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What do you do when it turns out you waged a war predicated on a series of lies, and the war’s going badly to boot? Well, to paraphrase the worst secretary of defense in America’s history, if you’re not happy with the reality you’ve got, you just go and manufacture a new one. And you use Fox News to help invest it with that essential truthiness – as Stephen Colbert calls something that is presented as heart-felt truth, and is presented as fact – not opinion, but is not true. Or as he put it in an interview:
It used to be, everyone was entitled to their own opinion, but not their own facts. But that’s not the case anymore. Facts matter not at all. Perception is everything. It’s certainty. People love the President because he’s certain of his choices as a leader, even if the facts that back him up don’t seem to exist. It’s the fact that he’s certain that is very appealing to a certain section of the country. I really feel a dichotomy in the American populace. What is important? What you want to be true, or what is true?…
Truthiness is ‘What I say is right, and [nothing] anyone else says could possibly be true.’ It’s not only that I feel it to be true, but that I feel it to be true. There’s not only an emotional quality, but there’s a selfish quality.
And now Peter Canellos of The Boston Globe takes a penetrating look at the rhetoric of the major GOP presidential candidates and finds truthiness run rampant:
Assertions of connections between bin Laden and terrorists in Iraq have heated up over the last month, as Congress has debated the war funding resolution. Romney, McCain, and Giuliani have endorsed — and expanded on — Bush’s much-debated contention that Al Qaeda is the main cause of instability in Iraq.
Spokespeople for McCain and Romney say the candidates were expressing their deep-seated convictions that terrorists would benefit if the United States were to withdraw from Iraq. The spokesmen say that even if Iraq had no connection to the Sept. 11 attacks, Al Qaeda-inspired terrorists have infiltrated Iraq as security has deteriorated since the invasion, and now pose a direct threat to the United States.
But critics, including some former CIA officials, said those statements could mislead voters into believing that the perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks are now fighting the United States in Iraq.
Candidates in elections don’t tend to be exactly detached and objective in their political speeches. Still, there is something awfully extreme – and, well, Orwellian, about this. The real fear we should have is this: are these candidates so detached from reality that they actually believe their rhetoric? The good news is probably: no, certainly not the three leading candidates. They fully understand that the realities are quite different from what their vitriolic descriptions. Their dilemma is simple: to come up with a way of justifying the Iraq War and minimizing the damage from a series of grossly inept decisions in its management. No one in the primary phase has opened fire on Bush. And that reflects the inner psyche of the Bush-Rove Republican party and its Caesarian leadership cult. Consequently, what’s left for a good Republican to do other than highlight and personalize the threat. Heighten fear, minimize reasoned analysis.
Brace yourself for much more truthiness. The process has just begun.
More from Scott Horton:
Six Questions — October 18, 2014, 8:00 pm
Nathaniel Raymond on CIA interrogation techniques.
I recently spent a semester teaching writing at an elite liberal-arts college. At strategic points around the campus, in shades of yellow and green, banners displayed the following pair of texts. The first was attributed to the college’s founder, which dates it to the 1920s. The second was extracted from the latest version of the institution’s mission statement:
The paramount obligation of a college is to develop in its students the ability to think clearly and independently, and the ability to live confidently, courageously, and hopefully.
Let us take a moment to compare these texts. The first thing to observe about the older one is that it is a sentence. It expresses an idea by placing concepts in relation to one another within the kind of structure that we call a syntax. It is, moreover, highly wrought: a parallel structure underscored by repetition, five adverbs balanced two against three.
Percentage of Britons who cannot name the city that provides the setting for the musical Chicago:
An Australian entrepreneur was selling oysters raised in tanks laced with Viagra.
A naked man believed to be under the influence of LSD rammed his pickup truck into two police cars.
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“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”