To: Doug Feith, Mind Overlord
From: Winston/Ministry of Truth
Re: WMD (Weapons of Mind Destruction)
As you know, our department has been, er, overwhelmed with assignments of late. We understand your wrath and beg you not to subject us to scorn. We toil in an unweeded garden.
In spite of our burdens, we have achieved singular success in our “Queen of Hearts” project. I can now assure you that, by the end of the year, our efforts will have rehabilitated the words “imperial” and “empire.” “Imperialist,” a slightly more sticky wicket, will be cleansed by mid-2004. We are investigating certain harmonies with Lenin, who considered imperialism to be the “highest stage of capitalism.”
Our latest success appeared in USA Today, a coincidence that warms my heart. May I remind Your Benevolence that the very name of this organ represents another great victory for WMD — in fact, it was my very first project after being assigned to the Enlightenment Suite. Everyone thinks that it was easy to manipulate the adoption of that little logo, but I can attest to the inordinate difficulties we had, including the ultimate insult — when that Ivy-league copy editor leaked her famous memo, alleging that we were proposing something “revolutionary.” Of course we were — but it was none of her damned business, the meddlesome little termagant. After all, the removal of the periods after the letters induces the reader’s malleable mind to forget that there were ever “states” any other than those eternally united by our benevolent forebearer, Father Abraham. And we ram this message home every day, Your Benevolence, from every newsstand in the USA!
I am indeed proud of this, my initial success (heh, heh — get it, O Benevolent One? Initial…? Well, you can pardon me my professional puns, we have so little time for humor here in the department any more).
Little humor, but great victories! As I was saying, in yesterday’s edition of USA Today, one of our most prodigious acolytes, Max Boot, cut straight through the chit-chat-chaff to praise imperialism — US imperialism! — and no one blinked!
His tactic was one that our advisors found to be quite successful during the Clinton years, although it was often wielded in a manner somewhat lacking in delicacy: Deny, deny, deny — then, suddenly, confirm, with a “So what?!!”
(Of course, this tactic of sudden confirmation commingled with righteous scorn has not always succeeded, witness our friend Bill Bennett, who is having some trouble rescuing his vocabulary of virtue from the usual predators just now.)
Fortunately, our success has experienced no such Bennettian impediments! Brother Max adopted our tried-and-true formula. First, the denial (and he quoted His Reverence himself!! Daring stroke!):
When asked on April 28 on al-Jazeera whether the United States was ”empire building,” Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld reacted as if he’d been asked whether he wears women’s underwear. ”We don’t seek empires,” he replied huffily. ”We’re not imperialistic. We never have been.”
The denial was firm. Planted. Even swallowed. But then our wily Boot introduced the counter-intuitive audacious assertion pattern — Louisiana, Puerto Rico, Hawaii, Alaska, all fruits of American imperialism. Boot slyly nudged the reader, “hey, empire ain’t all that bad” — he even called America an “Empire of Liberty!”
I groaned with secret satisfaction and pleasure. He did not contradict His Reverence, he merely added nuance. Dialectical multi-dimensionality. Superb.
Believe me, O Benevolent One, we worked on this for months down here. As you know, our expenses for focus groups are higher than those for any other project in our history. But imagine our task!
On the first day we asked the groups what came to mind when they heard “empire.”
“George III ,,, Hitler … Stalin … Third Reich”
Can you not see? Our work was obviously cut out for us.
It took us weeks — months, even. We worked hard to make the word sound less strident, less dangerous, less threatening. Each of our sessions — some of them were all-nighters! — aimed at a particular manipulation. Here were our goals for the word “empire”:
Meaningless, so that you do not find it hard to swallow (so what if you scratch your head?);
Familiar, so that you find it “traditional” — remember Teddy R charging up San Juan Hill?
Harmless, even helpful, so that you find it salutary — you are grateful to those who had the nasty job of re-educating all those Nazis;
Superior, so that you begin to distrust anyone who questions its innate goodness — especially when they mention “facts” (see our Annual Report for 2001 for this success story).
Sacrosanct — vilify any detractors.
Frankly, we had some stumbles. Someone blurted out that “Dritte Reich” means “Third Empire.” And we had to dream up “tough-love” when one participant asked about our having killed 103,000 Filipinos to “liberate” them 100 years ago. We had to confuse them quite a bit here and there, but the result was admirable. We made the term seem remote and theoretical, then innocuous, then friendly, and, ultimately, indispensable. It’s our established pattern.
Finally came our patented “Verbal Rorschach.” We began with the central phrase of the desired op-ed:
“We’re going to be called an empire whatever we do. We might as well be a successful empire.”
We then read the focus groups the same statement, substituting other words for “empire”:
“We’re going to be called a prostitute whatever we do. We might as well be a successful prostitute.” “We’re going to be called an adulterer whatever we do. We might as well be a successful adulterer.”
“We’re going to be called an embezzler whatever we do. We might as well be a successful embezzler.”
“We’re going to be called a Catholic Priest child molester whatever we do. We might as well be a successful Catholic Priest child molester.”
In every case, the focus group members experienced great discomfort at hearing these words. Some visibly cringed.
We then read them our target statement: “We’re going to be called an empire whatever we do. We might as well be a successful empire.”
The results, if I do say so myself, were simply stunning. No one flinched. No one blinked. In some of the groups, we detected an increase in the number who reached for our catered deli sandwiches during this part of the exercise, but the sum total impact was simply breathtaking.
We knew that “empire” was ready for the big time.
Here, O Benevolent One, lies the secret to your success, the rule that you have implemented throughout the department — “l’audace, toujours l’audace!”
Never have I so appreciated the impact of the words of our Founding Father: “We have nothing to fear but fear itself!” Max leapt boldly — fearlessly! — across the chasm of disbelief and uncertainty, and he nailed it! He forced the reader to gaze into the murky abyss, and won! With our months of research firmly in hand, he pulled it off in 800 words! It was indeed a crowning achievement, and I hope you will put it in my personnel file with your own generous observations — especially in view of my role, however remote, in the recent unpleasantness surrounding our linguistic implementation of “regime change.”
O Benevolent One, now you understand why our expenses have been so, …. er, so extensive in recent weeks. This triumph required the cooperation of several internal units, and the Department of Denial does not come cheap these days! They complain of an overwhelming workload, and bill us virtually all contributions at double or triple overtime! (I would suggest — discreetly, of course — that you refer some of the more egregious expenses, especially those referring to the costs of Mr. Perle’s entertainment, to the IG.)
Double-time or triple-time, those master wordsleuths were worth every penny. They managed to massage out of our history everything in the Constitution and Declaration — why, by the time they were finished you’d think our own president was George III without the syphilis! When they were finished, our country’s history was just a series of great leaps from one imperialist victory to the next, virtually uninterrupted by any sign of peace, freedom, or (that still-forbidden phrase among the career force), “limited government.”
Please note one firm recommendation from my department (and we are unanimous here): Boot should be taken to Room 101 for reminding his readers about the failure of “nation-building” under Clinton. Does he forget that our Dear Leader renounced nation-building during his campaign? That will cause us additional months of work, and, I guarantee you, we will see more gargantuan entertainment vouchers from Mr. Perle.
In Strauss and Trotsky,
P.S. I love Big Brother.
Christopher Manion [send him mail] writes from the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia.