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The people who managed to get this "Saddam in his underwear" debate in the media are nothing short of genius: From now on the Bush faithful have a strong picture to counterbalance 2004 pictures of  Abu Ghraib.

Those pictures were embedded in the collective conscience: anyone who remembered the torture cases couldn't help but see those dreadful pictures in their mind and couldn't shake the feeling "something is dreadfully wrong here"

But now, Bushies can defuse the power of those dreadful pictures with the comic, joke-like pictures of Saddam. And we liberals are painted in a corner: We can't say those underwear pictures ARE a joke because they are taking away a prisoner's dignity. Yet even we can see that  Saddam did much worse to others. And Bushies will use those undie pictures and our outrage at those  to embed their own message in our country's collective conscience: "They deserved it" and liberals are being ridiculously PC about the whole thing.

Defusing a mental grenade
That brings me to Sartre and Baudelaire: Sartre despised Baudelaire because he did the same mental tricks to justify evil... (below)

Bushies using excuses even THEY don't believe
The task to support Bush has been becoming more difficult with every passing year and scandal. So much so that Bushies have started resorting to lying to themselves sometimes unconsciously but lately fully consciously.

The dog ate my WMD proof
On my blog I had a post about this childish tendency:

A box of twinkies made me do it

In his Baudelaire, Sartre condemned the author of The Flowers of Evilfor having abdicated responsibility for his actions. Sartre was particularly repulsed by Baudelaire's recourse--which he viewed as a disavowal of responsibility--to 'the Devil' and 'Hysteria' as the causes for morally reprehensible deeds. With biting sarcasm, Sartre described Baudelaire's self-stylization as a perpetual victim of his circumstances ( kind of Bush who hit "the trifecta" and is sooo unlucky according to Bushoes - law):

[Baudelaire] is no more than a marionette whose strings are being manipulated... At bottom it matters very little whether he attributes his actions to the Devil .[or something else].; the essential [thing] is that he is not their cause but their victim. [Yet] he doesn't believe in [whatever he uses to assign blame to]

For the existentialist Sartre, Baudelaire's renunciation of responsibility for one's action was inexcusable. Make no mistake here, Sartre warns his readers, Baudelaire does not even believe in the existence of the "Devil" or the unadulterated evil on which he blames his deeds. Baudelaire's lack of faith in unadulterated evil puts his "Devil," as the cause of actions in which he has no investment..[i.e. HE IS NOT TO BLAME for his bad deeds] Sartre finds Baudelaire's evasiveness appalling. . Above all, Sartre attacked the way Baudelaire resigned himself to the external conditions of his life and then blamed these very conditions for his deeds

Cabinet Magazine Online - The De-Demonization of Evil: Banality, Arendt, Sartre

Bushies act like Baudelaire and evade responsibility for their leader's acts
In the fall of 2004 the Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) conducted two polls of Bush and Kerry supporters. A September poll focused on foreign policy issues... An October poll compared public perceptions to reality on a range of questions.. With regard to foreign policy:

   Bush supporters continue to hold onto their [good] image of Bush [regardless of facts] .. To do this it appears that many need to continue to screen out information that undermines this [good] image.

Supporting what you oppose ?
The blind support Bush is getting goes beyond misinformation. It is a willing suspension of doubt, and wilfull blocking of any information that would cause doubt in them AND ON OTHERS.. As Plutonium Page aptly blogged today on See no evil: photojournalism and the Iraq war Bush supporters are determined to avoid seeing pictures of the carnage in Iraq AND also determined to block the average American from viewing it. (Lest someone conclude Bush is wrong -- law). To see the pictures would force that conclusion, as even the right wingers agree The pictures, said a blog called Riding Sun, "portray the American invasion and occupation of Iraq as an unmitigated disaster.. Well, I second PP's words: I have some news for you, genius:  the war is an unmitigated disaster

The Truth as an enemy of Bush

The Dubya Report - The Amazing Truth-Defying Bush Supporter

In the fall of 2004 the Program on International Policy Attitudes conducted two polls of Bush and Kerry supporters. A September poll focused on foreign policy issues... An October poll compared public perceptions to reality on a range of questions.. With regard to foreign policy, the PIPA study found that Bush supporters... have many incorrect assumptions about his foreign policy positions.
Among the misperceptions:

