Sunday :: Aug 28, 2005

Manufacturing Reality

by Marie

After over four years of Bu$hCo, you might think that we’ve seen everything they could do take this country through the looking glass to a world of illusions, trickery and mumbo jumbo. Fake journalists publishing fake stories written in the bowels of the WH. A quasi-journalist cooling her high-heels in a jail cell to protect her Bu$hCo access and status as in inheritor of the Leni Riefenstahl mantle, sans artistry. Fake Niger documents. Fake WMD reports. An Iraq mission statement that has changed so often that they are now reduced to recycling one of the earliest ones – “it’s about 9/11” – which was also fake. Fake terror alerts. Fake Medicare Prescription Bill cost estimates. Fake Global Warning Reports. The only thing not fake about Bu$hCo is the catfish and “homemade chocolate chip cookies” stuffed in the faces of our fake journalists (a leftover trick from the 2000 campaign. Margaret Carlson told us all about it (oink oink): “There were Dove bars and designer water on demand,” she recalls, “and a bathroom stocked like Martha Stewart’s guest suite. Dinner at seven featured lobster ravioli.” DailyHowler

Yet, for anyone with a real brain, instead of the fake ones issued when one enters the great doors to wing-nut-land, all of the Bu$hCo fakery is as easily recognized as a Vegas magic show. Don’t even need to know how the trick is done to appreciate that it’s just an illusion. They’ve been good – have kept a majority mesmerized at least through the last election cycle. But what if they are really, really good?

The best fakes are those that are so skillfully executed that they defy detection by all the experts. We don’t know if anyone has ever crafted a forgery so good that it passes for the real thing for all time – because if we knew that then we would know that it’s a forgery and didn’t pass. In the art world, the good forgeries have a limited shelf-life. In a new period or age, the previously accepted forgeries can suddenly be seen as all wrong and thus a fake. Still, passing for a few decades isn’t such a bad thing, particularly for the person that sold it for a handsome price. Maybe the Niger Yellowcake Documents could have been better executed – not been such obvious fakes. I don’t know. The TANG documents that CBS got were better and experts who examined them have not been able to prove that they are forgeries. And experts aren’t immune to seeing what they want to see instead of the reality facing them. Many museum curators have been embarrassed when another expert showed up and with one glimpse knew the recent acquisition was a fake.

Most fake works of art aren’t all that good. Forgers don’t have the time, expertise or interest it takes to craft something good. They are con-artists in it for fast bucks. (Did a master artist and forger in the Twentieth Century exist outside of the fictional Wyatt Gwynn in The Recognitions?) All they have to do is fool a few people and experts for some of the time. And it’s far easier to fool others with their heads than their eyes. (Did 1988 Democratic primary voters ever look at Dukakis before they voted for him? Ditto Kerry in 2004.)

Manufacturing reality is getting people to override their senses, first hand experience and/or prior knowledge in favor of something that looks like a higher authority. That’s what John Drewe did in his last confidence game. He commissioned artist John Myatt to create fake Chagalls, Giacomettis, Ben Nelsons and others. Myatt wasn’t a much of a forger (may not be much of an artist) and he didn’t take any great pains to insure that the paintings passed simple tests like canvas and paint that would have been used at the time it was supposed to have been painted. The paintings looked sort of like what the known artist might have painted on a really, really bad day. IOW, these were really crappy paintings. Museums and collectors bought them. Maybe to let the world know that even good artists have bad days, but more likely to be able to say that they own a Chagall, etc. and the works of dead artists are finite. Or so they thought.

Drewe palmed these pieces of shit off by creating an impeccable provenance for them. He did this by infiltrating the archives of the Tate and Victoria and Albert Museum. Suddenly that painting was in a 1906 catalog. An ownership history (provenance) was created that passed muster. (The damage done to the archives of these museums cannot be quantified and may not be correctable.) With that in hand he proceeds forged painting with forged provenances for millions of dollars over a period of ten years until caught in 1995. (Myatt estimates that 180 of his forgeries are scattered around and still accepted as originals.) Forbes (This may all appear at your local theater in the future as “Art Con” starring Michael Douglas)

A variation of this was done by a “New York dealer named Ely Sakhai.” Forbes He bought the originals along with the provenance. Had a copy made and sold it with the legitimate provenance. Then later sold the original. He eluded law enforcement for fifteen years and reaped at least $12.5 million from his forgeries.

These are con-games based on fixing the facts to fit the picture being sold. Sakhai’s crime is the one easily correct and did not do lasting damage to the art world. Drewe’s destruction of authentic data to create false data has forever compromised the authentic records. The US federal government bureaucracy is large, distributed and in some areas redundant. That gives us a measure of safety that real data isn’t replaced with fake data by any administration. To date, it appears that Bu$hCo simply ignored the data they didn’t like and used whatever else they did like or could concoct. Thus, the original intell data on al Qaeda, OBL, Saddam and Iraq should still exist in the bowels of CIA, State and the Pentagon should anybody ever go looking for it.

Yet, why is it that when I read a story like that of Lawrence Greenfield at the Bureau of Justice Statistics does a chill go down my spine? NYTimes What if not all of the officials installed by Bu$hCo are as decent as Greenfeld that Bu$hCo appointed 2001? Why has there been political interference in this small office? “ has stirred anger and tumult among many Justice Department statisticians, who say their independence in analyzing important law enforcement data has been compromised." Greenfeld refused, at the order of his superior, a Ms. Henke, to delete the finding that there was more aggressive police treatment of black and Hispanic drivers. As a WH appointee, Greenfeld was replaced for this insubordination. Ms. Henke was promoted to a position at Homeland Security, presumably for her service manipulating a government report in accordance with the wishes of Bu$hCo. This wasn’t a big story; it’s a story that has been reported on hundreds, if not thousands, of times. It’s not even as if Bu$hCo and the GOP are going to increase their approval margins in the black and Latino communities if they don’t see this or reduce that standing of those in those communities if they see it. Why bother fixing a report that would get scant attention?

We’ve already seen a Bu$hCo appointee change global warming reports to fit their agenda that there is no scientific agreement on global warming. And maybe this latest example of fixing the facts for the report only indicates more of the same. However, everytime I read a report of Bu$hCo fixing facts, I find myself thinking about the disconnect between what Americans are experiencing in the economy and the facts released by the administration. On the economy, it’s not as easy as simply changing the wording in a report because real numbers are released. But are they real? Is there a cadre of Ms. Henkes at Mr. Greenfield’s level changing, falsifying, massaging the numbers before the rest of us see them?

Let’s hope that my fears are nothing more than an overly suspicious imagination (acquired honestly from observing these thugs for four years), and all the federal economic data and records haven’t been compromised to manufacture a reality. What our eyes are still able to see, a really bad picture created by a government having four years of really bad days, tell us that we are in for trouble enough. If the picture is another Bu$hCo fake, look out.

Marie :: 10:51 PM :: Comments (11) :: TrackBack (0) :: Digg It!