Signs of the Times
Semiotics is concerned with everything that can be taken as a sign. A sign is everything which can be taken as significantly substituting for something else...thus semiotics is in principle the discipline studying everything which can be used in order to lie. If something cannot be used to tell a lie, conversely it cannot be used to tell the truth: it cannot in fact be used "to tell" at all. - Umberto Eco, Theory of Semiotics
I think the only people entitled to be shocked by the commuting of Scooter Libby's sentence are those who were shocked that Libby was sentenced in the first place. Or rather, that it was a second-tier player like Libby and not Rove or Cheney who appeared trussed and basted as the suckling pig of Democrats' scandalously disappointing Fitzmas. It's those constantly incredulous types who deserve the saucepan eyes at Libby's predictable catch and release.
Even so, the Internet reaction is as rich as it is predictable, and ineffectual. Instead of America's streets, America's chatrooms are filled, because its citizens have been given them for the appearance of a commons, and clatter with indignant typing. But 10 million people posting We're not gonna take it anymore! isn't a revolution. It isn't even a Twisted Sister song.
That's the bad news. The good news is it's a Leonard Cohen song.
What hath Bush wrought? If nothing else, he's made semiotics everybody's business, whether everybody realizes it or not. Under the Bush years, the signs by which Americans and much of the Western world have lived have become so evidently estranged from what they allegedly signify that they now suggest little more than the lies told by Power to maintain itself. "Freedom," "democracy," "justice": Everybody knows. Among other things, Bush is the Deconstruction President.
In The Trickster and the Paranormal, George Hansen has this to say:
It is commonly assumed that there is a simple, objective correspondence between the signifier and the signified even thought they are separate entities. It is assumed that language is only a set of names for things, events, and concepts. These assumptions are incorrect, but few recognize the extent of the implications. This lies at the heart of deconstructionism, and magic.
There is power in the act of naming, because it imbues meaning to a thing - or to an event or a concept - that has no necessary correspondence to the thing itself. This was evident even on the morning of September 11, when the event of the attacks receded behind their purported meaning even as they were still under way. And then soon after, the breathless reporting of Bush's confirmation that this means war, albeit against an abstract noun which would nevertheless cost at least hundreds of thousands of actual lives.
[Carrying On, Tues PM:]
From the start there was an institutional incuriousness about the attacks, as there so often is when the institutions themselves benefit by them ("Blair rejects 7/7 inquiry calls"; "Putin rejects public Beslan inquiry"). Naturally any circle of high conspirators would be reluctant to have any light shed on the criminal events they enabled, but there's a far broader circle of reluctance, that partakes of the Power that is enabled by the meaning of the crime. That is, those who stood to benefit by 9/11 were not limited to the relatively small number of perpetrators within the institutions of public life, because the perpetrators themselves partook of the larger circle of institutional power. Much of corporate media, including "alternative" corporate media, became co-conspirators after the fact simply by habit, because they inhabit and thrive within that outer circle. To acknowledge the possibility of a high crime of the magnitude of Kennedy's assassination or 9/11 would be an invitation, not to gentle reform, but to revolution. And institutional power sends out such invitations only when it sees how it can come out on top again.
Event and meaning is also an issue for the 9/11 Movement, which unfortunately has come to mirror some of the White House's most dumbed-down Manichaeism. For the leaders and proponents of the "New Truth" movement, as with the evangelists of the "Official Story," meaning has almost entirely effaced event. For some, the actual crimes of hijacked aircraft striking buildings have vanished all together, and in their place has been substituted "controlled demolition" and something, anything other than Flight 77 striking the Pentagon. Why? Because the actual event is perceived as of insufficient significance to support the sign of "Inside Job."
But that's a failure of political language which doesn't know the nuance of parapolitics, and it is one which allows those inside, to one degree or another, to define our terms for us. What does "Inside Job" mean? It doesn't mean Executive Branch; it doesn't mean, as with other empty jargon, "Bush knew." I've written before that many who push 9/11 as an Inside Job want to push Osama right out of the picture, but bin Laden is himself inside the security-narcotics-terror nexus, composed of factions that interpenetrate one another, which sometimes compete and sometimes strike strategic alliances depending upon what advantages they believe they can gain. Peter Dale Scott recently quoted a Russian general, who said that "9/11 changed the direction of the world in the direction desired by transnational oligarchs and and an international mafia." Scott also said, and I agree, that "I find it very hard to believe that the Bush administration either let or made it happen. It's clear that people within government were involved, but we should avoid condemning an entire administration."
I'd ask any who take exception to my position or to Scott's remark to ponder the course of 9/11 justice after the Bush administration leaves office, while the statecraft of clandestine power which preceded it, remains.
And since its sixtieth anniversary has arrived, complete with the posthumously-unsealed affidavit of Walter Haut, let's consider the sign of Roswell and its significant overshadowing of modern UFOlogy.
What is the meaning of the Roswell story? As told through back channels like Haut (Roswell's former Public Information Officer), the likewise-deceased Lieutenant Colonel Philip Corso and Stephen Greer's "Disclosure Project," the meaning is not so much that aliens are here; it's that the aliens are here and we have them. The US military, according to its own covert stream of UFO disinformation, can shoot down alien craft, keep their dead occupants on ice, negotiate with their comrades and reverse-engineer their technology. The meaning of Roswell is not Fear them; it's Fear us.
The latest addition to the Roswell mythos may be the "dragonfly drones," about which Whitley Strieber recently gushed "I can only surmise that the appearance of the drones, and now the release of materials by Isaac, is a new step in the ongoing experiment that we call contact." (See also Linda Mouton Howe's "Earthfiles.") I was not impressed by the original photographs, and the subsequent materials strike me as a hoax in the tradition of UMMO and MJ-12. Whether the "drones" have official sanction or not, the hoaxers adopt and elaborate upon the sanctioned mythologies of Roswell and reverse engineering.
With respect to UFOs and matters of High Weirdness, my inclination is to give particular attention to the cases that frustrate analysis and appear to be absolute nonsense, because a phenomenon that is truly alien is unlikely to mimic human intelligence. In other words, I suppose, if there's to be weirdness, then bring on the weird. I'm less impressed by Roswell, however many deathbed confessions the military may produce, or "Isaac" and his scan of an alleged 1986 report from Palo Alto's supposed "CARET" ("Commercial Applications Research for Extraterrestrial Technology"), than I am by accounts from, say, a shaken Mexican policeman who claims he was chased by a flying humanoid; or by John Tasco who was approached one evening in 1957 by a pasty, bug-eyed dwarf in a green suit and a tam-o'-shanter cap who told him "We are peaceful people, we only want your dog." Such events are incursions of the truly alien upon our experience, and defy our attempts to infer meaning.
That's not to say hoaxes and disinformation can't be instructive. For instance, the Issac documents describing the alien tech. On the RI discussion board, "Attack Ships on Fire" points out how, "by drawing certain symbols on the CARET technology it somehow instills the means for the material to perform what the drawer wants." This is sigil magic, which returns us to the power of signs and of reading and meaning, and George Hansen's comparison of deconstructionism to occult science.
So, if the drones are a sanctioned hoax, the meaning it advances is Fear us; we too are sorcerers. And if it isn't, they may be anyway. But so may we, at least in the mundane sense of not adopting their meanings, which empower them, as our own, which disempower us.