The herd responds to "A Nation of Scared Sheep," by Louise Witt.

By Salon Staff
Published July 12, 2003 1:11AM (EDT)

[Read the story.]

The editorial by Louise Witt was interesting and thorough. It makes the case that our president glibly spoke lie after lie in his attempt to demonize the Iraqi people and to make a case for our attack on Iraq. As we know now, there were no WMD, or at least none of the dimension we were told.

Our easy acceptance of this is both cynical and frightening.

-- Jim Jacobson

I think there is another uniquely American reason that we, as a nation, are prone to accepting what we are told by our government. We have faith that because we have the Constitution and the morality it allegedly contains, we -- and, by extension, our government -- are righteous in the vast majority of what we do domestically and internationally.

But the Constitution was written by a group of people who were breaking free from a tyrannical government, who had seen how that government exploited its power over its own citizens, and who were therefore trying to create a system of government in which the citizens had the power to stop such exploitation.

One very important and very much overlooked purpose of our Constitution is to protect us from our own government. People in power -- whoever they are, wherever they come from, whatever they say -- are easily corrupted by it. And that holds as true for our government as for any other throughout history.

-- Mark Unterberger

Every person in this country should be made to read Ms. Witt's article. It perfectly captures what's happening in this country with a conciseness missing from mainstream journalism. Her psychological analysis, including the widespread phenomenon of the "confirmation bias," is dead on.

Salon's content is always excellent, but this is something special. I wish there were some way to get this out more. Congratulations to Ms. Witt and to Salon for this piece.

-- Daniel Sachar

Louise Witt's editorial is petulant, elitist and inaccurate. She attributes Americans' perceived tolerance of Bush's "lies" to their "bipolar" views of deceit. She misses two points.

First, no evidence yet proves that Bush deliberately lied. Second, America lacks a courageous opposition able to offer its citizens a stark and articulate contrast to Bush. It is cowed Democrats who are the scared sheep.

-- Mark Holland

Whether we find WMD in Iraq or not is irrelevant to the justification of the war. A decade ago, Iraq's stockpiles of WMD were cataloged. Since then, the onus has always been on Iraq to show the U.N. inspectors that this list of weapons had been destroyed.

Political rhetoric aside, the war was launched because Saddam ignored an ultimatum to cooperate with the inspectors; when you make an ultimatum, you have to back it up. The just cause of this war is based on the intentions of our leaders to ensure disarmament, and to maintain the credibility of international mandates that matter -- not whether Saddam dumped his anthrax cultures down the kitchen sink or buried his VX shells in the desert before tanks rolled into Baghdad.

-- Franz Fuchs

Good article, but I can't believe people still don't understand why the Clinton scandal was so offensive to Middle America. Clinton (and Nixon before him) lied simply to cover his own butt. America is far more willing to forgive lies from people it believes are trying to do something in the best interest of the nation. If Witt or Salon eventually succeeds in convincing Middle America that Bush lied for himself rather than for the nation, then a discussion like Witt's will have some traction.

-- Carl Morris

I believe Bill Maher said something like this in one of his shows:

"The real axis of evil is where the stupidity of the American people meets our amazing marketing ability."

OK, stupidity is a strong word. Let's call it "intellectual lethargy." The media is largely to blame. They have an agenda and are leading the people, because people are sheep, scared or not.

Before 9/11, I asked two acquaintances, both middle class and educated, why they voted for Bush. One claimed she voted for him because he was not a millionaire and Gore was a spoiled rich guy. (I believe the opposite is true). And the other brought up the moral "trashing" of the White House.

Yes, people can be led, but the Republicans have figured out what forms of persuasion work best in this media-saturated era, and they use them without shame -- with a little help from their rich friends, of course.

-- Dorothy Nixon

The Goering quote appears right on target about scaring a population into compliance. But at what point do we as a nation realize that with our heads in the sand, we are being screwed by our own government? I can understand being in shock and fear for a few months after 9/11, but that should pass. When do we start using the more developed portions of our brains to analyze the news, and realize that we are being lied to again?

I think Bush is getting a pass from the media, not the American public. The old rhetoric about there being a "liberal bias" in the media is hogwash. That only serves some right-wing agenda.

There are people in America who have an important message to get across: Americans should be listening to terrorism analyst Craig B. Hulet, former U.N. weapons inspector Scott Ritter, and filmmaker Michael Moore. Their messages have been covered oh-so-sparingly in the mass media, even as they've been labeled as crackpots or traitors. It's a disservice to the country to malign their voices.

If we must compare apples and oranges, Bush gets the teflon pass because his issues "seem" complicated. Clinton didn't get a pass because his big issue was easy to comprehend, and it was lurid and seamy. And in his case, it was easy to point an accusatory finger at the culprits. Bush, on the other hand, has a whole team of potential fall guys when things start to fall apart. He's already doing it: "Oh, that pesky intelligence just wasn't up to snuff. We based our conclusions on erroneous information."

Where does the buck stop? Not in this Oval Office.

-- Scott Boyer

Winston Churchill said: "In war time, truth is so precious that she should always be attended by a bodyguard of lies."

Perhaps the Bush administration is merely applying this concept in a novel manner.

-- Richard Hokin

Salon Staff

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