My late father was a US army officer in London during World War II and I remember best his stories of the stern old air raid wardens of the day. According to dad’s stories their power was absolute. If an air raid warden told you to stub out that cigarette, you did it, no questions asked, lest an eagle-eyed German aircrew from on high blow up the whole neighborhood. If he told you to draw that shade, you drew it. Bottom line was, if the air raid warden told you to sh*t, you asked what color. These wardens were a crusty old lot, past prime military age, to free the younger men up for the front. They were effective because the British people of the day believed in something called truth. One example of truth was that the Germans were the enemy who needed to be defeated. There was no equivocation so they all pulled together.
How come we don’t have our own version of air raid warden to help us out in this time of corona panic? Put that mask on, you can hear the old guy shouting. And If that didn’t work, he might take the scofflaw off by the scruff of the neck off to the local hooscow.
But, in order for the air raid warden to wield authority, the people would have to believe in something. Like the Brits of WW II, they would have to have a shared understanding called truth. No, I’m not talking about the kind of truth that philosophers deal in, like how many angels can dance on the head of a nuclear bomb. No, I mean a plainer, more practical concept of truth; like can you believe our president? The congress? How about the MSM? Surely you believe the MSM? Right? But, don’t forget that most of the stuff the networks carry comes from right- wing or left- wing think-tanks. Sometimes it seems like an original thought is a thing of the past. Truth, today, is manufactured in the bowels of the corporations. Some call it the deep state.
Take Russia-gate. Let’s face it, all this spy stuff is pretty complicated. If the CIA reports that Russia has hacked our election system then it must be true. Right? But this stuff is so involved that you would have to be an idiot savant in computer science to understand (and gain access to) America’s most closely guarded secrets. Now, if you’re not an idiot savant, you’ll have to take the word of others, like the guys down at the CIA. But the CIA lied us through Vietnam, to the tune 55,000 lives. For good measure, they lied us through Central America, Chile and all kinds of places. See, the way it works is a character like John Brennan (former Director for the CIA) whispers stuff into somebody like Rachel Maddow’s ear over at MSNBC. Rachel then shouts it to her audience around the country. Never-you-mind that John Brennan in a proven perjurer.
So, who are you supposed to believe? You could examine the character of the politicians themselves, for one clue. Hillary Clinton, for example, slimed a United States Army Officer by calling her a Russian agent, thereby, lowering the political discourse in this country to that of a banana republic. And Ms. Clinton didn’t feel the need to prove such an assertion. She seldom does. In this day and age of neoliberalism and the MSM you don’t have to prove anything. Another thing – we all knew in our hearts that Hillary’s husband, Bill, was a career sexual criminal. The evidence was clear. But all that Hillary had to do was call in power writers like Maureen Dowd and Gloria Steinem to sing Bill’s praises. Problem solved.
And what about her arch enemy, Donald Trump? Sadly, Donald has told more lies and advanced more distortions, than even Hillary.
They say some citizens, feeling adrift in the midst of all these lies, found solace in television. Ellen became a favorite, where the citizens learned that George Bush, killer of hundreds of thousands of people in Iraq, had morphed into a kindly old gaffer who creates art work all day and wouldn’t hurt a fly. The propaganda machine had become an inescapable bubble.
The trouble with all this is that you run the risk of throwing the baby out with the bath water. So, don’t be surprised if, this very night, a couple of hundred college kids are descending on the bars of Tuscaloosa to frolic in dangerously enclosed spaces without benefit of a mask. But why don’t they listen to CNN?
That’s an easy one. They don’t believe CNN.
Michael Nolan’s feature and opinion pieces have appeared in Dissident Voice, The Vermont Guardian, Common Dreams, Antiwar.com, and many more. His fiction has appeared in The Charles River Review and The Galway Review. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.