Tuesday, March 01, 2022

“Getting Fooled Again” is a Pattern, Unfortunately

“Won’t Get Fooled Again” is an anthem for people who decide not to Buy The Bullshit any more.

Governments around the world and throughout human history specialize in using lies to justify war and — of course — send everyone else’s kids, husbands and wives, and brothers and sisters to fight it. It’s not quite important enough for them to have any skin in the game, you see. 

After several iterations over a few decades of this, you’ve heard it all before and just don’t want to play that game — Buy The Bullshit — any more. 

Especially when the “news” you read and see and hear is crafted and filtered and massaged and censored to create a narrative, i.e., it’s a sales job, 100%. Believe it if you like, but never assume you’re hearing anything close to Truth.

I'll tip my hat to the new constitution
Take a bow for the new revolution
Smile and grin at the change all around
Pick up my guitar and play
Just like yesterday
Then I'll get on my knees and pray
We don't get fooled again

An excellent example of getting fooled again was the Tet Offensive in January-February 1968 when the Viet Cong (Communist-backed guerilla fighters in the South) plus North Vietnamese regulars launched their biggest offensive of the entire Vietnam War against all of the biggest cities in South Vietnam including Saigon and Hue plus several military bases. 

The Tet Offensive took the U.S. and South Vietnamese forces by surprise — because the ground war prior to that had been fought mostly in the jungle and countryside — and as a result the VC captured most of these targets on the first day, but within a few days all cities except Hue were recaptured. Hue was the last to be recaptured, on February 24, less than 4 weeks after the start of Tet.

As a military operation it was a colossal failure for the Communists: they suffered 10x the casualties (approximately 100,000 total killed, wounded, captured, or missing) and captured no territory, and failed to achieve the primary goal of igniting a popular uprising in the South. 

But it did achieve an even bigger, more strategic and completely unanticipated goal in the U.S.: a relentless stream of slanted “bad” news for Walter Cronkite, the most trusted man in America, and the rest of the U.S. media to cover every night — especially since the embedded journalists spent nearly all their time in those same targeted cities which had appeared peaceful before Tet due to the guerilla war fought mainly in the jungle. 

Suddenly their world was on fire — to be expected when covering war — and they told that story effectively but neglected to tell the “all is peaceful again and the Communists suffered an epic defeat” story less than 4 weeks later.

This inaccurate coverage did two hugely important things:  (1) it drove popular opinion decisively against the war, causing President Johnson just a few weeks later to drop out of the presidential contest in November as an incumbent, and (2) as a result the North Vietnamese changed their strategy to inflict maximum casualties so that the American news media would propagandize for them every night, changing hearts and minds with bloody, depressing pictures and video. 

To this day the Tet Offensive is incorrectly seen as a big military victory that swung the war, when in fact it was a big military loss that was spun into a public relations victory by an actively “on the other side” U.S. media.

Over the next few months the country was rocked by one crisis after another. In early April Martin Luther King Jr was assassinated. In early June, after winning the California primary and on a glide path to the nomination and very likely election victory, Robert Kennedy Jr was assassinated. In August the Democratic Convention became a violent, out-of-control riot in the streets, mostly driven by SDS subversives who were the major force in the anti-war movement as well. 

We will never know for sure, but it’s interesting to ponder how the rest of that year, and the decades to follow, might have unfolded differently if not for that one factor that seemed to start it all:  spinning the Tet Offensive military victory into a defeat.

Considered against the backdrop of this story plus hundreds like it, “pickup my guitar and play just like yesterday” and then deciding not to get fooled again sounds like pretty good advice.