Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Disturbances in the Narrative

Does Pilate’s famous question have an answer?
It was Kate McMillan at SmallDeadAnimals.com who coined the phrase “disturbance in the narrative” to refer to a news story, scientific discovery or other revelation of fact that pokes holes in the popular consensus. It’s an apt description.

There have been an excessive number of disturbances in the narrative in the last week.

Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq

“Bush lied, people died!” That’s the post-9/11 Big Media narrative. Numerous alternative sources have offered evidence to the contrary but the myth steadfastly refused to expire. But when the New York Times blithely skewers an editorial position it has held confidently for the last 15 years or so, I think it’s time to consider this particular narrative strand on its death bed, no matter how many Democrats still swear by it. Apparently Saddam did stockpile weapons of mass destruction after all, not just here and there but all over Iraq.

Consider the narrative disturbed.

U.S. Debt is Primarily Due to Military Spending

The narrative is that U.S. defense spending drives their debt and deficit. Some journos have claimed total military spending comprises more than 50% of the cost of government. But Aaron Clarey called that trope into question this week with an analysis of U.S. spending going all the way back to 1971 when sustained debt accumulation began to become a serious problem (Clarey’s blog is moderately raunchy in places, for those concerned about such things). It turns out the runaway cost of social programs is actually the primary reason for U.S. debt, Clarey insists, by more than a 3-1 margin.

Consider the narrative greatly disturbed.

“The 1%” Are Obscenely Rich

The narrative is that the rest of us are oppressed by one percent of the population who control most of the world’s wealth. But that much-vilified “one percent” that so irk the Occupy movement turns out to look a lot like the middle-class couple down the street from you. In fact, I am among the wealthiest half of people in the world, and most probably in the top twenty percent, according to this article in Britain’s Telegraph, and very likely so are you

The formula is simple: total assets minus outstanding debt. By this metric, anyone with over $798,000 left at the end of the calculation is a one-percenter. I live in a neighbourhood where most of the homes go for close to half a million, which essentially puts any seniors on my street with their mortgages paid off and anything close to the retirement savings recommended by financial experts well into “great oppressor” status. The “one percent” is the hardworking Greenbaums or Yangs, not just overpaid CEOs in black hats.

The narrative screams in pain.

The Point

I’m not the least bit interested in making a case for war, greed, the Republican Party or even redistributionism. That’s not my point at all. In the ongoing search for truth, this is just the current data set. Pluto was a planet, then it wasn’t a planet and now it’s a planet again. Maybe. Who can keep up? For all I know, Global Research may turn out to have more accurate statistics than Captain Capitalism. Or maybe it’s Aaron Clarey who’s right about U.S. spending. But Joe Average can hardly be blamed if he throws up his hands in despair and decides to take the dog for a walk instead of watching the news or reading Time.

The serious-minded citizen is looking for certainty, is often locked into his or her own political and religious worldview and in many cases is eager to scapegoat the other side of any particular ongoing debate for the ills of the world. So we jump at the first indication that our instincts have been right all along. But the fact is that where most of these issues in the news are concerned, if we are honest we have to admit that we simply don’t know what’s true anymore. Further, there is little or no reasonable prospect of getting to the truth any time soon.

Blue Propaganda

My musings on the quest for truth are interrupted by Tom Selleck’s character Frank Reagan on TV’s Blue Bloods. He’s caught between the Scylla of his Catholic convictions and the Charybdis of political correctness (the proverbial “rock and a hard place”) in one of the most gaggingly preachy episodes to which the series’ showrunners have ever subjected their allegedly conservative audience. I search in vain for what must surely be an Aaron Sorkin writing credit at the end, and my son nearly splits a gut watching me rant at the screen as what passes for a family-friendly show (in an age where none exist) turns into a smorgasbord of leftist bromides for its annual gay tolerance smarmfest.

Among other PC subplots, Frank (the show’s patriarch, police commissioner and general bastion of reasonableness) gets blindsided at a press conference that turns into an impromptu forum on homosexuality in the NYPD, and coughs up the following:
“Well, I do believe that the Church is a little behind the times on this …”
Because, you know, it’s not just economics and politics that are subjective. Christians must also endure the occasional disturbance in our narrative (assuming, of course, that we swallow the alternate narrative spooned out for us by the scriptwriters of Blue Bloods and pretty much everyone else these days).

Back to the Rock

I think we all realize it is possible for a church — any church — to be “behind the times”. A church is only as strong as its attention and obedience to the word of God. To the extent it misunderstands or misapplies the scripture because of adherence to tradition or the thrall of the personal magnetism in its leadership, it may well be “behind the times” or, much worse, entirely out of step with reality.

But “the times” are not the standard, are they? After all, which “truth” are we trying to catch up to? The truth as revealed by the media yesterday or the truth as it was propounded last week?

Because as we’ve seen in the last few days they are very different things. A week, a month, or a year from now, they will be different again.

The word of God will not.
“Forever, O Lord, your word is firmly fixed in the heavens.”
(Psalm 119:89)
My Bible is my daily dose of reality. It’s the rest of the world that has to worry about disturbed narratives.


  1. One of the major problems that needs to be pointed out concerning public production and consumption of news (information) is the pervasive inability of people on all levels, and in all media, to produce analytically correct conclusions given the amount of information they have on hand that they want to base them on. In addition, presenting conclusions is also often done with ill will or out of ignorance for all kinds of reasons. Very few people listening to that then spend enough time and effort of wading through that muck or even have the interest to do so.

    It irks me still, for example, that, to the careful thinker, it is perfectly clear that the Iraq weapons of mass destruction argument used by the liberal left was, and still is, simply used as a convenient tool to bash the political enemy, the conservative right. The reality of the argument is quite different and it is amazing to me that no one, at the right or left, displayed the capacity for analyzing it correctly and then making the appropriate statements. Here is what must and should have been said.

    Everyone knew that Saddam Hussein a few years earlier had murdered thousands (mostly Kurds) with chemical weapons and that no inspection of any sort under the auspices of the UN or otherwise would be able to verify the continued existence of such weapons in Iraq. Any president of the USA, left or right leaning, would therefore have been completely incompetent or irresponsible by acting in such a way that ignored the fact that there could still be WMDs in Iraq and that he needed to guard against that. Therefore, it goes to show the complete dishonesty of the left, political and media, in suggesting that the president had lied about the WMDs. In other words, the left suggests with that argument that they would be willing to let the American soldier be put in harm's way in order to score a political point. For political reasons they ignore the fact that the president MUST assume that WMDs exist in Iraq for the safety of his troops. It is therefore a disgusting level of dishonesty and political pandering on part of the left when it gets to the point when you advocate for irresponsibility to score a political advantage. All people should wake up to the fact that this illustrates and underscores the ongoing modus operandi of the liberal left not only with regard to WMDs but all social issues they are pushing.


  2. Thoroughly agree, Qman. As a Christian, I don't have a huge objection to being lied to at every turn. It's part and parcel of knowing the world's creator personally, and through him and his word, the real shape and character of this present evil age. That true shape is always disguised, whether we live under kings, tsars, commissars or an incompetent and corrupt bureaucracy. Politicians have been serving their own agendas for millennia, and whatever news media exists has often been the lap dog of government, business, special interests -- or all three, depending on the era. Living up to our necks in lies, prevarications, fabrications and disingenuities is not surprising or unexpected.

    What bothers me is how easily many Christians are sucked in by it. The harmlessness of doves is frequently evident; the shrewdness of serpents is in considerably shorter supply.