Whatever the merits of Mark Danner's point in The New York Review of Books that the Bush Adminstration manipulated its way to war (I think the merits are many), his invocation of Joseph Goebbels as the most appropriate 20th century analog is invidious and vile:
The last century's most innovative authority on power and truth, Joseph Goebbels, made the same point but rather more directly: "There was no point in seeking to convert the intellectuals. For intellectuals would never be converted and would anyway always yield to the stronger, and this will always be the man in the street." [certain quotation marks elided]
That there is man-in-the-streetness to Bush himself, not merely his intended persuadees, I accept. Yet Bush's manipulations were in service of liberty conceived, however errant that conception proves to be, not oppression and extermination. Danner surely knows and understands this, so I see but one reason for the facile comparison, enforced by his closing paragraph:
Of course truth, as the master propagandist said, is "unimportant and entirely subordinate to tactics and psychology." He of course would have instantly grasped the psychological tactic embodied in that White House ceremony, which was one more effort to reassure Americans that the war the administration launched against Iraq has been a success and was worth fighting. That barely four Americans in ten are still willing to believe this suggests that as time goes on and the gap grows between what Americans see and what they are told, membership in the "reality-based community" may grow along with it. We will see. Still, for those interested in the question of how our leaders persuaded the country to become embroiled in a counterinsurgency war in Iraq, the Downing Street memorandum offers one more confirmation of the truth. For those, that is, who want to hear.
Danner's truth is that Bush is simply wrong, not merely wrong, but Nazi-wrong, and those who cannot see it live outside reality. Bush is a Nazi -that sad rallying cry of the abandoned American Left- is truism to those who speak it, and grave offense to the rest of us. Danner speaks it obliquely, but not subtly, I think because he believes it.
Who is manipulating the truth?