First, I'd like to let my expected readers know something important: this is not the sort of post you were expecting.
I try to keep my LiveJournal mostly about things affecting me personally. Politics is the conceptual marketplace of the mass mind, which takes me away from my quiet mountaintops. So, I hadn't planned on posting anything political here in the foreseeable future. This post will be an unexpected break from that plan. The reason? Unfortunately, the political circus has started to encroach my personal 'quiet time'. For that reason, and because it's time-bound (limited in duration as it is by its shelf-life of newsworthiness), I've decided I'll address it head-on before going back to my personal observations, meditations, musings and other ramblings.
Lately, I've had a front-row seat to propaganda.
Despite my best efforts, I've been subjected to the media's strenuous efforts to put Sen. John McCain forward for secular sainthood. Since I'm in Arizona (the state McCain ostensibly represented), front-row seat really means front row. It feels farcically reminiscent of the Ludovico Technique from A Clockwork Orange. Any time I switch on a television, radio or my phone screen, I see news or social media feeds tripping over each other in parroting meaningless praise for this bitter old
war-monger (read: war criminal) "war hero". Switching off all screens, all devices, I take a deep breath and dare to presume I can relax, when a frient, neighbour or other acquaintance will suddenly chime in on McCain's "integrity", "principles" and so on, without however being able to detail any of these. Even my quiet mornings on the bike are not immune. When I cycle to the petrol station early each morning to get my first dose of caffeine, along with other sundries (not to mention a less-boring excuse to cycle), I pass the gaudy little Chinese-made US flags dotting part of the route taken by McCain's memorial procession to or from the State Capitol (where he was kept in state, a week ago today). Once I actually get to the petrol station itself, there will be yet another assortment of newspapers whose headlines repeat the platitudinous plaudits I've already heard literally hundreds of times over the past two weeks.
Much like the senseless bombing campaigns he loved and championed, his memorial is seemingly never-ending.
In order to praise this mean-spirited war-monger, one must engage in at least wilful ignorance if not outright, self-mutilating cognitive dissonance. It's painfully evident that none of these people are familiar with McCain's voting record, much less with his biography.
I'm not trying to rain on anyone's parade (or funeral procession, as the case may be). Far be it from me to ruin everyone's chance to virtue-signal just because McCain bombed a few thousand children to gory smithereens and voted to bomb hundreds of thousands more the same way, to say nothing of the tens of millions he advocated bombing to smithereens – that is, when he wasn't calling to starve them or deprive them of basic, systemic sanitation. No, my choice to remark on this (despite knowing that it's largely futile to do so) goes deeper than his saber-rattling and war-mongering. After all, these could be the consequences (albeit unlikely ones) of a misguided patriotism, right?
The problem is that McCain wasn't a patriot. Nor was he anything else that's been represented to us.
Since I first read of McCain, I've been used to his being mispresented for his (and the media's) purposes. The first time I came to know of McCain was as a teenager, reading a retrospective about the 2000 election, for which cycle McCain failed to receive the Republican nomination. It was a short piece by The Economist magazine in the UK, which (in a truly freakish distortion) described McCain as a "paleoconservative", unbelievable as it may seem. McCain was about as stalwart an enemy of American tradition as he was of the sovereign territorial integrity of nations or, for that matter, of children going un-bombed. McCain, a supposed 'maverick' who released an ad demanding that Congress "fix the danged [border] fence", nevertheless voted for Open Borders time and again.
His political position is really self-incrimination. Despite his self-originated image as a 'maverick' (really just hollow branding), McCain was as mainstream as it gets, as evidenced by the praise heaped upon him by the media and bipartisan Establishment. He was as central to the business-as-usual game of politics and Beltway corruption as one possibly could be.
What makes the current praise strange is that all of it misplaces him. He can't genuinely be praised as belonging to the Right since he undermines the concept of the American Nation (insisting, up to and including his final public statement, the propositional nation heresy), completely disregards the concepty of sovereignty (either American sovereignty, re: NAFTA, TPP, etc. or that of the many, many countries he gleefully advocated bombing) The Left can't in good conscience praise him from 'across the aisle' either, since he's a dyed-in-the-wool the sworn enemy of the many, the working, the poor, and other such sectors. The politically non-aligned can't even get behind him, since he was the consummate Beltway insider. Only the Centre can claim him, that political No Man's Land (if by "Man's" we understand it to mean "Principle's"). The Centre, in this case, is the Establishment. The Establishment Party has two wings: the 'Invade the World' wing is what you see if you look on its right side and if you look at its left, you see the 'Invite the World' wing. Now, if you look at it squarely, you realise that they're all the same thing.
