I preface this by saying that while I live in Canada, the decline of the U.S. empire affects me too.
On June 2nd, 2008 Jon Stewart welcomed former White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan on what was, in my opinion, a landmark Daily Show. McClellan is plugging his book “What Happened“. The administration is bringing a lot of attention to the book as well by getting their panties in a bunch. Stewart put McClellan through the ringer in what was one of the most interesting interviews he has ever done. McClellan remained candid while being shushed a la Dr. Evil by Stewart. I don’t know if reading this book will enlighten me or just prompt me to say “Oh the Hell with it, I am powerless against evil giants, where’s my mindless entertainment?” I can say that I will be entertained for years as the underworld of the Bush administration is played out for the world to consume in the form of books and movies.
Over the past few decades we have seen publicly elected officials piss on people’s heads and tell them it is raining. It is affecting Americans in visible ways.
Let me rewind a bit over a decade.
I grew up during the Reagan years so I will skip the obvious Nixon stuff and get to the dinner theater I witnessed myself. During his presidency, Bill Clinton lied about having “sexual relations” with Monica Lewinsky. Turns out she performed oral sex on him and Clinton was arguing on semantics. Obviously, had Clinton just fessed up to it instead of making a statement that “oral sex” is not really sex, there would have been little to speculate about in the following weeks. Hey I’m not knocking oral sex, it’s just that IT IS real sex and it involves the same risks as regular sex (and to those who will reply “You can’t get pregnant from it!!!” I suggest you evaluate your sexual practices based on what you CAN get from it rather than what you CAN’T.) This campaign of disinformation trickled down to teens and recently, Slate revisited the normalization of oral sex (Slate, May 28, 2008) in a graphic statistic-filled article. In fact you can also thank the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal for making it acceptable for mainstream media to titillate viewers with descriptions of graphic sex.
So I guess we all grew up to learn that
- Friends lie; they must be immature.
- Parents lie; they must want to protect us.
- Teachers lie; they have no choice or they’ll get fired.
- Boss’ lie; they are just protecting the shareholder’s interest.
- Spouses lie; what they don’t tell us won’t hurt us.
- The President lies; he just knows what is best for us.
Who will we excuse for lying next?
In the past decade I have seen an interesting trend develop. While those who are older than me (40+) have come to accept a world dominated by corporate secrecy and back-room politics, those who are younger (30-) have come to embrace a world where transparency is a virtue through blogging and vlogging. However, it seems like both worlds exists in their own distinct bubbles. The Daily Show and the Colbert Report seem to have found a way to mix the two up. Unlike the mainstream media, which is now mostly talking about itself and patting itself on the back, the writers for The Daily Show and The Colbert Report have enough cultural memory to hit where it hurts the most with hilarious results.
Last year I explained to someone that theoretically, you could build a statistical model with every single piece of information about a topic (usually historical data) and have all known experts validate the info. Then the system would write the most likely true scenario and change it as new data is supplied and verified. A friend replied simply: “It would not work, there is no such thing as the truth!” Perhaps he did not understand my concept correctly because it DOES take for granted that there is no truth and only seeks to calculate how likely a statement is to be true. Perhaps a worldwide panel of historians could then decide how “thruthy” history should be and we can enjoy the fruit of such an effort.
The American people have been lied to so much they can’t really tell when someone is telling them the truth anymore. Take someone like Barack Obama who is obviously intelligent and sincere. His message is simple and clear yet people are still weary of him. Personally, I think that Bush lowered the bar so low that Barack Obama should be applying for a more prestigious job.
So let me put this in porno terms so you understand what I am trying to say here. In 1997, Obama was in England at a bachelor party in a bar. When the surprise stripper showed up he exited the party. (I heard this on BBC Radio so did this blogger.) So what we are seeing here is that even if nobody’s looking Barack Obama is unlikely to use the Oval Office as a setting for afternoon delight with someone other than his wife.