On any given Sunday morning, TV viewers nursing hangovers or coffee can often bear witness to a steady flow of retired military generals, aging politicos and former CIA, NSA and FBI hacks – all of whom are too old to do battle – discussing the inevitability of wars being fought or might be fought, “over there.”
With steadfast confidence they will assure us that innocent lives will be lost, cities will be leveled and survivors will be forced to “migrate” to distant failed states which are only marginally better equipped to feed or house them.
And then the Alphabet Soups will proclaim, with great mock-sadness, that these are the natural consequences of “the fog of war.”
The term was originally intended “to capture the uncertainty regarding one’s own capability, adversary capability, and adversary intent during an engagement, operation, or campaign.”
But more recently it has become a convenient shorthand allowing the TV-Pundits to avoid any mention or responsibility for “friendly fire,” “collateral damage” or countless other horrible infractions of the-once-sacred Geneva Conventions.
If we manage to step back from this mesmerizing lunacy for a moment we would see that, in real life, there is little room for ambiguity: There is fog and there is war, both of which are concepts we can easily understand.
But when these simple concepts (fog and war) are willfully manipulated to approximate something “unreal” (the fog of war) it is only natural that we should feel confused and agitated by the distortion.
And so it is when we observe a wanton tampering of the concept of “truth.” When “the truth” is manipulated, we know almost at once that something is amiss, even if we cannot immediately put our finger on the “real truth.”
Think ‘Fuckishima.’ Or Hanging Chads. Or the induction of Jerry Lewis into the French Legion of Honor. You get the idea.
But it gets worse. The manipulators of The Truth see themselves as being Master Craftsmen, and so it is only a matter of time before they create an even more distorted and confusing “new-new truth.”
This new-new-truth is too much for our wee brains. We cannot help but question not only our intelligence, but our capacity to understand simple concepts. Like fog. Or war. Or the truth.
It is not our fault. This technique is as old as “democracy” itself. Indeed we could call this process the Fog of Democracy.
This Fog of Democracy is predicated on our total and unconditional acceptance of otherwise nonsensical conceits that we assume form the very foundation of our democratic way of life.
Think “American exceptionalism” or the “Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Terrorists” or “enhanced interrogation” or the very extraordinary “Extraordinary Rendition.”
Now no one in their right mind would believe there is legal or moral rationale to remove anyone – foreign or otherwise – from their beds or an airport queue, blindfolded or drugged, and transporting them to be tortured -sorry, interrogated with enhancement- in Syria, Guantanamo Bay or any of the dozens of US black-op sites scattered throughout the world.
But we are repeatedly asked to accept such notions. We are told that torture is justified, for example, and so we take at face-value the idea that torture is a natural consequence of our ‘democratic way of life.’
So, in order to preserve some semblance of personal sanity, I have devised an easy test that can be used to gauge the level of my very own Fogginess of War. I call it… The Fogginess of War Test.
And now you can use it, too! It is easy.
Phase One: The Fogginess of War Test
The next time The Trumpster spews off some stupid Tweet about his internal-intestinal-agitation or the really, really unfair price of maple syrup from Quebec, step back and watch how the media reacts.
We will see days (and days) of wall-to-wall coverage, spilling over in truly absurd (and admittedly fake) levels of righteous indignation! The Insanity of it all! How dare he treat democracy with such disdain! Impeach! Impeach!
We will get caught up in it, too. “My word,” we’ll cry out over our spilt beer. “How can anyone be so stupid. Impeach! Impeach!”
And of course we are right to feel this way. What kind of people -let alone hoards of media – would want to obsess about something so inconsequential for SO long when we all know damn well there are real and true life-and-death issues we could and should be talking about. Like, oh I don’t know, climate breakdown or some such.
Phase Two: The Fogginess of War Test
Now, watch what happens when The Trumpster says something like calmly and callously threatening to bomb a country with nuclear weapons. All that damnation and hellfire. The End of Days. The Piss in the Wind to end all Pissses in the Wind.
Well, nothing you expect would happen does happen.
The TV ‘satirists’ will go off on completely nonsensical monologues about the other leader’s girth or his insane ‘paranoia’ that ‘people are trying to kill him’ or how they so long for the days when all they had to worry about was the price of maple syrup from Quebec!
The media for their part will discuss his ‘reasons’ for ‘taking this stand’ in uncharacteristically quiet and dignified tones.
They’ll invoke the need for national security and Manifest Destiny and the price of oil and the fact that The Trumpster has finally shown himself to be really and truly Presidential.
Deadly, to be sure, And perhaps even insane. But Presidential. And that, they will intone majestically, is what the country needs at This Juncture.
And the concept of nuclear annihilation? Death and destruction? The possible lack of future generations? The utter stupidity of it all?
Not so much. There is no room for such ‘negative’ thoughts when a nation’s very manliness is on the line.
And besides, any evil things that might happen will happen ‘over there.’ Not here. Never here.
“And I have to say,” some Graham-wannabe might say. “I have had my differences with the President of the Free World but I must say, well I totally agree with him. We’ve been silent for too long. We cannot allow another country to walk all over us. We must act. And react. If that means going nuclear, so be it.”
But look. Here comes a Tweet from The Trumpster stating in no uncertain terms that Israel will really, really, definitely certainly be forced to pay for The Wall. He means Mexico, of course. But so be it. He has bought himself days and Days of coverage on the obvious differences between The Wall in Israel and the one in Mexico. Days and days.
And that, Dear Friends, is how The Fog of Democracy works.
James Porteous is editor/curator of The Hawkins Bay Dispatch, a daily collection of news and views that fly below the radar.