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zozie

great comment.

The idea that DC commentators feel they have this burden - and if only we knew - could explain a lot of their obsequious parroting, that we the unwashed are immune to.

Nice ref to the bard too.

JMG

Dear Mr. Mannion: Your observation about the fear in the Beltway elite is spot on, but I think your explanation gives the Bush administration too much credit for subtlety. I believe the fear is entirely self-generated and comes from the 9/11 realization that Washington D.C. is a target, and that the weapon used by the attackers, airliners, is something elite people often use.
In short, these people are the same sort of bombastic cowards as George W. Bush. Remember that in 2002, two losers with a rifle shut down D.C. more effectively than the terrorists, simply by taking the random violence common in Washington itself and exporting it to the suburbs.

Jim 7

I have long felt that if the planes had hit in Chicago and Los Angeles instead of New York and Washington, the media would have moved on instead of perpetually pissing their pants. The idea that they are being stirred upoff the record to keep their pants wet makes sense. It wouldn't take much, would it?

Fluffy

What does Battlestar Galactica have to do with Ignatius?

The neocons HATE Battlestar Galactica. Just sayin'.

Raenelle

Steve Gilliard used to say it was the Beltway snipers from a few years back that really freaked out the D.C. media.

Emphyrio

My suggestion: ask David Corn. While a progressive in good standing, he is cordial with all sorts of Washington insiders. Does he hear of tales of doom?

CMike

Channeling Dave Neiwert, instead of:

It's like asking doctors to compromise and work together with a plague

you might have gone with:

It's like asking doctors to compromise and work together with snake oil salesmen [alternatively, a bunch of quacks].

flint, still employed

A combination of scary stories and phone calls in the middle of the night.

"Nice story you have there about illegal bush activity. If you print it your wife
is gonna find out about your mistress in Chicago. We'll send her the phone transcripts."

MasonMcD

Had to stop that runaway tag.

Dean Keeton

I've heard from 2 different people the argument "The fact that we haven't been attacked again proves Bush is keeping us safe." Neither person seemed to appreciate it when I replied, "That's the same argument as 'This amulet wards off tigers.' 'Does it really work?' 'You see any tigers around here?'" Maybe next time, I'll use "fretful porpentine" instead of "tiger."

Thank God/the Cold, Uncaring Universe we have such big, strong Republican daddies, keeping us safe from tigers, porpenties, and Terror Guys.

Tony

Interesting. I'm on the fence, though. I hesitate to call it conspiratorial, because as Watergate showed, sometimes the conspiracies are real.

But ... how does this explain John Edwards' hair, Obama's middle name, Hillary's onion rings, Pelosi's unethical plane travel? 'Cause I don't think it does.

It needs to be tied in with Somerby's strong media critique.

Heywood J.

I've heard from 2 different people the argument "The fact that we haven't been attacked again proves Bush is keeping us safe." Neither person seemed to appreciate it when I replied, "That's the same argument as 'This amulet wards off tigers.' 'Does it really work?' 'You see any tigers around here?'"

Yeah, I've tried that same one, except it was the "elephant stapler" I keep on my desk. They don't get it, they just get a momentary look of cockeyed bemusement, and then go back to wondering who will be the next American Idolt.

Nice post, Lance. Anything's possible, and the whispered-fear scenario certainly sounds like a good one. Sadly, it might be even more mundane than that -- Digby had a post from the Richtard Dice Cohen archives, in which the Diceman endorsed the pardoning of Cap Weinberger because he, Cohen, would occasionally bump into the Capster at the local Safeway, buying turkeys and such. I shit you not.

That's the trick with stupid people, which our punditocracy undeniably are. The creeps behind the curtain don't even have to scare them with lurid possibilities of islamojihadiboogabooga under the bed. Just letting them think they're friends, that their dumb opinions actually count for something, saying hi to them at the next appletini-fest at Sally Quinn's -- that's 95% of the battle. People like Cohen and Broderella are just happy to help their buddies out. That's what friends are for.

Linkmeister

As usual, Lance expresses the sentiment better than I did.

It's in the best interests of Bush, the Administration, the Republican congressbeasts, and their acolytes, including much of K Street and its clients, to have the great unwashed be fearful. It doesn't reflect well on the American people that the fearmongering has succeeded so well.

My mother, who was born in 1926, keeps saying "What are people so afraid of?" Since she has lived through times so much worse than these, I'd say she's got a point.

even-toed ungulate

I suspect you're spot-on, but I don't think that such conversations are all that detailed. Those who've been hiding under the blankets since 9/11 are already in a state of perpetual hair-trigger nuttiness where the NEXT ATTACK! is always just around the corner.

