The Circus

by Richard Macintosh

June 23, 2003


"Thinking that he [Alypius] would be able to despise and rise above whatever it was he would see, he opened his eyes and was struck with a deeper wound in his soul than the man he had opened his eyes to see had received in the body. And Alypius fell more wretchedly than the man on whose fall that mighty clamour had been raised which entered through his ears and unlocked his eyes, making way for the striking and beating down of his soul, which was as yet more bold than valiant."
--Augustine, Confessions, Book VI, Chapter 8, pp. 96-97.

The Romans had to attend the circus in person in order to witness it. Americans in the 21st Century may attend their "circus events," but there are alternative means to witness them. The circus comes to them, via various media, cleansed and otherwise. By the time an American child reaches puberty, he/she relates to the world through images and sound bites, rather than thought. This could also be said of children from other so-called "First World countries."

But to be fair, former communist countries and those of the "Third World," are also influenced by our image-sound-bite culture. It can be seen by "GAP" sweat shirts worn by their young people and an addiction to American television.

As an aside, isn't it interesting how the term, "First World," rolls across the tongue in self-satisfied smugness? And isn't it just as interesting how terms such as "Second World" and "Third World" dribble forth, indicating much of the world is made up of "lesser peoples" -- those to be "shaped up" (by us of course) and failing that, "suppressed?"

I used to wonder why people swallowed such things, but then I was reminded of Schiller's comment:

"Against stupidity even gods struggle in vain."

Faced with the overwhelming intellectual sloth of the American people, and not being a politician, I realized the limits of my own power and gave up the idea of reforming fools.

But, back to the Circus! Our Circus would amaze and awe the Romans as much as it does the "Second" and "Third" Worlds. We have it all -- faux (1) sports, murder, war, sex, or the real thing, often masquerading as faux. Isn't that a wonder? I refer to sports that aren't really contests portrayed as those that may be -- minus or plus the fix. Then there is faux murder that appears real, mirrored by real murder, absent gore and body parts. Then there are Hollywood war movies that are little more than period propaganda pieces, and real war, sanitized by our "embedded" journalists, who present a view of the war approved by their handlers and prosper in a world where real journalists are proscribed. It is the sort of world where a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist is fired for telling the truth, (2) while lesser lights are promoted for kissing the right backside.

It seems that irony is not dead.

An attorney friend of mine once asked (in an exasperated tone): "How old are you? Do you know what is happening, or not?"

Sadly, I do.

It is naïve to wonder why there is such confusion in our culture. The reason is that the real and the faux have become blurred. A large number of people have lost their ability to discern one from the other. Our handlers understand this better than we do and act accordingly.

As an example, consider the destruction of the Saddam Hussein statue in Baghdad. Before it was brought crashing to the ground, the statue's face was briefly wrapped in an American flag, reportedly the very flag that was flying over the Pentagon when it was hit on September 11, 2001. It was a great photo op, obviously well planned.

The fact that Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with the 9-11 attacks was completely overlooked. Our embedded propagandists did their job and the image of the Pentagon flag was sent around the world.

The problem is that the rest of the world understands that Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with the 9-11 attacks.

No matter.

In an image and sound bite world, what is real and what is not becomes confused and interchangeable. It doesn't matter that Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with 9-11. The majority of Americans want to believe that he did, because they want to believe their own president. They do not want to believe that they are being lied to, or that innocents are being targeted, so the lie goes down whole, like a raw oyster. And God help anyone who tries to enlighten them. It seems that most Americans would rather focus on Bill Clinton's sexual peccadilloes and the meaning of "is" than question whether or not the Bush II administration lied us into an illegal war against Iraq. (3)

"WHAT? If you don't like your Uncle Sammy, move to Canada!

One can almost hear such types getting ready to sing the Battle Hymn of the Republic as they drive down the highway with "Old Glory" flapping away on a plastic mast made in China. Music, after all, is an essential element in building passion for a cause, whether that cause is a sports team, or an army. This fact is not lost on our propagandists.

