Andrew Sullivan has lately been pursuing a jihad against the endless "Bush lied" lies and other distortions that mark so much of current political discussion. I've sent him my own note of thanks, but a key question remains as to what mixture of dishonesty and brainwashing the various media and political figures who relentlessly mouth these misstatements are expressing.
When FRONTLINE producer Martin Smith, in the online chat Sullivan excerpts, tries to defend himself against hostile questioning by equating the words "grave and gathering" with the word "imminent," a statement which really is not very far from "2 + 2 = 5" or "We have always been at war with Oceania," I tend to think he's showing the symptoms of brainwashing (induced reflexive intellectual responses to external stimuli) more than of dishonesty. Most of the meme-mad false witnesses probably fall under this category, and their vulnerability to this peculiar form of left-liberal false consciousness is probably enhanced by the Peter Principle corollary that often makes people who are poor at questioning themselves more likely to succeed in highly competitive fields like journalism and politics. In the latter field especially, being able to believe one's own lies with unstinting fervor is practically a job requirement.
The resultant spectacle is loathsome, but is probably unavoidable. The war on terror and specifically the Bush approach to it represent strategic, possibly world-historical, turning points that, in political terms, in turn represent a crisis for the left, whose failures in the 2002 Congressional elections confirmed that the dangers to its political relevance were not just grave and gathering, but imminent as well: In a word, they were and remain immanent, as in emerging inexorably from within prevailing conditions, and in a manner accelerated by 9/11 and by Bush's necessarily aggressive response to the total geostrategic challenge. In this context, virtually the entirety of the left's post-9/11 political reaction to Bush - from initial patriotic unity to the more recent rather unpatriotic convulsions - has to be seen as originating in sheer existential panic. In the media, among the Democratic presidential candidates, throughout the anti-war movement, and everywhere else where regressive progressives gather, a fantasy world is conjured where left-liberal positions and beliefs are essential, important, and meaningful, and left-liberal ambitions remain within reach. Those who chant the left-liberal mantras and lash out at anyone who dares to interrupt them are like victims of terminal illness, pitifully relying on denial and grasping at quack medicine because the truth simply cannot be intellectually administered.
Under conditions of political crisis, the sick-to-political-death ideologues cannot open their mouths without releasing torrents of bile. As for the supposedly objective reporters, we've long known that the vast majority voted Democrat and held liberal views. Their latent biases and affinities are being forced to the surface, and cannot long survive the light. All their twisted utterances, all their ludicrously slanted headlines and relentlessly biased descriptions, from FRONTLINE to the New York Times to the AP to CNN, suggest a million or so last gasps.