What frightens me is that the NEXT ATTACK! doesn't have to be the "spectacular" event Ignatius dreads to be the casus belli for further demolition of democratic society.

Eventually, we'll have suicide bombers or worse here, and horrible as that is, under this administration, the reaction will be totalitarian - or at least anti-constitutional - simply because they feel that such attacks give them unlimited license to destroy all that threatens them, and I fear that that includes anyone who would seek to threaten them politically.

owlbear1

Ya know, Editors aren't getting nearly enough credit for the crap they are stamping "Approved."

scarshapedstar

I've been saying this for a while, about right-wing bloggers, at least. It's part and parcel of the fantasy world inhabited by those who "get it," to use a particular warblogger term oddly reminiscent of someone who just spent all night on peyote and has now returned to their job at the supermarket.

In order to realistically believe that we are smack dab in the middle of a conflict more deadly and dangerous than every war in human history (and maybe a few prehistoric wars, too) rolled in to one, you have to believe that things are more complicated than they appear. This paranoid delusion is reinforced in subtle ways and the powers that be have come to rely on it -- remember, in the runup to Iraq (especially in the nuclear crayon drawing days), the "just think of what they can't tell us" gambit?

The ultimate expression of this is that when Bush appears on television, visibly shaken and disoriented and spouting nonsense, you and I might think he's drunk or psychotic, but they know he's burdened by the knowledge that last night he saved the lives of everyone in that room and three million others and it breaks his heart to be forced to remain silent in the face of endless taunts by the cruel and remorseless liberal media... but that's the burden of such a fine and Christian man.

Anyway, it stands to reason that in order to warp the minds of journalists, who love to feel that they know more than the rubes, you've got to give them official-sounding leaks instead of mere cryptic innuendo. I wish I could find this Wormtongue character you speak of. But who the hell could it be? Steve Hadley?

Jillian


Scared old geezers whose paranoia is an ego prop, who prefer time-wasting and violence they can gloat and wring their hands about over the hard work of creating proper fixes. Sounds about right.

Hamilton Lovecraft

I don't think journalists are getting any hints of terror. I think they just like being in the inner circle. Period.

latts

All I can figure is that the people who are running the Republican Party today aren't the people journalists and pundits like Ignatius think are running the Party. They must think the Republicans are led by the likes of Richard Luger, Chuck Hagel, and Arlen Specter.

...

Do they not actually listen to the real leaders of the GOP?

Do they avoid them at parties?

Probably just the opposite-- these people who are in their public/political lives (as seen by outsiders like ourselves) crude, savage, delusional, accomplished liars, and fundamentally un-American, are apparently perfectly mild-mannered, normal-seeming, kid-and-pet-loving types in their personal lives. That's what confuses the pundits and makes the Beltway mentality so destructive to ethical government: they cannot square the 'good guys' tha they know socially with the results of their political acts, so it's easier to pretend that the actions are trivial than it is to critique the well-liked individuals. As far as I'm concerned, "by their deeds ye shall know them," but there's no downside to my critiquing them, while the people whose job it is to make those assessments will pay a social & personal price for doing their jobs even adequately. It's one helluva mess.

Ralph

I like your general idea, but I believe 9/11 post-traumatic stress syndrome is insufficient to explain all the stupid nonsense we hear from the pundits, for the simple reason that most of that nonsense started long before 9/11. Yes, it is certainly more widespread now, but this is basically the same gang that gave us the 1980 October Surprise, and Iran Contra and Watergate, and... fill in the blanks.

Nevertheless, I think your theory of fear as a huge confusion factor is probably right. It's just that the "fear of what?" question still remains to be answered.

My pet theory is that a lot of the pundits (and politicians and others) have figured out, in various ways, from various hints and clues, that our country is going to be experiencing a decreasing standard of living in the foreseeable future. I think the pundits (and others) are trying to get themselves and their families to high ground, so to speak, in the expected flood.

I think many people believe the Republican Party, through the use of naked power and a willingness to do evil things, can lead them to that high ground and will protect them once they are up there.

I think these unfortunate scared people imagine themselves up on a mountain top, surrounded by Republican machine guns pointed outward in all directions to keep out the rabble below. They believe that those machine gunners will not hesitate to kill anyone who is trying to reach the top and thereby share the wealth and safety up there, and that those on the mountain top will thereby feel safe (if somewhat guilty).

