"Lies beget other lies, and pretty soon unbiased intelligence-gathering, rational analysis and proper mission planning become impossible."
" ... a reputation for telling the truth can only be lost exactly once, and from then on the use of the phrase “US intelligence sources” became synonymous with “a conspiracy of barefaced liars.”"
"Whatever message Washington and Western mass media are trying to push, a perfectly valid response is to point out all the times they have lied in the past, and to pose a simple question: When did they stop lying?"
Orlov is one of our favorite essayists on Russia and all sorts of other things. He moved to the US as a child, and lives in the Boston area.
He is one of the better-known thinkers The New Yorker has dubbed 'The Dystopians' in an excellent 2009 profile, along with James Howard Kunstler, another regular contributor to RI (archive). These theorists believe that modern society is headed for a jarring and painful crack-up.
He is best known for his 2011 book comparing Soviet and American collapse (he thinks America's will be worse). He is a prolific author on a wide array of subjects, and you can see his work by searching him on Amazon.
He has a large following on the web, and on Patreon, and we urge you to support him there, as Russia Insider does.
His current project is organizing the production of affordable house boats for living on. He lives on a boat himself.
If you exist within the by now almost hermetically sealed-off mindscape of Western mainstream media, and if you also happen to like knowing the truth, then life must seem increasingly unfair to you—because you can’t win.
For decades now the modus operandi has been as follows. Regardless of which party has the majority in Congress or controls the presidency, the same unchanging national (and increasingly transnational) elite ensconced in Washington sets the agenda and pushes it through using any means necessary, whether legal, illegal or blatantly criminal (increasingly the latter as national bankruptcy looms and desperation sets in).
Their operatives make sure that there is no real investigation of what happened. All Western media reports that contradict the official mendacious narrative are quashed. Any independent efforts to investigate and to find out the truth are denigrated as “conspiracy theories”—a derogatory term coined by the CIA for exactly this purpose.
Any non-Western media sources that dare to contradict the official mendacious narrative are ignored, subjected to ad hominem attacks and all manner of false allegations and, if all else fails, banned outright (as is currently happening with the satellite TV channel Russia Today).
If that happens to be prevailing method of communicating with the public (as I am convinced, and as you should convince yourself by doing some research if you are not), then what chance do any of us stand of finding out the truth to our satisfaction?
Typically, we expect to be presented with a few, possibly somewhat contradictory, versions of events and, after some probing and deliberation, render a verdict and socialize it among ourselves to reach a consensus which then becomes another brick within the edifice of our consensual reality.
These are high-priority tasks, because maintaining a sense of consensual reality is important: it allows us to distinguish the sane from the insane, and it makes it possible for us to tell our young people, whose minds are too immature to let them reach their own conclusions without being driven toward unfounded or extremist views, what is safe for them to think.
If we are deprived of our ability to maintain a sense of consensual reality, then we lose face before our peers (and our children) and our self-respect suffers because we no longer feel socially adequate.
But what choices are there?
If we swallow the official lies we are being told, knowing full well that they are lies, then we feel like fools. If we refuse to swallow them, then we either have to accept some alternative interpretation or narrative as real in spite of lacking all the facts we need to prove the case—because nobody is going to give them to us—and risk ostracism and marginalization, or we have to take an agnostic stance and declare that while we are not privy to the truth, we know enough to declare that the official story is a tissue of lies. The first two of these are both clearly losing moves while the last is a refusal to play and therefore a forfeit; thus, all three are defeats.
There are no winning moves here.
But it’s even worse than that; not only do we lack a winning strategy, but we also happen to be on a losing team that doesn’t know how to play and loves to be played.
As Ron Unz, the publisher of unz.com, recently put it,
“I’ve sometimes joked with people that if ownership and control of our television stations and other major media outlets suddenly changed, the new information regime would require only a few weeks of concerted effort to totally invert all of our most famous ‘conspiracy theories’ in the minds of the gullible American public.
The notion that nineteen Arabs armed with box-cutters hijacked several jetliners, easily evaded our NORAD air defenses, and reduced several landmark buildings to rubble would soon be universally ridiculed as the most preposterous ‘conspiracy theory’ ever to have gone straight from the comic books into the minds of the mentally ill, easily surpassing the absurd ‘lone gunman’ theory of the JFK assassination.”
Take the example of the ill-fated US invasion of Iraq: 4,801 servicemen dead, 1,455,590 dead Iraqis, a once prosperous country destroyed and turned into a terrorist playground with a weak central government that is aligned with Iran, buying weapons from Russia and increasingly hostile toward the US.
The war was sold to the public in the US using a technique called “proof by juxtaposition” which works like this: keep showing a picture of Bob next to a giant pile of corpses and eventually everyone comes to believe that Bob is a mass murderer, never mind the fact that Bob only killed maybe half a dozen people, and all but one in self-defense or by accident.
