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Rep Schultz shows how to avoid seeing the ugly America staring at us from the mirror

22 October 2012

Summary: Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL, Chair of the Democratic National Committee) made a revealing answer when asked about our government’s assassination programs. The resulting mockery misses the key point. Her remarks provides a fascinating look at America, but only as a curiosity, an oddity — until we ask “why” she talks like this.

“When I was sixteen, I went to work for a newspaper in Hong Kong. It was a rag, but the editor taught me one important lesson. The key to a great story is not who, or what, or when, but why.”
— Elliot Carver, in Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)

Contents

  1. A leader of Congress pretends ignorance
  2. About denial
  3. Another example, and a note from George Orwell
  4. About solutions
  5. Posts about our government’s assassination programs (directed at citizens)

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(1) A leader of Congress pretends ignorance

After the second Presidential debate Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL, Chair of the Democratic National Committee) is questioned by Luke Rudkowski (WeAreChange) about our government’s assassination programs.

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Schultz: I’m looking forward to President Obama continuing to clearly and decisively lay out his case for the American people. He’ll talk about the importance of restoring our diplomatic reputation across the globe.

Rudkowski: How does Obama justify his flip-flop on the National Defense Authorization Act, especially the indefinite detention provision, which he said he never wanted but the Administration is now appealing an order…

Schultz: I didn’t hear that a a subject of the debate tonight.

Rudkowski: If Romney becomes President, he’s going to inherit Obama’s secret kill list. How do you think Romney will handle this kill list, and are you comfortable with him having a kill list?

Schultz: I have no idea what you’re talking about.

Rudkowski: Obama has a secret kill list, which he has used to assassinate different people all over the world.

Schultz (with a big smile): I’m happy to answer any serious questions you have.

Rudkowski: Why is that not a serious question?

Schultz: Because I have no idea what you’re talking about. (walks away)

Glenn Greenberg at The Guardian reviews the public information about the US government’s kill list, and comments:

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This is a different Schultz!

Just marvel at this stunning, completely inexcusable two-minute display of wholesale ignorance by this elected official and DNC chair. … She doesn’t defend the “kill list”. She doesn’t criticize it. She makes clear that she has never heard of it and then contemptuously treats Rudkowski like he is some sort of frivolous joke for thinking that it is real …

I disagree. Attributing this to ignorance is not accurate. Instead it is a willful refusal to see something unpleasant.  Deliberate blindness.  It’s denial.

(2)  About Denial

From Wikipedia (which cites no source, but looks correct):

A defense mechanism postulated by Sigmund Freud, in which a person is faced with a fact that is too uncomfortable to accept and rejects it instead, insisting that it is not true despite what may be overwhelming evidence. The subject may use:

  • simple denial: deny the reality of the unpleasant fact altogether
  • minimisation: admit the fact but deny its seriousness (a combination of denial and rationalization)
  • projection: admit both the fact and seriousness but deny responsibility by blaming somebody or something else.

Denial was first researched seriously by Anna Freud. … Elisabeth Kübler-Ross used denial as the first of 5 stages in the psychology of a dying person.

Why denial as a response? Acknowledgement of what America has become, and is becoming, creates awareness of our need to act.  Of our obligations to defend the Republic. It’s a draft notice.  Bad news for our families, for our careers — disrupting the even tenor of our lives, putting all that we have at risk by opposing the elites that run America. Failure to act creates cognitive dissonance, painful contradiction between what we should do and actually do.

Imagine Representative Schultz’s thoughts should Rudkowski have forced her to confront — on camera — the reality of Obama’s assassination of US citizens in flagrant violation of the Constitution’s core principles. She could refer to the overwhelming danger of al Qaeda (secret bases everywhere, sleeper agents across America — as seen each week on NCIS and described in the Weekly Standard and Fox News — and conclude that we’ve suspended the Constitution.  But that’s introduces complex arguments, disturbing to many Americans.

She could just dance around the issue.  But in a long war that becomes untenable, as these questions repeatedly arise.

Or she can just deny that anything has changed. It’s the simple, clean response.  It’s what America wants.

