Given that it is World Series time, I am going to throw Liberal Oasis dwellers a curve. I am going to talk about sheep.
Let me back up just a wee bit. I am a member of a cargo cult, of sorts. My shoreline is behind my town library, and my cargo regularly arrives in the form of deposits left in the library Dumpster. Here I find the discards, either former library books that have been weeded from the collection from lack of use or the donations to semi-annual book sales that are either duplicates, unwanted, unopened, or simply the result of a bad mood for whoever was on duty that day. I visit the Dumpster almost daily, to see what the currents have brought my way. More often than not, the cargo is a Hefty bag or two filled with trash. But at least once or twice a week, there are books, magazines, videos, cassettes or something else to capture my fancy.
Among my latest haul was an old, but intact, paperback copy of A Nation of Sheep by William J. Lederer. While Lederer was best known as co-author of the hugely influential book The Ugly American, his solo flight on A Nation of Sheep, has not weathered the ravages of age as well as that book has. But it should.
Opening it at random, I found this assessment of a little known, and mostly forgotten, moment of American diplomacy:
"In the summer of 1959 there occurred a series of events which demonstrated our national ignorance in a shameful and nearly fatal manner. Briefly, the United States threatened intervention in a foreign country for reasons which, it turned out, had no basis in fact. The people of the United States were led to believe that Laos physically had been invaded by foreign Communist troops from across its northern border. Our Secretary of State called the situation grave; our ambassador to the U.N. called for world action; our press carried scare headlines; our senior naval officer implied armed intervention and was seconded by ranking Congressmen, including the Chairman of the National Committee of the Republican Party, which was then in power.
The entire affair was a fraud. No military invasion of Laos had taken place Yet for weeks, neither our government nor our press bothered to investigate at first hand. As a result, we came close to triggering war, on false information not of our own gathering. We did in fact make fools of ourselves in the eyes of our friends and ‘imperialist warmongers’ of ourselves in the words of our enemies and in the opinion of neutrals. The case of Laos is not an isolated one; alas, it is typical."
And so on, for 144 frighteningly familiar pages.
Lederer shows that not only are the Republicans up to their old tricks, but that the American press still does not bother to investigate at first hand. They are. as has been said elsewhere and far more eloquently, stenographers and lapdogs, so beholden to the power brokers that they have forgotten the real purpose of journalism.
I will leave the last word to Lederer:
"The defeat of America need not be accomplished by destructive weapons and violence. There are easier and cheaper ways of conquering a politically incompetent nation. It can be accomplished by psychological weapons, by economic strangulation, by political chicanery, by intellectual subversion."
See you at the Dumpster.