"The profile of one Ben Rhodes running in Sunday’s New York Times Magazine is not unsympathetic, which makes it all the more devastating.
Perhaps the key sentence is this: “His lack of conventional real-world experience of the kind that normally precedes responsibility for the fate of nations — like military or diplomatic service, or even a master’s degree in international relations, rather than creative writing — is still startling.”" Hicks
"Rhodes and others around Obama keep on talking about doing all this novel thinking, playing from a new playbook, bucking the establishment thinking. But if that is the case, why have they given so much foreign policy power to two career hacks who never have had an original thought? I mean, of course, Joe Biden and John Kerry. I guess the answer can only be that those two are puppets, and (as in Biden’s case) are given losing propositions like Iraq to handle.
Fact check: Obama’s hasn’t been an original foreign policy as much as it has been a politicized foreign policy. And this Rhodes guy reminds me of the Kennedy smart guys who helped get us into the Vietnam War. Does he know how awful he sounds? Kind of like McGeorge Bundy meets Lee Atwater." Ricks
I had a conversation with an old, old college friend a few days ago in which he more or less asserted that there is really no place in the MODERN WORLD for English majors. He did qualify that by assuring me that for someone as wonderful as I there would always be a place, somewhere.
Well, pilgrims, on 9/11 this Rhodes fellow was a graduate student in creative writing who hoped someday to be a novelist. Somehow he conceived the idea of writing about international relations. A few years later he had become Obama's soul mate and alter ego in the foreign policy world. Say what? How could that be? I don't know but it clearly happened and the juxtaposition of the Obama/Rhodes deadly duo operating within the boundaries of Borgist (Blobist) Washington and New York City explains a lot. Do they really see "hacks" like Biden and Kerry as tools for their scheming? Do they feel much the same way about the R2P ladies (of both genders)?
What emerges from the NY Times piece and Ricks' savage critique of Rhodes and by implication Obama is a picture of two "artists" who believe that they can re-write the narrative of America and therefore of the world and that their fictional narrative will become reality. No wonder things are so f—-d up. pl
Shows how Obama changed little from “W”‘s presidency. Fantasy as policy and vice versa.
I find it stunning, or at least surprising, that Foreign Policy published an article with the word “asshole” in the title. That’s not because I am unused to hearing the word, mind you. But it’s certainly unrestrained, and not at all diplomatic.
Ricks is IMO neither diplomatic nor a gentlemen. pl
if you self-identify as a statesperson then ….
B. Rhodes: Navigator JG, Ship of State. Qualifications: a GPS Smart Watch and access to Google Maps.
Time to bring back emblems/badges of office and dress[-up] conventions according to rank for people in government.
Some quotations from the profile of Rhodes, with comments.
‘He is, according to the consensus of the two dozen current and former White House insiders I talked to, the single most influential voice shaping American foreign policy aside from Potus himself.’
This must be one of the few political systems in the history of the world where absolute lack of practical experience of anything, and also of serious scholarly knowledge of anything, qualifies one to be the second-most important figure in shaping a country’s foreign and security policies.
Quite possible, it won’t end well.
‘He is adept at constructing overarching plotlines with heroes and villains, their conflicts and motivations supported by flurries of carefully chosen adjectives, quotations and leaks from named and unnamed senior officials.’
Actually, very little of human affairs consists of simple conflicts between absolute good and absolute evil. Even with the conflict with Nazi Germany, which comes very much closer than most, the contrast is not absolute.
(There are moral complexities, in relation, for example, to Bomber Harris. And do not tell me that the virtuous Americans are somehow immune to criticism in relation to their use of bombing.)
So the NYT has told us that the second most important figure in shaping American foreign policy is actively engaged in propagating views of the world which are totally delusional.
It won’t end well.
‘But once you are attuned to the distinctive qualities of Rhodes’s voice — which is often laced with aggressive contempt for anyone or anything that stands in the president’s way — you can hear him everywhere.’
Absolute contempt for anything that opposes the will of the leader. This is a Nazi or Stalinist view of the world.
It didn’t end well in Germany or Russia – why should it end much better in the United States?
‘His New York City prep-school-kid combination of vulnerability, brattiness and passionate hatred for phonies suggests an only slightly updated version of what Holden Caulfield might have been like if he grew up to work in the West Wing.’
Holden Caulfield as the second most important man running a country’s foreign policy? I suppose that here the profile is at least quite funny, in a macabre kind of way.
But really, why should it end well?
‘You have to have skin in the game – to be in the news business, or depend in a life-or-death way on its products – to understand the radical and qualitative ways in which words that appear in familiar typefaces have changed. Rhodes singled out a key example to me one day, laced with the brutal contempt that is a hallmark of his private utterances.’
This absolute rubbish, based upon a contempt for those outside the charmed circle which is not actually justified.
All kinds of people in Britain – with all kinds of differing levels of education, in all kinds of walks of life – understand quite well the way the news has changed, with the result that an increasing number do not believe a word of the gibberish which the stenographers who recycle words from scum like Rhodes write.
In this country at least, one is quite clearly seeing a massive collapse of trust alike in political élites and the MSM. And with regard to someone like Rhodes, quite a few people know a smarmy little git when they see one.
Whether this won’t end well, or may herald something better, I simply do not know.
‘Now the most effectively weaponized 140-character idea or quote will almost always carry the day, and it is very difficult for even good reporters to necessarily know where the spin is coming from or why.’
In that case, the ‘good reporters’ aren’t good – they’re lousy. But an increasing number of other people can see exactly where the spin is coming from, and take a fair guess as to why.
Unfortunately, one of the consequences of a – justified – conviction that one is being lied to is liable to be that conspiracy theories run riot. There are many people who will assess evidence quite rationally. But there are also many others who will conclude that American, and British policy, is manipulated by sinister forces – for instance, that the successes of the ‘Islamic State’ were consciously intended by an American ‘deep state’.
Quite clearly, conspiracy theories are increasingly running riot. And again, it is quite likely not to end well.
‘When I asked whether the prospect of this same kind of far-reaching spin campaign being run by a different administration is something that scares him, he admitted that it does. “I mean, I’d prefer a sober, reasoned public debate, after which members of Congress reflect and take a vote,” he said, shrugging. “But that’s impossible.”’
One of the reasons people used to believe that American democracy was a model to be emulated was that, despite periodic lapses, much of the time there was something approximating to a ‘sober, reasoned public debate.’
If this is now judged to be impossible, then how can any rational being hold up the American political system as a model to be emulated?
Obviously, the Putin ‘sistema’ has some rather major flaws (irony alert.) But how can one credibly argue that a political system in which crucial foreign policy decisions are made by people like Putin, Lavrov, and Shoigu is a better guardian of ‘national security’ than one in which such decisions are made by figures like Obama, Ben Rhodes, John Kerry, and Ashton Carter?
Note also the ordering – the ‘spin doctor’ takes second place.
Such a state of affairs does not seem to me very likely to end very well.
Rhodes was a wannabe writer sitting in his Queens apartment with visions of the Great American Novel dancing in his head. Nobody was interested in his scribblings. So his brother, now head of NBC News, plucked him out of a Queens Boulevard pizzeria and got him a job with Lee Hamilton at the Woodrow Wilson Center. The rest in history. Now, according to an eyewitness, Rhodes muses to colleagues how much he is looking forward to a return to the artistic life which Destiny had planned for him and that he reluctantly suspended in order to put in years of public service.
By the way, can anyone identify a worthwhile product that emerged from a Creative Writing course or workshop?
“This must be one of the few political systems in the history of the world where absolute lack of practical experience of anything, and also of serious scholarly knowledge of anything, qualifies one to be the second-most important figure in shaping a country’s foreign and security policies.”
While not as massive in scale (still big enough, though) the influence of French (very popular at a time) journo Gabriel Charmes on formation of famous naval Jeune Ecole, which was, generally, a disaster for French Navy, is one of such examples. Obviously, Putin’s appointment of crude imbecile Anatoly Serdyukov to the position of Defense Minister is another one. In Russia it is known as the operation which dealt an irreparable damage to the US military and CIA since very many top people there died from homeric laughter after learning who became Russia’s Defense Minister (yes, furniture specialist). Needless to say that Russian Armed Forces only now beginning to recover from the so called furniture “reforms”.
The appropriate reaction to the antics of people like Obama and Rhodes is: LOL! Except, their shenanigans end or upend the lives of millions of people around the world. And, while they are playing their PoliSci games, dangerous lunatics like Breedlove can run amuck.
As Alastair Crooke has recently commented, US policy is to push its supposed adversaries one day, and then seek to work with them the next.
If it weren’t all so deadly in its possible outcome – LOL!
I find much of the denigration and deprecation of many of the traditional Humanities majors like English, other languages and literature, philosophy, and history lamentable, especially for those who pursued a traditional liberal arts program. With its emphasis on a broad curriculum, it provided the tools to learn how to learn and an ability to follow discussions across many disciplines.
In addition, it can also encourage some degree of humility, if I correctly recall Newton’s humility in his claim that it was by standing on the shoulders of giants that he could see farther.
Don’t you mean “Ricks” instead of “Hicks?”
I guess this needs to be said by somebody.
1. Experience is not the same as good judgment. I had a carpenter working for me one time that would deflect guidance by bragging about his 25 years of experience. Yes, 25 years of fuxking up. Cases in point: Rumsfeld, Cheney, Ashton Carter, et caetra.
2. There ain’t nothing wrong with being an English major. It’s not what courses you took, but how much you can learn on your own.
