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.”

Tossing the Coin

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.

49 Comments

  1. A perfect example of how spin in the media can change public opinion took place around the time the UK joined the coalition to invade Iraq.
    In the weeks leading up to the invasion, opinion in the UK was strongly against going to war. Most of the newspapers were set against the idea dn opinion polls published showed that 70-80% were against going to war with Iraq.
    On February 15th 2003, between 1 and 2 million people took to the streets in London in protests opposing the war. Percentage of total population-wise, that would equate to between 3 and 6 million people protesting in New York. Obviously the strength of feeling against war was running very high.
    Immediately as Tony Blair announced that Britain was to join the coalition to invade Iraq, the newspapers did a sudden about turn. The headlines were all about “supporting our lads” as they went off to war. Page after page was devoted to whipping up nationalistic pride in our brave Forces, just stopping short of denouncing those who were still aginst the war as traitors to the country.
    Within just a few days, the opinion polls had been turned on their heads, with over 70% said to now be in support of us invading Iraq.

  2. Hiya budgie!
    Ooo! I love your analysis with a UK slant. So what is in it for the major UK media to turn on the flip of a dime so quickly? Access to power? Feeling cut off? Testing their ability to change public opinion? Why didn’t the media — or even the tabloids — stare down Blair and call him on his threats to life and limb?
    What has been the reaction to The Downing Street Memo —
    http://www.downingstreetmemo.com/
    — in the Press and in the streets? Is it ignored? It is used as a cudgel? Something else?

  3. I feel for the soldiers who joined the army so that they could get money for college and then got shipped off to fight a war which seems only to serve the increase in gas prices. Especially those who had their terms extended.

  4. What if the Global War on Terror isn’t a reelection ploy, but the actual real battle against foes who want to take over the world from China to Spain, as suggested by Iran’s president?
    Bush suggested the war would be long and unpopular.
    If he was looking to score quick points, Bush could have kicked some Iraqi butt a la 1991 via superior air power, then bailed out like we did earlier.
    I think we would have ended up clashing with some power in the middle east, even if 9/11 had been disrupted or prevented.
    I think we’ll see in a few years that we surrounded Iran to keep it at bay. Look at the strategic locations of Iraq and Afghanistan.
    The leadership of Iran has been chanting “Death to America” since I was 9 years old. Now, they are calling for the destruction of Israel and the west. This is the viewpoint of the leadership.
    The man and woman on the street feels differently and secretly likes the west and America.
    I don’t think we’ll have a shooting war with Iran because we’ve laid the groundwork for internal change to occur in Iran.
    Iran’s change will come from within.
    Just as there was a revolution to throw out the Shah of Iran, there could be a popular uprising of its cosmopolitan citizens who wish to live their life free from the edicts of the religious extremists.
    Maybe we had to clean up the neigbhorhood to make sure that when Iran did fall from internal pressure, it didn’t fall to Sadam’s Republic Guard or the Taliban’s Afghan thugs?

  5. Hi A S —
    I agree the extended duty of those who are fighting is a difficult thing for soldiers and their families to abide.
    I have many students who were called up to serve, and while that possibility was always in the contract, the idea of being in the Reserves or National Guard does not focus on being called up to serve in a war. Their service is sold as being a way to pay for college.

  6. Chris —
    I know you are a Republican who voted with his party since 1994 according to you bio here so I absolutely understand your need to support the party of your preference:
    http://urbansemiotic.com/guest-authors/
    I believe the unbiased evidence — using timelines and actions of the government — proves the plan to go to war with Iraq was in Bush’s head far before 9/11. You can read the last 80 pages of Frank Rich’s book to see a comparison chart of what really happened and what we were led to believe and you can independently fact-check the timetable beyond Frank Rich if you so choose by following Rich’s bibliography.
    We would not have dared to invade Iraq if 9/11 had not happened.
    An “Air Only” war does not work. Even Israel failed recently using that tactic with Hezbollah. Wars demand troops on the ground. Bombing from the sky does not work despite what the Air Force alone tries to argue. As recently as Sept. 19, 2006 there are already calls that more ground troops are immediately needed to sustain the status quo.

