Americans and reality

October 6, 2008

Robert Parry: The Reagan presidency further detached Americans from world reality Pt.3

Robert Parry: The Reagan presidency further detached Americans from world reality Pt.3


Story Transcript

America pays the piper, big time Pt. 3

Producer: Carlo Basilone

ROBERT PARRY, AUTHOR AND INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALIST: Well, basically what was achieved during this period was almost a divorcing of the American people from objective reality. There was the sense that fears could be exaggerated, threats from abroad could be made much bigger than they actually were. We saw this play out with the Soviet Union. One of the reasons the CIA sort of, quote, "missed" the collapse of the Soviet Union was that the CIA analysts inside who had been seeing problems with the Soviets were purged, because they were saying the problem was getting smaller, not bigger, and the pressure was to sort of make the Soviet Union 10 feet tall so that would justify more military spending. So we had that kind of problem, where the public could no longer rely on its news media to give it the accurate story because there was so much pressure placed on that news media and on the people otherwise responsible for bringing the information out. So the American people turned more and more to kind of being affected by their emotions. And I think the neoconservatives in particular understood how effective that could be. For instance, if you want to rally people to get upset about the first Persian Gulf war, you don’t really talk about economics. You don’t even talk about oil. You talk about Saddam Hussein’s forces taking babies off incubators and throwing them on the ground, even if that’s made up.

NAYIRAH AL-SABAH: While I was there, I saw the Iraqi soldiers come into the hospital with guns. They took the babies out of the incubators, took the incubators, and left the children to die on the cold floor.

TEXT ON SCREEN: It was not until nearly two years later that the truth emerged. The story was a fabrication and a myth, and Nayirah, the teenage Kuwaiti girl, coached and rehearsed by Hill & Knowlton for her appearance before the Congressional committee, was in fact the daughter of the Kuwaiti ambassador to the United States. (Phillip Knightley, The Guardian, October 4, 2001.)

PARRY: So emotions become very important in terms of how you manipulate the American people. And that’s part of where we have sort of evolved into this period, where you have, in the case of heading into the Iraq War, especially after 9/11, when Americans were understandably furious. But there was exploitation of that anger and those emotions, and that was used to then justify a more aggressive policy around the world. And you saw in the case of the lead-up to the war in Iraq, President Bush, Vice President Cheney, and the neoconservatives very effectively exploited American fears. They stressed how Saddam Hussein was moving forward with chemical and biological and possibly even nuclear weapons. There was the famous line about you cannot let the smoking gun be a mushroom cloud. So Americans were frightened and they had been almost untethered from reality, and that allowed the government to do pretty much what it wanted, which was to go in and invade this country. So on that sort of a foreign policy level you see how it worked. But there was also a similar disconnect relating to the economy. The conservatives were able to convince Americans that the government was the problem and that the solution was let to let the free market do what it wanted. So the idea of deregulating became a big issue. Obviously, cutting back taxes, weakening the regulatory agency, whether it be the EPA and the environment or whether it be the SEC and some of the regulatory agencies on the economy. When all that happened over time, the people who were doing very well with this on Wall Street were able to develop very complex financial instruments that they didn’t even understand happening. And I was working for awhile at Bloomberg news, handling security regulation coverage. And, frankly, when I’d read these SEC reports that were done, I didn’t understand what these were either, and almost nobody did. So that idea of people not understanding the real-world facts around them played dramatically into the kind of crisis America now faces, where the hopefulness or this ideological feeling that government has to be removed from every picture prevailed. And ultimately it’s led to the kind of catastrophe that the United States sees not only in the foreign policy field, where it’s got two open-ended wars costing $10 billion a month, but also in the case of the domestic economy, which has gone pretty much out of control because the deregulators were consistently pushed back over the past 25, 30 years.


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