The architects of the Iraq war are still at large, as are the pundits who cheered them on, as are the bankers who created the economic crash. The lesson is clear in each case: American elites are not held accountable for their failures. They are an aristocracy that is free to do whatever it wants, knowing that it will not lose its power, prestige and status no matter what happens. Once you’re accepted into the club you get tenure, and you can indulge in as much fraud, extortion and folly as you wish. The little people will be tasked with suffering the consequences and paying for the mess, and you can enjoy your evening at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner without any anxiety whatsoever. As long as you don’t download kiddie porn, sleep with 13-year-old girls, frolic with Boy Scouts, or get photographed in a brothel with a chicken mask and a bull whip, you’re golden.
The rest of us get zero tolerance, para-military police forces, surveillance drones, warrant-less wiretaps, German Shepherds sniffing through our kid’s lockers at school, sobriety check points, “click it or ticket” sweeps and other such delightful previews of life in post-Constitutional America. But that shit ain’t for you.
If we sell pot we go to jail, maybe even lose our careers. If you start a disastrous, unnecessary war that kills millions of people and wastes billions of dollars, you go on the Sunday talk shows and get fawned over like your’re the biggest foreign policy wiz since Lord Palmerston, or even Dr Kissinger! You get a lucrative book deal. You hire a hack to write it. You give it an idiotically simple title that you’ve plagiarized from a third grader’s essay like Lessons Learned or What I’ve Learned. Have your wife go on The View to share your sweet human side with the housewives of America. Put together an exploratory committee. When you’re a member of the elite, failure is an option, and every crises is indeed an opportunity. There’s nowhere to go but up, up, up.
About that book. Keep it simple. If your average football coach can’t imbibe its main points during a single bout with piles, you haven’t accomplished your mission. Remember, David Gregory and George Stephanoupolis might be reading. Tailor your prose accordingly. Never mind that no one outside of Chris Matthew’s boudoir actually will read it, and don’t worry that it’s going to end up in a bin at the Salvation Army next to Vanna White’s biography and innumerable copies of A Million Little Pieces. This is about marketing and public relations, not literature. It’s about your worldly success in the here and now. The future doesn’t matter, as one of your colleagues famously observed, because we’ll all be dead.
Thus the same people who brought us the Iraq disaster and the Great Recession are now bringing us bomb Iran and bring on austerity. That’s how the game works. It’s one great big obscene charade. They know it. We know it. They know we know it. They know we know they know we know it, and no one cares. Even if we did, there isn’t a damn thing we could do about it anyway, is there?