Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Overton Window: Chapter Nineteen

Ah, chapter nineteen! You're a cornucopia of ideas. Most of them silly, some of them nonsensical. In good news, that cover image is finally explained. So that's something, right?

But before that big reveal, we've some nonsense to wade through.

Last chapter Molly had walked out on Noah and "all but disappeared into the river of weekend tourists and theatergoers flowing through the heart of Times Square." But now the two of them are back together, sneaking into Doyle & Merchant.

Because "weekend work was one of the many things his father frowned upon" Noah is forced to take the secret entrance into the office. Did I mention back in chapter five Darthur's hatred of watches? I don't think so. Let me do it now:

In 1978 an account executive had checked her watch during Arthur Gardner's heartwarming remarks at the company Christmas party. She’d looked up when the room got quiet and had seen in Noah’s father’s eyes what time it really was: time for her to find another job, in another city, in another industry. By the following Monday the unwritten no-timepiece rule was in full and permanent effect.

Huh? Okay, anyway. No clocks. No work on weekends. So Molly and Noah have to sneak in the office's back door.

A private elevator led to Arthur Gardner's suite of offices on the twenty-first floor, and that was the way they'd be going in.

The elevator had originally been an auxiliary freight lift, largely unused until its luxury conversion when Doyle & Merchant established their New York offices here in the 1960s. There was only one wrinkle in the layout: the ground-floor entrance to this elevator had to be located on the next-door tenant's property, which was currently a multilevel, tourist-trendy clothing store.

Ummm... okay. Darthur engineered the overthrow of Guatemala but can't con Heinrich's into moving out of their sublet to make way for his private elevator? Or was it intentional of Darthur to have his secret entrance near the belts and socks of the department store? Is this supposed to be the thrilling part of the thriller? Skullduggery among the Dockers?

It's another of those strange little details. Saying Molly and Noah took a freight elevator up to bypass security would have sufficed. But instead there's all this silliness about the elevator being at another address.

They ride up the elevator and Molly thanks Noah for breaking into the office. He replies "I'm not really speaking to you right now." Aww, how cute. Because he speaks to her to tell her he's not speaking to her. You crazy kids!

Noah gets philosophical:

There was only one way to warrant a blatant breach of business ethics such as this, and that was to attribute his actions to a higher cause. If Molly was right, then a cute but quirky mailroom temp had identified a grand, unified, liberty-crushing conspiracy that had been hatched in the conference room of a PR agency. The benefits of learning that would easily outweigh the consequences: forsaking his father's trust and violating the ironclad, career-ending nondisclosure clause of his employment contract. After all, with the fate of the free world in the balance, the prospect of getting fired, disowned, and probably sued into debtor's prison should be among the least of his worries.

I guess if you're willing to suspend disbelief that "a grand, unified, liberty-crushing conspiracy had been hatched in the conference room of a PR agency" then the rest of this book will be easy to swallow. Me, I just can't get past the ridiculousness of it. Then again, I can't get past how a dirty look translates into "no clocks, not here, not ever."

The elevator reaches the top and the two slink into Darthur's office. It's a swank, well lighted place, "a shrine to the very real forms of happiness that money could actually buy."

Molly paused at the sight of one thing.

"What is this?" she asked.

She was looking at a marble sculpture on a pedestal in the corner. Noah's father had commissioned it years ago. The figure depicted was a strange amalgamation of two other works of art: the Statue of Liberty and the Colossus of Rhodes.

Okay, so that's the cover:

The Statue of Liberty meets the Colossus of Rhodes. Which means what exactly?

"It's the way my father looks at things ... at people, I mean: societies. The law may serve some superficial purpose, but it only goes so far," Noah said, touching the spear in the statue's left hand. "At some point the law needs to be taken away and replaced with force. That's what really gets things done. People ultimately want it that way; they're like sheep, lost without a threat of force to guide them. That's what it means."

