Gene Lyons -- Posted on Wednesday, July 20, 2005
For years, the Republican media machine has dominated national politics.
Through a combination of ideological certitude, message discipline and bullying, the right often succeeds in defining issues its way. Outfits like FOX News, The Washington Times and The Wall Street Journal editorial page as well as Rush Limbaugh and his cohorts serve as propaganda organs of the Republican National Committee. Democrats have no equivalent apparatus. Indeed, one of the GOP’s most useful fictions is "liberal bias," the idea that bigcity newspapers and TV networks pick on poor, beleaguered Republicans.
But nobody touted Iraq’s imaginary weapons of mass destruction harder than The New York Times and The Washington Post. With Republicans controlling the White House and both houses of Congress, GOP agitprop, as Marxists called it, has grown increasingly brazen. As New York Times columnist Paul Krugman puts it, "We’re living in a country in which there is no longer such a thing as nonpolitical truth. ... [T] here are now few, if any, limits to what conservative politicians can get away with: The faithful will follow the twists and turns of the party line with a loyalty that would have pleased the Comintern."
Krugman must be reading my e-mail. What’s got the faithful upset is the Wilson/Plame leaks investigation. The possibility that the White House falsely denied that Bush insider Karl Rove and Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby "outed" a covert CIA agent in an attempt to hurt her husband, former Ambassador Joe Wilson, has driven True Believers to near-hysteria.
Those writing the e-mail sound like the sheep in George Orwell’s "Animal Farm," chanting mindless slogans to drown out challenges to the party line. Expletives deleted, here’s a typical example: "You are calling political hack Joe Wilson a whistleblower. Joe Wilson is a proven liar.... His wife arranged for him to go to Niger to drink sweet tea. Vice President Dick Chenny [sic] did not authorize the trip. Neither did [CIA director] George Tenet. Mr. Wilson lied about those facts." The rest of the party line goes like this: Rove and Libby were warning reporters against false stories. Anyhow, Wilson’s wife, Valerie Plame, wasn’t really a covert agent working on WMD, but a nobody bureaucrat.
Or if she was a spy, Rove didn’t actually say her name. Besides, the Brits say Wilson was wrong, that there was plenty of evidence that Iraq tried to buy African uranium, and anybody who says different is pro-terrorist. President Bush rules!
Why are the sheep agitated? Basically, I believe, for the same reasons White House operatives attacked Wilson to begin with: They’d concocted a nuclear threat to scare Americans into supporting a war against Iraq that Bush’s neoconservative supporters had planned for other reasons and they were afraid the public would figure it out. They attacked Wilson’s wife to punish him for telling the truth. To hold otherwise requires what Orwell called "doublethink": believing simultaneously in two contradictory facts. That evidence for Saddam Hussein’s nukes was powerful, for example, although the Bush administration’s own Iraq Survey Group, after searching everywhere and interviewing arrested Iraqi scientists, concluded that no nuclear weapons program existed there after 1991; therefore, no attempts to buy uranium. It’s this simple: Wilson was right, Bush was wrong. All the rest is rubbish. GOP robo-pundits were everywhere last week saying that Wilson lied about Cheney authorizing Wilson’s trip—Newt Gingrich, Rush Limbaugh and the allegedly thoughtful New York Times columnist, David Brooks. But Wilson never said that. Here’s the relevant passage from his original whistle-blowing article:" In February 2002, I was informed by officials at the Central Intelligence Agency that Vice President Dick Cheney’s office had questions about a particular intelligence report.... The agency officials asked if I would travel to Niger to check out the story so they could provide a response to the vice president’s office.
" Who sent him?" Agency officials. " Did his wife, the secret agent," authorize" the trip, as Rove sneered to reporters? Not that it matters, but no. Her bosses did. "She was not in a position to send Joe Wilson anywhere except to bed without his supper," Larry Johnson, a former CIA colleague, told the Los Angeles Times. Sometimes even the most brazen agitprop can’t stand against reality. Under Communist rule, Moscow had two newspapers. The standard joke was that "There is no Pravda in Izvestia, and there is no Izvestia in Pravda" (" There is no Truth in News, and there is no News in Truth. ")
No, Americans aren’t there yet, but the Wilson/Plame affair is pushing them in that direction.