Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Deconstructing David Brooks

Billmon hit this one out of the park so I stole the entire post!
Wittingly or unwittingly, David Brooks really captures the Orwellian spirit of the neocon approach to history. This is him on the News Hour last Friday, trying out the he-who-controls-the-past-controls-the-future gambit:

DAVID BROOKS: If you look at the jihadists, they had a victory in '79 by pushing the Soviets out of Afghanistan. They pushed the U.S. out of Lebanon. The pushed the Israelis out of Gaza and out of Lebanon. They're probably pushing the U.S. out of Iraq. They are on the march.

It's not that the things Brooks says are completely untrue (except for the '79 date, which is when the Soviets invaded Afghanistan, not when they left.) It's that each of them contradicts -- some blatantly; others more subtly -- both the actual context of those events and the official party line at the time, as expounded by official sources and regurgitated in the paper Brooks works for.

Back in the day, for example, the fighters who forced the Soviets out of Afghanistan were known as the mujadeen, not the jihadis, and they were struggling to free their country from communist oppression -- not waging a holy war to recreate the Islamic Caliphate.

At the the time of Ronald Reagan's ill-fated expedition to Lebanon, the American people were told it was a temporary peacekeeping mission, not an attempt to establish a permanent U.S. military presence in the country -- the kind of position that America might "get pushed out of." And when we left, we were told it was a "phased redeployment offshore," not a retreat in the face of the Islamist hordes.

Israel's withdrawals from Gaza and Lebanon? Why, those were voluntary gestures towards peace -- or, alternatively, bold unilateral measures to extricate the Jewish state from unwinnable situations. But now we're told the Israelis didn't jump, they were pushed.

The same goes for Iraq, where the complex horrors of a civil war within a civil war are boiled down to an effort to "push" the United States out of a country it supposedly came to liberate, and where it still officially claims it will only remain "as long as necessary, and not one day longer."

Now these errors in the official record have all been rectified.

Finally, Brooks applies the fear stimulus (in a gentle way, admittedly, but then this is PBS.) He warns us that "they" (meaning, presumably, the armies of jihad) are "on the march" -- neatly conflating in one plural pronoun Shi'a and Sunni, religious and secular, Lebanese politician and Palestinian nationalist and Iraqi insurgent and Al Qaeda terrorist. They're all on the march, like the enemy storm trooper in an Ingsoc propaganda poster:

It had no caption, and represented simply the monstrous figure of a Eurasian soldier, three or four metres high, striding forward with expressionless Mongolian face and enormous boots, a submachine gun pointed from his hip. From whatever angle you looked at the poster, the muzzle of the gun, magnified by the foreshortening, seemed to be pointed straight at you.

This is commentary only in the same sense that a front-page editorial in People's Daily on the counterrevolutionary capitalist conspiracy, circa 1965, counts as commentary. It does demonstrate, however, the neocon skill at constructing grand meta-narratives out of carefully selected pieces of reality, glued together with lies, distortions and apocalyptic rhetoric.

Brooks is actually one of the most effective practioners of the art because he's usually so low-key about it. He doesn't rant -- or rather he does, but typically in a mild-mannered, reasonable tone of voice, without the piercing shrieks and flying specks of spit found on the talk radio shows or the right-wing extremist blogs. Think of it as the talking head show approach to doublethink.

That doesn't, however, make it less dangerous -- just the opposite, in fact. When an establishment drone like David Brooks starts sounding like the speaker at a five-minute hate, but on Quaaludes, it shows that the neocon version of Minitrue is pulling out all the stops.
Posted by billmon at 12:32 PM


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