The Selling-Out of Democracy
There is a reason why we have led the first half dozen issues of
The Consortium with installments from the "October Surprise
X-Files," even as we have added shorter investigative pieces
about the arming of Iraq and other intelligence operations. It
is because, we believe, the controversy over the alleged theft
of the 1980 presidential election helps explain the grander
larceny of American democracy. The question is not just whether
one election can be turned by a dirty trick, but how
information-- the lifeblood of any democracy -- is controlled in
this modern age.
As a reporter breaking many of the Iran-Contra stories for the
Associated Press, Newsweek and the Public Broadcasting System's
FRONTLINE program, I witnessed first-hand how Washington
power-brokers learned to shape our perceptions as a nation. An
important moment in this trend occurred in the early 1980s with
the creation of a "public diplomacy" apparatus at the National
Security Council. It was overseen by CIA Director William J.
Casey (despite a ban on domestic CIA activities), and its goal
was called "perception management."
This special team, with its biggest office at the State
Department, generated propaganda to win American sympathy for
CIA programs, such as the contra war in Nicaragua. But another
part of the job was to discredit reporters, congressmen and
citizen groups who offered evidence that clashed with the
desired perceptions. Soon, it became clear that telling the
truth to the American people was a very bad career move.
As the accompanying story, "Where's Bill Casey?," shows, this
technique of enforced consensus has grown so pervasive in
Washington that it now compels us to accept obviously false
arguments. For instance, writing down a person's home phone
number "proves" that the person is home, even if there's no
answer when the number is called. Anyone who objects to this
sort of logic gets bounced from the Washington club.
The Washington scene is now like the old fable about the
Emperor's New Clothes. The elites strut in their rhetorical
underwear while the rest of us are expected to ooh and aah over
the beautiful finery. If some pip-squeak protests that these
folks are prancing around naked and spouting nonsense, he's
chased down and dragged away.
The blame for this predicament goes far beyond party and
ideology, beyond just the media or government. The problem
rests in a ruling national elite that likes to call itself,
modestly, "the Meritocracy." It is an entrenched class
contemptuous of common Americans. This elite's principal means
of control is through information.
That is why we believe it is crucial to begin a true accounting
of what happened in this era. The election of 1980 strikes us
as the right place to start, not only because it was the
primordial moment for the period we are still enduring, but
because the bipartisan October Surprise investigation in 1992-93
carried the practice of enforced madness to its "logical"
We think the six installments of the "October Surprise X-Files"
have shown that the widely acclaimed House report was an insult
to the American people, a brazen falsification of our history.
Robert Parry, Editor of The Consortium
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