3. Ricks is an Xsshole so are the Israel Firster and NeoCon NYT, Washpo and the rest of the MSM w/ a few notable exceptions.
4. Obama has done some things right. Not bombing the government of Syria. Not being provoked in a war w/ Iran.
5. Has done a lot of things wrong too. Supplying Islamists in Syria, toppling Libya, not declaring victory in Afghanistan and getting out. Ukraine and expansion of Nato are for me the biggest blunders. How much is him or the NeoCons he employed like Clinton, Nuland, and R2P Powers. Of course, he can be faulted for employing them.
6. Sen Sessions recently burned O-bomber for not keeping a couple of thousand troops in Iraq and therefore preventing the rise of Daesh. Well, how about the lack of a SOFA agreement that Dubya could not get signed? I guess he could’ve ignored that? I don’t know.
All of this strikes me as an echo of the bleating of the NeoCons and Israel Firsters, of both parties, at the prospect of a Trump Ascendancy which would put America First.
There is nothing more tedious to read than NYT magazine article. Whenever they so a profile on someone this is how they write a piece.
Step 1. write a very detailed, mundane, account about the subjects life, ‘his mother new he was special when he drew a bridge in his first coloring book in pre-school’.
Step 2: splice in the meat of the article in random points making it impossible to extract without reading the entire magazine article spliced into the junk DNA.
I just want to smack someone at the NYT, haven’t they ever heard ‘brevity is the soul of wit’?
Maybe it’s because I kept slipping in and out of a coma but I feel like I am missing the big point here. He’s an English major type who was hired to control Obama’s messaging. He wasn’t a policy maker, so I don’t see a big infraction here. It looks like he was one step above a Press Secretary where he has to understand the President’s political opponents to know how to spin the arguments to win them over. The one tactical thing the article detailed was some ethically dubious claims he made to sell the Iranian nuclear deal.
Maybe I’m a little sensitive on the topic because I have some kids in/entering college and the Administrators are assuring us that liberal arts education is not as useless as it sounds 🙂
The alternative explanation is that this piece (and the “consensus” that supposedly fed it) is basically payback against Obama from disgruntled Iran-bashers.
“You failed to listen to us about the dangers of signing a deal with the Eeebul Iranians, so we’re going to claim a self-aggrandizing PR hack strong-armed the entire intelligence community into supporting it.”
In my old age I am becoming more and more convinced that there is a (weak) conspiracy of some sort. Please consider what Dr. Brenner wrote in TTG’s latest post about the TTIP: “The terms of the negotiations, including the positions of the United States, were kept secret from the Congress and the public. Business and financial interests participated directly in the preparation of the United states’ proposals and in the negotiations throughout the multi-year negotiations. At the insistence of President Obama, Congress was forced to vote on according the administration fast-track authority that allows him to present the treaty as a package with no amendment possible”; a nice example of Obama’s service to the Borg in the field of economics. An indentured house elf (Dobie?) could not have been more efficient. Foreign policy, peaceful or otherwise, is just an extension of the economic policies of the USA- and any obstacles are to be removed by hook or crook, mostly crook. Another example: dissenters are immediately and brutally silenced, even those who are relatively benign. The PR campaign against the enemies of the Borg would put Goebbels to shame. All in all, too many coincidences are reinforcing each other. Seems almost like a new “Great Game”.
No matter what, I agree that this will not end well.
The results of the educational reforms of the ’60s are bearing bitter fruit. I think Virginia Postrel gives a good example when she compares the old and new versions of Star Trek:
We are seeing it in the whole culture. No wonder there is a revolt amongst the voting public. Which reminds me of Richard Sales comments on Ortega. More homework to do….
Here’s something to cheer you up, maybe:
I wouldn’t take the Rhodes story at face value. NYTimes is a mouthpiece.
The counterpoint to Obama/Rhodes is neocon charges of weakness. Predictably, they are now having a field day with the Rhodes story.
And the backdrop is the failure of the Iran Agreement to change Iran’s anti-US stance.
IMO the messaging is: We went to bat for you. Working with us (the Obama Administration) is your best option for peaceful relations (including getting the full measure of sanctions relief).
What Obama/Kerry want from Iran is to help force Assad’s departure (ideally by their August 1st deadline).
<> <> <> <> <> <> <> <>
Secretary of State John Kerry warned Syria’s government and its backers in Russia and Iran on Tuesday that they face an August deadline for starting a political transition to move President Bashar Assad out or they risk the consequences of a new U.S. approach on ending the five-year civil war.
. . .
“If Assad’s strategy is to somehow think he’s going to just carve out Aleppo and carve out a section of the country, I got news for you and for him: This war doesn’t end,” Kerry said. “As long as Assad is there, the opposition is not going to stop fighting,” he said.
Kerry said he has told his counterparts in Moscow and Tehran that calm won’t prevail in Syria if they’re not prepared to move quickly toward a new Syrian government.
A day earlier, the head of Iran’s central bank, Valiollah Seif had accused the U.S. and the European Union of failing to honor the nuclear agreement by keeping Iran locked out of the international financial system.
Being an old fart, I was raised with the notion of sovereign states and the President being the top dog. The press was separate and a watchdog over government. Clearly this is not the case when the European States are marching in lockstep with Washington DC and western media parrots the official government line. A few outlier articles like these that make it into the media are pointed out by outcasts and retirees in a few internet blogs. The spin doctor is the politician’s right hand man. This is integral to the plot of the Danish TV series “Borgen”.
Today’s incompetence is unprecedented because there is no debate and no one is fired or jailed. Government serves their masters, plutocrats and corporations, not the people. The American Empire is collapsing. The only question will the revolution come by electoral politics or will it be a replay of the collapse of the Soviet Union or an extinction event.
I think the money quote out of the NYT Mag piece is this from David Axelrod: “I think they’ve approached these major foreign-policy challenges as campaign challenges, and they’ve run campaigns, and those campaigns have been very sophisticated.”
This is a bit more nuanced statement than what it seems on surface, but nevertheless reflects a real danger, something that I have firsthand experience in a related but different field, namely “selling” “science” to the public. In that experience, I ran into two opposite mindsets: the scientists who believed that the only reason the public doesn’t buy into science is that they are stupid, to put it bluntly, and the only way to cure it is to force feed them the “good” science, while those who didn’t buy into the “science” were far from stupid and believed, correctly, that scientists had very strong political views that were shaping what they were selling beyond what “science” entailed which they themselves did not and could not disentangle from science. (and indeed, were blinded to it by their own moral convictions.) The consequence was that they were talking completely past each other and, in a sense, this was creating an environment where some of the more pernicious antiscience myths were being born from–whether it is irrational and blanket fear of GMO crops or vaccines, among many other things. Axelrod’s observation about new media is right on target: it may allow for people to escape from the “standard” narratives, but it also creates room for hucksters to sell nonsense that is believable to people with certain proclivities that are, in broader context, justifiable. Good PR people are indispensable in selling anything today–especially the truth, precisely because internet is so overrun with hucksters selling nonsense–all the more so because, all too often, most hucksters are pretty good at PR if nothing else.
Selling good foreign policy, I think, is not different from selling good science to masses. It is not easy to simply tell the masses to trust the experts. The masses lack the wherewithal to evaluate the “experts”: based on their “credentials,” who is to say that the likes of Wolfowitz, the Rices, Power, Slaughter, and Cheney are not really “experts,” at least until they have screwed up big time? If the phoney experts can sign on good PR men, good storytellers, simply dismissing them as phoneys would not work. They have to be matched by a good, even better PR effort, for being “right” is not going to be self evident most of the time.
I am not sure if Rhodes is necessarily that bad: he does not, at least based on the profile, appear to be a wholly owned mouthpiece of the Borgist cabal given how critical he is of their works, at least in certain aspects. Still, someone who is unmoored from actual expertise and is given to thinking about the universe only in terms of PR, can rise to the position of such influence is incredibly dangerous. I have the nagging suspicion that this is the consequence of the way “expertise” has been devalued: the wall of separation between analysis and advocacy has been increasingly torn down and many experts have gained their fame for advocating “big things,” not analyzing dispassionately, and their fame as “intellectuals” come from the ability to artfully and floridly justify their case, not being able to add up costs and benefits. Well, it takes no serious policy expertise to scream R2P, democracy good, two legs gooder, etc.: a good PR person can do it just as well or possibly even better. So the replacement of experts by PR men seems to be the natural path of this sad evolution.
Can this be stopped? I don’t know. “Democracy” abhors elitism and “expertise” is inherently elitist: even if right, experts are often vulnerable to popular attacks when things go badly. Wise and courageous political leaders of all stripes might see the value in solid expertise and try to shield them whenever possible, but wisdom and courage are lacking in politics today.
I think that things are so far gone in the USA that it really doesn’t matter who is “in charge”. There’s either going to be a rapid capitalist decline, or the world is going to fry.
We will do our best to take you Europeans with us when the balloon goes up. pl
Obama clearly has a keen eye for talent: one glimpse is enough for him to flee to the golf course
Sooo, your view is that experience and knowledge do not matter much. Interestingly that was what the neocons and their familiars said to people like me after 9/11. Their position was that what we knew was about the past and they were creating a new world, so our knowledge was worthless. Awkwardly the old world rose up and bit them on the butt. pl
“Well, pilgrims, on 9/11 this Rhodes fellow was a graduate student in creative writing who hoped someday to be a novelist”
Explains the obomber potus time line.
Doesn’t General Dempsey have a Master’s in Literature? I thought he did his thesis on Yeats,
Having now actually read this account of a sclerotic mind ‘melding’ with a narcissistic personality, I find two striking truths; the complete absence of even a rudimentary idea about foreign policy; for 7+ years, these guys have been running an election campaign – not a government.
Martin Dempsey has an MA from Duke in literature and his thesis was on Yeats. A basic truth for autocratic presidents should be that they should not hire/appoint Irish Catholic cavalrymen with a doctorate on Yeats as CJCS. Such men hear voices other than those of their supposed masters. pl
Wow, Hillary as demagogue.
I don’t recall that Shakespeare, Hemingway, Dickens or Conrad took many creative writing courses. pl
Clinton, Trump, who cares, see this:
Same agenda; neoliberal capitalism both.
Will– good judgment does not always accompany great experience, but is extremely rare to find in those with little experience.
@WILL, I strongly suggest your carpenter did not have “25 years of experience” at all. He had one years worth of experience Twenty Five times over and learned nothing from it.
Col. Lang, I suspect that this hit piece on Rhodes may be the start of something more sinister – to wit a campaign to pressure Obama into “doing something” regarding Syria before the elections. That “something” may be a major military operation to degrade the Assad Government and then partition Syria as a substitute for regime change.
I think SS Kerry may also be bloviating about “doing something” as well.
For this WAG to have some legs, I would expect a threatening and aggressive speech in the next few weeks either from Obama or one of the R2P ladies.
I briefly noted my admiration of a liberal arts education and some of the traditional majors in the humanities in a post above. I hope your children will find that such an education is not a dead-end. The key is to develop a spirit of inquiry and the self-confidence to pursue one’s interests as one encounters challenges. I was horrible at calculus, but, somehow, late in life I found I could learn it–I am 67. I have worked in education in the US and taught there plus in two state universities in Greece and Portugal.
Suggest they read widely across several disciplines like history, literature and economics not to mention here, and, by all means, avoid massive exposure to the siren-song of social media. Good luck.
This article in the NYT helps explain one thing I have puzzled about over the last few years: namely why is US foreign policy so absurdly incoherent. I have been unable to discern any over-reaching strategic thinking in the Obama admin. His first act was the surge in Afghanistan. What did that accomplish? Absolutely nothing. Then the complete withdrawal of US troops from Iraq followed by the now re-introduction of more military forces. Then pivot to Asia which was an extremely provocative and aggressive act against China. Then this was followed by US backing a coup in Ukraine directly targeting Russian interests. Followed by expansion of NATO forces into Poland and the Baltics. What was the result of this? Well China and Russia are moving closer and closer to an outright military alliance. At the same time the SCO is expanding and it looks like it will bring in Iran. How does any of this advance US national interests? Then there is Libya, Syria, Yemen and South Sudan.
None of this made any sense as it happened. Well these articles partially explain it. Obama’s closest adviser on these issues seems to nothing more than a PR hack that can only summarize the last meeting he attended and prepare a media release for the next 24 hours. As much as the policies of the Eisenhower and Nixon admins were disagreeable no one would accuse them of not being consistent with some over-reaching strategic goals.
Story tellers and briefers that are convincing rise to the top under the Boomer Presidents while actual decision makers not welcome. Just as the power point presentation killed real leadership in DoD.
Thank you for making the point much more eloquently than I did.
Good Judgment comes from experience. Experience comes from bad judgment. If you can learn from your mistakes and progress, then the experience is valuable. That applies to the Col’s case. He has been through a lot and has learned from it. Moreover, his experience was out there in the field and he spoke the native language. Then there are those that just keep on doing the same stupid stuff. That’s why I referenced Rumsfeld (twice sec’y of defense, Cheney, etc.
Know that the Col. has a BA in English. I think it has been to his advantage. When I tell people I have a B.S. in Physics they remind me what B.S. stands for.
“So, there was an article in today’s New York Times about Ben Rhodes, one of President Obama’s foreign policy advisers. It’s caused quite a bit of chatter in the media for a lot of reasons but this quote from Rhodes in particular
“All these newspapers used to have foreign bureaus,” he said. “Now they don’t. They call us to explain to them what’s happening in Moscow and Cairo. Most of the outlets are reporting on world events from Washington. The average reporter we talk to is 27 years old, and their only reporting experience consists of being around political campaigns. That’s a sea change. They literally know nothing.”
You can imagine how well that’s gone over with the press. ”
Then, you’ve got Ann Bernard, ( who speaks no ME Languages) “reporting” on Syria, for the NYY, from the safety of Beruit, which as The Angry Arab notes, mostly consists of repeating FSA twitter feeds, agit-prop and claims,
Which are written and disseminated to the FSA by British Intelligence operations in Turkey.
And then the reliance on “open source” intelligence,
And you wind up with a perfect Borgist Circle Jerk.
They control the messaging. It’s as ‘incoherent’ as they want it to be.
They count as ACHIEVEMENTS what you see as ABSURD.
You can’t really understand what is going on unless you can understand the perspective of TPTB.
What mistakes? Ah, yes, I remember one in 1966. pl
I’ll add that I’m having a bit of schadenfreude moment over this: for all their claims of “intellectualism,” so many of the politicians today are nothing more than wannabe PR men: Obama, GWB, Rubio, the Clintons, the neocons, the R2Pers, etc. They may believe what they do, or they are simply crazy for more power, but in the end, they have chosen the tools of PR to help advance their agendas. Whatever intellectual merits they have at their core, they are just creatures of PR. There is something refreshing about a more unapologetic PR man without their pseudo expertise bossing them around, so to speak, in the person of Ben Rhodes, or even a bigger PR man, Donald Trump, making waves in the presidential arena. At the same time, of course, elevating unadulterated PR men to the summit of policymaking would only complete the process of degradation the second rate intellects have taken to serious depths already and that we can’t be happy about.
“Obama’s closest adviser on these issues seems to nothing more than a PR hack”
This is what I am trying to wrap my brain around. Was he really an adviser or just a Spinmeister?
BTW I’m an engineer so I kind of need to see how things fit together.
I see something like this …
1. Obama and crew setting policy and communicating to Rhodes
2. Rhodes makes the talking points and feeds it to the MSM and probably the Press Secretary.
3. Press Secretary delivers talking points and has to defend them in public and look like an idiot when they have to say, ‘black is white’ in public in response to a question. I have noticed that while the pay is good for Press Secretaries, there is a pretty high turnover rate in this job. This must be soul destroying.
I suppose that it is inevitable that when 1 and 2 are communicating that there is some influencing taking place because Rhodes has to be a true believer to build the talking points and is reinforcing beliefs.
Regarding the surge in Afghanistan, I got the impression from Leon Panetta’s interviews that this was an artifact of the military, mostly Petraeus, wanting the surge while Obama wanted to draw down. At this stage of his Presidency he probably got cold feet and didn’t want to impose his will too much and felt that he had to split the difference. It has to be intimidating dealing with experienced military guys, especially a General who just had a victory, how could it not be? In any case, I don’t think this was a Rhodes driven decision.
If by tptb you mean “the power that be” then maybe. It creates the illusion of achievement perhaps, for the Obama admin, but is a reality of failure for the nation.
Basically a hit piece on the Iran deal. Samuels was on a Hudson Inst. panel bitching about it.
Interesting references to J. Goldberg and L. Rozen as funnels for the admin. line. They are both well known quantities. Rozen, however, has always seemed to me a reporter’s reporter. J.G. is more of an advocate than reporter.
I recall a most fascinating blog post Rozen did back in the Bush admin. A month or so before Rumsfeld resigned she posted a quick note about an unnamed individual that had been interviewed for the SecDef job but had declined. The blog post was up only hours before being pulled. I had never seen her do that before. Nothing in other media either until rumors shortly before he did resign.
I don’t think this is a hit piece to most of those practicing politics today. Take a look at this Borg response to the profile of Rhodes by Eli Lake in the “Bloomberg Review.” He seems jealous that his side was outmaneuvered by the White house. He’s upset that his side was outplayed in Iran. It’s funny that he accuses Rhodes of being part of the blob/Borg and that his side, dedicated to remaking the world in its own image, is the one bucking the foreign policy establishment.
Pilgrims with a sense of humour might reflect on the fact that just as Pres. Eisenhower warned of the power of the military industrial congressional complex, the increasing role of the PR and advertising sector of the economy and politics features in the 1950s Madison Avenue focused sci fi classic “The Space Merchants ” by Pohl and Kornbluth.
The two camps you describe seem to exist almost everywhere. None of them is perfectly right or completely wrong, that’s the crux.
What is probably one of the most startling things in this “portrait”, which may well deserve closer attention on its own employed meta-narratives (darkly metaphysical plans?), is the really hard to believe ignorance to what extend PR and its basic tools penetrates every aspect of our life, and thus obviously politics. No serious campaign is executed without test runs, and it shouldn’t be. Just as no serious scientist would like to rely on his intuition only.
A friend of mine works in the field of science as “communicator in chief”. She once told me, her job is not that different from a translator, meaning she translates their core ideas and concerns into a language more easy to understand. …
He is no doubt a good writer that manages to draw you into his own narrative. But at one point I wondered if one basic ingredient of the narrative didn’t somewhat gamble with the voyeurist in me.
“a worthwhile product emerged from a Creative Writing course or workshop?”
I pondered about creative writing as university discipline, when I first stumbled across it. On a personal level it reminded me of a paper I wrote in the “Style & Rhetorics” class. Apparently I had committed a big crime, “don’t ever do it”. I mixed analysis with a minor bit of imitation, to make what caught my attention centrally more visible: rhythm.
