything out of bounds and to reinforce the lies) was lying. If Powell’s Vietnam career had been as a private first class, maybe – just maybe – we could believe that he was surprised to learn that the intelligence guys lie to everyone, but Powell was a ranking officer (major). His defense is “I was dumb.” That, I suspect, is why he didn’t run for president – republicans (being incredibly stupid about these things) did not realize how horrible his Vietnam record was, and how it would be reviewed in tremendous detail during a presidential campaign. John Kerry’s “swift boating” would have been nothing compared to the reality of Powell’s apparent inability to recall command decisions he made, and wrote down on paper.
So we have to listen to another political whitewashing of a washed-up imperial warrior. It’s John McCain all over again (McCain’s notable fame was for getting shot down in the middle of committing war crimes in Vietnam, for which he experienced less-than terrific hospitality from the understandably pissed off Vietnamese) McCain was promoted as some kind of maverick truth-teller for telling congress that, um, torture sucks – but he still couldn’t be arsed to maverick about it except by muttering some faint complaints. McCain can’t be blamed for inflicting his daughter upon us; the media has to carry that one, but she’s a walking, babbling, case in point for the dangers of political dynasties.
All in all, another disgusting week in America.
PS – can I get an extra helping of “fuck you” to the media who think that Donald Trump’s opinion of Colin Powell is news-worthy? Mine certainly isn’t but it’s spicier than Trump’s and arguably better written.
I met Colin Powell, once, quite by accident. We shared an elevator together at the Marriot Towers in NYC one day. I also photographed Bill Clinton hitting on people in the lobby for money. Even in the hotel lobby, slapping babies and kissing backs, Clinton was wearing pancake make-up. Powell was recovering from leg surgery and was wheeling himself around on one of those leg surgery scooter thingies. Our eyes met and we both nodded “hi” and ignored eachother. I hate the way we’re all expected to get excited about being in the presence of celebrities.