To Reader: This is a slightly altered version from that which appeared in the Prague Post a few days ago. And I am actively considering revamping and expanding it for the blog, as I feel the subject merits more than a 1200 word max limit.
While there can be no question of the transparency value of all those primary documents that Julian Assange splashed out to the public through Wikileaks a few years ago now, nor of the immense importance of the Snowden revelations in coming to grips with the staggering implications that the Five Eyes global secrets stalking represents for democracy and privacy, an aspect often under-appreciated is the gatekeeper crisis that all these startling eye-openers have brought with them. Fact is, while the hidden gods are having their merry way with Words, it’s virtually impossible to know which oracle to trust any more.
And there are all kinds of oracles these days. There’s the mainstream media, which includes what’s left of the Press; there’s the Assange prototype of open media based on posting sensitive documents; there’s the Greenwald selective leak method; there’s Google’s Erich Schmidt calling for a kind of committee to oversee leak distribution; and then there’s Stephen Aftergood’s Secrecy News which publishes important governmental documents that get suppressed through willful underpublicizing. It’s worth briefly considering the pros and cons of each method.
‘The scribe,’ he said sarcastically. So they were reading my work again, and of course they had suffered the fate of all snoops — they were upset by what they had discovered.
– Peter Carey, Amnesia (2014)
ringer, n. 2.Also called: dead ringer a person or thing that is almost identical to another
It’s easy to misconstrue what we see. So easy, in fact, that eyewitnesses are not regarded as terribly reliant conduits of reality and their testimony in a court of law is routinely regarded as suspect. It’s not much better for what we hear (or think we hear). Many years ago in Abu Dhabi, in my IB English class, I conducted a Chinese Whispers session as prep for a novel we were about to read (Camus’ The Stranger). By the time my very brief message got around from ear to ear, from student 1 through 19, it had changed dramatically. Aside from linguistic and locution issues, we often bring what we expect or want to perceive into the perception and communicate accordingly.
Misconstruing is not limited to the phenomena of everyday life, but is a problem for science as well. Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle, for instance, states that formulating an absolute truth about a phenomenon is problematical because the object of our scrutiny is altered by the scrutiny itself.
Lest we remember …
Perusing the Prague Post‘s headlines the other day, I was darkly amused by the Czech Republic’s growing pariah status vis-à-vis the United States. In the “Bloom wears off Czech-US relations” piece, there was expressed by US officials deep imperial disappointment at the Republic’s refusal to accept an anti-nuclear weapon battery just outside Prague, with the requisite stationing of US occupying forces to safeguard it, of course. How could any nation refuse to garrison an exceptional and indispensable soldier from Freedonia? Think of it.
by Peter Carey
Available from Penguin and online retailers
Anyway, the reason for my amusement was because, at the time, I was reading Peter Carey’s new novel, Amnesia, and key to the story is what happens when a client nation state falls out of favor with Uncle Sam: change comes suddenly and shockingly. As Duane Clarridge, the CIA meat cleaver who helped oversee the Allende ouster in Chile 1973, would say, “We’re not going to put up with any nonsense.”