Comments: Lies My Lies My Teacher Told Me Told Me

Shades of Orwell ...

The only propaganda line open to the Nazis and Fascists was to represent themselves as Christian patriots saving Spain from a Russian dictatorship. This involved pretending that life in Government Spain was just one long massacre (vide the Catholic Herald or the Daily Mail — but these were child's play compared with the Continental Fascist press), and it involved immensely exaggerating the scale of Russian intervention. Out of the huge pyramid of lies which the Catholic and reactionary press all over the world built up, let me take just one point — the presence in Spain of a Russian army. Devout Franco partisans all believed in this; estimates of its strength went as high as half a million. Now, there was no Russian army in Spain. There may have been a handful of airmen and other technicians, a few hundred at the most, but an army there was not. Some thousands of foreigners who fought in Spain, not to mention millions of Spaniards, were witnesses of this. Well, their testimony made no impression at all upon the Franco propagandists, not one of whom had set foot in Government Spain. Simultaneously these people refused utterly to admit the fact of German or Italian intervention at the same time as the Germany and Italian press were openly boasting about the exploits of their’ legionaries’. I have chosen to mention only one point, but in fact the whole of Fascist propaganda about the war was on this level.

This kind of thing is frightening to me, because it often gives me the feeling that the very concept of objective truth is fading out of the world. After all, the chances are that those lies, or at any rate similar lies, will pass into history...

Uncanny, or all too mundane...

Posted by Cloud at March 9, 2009 09:57 PM

Oddly, this would appear to also be an appropriate context to bust out that "skillet calling the pot calling the kettle black black" line. I think...

Posted by fluxisrad at March 9, 2009 10:12 PM

Opium is the opiate of the masses, even outside of Afghanistan. (its the slime oozing out of YOUR TV set)

Posted by Mike Meyer at March 10, 2009 01:26 AM

Well nothing to do with this entry but I found no other way to comment on the actual blog entry I wanted to.

Your blog entry was: "I Want More Spam From Wives Of Blood-Soaked Third World Despots"

You said: "...This has gotten my hopes up that someday I'll receive email from the wives and girlfriends of:

• Roberto D'Abussion
• Rios Montt
• Bernal Urbina Pinto
• ...and more!..."

Well here you go it's your lucky day im Bernal Urbina's grandchild so guess im not his wife but maybe I can make my grandma send you a letter.

Hah guess you never know who can reply to your entries, ahh well BTW my grandfather died in 2003 so he was long gone when you made that entry.

Anyway its a funny thing to bump into on the internet. 3rd world despot so be it then.

Posted by Konrad Peters at March 10, 2009 02:16 AM

i disagree with this post on the whole, and otherwise.

first, 'Lies' was published in 1996. CIA claims about the alleged assassination plan were published in the WaPo in 1993. every post/article you pointed to with 'evidence' of a 'no plan to assassinate plan' was written, it seems, post-year 2000--several years after 'Lies' was published. i'm not sure how Loewen, or any other book author, would know about claims that are (substantially) disproved in the future.

second, the public display of U.S. administration outrage is a fact, for sure, which is what 'Lies' is directly testifying to. Loewen is correct.

as to the 'implicit claim' that there was indeed a plan to assassinate Bush--this 'claim' could only be seen as very weak, secondary, non-essential -- of no particular importance to the point Loewen was making. perfect knowledge is not possible, and that seems to be what you're arguing for, here. since nobody knows whether the CIA is telling the truth until 50 years after everyone is dead, it would have been difficult for anyone to know about the truthfulness of CIA claims just a few short years after they proved so useful for the government and news media. the implicit claim that there was an assassination attempt was not provable at the time, that i know of -- so I wouldn't expect Loewen to do a claim-by-claim takedown of U.S. government propaganda unless he was writing a book about that. what matters is that there was public 'outrage' expressed the U.S. officials -- that's the claim.