The remedy for the guilt is extreme denial, effectively saying to themselves and others, "Nothing is happening. Nothing has changed. This is business as usual."

The mountaintop metaphor is remarkably similar to the image of good Christians being pulled up to heaven, just before the bad times start, as portrayed in the popular right-wing Christian "Left Behind" series of books.

calling all toasters

Why is nobody putting this together?

Does anyone think DC journalists give a crap if America is attacked? Because they sure are reluctant to report on W's malfeasance and incompetence in the GWOT. The public wouldn't know about him sitting on his ass in that Florida classroom if it weren't for Michael Moore.

Does anyone think they don't know these scary stories are bullshit? WMD, anyone? Drones reaching the US in 45 minutes? Thew know it's all bullshit; they couldn't not know.

Does anyone think the press won't pull out all the stops to save GOP power? They have complete omerta on the subject of impeachment, even though there's more support for impeaching Bush now than there ever was for impeaching Clinton.

Does anyone think that the press is concerned in the least little bit about their integrity? They emitted one or two little squeaks of protest at Jeff Gannon being made one of them.

These people have NO POWER to say "no" to the GOP. They work in a shrinking industry, run by right-wing corporations.

THEY ARE AFRAID FOR THEIR JOBS. These are people who are eminently replaceable. They have few job skills and they don't have any technical expertise. Hell, Sean Hannity can do their job. Often the honest ones (think Krugman) don't need their media gig.

They even have to abase themselves by calling themselves "liberal" to help Rove along.

The normal rules don't apply. Make money for them like Phil Donahue, and you still get fired for being too liberal. Why would a profit-driven corporation do that? Because it is better for their bottom line to play ball with Rove. If they do what Rove says, they will be taken care of. But they need their reporters to sign off.

We know that there are direct payments being used (Armstrong Williams was far from the only one). We know that they play up every anti-Democrat story, no matter how trivial. We know they bury most stories that reflect poorly on the GOP. It isn't about national security--when Clinton was President, they went to Louis Freeh for their security stories, and would scream about how it's all about blowjobs.

It is all about the GOP having power over these people.

Dan

> I've heard from 2 different people the argument "The fact that we haven't been attacked again proves Bush is keeping us safe." Neither person seemed to appreciate it when I replied, "That's the same argument as 'This amulet wards off tigers.' 'Does it really work?' 'You see any tigers around here?'" Maybe next time, I'll use "fretful porpentine" instead of "tiger."

You'd do just as well just tracing your analogy back to its source:

Homer: Not a bear in sight. The Bear Patrol must be working like a charm.
Lisa: That's specious reasoning, Dad.
Homer: Thank you, dear.
Lisa: By your logic I could claim that this rock keeps tigers away.
Homer: Oh? How does it work?
Lisa: It doesn't work.
Homer: Uh-huh...
Lisa: It's just a stupid rock.
Homer: Uh-huh...
Lisa: But I don't see any tigers around, do you?
Homer: Lisa, I want to buy your rock.

Campaspe

You're beautiful when you're angry.

Innocent Bystander

Blackmail and death threats work pretty well, too. Stolen elections, anthrax, assassinated Democrats, snipers are all motivators for the Washington punditry to get with the program. No one is unreachable.

Year of the Rat

I had some of the same thoughts as Ralph. A car bomb could destroy a Bushite's limousine just as easily as it could destroy a bus crammed with proles.

But that's not to say that elite Bushites aren't being kept in line by terrifying briefings. I've read that 50's redbaiters used that tactic. For example, when the Hollywood witch hunt began, a group of elite Hollywood liberals including Humphrey Bogart went to Washington to attempt to fight it. After a private briefing about what Congressional redbaiters knew that they didn't, they meekly went home and weren't heard from again.

Year of the Rat

I had some of the same thoughts as Ralph. A car bomb could destroy a Bushite's limousine just as easily as it could destroy a bus crammed with proles.

But that's not to say that elite Bushites aren't being kept in line by terrifying briefings. I've read that 50's redbaiters used that tactic. For example, when the Hollywood witch hunt began, a group of elite Hollywood liberals including Humphrey Bogart went to Washington to attempt to fight it. After a private briefing about what Congressional redbaiters knew that they didn't, they meekly went home and weren't heard from again.

Gar Lipow

Calling all tigers said:

>You'd do just as well just tracing your analogy back to its source (followed by a Simpsons link).

Ummm that joke preceded Simpsons by at least decades, I suspect centuries. Alexander King published a booked called "May this house be safe from tigers" in 1961--referring to a joke that was already old even then.