This is what was done with Saddam Hussein (who, by the way, was Osama bin Laden’s arch-enemy, who, in turn, had worked for the CIA). By 2003 70% of Americans had been made to believe that Saddam Hussein was responsible for the destruction of the World Trade Center.
“Proof by juxtaposition” works well for the TV-addled zombies in the US, but for the rest of the world, as represented by the UN Security Council, a stronger tissue of lies had to be woven—using forged “intelligence” of Iraqi “weapons of mass destruction.” The world blinked and either voted for or failed to veto the resolution authorizing the use of force against Iraq.
The putative weapons were never found and the intelligence that was used to convince the world of their existence turned out to have been fabricated.
This is actually a very big deal, because a reputation for telling the truth can only be lost exactly once, and from then on the use of the phrase “US intelligence sources” became synonymous with “a conspiracy of barefaced liars.” In turn, the standard response to proposals based on “US intelligence” became something along the lines of “go jump in a lake.”
But it took a while for the penny to drop; the last country the US will have ever gained UN’s permission to attack using false intelligence (of a humanitarian disaster) was Libya. Dmitry Medvedev, who was serving as Russia’s president at the time, was still attempting to ingratiate himself with the West and failed to block the resolution—a decision he later regretted.
The delay in processing the fact that all trust is gone, and the additional death and destruction that resulted from it, are deplorable, but now the verdict is in, and it is not subject to appeal. If this last paragraph comes off sounding a bit angry, then that’s probably appropriate; all those wrongful deaths justified using made-up “facts” ought to be on somebody’s conscience—let’s hope not yours or mine.
Getting back to the original question: how can we play this game to win? Based on the above, the base assumption that, whatever the issue, the dominant, official Western narrative is a tissue of lies, is a good one.
Whatever message Washington and Western mass media are trying to push, a perfectly valid response is to point out all the times they have lied in the past, and to pose a simple question: When did they stop lying? Since it is very hard to come up with a reasoned answer to this question, the resolution is to treat all Western governments and media as suspect.
If the official narrative is to be disregarded, then an opening is created for alternative narratives. These can be of at least three kinds.
There are the straw men set up specifically to be torched, along with all those who fall for them: if they can’t convince you of False Narrative A, then they try to convince you of False Narrative B (which seems attractive to you because it makes them look bad) so that they can label you as a “conspiracy theorist” and run you off the road and into a ditch.
Then there is False Narrative C: counter-narratives crafted by other nation-states—geopolitical adversaries (like Russia, China and Iran) or pariah states (such as Cuba, Venezuela and North Korea).
Here, you risk being labeled as peddler of foreign influence (if you fall for them) or become stuck in a mental no man’s land (if you don’t).
In each case, you can try to make sense of the situation by asking the question, Cui bono? With Falsehood A, the beneficiary is the US elites, oligarchs, deep state, etc. Same with False Narrative B, except within a “they win or you lose” pattern. Same again with False Narrative C, except that here “they” are foreign liars rather than domestic ones. But even if you know who is lying to you and why, you still can’t win, in the sense of getting at the truth.
But you can win—by looking at the results. What you are looking for is a consistent pattern of failure. You see, those who lie to others also tend to lie to themselves.
Out of any large group of people, only a few high-performing sociopaths can consistently lie to others while remaining truthful and honest within their own minds; for everyone else the experience of being immersed in a cesspool of lies is spiritually corrosive, emotionally debilitating and so demoralizing that they are unlikely to adequately perform their duties.
I have downed many a beer with both enlisted men and officers who have been through tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, and listened carefully to their tales of woe. Rarely did any of their official indoctrination survive contact with “the enemy.” Most unfortunately, the emotional damage caused by this experience is often permanent.
Beyond the emotional impact of lies, there is the practical effect of hampered judgment in those in command. Lies beget other lies, and pretty soon unbiased intelligence-gathering, rational analysis and proper mission planning become impossible.
The guaranteed, repeatable result is a fiasco:
Look at Kosovo: a failed narco-state run by a mafia.narco-state run by a mafia.
Look at Afghanistan: the Taliban are back and better than ever, and the heroin business is booming.
Look at Iraq: a playground for terrorists and aligned with Iran.
Look at Libya: a destroyed country that is a playground for Islamic militants and a transshipment point for European migrants.
Look at Syria: the Syrians and the Russians have largely reconquered it from the US-armed, US-trained terrorists.
Look at the Ukraine: it has splintered, the best part of its population has fled to Russia, and it now makes a compelling case study for all five stages of collapse.
Look for counterexamples to this pattern: you are unlikely to find any.
Those who march into battle under the banner of Truth are far more likely to prevail than those who sally forth with their loins girded with the fig leaf of public deceit.
You may not be able to decipher the writing on the banner, but you can certainly tell when the winds of autumn blow away the fig leaf; then,
“Ye shall know them by their fruits.” [Matthew 7:16]
Source: Club Orlov