The Real Overpopulation Problem

A question unasked

Another bureaucratic war criminal, Robert MacNamara, said in Fog of War that he made it a rule “not to answer the question asked but to answer the question I wished they had asked”. He added that it was a good rule.

It is a good rule of psychological warfare never to acknowledge the obvious messages and questions and to confine one’s own responses to euphemism and circumlocution while always exaggerating — even with expletives — the positions of one’s targets/victims. MacNamara was not only a master of deception but to judge by Errol Morris’ film also a master of self-deception.1

Naively many readers and viewers — in part due to their own exercises in self-deception — expect that an interview or testimonial will prove the character of the person interviewed and somehow reveal “truth”. Yet the serial presentation of statements presumes that the listener/reader will thus attach objectivity to the interpretation triggered by the astute liar. Details can confuse more than clarify. A certain volume of detail seemingly random (and, therefore, presumably sincere) overwhelms the listener and coagulates to form a cognitive clot, crossing the brain barrier and causing what might be called an intellectual stroke. James Michener performed this kind of exercise in an interview given not long before he died.2 After explaining that he was potentially exempt from the draft in WWII because he was a member of the Society of Friends (the Quakers), he then said he volunteered for the US Navy (implying he was among other ranks, when he in fact was an officer) just as his draft board summons was received. A few other contradictory details leave one entirely unsure how he actually became an intelligence officer in the Pacific. Anyone who saw Robert de Niro’s CIA film, The Good Shepherd, could with… continue reading

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