[Well, look who decided to walk through the door. I haven’t seen you in a dog’s age, Dack. For a second there, I wondered if you’d been snatched by the feds and shuttled off to some fortress for “enhanced interrogation”, as the military calls it.]
Nobody receives that kind of celebrity treatment unless he has made some kind of effect, and, as you have pointed out several times in our discussions, everyone remains unaware that we exist.
[Is that why you haven’t stopped in to see me? Are you growing impatient with your ineffectual, even impotent, efforts?]
No, that doesn’t bother me, although it will make for a bitter pill to swallow when it comes time to renew my subscription with this website. I’ve been aloof because I haven’t taken much of an interest in politics, not since the Trump Administration announced that it would sponsor Guaido’s Venezuelan coup.
[You’re really broken up about that scandal, aren’t you? Did it really, and so thoroughly, take the wind from your sails?]
Obviously, there’s nothing intrinsically significant about a campaign for international violence through political turmoil, especially when the campaign in question is orchestrated by the United States. I’m not suggesting there is anything fundamentally different or new about what the U.S. is preparing to do in Venezuela. However, this is the first time in my adult life that I have been forced to witness the American adult population fall in line with military propaganda that is so blatantly dishonest.
[You say this is the first time in your “adult life”. You remember the roll to war in Afghanistan and Iraq?]
I was nine years old when the World Trade Center was obliterated. I don’t have an especially sharp memory of the prelude to the invasion of Afghanistan, but the build-up to the invasion of Iraq, I remember quite well. However, as a child, I wasn’t hearing much in the way of explicit rhetoric, and if I was, then I wasn’t able to make sense of it as I would be today.
[When you speak of “explicit rhetoric”, are you referring to “military propaganda”?]
Yes. I’m talking about the senseless suggestion that terrorists attacked the United States because “they hate our freedoms”. I still have a very hard time believing, or accepting, that the American people could be so feeble-minded as to fall for a lie of such crudity, but then again, the major lie about what is happening in Venezuela, while more complex, is no more convincing.
[What is this “major lie” we are told about what is happening in Venezuela?]
The biggest lie is that Guaido’s presidency is legitimate. The subject is seldom addressed in the American press—we simply do not have the space for it, you see, not when there is speculation to be made about the Mueller report—but when it is addressed, we are told there is some kind of loophole in the Venezuelan constitution whereby the leader of the National Assembly possesses the power to seize control of the executive branch and the presidency.
[It shouldn’t take a genius to appreciate the idiocy of this interpretation of the Venezuelan constitution.]
No, it shouldn’t. Can you imagine any organization permitting this kind of hierarchal jousting? Is it even vaguely palatable that the local McDonald’s would allow the longest-tenured fry cook to replace the general manager whenever he desires? It’s a preposterous lie, but apparently, it’s not a very lazy lie, because it has been accepted quite readily by the American population—or, at least by the few people in this country who are aware that anything is even taking place in Venezuela.
[Yes, the ubiquitous ignorance of the American people on this issue is a bit surreal, at times. There is a cruel comedy to the problem of empire: the military commits countless atrocities in the name of a population that is kept shamelessly ignorant of what its military does.]
The only correction I would make to your last statement is that the American people are not “kept” ignorant of anything. There is plenty of worthwhile information out there for those who are willing to look for it. The problem is that, when they do find it, they reject it for a number of different reasons. For example, it’s entirely possible that a person who is “kept ignorant”, as you put it, would read what we have written here, only to reject our observations, presumably because they are too depressing.
[In turn, this development from “kept” ignorance to willful ignorance is too depressing for you?]
I wouldn’t say it’s too depressing for me to stomach. I would say it’s become a bit too obvious at this point, the consequence of which is that writing about it has become a little tedious.
[How do you mean?]
