Wednesday, July 11, 2007

(Our lack of) Knowledge is (Their) Power

Today the Bush administration got hit with another revelation by a former insider describing attempts to alter and suppress scientific information in order to promote favored policies. The Bushies' latest detractor is former Surgeon General Dr. Richard Carmona, who accuses the President's office of playing politics with a position meant to act as the nation's guide on health issues.

Testifying alongside Dr. Carmona before a Congressional oversight hearing was Dr. C. Everett Koop, who held the head doc position under Ronald Reagan. Koop expressed the same exasperation with the direspect shown to his successor. Carmona was made subordinate to political appointees whose objective it was to spin policy rather than report scientific findings.

Here are a few excerpts from the AP story as it appears on the Guardian Unlimited site:

Carmona Says Administration Muzzled Him
By KEVIN FREKING, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) - President Bush's most recent surgeon general accused the administration Tuesday of muzzling him for political reasons on hot-button health issues such as emergency contraception and abstinence-only education. ...

[A] report, on global health challenges, was never released after the administration demanded changes that he refused to make, Carmona said.

"I was told this would be a political document or you're not going to release it." Carmona said. "I said it can't be a political document because the surgeon general never releases political documents. I release scientific documents that will help our elected officials and the citizens understand the complex world we live in and what their responsibilities are." ...

Read the full article
This follows and echoes a very similar story told in last month's Rolling Stone about the manipulation of EPA reports in order to create doubt and confusion in the public mind about the cause and severity of global climate change (see my earlier post). It's also got a very familiar ring to previous disclosures on the cooking of intelligence in the lead up to the Iraq War. For a final clue as to the Prez's brainwashing bent, there was the tried and true Bush tactic of paying pseudo-journalists to produce stories that promoted specific policies and agendas.

What's it all about, Alfie? Nothing more or less than info war. Yes, in today's world there is no more important task than controlling the narrative that defines people's reality, especially when information can spread so quickly. Is anyone really surprised that this American government has so brazenly embraced that former scourge of words used to revile the misinformation disseminated by all our enemies past, present and future: Propaganda?

Bush and his coterie of neo-Cons understand the modern truism that those who control information, control society. This is why they've pursued all tools available to them to extend their network of surveillance, while at the same time over-using the plea of executive privelege to guard their own secrets. It's why they have also embarked on an unrelenting propaganda campaign to undermine scientific evidence and sew enough public confusion on critical issues to prevent popular opposition to their nationally destructive agenda.

Our current political environment is dominated by extreme ideologues, who will pursue any means to ensure the dominance of their worldview. Pure power politics have taken over, and all tactics are fair game to achieve their ends. Nothing is beyond the pale, not even violating the sanctity of the US Constitution. The only defense against them is truth, exposure and accountability, but that will take an intellectually curious and politically active electorate.

George Orwell's 1984 forecasted it a bit early, but doublethink has found a home in the Washington, DC of the early 21st Century. We need to get past the confusion of deceptively named initiatives such as Clear Skies (lowered air quality standards) and Healthy Forests (eased clear-cutting by loggers), and re-assert the facts. Like the novel's Winston Smith, we're in peril of being convinced that "two plus two makes five," just because the corporatized State insists it's so and has industry-sponsored reports to prove it.
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