It’s a common solution. The Roman people did this during the first century of the Empire, retaining most outward forms of the Republic. Some people did it in response to the horror of the Holocaust, Stalin’s and Mao’s megadeaths. As many people hae done today about the increasing stress on the biosphere.  Sometimes it works, most often with denial of history.  Sometimes it works until the crash, the equivalent of closing our eyes when driving.

Sometimes it’s a smear, as when scientists who disagree with the IPCC about the causes and forecasts of future global warming are accused of denying past warming (they don’t).

(3)  Another example, from yesterday’s post — and a note from George Orwell

More evidence of this response by American’s to our ugly evolution appears daily in the comments to the powerful, fact-rich articles by Glenn Greenwald, formerly at Salon, now at The Guardian.  Such as this one: “US justice likely coming soon to Benghazi with extrajudicial executions“, Guardian,19  October 2012 — “If the Obama administration identifies suspects in the consulate attack, should they simply be killed without a trial?” For example this automatic, immediate response of Michael Cohen (New America Foundation; bio here):

He’s a courtier to our power elites, and a skillful, smart one (IMO, one of the best of the younger members in that potentially lucrative service).  As such he automatically knows what worldviews are acceptable — what facts can be seen — and still remain respectable.  His automatic reply is not to dispute Greenwald’s facts, reasoning, or values — but to deny.  A courtier to US elites must master crimestop — the refusal to see heterodox ideas, or even discuss thoughtcrime. From Orwell’s 1984:

The mind should develop a blind spot whenever a dangerous thought presented itself. The process should be automatic, instinctive. .. not seeing or not understanding the arguments that contradicted {Party dogma).

(4) About solutions

It might be that the Second Republic has fallen, and its cure lies beyond reach.  Such an epitaph is for the future generations to write.  All that matters is that we can do better.  We will be what we want to be.

More about this tomorrow.

(5)  Posts about our government’s assassination programs (directed at citizens)

  1. Code red! The Constitution is burning.,  August 2010
  2. An Appalling Threat to Civil Liberties and Democracy, 8 August 2010
  3. A great philosopher and statesman comments on the Bush-Obama tweaks to the Constitution, 10 October 2010
  4. Every day the Constitution dies a little more, 1 September 2010
  5. What do our Constitution-loving conservatives say about our government’s assassination programs?, 2 September 2010
  6. Today is a red letter day in American history! Our leaders speak honestly to us about an important issue., 6 October 2011

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34 Comments leave one →
  1. WTF permalink
    22 October 2012 12:57 am

    Similarly: “Employees of Romney family’s secret bank tied to fraud, money laundering, drug cartels and the CIA“, Gerry Bello and Bob Fitrakis, The Free Press, 20 October 2012

    Like

  2. gaiasrequite permalink
    22 October 2012 2:14 am

    Denialism, denying reality, one fact at a time.

    Leaves the door wide open for a debate on what constitutes as real. There are some who say our reality is the illusion created because the primitive human mind can not comprehend the true reality.

    Good post that could lead to a plethora of wonderful debate, because of course with denial must also come a refined ability to lie. Not only to others but to your self, and at this point we have changed reality….in a way.

    Like

    • 22 October 2012 3:13 am

      All good points. But I disagree with an implied premise. I believe the indifference to fact is largely a characteristic of the outer party — the politically active, socially conscious upper-middle class. To use Orwell’s increasingly accurate terminology, the proles below see the gritty reality (and don’t care about the theoretical substructure). The inner party see clearly, as the pretty lies are constructed to manipulate the outer party.

      Like

    • 22 October 2012 4:58 am

      One difference from Orwell is that in our case there is no “inner party” who see clearly, there are certainly deciders at the top but they are also heavily influenced by their own propaganda, leading to a spiral of irrational decisions.

      Maybe we can get out of this but I think that most people have made a semi-conscious decision to deny reality and be part of civil society rather than being outside of society. Everyone is complicit, the deceiver and the deceived, making everyone feel guilty and disinclined to be the first to start throwing stones.

      Like

    • 22 October 2012 12:24 pm

      “One difference from Orwell is that in our case there is no “inner party” who see clearly, ”

      You might be right! We can only guess about this, and my guess tilts the other way — that there is a competent (if self-interested) elite running America. It’s a low-confidence guess.

