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The Big Answer


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Fooling America: How Washington Insiders Twist the Truth and Manufacture the Conventional Wisdom

a book by Robert Parry

(our site's book review)

Parry looks at the artificial and superficial nature of CW (conventional wisdom), the opinions of the “in” group in the nation’s capital—the Washington insiders. This insider phenomenon seems like an extension of the exclusive high school cliques we all noticed in our teen years—most of us from the outside. Many of us were glad to be outsiders, since we thought of the insiders as phonies. But there were many who wanted in and envied the insiders. They felt rejected. The Colorado high school shootings in 1999 seem to have come out of such a context. It makes one wonder why anyone would want to be around others who don’t like them. Obviously something was terribly amiss in the upbringings of kids who thought that being “in” or noticed was something to kill for.

We need to be sceptical of talk show pundits and always check 'where the money comes from' and note that their 'conventional wisdom' often is light on wisdom but heavy on lies or at least 'truthiness'
We need to be sceptical of talk show pundits and always check 'where the money comes from' and note that their 'conventional wisdom' often is light on wisdom but heavy on lies or at least 'truthiness'

This brings up the point: Is being “in” in Washington “something to kill for”? If one wants a to do the talk-show circuit, get a juicy boost for one’s resumé, or get prominent media coverage, one needs to be “in.” Outsiders get no press, no party invitations, and no ego-boosting reputations as movers and shakers.

CW is the enforcement mechanism for Washington’s passion for conformity—the conformists are IN and invited to the IN parties, while nonconformists who cared about truth were OUT and weren't invited to the parties
CW is the enforcement mechanism for Washington’s passion for conformity—the conformists are IN and invited to the IN parties, while nonconformists who cared about truth were OUT and weren't invited to the parties

Parry minces no words on the nature of CW: It’s: “. . . the enforcement mechanism for the city’s passion for conformity.” Erich Fromm (The Sane Society), Putney and Putney (The Adjusted American: Normal Neurosis in the Individual and Society), Robert Lindner (Must You Conform?), or David Riesman (The Lonely Crowd) would have a field day dissecting such a mechanism.

It's not so much whether or not a particular morsel of CW is right or not, but whether those insiders subscribing to it have thoroughly thought it through and intellectually are in sinc with it, or whether they subscribe to it because it's a popular insider conceptualization that is "in" and they wish to be seen as an insider whose beliefs and ideas are "in" and not "out." We fear the latter is way too often the case. Sheep are seen as "in" by other sheep when they graze on the same grass as the others, and "out" otherwise.

Sheep: the trouble with following the herd is stepping in what they leave behind—look close and see some of it lying around
Sheep: the trouble with following the herd is stepping in what they leave behind—look close and see some of it lying around

“Guided by the CW’s judgment on what is news, the Washington press corps managed to miss nearly every major scandal of the 1980s—and the American people will be paying for many of those oversights for decades.” Where were they during the S&L crisis? Where were the warnings of investigative journalists? The fact is, there’s a conflict of interest operating here. The reporters are better paid now, and tend to hobnob with the policy makers they’re allegedly monitoring. Parry says this was mostly Reagan’s doing—he “housebroke” them. And now we have Trump threatening the media with lawsuits and bodily harm so you can predict how much investigative journalism they'll be doing on Trump! What happened to freedom of the press? It's as gone as bell-bottom pants.

Bellbottom pants
Bellbottom pants


The mainstream press mostly just prints administration press releases; the actual investigative journalism going on died in the 1980s as the shadow government insisted on the press conforming to the party line
The mainstream press mostly just prints administration press releases; the actual investigative journalism going on died in the 1980s as the shadow government insisted on the press conforming to the party line


The only certain, irrefutable, perpetual and insidious bias in reporting comes from the neocon elites themselves, which make an all-out effort to stay covert and invisible to the unsuspecting citizen
The only certain, irrefutable, perpetual and insidious bias in reporting comes from the neocon elites themselves, which make an all-out effort to stay covert and invisible to the unsuspecting citizen

He also asks, rhetorically, Where is the marketplace of ideas that permits free and open debate to flourish? Such debate should empower the best ideas to surface, for the good of the nation. “Instead, today’s Washington has become home to a kind of information cartel, where only CW-approved ideas and information reach the general public with any frequency.” Good investigative journalism is seen as too costly to run and too risky as well—due to libel suits. Also, America’s foreign competitors are investing heavily in Washington, hiring some of the city’s most respected names as lawyers and lobbyists.

Investigative journalism
Investigative journalism

Worst of all, Parry notes that there’s no guarantee that the U.S. will use its military power wisely or even within the tenets of the U.N. Charter. “A trivialized absorption with the latest CW, mixed with the cynical application of advertising skills, could make America a dangerous home for these massively destructive weapons. . . . The only meaningful check on possible abuse of America’s military might in this ‘unipolar world’ is the sophistication and vibrancy of the nation’s democratic institutions. Issues as grave as war and peace demand a thorough debate by a population given as much relevant information as possible, not a country governed by a tyranny of the conventional wisdom, not an opinion elite satisfied with viewing enemies as comic-book villains.” (The latter is a slam at Reagan's USSR-targeted phrase "evil empire", of course. Especially ironic here is the obvious but embarrassing fact that the U.S. has itself become—since 2003—the evil empire it used to call the U.S.S.R.) Add this Parry-think to the wisdom of the Tofflers’ War and Anti-War, and you get a clear feeling that the war and peace apparatus, policies, and mechanisms and the mechanisms of public debate, decision-making and opinion-making all need revamping, housecleaning and rethinking.

We don't need a CW-obsessed opinion elite satisfied with viewing enemies as comic-book villains
We don't need a CW-obsessed opinion elite satisfied with viewing enemies as comic-book villains

Unlike the CW-obsessed mainstream press, the alternate press is not run by CW but by a search for truth. See Get Up, Stand Up: Uniting Populists, Energizing the Defeated, and Battling the Corporate Elite.

For a deeper look at the “in” group in the nation’s capital—the Washington insiders—see: Shadow Elite: How the World's New Power Brokers Undermine Democracy, Government, and the Free Market and Unaccountable: How Elite Power Brokers Corrupt our Finances, Freedom, and Security.