Part 4: Code Talkers
Rhetorically, neoconservative spokesmen on television and on the blogs often practice a studied vagueness when advancing their agendas.
Glenn Greenwald recently took them to task for this evasiveness, citing debates at The National Review Online’s, The Corner:
“… what one finds in almost every debate about Iran - is that while the Warriors will mock and oppose every attempt to resolve the U.S.-Iranian conflicts short of war, they never have the courage to expressly say what it is that they actually favor. The reason for that refusal is clear: they oppose negotiations because they crave full-on military confrontation with Iran (or, at the very least, the use of force to bring about regime change), but they know that expressly advocating that will cause them to be stigmatized as the dangerous radicals that they are. So they keep using code to talk about the need to show strength and toughness towards Iran and never appease them -- and they mock every option designed to avoid war -- while lacking the courage of their convictions to say what they actually think.”Greenwald is correct about their agenda being hidden behind code talk. But they also use code in “the meaning of 'is'” fashion to advance the Big Lie while providing themselves plausible deniability should anyone try to hold them accountable, as Big Liars or in a court of law.
The salesmanship Bush administration officials displayed in promoting the Iraq war is a classic example. Over and over in the lead up to invasion, spokesmen placed the Iraqi regime and September 11 side by side in describing the terrorist threat.
Iraq / al-Qaeda
Saddam / bin Laden
Iraq / terrorists
Saddam / September 11
The Vice-president was still using that technique in 2006.
A large segment of the American people became convinced that Saddam Hussein was involved in the 9/11 attacks. Yet when pushed to answer directly, the Bush administration denied having made that case, or said there was no proof. Rarely did any administration spokesperson say explicitly that Iraq was responsible for the September 11 attacks. They didn’t need to.
Here’s how it’s done in sleight-of-hand fashion and in plain view. Simply place two bad actors’ names close together on the marquee and passersby will believe they are in the same movie. Place them together prominently and repeatedly and your audience will make the connection for you, a connection that – technically – your grammar never did.
The propaganda technique calls to mind a semi-accurate e-mail that circulated widely in September 2003:
Aoccdrnig to rscheearch at Cmabrigde uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteres are at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a tatol mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit a porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae we do not raed ervey lteter by it slef but the wrod as a wlohe.Neconservative code talkers convey their message similarly, without having to spell things out clearly, expose themselves to accusations of lying, or take responsibility for what they say clearly implies.
Many neoconservatives lack the courage of their convictions this way about many topics -- they hint at their extremist ideas without having the courage or honesty to expressly state them. That practice is consistent with the founding principles of neoconservative theory. Neoconservatism does not believe in the virtues of democratic debate, but instead views itself as the vanguard of a superior elite which formulates wise policy in secret and then deceitfully packages it in digestible Manichean form to the idiot masses (that is how we travel from a long-standing, pre-9/11 desire to invade Iraq for all sorts of geopolitical reasons to a marketing product "justifying" that invasion based on the claim that 9/11 Changed Everything, Saddam was connected to those attacks, he would give his Bad Weapons to the Terrorists, and Freedom is On The March).Greenwald’s recent run-in with neoconservative columnist Frank Gaffney on Alan Colmes radio show is a case in point.
Gaffney’s February 14 Washington Times column led with a bogus Abraham Lincoln quote:
Congressmen who willfully take actions during wartime that damage morale and undermine the military are saboteurs and should be arrested, exiled, or hanged.The column criticized Sen. Carl Levin and others for looking into the cherry-picked pro-Iraq war intelligence spoon fed to the White House by Douglas Feith’s Office of Special Plans in the Pentagon, actions the Defense Department’s own Inspector General called “inappropriate.”
If there's one thing that really should be a hanging offense, it is behavior that results in our being even less equipped to deal with such threats than we were before this phase of the War for the Free World began on September 11, 2001.When called on his column’s “dissent equals treason” argument, Gaffney answered with studied neoconservative vagueness, asserting that ”inappropriate behavior” in time of war “has consequences” for which people should be “held accountable.” Listeners are left to fill in the blanks in those phrases themselves.
“I’m talking about behavior, not debate, but behavior that I believe is contributing to two things. One, the impedence of people who have the responsibilities of guiding our national security from challenging intelligence assessments and analyses that are now widely regarded to have been wrong on a number of different counts. I think that’s a very pernicious step and one that would have grave consequences over time ... This great president (Lincoln) recognized that those who would weaken the country, who would deliberately undermine the military should be subjected to silencing.”For Gaffney, debate (speech) is not objectionable – stifling free speech being un-American – it’s the act of debating (behavior) to which he objects. Asked if he was advocating hanging Senators, Gaffney got angry. He kept repeating his “consequences” and “held accountable” talking points, insisting he was being very clear what he meant.
He was being clear, to those with ears to hear the code spoken in neoconservative parables.
Next: The Bottom Line