third, we can't expect every author to write in exacting terms about inexact knowledge -- with multiples of 'he said' and 'allegedly' all over the place. what would be the point, except to turn a nice, concise book into a frothing run-on sentence like The World Is Flat? we can't disprove the existence of God, but we know about as certainly as anything else in the world that She doesn't exist.

fourth, it's not actually important that that particular 'implicit fact' was fact or not. it's only an example 'fact' and was only being used to demonstrate U.S. hypocrisy. whether the U.S. claim was true or not, the U.S. hypocrisy was true, by definition -- it was the U.S. government making the claim, not Loewen.

fifth, Loewen could have used a more-obscure reference that only wonks know about, but that wouldn't accomplish much for most readers.

sixth, this sentence: "What that says about our ability to comprehend the past is distressing" is so over the top as to be outlandish. do you really believe that because an author of a revisionist history textbook used a disputed, secondary, implicit, "open" claim as evidence puts the entirety of our belief system in historical knowledge on shaky ground? i don't get that at all.

Posted by Peter at March 10, 2009 03:59 AM

I'm afraid I'm going have to largely agree with Peter here.

Posted by Rojo at March 10, 2009 05:13 AM

I thought the post was slightly unfair to Loewan, but Peter, you've more than made up for it by being unfair to our host.

I disagreed with your points four and five and your point six might have had some validity, except you went so over the top with it that it became outlandish. I also had problems with point three, but am too lazy to bother explaining why.

Posted by Donald Johnson at March 10, 2009 10:04 AM

Peter,

I'm not faulting James Loewen for believing this had actually happened. I believed it at the time the book was written too. That's the point—how easily people with power are able to make others believe imaginary things about the past.

That said, the Seymour Hersh article I linked to was written in 1993. Also, Loewen definitely is saying that the purported Bush assassination attempt happened, as you can tell by his reference to "similar assassination attempts" by the U.S.

Finally:

do you really believe that because an author of a revisionist history textbook used a disputed, secondary, implicit, "open" claim as evidence puts the entirety of our belief system in historical knowledge on shaky ground?

Yes.

Posted by Jonathan Schwarz at March 10, 2009 10:07 AM

StO deserves some props for cleverness.

Posted by Quin at March 10, 2009 12:56 PM

StO deserves some props for cleverness.

Absolutely. I have now taken as my life's work the goal of creating a sentence with level 4 center-embedding. "They said I was mad, that I was creating a monster, and toying with things better left to God, but I'll show them! I'll show them all!" (laughs maniacally, while donning white lab coat)

Posted by SteveB at March 10, 2009 03:51 PM

well, using a simplistic little tome like that book sounds overly ambitious for teaching state U ed majors. You know, it really is only simpletons who take a face value what they learn in high skool. So you people are simpletons who moved sideways, not up, to another version of history for feebs.

Lookit, there are plenty of well-informed works of history around, you don't need an idiotic book challenging hi-skool history, unless you're a fucking moron.

Oh, and Jon, what HERstory? Don't we also need SHEroes?

Posted by visitor at March 11, 2009 06:02 PM

Oh, and Jon, what HERstory? Don't we also need SHEroes?

I am overcome by a wave of nostalgia for bad old righty jokes. Hey, visitor - do the one about land rights for gay whales!

Posted by RobWeaver at March 11, 2009 06:29 PM

Hey I am a lifelong Dem, you douche : )

Posted by visitor at March 11, 2009 06:41 PM

Which makes you a right-winger, you American-idiot-who-doesn't-comprehend-political-terms.

