The Truth About Everything

That’s sort of a funny post-title, insofar as the actual truth is just one of those things… as I discussed last year with the inconceivably erudite Professor Michael Berube, one way to look at “absolute truths” is that there are really no such things, except perhaps physical laws (gravity, thermodynamics)… all other “laws” (morality, goodness, beauty) are ostensibly social constructs of varying ways– many of which can reach universal consensus– but nonetheless remaining ostensibly “provisional” in nature. Pontificating assholes like Senator Lieberman who make outrageous statements like “only religious people can be moral people or deserve the protections of our Constitution” (or other such nonsense) notwithstanding, “truth”, unless always observable as a law of nature, is simply always provisional. People reach agreement (or even consensus) at some point of social development… an agreement or consensus that, no matter how “eternal” it may seem, is nonetheless provisional. (To some extent, I analogize “the truth” to a solar eclipse… you can “look at it”, but indirectly to avoid going blind, perhaps… but I digress…)
Anyway, this is all kind of long-winded and circular… I am evading a “head-on” discussion of this amazing piece in WaPo on Madison Avenue attempts to influence the military to “re-brand” what it is doing in Iraq. Well, there it is. I’m not evading it any longer (much as I thought I would comment on the President’s interesting selection of now as a time to issue an executive order telling the CIA it can’t torture and abuse prisoners unless it wants to. ) No… back to the Madison Avenue thing.
Read it yourself, if you like… the nub of the thing is that the Iraqs aren’t buying the product, of American military force superiority… as such, they aren’t cooperating by reporting suspected insurgents and such. In short, our “no more Mr. Nice Guy” thing in Iraq… kicking down doors, abusive checkpoints, detaining people arbitrarily, Abu Ghraib, Haditha, dismissive attitudes re: “collateral damage,” etc.,… have all made “the new plan” hard to implement because, well, the Iraqis fucking hate us for what we have done to them and their country. (You think?)
Anyway, rather than re-think the reality of this, the military, following the Bush Administration (and indeed, the entire modern Republican Party)… believes that when your only tool is the hammer of a political campaign, the whole world looks like the nail of a gullible electorate. (Think about a “Coalition Provisional Authority” staffed not be technical or regional experts, but by loyal Republican ideologues and campaign workers.)
The problem is that, eventually, reality always bites back. The Iraqis, who were being blown up, shot at, detained and tortured, etc., at the same or higher rates than before they were invaded by us (i.e., we replaced the organized cruelty and tyranny of Saddam with the utterly chaotic and disorganized cruelty and tyranny of roving ethnic militias, cluster bombs and our occupation)… didn’t really particularly care what we called it. The “product” is a lemon as far as they are concerned.
The American model for everything– the handsome, smiling and friendly new or used car salesman– is actually effective only for selling things that the customer is unfamiliar with. Once the customer has acquired his own personal knowledge of the product or service, even though the American system of education (and our fabulously dumbed-down and cheap celebrity-driven media) is designed to produce mindless sheep who will merrily do their mindless industrial or post-industrial work and mindlessly. and remain susceptible to advertising, and substitute materialism for culture and human values… in short, once reality intervenes, all that valuable training we invest in turning ourselves into zombies suddenly becomes obsolescent.
And this is the problem the military now faces in Iraq, and, indeed, the Republican Party now faces in America. (Indeed, all of corporate America faces this problem to some extent, which is why the true growth industry in years to come will be public relations and damage control, as handsome men and beautiful women will be called upon in greater and greater numbers to justify and gloss over future recalls of tainted food and drugs, environmental disasters, industrial accidents and so forth.)
But by and large (it seems around 28% of the people are incapable of being convinced no matter what reality shows; our educational system at least has had some effectiveness on them) the American public has finally learned that “the product” is a lemon: the interests of Walmart and ExxonMobil and General Electric and the billionaire class are almost certainly contrary to their own interests, and no amount of slick commercial presentations are going to change that. And since the Republicans stand for “the bid’ness of America is bid’ness…”, until enough time passes for Americans to forget reality, the Republicans can anticipate hard times in elections to come. (Not that the Dems are much better… but Junior and Dead-eye Dick have damaged the brand so much that not even the Dems can screw this one up).
Anyway, ditto the Iraqis. Unlike the American people, they haven’t been bombarded with decade after decade of an integrated educational and advertising system designed to make them gullible moron consumers of crappy products and pliable industrial- and post-industrial workers… instead, we bombarded them with cluster bombs and “shock and awe”, and check points and Abu Ghraib. Turns out we sold them “our brand” a lot sooner and more efficiently than we ever sold it domestically– and we even sold it honestly.
The thing is, “the product,” through no fault of the individual troops we have sent over on a hopeless mission, just happens to be, by and large, brutality and imperialism. It’s the nature of war, really, not just this one. But that’s what “the product” is. Amazing when you think about it, that this $400,000 study is supposed to overcome over $400 billion (that’s a wild understatement) of expense we have undertaken to inflict our own brutality on the Iraqi people… It doesn’t make much sense in terms of a much more stark reality.
I guess our so-called leadership have been so inured to our advertising “and branding” methods better than the rubes have: they still believe that this crap will work. Well, as I said, our mind-numbing educational and conditioning systems have clearly worked on some people.
God help the rest of us, though.