By letterhead | August 11, 2008
Stuck for nearly half a day in an airport this weekend, I was browsing the itty-bitty bookstore and stumbled on George Orwell’s 1984. If you haven’t read it in a while, I’d highly recommend it.
We are so inured to the machinations of politicians, business leaders, spin doctors, and even the media that we tend to think of their antics as tragicomedy. After re-reading 1984… mmmm, not so much.
It’s part of the reason I was so blown away by the revelation that part of the TV broadcast of the Olympic opening ceremony — the firework “footprints” — was faked, according to news reports.
Another Olympic Deception
The decision to fake the fireworks was approved by the Olympic Committee…
the same Olympic Committee that lied about open Internet access for the press and then apologized not for censorship, but that people had been “misled by what I told you”… a mealy mouthed apology if there ever was one.
This time, a Chinese “visual effects team” worked for more than a year to perfect the deception, because the Beijing Olympic Committee (BOGOC) thought it was too dangerous to film the fireworks live.
And though they may take credit for the visual deceit:
“…it was still a bit too bright compared to the actual fireworks,” he said. “But most of the audience thought it was filmed live – so that was mission accomplished.”
They point the ultimate finger of fakery at Beijing Olympic Broadcasting (BOB) , the joint venture between the International Olympic Committee, which decided to permit it.
BOB was unapologetic:
“As far as we are concerned, we let off the fireworks – that’s what’s important to us.”
How Lies Become Truth?
It may be a small thing. The fireworks in fact did go off. It’s not like they made up the event wholesale.
Filming them was problematic, so they mocked-up what it would look like if they could film them, while the real fireworks went off for the live audience.
But then again, maybe not such a small thing. The TV audience was NOT informed that it was a “dramatization,” as they say in TV commercials… (we’ll get back to this in a minute).
And what if the “footprints” did not actually look like footprints? Or what if a few of them had misfired? The visual record would not reflect the actual as-it-happened-in-real-life truth.
The visual record had already been faked. And the PR victory of the Beijing regime would have been preserved for posterity with nothing to contradict it.
To quote Orwell…
“And if all others accepted the lie which the Party imposed — if all records told the same tale — then the lie passed into history and became truth.”
George’s Vision for the War on Terror
I’m talking about Orwell’s vision, not Bush’s: the former predicted the prospect of “continuous war” managed for the benefit of those in power — through deceit, deception, and manipulation of perception — to “keep the structure of society intact.”
Sound familiar? It should… last week we saw, for the first time in what seems like years, an elevated “terror threat level” of Orange, which just happens to take place… in the middle of a very tight election season.
When was the last Orange Alert? It’s very hard to tell.
DHS shows NO records of when the last Orange alert was. It might have been yesterday. Might have been last year… might have ALWAYS been Orange. We don’t know… we just have to care that it’s Orange TODAY.
You may recall that a key job of the Ministry of Truth was to change all past records every time Oceania switched its enemy from Eastasia to Eurasia, or back again.
All records would confirm that Oceania had ALWAYS been at war with that particular enemy. Every time the enemy changed, the records would be changed to suit. The real goal was to keep people in a constant state of jingoistic fury at the enemy-of-the-moment.
Point being: by depriving people of records of the past, it’s much easier to control their understanding of the present, and their behavior.
So when was the last Orange terror alert in the U.S.?
Surprise, surprise!!… Seems that it was sometime the 2006 election cycle. When the Party looks vulnerable, crank up the furor!
(Josh Marshall’s analysis of the manipulation of Orange alerts appeared in Time Magazine in mid-2006… and if anyone who knows of a historical record of these alerts… please feel free to share!)
A Lie That Became Truth
The magazine The American Conservative has confirmed Ron Suskin’s claim that the Bush Administration forged a key piece of CIA intelligence (a letter to Saddam Hussein from the head of Iraqi intelligence talking about uranium from Niger and terrorist training for Mohamed Atta). source
To quote Orwell…
“In the end, the Party would announce that two and two made five, and you would have to believe it.”
Open Mouth Insert “Footprint”
But are American’s too stupid to care? Just like the “proles” of Oceania?….
