Remember Superman’s iconic saying? “Truth, Justice and the American Way.”
The Superman character emerged in a time of innocence in the United States when there was a genuine belief that the “American Way” was understood as a commitment to truth, equal justice under the law and fighting for the little guy. Boy, were we naive.
We are now living in an age where lies are presented as “truth” and anyone who dares to speak out against those lies is accused of being either a racist or transphobic or pro-Putin. In short, a conspiracy theorist. I started thinking about this in depth in the wake of Tucker Carlson’s revelations this week about the so-called January 6th Insurrection. Before Carlson showed the actual video footage from the Capitol, the world, not just the American public, were presented with a skillfully crafted flood of propaganda that portrayed Trump supporters as violent racists who wantonly killed Capitol Hill police. That is a lie. Not a single police officer of any kind was killed by Trump supporters on January 6. Not one. Yet high ranking U.S. Government officials, such as the despicable Attorney General, Merrick Garland, continue to repeat that falsehood and no one in the mainstream media is rebutting his mendacity.
But it is not just January 6. The United States government and many of its citizens are embracing a tsunami of lies. Here are a few:
- The economy is doing swell and inflation is under control.
- Men can have babies.
- White racists represent the greatest threat to American security.
- Russia is a communist, authoritarian state.
- Wearing masks and taking vaccines prevents you from catching COVID.
- Russia meddled in the 2016 election and ensured Donald Trump’s victory.
- Russia’s military is weak and performing poorly on the ground in Ukraine.
- Ukraine’s President Zelensky is on par with Winston Churchill.
- The United States has the greatest, most powerful military in the world.
When you are lying to yourself about yourself you endanger yourself. Let’s say you are five foot eight and weigh 260 pounds. Instead of admitting you are a fat slob and in danger of becoming a diabetic, you continue to eat sugar saturated food and insist you are healthy. It does not matter what you believe about yourself, biology and medical facts will catch up to you and you are not likely to have a long life.
The same principle about the adverse consequences of self-delusion apply to nation states. America, in particular, is at a precarious moment in its history and is behaving like a cocaine addict who also loves an occasional hit of fentanyl. The United States has not yet overdosed, but it is only a matter of time before its continued excesses — economically, socially and militarily — will produce a fatal crisis.
Consider the Biden Administration’s fanatical support for Ukraine. Ukraine is one of the most corrupt nation’s on earth but the Biden team, with media help, continue to portray it as a flourishing democracy. I have heard from a friend who has seen some of the CIA briefings on Ukraine that the U.S. intelligence community is insisting that Russia is running out of weapons and its troops are performing poorly. The CIA said it, so it must be true. Right?
Wrong! The war in Ukraine has exposed the uncomfortable and dangerous truth that America has lost its ability to mass produce in a timely manner artillery shells, cruise missiles and other critical military equipment. While the CIA and the Western media continue to insist that Russia is running out of rockets and missiles, Russia continues to fire an average of 20,000 artillery rounds a day (compared to only 3 to 5 thousand by Ukraine).
I understand the need to lie to the public about military plans and tactics and to protect confidential intelligence sources. But that is not what is going on now. This is different than the lies told to the American public about the war in Vietnam as it raged. At least back then there were intelligence officers in the CIA and the military who reported the truth about the enormous size of the Viet Cong guerrillas and the effectiveness of the North Vietnamese military. The politicians — Johnson and Nixon in particular — continued to lie but they faced a skeptical, and at times hostile, press. There at least was a healthy debate in the United States, although the U.S. Government went to great lengths to smear and defame anyone who insisted the war in Vietnam was wrong.
We do not have that now. The only person on the mainstream media shows speaking out about these lies is Tucker Carlson. And he is being attacked by Democrat and Republican leaders. How dare he call bullshit on bullshit?
The propaganda, unfortunately, is persuading a large number of Americans that Russia and China and Iran and North Korea are our enemies and must be stopped and, most disturbing, that we have the military means to do so. I was chatting with a retired Army NCO the other day. This man held a high position in the Defense Intelligence Agency after retiring from the Army. He told me, “the Russian army is terrible and they are losing.” When I tried to explain why that was not true by offering some facts that are in the public domain, he cut off the conversation and refused to discuss it anymore. I wish I could say this was an isolated incident but it is not.
I suppose it is like having a friend who is addicted to narcotics or alcohol and is headed towards a tragic end. Logic and reason do not work. That person or that country has to hit rock bottom and come to the realization that a change is needed.
The news this week that China is brokering a rapprochement between Iran and Saudi Arabia is a watershed moment of America’s fading influence in the Middle East and the emergence of a new international order that will be outside of its control. The United States, emerging from World War II virtually unscathed, grew accustomed to setting the international agenda and coercing other nations to conform to our will. Those days are over and most Americans do not comprehend the import of these changes.
National leaders lying to themselves and their subjects is not new. Romania’s longtime communist dictator, Nicolae Ceaușescu, learned the hard way. So too did Adolf Hitler and Saddam Hussein and Ngo Diem. America is still in the throes of the Superman myth. We still believe we can leap tall buildings in a single bound. However, NASA can no longer put together a space ship that reliably and safely transports U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station. We need the Russians or Elon Musk to do that.
When I was a 14 year old teenager (that was more than 50 years ago) I read William Shirer’s, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. It made a lasting impression; especially the portion of the book describing The Final Solution. I remember asking myself why the people of Germany did not see the threat the NAZI system presented to them and the world. Why didn’t they do something to stop it? Now, I think I understand. The German people were deluged with lies and, rather than push back and demand truth, succumbed to those lies. I fear that same dynamic is at play now in the United States and in Europe. At some point, the lies will come crashing down.