Principles Are Dead

Watching the PBS News Hour I can’t help but think that propaganda has become so normal in our society as to be virtually ubiquitous. It’s in the very air we breath… and not as a trace element, either. The atmosphere is, to look at it from the other way around, Authoritarian.

Of course, one of the great myths of our society right now is that it’s all Donald Trump’s fault. He’s a fascist authoritarian behind the mask of a grotesque and criminally ill-mannered oligarch. According to this narrative, the authoritarianism that everyone can smell is exclusively a product of his flatulence. And behind Trump stands Putin… who, you will also learn from watching the news, is secretly funding, or just silently encouraging, cells of American white supremacists.

This is the Nazis are coming to get us (with the help of the Russians!) narrative you are all quite familiar with. From within this worldview, the country is authoritarian, sure, but it’s all because of that proto-Hitler, #45, supported by all those fucking deplorables, gathering to rise up out of their basket and take over America with tiki torches.

As I see it, though, the authoritarianism of our culture is distributed across the political spectrum. It ain’t the Young Conservatives League that’s deplatforming people across the Western world, if you get my drift. On the Left, viewpoint diversity doesn’t count. To be different, is to be evil. The pressures to conform or shut up are immediate and immense.

PBS, who for years I thought of – perhaps naively – as interested in factual reporting, is completely lacking in viewpoint diversity. Even legacy commentators Mark Shields and David Brooks are just two different styles of the same perspective.

But then, perhaps you don’t need to look any further than your own news feed to see the same, potentially savage, ideological monoculture. I have with some horror over the past week watched a highly intelligent, long-time liberal, friend cheer over Robert Mueller’s supposed subtle invocation of crude xenophobic stereotypes, to great acclaim. Yay!!! Mueller’s using anti-Russian bigotry to prop up his legal case!! Wait a minute… Yay?

Gone are the days when McCarthyism was considered a bad thing. And that’s funny… because during those days, everyone was piously convinced that this rejection of a culture of paranoid bigotry was a matter of principle. Just go rewatch that paean to Edward R Morrow, GOODNIGHT AND GOODLUCK.

Gone, too, are the days when people on the Left were deeply skeptical of the intelligence agencies, and the near certain abuse of power that goes along with having almost godlike technical ability and virtually no oversight. These days, the Washington Post can drape itself in the slogan that “Democracy dies in the dark” without most anyone even having those secret, extraordinarily powerful, agencies brought to mind. For some reason, Democracy is saved in those darknesses… just like it was sheltered and cultivated within the darkness of the DNC.

It’s all about Trump and “fake news” and nothing else.

Perhaps, in a world composed of nothing but power and hypocrisy, we might update Nietzsche and say: Principles are Dead.

After all, who can afford principles when 13 Russians are spending THOUSANDS of dollars in Facebook ad buys, showing Jesus arm wrestling with Satan. Damn the secret mind control skills they developed in the Cold War! How can we afford principles, when a billion and a half dollar political campaign can’t stand up against twitter bots sharing mainstream news stories?!?

How can afford principles when thousands of votes were STOLEN? Not in any technical or legal sense, but just in the sense that people who went to the polls were supposed to vote for Clinton, and something nefarious had to happen to change that – whether that something was happening to glimpse a Russian mind-control ad, or whether it was Jim Comey, or whether it was listening to those Russian dupes Bernie Sanders and Jill Stein. Whatever it was, votes were stolen in a very corruption of our democratic system.

How can we expect the DNC to behave as an impartial arbiter of the primary process in a world that’s that dangerous?

Yes, Principles Are Dead. We just can’t afford them, anymore.

In my mind, former NSA whistleblower William Binney is both a hero and a national treasure – and both of those labels are a consequence of how utterly lost our system of government is. It continues to amaze me that the Washington Post can drape itself in the slogan that “Democracy dies in the dark” and millions upon millions of people are never even struck by how well “the dark” corresponds to the conditions under which the surveillance state operates. Somehow, a vague metaphorical reference to some unproven allegation about Trump seems infinitely more apropos than the actual system of secret government that we definitively know exists.

That’s right: agencies that work in secret, regulated only by secret courts that virtually never refuse them, operating according to secret interpretations of the law, are synonymous – in our upside down estimation – with that great disinfectant, sunlight. Literally: darkness is light. It is an amazing accomplishment of propaganda.

The only way Bill Binney stayed out of prison is that he and his co-workers caught the FBI fabricating evidence against them. Now, he’s derided on CNN as a “conspiracy theorist”, a Trump-loving crank, rather than a highly decorated expert, driven from the NSA by his desire to stay within the bounds of the Constitution.

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