    * 84% of Bush supporters incorrectly assumed that Bush favors including labor and environmental standards in trade agreements
    * 69% believed Bush favors US participation in the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty
    * 66% assumed Bush favors US participation in the International Criminal Court
    * 72% believed Bush favors US joining in the international treaty banning land mines
    * 51% assumed Bush supports the Kyoto Treaty on global warming

Moreover, majorities of Bush supporters themselves favored the positions they erroneously ascribed to Bush -- 93% in the case of including fair labor standards in trade agreements, 75% regarding participation in the International Criminal Court, etc

Lying to oneself ?

The PIPA October poll found that:

* 72% of Bush supporters continued to hold to the view that Iraq had actual WMD or a major program for developing them
    * 56% of Bush supporters believed that most experts say that Iraq did have actual WMD
    * 75% of Bush supporters believed Iraq was providing substantial support to al Qaeda
    * 63% of Bush supporters believed that clear evidence of Iraqi support for al Qaeda has been found
    * 55% of Bush supporters said the 9/11 Commission had concluded that Iraq was providing substantial support to al Qaeda

The PIPA study made the striking observation that these opinions were held despite that fact that Duelfer's report, as well as those of Iraq survey group head David Kay, and the 9/11 commission concluded that before the war Iraq had neither weapons of mass destruction, nor a significant program to develop them. (As noted elsewhere in The Dubya Report, the 9/11 commission concluded " date we have seen no evidence that ... contacts [between Iraq and al Qaeda] ever developed in to a collaborative operational relationship. Nor have we seen evidence indicating that Iraq cooperated with al Qaeda in developing or carrying out any attacks against the United States.")

The key reason that Bush supporters gave for holding onto their beliefs in the face of what the PIPA report called "repeated disconfirmations" was that they perceived the Bush administration was confirming those beliefs.

Faith or self delusion ?

As the PIPA report noted, "This tendency of Bush supporters to ignore dissonant information extends to other realms as well. One of these is world public opinion."

    * Only 31% of Bush supporters recognized that the majority of people in the world oppose the US having gone to war with Iraq
    * 57% of Bush supporters assumed that the majority of people in the world wanted Bush reelected
    * 82% of Bush supporters believed that a world majority either feels better about the US due to its recent foreign policy

These beliefs are contrary to the findings of a number of international polls, most recently an independent project of 10 leading newspapers

the report concluded.

    So why do Bush supporters show such a resistance to accepting dissonant information? While it is normal for people to show some resistance, the magnitude of the denial goes beyond the ordinary. Bush supporters have succeeded in suppressing awareness of the findings of a whole series of high- profile reports about prewar Iraq that have been blazoned across the headlines of newspapers and prompted extensive, high-profile and agonizing reflection. The fact that a large portion of Americans say they are unaware that the original reasons that the US took military action--and for which Americans continue to die on a daily basis--are not turning out to be valid, are probably not due to a simple failure to pay attention to the news.

    ... [W]hile others have peeled off, Bush supporters continue to hold onto their image of Bush as a capable protector. To do this it appears that many need to continue to screen out information that undermines this image...

Fear and Loathing in America

In their 2003 study, "Political Conservatism as Motivated Social Cognition," researchers John Jost, Jack Glaser, Arie Kruglanski and Frank Sulloway offered some insights from the field of social psychology as to why Bush supporters may hold the beliefs they do, and cling to them with such tenacity. They used the term "motivated social cognition" to describe relationship between people's beliefs and their "motivational underpinnings."In the post-Freudian world," they wrote, "the ancient dichotomy between reason and passion is blurred, and nearly everyone is aware of the possibility that people are capable of believing what they want to believe, at least within certain limits." Belief systems, they suggested, "are adopted in part because they satisfy some psychological needs." The authors took care to point out that they were not suggesting that "conservative beliefs are necessarily false, irrational, or unprincipled." They started from the assumption that most human beings are "subjectively rational" in that their attitudes are derived from a set of principles that the believer subscribes to, and are at least in part a response to external events and conditions, or "reality constraints."

