THE RADIOACTIVE LIFE OF BULLSHIT
I was in Springfield, Illinois (my state capitol) last weekend, and while on an “Historical Sites” bus our lovely and engaging driver pointed out many of the landmarks for us. Among them was the Oak Ridge Cemetery, which contains Abraham Lincoln’s massive tomb. Also in that cemetery are several war memorials, among which fly several flags in a familiar configuration. The highest is the U.S. flag; on an adjacent pole, at slightly lower elevation, is the Illinois flag; and then, as one is likely to find at any U.S. war memorial, the white on black ‘POW/MIA’ flag.
The bus took us back into downtown Springfield, where my daughter and I alighted at the Illinois State Museum on the deserted Capitol Grounds. After an hour or so at the museum, we boarded the Historical Sites bus again to return to our hotel. Along the way, not far from the grounds, was another building whose purpose I can’t recall. I distinctly remember, though, that in front of the building was a memorial dedicated to the Spanish/American War. Carved in giant capital letters across the base of the stone monument was the slogan REMEMBER THE MAINE.
When our corporate media give us images intended to show our enemies (declared and assumed, past and present) in negative light, they invariably will show us the audacity and ubiquity of those enemies’ internal propaganda. Oh, how shamelessly and boldly they lie to their own citizens! My, look at those parades, with all the bright colors and the militant pomp! We in the U.S., of course, are assumed to be above all that. We as citizens are supposed to be smarter and more ethical than all those commie and fascist dupes who lined the streets cheering on their beloved mass murderers and tyrants.
As Rick Perlstein clearly illustrates in this article, we are no smarter or more moral than the citizens of our purported enemies. We fall for the same bullshit, and we do so while telling ourselves how much better, smarter, and more ‘free’ we are. We buy the blatant lies– such as those that greased the flesh-mangling wheels of supplanting Spain as a regional imperial power*, or those that facilitated the extension of the Vietnam War and the subsequent warmongering revisionism of that war– and then we march off to kill the designated foreign brown people (or just sit idly and ‘support the troops’ while our ‘all-volunteer’ professional military does all the work). We gobble down the bullshit and vote for lying politicians who sell us patently false morality and piety or shiny populist rhetoric and promise us we can all be free if we let the magical market have its way, and then we curse them all as hopelessly corrupt when the nectar and ambrosia they promised us turns out to be– surprise!!– the same old bullshit, again and again.
*If you Google the phrase ‘remember the maine’ you’ll find that most sources, including the more ‘official’ ones like the Smithsonian, still ‘teach the controversy.’ In other words, they still leave intact at least a strong possibility that the blatant lying and propaganda that facilitated the imperial usurpation might actually have been true. This is not due to ethical even-handedness; it is more likely that these sources– especially the ‘official’ ones– don’t want to be on the record taking the position that our government has ever knowingly lied the nation into war. (Regarding the explosion of the USS Maine, what actually destroyed the ship is less important than what the ship’s captain and his initial investigation originally asserted happened, and how that assertion was steamrolled and ridiculed in favor of the media inventions that facilitated public support for war. In other words, the facts available at the time were deliberately misrepresented to justify purposeful military action.)