Political talk is everywhere and nowhere these days. I say that it’s everywhere because with three 24 news networks, traditional media outlets, and blogs, there is certainly no shortage of gum flapping about politics these days. I believe that it is nowhere because all the yammering on is doing little to create understanding or build consensus.
A case in point is this little bit of business that popped up on my “news” feed on the Blue & White Social Network:
This sort of thing always scares me a little. It scares me because someone is out there apparently raising the question “should we take up arms against our government?” Living through armed insurrection is rarely pleasant. It also scares me that people I know (some since childhood) blithely pass this sort of thing along to others without apparently recoiling in any kind of discomfort about the content. That suggests a measure of anger and righteousness that is never pleasant to encounter, especially if it one day holds a gun.
Of course, the fact that it is probably untrue also bothers me. I may not agree with the “all the God fearing Armed Forces veterans need to rise up and take back our Constitution from the Kenyan usurper” crowd and not read their news sources, but I happen to think that if a Marine General called for coup it would show up in the news that I do read. A little research shows that it is indeed not true. No need for a coup was mentioned, and while the Murdoch & Ailes News Network and The Washington Times did make some statements about “a Marine General openly criticizing the Obama Administration”, these proved to be something of a stretch upon closer reading of what exactly was said.
The hubbub seems to be over a statement made by Marine Corps Commandant James Amos at The Brookings Institution a few weeks ago:
I have a hard time believing that had we been there [in Iraq], and worked with the government, and worked with parliament, and worked with the minister of defense, the minister of interior, I don’t think we’d be in the same shape we’re in today.
After some pushback from an editor at War on the Rocks to clarify context, we had the opportunity to review a full transcript of the speech. We discovered that the remarks being pieced together in the various press accounts were in responses to questions from the audience, not the general’s prepared remarks, and often not in the context or order in which they were placed in the reports.
For one thing, the actual line from the transcript is more nuanced than that quoted in the press reports: “I have a hard time believing that had we been there and working with the government and working with parliament an working with the minister of defense, the minister of interior, and the governance and the rule of law, I mean, all of that stuff, that I don’t think we’d be in the shape we’re in today.” More importantly, rather than a planned commentary on the ISIS mess, it was in response to a question asking, “Are you concerned that the same thing [that has happened in Iraq] will happen to the Afghan security forces once we leave?”
Further, in the sentence right before the supposedly damning quote, Amos declared flatly that Iraq “didn’t need combat forces when we left. They’d already had, they were trained up.” So, Amos was actually saying exactly the opposite what Ollie North and others are claiming he did. The Commandant wasn’t criticizing the drawdown of American combat forces, but rather lamenting that the Iraqi leadership has failed so spectacularly at governance and arguing that American advisors at the ministerial level might have helped on that front.
Moreover, when asked directly about the ISIS situation much earlier in the dialogue, Amos described the pride his Marines had in what they’d accomplished in Iraq and added, “it was time for us to leave. We’d completed. We’d done what we said we were going to do. And actually we’d done what we were told to do.”
So, why the vitriol? I could say its an election year, and that keeping people angry is a great way to get more of your people out to the polls in an off election year… forgetting that the most outrageous lies can take on the appearance of truth if they are repeated long enough and often enough. We all have to eventually live in a world where such “truths” exist.
A web article that a friend enjoyed pointed to a baser and simpler explanation:
I’ve said for a decade that the media is neither good, nor bad. It is neither Left nor Right. It answers to one god: Sensationalism. Which leads to traffic. Which leads to revenue. There’s a reason why crazies who say stuff like “if you were on a ketogenic diet you would never get cancer” – because it follows the equation: Sensationalism -> Traffic -> Revenue.
Rinse and repeat.
Who needs truth when you can have dollars?