Consequently, an image and sound-bite world almost always has background music. There are some people who cannot imagine war without it. Additionally, many have never thought about the stench of death that accompanies war; it isn't even on their radar screen. After all, you never smell the stench of death at the movies -- whether at a theater or at home.

But real war stinks -- literally. Ask any combat veteran. I mean soldiers, not flyboys. I mean the guys who fight on the ground, see death and smell it -- smell the gore and excrement and rotting flesh.

In an image and sound-bite world, movie actors become heroes and have public facilities dedicated to them. For example, the Orange County Airport, Santa Ana, California, had its name changed to the "John Wayne International Airport." Obviously, a large number of people thought John Wayne was a legitimate hero. He wasn't a hero at all. John Wayne may have been a great symbol, but he never spent a day in combat, other than a few bar brawls in Los Angeles. The image of the "Duke" as a war hero was all smoke and mirrors -- faux. A real hero, actor James Stewart, who flew B17's against the Nazis and never missed a rotation, was overlooked.


You have been deceived about the reasons for invading Iraq. The Bush II administration continues to obstruct inquiries into the 9-11 tragedy as well as the fabrications (lies) justifying the Iraq war.

You are being lied to on a daily basis.


For the thoughtful, the search for truth is not optional.

The search for truth demands thinking and discerning.

The search for truth demands an unwillingness to swallow official lies whole.


Reality is a van full of dead Iraqi women and children -- your tax dollars at work. Reality is also a brother, sister, father, or mother who will never come back from war.

Reality is a Baghdad marketplace slaughtered by your own missiles, with accompanying photos of dead and maimed civilians -- many of them children. The Bush II administration refuses to count Iraqi civilian dead (for all the reasons why).

Americans who watched the bombing of Baghdad saw an embedded light show. But thousands of innocent people were under those bombs. Did you think about it? Did you glory in their deaths? Did you glory in George W. Bush's victory landing on the USS Abraham Lincoln? Did you think Bush's photo op was "real?" Do you realize that this stunt was done at taxpayer expense? (Now do you understand why some people vote for Alfred E. Newman?)

Reality has a way of being persistent. Reality is that you and your posterity will pay and pay and pay for these killings. It doesn't matter if you allowed yourself to be deceived, or not.


In the contempt of much of the world.

Being a citizen of a pariah state -- an "untouchable."

Having personal travel restricted to "safe" and "secure" areas.

Living in constant fear of things real and imaginary.

Residing in a Fascist police state, under constant surveillance.

But, finally, before we close, allow me ask one small question. If "Coalition troops" (don't you love that Orwellian term?) had not invaded Iraq, would the people killed on both sides of the conflict still be alive?

"Yes, but. . ."

No buts.

"But what if. . ."

No what-ifs.

Ahh. Silence.

That's better.

I'll quit now.

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References and Resources

1.  Why the word, "faux?" Because this wonderful French word has a sense of disdain, laced with a healthy dose of contempt. The word means "fake" and it applies to things and beings that are portrayed as something they are not -- such as "freedom fries," "freedom roast coffee," a "freedom kiss," "honest politicians," or "independent newscasters." (Take your pick.)  (back)

2.  Zzzeek, "Reporter Peter Arnett fired from NBC for war commentary," http://www.kuro5hin.org/story/2003/3/31/17200/7638 - Kuro5hin, April 1, 2003.  (back)

3.  As an aside, isn't it amusing that the same type of person who shrugs off the killing of masses of Iraqi children blanches at the thought of Bill Clinton holding a box of cigars?  (back)

Iraq on Swans


Richard Macintosh was a Public High School Teacher in California (1956-1989). Ed.D, Educational Leadership, BYU, 1996. MA, Liberal Studies, Wesleyan University, 1982. BA, history, Stanford University, 1956... Macintosh is currently a part-time consultant on Personnel/Team matters in Washington State.

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Published June 23, 2003
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