      Like

  3. gaiasrequite permalink
    22 October 2012 3:50 am

    This puts me in mind of something I have often pondered; the last words of Jesus, being “forgive them father they know not what they do.”

    This statement has always incited anger in me for I can’t help feeling (and feeling guilty even as I think it) that a more appropriate departure phrase would have been along the lines of “drown the monkeys, they know exactly what they are doing and simply do not care.” Rather negative, but does anyone ever actually act without knowing on some level.

    Knowing they are being lied to? I guess you would need to be psychic to know that, and I am not.

    Like

    • 22 October 2012 4:08 am

      When in doubt about biblical exegesis, I turn to two sources. The first is The Matthew Henry Commentary on Luke 23:34. An excerpt appears below.

      ———–

      Father, forgive them.

      Seven remarkable words Christ spoke after he was nailed to the cross, and before he died, and this is the first. … As soon as ever he was fastened to the cross, or while they were nailing him, he prayed this prayer, in which observe,

      (1) The petition: Father, forgive them.

      One would think that he should have prayed, “Father, consume them; the Lord look upon it, and requite it.’’ The sin they were now guilty of might justly have been made unpardonable, and justly might they have been excepted by name out of the act of indemnity. No, these are particularly prayed for. Now he made intercession for transgressors, as was foretold (Isa. 53:12 ), and it is to be added to his prayer (Jn. 17, ), to complete the specimen he gave of his intercession within the veil: that for saints, this for sinners.

      Now the sayings of Christ upon the cross as well as his sufferings had a further intention than they seemed to have. This was a mediatorial word, and explicatory of the intent and meaning of his death: “Father, forgive them, not only these, but all that shall repent, and believe the gospel;’’ and he did not intend that these should be forgiven upon any other terms. “Father, that which I am now suffering and dying for is in order to this, that poor sinners may be pardoned.’’

      Note,

      1. The great thing which Christ died to purchase and procure for us is the forgiveness of sin.
      2. This is that for which Christ intercedes for all that repent and believe in the virtue of his satisfaction; his blood speaks this: Father, forgive them.
      3. The greatest sinners may, through Christ, upon their repentance, hope to find mercy. Though they were his persecutors and murderers, he prayed, Father, forgive them.

      (2) The plea: For they know not what they do; for, if they had known, they would not have crucified him, 1 Co. 2:8 .

      There was a veil upon his glory and upon their understandings; and how could they see through two veils? They wished his blood on them and their children: but, had they known what they did, they would have unwished it again.

      Note,

      1. The crucifiers of Christ know not what they do. They that speak ill or religion speak ill of that which they know not, and it is because they will not know it.
      2. There is a kind of ignorance that does in part excuse sin: ignorance through want of the means of knowledge or of a capacity to receive instruction, through the infelicities of education, or inadvertency. The crucifiers of Christ were kept in ignorance by their rulers, and had prejudices against him instilled into them, so that in what they did against Christ and his doctrine they thought they did God service, Jn. 16:2 .

      Like

  4. Patrick permalink
    22 October 2012 4:39 am

    Vincible ignorance most foul. At best it is crass or supine ignorance, where the Rep should know better, and could easily relieve herself of her ignorance, but does not make the effort. At worst, and more probable in my book, she is deliberately fostering this ignorance, rendering it studied ignorance. Where she knows better, but pretends otherwise. There a lot of that flavor of ignorance going around these days. Ethics are tricky, eh…

    Like

    • 22 October 2012 12:26 pm

      “Where she knows better, but pretends otherwise.”

      I don’t believe “ignorance” accurately describes this behavior. For one thing, it’s a neutral label for dark behavior.

      Like

    • Beej permalink
      22 October 2012 2:04 pm

      It may be a matter of base instinct. I have seen this over the years with dogs and cats. If something is so out of their realm of experience, but does not threaten them personally with violence, they will simply pretend it is not there. I know we are to supposed to have risen above the level of instinct, and perhaps to one degree or another we have, until we are faced with a situation that is incompatible with ethics we have adopted.

