Monday, March 28, 2016

Did we know we were lying? Of course we did.

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Mug shot of Jeffrey Dahmer taken immediately after his 1991 arrest by the Milwaukee Police Department

by Gaius Publius

Short and impossibly ugly. To lack a conscience is to lack any inner sense of what's right and wrong. In extreme situations, the medical condition is described as psychopathy or sociopathy. Jeffrey Dahmer (pictured above) was conscienceless. He trapped, killed and ate people without remorse. He caused great harm because it pleased him to do so.

Jeffrey Dahmer killed 17 men and boys. Richard Nixon, John Ehrlichman and the team around them did much worse. Ehrlichman and Nixon destroyed the lives of more than two generations of Americans, of millions, because it gave them a political advantage to do so.

Dan Baum, in a recent article about the politics of drug prohibition for Harpers, interviewed top Nixon aide John Ehrlichman. He quotes Ehrlichman as telling him this (my emphasis):
“You want to know what this [the war on drugs] was really all about? ... The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”
Did we know we were lying? Of course we did.

Here's how that part of the conversation ended:
I must have looked shocked. Ehrlichman just shrugged. Then he looked at his watch, handed me a signed copy of his steamy spy novel, The Company, and led me to the door.
This is a master example of the "say anything, do anything to win" mentality. It's conscienceless. And when its actions do this much damage, it goes by an even worse name. Did Jeffrey Dahmer do more damage than John Ehrlichman? A number equivalent to Dahmer's victims could fit in your living room. A number equivalent to Ehrlichman's would need a major city to hold them.

Conscienceless. At least Dahmer looked at his victims. Ehrlichman may never have met even one of his.

I know this is not an all-or-nothing measurement, that there are degrees. But still, when I see this behavior — repeated and apparently conscienceless lying to gain political advantage and advancement — it frightens me. I don't know where the limits are. I see more of that today, this electoral season, than I want to.

Did we know we were lying? Of course we did.

Blue America has endorsed Bernie Sanders for president. He's had a very good run recently, but he still needs a major push.
Seems so to me. And thanks!

GP
  

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3 Comments:

At 11:30 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"when you gaze long into the abyss. The abyss gazes also into you."
Friedrich Nietzsche

That one recoils at this, and finds it unfathomable, is the sign that one is still a human being. The banality of evil-the blank look on Dahmer's face; the
"Ehrlichman just shrugged. Then he looked at his watch," - makes it seem mysterious and impenetrable. But I think it is really a cheap trick. Turning off one's humanity is not an achievement; it's a weakness. And conscienceless people have this one total flaw: they have no idea how they look to normal people; they have to fake it. This can become their downfall.
ekstase

 
At 6:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

When I read about former officials admitting to acts of profound evil, I have to sit back in awe of just how thoroughly these psychotic criminals have abdicated their humanity. That Ehrlichman is only one of many to have done so is nearly a rebuke of the entire American experiment.

Our system of laws is not strong enough to bring them to justice. Neither of our dominant political parties can bring themselves to even *call* for justice. It would be too divisive, or too expensive, or too controversial to enforce our laws, so we just don't. And on it goes until the whole edifice of law becomes a joke...which brings us here in 2016, wondering if Trump will be our next president.

The ruling class itself has nurtured the neo-fascist movement that's now being broadcast non-stop to every home in America, and they are constitutionally incapable of fighting it because they have for so long embraced both its ideology and its methods.

 
At 7:10 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

To the above... very nicely stated. But if you really step back, you'll see that our "system of laws" is not really INTENDED to codify justice or even right vs. wrong. It is mostly just a system that is designed to keep the rich and powerful whole while it is indifferent, at best, to the plight of everyone else. The façade used to be somewhat convincing as it looked like the system was designed to provide for and enforce justice for all... but all you have to do is be objective... and you'll see I'm right here.

Everyone who is born somewhere else and comes here to build a better life knows this --- they have to hide from the "law" to maintain just the minimum of a lifestyle here. Everyone born with more melanin than herr drumpf or hillbillary knows this. Everyone born poor or born in the wrong part of the country knows this. It hit home with me when I was arrested and beaten during a 1969 viet nam war protest where the only violence was done by the "system of laws". It was laid bare when I was detained and shunted to a far-off "free speech zone" surrounded by razor-wire fencing and heavily armed jackboots during a bush-cheney war/torture orgy of celebration disguised as a campaign rally.

EVERYONE should have known at the time Nixon created his war on his 70M enemies (war on drugs) that it was simply their pretense as they went about keeping themselves whole at the expense of those 70M who didn't matter at all to them.

And this author misses by orders of magnitude his allegory. The victims (and their families) of Nixon/erlichmann's "system of laws" now number well into 9 figures. You'd need a top-7 sized NATION to hold them all.

I think it was Eddie Izzard who put the numbers into perspective. You can actually conceive of 17 victims of one man's evil... when it comes to the numbers attributed to hitler, pol pot, stalin, amin et al (several million each), you have no ability to process that kind of number... so you just have a sort of admiration for their ability to conduct that much evil.

When you consider that the American right has them all beat (well, maybe except stalin) by a wide margin... it's no wonder that we just can't process that concept at all.

Probably known to the pluto-oligarchy... which is why they bother less every day to keep it all under covers... thus the admissions of erlichmann (and why Rumsfeld, cheney and bush have admitted to torture and war crimes) -- who is going to do anything about any of it? nobody. and they all know it.

 

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