The memory hole is working overtime in the USA zeitgeist these days. Shit happens and a week or so later, it unhappens — at least it seems that way as manifested by the front page of The New York Times or the flapping of Anderson Cooper’s gums on CNN.
Anyone remember that Malaysian airlines plane that went down in July in Ukraine killing 283 persons? US government officials were jumping up and down trying strenuously to blame Russian Donbass separatists. The trouble was, they had no evidence whatsoever and their exertions were looking ridiculous (making the USA look ridiculous, of course). Last thing we heard, there were questions about two Ukrainian air force jets chasing it, and photos of entry and exit cannon holes in the pilot’s cabin. Recorded communications between the crew and traffic controllers were shoved into storage bin in the Netherlands, never to be made public. The whole story vanished from the news media like the legendary D.B. Cooper — anyone remember him? — and hasn’t resurfaced since.
Anyone remember the outbreak of World War Three in Ukraine two weeks ago? The USA was trying — again, strenuously — to promote the idea of a Russian invasion — minus any evidence of the actual Russian troops, you understand. That didn’t go over so well. All this was occurring, remember, because the USA was determined to make Ukraine a NATO member, contrary to explicit agreements reached with Russia following the collapse of the Soviet Union to not expand NATO eastward. Anyway, there was no Russian invasion and the US State Department and the White House were left holding a pig in a poke that nobody wanted to buy. End of story, as Tony Soprano liked to say.
Recall the action in Ferguson, Missouri, last month. A very large teenager got shot and killed by a policeman named Darren Wilson. The scraggly suburb of St. Louis exploded in protest and then looting and violence. Don Lemon of CNN was egging it all on. Then the videos and photo came out: Michael Brown stealing cigars… Michael Brown posing with an semi-automatic pistol, a bottle of vodka, and a wad of dollars in his mouth. Hmmmmmm, maybe not such an innocent little lamb. Plus reports of broken bones in the policeman’s face. End of protests, end of story.
Something happened in the Gaza recently, didn’t it. Hamas fired rocket barrages into Israel and Israel answered with very aggressive action to stop the rockets. Eventually, the rockets did stop and so did the actions taken to stop them. Nothing in the news media ever suggested that there was a cause-and-effect relationship there. In fact, if anything, the news media went out of its way to excuse and rationalize the firing of rockets. The results speak for themselves, of course. But I’m sure few will remember that the whole thing started with the rockets.
Remember the Argentine bond default? That story dribbled away in a train of inconclusive confabulations, still ongoing. Argentina did default, by the way. The International Swaps and Derivatives Association (ISDA) declared a “credit event,” tripping credit default swaps on those bonds. Some of the bonds couldn’t actually be found… but no matter. The machinations around this are admittedly abstruse, but I would suggest the bottom line is that nobody wants to see those credit default swaps actually triggered because doing so would induce such a majestic chain of counterparty failures extending far beyond Argentina that the very Gods on Olympus would have to start checking their bank accounts for bail-ins.
So it goes, as the late, great Vonnegut always said. All of these stories have something in common: tons of unanswered questions, which the news media shows no interest whatsoever in following up on. And no consequences. People die, nations rise and fall, money disappears, and everybody forgets. This can’t just be about the diminishing returns of the grotesquely over-hyped “information age” — though the blowback from computers and all they have wrought may be tremendous. No, the memory hole is the truest signifier of the times we live in: the Age of Anything Goes and Nothing Matters.
That may be changing, even as I write. The Age of Consequence comes in on little cat’s feet. (See Steve Ludlum at Economic-Undertow.com for an excellent disquisition on that.)
I will be at Battenkill Books, Cambridge, NY, this Friday, Sept 12, at 7:00pm, talking about A History of the Future and other timely matters.
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