The Continuous Lie

Yesterday on the plane I watched “The Post,” about the publication of “The Pentagon Papers,” secured by heroic whistle blower Daniel Ellsberg. They were first published by The Washington Post. The movie as a piece of filmmaking is a bouquet of cliches, save for performances by two of the great TV actors of our time: Bob Odenkirk and Matthew Rhys. I had the weirdest feeling watching it. It was the sensation of reverse sci-fi, as if the past, with its innocence and dawning awareness of continuous political lies, was unreal and magical, had never been, could never have been, although I had lived through it with the amazement and excitement of the people depicted in the film. “The Pentagon Papers” reported findings of a study commissioned by Robert Macnamara. Why would you want to compile data on the corruption and deceit behind US involvement in the Vietnam War, policies you promoted? Why did the Nazis meticulously record their atrocities? We now live in a fog of belief in the terrible and the hopeless. We live in Nixon’s mind. Nixon is Trump. Trump is Nixon. Really, they are the same inconceivably unhappy and misery-generating machine. From the perspective of now, the release of “The Pentagon Papers,” the Watergate findings, the disclosure of massive Cold War deceit  in the books of John Le Carre, swaddled in the rueful gloom of Graham Greene, all of this looks like pastoral fantasy and like a stage of young adult understanding we can never recapture. “The Pentagon Papers” revealed that 70% of US policy in Vietnam was enacted to avoid the “humiliation” of having taken the wrong turn. It was about the anxiety of not asking for directions. In the film, when Daniel Ellsberg is asked why he is risking jail, he says, “Wouldn’t you be willing to go to jail to end the war in Vietnam?” Justice Black, in his 6 to 3 Supreme Court vote in favor of publishing “The Pentagon Papers,” stated the press exists to serve the governed, not the governors. In the 1970s, people believed a moral society was possible and the revelations would produce reform. The gray-goo morass of our social reality is deepened by the day, the hour, the second by Assange and company, by psychographics, by fake news, by colossal amounts of money spent to keep people stupid, truly uneducated. Dumb is good. Dumb is better than greed to keep people mean. Mean enough to feel good about hurting children.

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