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September 16, 2005

Now More Than Ever, It's Critical That We Learn Nothing From History

Mike Gerber likes to refer to the History Channel as the Learn Nothing From History Channel. This is one of my favorite jokes ever made by anyone.

In honor of this joke, I would like to point something out. Everyone is familiar with this famous section of the October, 2004 article by Ron Suskind:

In the summer of 2002, after I had written an article in Esquire that the White House didn't like about Bush's former communications director, Karen Hughes, I had a meeting with a senior adviser to Bush. He expressed the White House's displeasure, and then he told me something that at the time I didn't fully comprehend -- but which I now believe gets to the very heart of the Bush presidency.

The aide said that guys like me were ''in what we call the reality-based community,'' which he defined as people who ''believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.'' I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. ''That's not the way the world really works anymore,'' he continued. ''We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality..."

Now, here's part of George Kennan's 1946 description of the Soviet Union in his famous "Long Telegram":

[The Soviet Union] is seemingly inaccessible to considerations of reality in its basic reactions. For it, the vast fund of objective fact about human society is not, as with us, the measure against which outlook is constantly being tested and re-formed, but a grab bag from which individual items are selected arbitrarily and tendenciously to bolster an outlook already preconceived... Problem of how to cope with this force is undoubtedly greatest task our diplomacy has ever faced and probably greatest it will ever have to face.


Remember the Long Telegram is one of the best-known documents ever in US foreign policy, and part of the assigned reading in any college class on post-World War II history. So you'd expect a senior adviser in any administration would realize the peculiar resonance of what he/she was saying about "reality."

However, you'd expect wrong! That's because these days senior White House advisers don't have the time to do old-fashioned things like reading. They're too busy watching the Learn Nothing From History Channel.

Posted at September 16, 2005 05:49 AM | TrackBack

Reality Hates Our Freedoms!

Posted by: clete at September 16, 2005 07:19 AM


Posted by: Jonathan Schwarz at September 16, 2005 07:50 AM

"They're too busy watching the Learn Nothing From History Channel." I doubt they risk even that. Shhh! "Matlock" is on.

Posted by: the bunny at September 16, 2005 09:36 AM

I never thought that Bushian conservatism and Postmodernism could find such a unique synergy.

Posted by: Agi T. Prop at September 16, 2005 12:29 PM

The "Learn Nothing from History Channel", huh?

I have debated with myself for many years whether I would prefer to repopulate the earth with millions of clones of Mike Gerber, or to use Jon-clones instead. Hm, the LNFH channel pushes it a little closer to the Gerber side.

However, Mike is married, and you are not, Jon. Report to my secret lab in Korea immediately.

Posted by: Aaron at September 16, 2005 02:54 PM

"Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away."--Philip K. Dick.

Reality has delivered a relatively mild lesson to us. Let's hope we can recover from the Bush administration before the next one comes along.

Posted by: alex at September 16, 2005 03:18 PM

Wait--is this I clicked on a link for "mature poon" and I got this post about George Kennan. I asked for "The Long Telegram" at my local adult video store, and they looked at me like I was crazy.

I'm so confused.

Posted by: Mike at September 16, 2005 04:33 PM

Not so much on the reality theme, but on the History Channel sucking theme, I actually wrote a parody of History Channel programming on my blog. I recently re-read it, and it struck me as pretty funny.

This is the link:

Posted by: Lee at September 16, 2005 06:08 PM

For anyone intersted Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is supposed to be on Nightline tonight (Friday). Hugo vs. Ted Koppel - could be interesting.

Posted by: ow at September 16, 2005 07:37 PM