"... (We) cannot prevent certain politicians from losing their memory, or their backbone. But we're not going to sit by and let them rewrite history. We're going to continue throwing their own words back at them."
Orwell on his deathbed? Tom Paine as he was tossed into jail by French revolutionaries who'd betrayed the Rights of Man?
None of these, but the vice-president of the United States answering critics of the war in Iraq. Instead of answering criticism with his own set of facts that might exonerate the administration and its decisions-- a strategy almost certainly doomed to failure-- Richard Cheney-- the man-- the legend-- has instead adopted the therapeutic technique known as "mirroring". He reflects and deflects unpleasant truths by stealing the words out of the mouths of his critics before they can use those words against him! In therapy, a patient might say, "I'm angry," and the therapist, rather than break up the rhythm with his own prejudices, answers like a mirror: "you're angry." The patient, hearing his own words, begins to clarify and dig deeper: "Well, not just angry, but..." Thus, the attack dog Vice-President as our national Rogerian therapist:
* "politicians who lose their memory" (Americans? Lose their... [pause to watch a brightly colored television commerical] what were you saying?)
* "...or their backbone" (Mr. Cheney's military service being on a par with that of Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Swartzenegger...)
* "We're not going to let them rewrite history." (The very phrase I was searching for!)
* "We're going to continue to throw their own words back at them." (The true master reveals his hand, and still he triumphs.)
I used to be disgusted, then I was amused, today I am moved beyond outrage into a kind of awestruck admiration at the audacity of the man and his handlers, at the sheer rhetorical brillance of this week's attack.
Is there no truth they cannot twist? Well, and why not? This rhetorical trick-- blaming the victim, accusing the potential accuser-- worked once, it worked twice, why not try that same ol' black magic again?
Politicians have tried to avoid the past before, or spin public perception with the tools of advertising, but those early attempts were clumsy, intuitive affairs. This administration has professionalized the alteration of reality. An unnamed senior adviser to G.W Bush had this to say to Ron Suskind in 2002:
“(You) believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality. That's not the way the world really works anymore. 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."