Published on Intrepid Report, by Erix Larsen, July 15, 2011.
Five years ago, discussing (in A Nation Gone Blind) the phenomenon of the half-truth and the nature of commercial television, I wrote, “The repugnance of this form of lying—called bigotry in the ignorant, propaganda in the purposeful—is evident to all, and I would skip the entire subject if I could. But the fact is that the subject of television is the subject of lying, and, further, that the subject of our media-drenched culture is the subject of lying. The sixty years [from 1947 on] that have brought us the new America have brought us also a virtually perfected socio-political culture of lies and lying, a culture built on a foundation of lying, framed by walls of lying, covered by a roof of lying.”
Now, having managed to survive a second half-decade after the repellent and purulent events of 9/11, it seems to me that the situation is much worse than it was back then, when I simply called America a house of lying. Now, not only is the house but everything around it, above it, and below it positively imbued with the poison of lies. The poison is in the air we breathe, the food we eat, it is in the soil, in the water, and it’s also in every molecule of every cell of every mind among the vast tribe that makes up intellectual America, not to mention the even vaster tribe that makes up America in general.
Do I exaggerate? I wish. The thesis of A Nation Gone Blind was that Americans—especially but by no means only writers, artists, and academics—were no longer capable of using their own eyes to see and judge things as they actually are, but were able, instead, only to “see” things as they had already been prefabricated and packaged by an all-pervasive popular culture and mass media … //
… If you’ve been infantilized, probably the best advice you could take would be to put nothing in writing. But that’s hard advice to follow if you happen, say, to work for the New York Times, and especially if you work for the Times as a writer. As a result, the Times is one of the richest sources in the land for examples of infantilization.
Roger Cohen, for example, in “New York and the Planes,” much like a member of the Inquisition sitting in judgment of Galileo, looks especially sheltered, unaware, and kindergarten-like if one considers that Where Did the Towers Go, the most important book about 9/11 that’s also actually written for grown-ups, has been available for at least six months but is still unread by him. The same is evidently true of Elisabeth Bumiller, who, in the Times for July 10, 2011, reporting on Leon Panetta’s “first public remarks in his new post” as Secretary of Defense in “Panetta Says Defeat of Al Qaeda Is ‘Within Reach’” informs us that Panetta is speaking “about the decade-old war against the terrorist organization, founded by Osama bin Laden, that was responsible for the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.”
No, it wasn’t. And, again, no, it wasn’t. Al Qaeda was “founded” not by Osama but by the CIA. As for Osama himself, he was a CIA asset, and, also, Al Qaeda was not “responsible for the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.” Now, here are the possibilities as to why we’re reading the ignorant nonsense that we’re reading in the great newspaper of record. Bumiller’s infantilization makes her willing to write in this ridiculous and mendacious Cliff’s Notes way either because 1) she knows that her employer won’t continue employing her if she doesn’t lie, or 2) she actually believes that she is writing the truth.
If the first hypothesis is correct, Bumiller has agreed to behave like an infant and thus obediently writes the fairy-tale nonsense that she writes. If the second hypothesis is correct and she believes that what she has written is the truth, then she believes in fairy tales and, ipso facto, is a child. Therefore, she is either corrupt beyond redemption or infantilized beyond ditto.
Examples of such human and intellectual destruction and waste abound, but we tire and must draw to a close. As for Roger Cohen’s “New York and the Planes,” please do read it for yourself. Among its untruths—“the perverted dreamers of Al Qaeda,” “planes-turned-missiles” (again, whether these are job-required lies or signs of a clinical condition, we can’t know)—you’ll find that Cohen has in effect written a nostalgia piece about 9/11. This is shocking, yet it’s hardly unprecedented in the august pages of the Times. As the fraud-and-horror-show of 9/11’s tenth birthday comes along, I still think top prize for Most Shamelessly Grotesque Perversion of the Meaning of 9/11 should go, without question, to Frank Rich (with help from Don DeLillo) for the true abomination he ran in the Times Book Review of March 27, 2007, under the title of “The Clear Blue Sky.” (full long text).