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The Pentagong Show
United State of Terror: Is Drone War Fair?

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Spellbound Speaking Truth to Power.

There it was again, a listing of "save the planet" items, that included "Speak truth to Power" . But what does that mean? Exactly who in power does the author think is unfamiliar with how it  works? Those who suggest doing so will somehow solve the world's problems are, methinks, somewhat deluded.

In Hitchcock's "Spellbound", starring Ingrid Bergman and Gregory Peck, along with Leo G. Carrol, with some great artwork in the dream sequences by Salvador Dali, Ingrid's character "Speaks truth to power". She reveals that she has discovered the fact that the murderer she's been searching for in order to vindicate her boyfriend/patient, Gregory Peck, on trial for the murder, is none other than her boss, played by Leo G.

She explains to him, steno pad and pencil in hand,  the rather brilliant path she's used to come up with her conclusion, at the end of which she looks up, only to see him pointing a pistol, which he's pulled from his desk drawer, at her head, as he suavely intones, "And exactly what did you suppose I was going to do with this information? Say well done? Bravo! for your exceptional sleuthing ability"?

She explains to him that he is not going to shoot her. Shooting her would only point at him and complicate an already intractable situation, she tells him, as she slowly edges to the door, opens it, and leaves him alone. As the door closes, we're treated to a view of the gun as it changes direction and points at Leo G, and then we hear the sound as the pistol fires and Leo G shoots himself instead of her.

But life is not the movies. Power is not going to turn the gun on itself (except unintentionally, or at least unpredictably, in a maneuver called War, but that's another topic), but is instead going to go after, and silence - usually by destroying - you.

Like Ingrid, we're besotted by our naive belief in justice and democracy, and as it slowly dawns on us how reality really works, we are so mesmerized by our own prowess at pulling back the veil and seeing the men behind the curtain, that we become excited by our virtuosity and wish to "Speak Truth to power", to let it know that we know, as though that'll set everything straight and the chastised rich will bow to the dictates of the law once more.

However, like the title in "Spellbound", there's nuance and subtlety missed by the casual observer. In the movie, Gregory Peck is transfixed whenever he sees tracks, such as those left by skis in snow, and its Ingrid's job to discover why. Because of this, the audience is led to assume that the title refers to his underlying psychosis, which of course, it partially does. But its other meaning is more subtle and delicious.  It suggests that the same self-induced blindness that inhibits Peck from seeing the truth that feeds his psychosis, also keeps Ingrid, who's his psychiatrist, from seeing her vain need to unfold her discovery to the one person who will most appreciate her cleverness. So despite the fact that he's also the one most endangered by it, and has already proven himself quite capable of eliminating inconvenient people, she remains undeterred by the obvious peril revealing her findings will put her in. Instead, as though bound by a spell, she can't stop herself from putting her life in danger for the thrill that exposing him right to his face will give her.

We are just as Spellbound when we believe that speaking truth to power will illuminate anything for them. All it does is prove that we're not cut from the same cloth as the duped hoi polloi on whom their new-speak and mass propaganda works. But our showing this changes nothing. Try as we might, and hard as it is to swallow,  the hoi polloi cares nothing for the truth. To paraphrase from another film, they "can't handle the truth", don't want to know it, as it confers responsibility for the machinations of the economic system and political corruption onto them. They therefore prefer decidedly not to know.

This leaves us, like Ingrid, with no one to go to when we are bursting with the excitement of discovery, who can really appreciate the virtuosity of our minds, the subtlety of our perceptions, or the finesse we've used to bring transparency to a deliberately opaque mystery.

So please, congrats on whatever nugget of truth you've managed to sift out of the constantly flowing stream of  disinformation with which we are continually deluged. But don't inveigle me with such simple-minded rostrums and self-serving maxims that do nothing but re-enforce the fantasy that if we could only show what's wrong with "the System", everybody could just patch it up and all will be hunky dory. It won't be.

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