Cover-ups and American Politics
“It’s not the crime; it’s the cover up that leads to real trouble.” This thought became quite popular during the scandal known as Watergate, when it was alleged that it was Nixon’s attempt to cover-up “a third-rate burglary” that led to his downfall. And while there is some truth to this argument it is, at best, incomplete because Nixon’s cover-up wasn’t the only one being undertaken.
John Dean, who was probably the impetus for the break-ins at the DNC in the Watergate complex, ran his own cover-up and did so successfully, to the point that he emerged as an ethical young man functioning among a gang of thieves. Bob Woodward ran his own cover-up, using Deep Throat as an integral part of it, hiding his connection to the military spy ring that was spying on the Nixon administration. Al Haig also ran a cover-up, hiding his connections to said spy ring as well as hiding the role he played in getting Nixon to resign his presidency. Without these cover-ups, our elites would have been exposed as conniving, manipulative people who would do most anything to advance themselves while pretending to be patriots serving the country.
This means: Cover-ups are not peripheral but essential to government and governing. Governments cannot successfully function without cover-ups. Why? Because human beings need to justify their behavior, their actions, to convince themselves they are “doing good,” and governments, to succeed, must do things that cannot be justified. Putting this another way: To succeed governments must do unjust, even evil things and must, therefore, cover-up their essential activities. Justice might emerge as a result of governmental actions but that justice rests on, was made possible by injustice. This the meaning of Machiavelli’s assertions that the way human beings actually live is so far from how they think they should live, that anyone who wishes to succeed had better “learn how not to be good.” This was, for Machiavelli, “the effectual truth,” which he knew of course wasn’t the whole truth. But it was the only truth that mattered – in this world.
Now these thoughts were recognized once upon a time by those who argued that small governments, weak governments are safer because they are less capable of injustice than large, powerful, consolidated governments. If a large, powerful, consolidated government, say a national government, were to be created, its capacity and practice of injustice would be immense, even limitless. And, hence, such governments will to engage in cover-ups, e.g., like covering up savage war-making as eradicating evil in the world via a war on terror, or covering up mass annihilations as purifications of the human race. Large, powerful, consolidated governments need large, powerful myths to succeed.
Of course these myths must be endorsed and perpetuated by those deemed “intelligent” or “wise” in any society; that is, by a society’s elites. And so, interestingly, these elites, having been deemed “wise” by their social status, are more susceptible to believing, propagating, and perpetuating these myths than the “unchosen” or the “uneducated,” the working class popularly speaking. Thus, those deemed highly intelligent – like those holding Harvard degrees – are more likely to be delusional than the members of the “lower” classes, which helps explain why our elites are restocked from our “best” institutions of “higher learning.” Being most invested in and in need of the system’s myths, the “upper classes” will seek their perpetuation and, therewith, the fortification of that system.
So this leads to what is perhaps the grandest myth, the greatest cover-up, viz., that it isn’t the delusional who govern us. Consider this: Despite fiasco after fiasco, we go on believing all is well or very soon will be, right after the next election, or after the next war, or after the next recession/depression. The promised land is just around corner and we will arrive if only we follow those who have been designated as our leaders. In a strange way, what is known as Machiavellian “realism” feeds into a most delusional “idealism.” And what is most needed is disillusionment. And over that horizon, philosophy, understood as the quest for inspiration, is visible along side a cynical or humorous view of government and politics. We need to see, really see, that our most notable politicians are merely stentorian baboons blocking our path to true fulfillment.