To be a journalist is to work in rubbish-processing. We all know this, and most of us accept it. But there is a point at which one cannot go on without making some sort of protest, however craven. For me, that point came within the last month, as I read the increasingly mad lies that have been issuing from the mainstream American dailies as they prepare the nation to attack Iraq once more.
The American press has always had a reputation as a journalistic "Vicar of Bray," assiduously serving whatever President may reign. Except for a brief show of fight in the Watergate era, the Washington press corps has been content to take the official version of events , pass it on to the gullible populace with a straight face, and save the truth for its private parties. If you want to know what is actually going on in American politics, you must catch the Washington press corps off duty, after a few drinks. Once they are speaking on-camera or in print, they would no more think of telling the public what they actually know than a respectable vicar would divulge from the pulpit the scandalous details of his Bishop's private life.
Oh, they're all nice people. Rather overworked; tediously garrulous about their children and nannies; monolingual and monocultural; but quite nice. It's just that these nice people pass on, without a qualm, "news" which they know to be lies.
And they can do this without ever realising that they are corrupt. It's a strange state of mind, in which Americans seem to specialise. Imagine Noel Edmonds working for Goebbels' Propaganda Ministry, then coming home to prune the roses, humming a happy tune. That's the American press corps as it goes about reporting the upcoming war in Iraq.
It's that cheer and innocence which makes them so damned unbearable. If America's journalists choose to write advertising copy for a gang of petro-oligarchs' oil grab, well and good; but can't they just look a bit more evil as they go about their evil task? At least the bloody Nazis dressed for the part! No other Empire in the history of the world has demanded that the rest of the world both fear it and consider it "a really nice guy."
What can one do? Not much, perhaps. But one can -- if only out of spite -- point out some of the most outrageous lies and hold their authors to account. That's what I intend to do in these articles. It may not accomplish very much, but it may hurt a few of the right people, and at the moment, that seems sufficient.
I've elected to begin with a familiar eXile target, Professor Michael McFaul. It was the attacks on McFaul which first endeared this scurrilous publication to me. I've had to deal with the man, and I assure you that when the eXile chose McFaul as the perfect representative of a certain sort of innocently corrupt American foreign-policy figure, it was spot on. What makes McFaul especially irksome is that he plays the academic card, yet writes with less intellectual rigour or historical context than Barbara Cartland. He is the sort of figure who occupies the crucial space where an intelligent American opposition should exist.
On September 22, 2002, the Washington Post published a classic McFaul "thought-piece" titled "Unfinished Business in Europe." In this article, McFaul actually comes out against the invasion of Iraq. But he does so in the tone of a grovelling courtier, who, in order to gain his monarch's ear, colludes in so many outright lies that he actually props up the ridiculous falsehoods the Administration is using to build support for the war. In other words: with an intellectual opposition as sleazy and feeble as McFaul, the US is essentially without any opposition at all.
To see the utter bankruptcy of McFaul's opposition, I must quote his article in detail. It's not a pleasant task, but, like an autopsy, it is an urgently necessary exploration of foulness.
McFaul gets the lies underway from the very beginning of "Unfinished Business...." In fact, the subject noun of McFaul's first sentence is the greatest lie of all: "President Bush." McFaul attributes American policy decisions to Bush at the very beginning of his article: