We’ve passed the 10th anniversary of the beginning of the Iraq War. I have little to add to what Paul Krugman wrote already. For example:
The really striking thing, during the run-up to the war, was the illusion of consensus. To this day, pundits who got it wrong excuse themselves on the grounds that â€œeveryoneâ€ thought that there was a solid case for war. Of course, they acknowledge, there were war opponents â€” but they were out of the mainstream.
The trouble with this argument is that it was and is circular: support for the war became part of the definition of what it meant to hold a mainstream opinion. Anyone who dissented, no matter how qualified, was ipso facto labeled as unworthy of consideration. This was true in political circles; it was equally true of much of the press, which effectively took sides and joined the war party.
A lot of us saw clearly that the nation was being bamboozled into a stupid, unnecessary war. There were massive protests on the streets of New York that got no press coverage. One March just before the war jammed the streets from Times Square to Washington Square, and all along the route people were waving and hanging anti-war signs from their windows. Those New Yorkers understood that the stampede to war was not really about 9/11, an event still raw and smoldering in New Yorkers’ hearts. Why didn’t the press see it?
Krugman points out that we are still living with a false consensus, this time about economic policy. Eric Boehlert asks if Twitter could have stopped the war; I doubt it, any more than it’s stopping the phony idea about a “debt crisis.”
That there were, in fact, educated and knowledgeable people who opposed the invasion of Iraq for good and well-informed reasons, and not because of a lack of patriotism or a forgetting of 9/11, amounted to what Mark Twain called the “silent assertion lie.” This was first published in the New York World in 1899 —
For instance. It would not be possible for a humane and intelligent person to invent a rational excuse for slavery; yet you will remember that in the early days of the emancipation agitation in the North the agitators got but small help or countenance from any one. Argue and plead and pray as they might, they could not break the universal stillness that reigned, from pulpit and press all the way down to the bottom of society–the clammy stillness created and maintained by the lie of silent assertion–the silent assertion that there wasn’t anything going on in which humane and intelligent people were interested.
From the beginning of the Dreyfus case to the end of it all France, except a couple of dozen moral paladins, lay under the smother of the silent-assertion lie that no wrong was being done to a persecuted and unoffending man. The like smother was over England lately, a good half of the population silently letting on that they were not aware that Mr. Chamberlain was trying to manufacture a war in South Africa and was willing to pay fancy prices for the materials.
That last bit was about Joseph Chamberlain, father of Neville Chamberlain, who was an important figure in the 2nd Anglo-Boer War, which was about control of South African gold mines. Plus Ã§a change, plus c’est la mÃªme chose.
It is a bit heartening to see what has changed since then. Rachel Maddow on MSNBC would have been unimaginable ten years ago, for example. The once-invincible Vast Right-Wing-Conspiracy is in chaos. But there’s room for improvement.