    Washington – The U.S. military is likely to maintain and may even increase its force of more than 140,000 troops in Iraq through next spring, the top American commander in the region said Tuesday in one of the gloomiest assessments yet of when troops may come home.
    Gen. John Abizaid, commander of the U.S. Central Command, said military leaders would consider adding troops or extending the Iraq deployments of other units if needed. Until sectarian violence spiked early this year, Bush administration officials had voiced hopes that this election year would see significant U.S. troop reductions in what has become a widely unpopular war.

    http://www.truthout.org/docs_2006/092006L.shtml

  7. The UK media didn’t actually go as far as doing a complete about turn, that would have made them look hypocritical and would have not allowed them to say ” we told you so” when it all went wrong, as so many observers thought that it inevitably would.
    What happened was that they saw an opportunity to claim some moral high ground in calling for, demanding even, support for our troops. Whether this was in response to spin issued by the politicians that we should support our lads, in order to deflect the fury of those opposed to the war, or whether the newspapers took that line first and the politicians gratefully latched on to it, is difficult to say. It all happened in the blink of an eye. My guess is that the politicians took the lead and the newspapers gullibly picked up the flag of patriotism, each one not wanting to be the only National Daily to be branded as unsupporting of our brave lads.
    The reaction to the Downing Street memo along with several other similar supposed leaks doing the rounds has been one of indifference. It’s as though the public knew they were being lied to and knew that we were being taken into war against a background of lies and deceit.
    One would have thought that any British Prime Minister would be out of Office after taking the country to war under the false pretence of WMD’s and 45 minute warnings of imminent attack from Saddam, which very few believed at the time. However, when the opposition Party were so weak that joined forces, virtually to a man, in voting with the Governement, in support of the war, there was no effective way to register a protest at the ballot box.
    The third Party we have here is so far behind the other two in their base popularity that even though they increased their share of the vote appreciably, it made no real difference to the result of the General Election last year. Such is the fairness of out electoral system that even though they gained over 20% of the vote, they won only 10% of the seats. The need for proportional representation was further highlighted by the fact that the Conservatives won more than 60,000 votes more than Labour, in England, yet ended up with 90 less seats.
    Anyway, I have drifted off topic somewhat, maybe a debate for another day.

  8. Hi David,
    I do have to say that I sort of developed doubts in my mind about the war when my dad told me he was asked to go to Iraq to help out and he declined.
    It doesn’t make much sense to roll the dice when you have 40 years w/the Army and as a civilian employee with the government.
    When you can retire any time you wish and spend your days fishing or on the beach, it doesn’t make sense — even with the extra pay — to take a free trip to Baghdad or Mosul or wherever.
    I’m sure they asked him because they thought he’d do a good job doing what he does, but it makes me wonder how many other people declined before they asked him.
    I don’t think he would have done any fighting — he would have been in the rear with the gear — but when you are in the war zone, you can never tell what might happen.

  9. budgie —
    Your comment is fantastic. Comment drift is appreciated and encouraged here — perhaps even coerced! — because it brings a new angle of light on the topic of the day.
    Your analysis is quite fascinating and it reflects the frightened sheep mentality we see here in the USA as well. It is amazing to me how many people believe blindly in an idea but not in each other!
    You should write an article here for publication of your analysis of why the UK went so willingly into the mouth of the beast.

  10. Chris!
    I admire your Dad for begging off the Middle East invite! I know there are many retired military folk who are not allowed to refuse the request to serve because they can still be called up to serve even in their retirement.
    The world is a dangerous place and there are elements that need to be dealt with in a blunt and bloody way.
    I favor a more surgical, surreptitious and direct path to the elements of dismay instead of a full-frontal assault where everything or nothing is gained.
    The magic of diplomacy is no one need bleed performing it…

  11. I think we should try diplomacy in Iran and make sure to reach out to all of the parties who can make a difference in the country. I think we’ve seen some of that in the President’s message to the Iranian people.
    All of the past events of this week have me wondering:
    Is there something in the world were humans always have to be in conflict?
    Can’t we have a decade or two in without people hating other people for various historical reasons?
    And, what’s the deal with Hugo Chavez?

  12. Chris —
    I agree there is no reason to stop talking — even when you’re dropping bombs on each other.
    I think the natural state of the human condition is to be always striving and to never be in stasis — that means you are likely to bump into someone going in an opposite direction and an argument will certainly ensue!
    History is an unfickle bedfellow — it is what happened and it cannot be changed — and to divorce one’s mind from what happened before and to forget it in the now is a difficult task.
    I think Chavez is still smarting over hurt feelings when he offered to sell us super-cheap oil during the recent high gas prices period and he was rudely rebuffed and mocked for the effort by the current administration.

  13. Wakes up and smells the coffee …………………… reads through …………. brain fries.
    “Negotiation in the classic diplomatic sense assumes parties more anxious to agree than to disagree” Dean Acheson
    If there was no oil – do you think that the USA would agree to disagree ?

  14. Hi Nicola —
    I read something last week that said the best way to get the USA out of the Middle East is to remove the need for oil from the economy. Without that desperate need you remove the desperate behavior and then the Middle East would need to find a new sucker to suck up all their natural resources.

  15. Chris —
    I hope we can use our own natural resources instead of depending on foreign oil. I realize there is a need to be a citizen of the world, but the USA is so perfectly formed as a protected land mass that — if we were smart about it — we could take care of all our needs and desires right here at home without relying on the kindness of foreign governments.

  16. As for a new sucker – I think China is lining up nicely for that position ……….. the rate they are consuming metals and other resources as they catch up with the rest of us is pretty alarming.
    (Singing bonuses?)

  17. Hi Nicola —
    I agree China is a powerhouse! The leaps they have made in a short amount of time is crazy-scary! They are on the move!
    China population: 1.3 billion.
    USA population: 295 million.
    UK population: 60 million.
    You can see China, via human power alone — beats both the UK and USA hands down when it comes to “all hands on deck.”
    I fixed the typo, thanks!

  18. China has a never ending supply of human power.
    Budgie flagged them up 8/9 years ago as the potential powerhouse.
    I remember seeing either a BBC or SKy News report about 18 months ago showing the capital 5 years ago ( a sea of bikes ) and at that time ( a sea of cars ) – it was frightening.
    I have another friend who pointed out in a similar discussion to this that who ever controls Africa will hold the upper hand. Day by day we are developing the technologies that will enable us to rape the continent, with little resistence beacuse of the ongoing effects of the wars, the famine and AIDS. “Ripe for plucking” was the phrase he used.
    ( Double checks for typos.)

  19. I agree, Nicola, that the want for land and its natural resources is what drives a lot of international public policy. If the land had nothing of value, we wouldn’t be interested in controlling the people on it.
    As American cowboy philosopher Will Rogers said many a year ago when talking about buying land, “It’s a good investment because they aren’t making the stuff any more.”
    It is hard to control land you don’t directly have access to and that is why Imperialism has always been most successful when breaking across commonly shared land borders. The pressing your hand into the backs of a people thousands of miles away takes a lot of money, stamina, bombs and a willingness at home for the citizens to suffer for the cause.
    Americans have not been asked to suffer for the war. We were given a tax break and lower gas prices to just keep our eyes down and to not ask questions. If we were asked to sacrifice as Americans sacrificed life, limb, and pleasure in WWII when we entered Afghanistan… I am certain there would not have been the public willpower to strike Iraq.

  20. Will Rogers has a very good point.
    We didnt get a tax break and already have incredibly high gas prices. I think the cost to Mr Blair and the Labour Party is enormous – never mind the cost of loosing credibility as a nation.

  21. Nicola!
    I know! You all kind of got the bloody end of the stump. No pay off. No lower prices. Yet you still followed us into the tar pit. I feel for you. I just wish Blair had stood up to Bush a bit more. Having a blind faith ally is like having no ally at all.

  22. Dave —
    I know many students who were not happy to leave their schooling to go serve in Iraq. They may have been proud to serve but they didn’t want to be there.
    I don’t think the welcome mat will be out when and if the Iraq Vets return home and their general reception will be worse than the Vietnam Vets: Indifference.

  23. Yikes! Here’s the start of the article:

    The United States threatened to bomb Pakistan “back to the stone age” unless it joined the fight against al-Qaeda, President Pervez Musharraf says.
    General Musharraf said the warning was delivered by former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage to Pakistan’s intelligence director.
    “I think it was a very rude remark,” Mr Musharraf told CBS television.
    If you make that kind of threat against those you wish to help you — imagine what threats are spoken to your enemies?

  24. And for something else totally mind-whipping that happened today:

    (CBS) NEW YORK It was a meeting out of the Twilight Zone: An Iranian president who wants Israel wiped off the map … and a dozen rabbis who couldn’t agree more.
    WCBS-TV gained exclusive access to the event, held at the Intercontinental Hotel in Midtown. There, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad railed against Zionists, meaning the Israelis.
    “They have no respect for the lives and dignity of the Jews,” Ahmadinejad said through a translator. “If they could they would destroy 6 billion people in the world.”

    http://wcbstv.com/topstories/local_story_264190553.html

  25. Yes, Nicola! I watched the story on WCBS and there they were — the Iranian President and a bunch of Rabbis all saying how much they hate Israel. It was UNREAL! The news correspondent tried to get the president to answer some questions but he only answered with questions. What a ride!

  26. The students I see returning have one goal in mind: Get back to their lives. Many of them are indifferent toward their service. Most just want to forget the boredom and the terror and just pretend none of it ever happened.
    Military families are happy to have their loved ones back but those without a direct connection to the war really don’t seem to care either way and who can blame them. We have been conditioned to wave flags or shut up and if you do speak up and out you are accused of being unpatriotic.

  27. A good example of “heads I win, tails you loose,” is the choice, between war, and peace. Nothing has lead to war more than peace, with the possible exception of more war. Check out history. i still say our present language is a major part of the reason for the world situation. There is no “evil,” in the animal or plant world; it is only when man starts inventing negative words like “evil,” and “fear,” that evil and fear are born. “There is nothing to fear but fear itself,” (FDR), and there is no evil but the concept of evil. So it is with all “negative” words and concepts.