The larger question you may have in mind is, how many artists does a society need? Coupled maybe with what makes a good writer. It feels centrally, he needs to understand the subject he writes about. And doesn’t create flat characters. But it may be interesting to study blurbs over times. 😉
My favorite group, if you look at professions, seem to have been lawyers at one point in time. Strictly journalism may be a field that attracts more realistic people that love to write but choose a more mundane field as a start to collect experience on topics. They may also envision a series of best-sellers that gets them out of the mill longterm. 😉 Journalism is a more recent discipline too.
ghostwriter, script doctor, literary editor … hack to add a negative angle?
It did feel a bit odd to me, when I first stumbled across it.
On the other hand a friend, a visual artist, once told me, when he enrolled the clerk told him, look my friend about 2% of the people studying here will be able to live of their trade. … There are a lot of visual artists who never set a foot in any art school, official, or without entrance exam, alternative created by former students of the first.
Where do you think they move? Well obviously some of the less well connected move to where the money is: Marketing among others. … The feature that the arts are all around in a non-esthetic way an art historian over here called not verbatim but as I recall, anesthetic.
McChrystal made the fatal and hubristic error of letting his staff talk to a reporter who did a remarkable hit job on Obama. That got McChrystal fired. The hubris that led to this NY Times magazine article is similarly scaled. In this piece Rhodes states that the national media is peopled by amateur “children” who are ignorant and easily manipulated because they do not know what to write on any serious subject. as a result, he and his associates are able on a daily basis to feed memetic material to these “children” across the globe. He says that the “children” flock to his nest to be spoon fed. To think that Rhodes’ role is that of a mere PR flack is as self-delusive as the abject gratitude with which the children accept his guidance like the baby birds that they are. This man is Obama’s agent in attempting to shape reality through creative writing and the creation of notional truths. pl
Yep, judgment is different from raw intelligence. Wisdom-
An interesting take on how our brains work is Bayesian probability interpretation. Our neural networks rewire according to our experience. Experience can come from reading as well as real life- Making associations.
Star Trek is like any other product that lingers beyond the life or creative energy of its creator. The MBAs wield the power, and they hire people like them. If creativity occurs, it’s because the MBAs dropped the product and inadvertently turned the product over to an individual who cares about the product when the MBAs didn’t know what to do (TNG seasons 2-7 and even Enterprise season 3 and especially 4).
Star Wars was a fun flick, but there are no moral dilemmas or complicated plots. It was easy to like. The new Star Wars movie and the first NuTrek movie are shot for shot remakes of Star Wars 1977. The MBAs are there to make money not art, and they hire the people who will reproduce the glories of the past to sell them to the masses. 90’s Trek made money hand over fist. NuTrek was an attempt to merge Voyager and Apple aesthetics with the nostalgia of the Original Series and the quest for meaning every generation has and thinks they are special for having.
George Lucas had to personally fund Empire because it was too different from Star Wars, and studios didn’t want to fund the guy who made Star Wars and American Grafitti when he said he wanted to be creative. The suits at the movie studios didn’t want to to make and own the Star Wars sequel. The Star Wars merchandise and Holiday Special was George trying to raise money on his own. With the exception of Lucas, who does try to push the envelope even if it does the work, why did the suits at the studios miss on Star Wars after Star Wars dominated the country? Was it education reforms in the 1920’s?
Well, my real point is that PR has become too important in today’s environment to be ignored.
Most people are simultaneously smarter and dumber than they get credit for. They are usually smart enough to know if they are being sold a bill of goods. They do not know how to best evaluate the value of the goods that they are being sold.
A team of alleged experts have been selling the public a bill of goods in economy, foreign policy, etc. for decades while increasingly insulating themselves from the dissatisfaction felt by a large fraction of the population. In a sense, Obama election represented the first revolt against it and this came about because of recognition by people like Axelrod and Rhodes that they could put together a more attractive PR package while discounting the alleged expertise, who, after all, have run down the foreign policy to ruin–I’m talking about the neocons and their shiny “credentials.” But, what this profile indicates is that, in a sense, they swung a bit too far: they are openly contemptuous of all expertise as they worship at the altar of effective PR. Or, perhaps they are simply following the logical series of steps laid out by the neocons, who, after all, made up for their shoddy “expertise” by more effectively using PR to influence policy, at least vis-a-vis the “important people,” to the point that they were more PR people than serious experts by the GWB administration.
I think the potential Trump presidency, if it ever happens, is on the same continuum. Trump is, in the end, an excellent PR man more than anything else. People have ignored his success so far precisely because he is “just a PR man,” but PR is a powerful thing in an era where people have plenty of information of which they can’t make a lot of sense of but have become increasingly distrustful of alleged experts with shiny credentials who are trying to peddle all manner of stuff. Trump has seized on a large chunk of the population who don’t trust these “experts,” and, in a sense, good thing too in that many of these experts have been phoneys. But, in so doing, he is likely to throw away the more legit experts while ruling largely through substance free PR. Of course, on the opposite corner is the queen of phoney experts, Hillary Clinton.
Col. take a look at this post from Hullabaloo regarding Judy Miller telling us she is shocked that the media would be manipulated by the White House.
Where is a shaming nun when you need one?
But the message to Iran – if indeed such a thing was intended – has already been responded to by the Iranian officials:
“US policy is against Islam, against the Shia, and against Iran”, Ayatollah Khamenei stated last Thursday.
And last Friday, his foreign policy advisor, Dr. Velayati, stated: “Assad is our red line.”
In my opinion there is no give in the Iranians’ position.
JCOPA was not a peace treaty – it was as instrument of cease-fire.
US & EU have removed their economic siege engines to outside of range of hitting Iran – ready to go back in at any moment.
Syria, in my opinion, has serious ramifications for the international system:
“We get a bunch of feeble-minded ignorant Muslims and arm them and send them to destabilize or destroy you – if we so chose.”
In my opinion, the Russian Federation and the People’s Republic of China have understood this message.
Putin’s policy is the more farsighted one, taking into account the coming fracture in Afghanistan, at trying to create an maintain a cordone sanitaire consisting of Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Iran, and Northern Afghanistan to ensure state security of Russia.
Indian leaders, who face this same threat, have not yet grasped or acted – it seems to me.
yes, the Afghanistan “surge” and COIN commitment was foisted on Obama by a cabal of senior generals who were at WP together. They believed that COIN had worked in Iraq and were going to apply it again. This has nothing to do with press manipulation. pl
Amazing how even in a favorable fluff piece, it is clearly suggested that reality is not relevant – its all narrative.
Obama’s energy policy was driven by an english major with absolutely no energy experience or knowledge. In some areas he chose competence (DOE – sec Chu, Sullivan – NOAA, Bolden – NASA), in others cronyism or political expediency (Interior – Salazar), but in many others and at the highest level, narrative is the all. As noted, Obama seems to run the craft of statesmanship as if running an electoral campaign.
Except given that it has been well documented that what the 99% think has zero effect on policy and what the 1% think generally drives policy (Bombing Syria was an exception), I wonder why they even bother. I am sure after another decade of devolution ( Pres. Hillary), we will simply receive the royal proclamations that we have always been enemies of Eastasia.
I think our points are different.
You are saying ‘payback’, I am saying ‘good cop / bad cop’.
But they increase pressure hoping for cracks.
Rhodes as been doing his thing for YEARS. So why now? As scapegoat, Rhodes also serves as a signal.
PS I am not optimistic.
Yes, before the meme was planted in the media that I was not worth talking to, I used to run into Judy Miller at various functions. She always said the same thing to me. “Oh, Pat, you are such a gloomy gus… Why can’t you accept all the good things that are happening?” pl
It’s all good cop/bad cop TTG.
MSM has passed on the false narrative is that peace-loving Obama is outmaneuvered by neocons time and time again – EXCEPT ON IRAN. Hehe… sure.
“increase pressure hoping for cracks”
I am sure someone or some people are thinking like that.
In my opinion, there are two problematics in that line of thinking.
The first is that “Hope” is not a strategy upon which actionable policy could be predicated.
The second criticism, which ties to the first observation, is that which does not kill one is bound to leave one stronger.
Once Russia did not crack, North Korea did not crack, Syrian Arab Republic did not crack, Iran did not crack, that policy – that line of thinking – had reached the proverbial cul de sac.
You cannot expect a leader to admit that his policy has been a mistake publicly.
I fully agree. But I also think, that the portrait exists at all the way it does, may show more naivety then in the Bush admin exhibited. Of course there is also an alluring thread triggering this image.
Did I miss something essential? The continuity no doubt has been on his mind … and thus on ours, if we hadn’t associated it anyway. Should I consider it too expert in between the lines, for my small mind to grasp?
I once wrote a paper on The Catcher in the Rye for a friend, I don’t even recall it too much. I had to do it in a real hurry.
“There must be some way out of here, said the joker to the thief.”
I seem to share Babak’s and Jackrabit’s more general pessimism. Not since I do not find certain utopias attractive, but I sense there may always be some type of opposite end: dystopia. Post-Capitalism? … add whatever you like.
I will comment on the role EU played in the Iranian Nuclear Saga:
EU leaders, working together with US, as her willing hand maidens, waged an economic war against Iran to make her crack.
From 2003 until 2016 this war was waged and intensified and the viciousness of later action of Europeans cannot be solely attributed to US pressure or persuasion; there was almost a glee among Europeans when they waged that war.
The net result was for them to eventually settle for largely the same deal that had been on the table since 2006 – which had been outlined by Gareth Evans – a former Foreign Minister of Australia.
Last year, Iran’s trade with Germany was $ 2 billion. New deals, post JCOPA, are largely being concluded with Korea, China, and the Russian Federation and Italy.
I want you to understand that if EU were to last a 1000 years, they would say that the EU Economic War against Iran was her finest hour.
Obama is more naïve than Bush? My god, are YOU that gullible? pl
The Iranian monthly “Asr Andisheh” (Age of Thought) has published an interview with Condoleezza Rice.
The interview was translated into Persian from French, I think, and it is difficult to understand the exact nuances of the original statements.
It may be found @ http://tinyurl.com/h97kjrq
She states there that “all the pieces of puzzle fro a full war against Iran were in place by Bush II wasted (that opportunity)”
She further states that she is still a believer in the Greater Middle East plan and still considers war against Iran to be the best policy for US.
She also observes that due to the history of Iran, the United States will find it hard to enter into normal intercourse with Iran.
She also does not seem to look forward to a new Cold War with Russia and states that the current world situation is too complex for the repeat of a “Cold War” like scenario.
Bush learned a bit during his terms. Near the end he managed to ignore the bleatings of Cheney and the neocons to bomb, bomb Iran.
I did not mean GW Bush personally. I meant his crew. pl
I do not expect any national leader to admit that their policy was a mistake. However, I would expect that after they realized that the policy was a mistake, that they would not, yet again, repeat the mistake. There is no learning curve discernible in the Obama admin.
Miller and Gordon betrayed the public trust. Yet there is no recourse. None. Unable to shame the shameless. I cannot reconcile this with my belief in the republic as it should be.
From personal experience I can tell you that Gordon is a betrayer and a man without honor. pl
I think I know what you mean by “naivete” with regards the Obama administration, and I disagree that it is actually naivete.
It strikes me more as a sort of willful disregard and contempt for expertise, which, in a sense, came as a natural reaction to the evolution of false expertise that arose in service of political advocacy. Combined with the Obamaites’ clear skills in PR, this makes for a dangerous combination that, I imagine, is mistaken for profundity when contrasted with the smug but bankrupt arrogance of the neocons like Hillary Clinton, but is, in a sense, at least as dangerous because of their inherent nihilistic (in a manner of speaking) arrogance.
Even if totally different in style, Trump is cut from the same cloth: a savvy PR man devoid of real expertise cloaked in a catchy slogan, except he’s peddling “Making America Great Again” instead of “Hope and Change.” I have trouble putting much trust in either.
Yes. I agree. I don’t think Obama will be reluctant to do what he’s told if that is what you getting at.
But Obama would still prefer Iran’s cooperation over confrontation because:
1) absent cooperation, at least one of his major initiatives will have proven to be a failure (‘Assad must go!’ or, peace with Iran);
2) ‘Phony’* Obama (a Trump-ism, if I may) likes to advance by stealth. (‘Reset’ with Russia?. LOL.)
* The reference to Holden Caulfield in the NYT story was so damn ironic!
Don’t forget the part about owning the “Twitterverse” Which reminded me immdeditately of the “underverse” from the Chronicles of Riddick. (Where you “keep what you kill”) Apparently folks think if they kill the old media they get to keep control of the messaging. They seem to have forgotten how that worked out for the nomenklatura.
There was a piece on the ‘net a few days ago about the vast number of burnt-out, former or wannabe journalists who have gone over to the PR side in the last fifteen years:
2000: 65,900 news reporters, and 128,600 public relations people
2015: 45,800 news reporters, and 218,000 public relations people
Not what I meant. I knew I should stop babbling.
I don’t think, Obama is naive. Ok, maybe Ben Rhodes isn’t either. Guess I didn’t want to see all these cartoon characters up that close. Obama with Ben’s darling baby, Nobel Price longhand and all. Ok, maybe they all have a exhibitionist strain????
>>>”I was involved in student government at Collegiate, but I think my main role was planning the senior prom,” he said, laughing. “What I wanted to be was a writer”.
“For a long time, my focus was on being a writer,” Rhodes said. “But I was definitely politically engaged [in school], and I don’t think it would surprise anyone I went to high school with that I ended up doing something in politics.
Writing for Barack Obama is just about the most challenging and exciting opportunity that a speechwriter can have because of Senator Obama’s own gifts as a writer and speaker,” Rhodes avers. “You can’t be in a better place in terms of politics, and anybody who reads his books knows that we’re just trying to keep up with him in terms of writing.”<<<
Tidewater to All,
This article reminds me of the axe job Sally Quinn did on Hamilton Jordan in the Washington Post. Remember: Jordan goes up to the Capitol to see Tip O’Neil on a good-will mission. O’Neil dubs Jordan “Hamilton Jerkin”, like a Mark Twain character, maybe Puddn’head Wilson. Yeah, Jordan lived out of his car at university. Sophisticated Quinn doesn’t miss that. You knew when he was home when his windows fogged up. This did some harm to Jordan and his boss–Southern bumpkins!– though the mention of meeting the wife of the Egyptian ambassador was a sort of plus.
Where exactly did Holden Caulfield come from in all this? Samuels introjects him into Rhodes. That’s where. This is blatant. He compares a man pushing forty who has held down a responsible job for seven years and has a wife, a young child and a marvel of German (perhaps a bit of Spartanburg) engineering, with an uptight, hungup Gotham teenager, one in the author’s family of characters who are often suicidal. (In fact, very Jewish, neurotic characters created by a good Jewish writer, for all that, if one with a bit of a pedophile problem, whose characters, such as Franny and Zooey, are the kind of disturbingly memorable Americans who are so sensitive they can barely face life.)
So here you have a supposedly responsible reporter making insinuations. Rhodes never mentioned “The Catcher in the Rye.” It’s not part of the interview; of what was in fact actually said. It was not in there. It is deceptive. The result is very patronizing. Which is the idea. Rhodes is too young for Samuels’s taste? Consider this–Rhodes is the age when a well-established reporter on the Richmond Times-Dispatch back in the 60’s and 70’s would give up, realizing he couldn’t support his family, and take a job in D.C. as a public relations type with the U S Government or a large corporation. Would the years of experience he had then matter? I don’t think much. All he has become now is a mouthpiece. He has become an advocate. Just like Rhodes. There is always someone like Rhodes. He serves his master.
This is outrageously bad journalism. It flows out of the trap that Rhodes fell into when they started talking literature. Frivolous guy! Which character am I? Which novel am I in? Why not compare Rhodes to Huck Finn? After all he is on a long trip down the river on a raft with uh Black Jim. Who is the Duke? Who the Dauphin?
Consider the suggestive writing: “The narrative he frames, the voices of senior officials, the columnists and reporters whose work he skillfully shapes and ventriloquizes…”
Or that Rhodes is “channelling the president’s consciousness…”
He is a “master shaper.” Who is “restructuring the American narrative…”
What is this? “Ventriloquizing?” “Channelling?” “Master shaper.” This suggests that Rhodes is an adept of the black arts! Who has extraordinary powers! A shape-shifter? He is back in a little room in the White House like Svengali or Alistair Crowley creating grimoires. “Channeling” suggests powers that reach back into ancient times. If you think about it, there is no such thing as “channeling,” unless you are talking effing geology, man! Samuels is trying to tell us that not only has the world changed in mysterious ways, but that the ones–like Rhodes– who master the new so-called “social media” (gimmicks), are the wizards who shall rule us all. This is bullshit. Rhodes is more like a Fleet Street hack than a mage. The new information providers out there are as numerous now as rocket junk in outer space. Best to be careful…
A “killer wave of social media has washed away the sandcastles of the traditional press.” Yeah, I read “Confessions of A Newsosaur.” Dream on. There is the problem of going digital when you used to “slug it in agate.” Consider the old Manchester Guardian. I grew up reading an overseas subscription on very thin paper. Nobody in Richmond ever heard of it. It changed its name. Went digital. And now the new Guardian has gotten huge. Bigger than it ever could have otherwise. I read and subscribe to the British press. You could only recently do this for current news. Pre-digital you could get the (very readable) TLS and the LRB. (Before this day is over I am going to resubscribe to the LRB.) When the press sticks it to the reader and demands a fair payment for the product, then you will see the mainstream press bigger than ever.
So Rhodes is working with a busy politician who is trying to get a speech out. They are very simpatico. Good. Big deal! OK he gets paid full time. The magician has got that for how many more months? The whole story about writers who run a lucrative side-line knocking out speeches for politicans is par for the course, and is quite obviously kept discreetly quiet. (One such was the late, great Joe Bryan III. ) I will bet Rhodes keeps writing speeches on the side. He’s got something good there. Better than a day job.
“Restructuring the American narrative?” What a crock. How well did he do in seven years? Narrative? Where is it? What is it? I don’t even know if there is or ever was such a thing as “the American narrative.” This is a big country. For example: Rhodes tells his team to read Lincoln? I know of a school marm in Lexington County, S.C., who back in the late 1950’s started every single day of class by picking up a framed little picture of Abraham Lincoln and spitting in his face, then putting it back on the wall where it possibly became a little distracting….
