The best way to win a bet against someone who trusts you is to speak fast and appear to offer two choices while both choices actually lead to the result you want. The brightest schoolyard example of this ploy is a coin toss where the tosser flips a quarter into the air while setting up the rules of the game: “Heads I win, tails you lose.”
Only the sharp-eared and the mindfully distrustful will call out the deception. Everyone else will either get it, but let the false win stand because they have better arguments to make elsewhere, or they will think they honestly lost because they believed — without questioning — the tosser’s moral intent. We are seeing this same kind of double-dealing coin toss — that induces national somnambulism with a winning head and a losing tail — in our politicians and in the mass media.
The game is called “Spinning” and the truth loses in the revelation of the faked winning. Frank Rich, in his new book, “The Greatest Story Ever Sold,” calls out the media and the politicians on their game of deception against us by putting their slight-of-hand through the unblinking wringer of truth. In a review of Rich’s book, Ian Burma demonstrates how the sense of fair play in politics and covering your sources was corrupted in the fight against terrorism:
Newspaper editors should not have to feel the need to prove their patriotism, or their absence of bias. Their job is to publish what they believe to be true, based on evidence and good judgment. As Rich points out, such journals as The Nation and The New York Review of Books were quicker to see through government shenanigans than the mainstream press. And reporters from Knight Ridder got the story about intelligence fixing right, before The New York Times caught on. “At Knight Ridder,” Rich says, “there was a clearer institutional grasp of the big picture.” …There may be one other reason for the fumbling: the conventional methods of American journalism, marked by an obsession with access and quotes. A good reporter for an American paper must get sources who sound authoritative and quotes that show both sides of a story. His or her own expertise is almost irrelevant. If the opinions of columnists count for too much in the American press, the intelligence of reporters is institutionally underused. The problem is that there are not always two sides to a story. Someone reporting on the persecution of Jews in Germany in 1938 would not have added “balance” by quoting Joseph Goebbels. And besides, as Judith Miller found out, what is the good of quotes if they are based on false information?
That rapt ability to accuse the media of being biased when the accusers and their faux-media cohorts are not only lying, but they know the lies are being told in order to offset the truth, is the moment we lost the toss. The media acquiesced their responsible role in order to become a rubber stamp for an administration bound for war.
The failure of the mainstream press to press for the truth while eagerly suckling down proven lies and regurgitating them to us as vested gruel-as-feast-facts is what led to the explosion of the citizen journalist on the web. It is now up to us to call out the deceptive deeds from a government born to protect us and we must color reality with facts that can be verified and not just “Spun” to fit the war agenda of a national majority.
If we cannot believe those who are honor-bound to tell us the truth then we become suspicious of every move and we question every decision until there is nothing left but contempt for the process of government and an enjoyed crumbling of the media biased against the truth-in-tossing we demand. In another review of Frank Rich’s book, Gary Kamiya reveals why Rich believes we went to war in Iraq: To Win American Midterm Elections:
This quick ‘n’ easy war was perfectly designed to appeal to George W. Bush. Rich draws a quick but brilliant sketch of Bush as a lazy, entitled boor, lacking in any real ideology beyond crony-capitalist Republicanism, who above all wanted to win and was accustomed to winning — because he had always played with a rigged deck.Rove, “Bush’s brain,” dreamed of establishing a near-permanent Republican majority in Washington à la William McKinley. This was fine with Bush. “This partisan dream, not nation-building, was consistent with the president’s own history and ambitions in Washington. Bush was a competitor who liked to win the game, even if he was unclear about what to do with his victory beyond catering to the economic interests of his real base, the traditional Republican business constituency … Iraq was just the vehicle to ride to victory in the midterms, particularly if it could be folded into the proven brand of 9/11. A cakewalk in Iraq was the easy way, the lazy way, the arrogant way, the telegenic way, the Top Gun way to hold on to power.
It was of a piece with every other shortcut in Bush’s career, and it was a hand-me-down from Dad drenched in oil to boot.” It is now widely accepted that the Iraq war is one of the greatest foreign policy blunders, if not the greatest, in U.S. history. Some have gone further: The respected Israeli military historian Martin van Creveld argues that it is “the most foolish war since Emperor Augustus in 9 B.C. sent his legions into Germany and lost them.” Not a few regard Iraq as spelling the beginning of the end of American dominance in the world.
A willing lie sold as an unvarnished truth deserves ridicule and rebellion from those the lie was perpetrated to fool. There are moments in the lives of a nation when the people must stand up and refuse to be presented with a coin toss where the end game is already determined and the wages of the bet are buckets of blood, the burning of dreams and the empty yearnings of the next generation.
It is our divine duty as citizens of the world to demand full disclosure even if the coin toss is set against us before the flip. We can always choose to defend the coin or throw out the tosser and as each day breaks and we struggle to awaken from our national somnambulism only to realize the world around us isn’t freer or more democratic or safer — but is actually even more daggered and dangerous than before we slept — we must confess our own moral ineptitude in dreaming through the deception.