Stemming the tide of misinformation
THE EDITOR, Madam:
January 20 was greatly anticipated around the world, with millions tuning into televised comings and goings at the Oval Office in Washington, DC. After viewing the departure of one president and the inauguration of another – with less pomp and circumstance but far more fortifications than usual, due to pandemic restrictions and fears of protester pandemonium – I quite accidentally stumbled upon a marvellous film on cable television that evening. If it were shown by design on that date, it was a stroke of absolute genius by whomever was responsible for programming schedules.
The film, Shock And Awe, was made in 2017 and is a docu-drama that details political events leading up to the Iraq War in March 2003. Told from the vantage point of two investigative reporters and two superiors in the Washington newsroom of the now defunct Knight-Ridder media company, their depictions were linked by several actual news clips referring to weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) supposedly in the hands of Iraq’s dictator, Saddam Hussein. George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell, and others featured prominently in the news clips. Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, and others were mentioned for ignoring Senator Robert Byrd’s plea for politicians not to be tricked by fallacious information emanating from the White House and Pentagon yet again, remembering the phoney Gulf of Tonkin Resolution that sent America into the Vietnam War in the 1960s.
The film ended by listing an estimated number of lives lost on all sides as well as so many more maimed and displaced during the Middle East conflict that resulted. The actual number of WMDs was a big fat zero.
Equally interesting to me that evening was that many of those featured in the film’s news clips spewing so much mendacious misinformation had been highly visible earlier in the day, sitting like preening peacocks on the US Capitol platform as the new president took his oath of office. Many politicians and commentators seemed to blame the outgoing president for leaving a divided country behind him as he flew to Florida. Of course, it’s left for observers to recall those words of wisdom from George Santayana: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
Believe it or not, January 20 was also Penguin Awareness Day.