Jennifer

I've no doubt you've hit the nail squarely on the head. Your theory is buttressed by that excrable Sally Quinn column that ran in the Post not long after 9/11 - the one in which she was babbling in terror about the need to buy gas masks and the like.

Dan

> Ummm that joke preceded Simpsons by at least decades, I suspect centuries.

You sure set me straight.

anon

Good theory. The problem I see with it is that a whole lot of evidence has accumulated that Cheney/Bush and neocons are incompetent fools, powerful brutal vicious fools, but still fools. If some one told me scary terrorist stories and I thought they were true, having the current bunch in power would not comfort me at all. Get some one else, get Hagel, get the Distinguished Senator from Spectre, change the constitution and get Arnold, get a Dem not named Lieberman, get Walter Cronkite, there are hundreds maybe thousands of possible better alternatives in this country, many of them working regular day jobs. I met a warehouse manager a few weeks ago who would be better. Man, Ashcroft would be preferable -who woulda thunk that guy had more competence and ethics than Bush and Cheney (even if only marginally).

But if we add that most of these pundits are vain pampered money-bag tools who would have no viable means of living if the did not spoon trite mindless pabulum to the populace for their bosses, then I think everything fits together. Follow the money. Who decides who to hire and who to keep paying?

I think the corporate masters know one big thing that means everything to them -Cheney and Bush mean big corporate profits and more crony capitalism than any mortal could eat. And it has driven them ruthlessly mad.

Blogtopus

I think you might be right. I had a friend who was working at a 3d company that was helping out with some government projects (which for my safety he never mentioned in detail -- please don't kill me cia), and over bbqs and other small talk times he would just say be prepared for anything, because some of the chatter going on around his work was hair-raising. He was practically ready to build a shelter under his house. This is from a guy who is very can-do, don't-take-shit-from-noone kind of person. And yet nothing has happened in the few years since he quit working for this place. It obviously isn't because the mal-administration has been doing a good job.

If I never post again after this, REMEMBER BLOGTOPUS. (ie: look for a pasty white guy in orange johnny at GTMO)

RepubAnon

The Washington press corps and the bulk of the punditocracy are a bunch of:
* very wealthy people
* whose jobs depend upon their "insider" status, and
* who live in NYC and DC.

Bush and Cheney are known for:
* tax policies heavily favoring the very rich, and
* destroying the careers of anyone who doesn't say exactly what Bush and Cheney want said.

This means the press corps and the punditocracy fall all over themselves to say whatever they think will please Bush and Cheney, because they know that their "insider" sources would dry up, and they'd lose their high-paying jobs. Plus, 9/11 scared them, so it is very convenient for them to believe whatever scare-story rumor is being floated by Cheney's staff. (Al Qaeda is teaming up with the Klingons AND the Cylons to get antimatter bombs - we only know this because the NSA tapped the phones at the Whattacon Trekkie Reunion!)

It's more groupthink than conspiracy - most people will believe the convenient thing rather than something backed up with facts. Here, folks living in an area that was subjected to a scary attack in which they lost people they knew, whose paychecks depend upon staying on the good side of various government officials, and who like the current administration's tax policies - will BELIEVE the Republican spin.

Orville

The airliner that crashed into the Pentagon could of easily crashed into one of their homes or gathering spots which would have really been a tragedy to them. This plus blackmail,intellectual laziness, partisanship,and good old "access to sources" have rendered these folks into mouthpieces for the Bush regime or in the case of Chris Matthews and his ilk admirers of their political winning skills rather than leadership capabilities.

Victor Small

It's amazing what fear will do.
The comparison with Bush is not Hitler. It's Stalin.
Never have so many been so cowed by so few.
And the really sad thing is, they're really bad at that, too... Too many people have seen through all of this. Like those of us in the reality-based world. Unfortunately, none of us is in the MSM.
The people in the MSM have to change their "Depend's" with every article. "Tell us another scary story, Uncle Dick!"
I lived in NY City most of my life. I look forward to my next visit. I wasn't afraid when I lived there. I won't be afraid on my next visit.
BTW - I was in DC last weekend. And, I live in Fayetteville, NC - another major target (home of Fort Bragg).
I don't live in fear. Why do our precious media representative's? Oh, that's right, their lives are worth so much more than ours.
Moral coward's, supporting War Criminal's.
Please look up Uncle Joe Stalin.
This crew is like a 3 Stooge's version of the real thing. But harmful, none the less...
IMPEACH!!!
And then bring these clown's before The Hague.

burritoboy


Lance,

We need to think deeper and harder than this.

