Monday, December 06, 2010

Sex, Lies and WikiLeaks Dumps

Every government, no matter how open and free, needs to be able operate in the light and in the shadows. Needs to be able to lie from time to time.

Every media outfit, no matter dogged and principled, will one day find themselves called upon to sit on something because its news value is outweighed by other, legitimate considerations.

This is why God made ethics and good editors.

Government and media (and churches and schools and pizza joints and nail salons for that matter) are profoundly human institutions, where day-to-day business get done through a variety of exchanges, courtesies, coercions, flirtations, obligations, blood ties and rituals

that would be recognizable to any troop of macaque monkeys. If you do not understand this, go immediately from this place, pick up some of the plays written by a guy named Bill Shakespeare and read them over and over until you do.

Whether they start off evil (Nixon, Cheney) or succumb to the temptation that comes from the intoxicating mixture of power + good intentions, every government will start using its insulating shadows and levers to hide its embarrassing, ugly and ultimately illegal activities from the public.

Which means that, every now and then, every government will need a large bucket of cold water right in the phiz, and some people will need to go to jail. Sometimes, the abuse runs so deep that all moral context except for the internal justifications of the corrupt and powerful has been obliterated. In these cases the whole government may have to be taken down, often at a terrible cost in blood and treasure. And yet, even after the crimes committed in the shadows are spilled into the light, some people who end up in prison often consider themselves to be blameless and go to their graves having no idea why what they were doing was considered by others to have been so terribly wrong.

This is called the banality of evil.

So how can each of these facts all be equally true?

Because we are glorious, appalling, fallen creatures on a wheel that goes 'round and 'round.

Or, as Immanuel Kant put it:
"Out of the crooked timber of humanity no straight thing was ever made."


Deborah Newell said...

Oh my God, Kant even.

I do love you so, DG. Fantastic post. As effing always. ;-)

Anonymous said...

"litbrit" took the words right out of my mouth:)


Lisa Simeone said...

Bravo, bravo, thousandfold.

Batocchio said...

Good scenes, and a great summing-up. I'll say it again - there's a direct line from Watergate to Ford's deal to pardon Nixon to Iran-Contra to the loooong list everything the Bushies did - to the latest plutocratic extortions. Scumbags like this never grow a conscience, and never stop voluntarily. They never have. Only jail chastens them, and sometimes not even that. Going after them isn't about vengeance, it's about justice, and it's not even as much about justice as trying to make sure the same things don't happen again. When the social contract is broken and checks and balances are both aggressively and gradually undermined, it makes that all the harder. But that's the gig, eh?