Monday, February 06, 2006

Is there a better or more perceptive commentator on the current political climate, both in the US and the UK, than Gary Younge? I couldn’t agree more with his article in today’s Guardian entitled "The gullibility that led us into the last war could yet bring us a new conflict”. In it, he writes, “The power of both illusion and delusion should never be underestimated. The compulsion to believe in something we need and want to be true, rather than see reality for what it is, can at times be astounding.” In showing how our perceptions are affected by what we are meant to perceive, Young cites Colin Powell speaking at the UN prior to the war as well as eye witness accounts of the de Menezes shooting in London. In the latter case, witnesses testified to seeing something entirely different from reality- one saw a Pakistani male, another saw a man with wires coming out of his jacket. This, says Younge, is indicative of a wider problem, one inherent in a culture of bad politics, rolling news and instant reaction. “What is insidious," writes Younge, "is the propensity of people to arrange an array of possibles, probables, maybes and might-bes, and construct from that a reality that is both definite and wrong...The power of suggestion, assumption and presumption is everything.” Younge points out that the war in Iraq is the prime example of just how potent this market in bad ideas is based on flawed perception has become. “Bad ideas helped take us into the war; and unless we examine what they were and why some managed to believe them, they will prevent us from getting out.” He goes on to say that when reality refuses to match up to the idea that is being promoted, people “do not change their ideas; they change reality.” Who is better at promoting this than those in the Bush-Blair axis. But even the likes of Kerry who supported the war when it was opportune, now, in retrospect, say had they known what they know now, they would not have supported the war. Obviously the relevant questions is why couldn’t these people see what was blatantly obvious to millions of others. And are these people simply reversing their opinion because it is, as the opinion polls suggest, equally opportune to do so? Younge also cites Powell’s aide, Colonel Wilkinson questioning whether the intelligence leading to the war just might possibly have been spun to the advantage of the administration. Like Younge, and millions of other people, I would have thought that was a no-brainer. Yet the argument of people like Wilkinson or Murtha is that we should get out of Iraq because the war is unwinnable, not that it was immoral to invade the country in the first place. Thanks to the media, and lowest-common denominator polticis, we’ve become so alienated from reality that there is hardly any need for what was once so crudely referred to as brain-washing.

No comments :