Once again, there are ‘coincidences’ that appear to the newspaper reader; and if you are humble and open-minded enough to take guidance from the hard-earned wisdom of Soviet citizens of that awful era, then you know that there are no ‘coincidences’ in the papers or the broadcasts.
Late last week a story was reported: the Irish State has just released a shocking report on child-abuse at Church-run orphanages, going back more than half a century.
“Abuse” is no longer a word that should be allowed anything but the strictest scrutiny: these days, it can mean anything from the most genuinely repugnant sexual assault to not-talking-to-somebody. Both of those activities each have their rightful place in public discourse, but they don’t quite belong stuffed together in the ‘portmanteau’ or ‘suitcase’ term “abuse”. Especially not when the prevalence of said “abuse” becomes the lynchpin of a concerted effort for expanding the government police power. There were, no doubt, some very nasty and some very unpleasant Polish folk among Poland’s citizenry in the late 1930s (as can be said of any nation’s citizenry at any time), but the term “the Poles” as used in Goebbels’s ‘newscasts’ was an insidiously duplicitous term deployed not to convey a truth or a fact but rather to effect a public-opinion stampede against the nation that Hitler had decided to invade and divvy up with his fellow-monster, Stalin.
Also, it occurs that this Irish-orphanage story is hardly new. It is, after all, 2009, and I recall seeing mention of it more than half a decade ago, when the priestly abuse crisis became big news in the very first days of 2002, broken by the ‘Boston Globe’. As sometimes happens with professional Advocacies, as well as Ministries of Propaganda, and the media that are eagerly indentured to them both, successfully ‘exciting’ ‘stories’ tend to get repeated, long after a thoughtful reader could be forgiven for thinking that something almost a decade old can’t really be termed ‘breaking news’.*
But then over the long weekend the President of Ireland herself shows up in Boston. As if by inadvertence, the paper reports that she is concerned for what is “the beginning of ‘a painful, necessary, national debate’”. Granted Ireland is far more attached to its past then America, but are they just getting around to this over there on the Oulde Sod?
But she’s “convinced the debate will be healthy and cathartic”. Well, from her lips to God’s ear. Since much of the West has been rather publicly carrying on the debate for the better part of a decade now, it will not be encouraging if it isn’t.
What caught my attention was a particular statement she made. In response to those of her fellow Irish citizens who feel that “the renewed focus” [italics mine] will contribute to more religious divisiveness in that religiously troubled land, she pertly asserted that such may possibly be true but “now is not the time for saying that”.
Valid observations and concerns, apparently, are not always valid, nor are they welcome. There is apparently a ‘time’ for them, and then there is a whole chunk of time when it is “not the time” for them.
This prompts me to think that the media (and most of the pols) are now working full-time on a ‘time-cycle’. There are waves of concern – as much manufactured as authentically spontaneous – and during such a wave then it is ‘time’ only for concerns, ideas, observations that go along with and support that wave. During that ‘time’, it is by working protocol “not the time” for disagreement or skepticism or doubt or serious reservations or tire-kicking in general.
We saw this approach metastasize here during World War One. Once Wilson chose not to play ‘honest broker’ to an international peace, but instead chose to get in on the fighting by taking America to war on – naturally – one side of the brouhaha, then suddenly the citizenry, who up to then had been deeply divided about America’s role in Europe’s Great War, were suddenly prohibited from any of the aforesaid disagreement or skepticism or doubt or serious reservations or tire-kicking in general. With the ominous revival of the odious sedition laws from over a century before, Americans could now go to jail for kicking government tire.
By the by, an ambitious government clerk, one J. Edgar Hoover, knew a good wave when he saw one, and cast his board out into the steeply rising surf, launching himself and what would become his personal fiefdom of the F.B.I. on a hunt for sedition among Americans. For the cameras he wore his manly trunks; the dresses he saved for after-hours. History is not only not dead; it’s positively complex.
When there is a ‘war’, once “the balloon goes up” as the Pentagoons like to say, then the time for debate is over. This is certainly the case in the military; once the command decision has been made, then the time for disagreement is past. But to introduce this operating principle into the citizenry is to militarize the citizens, and that cannot end well for The People.
And, as I have always held, beyond each American’s identity as an individual self, or as the member of some constructed Identity, each and every American has an identity as one of The People. And that identity must remain primary, and must be actively nurtured and exercised. Lest the government machine in all its Branches go off the rails.
The media’s job, in this schematic, is to keep the citizens well informed so that they may act as The People. If the media starts to act as a shill for the government and simultaneously as a panderer to those secondary identities of the citizens (can you say ‘soft news’ and ‘advocacy journalism’?) then The People fades. And the Constitution and the Republic with it. As perhaps We now are beginning to realize.
So, each ‘time’ corresponds to a more or less manufactured media ‘wave’, or – as We have seen so often in an egregiously loose and unserious use of metaphor – ‘war’; each big ‘wave’ is termed a ‘war’: the War on Poverty, the War on Drugs, the culture wars, the gender war, the war against men (well, this one they’d rather not call by so clear a name).
‘Wars’ all the time. You can’t keep a citizenry on a constant, decades-long ‘war footing’ without creating some serious deformation in the civic competence of The People.
And, in the hottest of History’s hell-hot ironies, it now looks like – under Democratic or Republican administration – this nation is going to be engaged in an all too real ‘Long War’ (although today they’d rather We call it Overseas Contingency Operations). Thus troops are now allowed – required even – to wear field camouflage combat uniforms when they go out in public on American streets, instead of the more peace-timey ‘service’ uniforms (uniform shoes, slacks, shirt, cap); after all, there will be no more ‘peacetime’ … no time for it now. No time for it any more.
And what’re you gonna do about it?
*As is nowadays required, let me say right here that I hold no brief for the sexual assault of children by adults, whether in positions of authority or not; nor do I hold any brief for Catholic bishops.