Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Shitting Yourself Silly

There's a line in the Vonnegut book Player Piano about how everyone's faking it. And that everyone's bullshitting and scared, and that you shouldn't let yourself be bullshitted by them, because they're more scared than you are. And if that book wasn't in my bedroom where my wife's sleeping, I'd provide you with that actual quote. And while I don't completely agree with it, it's largely true. Almost everyone is faking it. Almost everyone is a phony, who is scared of being discovered as being the fraud that they know themselves to be. Not me, of course. I'm the real deal. As are you, or you wouldn't be here at my blog. But it's true for all the rest of them, or they'd be here with us too.

And I was thinking about that while reading Atrios quoting a Washington Post article on the outing of Valerie Plame (or as she should be called, Valerie Wilson). It doesn't say it in the article, but in 2003, the Whitehouse was shitting itself over the Joe Wilson thing. That's what happened. That's why they outed our spy. Not necessarily for revenge, as Wilson and others have theorized. But because they were desperate to destroy his public integrity, just as they do with everyone else who speaks out against them.

They did it with Richard Clarke. They did it with Paul O'Neill. And there was that Department of Religion guy who's name I can't remember, who eventually recanted what he had said, for this very reason. And there would have been countless more, but the Rove people are good at making sure there aren't countless more.

But from their perspective, it's not necessarily about "punishing" people. That's not how they see it. They see the world as this horrible, dangerous place, and this is just how things are done. You discredit your attackers. You destroy them. Utterly and completely. Because they think that that's what their attackers will do to them. But they don't do it because they're ruthless, per se. They do it because they're dimwitted cowards who act on a gut reflex. And there's nothing scarier than a wounded animal, or a coward who's acting on gut reflex. Chuck Norris, I'm not scared of, because he knows when to use his power and he'd have no reason to use it against me. But Don Knotts with a baseball bat can do some real damage. And in the case of Joe Wilson and his NY Times op/ed, they were shitting themselves silly.

They freaked. This wasn't some cool, coordinated attack against Wilson. It was well-done and professional, but it was complete panic mode. The only reason they could do it so well is because it's reflex with these people. Because that's what fighting skills are all about. You train yourself so well that fighting becomes a reflex. You don't think about kung-fu, you just do it. Someone attacks you, and before either of you know it, your opponent is on the floor. And if you don't know how to fight that well, then you don't know how to fight. And that's how it is with these people, except they were never taught the discipline needed to know when not to use their attacks.

The Reflex

Let me tell you about reflexes. I've got them. I'm fast as a whip. I'm slightly clumsy (not badly so), but slightly; but when I drop things, I almost always catch them. I have good reflexes. So the other day, I was at the grocery store and was reaching for a frozen dinner. But when I grabbed one, it knocked down the one next to it. And without thinking, I reached out to grab it. But had I been thinking, I would have noticed that the falling dinner was on the other side of the next glass door. But I didn't notice. So I reached out to grab it and just punched the shit out of the glass door. Thank god they're strong, or I would have broken it. And my hand totally hurt. Because I really reached out fast. And had that glass door not been there, I would have caught the falling dinner. But it was there, so I couldn't. It fell to the bottom of the freezer, and I picked it up with my hurt hand. But it wasn't my fault. It was all reflex.

And that's exactly what happened with the whole Plame thing. They weren't specifically trying to "out" Valerie Plame. They weren't necessarily trying to "smear" Joe Wilson. They weren't trying to do any of that, just like I wasn't trying to punch a glass door. It was all reflexes. They didn't even know if they needed to discredit Wilson. But they felt like they were under assault, and they acted without thinking. That's what reflexes are. When you do things quicker than you could think about them. But as I found with the glass door, sometimes your reflexes can have you do things that you shouldn't have done. And that you wouldn't have done, had you had the time to think about it. But these people were freaked, and their reflexes told them to attack. And attack they did.

They didn't even have a decent attack on Wilson, but it was all they had and they used it. If Wilson had been Saddam's communist lover, we would never have known of Plame's secret life. But all they had on him was that his wife recommended him for the Niger trip, and so that's what they used to discredit him. I'm not even sure why the journalists like Novak thought this was such a great defense, but they did and it might be their downfall.

Sixteen Words

And what else did they do at that time? It was all about those "sixteen words", and they were totally freaked out about them because they knew that the words were wrong. They knew it. They knew that Tenet had told them not to say it, and he's such a yes-man that he wouldn't stop them unless it was seriously flawed. They knew that it was weird. And you can tell that they knew because it was such a weirdly phrased sentence. "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa."

That's obviously a trick-filled sentence. It sounds ok, if you don't know what to look for. But if you reverse-engineer it, you'll see the problems. Because if nothing else, why would Bush have to say who learned it first? He wouldn't. If something's a fact, you don't say which government first discovered the fact. You'd just state the fact. But they had to use that weird wording because our own intel guys wouldn't let him say it otherwise. But you wouldn't know that unless you were looking for it. That's why they wrote it like that. Not necessarily to fool us, but to get it passed the CIA guys who knew it wasn't true. They wanted to make some kind of nuclear claim, and this is the closest they could get.

And they knew that it was a weird sentence and that they shouldn't have included it. And that's what the big freak-out was about. That's why they fucked up the whole Plame thing. That's why Condie fucked up and admitted that they shouldn't have used the line. Because they knew it was wrong, and felt guilty about it. And if these people know anything, it's to never feel guilty and to never admit fault. And by the way that our modern media works, they're right. You should never admit fault and never feel guilty. But they did, which is why they fucked up so badly.

They Fuck Up

But the main point isn't about them fucking up. The main point is that they do fuck up. They do shit themselves silly and make mistakes. There's this idea of Rove as if he's some political genius who can do no wrong. But it's not true. They do make mistakes. But they've got great reflexes, so you never know it. The moment they screw up, they'll have an onslaught of a thousand quivers heading your way, so you won't even have the chance to wonder if they screwed up. That's just how it works. In fact, the best way to know when you've hurt them is when they send out the full attack. Just like they're now doing for Rove. And the more they're hurt, the more they attack.

The Nixon Whitehouse was the same way. On the outside, they seemed tough and impervious. On the inside, they saw every weakness and assumed that their opponents were on to everything. They appeared to be all-powerful, yet it was all a cheap facade which was necessary because they were so scared. Nixon couldn't trust anyone, even lying to his own family, and had to keep a total shell-game going on; fooling everyone. Because he imagined everyone to be just like him, but just not as good at it. And even towards the end of his administration, when he was a drunken mess and not sleeping; his opponents still imagined him to be the invincible dictator pulling the strings. It's similar to how the Soviet Union fell so unexpectedly. The system was crumbling, but they knew they had to hide it.

And so it is with our current administration. I have no doubts that things are falling apart over there. I have no doubts that they're shitting bricks, and have been for several years. Sure, they have their moments of victory, but they're quickly replaced with more fear. Fear of being discovered. Fear of saying the wrong thing. Fear of the wrong leak. Always scamming. Always playing the game. Always worried that the wheels will finally fly off, and expose them for being the scared little cowards that they are. They know they're bullshitting. The big secret is for us to stop trying to get them to confess that they're bullshitting, and start taking advantage of it. A good liar will never admit that they're lying; and an intelligent person shouldn't require them to do so.

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