(Please welcome George Soros, who is joining us in the comments to discuss his book The Age of Fallibility: Consequence of the War on Terror. Week one of the discussion can be found here.)
Since FDL has been open for business, I can think of few subjects we’ve ever addressed that have raised the collective ire of the right wing wrong-o-sphere as much as questioning the whole "war on terror" narrative. It has loomed like a giant, steroid-engorged enforcer over modern political discourse, threatening to bludgeon into submission any challenge to the multitude of half-baked notions adopted by the Bush administration in its pursuit. There is no pricetag too high, no idea so ludicrous to which we must not acquiesce lest charges of "anti-Americanism" and "soft on terror" rise like a giant cloud of flatulence from a horde of low-information, mouth breathing armchair warriors who equate fending off sniper fire in Fallujah with finding the plasma gun in Doom III. It has effectively stifled both meaningful discussion and any effective defiance of the kleptocracy enabled by its brutal dominance of the debate.
So it was quite inspirational to hear that George Soros had not only identified this as a serious problem, but had also earmarked the entire narrative for deconstruction with his new book. It was an exceptionally bold move from a man known for bold moves who has an uncanny knack for putting his finger right where it was guaranteed to enrage wingnuttia the most. Writing from a pragmatist’s point of view and with the credibility of someone who has chalked up quite a string of financial successes by predicting trends in international markets, his critiques become impossible to dismiss as those of an egg-headed academic living in an ivory tower, the default canard with which most such analyses are de-legitimitized and banished.
The advocates of American supremacy have turned power into a false metaphor — not unlike that other false metaphor, the war on terror. Indeed, the two false metaphors are different facets of he same distorted worldview. It may come as a surprise how much damage false metaphors can do, but it is difficult to find another explanation for the precipitous decline in American power and influence, After all, what Marxists would call the material conditions — military, economic, and financial strengths — could not change all that much in five years. It is the ideological superstructure that has done all the damage. This gives ground for hope — false ideas can be corrected more easily than material conditions. Unfortunately, it takes time for a distorted interpretation of reality to make its effect felt. What is worse, a false metaphor can be effective in servicing a hidden purpose — for instance, the war on terror has enabled President Bush to gain popularity at home. In other words, false metaphors tend to be initially self-reinforcing; but later, when their falsehood is revealed for all to see, they will become self-defeating. We are now at that stage.
One of the many limitations with our current media is that challenging a "false metaphor" such as the "war on terror" is so threatening to everything the power structure of the Bush administration has been erected upon that to do so will certainly draw down the full force of the right-wing bullies. Our pundits and politicians, our media elite have not distinguished themselves with this kind of profound courage, and it has taken someone with George Soros’ stature, altruistic bent and — as he notes — his stage of life to have the wherewithall to do so without intimidation.
Now that Mr. Soros has done the heavy lifting and dragged the topic into the national debate, I’m happy that we can pick up the conversation and help him in the task of continuing the task of both deconstructing and re-writing this deceptive and destructive narrative. I’m also happy to have him here to discuss the topic today. I’m very much looking forward to hearing his thoughts on he interprets recent events in the middle east, and to hear him speak to the question: if it’s not a war on terror, what is it?