Sunday, December 30, 2007

Reflections: So, It Can't Happen Here?

This is going to be a longer-than-usual post. But I hope that if you begin it, you will stay with it to the end. I intend it as a striking of the tocsin, and I think that it shines a tiny bit of light on something worth thinking about.

I have, from time to time, when commenting at more politically-oriented blogs, insisted that I see evidence of an organized “power behind the throne” operating in this country. I have suggested that men like George W. Bush are tapped for office by this unseen “shadow government” and trotted out as figureheads to provide to the people, through the media, a semblance of governmental leadership, while they actually do the bidding of powers-that-be operating behind the scenes, beyond the reach of the press and the knowledge of the people. Such speculation on my part is almost always dismissed out of hand as the paranoid ranting of a left-liberal dupe of the Marxist academic elites.

As it happens, I am currently reading The Space Trilogy of C.S. Lewis. I have finished the first two titles, Out of the Silent Planet, and Perelandra. I was, just this morning, coming up on the one-quarter mark of the concluding title, That Hideous Strength, when I encountered the plot element that has inspired this post. I shall have to quote large chunks of two pages of the text, after providing a very minimal summary of the story-line, in order to give the excerpts a bit of context.

I am writing this post because C.S. Lewis provides an excellent depiction of the emergence, in a fictional England, of the kind of “shadow government” for which I see evidence here in America, and of the prevailing attitudes in ordinary people which make such an emergence possible. I am also writing this post because no person in his right mind would accuse Lewis of being a "left-liberal dupe of the Marxist academic elites.”

The scene from which I will quote takes place between a youngish academic named Mark Studdock, and a scary diesel dyke named Miss Hardcastle. Miss Hardcastle (nicknamed “Fairy” by her colleagues) is the head of the private police force of a secretive, but apparently very powerful, NGO called the N.I.C.E. This mysterious entity is recruiting Studdock away from his sociology fellowship at a small, but ancient and prestigious, college in bucolic England. Studdock visits N.I.C.E. headquarters for a kind of orientation. He becomes increasingly frustrated there as he is repeatedly put off by those in charge when asking routine questions concerning his prospective job title, his duties, to whom he will report, his salary, etc. As a result of these prevailing ambiguities, Studdock threatens to leave and return to his fellowship at the college. (The significance of the fact that another individual from his college, who has made a similar decision the previous day, was murdered by persons unknown on his way home, has not registered with Studdock.) At this point he is confronted in a hallway by the formidable Miss Hardcastle and forcefully ushered into her offices, where she proceeds to set him straight with some “friendly advice.”:

Miss Hardcastle tells Studdock, “You haven’t yet realized what you’re in on. You’re being offered a chance of something far bigger than a seat in the cabinet. And there are only two alternatives, you know. Either to be in the N.I.C.E. or to be out of it. And I know better than you which is going to be most fun.”

When Studdock reiterates his demand to know precisely what his title and duties will be, or else depart immediately, Miss Hardcastle informs him that he has been recruited not as a sociologist, but because of this writing skills. His first assignment will be to write a series of articles, to be planted in the newspapers, which will gradually rehabilitate the public reputation of a man who had been executed as a criminal some time in the past. Studdock protests that he is not a journalist, but a sociologist, adding that even if he were a journalist, he’d be an honest one, not a propagandist. He then states that, in any case, he’d want to know much more about the politics of the N.I.C.E. if he were going to write propaganda pieces for it. Was the N.I.C.E. of the Left, or of the Right? Miss Hardcastle’s reply to this question is at the center of my reason for writing this piece, so I shall be quoting it at some length:

“Both, honey, both,” said Miss Hardcastle. “Don’t you understand anything? Isn’t it absolutely essential to keep a fierce Left and a fierce Right, both on their toes and each terrified of the other? That’s how we get things done. Any opposition to the N.I.C.E. is represented as a Left racket in the Right papers and a Right racket in the Left papers. If it’s properly done, you get each outbidding the other in support of us—to refute the enemy slanders. Of course we’re non-political. The real power always is.” [emphasis added]

To this, Studdock replies, “I don’t believe you can do that… Not with the papers that are read by educated people.” Hardcastle’s response to this conjecture is one that should deflate the confidence of all readers of the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, and even The Village Voice:

“That shows you’re still in the nursery, lovey,” said Miss Hardcastle. “Haven’t you yet realized that it’s the other way around? …[It’s] the educated reader who can be gulled. All our difficulty comes with the others. When did you meet a workman who believes the papers? He takes for granted that they’re all propaganda and skips the leading articles. He buys his paper for the football results and the little paragraphs about girls falling out of windows and corpses found in Mayfair flats. He is our problem. We have to recondition him. But the educated public, the people who read the highbrow weeklies, don’t need reconditioning. They’re all right already. They’ll believe anything.” [emphasis added]

There you have it. I ask you to wonder how it is possible that a mediocre failed businessman like George W. Bush could hold what is ostensibly the most powerful position on earth? I ask you to think of an entity such as Halliburton as one division of a shadow organization such as the N.I.C.E. I ask you to consider such an outfit as Blackwater as Miss Hardcastle’s employer. I ask you to recall that the low-level military personnel who committed the atrocities at Abu Ghraib were apparently being supervised by contractors, rather than by their legitimate chain-of-command. I ask you to fucking wake up!

UPDATE: 1/2/08 Kyle R. Cupp's contribution to the comment section made me realize an error in my exposition above. Where I said a left-liberal dupe of the 'Mainstream Media', I should have said a left-liberal dupe of the 'Marxist academic elites'. I have, therefore, made that change.