See more on this amazing post: The Dubya Report - The Amazing Truth-Defying Bush Supporter

Originally posted to lawnorder on Sun May 22, 2005 at 01:01 PM PDT.


Sartre, Baudelaire and Saddam in his underwear

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip jar (4.00)

    Baudelaire was a cursed poet, not a French dessert

    We're back in the U.S.S.R.
    (You don't know how lucky you are boy
    Back in the U.S.S.R!)

    by lawnorder on Sun May 22, 2005 at 12:59:25 PM PDT

  •  brilliant, too brilliant (4.00)
    I think you're exactly right here about how this plays out, but I don't believe the Bushies made this move consciously. According to Sy Hersh ( who knows more about this than any of us ever will) their strategy is not nearly this sophisticated.

    The Bushies believe in the use of force and humiliation (and stovepiping) to further the agenda spelled out so clearly in the Bush doctrine. Unbelievably, Washington conservatives rely heavily on a butt-stupid book called The Arab Mind (1973) by Raphael Patai. If Hersh is right (and who has been more right?) then it turns out their incompetence is probably more a reflection of their bigotry and simple-mindedness than anything else.

    Those are my principles, and if you don't like them... well, I have others. Groucho Marx

    by markymarx on Sun May 22, 2005 at 01:12:36 PM PDT

  •  hey, law (none)
    by some chance did you happen by the old med room way back when.....if so I am ariell....
  •  Baudelaire, (4.00)
         from wicked France.
         Likes to see Saddam
         In his underpants.
  •  ..hmm.. (4.00)
    This is one of those OMGWTF moments, which is kind of cool.  Sartre didn't get what Baudelaire was about.. or so says Julia Kristeva (cf chapter on Baudelaire in Histoires d'amour), and I agree.  Sartre in general makes me want to bang my head against a wall.  A good friend of mine has studied his work pretty extensively and it reminds me why we often seem to be speaking totally different languages.

    I don't know, if I was going to use my theory toolbox to go after what's happening with BushCo and their diehard supporters, it might be well to pick up some Foucault and talk about the discourse they've developed and continue to use, and what that does..  

    Fight this generation, fight this generation...

    by daria g on Sun May 22, 2005 at 01:21:25 PM PDT

  •  Not sure (4.00)
    In a matter of degree, the Abu Ghraib pictures are much worse, but in deed and the fact a good percentage of the victims in there were just in the wrong place at the wrong time, but I don't know if the Saddam pictures are a positive counter balance to them.  In a sense, they may bring closer to home the humiliation alot of Moslems feel at being occupied.  Not too many people have to worry about being stacked naked in a man-pyramid or be lead around like a dog on a leash, but most people can understand having someone take a picture of you in your underwear without your knowledge.

    I'm not sure if I've gotten Baudelaire wrong or I just see another side of it.  I do think people's lower impulses such as 'mob mentality' or 'just following orders' is applicable for the vast majority of evil acts out there, but that doesn't mean they are absolved of moral responsibility.  Morality is defined by resisting those impulses.  As the great 20th century philosopher, Chris Rock, said in his seminal work 'Bigger and Blacker'  - 'I see 5 or 6 people I want to kill everyday, that does mean I should go out and do it' (paraphrase).

    America is one of the most heavily propagandized societies in the history of the world.  Just as you wouldn't begin to trust a newspaper out of the Soviet Union or North Korea, you can't really trust much of the American media, and that's why those polls are so skewed.  The AP Wire is largely factual, and magazines like The Economist paint a fairly accurate picture of the world,simply because they must because people invest according to it.  But with the raw sources filtered through the MSM as they are, I'd be more suprised if people had accurate perceptions of the state of the world.

    •  Saddam pics as counterbalance (none)
      Don't work on you and me, members of the reality based community. But it does work on Bushies since all they need is some hint of plausibility to glue themselves to an excuse for their master's misdeeds. That's what I called "defusing a mental grenade".

      The Abu Ghraib pictures didn't go down easy and kept haunting anyone who saw them. Unlike all the other Bush misdeeds, they were visual, concrete and hard to deny not abstract like the faking of the WMD threat or the Plame affair.

