A free exchange of ideas and facts
Posted by aogSunday, 08 December 2002 at 12:05 TrackBack Ping URL

I was reading a post on Spleenville which discussed Canadian views of America. A couple of key quotes, apparently completely serious:

Almost uniformly, they [Canadians] felt our country [USA] was falling into a dictatorial and dangerous situation, and they wondered how ordinary Americans felt about it

Canadians think America is collapsing into an intolerant, paranoid, and insecure society where normal politics and criticism have been outlawed

The original author fired back with this response.

The tone of these articles and the comments seems to be that these fears of Canadians, that (for instance) movies such as Bowling for Columbine are being censored, are legitimate concerns and not flat out delusional. No actual incidents are cited. The best that the author can come up with is that the federal government is removing data from its own websites. I can't say I agree with this action, but given the billion other websites around that could easily publish this data, I find extremely little cause for concern.

The author accuses the "right-wing" types of ignorance but he seems a little disconnected from reality himself. Let's take a look.

My last post on how Canadians view the U.S. has attracted some rightwing scorn. But I have a question for my right-wing friends: Do governments tell the truth?
Trick question because of an implied "always". Governments tell the truth and they lie.
My experience is that governments and politicians readily lie to protect themselves and advance their agendas.
Hey, are you sure that you're not a right-winger?
Much of the rightwing view on Iraq is predicated on a total belief in the truth of the conjectures coming out of the Pentagon
Disconnect. I read a lot of right-wing blogs and I've never seen either (1) this level of trust or (2) the citing of Pentagon positions in support of war with Iraq. Why don't you check out Daily Pundit for some one who believes little if anything out of the Pentagon and is a fervent supporter of taking out Saddam.
This total trust is similarly behind suggestions that every social good can be more efficiently delivered by free capitalist markets
Disconnect. Trust in government means believing in the greater efficiency of the free market? Could you cite a single example of someone who supports delivering social goods via the free market who has this kind of trust in government? Actually, many of the free market types I know support free markets because of the fact you cite just above - governments lie to protect themselves and advance their agenda (others, like me, actually support liberty, realizing that free markets are inextricably linked with liberty). This lying by government is why you (presumably) support government control of social goods? I don't quite follow that.

You also might consider whether every social good can be delivered. You may not agree, but it would help you understand the world view of most free marketers.

But corporations lie. Enron lied. Tyco lied. Even GE lied about some transactions. Lying about profitability has become so pervasive that few believe earnings projections anymore. Yet if capitalists lie, then perhaps not everything they promise about filling social needs will come to pass
Yes, corporations lie. You might note that these companies have been punished or wiped out. Why don't you provide some examples of government agencies that did equivalent things where the agency was disbanded. Which is better - a system where corporations get away with lying for a few years, or a system where government gets away with lying for decades? Who killed more people and destroyed more wealth - Enron or the Ba'ath Party? Remember, if governments lie, then perhaps not everything they promise about filling social needs will come to pass.
One of the most dangerous activities of the administration is the introduction of government thought police whose job is to make sure that no research or science that supports conclusions at odds with Bush is allowed to survive on government web sites.
An actual legitimate point, if a weak one. The problem here is that the government is exterting control over government websites. Isn't that kind of their job? If the federal government doesn't decide whatis on federal government websites, then who would? If someone wants this research in public, then why can't they post it on their own website? Just how hard is that? I mean, why would you use a government website as the reliable source of information anyway since "governments lie to protect their interests and advance their agenda"? It doesn't sound like it's the right wingers who have an over abundance of trust in the veracity of government. It's not clear that this is even a real issue, and even if it was it would be very little cause for concern.
Attempts to control information, including government information, represented some of the worst abuses of soviet bureaucracies. Back before the fall of the Soviet Union, there was tremendous scorn for a government that lied, that distorted information that would not print inconvenient facts.
So now the White House having the Dept. of Education's website cleaned up is the equivalent of Soviet style information control? You might want to fact-check me on this, but I thought that the Soviet government controlled all public information distribution and even the possession of an unlicensed mimeograph was illegal, while here in the USA the government is a small current in a massive sea of public information. When the Bush regime ships you off for psychiatric adjustment for publishing that stuff on your website, I'll accept your equivalence.
With that in mind, look at the Friday White House press transcript. Why can�t the White House admit that O�Neill and Lindsey were asked to resign?
I don't know. I'd agree that they're being misleading jerks. On the other hand, it's not like the Bush White House is the first one to play this game ("depends on what the meaning of 'is' is"). Also, in the whole exchange Fleischer never lies. He is clearly not telling the entire story but nothing he actually does say is non-factual.
[Long transcript of Ari Fleischer dodging questions elided] What are they afraid of? Uncontrolled information.
If they were really afraid of uncontrolled information, where is there still a web? It's hard to think of information with less control than that. It is exactly this kind of delusional paranoia that makes it hard to resist open mockery.
When Kennedy went to the UN during the Cuban Missile crisis, he presented incontrovertible evidence for the world to see that offensive missiles had been introduced into Cuba.

If Bush cannot produce similar information about Iraq, why should we believe it is a threat? Because Saddam is an evil man and he attacked Bush senior?

I would guess because the US controlled the UN at that time so the UN would believe. Now, it's pretty clear that the UN won't believe anything bad about Saddam regardless of evidence. Consider that Denmark just arrested a former Iraqi officer on the charge of committing war crimes by using poison gas (a WMD) against a civilian population. So there's enough evidence available charge this guy but not enough to indicate that Iraq has such weapons. However, the WMD issue is really of secondary importance (no, I don't understand why Bush makes that the center peice, other than it's something that there is a slight chance other nations would care about and it's a clear violation of existing treaties. On the other hand, there's no shortage of treaty violations by Iraq - it's treaty compliance that's hard to document). The real bottom line is that Iraq is a linch pin of modern terrorism and taking him out will do more than any other single action to move forward in the struggle against terrorism.
There is a climate of intimidation and scorn towards information and facts that contradict Bush�s views of the world. I wonder if our right wing friends could agree that a free exchange of all ideas and facts, including inconvenient ones, is likely to lead to the best decisions.
I think the VRWC would agree with that. That's why there is a vigorous debate on Iraq within the VRWC. It's the Left that's not contributing.
The only people afraid of inconvenient facts are fundamentalists and bureaucrats�who can only see the world through a distorted lens. I say lets smash the lenses and look reality straight in the face. O�Neill was fired, no matter what Ari Fleischer says. If the U.S. has evidence that Saddam is lying, prove it!
Fine, O'Neil was fired. Gosh, the Bush regime's information suppression worked wonders on that issue! As for Saddam, unfortunately we got conned into participating in the UN inspections farce, so it would be stupid to reveal what we know of Saddam's weapons right now (because then he'd know exactly what to hide before the inspectors show up, because the inspectors are tipping him off). It is interesting, though, that even though you claim that "governments lie to protect themselves", you don't apply that to the Iraqi government. The USA has a very free and open information society where government lies are rapidly exposed, while Iraq is a extremely repressive and closed society where people who disagree with the government disappear into torture chambers. Or you can look at this.

Comments — Formatting by Textile
Andrea Harris Sunday, 08 December 2002 at 14:21

That is one confused dude. Not to mention his simplistic, total-truth or total-lies, black and white worldview. I thought right-wingers were the only simplistic ones? (Side note: no wonder I’m getting visits from the Chomsky Admiration Society again.)

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