      One of my favorite quotes that, to the best of my knowledge, is anonymous:

      Ethics are how I live with society
      Morals are how I live with God
      Honor is how I live with myself

      Perhaps the problem is honor, or lack thereof. In my opinion it is a dwindling concept since it requires us to take action in difficult circumstances.

      Like

    • 22 October 2012 2:13 pm

      That’s an interesting line of thought!

      For more about the changing role of honor in our society (ie, the move from a traditional honor-based morality to a new realm) see James Bowman’s website. And to his book Honor: A History.

      Like

    • Beej permalink
      22 October 2012 2:24 pm

      Thank you for the link. I will definitely be reading this book and adding the website to my daily reading list. From a cursory look I think I will enjoy both the book and website since it seems as though Mr Bowman and I may have similar outlooks in several areas.

      Like

    • 22 October 2012 2:36 pm

      “Ethics are tricky, eh…”

      Yet it seems ethics, morals, honor etc etc….should be the one thing that is solid with in us, and is not. I hear people make the remark constantly, “we all KNOW right from wrong” but, choose to go wrong.

      I question the truth in that statement, tabula rasa, I hate this concept but sometimes find my self thinking the psycologists who follow this school of thought are correct.

      Like

    • 22 October 2012 2:57 pm

      I agree of all points!

      Which goes back to a previous thread about the FM website comments. I thought they would be mostly about values — and trade-offs, among different ethics and between ethics and operational factors — and secondarily about evaluation of data to find facts.

      I was naive. The debates are almost entirely well within the realm of the known, mostly about attempts to ignore history and science. Warmists avoiding work of climate scientists that disagree with their dogma. Conservatives fighting to remain ignorant of 19th century history, about booms& busts under gold-standards. Etc, etc.

      The few exceptions, such as the long fierce threads about use of torture and assassination, are (to me) horrific — in response to which I shut-down the comments for a few months. I’ve never recovered my poise, my ability to dispassionately respond to comments.

      Like

    • beej permalink
      22 October 2012 3:14 pm

      So perhaps a combination of nature and nurture and the situation determines which rises to the top. Human nature has not really changed that I can see over the millennia and the nurturing “flavors” ebb and flow with society. Perhaps as Albert Siegel suggested we are never more than
      20 years away from barbarism or at least something different from what we had before.

      Like

    • 22 October 2012 3:27 pm

      “Human nature has not really changed that I can see ”

      I think I agree with you on that. I was thinking the other day how our old customs have not gone out the door entierly. For example, we used to sacrifice in rituals, now we instead pretend wine is blood and drik it? the ritual has changed but our need FOR the ritual has not. Or, we used to sit in a coloseum and watch people fight to the death, now we have television and WOW for the gore.

      So are we all we will ever be? And are we trapped in a never changing cycle because of that wich just might lay at the core of our nature.

      I had an Idea that one issue with hummanity is we are locked in an internal battle, logic v. commpassion. I was wondering if you removed on of these two traits would our decisions be more easily made? Would we then still be human?

      Like

    • beej permalink
      22 October 2012 3:49 pm

      “I had an Idea that one issue with hummanity is we are locked in an internal battle, logic v. commpassion”

      I agree about the battle but I have framed it in my mind as our intellect at war with our emotions. I don’t believe removing either one would allow us to retain our humanity and I doubt that it is even possible. Removing intellect might decrease our ability to deal with our emotions and removing emotions might allow our intellects to run without the governors of mercy and compassion along with the other positive emotional components we display from time to time.

      The possibility of successful and long lasting change perhaps lies with our ultimate balance between the two. Hmmmmm….sounds kind of Zen. I had better watch that.

      Like

    • 22 October 2012 5:58 pm

      I agree! We are composite beings of mind, heart, and soul. In harmony great things are possible, among them peace, prosperity, and the arts. Large disharmony brings bad things.

      Like

  5. 22 October 2012 6:06 pm

    “we all KNOW right from wrong” but, choose to go wrong. ”

    Oh yeah. Debbie knows exactly all there is to know about the Kill Lists. She knows. You absolutely can rest assured about that as a reality. She dispassionately dismissed the significance of “IT”, a long time ago. She is not ignorant but chose not to discuss it w/this gent; she could discuss it and then it would expose the darkness of her character!

