Billmon writes that the the press, in its rather mindless acceptance of the lies being propagated by Bush and Cheney about their time in office, are in a "pre-amnesia" state and about to banish the crimes of past eight years from memory:
[A]s in late Soviet times, the absurdity of the official story line is only reinforced by the other systemic failures that surround it: in our case, financial collapse, plunging asset prices, massive fraud and a corrupt, sclerotic political system that may be incapable of doing even the most simple, obvious things (like printing and spending sufficient quantities of fiat money) to stave off an deeper downward spiral.
This being the case, I have a strong hunch the political-media complex (i.e. the Village) is going to want to move fairly quickly to the post-Soviet solution I described earlier — skipping right over the perestroika and glasnost to get directly to the willful amnesia and live-in-the-moment materialism of mid-1990s Russia.
Which means, in turn, that Bush, Cheney, Rummy, Feith and the whole noxious crew are about to get flushed straight down the memory hole: banished fairly quickly from public discussion and corporate media coverage — in much the way the Iran-Contra scandal (go ahead, Wiki it) was almost immediately forgotten or ignored once it became clear that the fix was in. America apparently had its big experiment with truthtelling and reform in the post-Watergate era, and the experience was so unpleasant that nobody (or nobody who counts) is willing to go there again. That would be like expecting the Baby Boomers to start dropping acid again.
That could well happen. But I’m not sure the "villagers," such as they are, control the conversation any more.
I’m certainly not an internet idealist — there are limits to what people can do online to offset what is happening in the virtual media world. But the ability to drive public perception has been occasionally hijacked by the online world (Social Security, FISA, Plame, the US Attorneys), and the ability to do so is usually a function of achieving critical mass sufficient to overcome the inertia and self-interest of the corporate media-generated political narrative.
Jay Rosen has an article entitled Audience Atomization Overcome: Why the Internet Weakens the Authority of the Press, in which he explores the dynamic that we witnessed in our community during the Plame days when like-minded people connected in a "virtual water cooler" situation:
In the age of mass media, the press was able to define the sphere of legitimate debate with relative ease because the people on the receiving end were atomized — meaning they were connected “up” to Big Media but not across to each other. But today one of the biggest factors changing our world is the falling cost for like-minded people to locate each other, share information, trade impressions and realize their number. Among the first things they may do is establish that the “sphere of legitimate debate” as defined by journalists doesn’t match up with their own definition.
In the past there was nowhere for this kind of sentiment to go. Now it collects, solidifies and expresses itself online. Bloggers tap into it to gain a following and serve demand. Journalists call this the “echo chamber,” which is their way of downgrading it as a reliable source. But what’s really happening is that the authority of the press to assume consensus, define deviance and set the terms for legitimate debate is weaker when people can connect horizontally around and about the news.
There was a quantum shift in the ability of a few propagandists and a willing "village" to control the narrative of Whitewater relative to what happened during the Libby trial.
Many will also remember the sad lesson learned by the Washington Post when Deborah Howell wrote that Jack Abramoff gave money to Democrats (he didn’t) and they thought they could stonewall critics by simply removing their comments from the site. They never tried that again.
All of which is to say that I hold out hope that Billmon’s parallels with Soviet Russia won’t hold up. The "village" are clearly in active whitewashing phase. But I’m heartened by Bob Fertik’s efforts and the transparency of the Obama administration that allowed 70,000 people to show up and demand a Special Prosecutor on the change.gov site. It’s the kind of "critical mass" event that defies the ability of a few people to limit the sphere of debate as easily as they have in the past, and shifts the power of defining "consensus" even if slightly in favor people willing to connect and speak up.
Let’s hope in this case it’s enough.