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There are various reasons why I watch so little cable chat -- my precious and always teetering sanity chief among them -- but the main one is that I can take only so much historial amnesia and deliberate lying about the US imperial past. And given the tight control of who is allowed to argue policy onscreen, amnesia and lying are pretty much all you get. Occasionally a dissident critic will appear here and there, usually for target practice, and should he or she utter something not heard on a daily basis and understood to be "true", said critic will be shouted down, cut off, called a "conspiracy theorist" and otherwise muffled and discredited. I've seen this happen to others and I've personally experienced it. It's a pretty consistent thing.
Last Fri night, during the round table discussion segment of "Real Time with Bill Maher", guest Joe Scarborough, the guy who has his own country on MSNBC, engaged in a serious round of historical lying that went completely unchallenged. The topic was the CIA's "black sites" recently exposed by the Washington Post, and Scarborough, in an attempt to play down these squalid revelations, brought up El Salvador in the 1980s. I thought this was an odd choice, since so much is known or should be known about that horrible period. What did Scarborough hope to achieve here? Well, he clearly knew or heavily suspected that he could spread the crap he did and not be called on it. Helping to police accepted political boundaries every night has sharpened his chat show instincts.
Scarborough maintained that back in the early 80s, there was a perception by some that the Reagan admin was backing and training Salvadoran death squads, that there was much hullabaloo about killing nuns and priests when, in fact, Reagan was engaged in a process that would ultimately bring down the Berlin Wall and destroy the Soviet Union. Remember how lefties said that "El Salvador is Spanish for Vietnam"? Scarborough mocked. Well, how wrong they were! In other words, all the "concern" over executions and mass murder in El Salvador was overhyped and missed the larger geopolitical picture. Scarborough insisted that this is what's going on now with the CIA's alleged hidden torture centers.
The other panelists, former Irish President Mary Robinson and filmmaker John Waters, said nothing to this madness. Neither did Bill Maher, save for a quip about how "we" weren't running torture centers in El Salvador, to which Scarborough quickly agreed.
"What the FUCK?!!" I yelled at my TV. "The bastard totally got away with that shit!"
He did indeed. So I rewound the tape in my head, took John Waters' seat and engaged Scarborough directly.
"Hold on. First of all, if you'll recall, one of the first things the Reagan White House did was to release a 'White Paper' on El Salvador in an attempt to ready the American people for direct US military intervention there. It was a test to see how much support existed for this across the country. And what happened? Sit-ins and demonstrations spontaneously took place around the nation, and opinion polls showed that Americans overwhelmingly opposed a US invasion of El Salvador. Reagan's 'White Paper' was shoved back in his face and this set the stage for years of clandestine -- and not so clandestine -- support for the Salvadoran junta.
"In other words, most Americans saw El Salvador as a potential Vietnam, and responded negatively at the prospect.
"Bill, if you'll indulge me for a few minutes more . . ."
"Well, I . ."
"Thanks. Joe, you suggested that torture and mass murder in El Salvador was exaggerated. Bullshit. Not only was the popular church under attack, but so too union members, teachers, students, peasants, and the opposition press, which was violently wiped out for a time. The Salvadoran state, with our help, committed numerous war crimes against its own people, something we're supposedly moved by when Saddam butchered the Kurds but are strangely silent on when this happened in our hemisphere, under our eyes, on our dime. And I won't even go into the ahistorical connection between a massacre like El Mozote in El Salvador in 1981, and the dismantling of the Berlin Wall in 1989. That's so fucking ignorant that it's not worth discussing."
Not with Joe Scarborough, anyway. But if you, dear reader, know little or nothing about El Mozote, read Mark Danner's report on it and weep knowing that your tax dollars financed what is considered the largest mass murder in Latin American history.
How much of the above argument would make it on air without interruption is anybody's guess. Once I get going I tend to take it to the wall. But people like me aren't going to be invited to (easily) disprove the likes of Scarborough -- not any time soon, that is. Still, a couple of weeks ago I had a pleasant chat with "Real Time" executive producer/writer Scott Carter, to whom I submitted my twisted jokes for Bill Maher all those years ago. Scott is aware of this blog, and I trust he visits from time to time. So, Scott, if you're reading this, consider saving a seat for me at Bill's table. I'm not John Waters, but I won't stay mute while another guest openly lies about life and death issues.