Telling it like it isn't.
If you've read earlier sections of this inquiry you'll know that I have begun to settle on trance as a key component of dominance (and subjugation). To be entranced is to be hypnotised, living, for the moment, as though what a hypnotist has suggested is it true, is real. Entering a trance state means having our discrimination narrowed or disabled. (trance is a profound and under-valued human capacity but more on that another day)
One of the ways of recognising trance states is to notice the absence of reflexivity. Reflexivity is the process of asking for feedback, checking out the big picture, reviewing results, looking at what we might be avoiding. The more I've pulled up what I know about trance from other parts of my work, the more clearly I've seen how the hynotic dominance of ruling elites is maintained through disallowing or punishing reflexivity, labelling it as dissent, or disloyalty. So I have a rule of thumb—reflexivity, absent or disallowed—expect to be entranced.
Kerry v Bush
The candidates in the 2004 presidential debates had a lot to say about 'keeping America safe' but were notably lacking in broader reflexivity, for example, any hint of acknowledgement of the connection between US 'full spectrum dominance', and American feelings of vulnerability, of asking WHY America needed to be made safe. And none of their interviewers asked such obvious out of the box questions as how the administration-sanctioned excesses of Abu Ghraib or Guantanamo sit with the Christianity both candidates are committed to.
The absence of reflexivity means that the US administration, and thus the American people, fail to empathize with the indigenous peoples of the middle east. Long oppressed by the arbitrary exploitation of French, British and American imperial interests, Palestinians, Iraqis, Iranians and others, struggle to come to terms with modernity (let alone post modernism).
Without adequate reflexivity, many Americans, along with Tony Blair, to fail to see that the US administration is just as entranced by faith-based righteousness as the 'terrorist' suicide bombers. They fail to notice that perhaps these 'martyrs' amount to the 'weapons of mass destruction' before which US techno-militarism quakes. They also fail to see that only reflexivity would be effective in meeting them, through asking 'How did we provoke this?' 'How do we mirror this?' 'How did we get here?'
A 'faith-based presidency'
I have now and again wondered whether my take on the US administration's embrace of domination and it apparent roots in the spell-binding narratives of the Christian Right wasn't perhaps stereotypical, leaning to far, too fast, towards the obvious. Not so. Read on.
Earlier in the year, the New York Times admitted, though not in so many words, to having been entranced by the US administration's approach to 9/11 and its attack on Iraq. On October 17th it 'enthuastically' endorsed Senator Kerry for president. Though evidently very mainstream, their Op-Ed pages, at least to this European reader, have lately seemed busy interrupting the administration's trance states.
A strong example is this piece 'Without a Doubt' by Ron Susskind. I've extracted some quotes, but do read the whole article.
Susskind quotes a domestic policy adviser to Ronald Reagan and a treasury official for the first President Bush as telling him that:
"...if Bush wins, there will be a civil war in the Republican Party starting on Nov. 3." The nature of that conflict, as Bartlett sees it? Essentially, the same as the one raging across much of the world: a battle between modernists and fundamentalists, pragmatists and true believers, reason and religion.
...a light has gone off for people who've spent time up close to Bush: that this instinct he's always talking about is this sort of weird, Messianic idea of what he thinks God has told him to do.'
'This is why George W. Bush is so clear-eyed about Al Qaeda and the Islamic fundamentalist enemy. He believes you have to kill them all. They can't be persuaded, that they're extremists, driven by a dark vision. He understands them, because he's just like them....'
'He truly believes he's on a mission from God. Absolute faith like that overwhelms a need for analysis. The whole thing about faith is to believe things for which there is no empirical evidence.'
Susskind goes on to claim that more and more people out in the far reaches of the administration have been picking up what was clear to people close to Bush, that the essence of his style was gut and instinct.
The president would say that he relied on his "gut" or his "instinct" to guide the ship of state, and then he "prayed over it." ...a tune that has been hummed quietly by evangelicals (so as not to trouble the secular) for years as they gazed upon President George W. Bush. This evangelical group -- the core of the energetic "base" that may well usher Bush to victory -- believes that their leader is a messenger from God.
...the "gut" and "instincts," the certainty and religiosity -connects to a single word, "faith," and faith asserts its hold ever more on debates in this country and abroad.
Bush's intolerance of doubters has, if anything, increased, and few dare to question him now. A writ of infallibility -- a premise beneath the powerful Bushian certainty that has, in many ways, moved mountains -- is not just for public consumption: it has guided the inner life of the White House.
Susskind calls this accumulation of style and religiosity a 'faith-based presidency'.
The faith-based presidency is a with-us-or-against-us model that has been enormously effective at, among other things, keeping the workings and temperament of the Bush White House a kind of state secret.
...one key feature of the faith-based presidency: open dialogue, based on facts, is not seen as something of inherent value. It may, in fact, create doubt, which undercuts faith. It could result in a loss of confidence in the decision-maker and, just as important, by the decision-maker.
In the summer of 2002, Susskind reports that after he had written an article that the White House didn't like, a senior adviser to Bush said:
'... that guys like me were "in what we call the reality-based community," which he defined as people who "believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality."
..."That's not the way the world really works anymore," he continued. "We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality --judiciously, as you will -- we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do."
Ron Suskind was the senior national-affairs reporter for The Wall Street Journal from 1993 to 2000. He is the author most recently of "The Price of Loyalty: George W. Bush, the White House and the Education of PaulO'Neill."