I’ll give you a narrative. The real deal is that American foreign policy has gone way too Jewish. These guys are all hard-core New York Zionist Jews. Things have gone badly wrong in Palestine. They know it. When there are two hundred new desalination plants on the Med, you will see an increase in Israeli and American Jewish bicoastalism, the tribe trying desperately to keep a foot in both places; then there will be the sound of a thundering Zionic herd of prodigals come rushing home to ‘Haifa on the Hudson’. Or maybe up to Canada. When Jews got into the Israel thing, they blew it. Simple as that. Mega-drought, Ethnic cleansing, and War.
A list of Iowa Writers School graduates alone would include:
John Edgar Wideman
Some arguably quite worthwhile writers there.
The creative writing discipline has been increasingly critiqued as navel-gazing, particularly in its degradation of the short story as a style reliant on the uniqueness of the writer’s experience, rather than on unique insights into some universal condition.
I have an undergraduate degree in English. My take on English as a major is that it is one of the best for broadening an understanding of the depth of human character.
You mentioned lawyers. I went on to get a law degree. English was the best background for that education. You learn that words and thought matter, and you understand how to critique both.
Well, if you think there is not such a thing as the “American narrative” that can be re-cast, then we live in different worlds. pl
The idea that foreign policy can be coherent, if I understand coherent to mean that all foreign policy problems can be successfully approached in a similar manner, seems silly. Foreign policy problems are sometimes similar, and sometimes they are different. Sometimes they are unique. In a chaotic international system, it seems to me likely that the best foreign policy might involve differing approaches even to the same problem depending upon the global environment, which implies that the best solution to a given problem might be different at different times; additionally a problem that arises might have one ideal solution in nation A, but a different ideal solution in nation B.
The idea that logical coherency ought to be the main priority when establishing a system of behavioral values seems ludicrous, especially given the changing relationships between states, the evolving governance within states, the irrationality of the behavior bureaucracies, and the incomplete information on which governments must base their decision-making.
If one were to establish an absolute and permanent set of principles for action in foreign policy, those principles would be apt to be overrun by history.
Yes, but the literary environments they came up in — the Elizabethan and Jacobean theater, serial publication in mass-market Victorian and Edwardian literary magazines, and, for Hemingway, American journalism and the gimlet-eyed attention of Gertrude Stein — were writing schools in all but name. Their efforts were not literally graded, nor did they literally have instructors (except perhaps in the case of Conrad and David Garnett and for certain that of of Hemingway and Stein, until he felt he’d learned enough and told her to piss off). but they all learned soon enough how to balance what would work in terms of the market against what they might want to say that might or might not go beyond those bounds.
I intended to type “behavior of bureaucracies”
Tidewater to Turcopolier,
Sir, I don’t even know where to begin on this.
First of all, I don’t want to reread that article again and closely. I know there’s something wrong with it. This is (still) the New Journalism and it’s a crock. Maybe I have some sort of old-fashioned notion about “shaping public opinion,” as opposed to “narrative.” (I have been watching some of FDR’s speeches on YouTube. They are wonderful!) Whatever Obama and his purported ventriloquist Rhodes were trying to do or shape seems not to have worked. (Well, some of it; maybe Cuba.) Both are soon done and gone; and soon to become strangers again, I would bet. As to the manipulation of the narrative that you mention as being the stated intent of Rhodes– of course it is; that’s not, in the larger sense, news. I have actually heard from an Italian reporter on the subject of capital punishment that his intent was precisely that, to change opinion; it is taught in Italy; he didn’t even seem to notice there was anything unusual about it. I didn’t say anything. In a country as big as this, with so many checks and balances, and a certain amount of choice–how can you have a Triumph of the Will if the people of the US are unwilling to pay the “blood tax” for Zion and they actually have the final say so? (Guns, riots.) All of a sudden the recasters of the American narrative run into all sorts of problems. It’s like, finally, nobody really believes anything these days after the point it gets a little inconvenient. Americans, particularly city dwellers, are slick: suppose, among the all and sundry, it is generally realized that conscription is soon to be, and among the all and sundry, Jews and possibly Jewish women, as well, ‘princesses’ among these sundry, ultimately have to get on a designated subway car which takes them all uptown and on to Ft. Dix? I remember very well, stage by stage, how American public opinion–or the ever shifting weathercock of the American narrative– turned against the Vietnam war. At the beginning, if you took a position–you lost friends and made enemies. If you ever wrote about it, as for example about a little demonstration, one of the first, you received cautions from the editors, they said that you were being manipulated.
Secondly, I have some sort of problem with things you hear on TV, and then absorb into one’s speech. Which is one reason I don’t watch much TV. It used to grate on me a bit when ETV would come up with “The American Experience.” Something about it sounded a little bit wrong. Hard to say what, but it sounds phoney. One person’s experience in the world is not another’s. Why not just say “The Experience”? 🙂
Same with this whole “narrative” business. Is one man’s narrative another man’s poison? At one phase, I rebuilt, over a period of months, a house. The black guy who did 80 per cent of the well-paid work moved in upstairs. He was a great original and a great house painter, which is a real art in all its stages. He had a better color sense than I do and I am not bad. He had a lot of funny stories including one about what went wrong when he was robbing a bank up in Boone, N.C. at age 18. (His buddies left him.) Sometimes we’d sit in the kitchen at suppertime and he’d talk to the TV, regarding say, some news about Israel: “Too late!” In fact, that was all he would ever say about Israel. “Too late.” And laugh.
I introduced him to an Israeli I had just gotten to know. He was sitting on the back stoop tying his boot laces. He looked up at us with a cold, evil smile and said: “So you mean to say that you are really from Jeruzzz-a-lem! Well I’ll be.” And gave a little chuckle. The Israeli dude saw it. Didn’t like it. Not that he was religious.
This goes back more than thirty years, by the way. He had another saying when something strange or bad somewhere in the US would happen. “This is America.” He said that quite a lot. I cannot even estimate the amount of polished, internalized hatred he contained about the narrative of America. I’d laugh, he would laugh. I’d love to have heard his take on 9/11. Maybe something like: “Hymie-town came tumblin’ down”? We were unfriends by then. He’s dead now. Actually one time he had some trouble on another job because he had been shot. Accident, he said. I think it might have been. Through and through upper arm, broke the bone. I didn’t realize how long it would take to get the arm’s strength back when that happens. His neighborhood was evil beyond belief. (His words.) So it turned out the black guy thought the narrative of the Alamo was funny; the Israeli guy thought Jewish women in Charleston fired up for the UJA and the Promised Land thing were worse than funny; they were “orgasmic”, his words. They were as dangerous as Sarah Palin in their own way. He did not like them. He also had it in for the Orthodox. He also thought the movie *Exodus” was extremely funny. He woke up in a tent one morning that had a New York Jew in it. The New Yorker got up and said: “I want to kill an Arab.” Unholstered his pistol. They had a lot of prisoners in a compound. He went to the compound, called one of them over…
Later, my buddy kept running into the guy. Point of story was that Israel is a small place.
I liked both them a lot at one point. I think they had crazy kinds of narrative. And they were Americans.
Hey, I am a Virginian, have some Confederate relatives who got kilt, and I am from Richmond. Maybe I think that I am not part of the narrative. I am not sure Richmond ever did think it was part of the narrative. I heard some pretty cold stuff after JFK was assassinated by Lee Harvey Oswald, for example.
Well, I did say, things have gotten “way too Jewish” in foreign policy, an attitude which has earned me some real hostile comments about being an anti-semite. But one might infer from this at least that I have some sort of awareness about how effing New York/ Hollywood Orwellian Jewish Zionist mind control has run through the media for the last how many years, seventy, eighty?
But hey–This is America!
I remember a movie, from a novel by Jan de Hartog. “Lisa.” About a girl out of a concentration camp who travels down the European waterways. When they get to Israel they are attacked by “pirates.” I remember wondering about that when they seemed to be wearing khaki uniforms. Syrians, I suppose. On the beach rolled down an Israeli tank with a blue Star of David. Actually, thrilling and touching. But I wondered even way back then…
I was not appealing to a thoroughly consistent logical system. I was making a relative comparison to other periods of US history. I mentioned the policies pursued by Eisenhower and Nixon because it was not difficult to discern coherent strategic objectives, even if one does not agree with those objectives. Going back further the policies pursued by Roosevelt and Churchill also made sense. Even Carter and Reagan made decisions that one could fit into some bigger picture. However, beginning with Bush Jr and especially those followed by Obama don’t make any sense at all.
I thought it was Ezra Pound who had the most effect on Hemingway, as Pound had on T.S. Eliot and James Joyce. But Pound has been denigrated and not given his due because of his view on Jews.
Chuck, I worked with some.
That’s one of the obvious professions in the trade, if you look at what we call Quereinsteiger, something like lateral move in career changes (? maybe), it makes sense. Besides jobs in PR and Marketing are usually well paid, and if you are lucky more stable then the larger media context has been for decades now.
The firm I am alluding to placed product marketing in articles, meaning outside a pure advertisement context. To the reader that wasn’t so obvious, since there was a–I guess you can say faked– comparative context. They did a very good job… And I would want to believe they tried their best to not completely loose whatever type of objective standards, at least to the extend you can still have such if someone pays you. On the other hand the task at hand was exactly such a faked objectivity.
In a way they only shifted to the field that is usually marked with advertisement over here, even if they offer content, and as journalists they helped to make it less transparent to the reader. To what extend was that a big shift, really?
Why is coherency a standard by which foreign policy ought to be measured?
I recall that movie – a Diocletian Fantasy.
But evidently, there are multiple narratives of “What is Justice?” competing for the allegiance of men.
Here and abroad.
I think internally, US probably could use a number of cease-fire deals too – so that these competing, incompatible narratives of “What is Justice?” would not consume the Republic.
