Chris Matthews’ Culture War Orwellian DoubleThink

Some are referencing this Chris Matthews performance last week on Hardball regarding his defense of Michael Chertoff. Quite rigtly…It was a particularly putrid performance. But what Matthews said on his show yesterday, in his ending segment, “Let Me Finish,” is worse. It’s obscene.

The story that wasn’t a story at all: the fuss over the TSA pat downs.
Let’s compare a couple of things: How do you compare the GI who loses an arm overseas — or more — to the embarrassment someone might feel during an airport scan or even a pat down?
How do you compare those two? How do you say that one is worth the fight against terror and the other is not?
How do you compare the denial that waterboarding is torture, not that it may not be necessary (that’s another argument) but that it’s not torture? That’s what the people on the right have been swearing to on a stack of Bibles.
And then, hear from this same howling crowd that they just can’t stand the pain and human hurt of a pat down at the airport. One is not torture, the obvious torture, and one is.
I guess it depends on what your definition of “is” is.
I’ve been thinking of all this over Thanksgiving weekend, and thinking about what the Theodore Roosevelt historian Edmund Morris said on “Face the Nation” Sunday.
He was asked what Teddy Roosevelt would say about people today and instead he offered a view from an immigrant to this country: that Americans are “lazy, obese, and complacent.”

What he is actually saying? He’s saying that soldiers getting blown up in Iraq and Afghanistan obligates us to invasive security searches here at home. To deny this duty is to be “lazy, obese, and complacent.” This, quite accurately, could be labeled as Mussolini, fascist tripe. But he is not saying this directly. He is making the argument in the language of the left/right cultural war. So, in this language, he delineates the duties the political right have championed in the War on Terror and then caustically chides the right for shirking a “far less” intrusive duty of the simple pat-down in the execution of this war. In the left/right cultural war, it is only the right that now opposes the TSA.

Now Matthews is someone I used to watch pretty regularly back in the early part of the Bush Admin before the Iraq War. At that time, the running theme of Hardball was that the push for the Iraq war was underlain by a Neo-conservative ideological conspiracy. And he was right. Later, he would zealously cover the “Valerie Plame” story as it transpired on a daily basis. This was the smoking gun of the conspiracy–that the WMD rationale for the Iraq war was an outright fabrication. However, as the Democrats regained power, and particularly when Obama assumed power, this reporting slant all but faded from the show. The ideological basis for this War on Terror, or at least the execution of it, was no longer questioned. Now it was secure.

DoubleThink, of course, is where the political context determines what you think about something. In one context, you may be for A, and in another, against it. The restrictive dichotomous language/vocabulary of NewSpeak allows DoubleThink without cognitive dissonance. DoubleThink, however, is not hypocrisy. Indeed, in Orwell’s novel, the past is changed at will. There is no hypocrisy. DoubleThink is simply thought control.

Reality, however, is not quite the George Orwell novel. Politically there is a dichotomous left/right culture war that feeds a restricted vocabulary that allows DoubleThink to thrive with impunity; but, empirically, for those outside this left/right culture war, the cognitive dissonance is plain as day. Glenn Greenwald makes his living deconstructing this cognitive dissonance every day. To see how permanent war in this left/right cultural war leads to a toxic authoritarianism, simply reference Matthews’ commentary above. For those who claim left/right is a struggle between reality vs reality denial, that is fucking laughable…

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