“And even when they became discontented, as they sometimes did, their discontent led nowhere, because, being without general ideas, they could only focus on petty specific grievances. The larger evils invariable escaped their notice.”
Strong evidence of our “prole” nature appeared on MSNBC’s website a few days ago: an article by someone named Helen A. S. Popkin (which sounds suspiciously like a pseudonym).
The sheer stupidity of Ms. Popkin’s piece makes you wonder whether she is like, for reals, or just like, having a joke on us… she has a total “freakout” that the guy in the “freecreditreport.com” commercial is like… NOT FOR REAL!
Like OH. MY. GOD.
“Any shock associated with FreeCreditReport.com doesn’t come from any practices that might be construed as misleading. The freakout occurs when viewers learn that the guy in the commercial isn’t actually The Guy. That isn’t his band. He was never half of a marriage doomed by his dream girl’s heretofore unmentioned defaulted credit cards. He and the wife didn’t make their first (and last?) home together in the same place he conducts band practice — her parent’s basement.
“In fact, identity theft never forced his employment at a pirate-themed seafood restaurant or that due to his willful ignorance regarding his own credit score, his automotive choices were limited to a used subcompact which caused his legs to stick to the vinyl and his posse getting laughed at.” [emphasis added]
Repeat After Me: “TV Commercials Aren’t Real. TV Commercials…”
When I am watching TV, I intuitively know that:
scrubbing bubbles don’t dance and sing
bears don’t use toilet paper
the guy in the white coat isn’t really a doctor
and the guy with the guitar is just an actor; those bad-credit things didn’t really happen to HIM; it’s fiction; it’s a sales pitch; it’s not REAL
I read the piece from pundit Popkin a dozen times, looking for the tell-tale wink-wink-nudge-nudge of an Onion-style spoof, but I just can’t find it.
I think this chick really was shocked to find out that the guy in the commercial wasn’t real. And I am triply dumbfounded that an editor at MSNBC (… MSNBC for God’s sake!) found her freakout newsworthy, rather than a cringe-worthy self-disclosure of abject stupidity.
Do they really think that they have to reduce the quality of prose — in a national news outlet — to up-speak tween jargon in order to appeal to Audience 2.0? The writer comes off as just plain moronic:
“He’s the FreeCreditReport.com guy, and you are so totally in love with him you want to have like, 10 million of his babies…”
Yikes! PLEASE don’t have ten million babies!… the world is stupid enough already!
The fact that this kind of dreck appeared on a reputable news site makes one wonder whether the next generation(s) will have been so dumbed down and lacking in judgment as to… well… Orwell says it best:
“In a way, the world-view of the Party imposed itself most successfully on people incapable of understanding it.”
A World Without Kittens
Popkin’s article reads like an Orwellian nightmare come true.
She has no shock whatsoever for the fact that the product being advertised is a scam — i.e., she takes for granted that the substance of the pitch is fraudulent.
“Any shock associated with FreeCreditReport.com doesn’t come from any practices that might be construed as misleading.”
She is like Orwell’s Julia:
“Who cares? It’s always one bloody war after another, and one knows the news is all lies anyway.”
Her shock comes at the fact that the beloved scruffy guitar-guy isn’t real. Nor is the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fair, or Santa.
Meanwhile, the BOCOG and BOB are painting pretty — but fraudulent — pictures for the viewers at home. And while the White House is caught red-handed fabricating evidence to push us into a state of constant war, MSNBC can’t get over the fact that they feel duped by a guitar-playing slacker.
They can’t tell the difference between fact and fiction; and they aren’t even ashamed to display this ignorance to the world. Presumably because the world shares it.
Wholesale fabrication is less and less of an outrage. We are less and less able to detect it. And the fabrication we care least about relates to substance. What matters most is retaining the credibility and power of fantasy.
At this rate, there will be no more kittens in America in my lifetime.
Just Be Happy Meal
In his 1961 afterword for Orwell’s book, Erich Fromm writes:
“It is one of the most characteristic and destructive developments of our own society that man, becoming more and more of an instrument, transforms reality more and more into something relative to his own interests and functions.”
Fabrications large and small, perpetrated every day, with fewer consequences and even less awareness… a scary reality, but one that is increasingly common.
A little ketchup and mustard with that kitten?