On September 11, 2001, when those planes rammed into the World Trade Center, the impact was so forceful that it not only demolished the buildings, it ripped a hole in the space-time continuum. The result was that we entered another dimension, one familiar to comic book aficionados – Bizarro World, where the laws of logic and reason are inverted: up is down, right is wrong, and – most maddening – sense is transmuted into nonsense.
The evidence for this seismic shift is all around us: heck, I’ve been chronicling the phenomenon for years. Lately, however, we seem to have entered an entirely new phase of Bizarro-fication, a tipping point if you will, so that even the memory of a more rational world is lost. As evidence, I submit to you a piece published on the web site of a magazine called Reason, a circumstance that goes waaay beyond irony.
No sooner had the explosion at Moscow’s Domodedovo airport claimed 35 lives, and dozens maimed, then blogger Stephen J. Smith, identified as an intern serving under the auspices of the Institute for Humane Studies, posted the following on the Reason web site:
“Russian President Dmitri Medvedev has been quick to blame the attack on terrorists, probably from the restive North Caucasus, and President Obama has issued a similar statement.
“But Western press reports leave out one important bit of context: There is widespread (and mainstream) speculation that many of the terrorist attacks attributed to Chechens in recent years were actually perpetrated by the Russian secret services, to further the political aims of an ever-more-authoritarian Russian state. The 1999 apartment bombings triggering the Second Chechen War are widely suspected to have been the work of the FSB, the KGB’s successor organization.”
The key supporting link in this farrago of arbitrary assertions is the “widely suspected.” But how wide is “widely”? Click and you wind up, first of all, on a page describing how supporters of the terrorist Chechen insurgency, including the late Alexander Litvinenko, believe in this Russian edition of 9/11 Trutherism. Keep clicking, and you get to a page describing Litvinenko’s book, Blowing Up Russia, in which this “theory” is elaborated, at great length. Yet why are we supposed to take any of this seriously? Litvinenko, after all – as I pointed out here – was a Russian convert to Islam who, aside from accusing the Russian security services of bombing Russian cities in order to justify the war on Chechnya and generate political support for Putin’s domestic policies, also claimed that the Russians were behind al-Qaeda and the Beslan massacre: he was sure the KGB trained and funded Ayman al-Zawahiri. He accused Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi of being a Soviet agent, and even went so far as to announce that Putin is a pedophile.
Smith goes on to cite Edward Lucas, former Moscow correspondent for The Economist, as saying:
“The weight of evidence so far supports the grimmest interpretation: that the attacks were a ruthlessly planned stunt to create a climate of panic and fear in which Putin would quickly become the country’s undisputed leader, as indeed he did.”
What is this weighty evidence? Lucas does not elaborate – and neither does Smith. Lucas only cites the leader of the tiny Yabloko party agreeing with this proposition as “a measure of how far opinion has shifted that the conspiracy theory has gone from being an outlandish hypothesis to something believed by serious opposition politicians.” Yet “serious” is hardly how one would describe a party that polled 1.6 percent of the vote in the last elections and elected zero delegates to the Duma. “It is,” avers Lucas,
“As if mainstream contenders for the Democratic nomination in America’s presidential election had publicly supported the contention that the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 were an inside job organized by Vice President Dick Cheney.”
Well, no, because Yabloko is a minor pimple on the Russian body politic, not a major abscess like the Democratic party. It is more like, say, Cynthia McKinney, former Green party presidential candidate, running off at the mouth. Smith also links to a statement by Senator John McCain which merely notes the assassination of a key official investigating the Moscow bombings, a deed that, in itself, hardly points to the FSB as the culprit – and the Senator didn’t say that in any case. He didn’t say it because he knows that if any “mainstream contenders” for the White House said flat out, rather than merely hinted, that the Russians bombed themselves, they would lose their coveted mainstream status in an instant.
In Bizarro World, one opens the pages of a magazine that bills itself as the epitome of “Reason,” and what do we find: rampant Unreason! The Bizarro Effect is not only spreading, it’s intensifying, as this letter from General David Petraeus to US soldiers fighting in Afghanistan makes all too clear.
The letter starts out citing the “impressive progress” the US campaign has made – you know, like taking an unprecedented number of casualties and essentially being outmaneuvered by the Taliban at every turn. “As you will recall,” writes Petraeus,
“Our objective here is to ensure that Afghanistan never again becomes a sanctuary for Al-Qaeda or other transnational extremists. Achieving that objective requires that we help Afghanistan develop the ability to secure and govern itself. This, in turn, requires the conduct of a comprehensive civil-military campaign, carried out in full partnership with our Afghan counterparts, to improve security, develop Afghan security forces.”
“As you will recall,” indeed. This paragraph charts perfectly the progression of the Afghan conflict from a war of retribution to a full-scale social engineering program of vast proportions. From simple revenge to Good Governance is a long way down the slippery slope – although, I suppose, one could consider the imposition of the Obama administration’s concept of Good Governance to be a particularly vicious form of revenge.
My favorite part of the Petraeus letter, however, comes at the end, where he writes that “we will have to expand our efforts to help Afghan officials implement President Karzai’s direction to combat corruption and the criminal patronage networks that undermine the development of effective Afghan institutions.”
In order to do that, they’ll have to arrest Karzai, and all his cronies. But, then again, you have to remember: we’re in the Bizarro dimension, where anti-corruption campaigns are invariably conducted under the direction of corrupt kingpins.
So what are the prospects for the restoration of reason, and the overthrow of this regime of rampant Unreason? Can we ever hope to roll back the rising tide of nonsense, and undo the weird inversion of the laws of logic that has the culture – nay, the world – in its grip? Or are we stuck where we are, stranded in Bizarro World, interdimensional exiles doomed to wander, alone and afraid, in a world we never made?
Your guess is as good as mine. On my better days, I’m optimistic: other times, not so much.