      So they needed a visual message that said the same Rush Limbaugh said: It's nothing more than a frat hazing that went a bit overboard and liberals are being too squimish about it.

      The comical picture of a feared tyrant in his undies does the job of visually conveying Rush's message.

      But his pics are NOT the same as the other Abu Ghraib pictures:

      • First, as you point out, most of the prisoners pictured were innocent.
      • Second, the pictures were just the tip of the iceberg on a horrible abuse scandal, even though none of them showed a prisoner bleeding or being killed, we know that that happened also.
      • Third, the inmates were naked and forced to do stuff that was - to them - worse than death nd they would never do on real life, while one would think Saddam sometimes walked around his bedroom in his undies, even before being arrested...

      We're back in the U.S.S.R.
      (You don't know how lucky you are boy
      Back in the U.S.S.R!)

      by lawnorder on Sun May 22, 2005 at 07:35:43 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I really like Baudelaire (none)
    so my first take here is distaste for the extended comparison of a great poet to Bush - no matter what his personal life was. Does Sartre and Baudelaire really need to be dragged in?

    The movie, Rashomon and its exploration of different realities is a great exploration of this theme.

  •  Thanks for this diary (none)
    You made my day.  

    Who controls the media, controls the fates.

    by Apian on Sun May 22, 2005 at 01:32:07 PM PDT

  •  Bravo, exceedingly important (4.00)
    ...and very enlightening. It is too bad that the Sartre stuff will condemn it to unrecommendedhood. Pearls before swine.

    Johanna: There are many ways of holding a man prisoner. The best is to get him to imprison himself.
    Leni: How does one do that?
    Johanna: By lying to him.

    --Jean-Paul Sartre. The Condemned of Altona
  •  My Latest Catch-All (none)
    My latest catch-all way of describing this is "conservative identity politics."  

    While the contemporary examples cited all appear heavy on the self-serving side, I believe that the same underlying mechanism motivated hundreds of thousands of dirt-poor Southerners to lay down their lives to defend the plantation-owners' way of life in the Civil War.  "Symbolic truths" trump "mere facts." And those who insist on facts are justly seen as traitors.  What else could they be in an empire of lies?

  •  Sartre's reading of Baudelaire, (4.00)
    like his reading of Mallarme, leaves something to be desired. Baudelaire is not about abdicating morality through a stance of self-pitying victimhood to the diabolical, he is about revealing the hypocrisy of a society that masks its own evil with the hollow pretenses of of middle-class morality. He is also about attempting, however obliquely, to overcome the association of the bodily lust with evil. Baudelaire has a soul that is one part Calvinist self-loathing, and one part Bohemian hedonist: the true admixture of the post-Romantic (symboliste) poet maudit.  

    A much better, though admidetly stranger, work on Baudelaire than Sartre's is "Baudelaire: The Paradox of Redemptive Satanism" by Pierre Emmanuel (the book is OP, but is 1967), which is oddly enough a heterodox reading by a French Catholic poet and critic (just as Sartre was an orthodox Marxist and later Stalin-apologist), and which covers Baudelaire's attempts to establish an erotic counterreligion. Baudelaire's work, like Blake's, is essentially syncretic: it attempts to refuse the earthiness and worldliness of the Hellenistic and pagan worldview (all poets are pagan, to some degree) with the etherealness and abstraction of the Judeo-Xtian tradition. Of course, any attempt to fuse Pan with Christ usually ends in disaster: witness Holderlin and Nerval.

  •  this struck me (none)
    as very similar to the military letting it leak out that they tortured prisoners in abu g and gitmo by blasting the theme song from barney & friends, as a way of defusing the reflexive horror of torture by making it an object of chuckling public ridicule. these guys are smart, and evil.

    crimson gates reek with meat and wine/while on the streets, bones of the frozen dead -du fu (712-770)

    by wu ming on Sun May 22, 2005 at 03:48:36 PM PDT

  •  whew (none)
    whatta pack of brains & education on this diary.(and no, I'm not talking about myself)

    "....a relative newbie (user ID in the 18,000 range).. "

    by Miss Devore on Sun May 22, 2005 at 03:56:32 PM PDT

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