Well, when you first begin to break out of “the box” of conventional opinion, you’re likely to seize onto pretty much anything. I remember watching the documentary Zeitgeist when I was in high school; for those who don’t know, it’s a film that suggests, among many other things, that the Bush Administration orchestrated the 9/11 attacks and falsely presented them as the work of foreign terrorists. I actually believed what the documentary suggested, to a large extent because I was so interested in “alternative opinion”, as it were.
[And because of your interest, you were gullible or susceptible to bad “alternative opinion”?]
That’s right. It took me quite a while—several years, in fact—to acquire a kind of taste or palate of discernment for this “alternative opinion”, to separate the wheat from the chaff, the true from the false. Not all “alternative opinion” is correct, of course, and part of my re-education involved my departure from material such as Zeitgeist and, later, the work of Stefan Molyneux.
[So, you’re describing a period of exhilaration and enthusiasm, followed by more thoughtful and measured analysis?]
Yes, and when my analytical abilities were sharpened, I could mount a more effective criticism of American intellectual culture, in particular the problem of kept or willful ignorance. However, this problem, which I have been examining in depth for quite a while now, has lost much of its appeal, at least to me, in large part because I can see that there are forces working underneath and behind the scenes that bring about this problem of ignorance.
[In other words, you have been dealing with only one quadrant of the graph hitherto; now, you would like to explore the other three.]
Exactly. Last night, I was listening to a right-wing radio program, and the interviewee—I believe it was Joe DiGenova—was complaining about the moral hypocrisy of left-wing pundits about some random issue. All of his criticisms were completely valid, but then again, there are plenty of left-wing commentators who are busily pointing out DiGenova’s failings. There isn’t anything inherently wrong with that kind of analysis, but it isn’t ambitious, and it seems to be very bland to me now, way too bland to warrant any kind of commentary here, in our discussions.
[But now, the broader problem of ignorance, which might be seen as a two-quadrant subject, has become bland to you, as well?]
It has. I don’t feel like I’m gaining a lot of insight from sustained examination of the American people’s political ignorance. At this point, I think I have to break out of the second quadrant and move on to the third—but at that point, you’re not really talking about politics anymore, you’re talking about something more extensive, like social philosophy, or something.
[“Social philosophy, or something.” Somehow, I doubt that will be remembered as the saying of a sage.]
Well, it will have to do: I don’t know how much more of this stuff I can write before it becomes entirely unintelligible to those who are still stuck within one of the previous quadrants.
[Then why haven’t you been writing about third-quadrant topics? Do you prefer to write about something more modest?]
No, but I suspect I’m having a bit of a hard time moving on from the second quadrant. I feel like I’m bringing something to an end.
[Oh, don’t go all gooey and sentimental on me. What are you moving on from, exactly? The kind of people who are gullible enough to believe that the Venezuelan constitution permits—]
Look, I’m not saying I have any emotional attachment to the people who rejected my writing in the first place. Clearly, they never really meant anything to me: I cared only for a false reflection of them, for the people that I erroneously believed them to be. It’s not the people that are affecting me; it’s the feeling of titanic failure that accompanies this departure. I feel as if, in moving on from them and their interests, I am acknowledging some kind of epic defeat.
[Why? Did you feel that way when you realized that the conspiracy theories promoted in Zeitgeist were a bunch of nonsense?]
No, not at all. If anything, I felt embarrassed about how much time I wasted on them.
[And the same ought to be true of this. You haven’t failed, you’ve simply exhausted this material and elevated yourself to the point at which you require something new, something more rewarding than the one-quadrant silliness of Real Time with Bill Maher. Abandon the crudity and immaturity that define the modern American political landscape and raise yourself up to something better, something more refined.]
[Philosophy, of course. And get back to writing: who else is going to lead us out of the wreckage of the Venezuelan coup?]
But I thought you said I shouldn’t waste my time with politics anymore.
[Oh, you’re not there yet. You’re merely glimpsing the future. The future is in sight, but you must write your way there. The present, politics: the future, who knows?]