Originally published via Armageddon Prose:
“There is an idea of a [State Department Spokesman], some kind of abstraction, but there is no real me, only an entity, something illusory, and though I can hide my cold gaze and you can shake my hand and feel flesh gripping yours and maybe you can even sense our lifestyles are probably comparable: I simply am not there. It is hard for me to make sense on any given level. Myself is fabricated, an aberration. I am a noncontingent human being. My personality is sketchy and unformed, my heartlessness goes deep and is persistent. My conscience, my pity, my hopes disappeared a long time ago (probably at Harvard) if they ever did exist. There are no more barriers to cross. All I have in common with the uncontrollable and the insane, the vicious and the evil, all the mayhem I have caused and my utter indifference toward it, I have now surpassed. I still, though, hold on to one single bleak truth: no one is safe, nothing is redeemed. Yet I am blameless. Each model of human behavior must be assumed to have some validity. Is evil something you are? Or is it something you do? My pain is constant and sharp and I do not hope for a better world for anyone. In fact, I want my pain to be inflicted on others. I want no one to escape. But even after admitting this — and I have countless times, in just about every act I’ve committed — and coming face-to-face with these truths, there is no catharsis. I gain no deeper knowledge about myself, no new understanding can be extracted from my telling. There has been no reason for me to tell you any of this. This confession has meant nothing.”
-Bret Easton Ellis, American Psycho
I was discussing recently with my friend, radio host Hrvoje Moric, the utility (or lack thereof) of watching government media briefings, which I sometimes do. His position was that it’s essentially a waste of time because all that government propagandists do is… propaganda; misdirection; deception. There is no veritas to be extracted from their utterings.
My position is that its utility is, in fact, extremely limited in terms of extracting actual information. Nonetheless, it shines a light on what the regime is thinking and what kind of narrative tracks it’s trying to lay down to accomplish its schemes.
I often consider, while watching these people work, as with the individual depicted below, the metastatic process by which they ended up such brokeback people in such lowly, contemptible roles.
And, I wonder, when they find themselves alone in the bathroom at night, staring into the mirror, considering what revocations of freedom they facilitated that day or what extrajudicial government killings they justified from their podiums, just them and their thoughts — no cameras to lie to — what goes through those heads of theirs?
They must know well — they wouldn’t be effective at doing their job if they weren’t aware on some level in their own Orwellian double-think way — that their entire purpose is to promulgate the lies of their bosses in the service of bankrupting the middle class, destroying the planet, starting new wars, wreaking biomedical terror, etc.
Are their feeling minds/souls so numbed by postmodernism and psychotropic drugs that they aren’t capable of feeling normal human emotions like shame or regret any longer? Or are they truly capable of monstrously extreme feats of self-delusion? Or have they simply succumbed to their roles as villains and embraced them?
Some, of course, may have been psychopaths from the start. Others ease into it until it becomes second-nature.
Not much else need be said for the former category; psychopaths are going to behave as psychopaths. Lying for money and the limelight, killing and maiming people in the process, and leaving a legacy of desecration in their wake, is par for the course.
But, for the latter category, I imagine the metamorphosis is something along the lines of homeless people slowly acquiescing to lives spent mired in filth and shredded sleeping bags next to shopping carts, their only possessions, on the streets.
It’s a gradual thing.
You get an internship.
You climb the ladder.
You wake up neck-deep in bullshit. By then, it’s easier to rationalize and self-deceive and deflect blame than to come to terms with what you’ve become.
“As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect.”
-Franz Kafka, The Metamorphosis
I can’t believe anyone grows up dreaming of being a politburo lackey, devoid of any semblance of dignity or honor — and transparently so. These people are politicians without any of the celebrity; who would opt for that career track?
The State Department spokesman in the above video, for instance, Vedant Patel, graduated in 2012 with a bachelor’s degree in biology before immediately launching into a position as Deputy Communications Director for a Congressman.
This dissonance between his education and his job straight out of college tells me this wasn’t a planned career trajectory. Perhaps a family connection with a personal connection hooked him up. He took the opportunity, discovered he was capable of lying fluidly with a straight face devoid of any conscience pangs, and things progressed from there.
Then I wonder what his parents must think when they watch his performances on television, telling government lies for a living. They must know what their child looks like when he’s lying. Do they not feel deep shame? Or is that all rationalized away?
If my son came to me one day and told me he was taking a job as a shill for the State Department — one of the most pernicious and banally evil institutions in world history — I would be forced to examine where I went wrong.
In any case, the lot of them are profoundly warped people, arguably as worthy of pity as they are of contempt.
Ben Bartee, author of Broken English Teacher: Notes From Exile, is an independent Bangkok-based American journalist with opposable thumbs.
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