Thursday, September 09, 2004

The Ministry of Truth Speaks, and Promptly Re-Punctuates!

In case you haven't noticed, I am a big fan of Orwell. I recently re-read 1984, having not read it since the Reagan years (and I thought it apropos then!), which has had the result of both lodging the Eurythmics soundtrack from the movie version (starring John Hurt as Winston- fabulous movie, but only the version with that soundtrack, which has sadly-criminally!- been excised from the DVD), and of sending a horrible chill up my spine. The Patriot Act (Big Brother?), the Ministry of Love (Guantanamo?), the terror alerts (the constant low-level war with Eurasia/Eastasia), Hate Week (the convention in NY)... and, of course, the Ministry of Truth, where Winston spends his days writing and rewriting the documentation of "history."

Well the Ministry of Truth was busy this week!

Tuesday Vice Presient Dick Cheney decided that he'd had enough of this candy-ass, pinkocommie, pussy-footin' around. Who needs it! That's for pansies! And this V.P. is no wuss! He's not afraid to look war and the enemy in the face (unless the war is in Vietnam, in which case he has "other priorities"). Getting worked up on the campaign trail, the VP became the Prince of Panic, the CEO of spook, the Sultan of scare, and the Vice President in charge of scaring the pants off of anyone with a voter registration card. He laid it out at a campaign rally in Iowa like so:

"It's absolutely essential that eight weeks from today, on November 2nd, that we make the right choice, because if we make the wrong choice then the danger is that we'll get hit again. That we'll be hit in a way that will be devastating from the standpoint of the United States, and that we'll fall back into the pre-9/11 mind-set, if you will, that in fact these terrorist attacks are just criminal acts and that we're not really at war."

Huh. Well now. Besides the word "fearmongering," the other two things that immediately pop into my head are a) what, you got an in with Osama that you know this? Did they call you and say "make sure the ditsy one with the big ears stays in office, see, or the country gets it in the ribs"?; and b) Didn't the biggest attack on American soil happen while these guys were in office? Could/would Gore have prevented the attack? Seems doubtful. But at the same time, having it already happen seems like an odd foundation for claiming that only you can prevent it from happening again. Maybe they figure the odds are with them or something-- lightening striking twice and all of that (though it is a common misconception that the results of any game of chance of any affect whatsoever on the odds of the same game played again. In short, the odds that a coin will come up heads are exactly the same the second, tenth and seventeenth time, even if it has come up heads all the times in between). So with or without lucky rabbit's foot in John Ashcroft's pocket,
odds is odds. (And on another note-- lucky rabbits' feet? euww).

The comment in and of itself is interesting for the rather craven appeal to alarm, and was dissed mightily from the Democratic quarters, including Madeleine Albright, who called the comment "irresponsible," and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who said
"It is completely inappropriate, and dangerous, for the vice president to in effect threaten the American people, to be part of instilling fear into our country." It must have felt like it was getting a little hot over in the White House press room, because somebody over there seems to have realized that the Veep might have stepped over a line of some sort.

Bring on the Ministry of Truth! Quoting from the Washington Post:

In a change that highlighted the sensitivity of Cheney's statement, the White House yesterday released a revised version of the transcript of his remarks. The official transcript, posted on the White House Web site Tuesday afternoon and e-mailed to reporters, said: "(I)t's absolutely essential that eight weeks from today, on November 2nd, we make the right choice. Because if we make the wrong choice, then the danger is that we'll get hit again."

In a version released Tuesday to reporters traveling with Cheney, however, the period at the end of "hit again" was removed and replaced with a comma, which linked his blunter statement to his standard stump language expressing concern that future attacks would be treated as "just criminal acts, and that we're not really at war."

Yesterday, the transcript on the White House Web site was altered to make Cheney's remarks one sentence. Cheney's White House spokesman, Kevin Kellems, issued a statement saying that the first official transcript "contained a typographical error" and was an "interim draft." "These types of corrections are not uncommon in the transcription of verbal statements," Kellems said. "The final transcript accurately reflects the statement as delivered, which is clear when watching video of the event."

Okay, this is a little bit of punctuation-parsing, to be sure. And who knows if it matches the video of the performance (where, presumably, the Veep would state "Period." or "Comma." Since the WH folks seem to think it will be that clear in the video. Of course this raises the question of whether or not the video matters- did reporters get the comment from the live performance? If they got it from the transcript that was sent to reporters, as I suspect, then the first draft they got is the speech in a creepy, history controlling way. And, thus, rewriting the transcript (which sounds odd in an of itself-- doesn't a transcript imply no editing?) is an attempt to change the event, the script and 'history.') And, interestingly, the comma doesn't really change the fact that the VP is trying to scare people into voting for his party. He is not offering anything like a rationale, or a record of success, or anything else that might be worthy of voting on: he's just trying to make people pee their pants in fear and dread. This is the national election equivalent to your mother telling you that Santa's elves are watching you, and if you don't behave and do what she says, you're not getting jack for Christmas. It's a threat-- but unless all those conspiracy theories out there are right (you know, Lee Harvey Oswald didn't act alone, he was accompanied by someone from the Saudi royal family, who then slipped Ngo Dinh Diem an exploding cigar, which explains why people buy Hummers), it looks a bit like an empty threat. Like your mother and the Christmas presents. Sure the elves are watching. Hell, Santa is watching. Santa's wagging her finger at you and looks just like your mom. But come Christmas she will be helpless to prevent herself from getting you those Christmas presents. In the same way that I assume Cheney has no control over whether or not there will be an attack if Kerry wins. So it's an empty threat. Except your mom did it out of love (and from your having stretched her patience beyond the limit.) Cheney, who according to the Weekly World News, best.tabloid.ever., is a robot, does not do this from love. Like the Tinman in the Wizard of Oz, I'm sure he wishes he had a heart. Apparently it grieves him so much that he has to curse everyone out.

Oh yes, and the Batboy is going to be knighted. It's almost as weird as the whole Reverand Moon gets crowned in Congress as the grand poobah and the messiah and whatever the hell other titles he bought. Except that the Reverand Moon thing really happened. No shit.

But back to Orwell:

"For the moment he had shut his ears to the remoter noises and was listening to the stuff that streamed out of the telescreen. It appeared that there had even been demonstrations to thank Big Brother for raising the chocolate ration to twenty grammes a week. And only yesterday, he reflected, it had been announced that the ration was to be reduced to twenty grammes a week. Was it possible that they could swallow that, after only twenty-four hours? Yes, they swallowed it."


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