Thursday, September 08, 2005

INVENTING TRADITION


















What do you do when you're the nation's leader but it's obvious to most everyone you failed miserably at leading in a time of crisis? Well, you can flee the country and seek asylum on some far away island. Or you can tap Karl Rove and create an image counter to your obvious failure; you produce propaganda that, dare I say it, Joseph Goebbels would be proud of.

In the photo above, members of the New York Fire Department were ordered to appear next to the President in a contrived photo-op manufactured by the White House, obviously seeking to conjure up memories of Bush's (phoney and contrived) heroism in the wake of 9/11--a recreation of the famed 'bullhorn moment'. In fact, rescue operations had to cease during Bush's little stroll through the debris. Helicopter rescues especially were put on hold, as the airspace was cleared for the super-duper important guy.

Hey, what's more important? Saving lives or making the Emperor look good?

I've long been intrigued and bothered by the popular preference for myth over reality: the myth of popular democracy when what we really have is a constitutional republic guided by corporate interests; the myth of equal justice for all when what we have is a judicial system guided by racism, cronyism, and careerism; the myth of a government morally superior to the rest of the world when it invades foreign lands to protect or further corporate interest, slaughtering countless civilians (Iraqis, Vietnamese, Nicaraguans, Guatemalans, Afghanis, etc).

So you thought in the wake of Katrina the dogged persistence and heroism of a few journalists signaled the end of the constant media parroting of White House lies, that we were bearing witness to a much needed and overdue sea change in reporting about American politics and the thoroughly unprofessional repetition of Rovian propaganda without responsible, journalistic fact-checking.

You'd be wrong. Myth over reality. Sadly, it seems to be the most popular course for this or any society. Reality, after all, is so gritty, complicated, unpromising, unpredictable, and uncompromising.

Update: it's worth noting that the U.S. government has barred journalists from accompanying search and rescue operations in New Orleans, or from photographing any of the retrieved corpses. Let's see how long it takes for journalists to dutifully oblige, tuck their tails, and say, "OK, Uncle Sam. You're the boss." After all, such journalism would be dirty, complicated and unpatriotic.

Double Not-So-Secret Update: Josh Marshall writes that CNN has filed a lawsuit against government agencies barring press coverage of victim retrieval.