Posted by RobWeaver at March 11, 2009 08:16 PM

That said, the Seymour Hersh article I linked to was written in 1993.

you're right. i was confused, in part because you referred to Hersh's article as 'contemporary' -- which I took to mean current (as in, within the past few months or a year or so). i guess it could be used to mean 'back in the day'??, but i've no idea.

still, the title of Hersh's article is "A Case Not Closed". without anything further to go on, it would seem reasonable to conclude, in light of the Kuwaiti court convictions (as I understand it -- whether tortured or not), that an assassination plan was, indeed, in place. you have to weigh the evidence, biases, history of propaganda, etc. several US agencies and foreign agencies were claiming 'plot', lots of physical evidence, etc. i don't know what it was like back in 1993-1996 -- i'd have been at least skeptical, but even with my skepticism, i don't know that i'd go out of my way to disprove the alleged assassination plot if it required a tortured, unconvincing paragraph to do it. the larger truth, the more important truth, was US hypocrisy, in my opinion -- and i suspect that's what Loewen was driving at.

and, again, the language used wrt the alleged assassination is so passive as to be extraneous, and, in fact, it is, in my opinion. to me, the statement of fact - the claim - is the first four words -- "Our government expressed outrage" -- everything else is a preposition based on US government claims -- not James Loewen claims.

To give an example of how to make a sentence like this possibly more exacting, but more Friedmanesque (lacking clarity, conciseness, etc.) -- here are some other ways it could have been written with 0 the original:

0) Our government expressed outrage at Iraq's Saddam Hussein for trying to arrange the assassination of former president Bush when he visited Kuwait in 1993 and retaliated with a bombing attack on Baghdad, yet the United States has repeatedly orchestrated similar assassination attempts.

1) Our government expressed outrage at Iraq's Saddam Hussein for allegedly trying to arrange the assassination of former president Bush when he visited Kuwait in 1993 and retaliated with a bombing attack on Baghdad, yet the United States has repeatedly orchestrated similar assassination attempts.

2) Our government expressed outrage at Iraq's Saddam Hussein. The US government alleged that Hussein tried to arrange the assassination of former president Bush when he visited Kuwait in 1993 and retaliated with a bombing attack on Baghdad, yet the United States has repeatedly orchestrated similar assassination attempts.

3) Our government alleges that Saddam Hussein orechestrated a...

It's all a total disaster, it greatly weakens the point we'd be trying to make, and it's all completely besides the point. It's the difference between a good book and The World Is Flat.

Were there other great examples of hypocrisy regarding alleged and/or attempted assassinations that Loewen could have used instead? Maybe the Reagan shooting? That was a domestic shooter on US soil. Maybe there's another that people could have identified with?

As for the whole 'shaky ground' thing -- it reminds me of all the people who used to (and maybe still do?) talk about 9/11 and how it 'changed everything'. As with them, I would ask you -- on what basis do you comprehend the world, given that we always have access to imperfect information? And I'm not trying to be harsh, but a simple claim made by the US government and being passed on by an author to make an entirely different point in a ten-year old textbook about hypocrisy doesn't move me at all one way or another -- it's about as close to inconsequential as facts come.

But, I emailed Mr. Loewen to ask him what he thinks about it all. :)

Posted by Peter at March 12, 2009 02:31 AM

Peter, "contemporary" means "at the same time as" -- Hersh's article was contemporary with the event. No doubt many people do use "contemporary" to mean "recent", but that's not really correct. I thought Jon's use was clear enough.

Posted by Duncan at March 12, 2009 04:17 PM

Peter, "contemporary" means "at the same time as"

this strikes me as incorrect. it's sort of close, but not really.

it's not a big deal, and i'm not a wordsmithing expert, but i don't believe 'contemporary', as it was used in the post, was the correct usage. the word that probably should have been used was 'contemporaneous'.

but if we're nitpicking word usage, fine -- that's what i saw the original post as.

:)

Posted by Peter at March 14, 2009 02:23 AM

Lookit, there are plenty of well-informed works of history around, you don't need an idiotic book challenging hi-skool history, unless you're a fucking moron.

Yer pretty much a fucking douchbag, arencha? Have you ever taught anything anywhere to anyone?

Posted by woody at March 14, 2009 06:52 PM