Sound and Fire and Fury
I am Darth Vader. I am the republic’s greatest general, and I have a responsibility to our cause to preserve our heritage and our secrets, at all costs, from anyone who stands in our way. One day, after capturing and imprisoning this woman who keeps stealing my stuff, I’m shocked to discover that my old teacher, a pilot, his dog, and a young man who seems awfully familiar have shown up at my office. Eventually, I’m able to split them up and kill the old man, but the woman, the pilot, the dog and the kid all get away. I will find them, I will recapture what’s mine, and I will have my revenge.
I tell this story to make two points: it’s easy to leave out key details of any narrative when it’s convenient to sharing an intentional account of a situation, and the villain always thinks they are the hero of their own story.
The Memo released in its current form, is one of history’s greatest misdirections. It’s all face value, and it’s a pretty uninteresting face. It provides no context or proof of anything, which was always going to be the case, and declassifying it on behalf of the public’s interest is a facile and hollow excuse. If the Senate and House wanted to declassify anything for the public’s interest, it would make available the original FISC filing, which would show all of the materials provided to the court in the quest for a warrant. That’s how the law works.
Conversely, let’s look at the bigger picture of what this memo represents. A senator, whose own admitted ineptitude disqualified him from his position as chair of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence believes that he uncovered a vast government conspiracy, which would have not only included executives and associates across two separate organizations within the Justice Department and an intelligence agency, but also judges, clerks, and lawyers from their own respective corners. He believes he was able to condense the byproduct of this vast government conspiracy to a four-page memo — a document which provides no evidence, and which required a two-page cover letter just to explain and defend its legality — and provide it to an administration which has publicly acknowledged that its leader prefers never to be told the whole picture, but demands small details in a single-page document, with graphics.
The details in the memo are scant and circumspect. They are convenient to fit a narrative, and they are structured in such a way as to ignore the larger questions that remain unanswered by its glibness. It’s politics, gamesmanship, and not governance. A tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing of truly great substance.
This is what it means to say that democracy dies in darkness. This is what it means to say that facts and details are important. This is what it means to say that it isn’t enough to read a headline, or post an uninformed and angry tweet — it’s critical to learn how to decipher information, process it, synthesize it, think for oneself, and come to actual conclusions. Outrage and action have their time and place, resistance has its time and place, but we have a lot of work to do just to get ourselves back to a place where we can think and process information.