    Clinicians will tell you and your sense of things will confirm, many people knowingly turn their minds when faced with such an ethical dilemma.
    Some have problems internally with the turning and some simply have NO problem (lack of conscience)

    Sorry FM is right. “..there is a competent (if self-interested) elite running America.” The Guys runnin’ this Show are very bright and very determined; relying on the moral cowardice and concommitant propensity of at least half of Americans to willingly go along to get along! Until it costs you. That is why “change” never comes from within. And will not this time either.

    Here is a real crazy guys view of American People from 40 yrs ago: “RIP George McGovern. Hunter on how he believed more in us than we did in ourselves.“, Bat Country World, 21 October 2012. Read it all. George is dead but Hunter’s views still resonate.

    Breton

    Like

  6. genericman permalink
    22 October 2012 6:16 pm

    What do you think of David Brin’s appraisal of how differently Democrats and Republicans wage war? “How Democrats and Republicans Wage War“, David Brin, 21 October 2012 — “Offered one day preceding the final Presidential debate, on foreign policy, in order to give you all some badly-needed perspective on the most important foreign policy matter of all: when and how to fight.”

    Like

    • 22 October 2012 11:54 pm

      David Brin is a great science fiction writer. As a military or geopolitical analyst, I’m not sure.

      (1) “In contrast, Democrats tend to feel squeamish talking about war — even though it’s now clear that – ever since Vietnam – Democrats are much better at it than Republicans are.”

      I believe that’s incorrect in several ways. Many Dems, like Obama, love to boast about how war-like they are. And I doubt that Dems are “better at it” than the GOP, esp since both are led by the nose by the military.

      (2) “Alas, those idealists fail to note that humanity has been making incremental progress! Since our dark nadir of 1945, every decade has witnessed a decline in average per capita rates of violence on Planet Earth.”

      It’s far too soon to make such a statement! In July 1914 one could have said the same about the past century (the allies captured Paris in March 1914)! Needless to say, WWI and WWII ruined that record. In 2045 let’s see how well we’ve done. Even a small war with WMDs will ruin that record Brin boasts of.

      I stopped reading at this point.

      Like

    • 23 October 2012 1:23 am

      Speaking of how the GOP and Democrats wage war, here are two good posts about tonight’s foreign policy debate:

      • Presidential debate on foreign policy: live Glenn Greenwald commentary“, Glenn Greenwald, the Guardian, 22 October 2012 — “Barack Obama and Mitt Romney engage in titanic struggle to locate major differences between each other”
      • What Else Is On?“, Michael A. Cohen, Foreign Policy, 22 October 2012 — “Why the foreign policy debate just can’t get at the real differences between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney.”

      Like

  7. david j michel jr permalink
    22 October 2012 6:23 pm

    fabius, I do not know why but any time DWS speaks I cant listen she pushes my buttons .did you see on of her last interviews with anderson cooper ,even when confronted with her lies she just goes in to denial mode.its fascinating,and sad that she is a congress woman.she reminds me of a knight in the Monty python movie holy grail, that has all his limbs chopped off but denies he is unable to fight.

    Like

    • 22 October 2012 6:26 pm

      I didn’t see that, but will check it out. Thanks for the follow-up on this interesting story, so revealing about today’s America.

      Like

  8. Jim permalink
    22 October 2012 7:06 pm

    We seem to be undertandably struggling with the relationships between biology, psychology socialization, culture, politics, economics and religion.

    One view on these links is that our society lives within us in the form of an internalized culture.
    The means that before we are psychic subjects we are socialized subjects (or cultural animals) marked by a pervasive pressure which injects us with such things as beliefs, values, norms, expectations and tastes (i.e. the outer becomes our inner through a process of socialization).

    One set of questions which arises as a consequence of such a process is whether and to what degree our values, norms and expectations are modified (say over 250 years) by powerful concentrations of power both public and private (or how a new outer then becomes inner).

