To publicly promote a political profile of peculiarly self-congratulating moral earnestness it is simultaneously necessary to feed the shadows. What happens unseen is essential to the purification of the image.
The Obama Administration is only significant here insofar as it grasps the deep political logic of democracy — and its subordination to sovereign PR — with such exceptional practical clarity. Better by far to indiscriminately drone potential enemies to death on the unmonitored periphery than to rough up a demonstrated terrorist in front of a TV camera.
It’s the future you wanted (Xenosystems readers excepted). To imagine anything fundamentally different working under democratic conditions is sheer delusion.
There’s another sort of bifurcation at work. As I commented on that post:
To be Progressive is to identify, correct, and atone for society’s past sins. And the more awful those sins, the better for the Progressive to beat his breast and bask in his halo. If there were no “police brutality”, no torture, no armed forces atrocities — what would fill Mr. Obama’s teleprompter? How would change.org raise funds?
One of the awful features of democracy is that it has no incentive to fix problems. Quite the opposite — there is every incentive to let problems fester, for several reasons:
– Organizations and programs created to solve a problem would lose their funding were the problem to vanish.
– Dysfunctional governance serves as a rallying cry and a touchstone of opposition. Do you think Republican senators and congressmen really want to abolish Obamacare? Why would they deprive themselves of a useful campaigning and fundraising tool?
– Elected officials can provide a useful service to their constituents, poking the bureaucracy to produce a reasonable result. Hedrick Smith estimated that as many as 5% of a congressperson’s voters were the recipient of this assistance.
Democracy converts its citizens to spoilt children, and as such, voters show no gratitude. A concrete example: Just after I was born, a speed limit of 55 miles per hour was imposed on all highways. Just before I started driving, this limit was raised to 65 in rural areas (of course most people drove faster no matter what the speed limit).
When the Republicans took Congress in 1994, they eliminated the federal speed limit. Everyone loathed the unrealistic speed limits, but getting rid of them didn’t seem to have done the Republicans much good. I’ve never met anyone who explained their voting habits as an expression of gratitude for any law or policy.
So don’t expect the most self-righteous presidency in history to have a practical result, when it comes to torture or anything else. Rather the opposite.