"What is the Republican Party today offering that makes them people anybody in their right minds would want to get along with?"

The problem is that you're assuming a level of rationality that not only does not exist, but cannot exist. That is, you're a good disciple of the Enlightenment - which relies upon the theory that most people will be or at least can be rational - but the Enlightenment's theory was simply incorrect.

Having the pleasing assumption of widespread rationality allows us the enjoyable feeling of being non-snobs and supporting democracy. But, in reality, this false assumption simply makes us more susceptible to machinations and power plays by those more willing than us to manipulate the masses. I.E. our need to believe in democracy ends up undermining our chances for any just political order, democratic or not.

More generally, that you're surprised by the power of image and propaganda is simply not permissible at this late stage. Our first warnings were already present in Napoleon - and in a world filled with Berlusconis, Nixons, Howards you still are surprised?

Exiled in New Jersey

Justin Raimondo has been telling us for five years now that 9/11 ripped a hole in the time/space continuum and we have fallen into a 'Bizarro World' where up is down and down is up.

LiveEarth

Completely off topic, and relevant only to Mr. Mannion:

Greetings from another P.G. Wodehouse fan:)

nuQler ostrich

Hmmm. "Two men with rifles" "Beltway snipers"

Sounds eerily like Operation Northwoods.

And "Airliner that crashed into the Pentagon..."

What airline?

Didn't you mean "missile" ?
Quote Donald Rumsfeld 12 October 2001 Interview for Parade Magazine.

"Here we're talking about plastic knives and using an American Airlines flight filled with our citizens, and the missile to damage this building..."

Part of the problem is the misdirection perpetrated on the American people, by using the media to reinforce the lies. They repeat the lies often enough and people will believe them.

Many people still believe the Saddam Hussein was somehow responsible for 9-11. David Shuster ably confronted Fouad Ajami on Hardball the other day when Ajami tried to make the reference again linking Iraq to 9-11. David did a credible job stopping Ajami from "catapulting the propaganda." We need to be smarter than this.

Essolith

The very short version: Consider the personality type that yearns to become a reporter(the movie hero type: active, taking risks, knocking their socks off etc.) Now he's a "grown-up", burdened, with responsibility, being fair but correct, looking up to the big-boys such as those with power and special knowledge in their field or in big power positions, anxious for some sort of recognition-desperate for it. Also almost prostrate with desire for the money, the "friends", the confidants, the lunches, parties, the By-Line, the photo ops, the commencement speeches and ,by now slowly sinking to the foreordained position: that of the Politician without, however, the coiffure. Why the wonder about the nonsense?

Dan Leo

One problem with the "a word in your shell-like ear" theory is exemplified by that exchange after the first massacre in "The Wild Bunch", when the reluctant bounty hunter Deke Thornton tells the evil railroad man Harrigan that the townspeople should have been told about the attempted ambush on the Wild Bunch that resulted in a lot of innocent civilians getting shot. Harrigan replies somethling like:

"How long do you think anybody in this manure pile could keep his mouth shut?'

So if these nitwits are getting all this inside dope do you really think they'd be able to keep their mouths shut about it? Me, I really am a Washington outsider, so what the hell do I know, but I tend to think these pundits just like to cozy up to the big boys, to keep their corporate jobs and not rock the boat; oh, and also, of course, they're assholes.

feckless

Not to get lost with the conspiracy theories, but what do you think Rove was doing with those untraceable, no paperwork, no means of oversight secret wiretaps.

Doing the same thing that J Edgar Hoover did, getting political dirt.

Thats why the pundikts lickspittle.

And the NEXT BIG ONE? It will be perpetrated by the same people who committed the last attacke before 9/11, Timothy McVeigh & Eric Rudolph. With the inevitable democratic government in 2008, the right wing extremists will go into full survivalist mode and start blowing shit up.

John Doe

I've heard from 2 different people the argument "The fact that we haven't been attacked again proves Bush is keeping us safe." Neither person seemed to appreciate it when I replied, "That's the same argument as 'This amulet wards off tigers.' 'Does it really work?' 'You see any tigers around here?'" Maybe

That joke works better (indeed, it only works at all) if you're in a place where the very notion of a tiger attack is completely out of the question. But if you live in a tiger-infested area, and your camp has in fact been attacked by several tigers [first WTC bombing, 9/11], and then someone does several things that could plausibly prevent more tiger attacks [detaining lots of potential suspects after 9/11, stepping up intelligence activities and monitoring], then the joke just falls completely flat.

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