    Another set of questions arises, as to whether we are capable both individually and collectively of gaining some psychological distance from this process of socialization, which might eventually enable us to push our culture and our politics in a different direction (i,e. are there, for example, paths of self-reflection which might nurture distancing mechanisms that eventually enable critiques of ourselves and our society—that give us the courage to push beyond denial if we so choose?).

    A final set of questions revolve around whether any future political mobilization should contain within it a call for an alternative moral demand system?

    Like

    • gaiasrequite permalink
      22 October 2012 7:30 pm

      A couple points on Jim’s post;

      First, “to push beyond denial” I disagree with this idea, I try to take an optimistic stand on such issues but am constantly returned to this line of thinking. To be in denial you must first be aware (on some level) of that which you are in denial of. I don’t think the bulk of humanity reflects on truth of self and certainly not truth of society. We have for generations had, almost bred into our very biology, denial how ever most of our society refers to it as “Faith”. In my opinion faith is nothing more then forcing your self to believe something you know is a lie i.e. denial.

      second, the issue distancing our self from society. I am not sure how this would ever be possible in our current state. 7 billion people, going to be difficult to escape culture and of course with in any given culture you have an array of subcultures to contend with as well (as long as such freedoms are allowed).

      Like

    • gaiasrequite permalink
      22 October 2012 7:50 pm

      Another point on Jims post; Self reflection, there is an issue with this and I will put my own character on the line as an example.

      I am a person who has bee accused of being “brutally honest”. Political correctness, or sugar coating things is not in my nature, not because I lack a thought filter, but because I choose not to use it, I generally call it as I see it. There are many people who have suggested to me that this is a flaw of my character. However, I myself see it as an attribute and is something I appreciate in others.

      Like

    • 22 October 2012 8:11 pm

      Jim and galisrequite,

      Thank you for your comments, taking this discussion into deeper water! Very interesting, and more profound than anything I have to say on the topic.

      Like

  9. Jim permalink
    22 October 2012 10:31 pm

    gaiasrequite: “We have for generation had, almost bred into our very biology…”

    To me, your above description, is the essence of the process of socialization, which each of us experiences. It seems to capture the depth to which the moral demands of a particular culture penetrate our individual psychic structures. No culture, including our own, is immortal yet all cultures seem to be repressive in the sense that they tend to narrow the range of human possibilities that exist within it.

    But I also believe it it true that our present culture has been transformed for the worse in the past 150 years, primarily through concentrations of public and private power (from something more ascetic into something which supports the production of endless needs). Isn’t it then imperative that we search, among other things, for possible levers within ourselves which might allow for a cultural and political shift (i.e. it seems to me that this might, in part, entail modes of self-reflection which might unmingle desire and objects of desire which have been bred into our present socialization/cultural experience).

    Like

    • 22 October 2012 11:09 pm

      Your last paragraphs presses a thought I’ve stumbled towards for years, but never expressed so clearly. I will use in in my next post– talking about solutions.

      Like

    • beej permalink
      23 October 2012 1:22 am

      Jum, well thought out and expressed. This is the reason I will retire to the country and raise goats.

      Like

  10. 23 October 2012 5:12 am

    Jim asks: “Isn’t it then imperative that we search, among other things, for possible levers within ourselves which might allow for a cultural and political shift …”

    Well it is for you and some others but the dominant culture (in all epochs) has at its definitional core no breeding of a desire to search for any levers. That is why it is dominant and pervasive. Always is, by nature. Humans are by definition social. And then a few outliers within that reality.

    How did the Kings get those Cathedrals built and by, admittedly, slave labor? Because they all believed deeply in the Church, Popes and God? Hardly. They wanted to eat! But some along the way felt the need to search for political and social shifts.

    Breton

    Like

    • 23 October 2012 5:14 am

      “How did the Kings get those Cathedrals built and by, admittedly, slave labor?”

      I don’t know this for certain, but that’s not how I recall the history.

      Like

  11. Henry permalink
    25 October 2012 8:26 am

    “I don’t know this for certain, but that’s not how I recall the history.”

    You recall correctly. See Titus Burckhardt, Chartres, the Birth of a Cathedral.

    Like

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