What's particularly disgusting is the fawning by those on the supposedly pro-worker Left for this out-of-touch grabhander who once said that the US had to be flooded with masses of cheap labour because Americans wouldn't work for fifty dollars an hour. Another reminder that those who inhabit the Beltway are simply occupants of another universe, utterly unconnected to our own.
So, what was McCain really like? Who has a good bead on him?
Here is McCain viewed from the (genuinely) socialist Left. Compare with the right-leaning libertarian take on the issue. These are views unconnected with the Establishment and therefore, almost by definition, much better connected with reality.
The latter piece discusses his role in the USS Forrestal fire of 1967 which claimed the lives of 134 sailors, injuring 161. This is what legendary political operative Roger Stone was referring to the other day when he criticised McCain on social media during the height of the 24/7 memorial marathon, covering the span from the National Cathedral service to McCain's internment in the Naval cemetery. (Stone is also 100% correct, by the way, that McCain was "epically corrupt". It seems like bombast, but it's not an exaggeration. McCain was a prominent pathogen, albeit a prominent one among many other less prominent ones, debilitating the American body politic.)
The Forrestal fire also brings us to the pre-politics biographical highlights of McCain.
Since everyone knows that McCain's plane started the fire, especially those who were present, the whitewash attempted to explain this in a half-truth to convince those who had witnessed events that they were wrong and McCain himself hadn't started the fire. Hot shot pilots were known to make showy "wet-starts" (letting excess fuel build in the engine over time, so as to produce a pyrotechnic show of sorts upon ignition). McCain had, it's claimed, done the same on this occasion, as he had on many others. Where else would he have got his nickname Johnny Wet-Start? This is much more believable than a story about a missile hitting McCain's plane for no reason, while a firestorm which he miraculously survives alternately maims or kills nearly three hundred others on the flight deck.
Next is his most notable action in Vietnam: being shot down and taken prisoner. Remember, this is an aviator who was shot down while bombing a light-bulb factory of all things. (Did he give the order to bomb it? No. However, he did it. The 'following orders' defense didn't work for the Nuremberg defendants, it didn't work for Eichmann in Jerusalem, nor the US soldiers at My Lai or Abu Ghraib. It shouldn't suddenly start working for John McCain.) Ironically, McCain's life was saved by one of the factory's employees, who happened to be home for lunch next to the lake where McCain landed and sank unconscious.
The only source for the story that McCain refused to be released until his fellow captives were as well, is... you guessed it: John McCain. His fellow POWs, including one who lived across the hall from him at the Naval Academy, knew him as "Songbird". This nickname may even have come from the Viet Cong themselves, as he reputedly began divulging information before even making it to his cell for the first time. It's likely that McCain was never tortured at all. It's well known among veterans that POWs despise McCain.
This also means that his entire career is built on lies. He received a Silver Star for his brave service, with the commendation specifically mentioning his resistance to being coerced to turn on his country. Of course, he did turn, coerced or not.
The worst kept secret in McCain's war record is that he made broadcasts for North Vietnam. These were not only broadcast across the country, but played in the POW camps to further demoralise American servicemen. Recordings of these broadcasts were long rumored to exist, but without confirmation, until last year when they were found, after having been 'mislabelled' and languishing in the National Archives, presumably sitting there for decades.
Oh, by the way, McCain also maintained for the rest of his life that being taken captive by the Viet Cong means that, when he says "gooks", it's not racist. However, President Trump, who has never publicly used any such epithet, is somehow "literally Hitler", while McCain is a hero. Yeah, sure, makes about as much sense as any other shitlib logic.
In any case, this isn't exactly the principled War Hero we're being sold.
Many other questions remain, but I feel that we can well infer their answers from what we already know. These questions include: Why was McCain so keen to insist that there were no POWs left behind? Why was he similarly keen to classify POW records? Why has he supported the moribund bureaucracies into which these records have disappeared?
It's enough to know that he built his career on lies. It's enough to know that his contemporary POWs hate his guts. It's enough to know that this 'victim' of supposed 'torture' ended his career by supporting the use of every kind of present-day torture imaginable. It's enough to know that he sang "Bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb Iran" to the tune of the Beach Boys' hit 'Barbara Ann'.
We don't need to puzzle over questions the answers to which have been purposefully buried, perhaps forever. We know the important facts, distilled from this are as follows: We know that McCain was a liar, not to mention a political curse upon the Nation, and we know that he's finally dead. Soon, this circus of memorials will end and people will stop eulogising him once it has ceased to yield ready political capital. Eventually, an alternative story will be told, perhaps even by those currently caught up in the mass delusion of McCain's hagiography.
A different reality will become clear at that point. even if we're reluctant to express it. I'll go first: the Republic – indeed, the world – is richer for his absence.
I, for one, will just be glad when I can pick up a newspaper or switch on the radio with no mention of John McCain.