I think that was the position of Wendell Homes – as far as I understood it.
About that NYT magazine Rhodes article maybe I’ve missed a few beats here, but let’s assume that some of Rhodes’ targets in the foreign policy “blob” deserve to be disparaged or worse. I recall for example a very convincing case being made recently against the supposed foreign policy acumen of Robert Gates, that he is little more than a game-player who was known in prior regimes as the “windsock” for his willingness to back whatever point of view that he thought was going prevail within the corridors of power. (The Colonel, no doubt. can tell me whether I’m wrong in this.)
What’s disturbing, then, of course, is that even if there is a blob and it closely resembles our friend the Borg, under the current dispensation that which stands in (partial?) opposition to it consists of “narrative shapers” like Rhodes and the boss to whom he is mind-melded. What seems to be lacking — dramatically, greviously — is any group of genuine, intelligent, truly experienced “realists” (if you will), like the Colonel for one. Their kind, it would seem, not only do not lie thick upon the ground these days but also are no longer allowed anywhere near any of the corridors of power. Thus, if there is a blob and it ought to be opposed, but the only actual functioning anti-blob entity consists of guys who think they are at once living in and writing a Don DeLillo novel….! The blob on the one side, scriptwriters on the other — tails they win, heads you lose.
I share Obama/Rhodes disdain for the Borg/FPE/Blob and as you point out many of its denizens are merely tied to each other and their group think by perceived self interest in maintaining their status as part of the herd. Gates and Clapper IMO are two prime examples of that personality type. They always were weathervanes without guiding principles other than career survival. The great danger that we now face is that the Borgist consensus now holds that Russia and to a lesser extent China are enemies to be opposed and if necessary fought for world “leadership” (hegemony). My objection to the successful continued use post Bush Administration of memetics by the Obama Administration is the demonstration of the disintegration of the assumption long held by many Americans that there is such a thing as a free press that could function as a collective “tribune of the people” to provide an enlightened electorate. In the world of memetic “creation” of shared artificial realities it is easy for the government at the top to implant false images of the world. In this now institutionalized manipulation of an ignorant and gullible press corps we see the likely end of the federal republic of the US and its replacement by caesarism in the manner of ancient Rome. pl
I am reading the book “The Roman Revolution” by Syme on the last decades of the Republic and the emergence of Augustus.
Quite readable and so far as I can tell, US is not there yet.
His due, in my opinion, should have been execution.
I believe there to be a “..group of genuine, intelligent, truly experienced “realists” (if you will), like the Colonel ..” in Italy when it comes to the Middle East.
But the policy-makers of the Dynamic Duo of EU, France & Germany, do not care one whit about what Italians have to say.
I think we are dealing with Hubris rather than absence of capable people – in the United States or in Europe.
Personally, sometimes when listening to the commentaries on the Middle East and Iran by Europeans, I was astonished by the depths of their contempt for the alien people of the Middle East, whose destiny they so much wished to steer.
AIt was no surprise for me when they failed.
The ‘blob’ is a fiction. It is nothing more than controlled opposition.
From the Administration’s POV, this is a group that is malleable because they are controlled, hence the term ‘blob’. From a ‘realist’ POV, they are ‘borg’ – mindless drones. Except that they are NOT mindless, for most part they sympathize with the goals of the Administration.
Rhodes says that they created a ‘echo chamber’ but much of that work was a neocon project to weed out realists. That Rhodes and/or NYT fails to note this speaks volumes.
Ah, another conspiracy theorist heard from. So, in your opinion all is fraud and deception. Have you ever been diagnosed with anything serious in the way of paranoid delusions? OTOH, perhaps all we think we see is in fact a delusion. Are you familiar with George Berkeley’s views on this subject? My own current delusion is the suspicion that the north Alberta fires were set by Bigfoot to burn the encroaching “hairless ones” out. pl
I have argued (at MoonofAlabama.org) that the main importance of this election is to determine the character of Empire – just as the divisiveness of the 1930’s and 1970’s resulted in structures that would last generations.
Trump argues for a more traditional form of Empire. One that is more like the British (mercantilist) or Roman model. A privileged core (“America First”) managing sovereign vassals. This type is less belligerent (because the ‘core’ is satisfied) but ‘core’ privileges cause friction so stability depends on skillful management. It is composed of sovereign nations that guard the rights and dignity of their citizens.
Obama/Hillary and the neolibcons are pushing for an Empire that seeks global hegemony (“NWO”)of trans-national, cronyist oligarchs (Aristocrats) and their technocratic lackeys ruling over a divided, impoverished populace. Any country that does not submit to this Empire is both an internal and external threat if only because they demonstrate that there is an alternative. ‘Frontier’ countries gain favor and wealth by using Empire resources to confront countries that have not yet submitted. They would probably argue that a traditional Empire is an anachronism given our state of technology (global transportation and communication networks).
Ordinary Americans suffer most under the neolibcon Empire because they HAD the most at the outset. They are now realizing this – and see the clear advantage (to themselves) of Trump’s “America First” model.
OTOH, you see a funny thing in this election cycle that is virtually unheard of previously: talk from the establishment about how our ‘allies’ would not look favorably upon Trump as President.
I hope you consider continuing this line of discussion at “b”‘s site. pl
I don’t want to blame the people who engage in marketing and PR: it “works,” after all, for them. If I am on trial, whether guilty or not, I will want the best lawyer to defend me, for example. At the systematic level, though, if all the “trials” in a society are a sham, product of fancy but superficial lawyering rather than actual guilt or innocence, then that society is doomed.
For decades, real “expertise” (not just in foreign policy, but in, a lot of different fields) has been increasingly supplanted by bad expertise with good PR, until the real cynics like Obama and Trump have decided that even better PR with no expertise is superior to bad expertise–and the truth is, they might even be right. One would wish, though, that real expertise got paired up with good PR for change–but that may even be logically impossible: good expertise, after all, has to point out all the things that are wrong with the world and our worldview…
“it “works,” after all”
I like this. Admittedly I am even suspicious of some evaluation tools. It feels they can be made to work in a similar direction. …
There is some very, very good PR and if you look closer it’s usually anchored well, and you wouldn’t recognize it as PR.
“and the truth is, they might even be right.”
Look, I may have judged this too fast, too personally concerned, from one of the subjects PR, maybe?
I do not recall having paid attention to the top image, only realized on second look. But yes, if I may be completely honest sycophant crossed my mind at one point in time even before that. “Mind meld”? But what really made me sick was the exhibition of the longhand. Was that authorized? Does he consider that his property to wave about, making a point he already did in 2008?
take care khc, I really have to stop babbling now. My ‘time is running out’ …
No, I don’t think that it is all a conspiracy. Maybe I went a bit too far. MANY of the blob went along willingly, MANY of the rest followed or staked out dissenting views that earned them some scorn.
And wasn’t Rhodes part of a conspiracy to ‘sell’ the Administration’s policy by using that group think (plus Administration access/approval, no doubt) to create an ‘echo chamber’?
Furthermore, this is not a first for the Obama Administration. They ‘sold’ the public on:
>> “Change You Can Believe In” (now a punchline);
>> a tough response to Wall Street “fat cats” that perpetrated the greatest fraud in history while rescuing the Banks and insulating Bank executives from accountability;
>> Bank regulation (‘Dodd Frank’) that they say would eliminate future bank bailouts (thereby ‘fixing’ the Too Big To Fail problem) while allowing Wall Street to write most of the rules AND creating a ‘bail-in’ mechanism that would force Main St. to (once again) shoulder the failures of Wall St.;
>> making the Bush tax cuts permanent (the first war-time tax cut?) via ‘fiscal cliff’ shenanigans while pretending to be progressives;
>> a new healthcare system that benefits wealthy interests – promoted by healthcare consultant Gruber who noted the “stupidity of the American voter” (similarities to Rhodes);
>> a belligerent foreign policy that has sparked a new cold war with Russia while pretending to be peace-loving – example: no release of info regarding downing of MH-17
>> the Benghazi attack as a ‘spontaneous demonstration’ sparked by a video – despite knowing otherwise (to protect Obama’s re-election);
>> the benefits of wide-spread spying (“if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear”) while lying to Congress about: 1) what information is collected by the NSA on US citizens (Clapper); 2) how effective NSA spying has been in the War on Terror (Gen. Alexander);
>> “the most transparent Administration in history” but as blocked more FOIA requests than any other Administration AND has conducted a War on Whistle-blowers that included tracking reporters in what the AP described as a “massive and unprecedented intrusion” into news-gathering operations.
>> the solution to wealth/income inequality (which allows for oligarchs to CONSPIRE to influence politicians) is a minimum wage increase (not tax increases).
There’s more but I won’t belabor the point. However, a noteable example is of what remains is the attempt to sell gun control (it is believed) via the ‘fast and furious’ scandal, from Wikipedia:
“As a result of a dispute over the release of Justice Department documents related to the scandal, Attorney General Eric Holder became the first sitting member of the Cabinet of the United States to be held in contempt of Congress on June 28, 2012. Earlier that month, President Barack Obama had invoked executive privilege for the first time in his presidency over the same documents.”
Tidewater to Babak Makkinejad,
This mention of Pound has sent me back again to try to get aholt of “Hugh Selywn Mauberley.” That is the start of it all! Not Prufrock. (And, All, I want a rematch after that smackdown some time back.)
I hope you don’t have a copyright on your stuff.