So, Darthur is a fascist. No surprise there. I mean, he's going to establish the New World Order or whatever. I don't get really how Liberty plus the Colossus symbolizes the effete nature of law and the will to power. But I guess that's what Wikipedia is for.

There is more walking down halls until they reach "the locked AV booth, where the presentation files were stored". There some espionage shit as Noah accesses some "coded folders on the computer" and starts up the Powerpoint again. And blah blah blah it's the same old shit from earlier.

Now, here's something I don't quite get. Either Noah knows about the NWO or he doesn't. He claims not to. But wasn't he right there in the room when Darthur laid it all out in chapter three? I started second-guessing myself. How could he have sat there in the room and then claim ignorance about the whole affair. That would make no sense. (Yes, I know, I know.) So I went back and looked at chapter three again, thinking maybe I misread it.


"Because we must, we will finally complete what they envisioned: a new framework that will survive when the decaying remains of the failed United States have been washed away in the coming storm. Within this framework the nation will reemerge from the rubble, reborn to finally take its rightful, humble place within the world community. And you," he said, looking around the table, "will all be there to lead it."

"The misguided resistance that still exists will be put down in one swift blow. There'll be no revolution, only a brief, if somewhat shocking, leap forward in social evolution. We'll restore the natural order of things, and then there will be only peace and acceptance among the masses."

That's pretty straightforward shit there. Either Noah is a liar (PR weasel!) or he has gummi worms for brains. It makes no sense that Noah would lie about the NWO plan then sneak into his own office to reveal the plan to Molly. But it also makes no sense that he doesn't in fact know about it. What the fuck was the point of him burying that leaked memo in chapter three if he wasn't fucking involved in the conspiracy?

It's all down to poor storytelling, I know. Speaking of which:

"Who was in this meeting, do you know?" Molly asked.

Ummm.... From the previous chapter:

"I know there was a meeting at the office yesterday afternoon," she said, lowering her voice but not her intensity. "I saw the guest list on the catering order. I know who was there."

Poor storytelling, like I said.

There are more exciting Powerpoint slides. Like this one:

The heading was "Framework and Foundation: Toward a New Constitution." No names accompanied the headings that followed, only the areas of government that each new attendee supposedly represented.

• Finance / Treasury / Fed/Wall Street / Corporate Axis

• Energy / Environment / Social Services

• Labor / Transportation / Commerce / Regulatory Affairs

• Education / Media Management / Clergy / COINTELPRO

• FCC / Internet / Public Media Transition

• Control and Preservation of Critical Infrastructure

• Emergency Management / Rapid Response / Contingencies

• Law Enforcement / Homeland Security / USNORTHCOM / NORAD / STRATCOM / Contract Military / Allied Forces

• Continuity of Government

• Casus Belli: Reichstag / Susannah/Unit 131 / Gladio / Northwoods / EXIGENT

Noah asks what Casus Belli means. Molly explains "It means an incident that's used to justify a war." Also, Reichstag? Are you fucking kidding me? I guess once can never pass up the opportunity to make an allusion to the Nazis.

More slides. Because nothing is quite so thrilling as Powerpoint. Or passwords.

A security dialog popped up, and with a vocal sigh Noah entered his override password. If anyone ever checked to see who'd accessed these files and when, this would be another nail in his coffin. An hourglass indicator appeared, along with the message: Please Wait ... Content Loading from Remote Storage.

Note the plot point: If anyone ever checked to see who'd accessed these files and when, this would be another nail in his coffin. Whoops! I suspect someone will be checking.

Molly had left her seat and walked a complete circuit of the round room, looking over the various headings on the screens. She stopped by his side, pointing out a bracketed rectangle that enclosed part of the illustration on the slide in front of them.

"What's that box?" she asked.

"It's called the Overton Window."

Two explanations in one chapter! In fact, that's the entirety of the cover explained. Well, almost the entirety. The part that reads "A Thriller" is still a fucking mystery to me.

