November 08, 2010

Lies Are All You Know

Depending on my mood, I am astonished, horrified, sickened and/or immensely amused when writers, on both the right and the left, who repeatedly proclaim their skepticism and distrust of government (at least of certain significant aspects of governmental activities) offer figures about employment and the economy as if those figures accurately reflected the truth. The figures such writers put forth and then amplify with learned commentary are, of course, provided by the government. One might think that fact would be regarded as of some significance by those who are often skeptical and distrustful of government. One might be mistaken! For almost everyone, trust in and obedience to authority is the automatic default position; we are trained well and thoroughly, from our earliest years. (The second part of my series on Wikileaks discusses how this training takes place, and offers links to many articles that analyze the mechanisms in detail.) There are but few exceptions; they tend to be dyspeptic, dysfunctional irritants such as your humble correspondent.

Thus, the following exercise in cooling clarity from Paul Craig Roberts could be regarded as stating the obvious -- except that for most people, none of this is obvious at all:
If we cannot trust what the government tells us about weapons of mass destruction, terrorist events, and the reasons for its wars and bailouts, can we trust the government’s statement last Friday that the US economy gained 151,000 payroll jobs during October?

Apparently not. After examining the government’s report, statistician John Williams ( reported that the jobs were “phantom jobs” created by “concurrent seasonal factor adjustments.” In other words, the 151,000 jobs cannot be found in the unadjusted underlying data. The jobs were the product of seasonal adjustments concocted by the BLS.

As usual, the financial press did no investigation and simply reported the number handed to the media by the government. [Ditto every blogger I've read on the subject.]


Discounting the war production shutdown at the end of World War II, which was not a recession in the usual sense, Williams reports that “the current annual decline [in employment] remains the worst since the Great Depression, and should deepen further.”

In short, there is no employment data, and none in the works, unless gimmicked, that supports the recovery myth. The US rate of unemployment, if measured according to the methodology used in 1980, is 22.5%. Even the government’s broader measure of unemployment stands at 17%. The 9.6% reported rate is a concocted measure that does not include discouraged workers who have been unable to find a job after 6 months and workers who want full time jobs but can only find part-time work.
Roberts' concluding paragraphs also merit inclusion here:
The American working class has been destroyed. The American middle class is in its final stages of destruction. Soon the bottom rungs of the rich themselves will be destroyed.

The entire way through this process the government will lie and the media will lie.

The United States of America has become the country of the Big Lie. Those who facilitate government and corporate lies are well rewarded, but anyone who tells any truth or expresses an impermissible opinion is excoriated and driven away.

But we “have freedom and democracy.” We are the virtuous, indispensable nation, the salt of the earth, the light unto the world.
I suppose many people might view Roberts' observations as unjustifiably angry and bitter. In our world today, if you are minimally conscious and honest, profound anger and bitterness are major indicators of psychological health. Given the suffocating cocoon of lies in which we live, it requires an almost unfathomable amount of sheer willpower to try to pierce the noxious air of our culture. (And as I recall, Mr. Roberts himself recently went silent for about half a year, perhaps slightly longer. Again, that response is a notably healthy one when you are conscious and honest. I'm personally very glad that Mr. Roberts decided to come back, and I'm deeply grateful for his efforts to speak the truth to a largely uncaring world.)

I was only going to reference the following passage from an earlier piece of mine, but what the hell. Perhaps it deserves to be repeated (also: readers still don't follow links!). I set this out at the opening of my analysis of the endless lies offered by Obama in his widely celebrated speech on race in 2008 (I wrote this some months before that speech):
For this is where we are in the United States, nearing the end of the Year of Our Lord 2007: the truth is not merely unpleasant, an uninvited guest who makes conversation difficult and awkward. Truth is the enemy; truth is to be destroyed. To attempt to speak the truth on any subject of importance requires a deep reserve of determination, for to speak the truth requires that one first sweep away an infinite number of rationalizations, false alternatives, and numerous other failures of logic and the most rudimentary forms of thought -- as well as the endless lies. On that single occasion in a thousand or a million when a person overcomes these barriers and speaks the truth, he or she discovers an additional, terrible truth: almost no one wants to hear it. This is how we live today: lies are the staple of our diet. Without them, we would die, certainly in psychological terms.
In connection with Obama in particular, and given the specific attributes which explain his rise to the White House, there is another passage of mine that I also consider of special significance. From "Obama and the Triumph of the American Myth":
Given the fundamentalist fervor with which the U.S. ruling class maintains and burnishes the national mythology, an exercise in which the majority of "ordinary" Americans join with equal enthusiasm (for such dedication to onanistic joys will forever find many followers), Barack Obama was inevitable. It was dangerous enough when truth was the enemy; truth was to be destroyed, but there remained a barely discernible acknowledgment that the truth still existed. With the ascension of Obama the Marketer, Obama the Fulfiller of Dreams, Obama the Commander of Illusion, the lie occupies the most prominent national space. Once installed, the lie grows daily and hourly. The smallest remaining tatters of truth are pushed always farther to the edges, until they vanish into the growing swamp of pain, suffering and death. To search for the truth in these circumstances is to sentence oneself to ridicule and hatred. To speak the truth is to render oneself irrelevant and invisible.
As terrible as the lies Roberts analyzes are -- and they are very terrible indeed for the many millions affected by them -- they are what we might term derivative lies.

Next time, we will begin a consideration of the more fundamental lies, the lies that have become life itself for most Americans -- lies that we have made so necessary to our continued existence, no matter how increasingly shabby and pathetic that existence is now and into the foreseeable future, that we refuse to even mention them.

So we will mention them here, in detail and at length.