There isn’t much you can do to fill your time when you’re in too much pain to concentrate, and barely able to sit up on your own. So far I’ve filled mine by re-watching Game of Thrones. If you know the show please continue on, but if you don’t, you might as well stop here. With my present level of discomfort I’m disinclined to explain the notoriously complex backstory.
I noticed a parallel we have with the common folk in that show. Like them, we get our news of the world from actors. In season six some time is spent focused on the story of what they call “the war of 5 kings”, being reenacted for the people by a troop of actors who cross paths with one of the characters.
And it’s an interesting narrative they tell. In the actor’s story of the war, Ned Stark is a mercenary idiot, Tyrion Lannister is a soul-less, grasping villain, Tywin Lannister is a befuddled and tragic victim, Sansa Stark a virtue-less whore, and Cersei and Joffre Lannister are described only as the noble and faithful victims of villainy by all the others.
Obviously as TV viewers, we see the events of the land of Westeros quite differently. In the version of the story that we get, the people depicted in the actor’s narrative as heroes were all villains and the villains all heroes. Joffre was a vicious and cowardly weasel who took his nasty pleasure from torturing the weakest around him and his profoundly psychotic mother Cersei is correctly described as “the queen of madness”. Sansa was a virgin until she was raped by a minor character much later in the story, Tywin was the heartless and brutal patriarch of his clan, and Ned Stark and Tyrion both are admired for the noble and more or less honorable way they suffered the shameless wickedness, cruelty and lies of the others.
So how did the players in the story get it so wrong? How did they come by this narrative which isn’t a minor departure from the truth, but a stunningly accurate repudiation of it in every way? The answer is that they did it on purpose. Players in Westeros and 21st century America both, aren’t rewarded for telling the truth, they are rewarded for telling those in power, the story they want to hear.
One of the most powerful things about a purely subjective worldview is that in our own minds we all think we’re the heroes, even the worst of us. Hillary Clinton is a prominent example. After rising to public prominence as the wife of our most powerful living philanderer, she has staggered and stumbled from incompetence to careless disregard, leaving a trail of felonious wreckage in her wake. But when she looks in the mirror she doesn’t see the trail of dead bodies and misery for which she has at least some small responsibly, she see’s a noble long suffering hero of the people and champion of women. That she utterly despises those common people she means to rule over, is seen by her as a problem with them not a problem with her.
But our players in 21st century America, like the ones in Westeros, know where their bread is buttered. They know that powerful people like Hillary only want to hear stories where they are depicted in the same light that they see themselves in. Our players know that if they contradict the narrative of the powerful, there won’t be any cloaked swordsmen who show up in the night to murder them, but there will be other things. Their careers will be ruined and their access to the powerful limited forever. So they are no more interested in ‘the truth’ than their “Game of Thrones” peers. All they want to know, is what they’re supposed to know, and they have no intention of letting the facts get in the way of that.
I was just thinking about one of our better known actors, Anderson Cooper. He’s a gay man who lives in the west village and plays the part of an expert in current events on TV. In the last debate he all but accused Trump of promoting sexual assault, but what does a gay man know about the sexual assault of women? The best guess is very little. But he knows how to keep a secret. He knows how to tell a story. He knows how to tell a lie so that the lie seems more believable than the truth.
These are the skills he’s no doubt used to work his way to the top of the ladder in the acting business. But now that he’s there, he has one specific skill he relies on more than all the others. He knows how to ingratiate himself to the powerful. He knows that the Clinton machine’s vindictiveness knows no bounds, and he knows how his bread is buttered. He doesn’t care at all about whether what Trump did or didn’t do met the burden of sexual assault. He has no idea if the women involved were flattered, offended, or made the whole thing up out of whole cloth. He only knows that Hillary Clinton and the ruling Democrat machine cares how that story is told, so he’s going to make sure he has all the right heroes and victims before hand.
The rest of the media are all the same – either climbing the hill upon which Anderson Cooper sits, or sitting there beside him. They can see how the elite want the story of modern America told. They won’t risk the wrath of their leaders by contradicting them.
Meanwhile in the fictional land of Westeros, a violent uprising is growing. The deplorable wildlings from beyond the wall (with their obsession about freedom) are joining the fight, as are the gaggle of unwashed savages and fanatics of the eastern lands, unified under the dragon banner of the most popular character in the show. When season 6 ended she was finally sailing off to begin her attack on the crown.
I wonder what the players in Braavos will be saying about that? My bet is that they wait until they see who’s in charge at the end before they write that part of the story.
The funny thing about our ‘press’ is that they want to believe they’re all heroes too. They see themselves as afflicting the comfortable and comforting the afflicted. They call themselves the insightful and thoughtful critics of the modern world, telling all we unwashed deplorables how things should be rather than how they actually are. They don’t see their own villainy, or how complicit they are in maintaining the villains in power. And if they have to believe a lie or two in order to continue to be the heroes of their personal story, that’s a small price to pay.