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Sowing the Seeds of Tyranny

Posted by Larry Doyle on January 6, 2011 6:30 AM |

Without truth, can we ever determine right from wrong and good from bad?

Without transparency, can we ever get to the truth?

Without integrity, can those with ill gotten gains ever be prosecuted?

Without an undying and unbridled passion for truth, transparency, and integrity how can our nation thrive? I am deadly serious. We are nowhere close to thriving currently.

Regular readers of Sense on Cents know all too well my passion for these virtues of truth, transparency, and integrity. I am firmly convinced the wanton obstruction of these principles by far too many within positions of power in our nation is a corrosive force destroying our nation. I continue to beat this drum and rail on those on Wall Street, in Washington, and especially within the financial regulatory system who have tolerated–if not promoted–this obstruction. Complicit in the obstruction is a media which does not dig for the truth and promote transparency.

On that note, let’s bang the drum again.

Thanks to a regular reader for bringing recent commentary by Michael Lewitt of Harch Capital to my attention. In the midst of writing on the economy and markets, Lewitt concludes,

The Pat Tillman story is a painful reminder that that so-called liberal democracies routinely lies to their people on a daily basis. We expect non-democratic governments to conceal the truth – they do not view transparency and truth-telling as one of the duties of government. But democracy is supposed to be different. And yet in practice it isn’t even close. So-called liberal democracies lie about everything – domestic politics, foreign affairs, war, economics – everything. And the more significant the event and the higher the stakes, the bigger the lie.

John Farmer, counsel to the 9/11 Commission, wrote the following about what the U.S. government told the American people about the events of that tragic day: “In the course of our investigation into the national response to the attacks, the 9/11 Commission staff discovered that the official version of what had occurred that morning – that is, what government and military officials had told Congress, the Commission, the media, and the public about who knew what when – was almost entirely, and inexplicably, untrue.”5 Mr. Farmer’s book goes on to explain what he initially describes as “inexplicable” – the reason the American people were not told the truth about the events of 9/11 is that their government deliberately lied to them.

Now we have a self-appointed organization that operates in unregulated cyberspace that has taken upon itself to disclose the truths that governments do not want disclosed. Wikileaks is not expressing opinions; it is disclosing raw data in the form of original source documents from which readers can draw their own conclusions. While many of these documents are deemed to be “classified,” their disclosure has made a mockery of the entire concept of protecting documents from public disclosure. Other than those documents that disclose military secrets and/or place individuals’ lives in danger, which clearly should not be disclosed, many of the disclosed documents amount to little more than diplomatic or political gossip. Having reflected on what Wikileaks has done, I find it extremely disturbing that the media and public appear to be far more outraged by an individual or organization attempting to force governments to tell the truth than by the incessant efforts of governments to conceal the truth from the governed.

Before simply condemning what Wikileaks is doing, we should remind ourselves that Wikileaks is fulfilling the role that a free press in a truly free society should be fulfilling. The American media (and much of the Western media) has been completely co-opted by the financially-driven political power structure into repeating a narrative that is false and serves the interests of a small political-financial elite. (LD’s edit: Can you say, “Wall Street-Washington incest”?) Combating such a regime requires disrupting the status quo and upsetting established interests, which is precisely what Wikileaks is doing.

True liberal democracy is a messy and inefficient form of government, and Wikileaks is playing an essential role in the democratic process of shining a light on the actions of governments. It may be going too far in some instances (as noted above, disclosing military secrets or the identity of operatives whose lives could be put in danger is clearly inappropriate), but the lion’s share of the information being released deserves to see the light of day. Much of this information may be embarrassing, but it is not going to get anybody killed. Maybe its disclosure will raise the level of diplomatic discourse and hold governments to account, which can only be a good thing.

Some may say that Mr. Assange is taking it upon himself to second guess the government and those who know better than he what should be disclosed to the public. That may very well be true. But allowing governments to control the flow of information can only sow the seeds of tyranny. It is a profoundly sad commentary on the state of the world today that the public and media are far more eager to crucify Mr. Assange than to speak out against the bold-faced lies of their public servants and business leaders. Wikileaks may make us uncomfortable – in some cases excruciatingly uncomfortable – but that is exactly the point, isn’t it? (LD’s edit: All words emboldened by yours truly).

Wikileaks was inducted into the Sense on Cents Hall of Fame just last week. With this passage, Mr. Lewitt receives the E-Z pass immediate induction into the SoC Hall of Fame as well.

Would our nation as a whole truly  be any worse off if Wikileaks released incriminating information about financial regulators who tolerated –if not worse–Ponzi schemes, insider trading activity, and an array of other illegal and corruptible activities? What about equally incriminating information about politicians who have ‘protected’ their incestuous partners? Isn’t it well past time that we clean up and put out some of this garbage?