HUGH SELWYN MAUBERLEY
Life and Contacts
Vocat aestus in umbram
–Nemesianus, Ec. IV
“These fought in any case,
and some believing,
pro domo, in any case…
Some quick to arm,
some for adventure,
some from fear of weakness,
some from fear of censure,
some for love of slaughter, in imagination,
some in fear, learning love of slaughter;
Died some, pro patria,
non “dulce” non “et decor”…
walked eye-deep in hell
believing in old men’s lies, then unbelieving
came home, home to a lie,
home to many deceits,
home to old lies and new infamy;
usury age-old and age-thick
and liars in public places.”
Yes, OK. Different forms of empire as a subtext to the election campaigns was a bit off-topic.
He’s been talking about trade for the last 30 years. How much of your lack of trust is because his name is Donald Trump and not Wonk McWonkster?
Oh relax, Francis.
The system of political operatives and Borgist ideologues making policy was cemented into place long before Rhodes/Obama. How much of Bushite policy was straight-up driven by Cheney and Rove, the Gruesome Twosome, for example? (Or maybe Cheney, Rove and Rumsfeld the Fleece-’em Threesome?) So Rhodes/Obama crafted their own smaller system-within-a-system. Which is why Rhodes could work it so well within the bigger system and against the Borgist Operators’ goals for Iran.
For the immediate now, Rhodes’s little system may end less-badly
in the Middle East theatre than what the bigger system would have ended up with. Rhodes ( and perhaps Obama) clearly understand how the Borg’s Mighty Wurlitzer works, and they were able to pre-empt it with a lovely Little Wurlitzer of their own.
In the longer run, governance by Wurlitzer, Borg and Idiot-logue will end badly. Perhaps a President Trump can break that stuff up. Or perhaps a President Clinton will handle it so badly and play such a screechy awful tune on the Mighty Wurlitzer that the Sanders Movement will gain time and space to find a fresher younger Sanders to try again in 2020.
Fast Track for the Forced Trade Agreements was sought by Reagan and Bush elder. It was a long-standing weapon in the Trade Agreement wars from that long ago. I’m not sure whether to think about it as a “conspiracy” or as an agenda, though calling it the International Free Trade Conspiracy certainly bad-names it in public.
But elements of its pursuit are themselves quite brazen and open, including the very open suppression of timely news about the agreements ahead of time.
The fact that most people are too tired and pre-occupied by the hour-by-hour struggle for brute economic survival to have any surplus awareness left over to pay attention with . . . means the “conspiracy” can be hidden in plain sight. But a growing number of people can “sense” something wrong, even if they can’t see all the details of what it is. That growing number of people is supporting Sanders and Trump. (Interestingly, I saw a commenter over at Naked Capitalism say he had voted for Sanders in his primary but now that it looks like Trump v. Clinton, he is voting for Trump. “Death before Hillary” is what he said.)
While the case of Shakespeare is less clear than the others, as very little is known about Shakespeare’s early life, the others might to some degree dispute your claim: Hemingway had formal instruction in English and journalism, and thus likely studied creative writing as a high school student. Dickens and Conrad had a combination of public, private and homeschooling, and were steeped in literature (fiction) as students. Hemingway, Dickens and Conrad all worked with publishers and editors across their numerous scrivenings; an editor preparing a work for a publisher essentially provides an author direction, correction and critique; what is that but an education?
Oh, and Hemingway and Dickens had quite lengthy tutelage in narrative-spinning in their careers as journalists.
This link is to a good analysis of the NYT Mag hit piece. Analyzes the source and content separately. Who would have known that David Samuels, the Mag author, was an Israeli Firster always opposed to the Iran Deal? You know, all that “Cartago (in this case- Persico) delenda est” – for Israel’s sake.
I never trust wonks, so as a matter of fact, I trust Trump far more than Wonk McWonkster, for what it is worth.
Trump deserves serious props for having the balls to broach the issues that the “serious people” ™ in Washington don’t think even exist. But good PR people need to know what their audience is worried about so that comes with the undisputed fact that he is an excellent PR man. What I don’t trust about Trump is that he is all style and no substance–exactly like Obama. Trump does show flashes of real technical knowledge that he normally keeps hidden underneath his brash and crass public persona–his ideas about how to restructure the national debt is actually quite sound and reasonable, if an anathema to the Washington talking classes, for example. But I want to see more signs that he actually cares about some of his vague ideas on other things too.
By “substance,” I mean some signs that Trump actually believes in something other than power, and using his PR skills to get there. I have yet to see a sign that he is any different from the Clintons or Obama in his naked quest for power and self glorification, even if it takes a different form. The Clintons believed in wonkery as a form of PR. Obama took it to the next level by engaging empty technobabble as PR that sounded profound that didn’t even reach the level of wonkery. Now, Trump is jumping even further ahead by using contempt of wonkery and technobabble as PR. Good for him if it works. But we are getting further and further from the “serious,” and in order to get something done seriously, you need to go back to real expertise.
There is a very sharp, short critique of Samuels’ article, and of Samuel himself, on the estimable LobeLog:
The first comment to that post is similar to what I was thinking as I read it: wouldn’t Rhodes have known the views of the NYT writer before agreeing to be interviewed?
Therein lies the skepticism that I have been expressing in comments above: the Obama Administration is fundamentally duplicitous – positioning itself as progressive and peace-loving while serving the interests of powerful interests. (Aside: the blame for this lies as much with our ‘best government money can buy’ democracy as it does with Obama.)
A good and relevant example is the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP) that Obama’s Treasury Dept (led by Tim Geithner) rolled out after the Global Financial Crisis in 2008. The Obama Administration positioned this program as answering calls to help homeowners that suddenly found themselves underwater and facing foreclosure. But it was inadvertently revealed by Geithner that the program was actually designed to help the Banks(!). There were _so many_ homes to foreclose on that the Banks just didn’t have the resources to do so – BUT they needed homeowners to continue to pay those mortgages or the financial crisis might deepen. Thus, HAMP was conceived to ‘foam the runway’ for the Banks. The result was just as expected: fewer people ‘walked away’ from their mortgage; people that filed for relief often got none; some Banks/mortgage services paid a small fine for abusing the program but the benefits of having done so where much greater than any fine.
I see the Iran deal as similar ‘foaming’. The strategy of taking down Iranian allies (Syria, Iraq, Hezbollah) was derailed in September 2013 by Russian intervention that prevented a bombing campaign/’no-fly’ zone. The Iranian negotiations were tenuous/preliminary until a 6-month negotiation period was announced in November 2013. The Iran deal, finally reached in Spring of 2015, will delay Iran’s nuclear program by up to 10 years but doesn’t end it.
In this article, and in Rhodes explanation which the article links to, it is noted that:
1) An Iran deal was always an Administration goal but couldn’t happen until an Iranian reformer was elected;
>>Yet, if this is true, then why did Obama aggressively seek to bomb Syria soon after Rouhani was elected in mid-June 2013? Obama could have called for a thorough investigation instead (we now know that the sarin attack was likely a false flag). Bombing Syria (Kerry: “the US doesn’t do ‘pin-pricks’”) would likely have had a chilling effect on US-Iranian relations.
>> And, if the Iranian deal is so important to Obama/the Obama Administration, then why are they now putting the deal in jeopardy by NOT providing adequate sanctions relief? IMO it is because Obama wants to pressure Iran to accept Syrian regime change.
2) there are many NGOs/experts that fundamentally approved of the Administration approach;
>> As noted, the Obama Administration has dutifully served powerful interests, and it is FAR from certain that Iran will make a sincere turn to the West. So why did Obama spurn the neocons to do a deal that they hate so much? (Obama has otherwise tacitly supported most of the neocon agenda). And why were the oh-so powerful neocons so powerless to stop it?
>> The fact is, sanctions weren’t working well, and the immense efforts made to counter the Iranian nuclear program had not succeeded. A new approach was needed. But the Administration didn’t want to seem too eager or willing to make a deal. They proceeded with a good cop/bad cop approach that dragged out the negotiations (where the neocon hardliners played bad cop).
3) there WAS significant negative reporting and analysis.
>> Yes, but was that a real threat to Administration plans? Anyone familiar with Obama’s ’11-dimensional chess’ would be wary: the Obama Administration often triangulates based on its opponents and uses their opposition as an excuse for terrible deals.
I think that egomania explains the willingness of people like McChrystal and Rhodes to preen before the press. pl
I would’ve said much the same thing 10 years ago. And that is not to say that there isn’t ‘preening’. But there is more than preening in the back and forth on the Iran issue – especially in light of how the Obama Administration has conducted themselves in other areas.
1) Yves Smith, a close observer, and critic, of the Obama Administration from the left wryly notes: “Obama believes every problem can be solved with better propaganda.” (PS Not the first time she has made such a remark.)
Obama himself recently described his approach to effecting change: it is very much the same compromised ‘community organizer’ incrementalist approach that his critics on the left have charged, and reflects his neo-liberal, market-oriented theory of governance.
‘Political realities’ of today, which include SuperPACs and super inequality mean that a public policy that is based on, and triangulates from, the ‘market for influence’ eventually turns what was a lose coupling of policy-makers and powerful interests into a strong coupling over time. Much like the market power of the big Banks have allowed them to manipulate even large liquid markets. Government then becomes essentially an arm of abiding “entrenched” interests, resulting in collusive stratagems like good cop/bad cop that are used to advance those interests.
There are many well-know critics of the Obama Administration (on both the left and right) that make trenchant observations but consider this sarcastic screed against Obama’s Orwellian policies: