If you woke up in the morning, in Nazi Germany, on 2 September 1939, there would be a newspaper headline proclaiming, “Poland Attacks Germany”. More than likely, you would have believed that headline to be true. That was the lie being promulgated, and people in that particular closed society, willingly accepted it as true.
Scary. That can’t happen here. “I’m too smart to be deceived.” is what we all think. No. You’re not. We’re not.
I remember all kinds of attempts at deception by the government to present lies as truth. The CIA-directed coup against South Vietnam’s Diem regime in 1963 was depicted as some sort of uprising against an unpopular regime.
Keeping the tragedy of Vietnam in focus, the Gulf of Tonkin Incident was distorted to justify deepening involvement in Vietnam by the US.
Most of us remember the predicating condition for the Iraq War of 2003 was the possession of weapons of mass destruction (WMD’s), by the regime of Saddam Hussein. You know the WMD’s we never found, no matter how hard and how long we looked.
What scares the crap out of me is that our so-called “free press” is by no means the objective and dispassionate searcher for, and desseminator of, The Truth it claims to be. If its bias is your bias, then you (generic you) believe them. And so we find ourselves, dropped into this labyrinth, seeking to escape before the Minotaur captures us. Whom do we trust and believe?
We don’t get The Truth. We get plausible stories. Adopting a perspective of skepticism is as dangerous as a perspective of naïveté. The media relations people can merely present a lie that the skeptic will accept as true, because it feeds into the sceptic’s innate prejudices.
The Clinton Era ushered in the popular term “spin doctors”, public relations hacks in service to the regime who presented the Clinton Administration’s side of the story. Nothing new, really, but it was a cynical admission that the media relations office was there to concoct a merely plausible explanation.
The spin doctors were like Don Adams’ character Maxwell Smart, from the. 60’s sitcom Get Smart, whose joke set-up line was “Would you believe?” , delivered before the predictably preposterous explanation.
Welcome to Journalism in the Twenty-first Century.