I think so. I know so.

Truth, transparency, and integrity…echo the call and repeat the cry…!!!

Americans deserve the truth!!

Larry Doyle

Thank you again to the reader who brought this passage to my attention.

Please subscribe to all my work via e-mail, an RSS feed, on Twitter or Facebook.

I have no affiliation or business interest with any entity referenced in this commentary. The opinions expressed are my own and not those of Greenwich Investment Management. As President of Greenwich Investment Management, an SEC regulated privately held registered investment adviser, I am merely a proponent of real transparency within our markets so that investor confidence and investor protection can be achieved.

  • fred

    Our gov’t withholding the truth began very early in alot of our lives. Does anyone really believe that Oswald acted alone in killing JFK?

    Interestingly, the primary beneficiary of this act, LBJ, was responsible for privatizing FNMA in 1968 thus ensuring non transparency within this institution. This was also when the liberal democratic political adgenda of “every Americans right to home ownership” became popular. Was this the genesis of the modern day incestuous relationship between Wall St and Washington? Was this relationship a result of a deal with the devil? The truth will set us free!

    I fully support Wikileaks mission of providing “non national security issued” truths to the public.

  • fred

    LD, We are now 3 years into this most recent financial crisis and it still hasn’t been named, if history is a guide, over the last 20 years we had the Junk Bond crisis, the Savings & Loan crisis, the Latin American debt crisis and the LT Capital crisis. How about the Mortgage Backed Security or “MBS” crisis?

    Was this crisis a result of our massive trade deficit requiring foreigners to pay for our spending binge.

    Foreigners demanded higher compensating yields to offset the Fed induced decline in the $US; plain vanilla Treasuries just couldn’t cut it. Was the US gov’t complicit in this scandal by extending with a nod and a wink gov’t backing to MBS securities when it was never given nor intended? Are the majority of the major bank and MBS creditors the Fed is now attempting to make “whole”, at US taxpayer expense, foreign sovereign wealth funds? Tell me it ain’t so LD!

    • LD

      Given the interconnectedness of the global financial system, what happens in America truly resonates across the world. We have already learned that the Fed has provided support to these foreign entities SO in fact the Federal Reserve is not our central bank it is “THE WORLD’S CENTRAL BANK.”

      It is just the American taxpayers (those who pay taxes) that get stuck with the bill.

      Sowing the seeds of tyranny.

    • fred

      I have to take exception to Mr. Farmers statement that “the reason the American people were not told the truth about the events of 9/11 is that their gov’t deliberately lied to them”; that is what the gov’t did, it wasn’t the reason why the gov’t did it.

      The reason, I suspect, very subjectively on some level of gov’t, someone decided that the citizenry ” couldn’t handle the truth” and then, all the other persons “in the loop” went along with the decision to spin the lie.

      Kinda sounds like the Catholic church alter boy scandal coverup to me, I’m still waiting for the Vatican to come clean on that one! Wikileaks where are you?

  • Sue

    Love the photo!! Love it. A classic and regrettably all too true.

  • Excellent article Larry.

    I am of the opinion that we are heading into the Age of Ethics with rising popularity in the use of the Web and Social Media as a means seek the truth. Where everyday people are no longer putting up with BS and lies from Companies, Governments and high profile people, etc.

    With the use of Blogs, Social Media etc, the power of truth is flowing back to the common person, to be heard, to be able to get the truth out, seek the truth and respond to non-truths.

    This is a concept that governments and business are struggling to come to terms with. As the truth can be spread in the matter nanoseconds, and can go viral with the use of sites like twitter, etc.

    I myself have used social media to great effect to keep my own council honest, raising the profile of a certain topic, which as a result made the local paper, and radio talk back shows.

    The dishonest will be found out….
    and the Ethically correct will prosper!!

  • The truth about secrets is–they don’t exist. A quick anecdote: When I was a full-time reporter in the 60s, 70s, and 80s, I was lied to everyday on my various beats, which included every federal agency in Washington. Whenever I was lied to by DOD or NASA (using only two examples) I would call on my contacts at the Russian embassy who invariably filled me in on what I needed to know, and provided proof-positive as backup. I and my fellow journalists used these “alternative sources” to get at the truth. Some of us paid a price for our actions, but no matter; journalists aren’t paid to spread lies. Even financial journalism, by far the least trustworthy of all news, enjoys a certain code of honor.

    Using new technology, WikiLeaks is doing what we used to do: dig, dig, dig until we came upon the prize. Attempts to shut down WikiLeaks are not unlike the attempts to destroy my journalist colleagues who are in the habit of truth-telling. Maybe this will be the subject of my next book. How’s THE LYING GAME for a working title?

  • LD

    Phil,

    I love it. I would welcome reading it. Might have to be a two part series if not more than that.

  • fred

    Phil, substitute the words “truths untold” for the word “secrets”. In the absence of a good journalist “dig, dig, digging”, are many truths left untold that the public has a right to know?

    Using your anecdote, in the absence of a good jounalist named Trupp, would the Russian embassy have revealed publicly what it knew to be a lie? Probably not, the truth would have been left untold, the lie by NASA/DOD unrevealed.

    Wikileaks may become the mouthpiece for journalistic truths destined, otherwise, to be untold, or the modern day bodyguard for a journalist, otherwise, afraid of being destroyed by exposing a story not meant for them to tell.

    • Fred,

      Here’s one to ponder:

      I was covering DOD for our regular beat guy at the Pentagon in the mid-’60s, when a group of reporters were asked to gather in the late Robert McNamara’s office for a “briefing.” Reporters from NYT, WSJ, Washington Post, among a select group of others, huddled together that day with the Defense Secretary. We had no idea what was coming.

      McNamara, who was in an unusually breezy mood, told us the Johnson Administration was about to launch a major offensive in Vietnam–a huge buildup of forces and equipment–designed to crush the North Vietnamese army. He went into some detail, answered our questions, and then informed us that every word was “off the record.”

      Suddenly the oxygen was sucked out of the room. The reporters were stunned.

      Question: OFF THE RECORD? WHY ARE YOU TELLING US THESE THINGS IF YOU DON’T WANT US TO INFORM OUR READERS?

      “We don’t wish to alarm anyone,” McNamara replied.

      BUT WHY DIDN’T YOU TELL US THAT BEFORE THIS SO-CALLED BRIEFING?

      “I didn’t think it was necessary.”

      I phoned my publisher in New York and asked for advice. I was in my 20s, young and ambitious, and I needed to tell someone what had happened and about the untenable position we had been placed in by McNamara’s attempt to manipulate the news. I was, after all, in the company of top-notch reporters; journalism was still a competitive and exciting career–and more: It was a public duty, like being a cop or a first responder. Our loyalty was to our newspapers and, most of all, to our readers.

      My publisher had a quick answer: “Write it and send it,” he said. I hung up the phone and looked at the credo that hung on the wall in our news bureau: “Our salvation depends upon our printing the news–Edgar Fairchild.”

      The next day my story was front page. A day later, it was in the NYT and the Post, with additional details dug up behind the scenes.

      I drove across the Potomac the next day to the Pentagon newsroom. Much to my chagrin our parking space had vanished. Worse, our desk and telephone lines had been removed from the press room.

      When I told this tale of woe to my New York publisher, he said, “Write it,” and I did.

      The following week we had our parking space and desk restored. Secretary McNamara never again called on off-the-record briefing.

      The major news organizations, including the TV networks, boosted their presence in Vietnam, and the world saw the raw truth of the war on their TV screens. It wasn’t pretty.

      Today many still argue that we never should have broken the story of the Vietnam buildup, that the reporters in the briefing room were “unpatriotic” and “communist sympathizers.” And there was, of course, much tough talk on Capitol Hill about lifting press passes and even amending the First Amendment.

      Regardless of anyone’s position on the war itself, it was not up to a group of reporters to sit quietly and say nothing while blood and treasure was about to be spilled in horrific proportions. As Edgard Fairchild said, our salvation depended on our printing the news–not for vanity or glory or our opinions on the war itself. Our job was to tell the truth and stand behind it.

      The press and media generally have changed much in the intervening years. Off-the-record is now commonplace. Sucking up to power is the ticket to success. There are still many dedicated journalists in the business, but they are often manipulated by monopoly interests (Murdoch), and gate keepers in Congress. It’s all a little too chummy and glitzy.

      So, after all of this story telling, what would you have done in my position? I will tell you I don’t regret telling the truth, then or now.

  • fred

    Phil, Awesome story, thanks for sharing. I would have done what you did no questions asked, I’ve never backed away from a fight; one of my best friends use to call me “the bombthrower”.

    McNamara clearly was trying to see if he could control media coverage; I personally would have thrown a smaller bone and used the fallout to my future advantage. Regards.

    • Thanks, Fred.

      Media has developed a cozy relationship with authority, and this explains, at least in part, why there is so little hard-core investigative reporting these days. When is the last time any news outlet conducted a Watergate-style probe?

      Let’s hear it for stories like the Post’s investigation of the appalling conditions for veterans at Walter Reed, a series that was published last year. Such investigations take time, money and the right personnel. Unfortunately, it’s cheaper and easier to lapse into cable TV punditry, which is a far cry from journalism and, in my opinion, ranks as infotainment–or what Stephen Colbert calls “truthiness.”






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