A little over forty years ago—on January 18, 1983, to be exact—the U.S. of A. hit the skids.
“Ridiculous,” you may say. “Nothing is that simple.” And you would be right, of course. Nothing ever is that simple.
But, like Schrödinger’s famous feline—which is simultaneously dead and alive thanks to quantum mechanics—you would also be wrong. Though it is absurdly simplistic, our opening statement is also true.
This vexing state of affairs is the consequence of a phenomenon we’ll call quantum politics. What is true for one person may be false to another. Facts are matters of opinion, and opinions are matters of fact. Routine, predictable human interactions—applying for a marriage license, or ordering a wedding cake—suddenly morph into unilateral instances of performance art.
When mundane interactions fail due to odd individual fancies, it can be inconvenient. Sadly, the unpredictable effects of quantum politics scale up all too readily. On a larger scale those effects can be calamitous.
At the state level, for example, in dozens of cases, critical masses of authoritarians hold unchecked power. Long-established boundaries have been thrown out the window: legislators take charge of womens’ health care decisions, and taxpayer dollars support religious institutions.
It’s bad enough that individual states have the power to immiserate their citizens. That power is limited in scope, though.
It’s different with the national government, where a perverse refusal to acknowledge reality could lead to global catastrophe.
Imposing unhinged policies on a national level is more challenging. A slim majority of Americans still cling to old verities: there should be a separation between church and state; two and two equals four, &c.
Obviously, though, it can be done. Where there’s a will—and a willingness to radically redefine reality to suit one’s zealous purpose—there is a way. For a concrete example, see the Supreme Court.
Since its authors always harbored a deep suspicion of democracy, the Constitution assured that determined minorities would have a shot at blocking the will of the majority.
Now, quantum politics has added a nasty new twist: if you can’t win fair and square, try winning by not losing. It’s not that hard—just throw over the chessboard.
This approach has opened up a whole new realm of terrible possible outcomes. Some members of Congress now say defaulting on the national debt would not be all that big a deal. They seem unconcerned that the U.S. dollar is the Jenga stick holding up the world’s economy.
The Knucklehead Caucus may or may not precipitate a global economic collapse. However bad that would be, an environmental collapse will be worse—and it’s on its way already. Day by day the situation becomes more dire. The sooner the nation acts, the less damage we will sustain. One-third of Congress, though, has its fingers in its ears, and is chanting “La-la-la-la-la.”
As regular readers know, for decades now, this newspaper has made a fetish of briefly recording certain types of events on back page. Some are funny, some are horrifying, and some are simply weird.
Some events will, unfortunately, be forever beyond our reach. We wish we could include the asteroid which wiped out the dinosaurs 66 million years ago—but what was the date? We will never know.
We recently learned, though, of one particular event which augurs to have an impact like the Chicxulub asteroid. In subsequent issues we’ll relegate this Big Bang of Quantum Politics to a small item on the back page.
Today, though, we shall wallow.
Two years in office, and showing early signs of Alzheimers, Ronald Reagan was determined to defy Congress’ Boland Amendment and go on supporting the Contras—murderous gangsters he somehow confused with the U.S.’s Founding Fathers.
To commit this violation of the law, Reagan naturally turned to William J. Casey. Not only had Casey won the 1980 campaign—or, more accurately, stolen that election by making a deal with Iranians to continue holding U.S. hostages until Reagan’s inauguration—the WW II-era OSS agent now ran the CIA.
To avoid violating the letter of a law barring the use of CIA assets to aim propaganda at U.S. citizens, Casey drowned its spirit in toxic waste: he re-assigned Walter Raymond Jr.—the Agency’s top covert propagandist—to the National Security Council.
In a memo about “utilizing public relations specialists or similar professionals to help transmit the message,” Raymond “recommended funding via Freedom House or some other structure that has credibility in the political center. Wick, via Murdoch, may be able to draw down added funds for this effort.”
Charles Wick was the director of the U.S. Information Agency—the nation’s overt propaganda arm. It’s $2 billion budget was supposed to be spent burnishing the image of the U.S. and trashing the Soviet Union—for a foreign audience.
Murdoch was, of course, Rupert Murdoch. At that time Murdoch was still an Australian, but he had his eye on the U.S.
Robert Parry wrote, in a piece published at Consortium News, on December 31, 2014, “Wick… arranged at least two face-to-face meetings between Murdoch and Reagan, the first on Jan. 18, 1983, when the administration was lining up private financing for its propaganda campaign, according to records at the Reagan presidential library in Simi Valley, California. That meeting also included lawyer and political operative Roy Cohn and his law partner Thomas Bolan.”
Murdoch became a U.S. citizen in 1985, making him eligible to own U.S. broadcasting licenses. Due to conveniently-relaxed media ownership regulations, he was able to found Fox Broadcasting in 1986. Reagan appointees abolished the Fairness Doctrine in 1987. Nine years later Murdoch founded Fox News.
Looking back over these events, we have to wonder—why did it take this long for us to see the leading Republican presidential candidate get hauled into court to face 34 felony charges?
* Coincidentally, it was on January 18, 1788 that the first shiploads of transported British felons arrived at Botany Bay.