What follows is a long, and boring, discussion about the Overton Window and airline security and anarchy and "complete top-down Orwellian tyranny" and the media with a little bit of speechifying thrown in for good measure. Noah sums up:

"We put a false extreme at both ends to make the choices in the middle look moderate by comparison. And then, with a little nudge, you can be made to agree to something you would never have swallowed last week."

Which, I guess, is how you end up with that liberal Patriot Act.

And I apologize in advance for this next quote. I really hadn't intended to force you into reading so much of this dreck. But there was just so much in these paragraphs I couldn't not share it with you:

"We never let a good crisis go to waste, and if no crisis exists, it's easy enough to make one.

"Saddam's on the verge of getting nuclear weapons, so we have to invade before he wipes out Cleveland. If we don't hand AIG a seventy-billion-dollar bailout there'll be a depression and martial law by Monday. If we don't all get vaccinated one hundred thousand people will die in a super swine-flu pandemic. And how about fuel prices? Once you've paid five dollars for a gallon of gas, three-fifty suddenly sounds like a real bargain. Now they're telling us that if we don't pass this worldwide carbon tax right now the world will soon be underwater.

"And understand, I'm not talking about the right or wrong of those underlying issues. I care about the environment more than most, I want clean energy, I want this country to recover and be great again, people should get their shots if they need them, and Saddam Hussein was a legitimate monster. I'm saying opportunists can attach themselves to our hopes and fears about those things, for profit, and this is one of the tools they use to do that. The question to ask is, if they've got a legitimate case for these things, then why all the lying and fabrication?"

I'm not going to unpack most of that. I'm too tired to bother. And you're all smart enough to do that without my guidance. But I am going to point out that one galling bit of irony that is laying there like a steaming turd in the snow: "Opportunists can attach themselves to our hopes and fears about those things, for profit."

Yeah, Beck, Opportunists certainly can attach themselves to our hopes and fears for profit. You'd certainly know a thing or two about that, wouldn't you? I mean, what would you call The Overton Window if not an opportunistic attempt to wring cash from your paranoid fanbase by playing on their fears?

More speechifying follows. About Al Gore and Goldman Sachs and Enron and blah blah blah. And more Powerpoint. And more bullet-points:

• Consolidate all media assets behind core concepts of a new internationalism

• Gather and centralize powers in the Executive Branch

• Education: Deemphasize the individual, reinforce dependence and collectivism, social justice, and "the common good"

• Set beneficial globalization against isolationism/sovereignty: climate change, debt crises, finance/currency, free trade, immigration, food/water/energy, security/terrorism, human rights vs. property rights, UN Agenda 21

• Associate resistance and "constitutional" advocacy with a backward, extremist worldview: gun rights a key

• Quell debate and force consensus: Identify, isolate, surveil opposition leadership/threaten with sedition—criminalize dissent

• Expand malleable voter base and agenda support by granting voting rights to prison inmates, undocumented migrants, and select U.S. territories, e.g., Puerto Rico. Image as a civil rights issue; label dissenters as racist—invoke reliable analogies: slavery, Nazism, segregation, isolationism.

• Thrust national security to the forefront of the public consciousness

• Finalize the decline and abandonment of the dollar: new international reserve currency

• Synchronize and fully integrate local law enforcement with state, federal, and contract military forces, prepare collection/ relocation/ internment contingencies, systems, and personnel

Interesting, no, the points like "Quell debate" or "Thrust national security to the forefront"? I seem to recall lots and lots of talk during the previous administration about how True Patriots didn't criticize the President during a time of war. Why, anyone who did that was a traitor! That wasn't something out of the Liberal Playbook. That's standard rightwing rhetoric. Does Beck think his readers are stupid? Does he think no one remembers that? Who was it that thrust national security to the forefront? It sure wasn't the Left who were in charge after 9/11.

Oy. I almost feel sorry for Beck's fans. Almost.

There is one final slide, set to go into effect. In three days! "Casus Belli." Oh noes!

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