Recreating (and advancing) pk’s censored domains:
Knatz.com / Teaching / Society / Civilization /
What sort of man would wish to murder the president of another land?
None but a barbarian. A man with a bone in his hair.
The Poisonwood Bible
I remember my high school’s labors to addict me to news. I remember its specious reasons: as though information and managed information were indistinguishable. I remember my costly success in shrugging off the brainwashing. I remember my retort, made silently one hundred times for any one time I said it aloud, quoting Thoreau: You study the Times; I’ll study the ages. I now have a TV set but it’s not connected to anything but a VCR. I have on occasion subscribed to magazines: Ski, Bass, Cycle, even to such organs as NYR, Science News, Free Inquiry, Skeptic … but never for more than an odd year here and there. I’ve even read the Times daily for periods lasting months: always starting and ending with the sports: except in 1973, 1974 … when I bought the Times only on days I knew Russell Baker would be carrying on my satires against Nixon for me.
Yet I knew of Charlie Parker’s death within hours: a local teen DJ phoned and told me. I knew of the World Trade Center attack on 9/11/1 because my Catherine phoned at 11 AM, waking me. A few days later she phoned to tell me that Bush was on the tube vowing war. Wait a minute, I said. What nation has he attacked? What nation has he threatened? You have to distinguished between I have just nuked China or I will launch every nuke we have against Russia (or Afghanistan) and “the war against poverty,” “the war on drugs,” or a war against the Tooth Fairy. “I think he said it was a war against terrorism.” Ah ha! Just as I thought. I went back to sleep.
How many poor people were invaded in the War on Poverty? How many crack houses have been napalmed in the War on Drugs? How many H factories? How many banks? None. It’s bullshit. (Of course we’ve killed lots and lots of poor people abroad, where it’s called development, charity …) But if they can get you to sit like a moron for twelve plus years in school, they damn well ought to be able to get you to sit like a moron for the rest of your life. (More follows below.) Maybe a couple of dealers have been sniped in the War on Drugs, unreported of course. Or if reported, I don’t doubt that drugs weren’t mentioned: it was probably some Fred Hampton who wanted to feed school children. So what would have been reported was that he was a black militant, an atheist, a terrorist. No proof. No arrest. No trial. No conviction. Off the bastard. A nation of Laws: where the law is whatever is convenient: or the law is overridden by “national security” where the public never has a “need to know.”
Whoops. Aside: Before I forget: Today Doctor P said, “Wow, how about that attack?” or some such. He knows I’ve been ignored, shunned for decades: wouldn’t ask me in public, but Dr. P looks forward to asking me things behind closed doors, whispers his interest. Apart from the terrible event itself, I answered, the most interesting thing that’s occurred is that I’ve seen Herbert Hoover quoted for the first time in my life. Hoover’s been totally ignored for two thirds of a century: suddenly the intelligence services are quoting him. “Sticking pins in rattlesnakes.” I saw the shock of recognition on Doctor P’s face: “Yes, we have, haven’t we?”
It all ties in with history given at the opening of Enemy at the Gates. Hitler invaded Russia because he wanted the oil fields of South Asia. I saw that movie yesterday. I’d just told Catherine that the only reason Britain had given T.E. Lawrence the support they had in W.W.I was because they figured they could get oil easier through the Arabs than through the Turks. The reason the US has been sticking pins in rattlesnakes, something we once avoided doing, is because we want the Persian oil. England had little. So they needed the Arabs. Germany had none. So they’d conquer whatever lay between them and the oil. The US wasted its own oil, driving around in Cadillacs, blowing things up, powering telephones and computers twenty-four hours a day … so we’ve got to have theirs. And will concoct any excuse. The spinners can paste a moral onto anything.
And so it occurs to me: it wasn’t Henry Ford who destroyed the World Trade Center last week, but it was all his fault. Ford didn’t invent the car. I think that was Benz. But Benz wasn’t American so he doesn’t count. His country lost: lost two wars. I don’t think Ford was the first American to build a car, but they didn’t make millions, so they don’t count either. Therefore, Henry Ford invented the automobile. Therefore Henry Ford invented our need for Arab oil. Therefore it’s all Henry Ford’s fault: W.W.I, W.W.II, Korea, Vietnam, the WTC …
I could say the same about Faraday but the logic would be more indirect, less punchy. Oh: and the other inventors of the automobile are further innocent in that they built cars for playboys, for doctors, for kings: Ford built them for anybody with a job, anybody not starving in Bangladesh.
Thanks to the attack we had a week without sports. I checked in at Catherine’s often enough to know that the “news” was continuous on almost all channels including those of PBS. No golf, no baseball, no football. But the news is of course only fragmentarily news. It’s news — commercial — commercial — news — commercial … Even the part of the “news” that is “news” is half commercial: a commercial for the network. “Thank you, Tom. That was Tom Brokaw, folks, Tom Brokaw of NBC News. And now, Kelly, Kelly of NBC News,: what do you have for us? Thanks, Jill, Jill of NBC News … Here’s a commercial and then we’ll have more NBC News …” But first there’s a station Break (another commercial): NBC. NBC News. But of course even in normal times it’s nearly 100% commercial: news, commercials, the soap, the quiz, the talk … 99% commercial for the US, for civilization, for Western assumptions (if you’re in the West) …
If we’re really in mourning, why didn’t they suspend the commercials? Even just the patently commercial ones?
There’s little news in the news: never has been. Was Faraday’s discovery in the news? Einstein’s (at the time of it)? Has pk’s invention of Macroinformation been in the news?
Real news falls unnoticed like Icarus in Brueghel’s painting.
Brueghel, The Fall of Icarus, 1558
(Don’t see Icarus? Look port-aft of the nearest ship, the one closest to the bottom right of the image. Look quick: he’s already two-thirds under the waves.)
2003 03 09 Note that the War on Terrorism is really a war to maintain (as close as possible) the big kleptocracies’ monopoly on terror. President Bush can posture and threaten. It’s OK for US to have weapons of mass destruction. We accept that the Brits develop arms. We sit on our hands when they bully the Irish: as we sat on our hands when they bullied everyone: except us. But the big kleptocracies can’t stand the idea that the little guy whose family we killed, whose country we gave away, might walk into a restaurant and sacrifice himself for his outrage.
I say we wasted our oil. Let me assure you I wasted as little as I could manage. I owned no car till I was twenty-nine. I’ve owned no cars that got less than thirty miles to the gallon. My current wreck gets thirty-seven. I drove to get to mountains for skiing and I drove around the country on business, but I bet I’ve logged fewer miles than anyone else who’s done the same things. I bike. I walk. I use as few electrical gadgets — other than my digital publishing system (without which I couldn’t talk to you this way) — as I can manage. I’ve tried to communicate the importance of economy and conservation to my fellows all my life. I’ve failed. But still: I’m one of you. So I say “we”. We wasted our oil.
And now we don’t have any. So why should we? shouldn’t we pay for our mistakes? If we all have to go bankrupt now and die, shouldn’t we go bankrupt and die? don’t we believe in accountability? We say we do. Don’t we believe in laissez-faire? We say we do.
I mentioned my talk with the doctor. “Now we have to kill somebody,” I said. “And I’m sure we will. But will the some-bodies we kill actually be the ones accountable??? Will our version be true?”
Stifling News Right Under Our Nose
Notice that all our wars of the last half-century haven’t been with our enemies? always with our enemies’ little friends? I’m reminded of an incident at Yankee Stadium from decades ago that I haven’t yet gotten around to putting in my cop stories folder: A big vulgar guy in the bleachers was being rowdy. The TV cameras and Phil Rizzuto’s commentary paid him occasional notice but of course we couldn’t hear what he was saying or see precisely what he was doing. I remember though the crowd thinning around him and thickening a less-loud distance away. Finally something happened that paused the game. Stadium police were dispatched to deal with the trouble maker. The TV cameras followed the action: at first: but not for long. A cop pair came up to the guy. Agitation. Finally a cop put his hands on the guy. The cop went flying. The other cop approached. He went flying. The camera was pulled off the scene. But other shots of the field of play occasionally revealed the bleachers in the distance. I was able to follow the sequel to some extent. More cops came. Another went flying, and they all retreated.
A phalanx of cops returned to that section of bleachers. Those cops grabbed some poor bastard sitting ten rows behind the trouble maker and escorted him from the stadium. The geek was the closest guy to the real trouble. The TV camera did follow this ejection. This ejection was successful. For the rest of the game I could see the big vulgar trouble maker still sitting there, drinking his beer. Did he pipe down after throwing the cops around? I don’t know. I never heard him in the first place. But I did notice that as the innings progressed he was increasingly isolated in his bleacher seats: biggest private box I’ve ever seen.