Thursday, September 2, 2010

Chapter Three

Chapter one introduced us to our hero, Noah Gardner. Chapter gave him a sidekick, Molly Ross. With chapter three comes our story's villain.

Arthur Isaiah Gardner: World's greatest PR man, head of Doyle & Merchant (the world's greatest PR firm, duh), Noah's father, atheist, mastermind behind the new order of things: The Great and Powerful Oz.

Like Noah, Arthur isn't described physically. We are again to presume he's white, since that's assuredly the default for Beck. He's seventy-four and silvery voiced and has a "taste for blood." Figuratively speaking, of course. Or not. Thanks to Joe Mande, Arthur Gardner is cemented in my mind as being portrayed by Jon Voight. (See image below.) So every time he speaks, and he speaks a lot, it's like watching Anaconda, or National Treasure 2: The Legend of Curly's Gold, but not as cleverly written.

I haven't quite got my head wrapped around Arthur Gardner. He spends the bulk of chapter three pontificating and speechifying. Part of what he espouses is Beck brand neocon nonsense: hatred of: Social Security, government debt, corporate bailouts. But Gardner's solution is to replace the U.S. government with his own system: "a new framework that will survive when the decaying remains of the failed United States have been washed away in the coming storm." And while Beck hates Social Security, government debt, corporate bailouts, his solution is "Restoring Honor."

Chapter three opens with Arthur Gardner reading a classified memo titled "Constitutionalists, Extremism, the Militia Movement, and the Growing Threat of Domestic Terrorism." The memo lists groups of fringe elements that the government needs to keep an eye on. Mostly Beck's target audience: "Militant anti-abortion or 'pro-life' organizers, anti-immigration, border defenders, 'Tea Parties', third-party political campaigns, Libertarian Party, Constitution Party, tax resisters, 'End the Fed' proponents, gun rights activists." Then some more ... frightening ... elements are thrown in. "Christian Identity, White Nationalists, American Nazi Party, Holocaust denier, hate radio/TV/Web/print."

It's almost clever. See what's he's done here? He's lumped in his own audience with the more dangerous elements on the right and tied it all in with "hate radio." It is designed to appeal to Beck's audience's sense of persecution. The government is out to get them, as they see it, and this plays right into their paranoia: Those in charge hate the right, from the "pro-lifer" to the Nazi, they're all the same. That's probably the most insidious part. It's that sameness in the minds of the cons that normalizes and mainstreams those dangerous elements. If the government hates them all the same, then maybe the American Nazi Party is no more dangerous than the average "pro-lifer."

There follows a bit on the "detention / rendition / interrogation / prosecution" of these elements:

With U.S. citizens suddenly in the news in the place of al-Qaeda terrorists, some level of psychological resistance must be anticipated and then defused when it arises. It is the opinion of the committee that such a reflexive populist reaction would prove to be a major obstacle to progress. In fact, absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event (on the order of a Pearl Harbor / 9/11 attack), there is a potential that the government's reasonable actions in this critical area may be met with significant public outrage and even active sympathy and misguided support for these treasonous/seditious elements and their hate-based objectives.

Gardner throws the report aside and addresses his newest client. A government stooge named Purcell, who's hired Doyle & Merchant to fix the PR nightmare that is the leaked memo, due to hit the front page of tomorrow's Washington Post.

Much to Purcell's surprise, Noah's already got the memo blamed on an "overzealous local bureaucracy." Like Molly said, PR people just lie.

All of this leads to ten-odd pages of Gardner addressing the guests in his conference room. It's far too long, but kind of fun to imagine Jon Voight delivering it on-screen. I mean, that beats just reading it straight. (How long until ABC puts The Overton Window miniseries into production, you think?) Gardner tells how the 2004 tsunami ruined his Sri Lankan vacation, all if which he use as analogy for the destruction of the U.S. He also tells of how he was the guy who invented bottled water. His greatest PR scheme, conning folks into buying water in plastic bottles instead of drinking it relatively free of charge from the tap. All the while he rails on about the ills of the U.S. government's overspending. Highlights below:

Bear Stearns, a cornerstone firm of Wall Street founded when my father was a young man, a company whose stock had quite recently been selling at a hundred and sixty dollars a share, was bailed out by the Federal Reserve and J.P. Morgan at two dollars per share. That was the beginning, my friends.

We are in the midst of what will become the most devastating financial calamity in the history of Western civilization, and just this week—please do correct me if my figures are wrong—the Congress and the administration have committed to funnel almost eight trillion dollars to the very institutions that engineered the crisis.

Over the last century you've saddled your hapless citizens with a hundred thousand billion dollars in unsecured debt, money they'll be paying back for fifty generations if there are still any jobs to be had by then. Meanwhile you're up to your necks in misguided, escalating wars on two unforgiving fronts with no sign of the end. That's trillions more in unpayable IOUs.

For heaven's sake, you nationalized General Motors just to get your union friends off the hook. As you know, those union pensions you just took over are severely underfunded, adding another seventeen billion dollars to your tab. Seventeen billion, I might add, that you don't have.

Just to stay afloat the government is borrowing five billion dollars every day at ever-rising interest rates from our fair-weather friends in Asia. Sooner or later the truth will be undeniable, that these massive debts can never be repaid, and there'll be a panic, a worldwide run against the dollar, and through your actions you've ensured that the results will be fatal and irreversible.

And all this will lead to the collapse of the U.S.

But that's okay. Gardner has a plan. He also has a Powerpoint presentation. And some hand-outs. (Which I guess is what Churchill got his hands on in the prologue.)

"Because we must, we will finally complete what they envisioned: a new framework that will survive when the decaying remains of the failed United States have been washed away in the coming storm. Within this framework the nation will reemerge from the rubble, reborn to finally take its rightful, humble place within the world community. And you," he said, looking around the table, "will all be there to lead it."

A hand went up on the far side, a question from the senior member of the party, who'd so far only listened in silence.

"Mr. Gardner," the man said. "What about the public?"

"What about them? The public has lost their courage to believe. They've given up their ability to think. They can no longer even form opinions, they absorb their opinions, sitting slack-jawed in front of their televisions. Their thoughts are manufactured by people like me. What about the public? There's a double-edged sword by which the public can be sold anything, from a three-dollar bottle of tap water to a full-scale war."

And not only does Gardner have a plan, it's gonna be easy to implement:

"The misguided resistance that still exists will be put down in one swift blow. There'll be no revolution, only a brief, if somewhat shocking, leap forward in social evolution. We'll restore the natural order of things, and then there will be only peace and acceptance among the masses." He smiled. "Before we're done they'll be lining up to gladly pay a tax on the very air that they breathe."

Kind of scary, huh? No, not Gardner's plan, but Beck's audience, who believe this. This reads less like a cautionary tale, and more like a call to arms. "The misguided resistance that still exists will be put down in one swift blow." I fear, the only solution, in the eyes of Beck, is a preemptive strike.


  1. "His greatest PR scheme, conning folks into buying water in plastic bottles instead of drinking it relatively free of charge from the tap."

    But hey, that's just free enterprise, right? Something you'd think a good little libertarian would support. Not like depending on the socialist government-provided tap water!

  2. oh, totally. free-enterprise, bootstraps, blah blah blah. or something. i really don't get this arthur character at all. he seems to embody beck's ideas, but he's also the villain trying to establish the NWO. weird.

  3. Skipping over the brain-breaking politics (like how Gardner is the bad guy why he fits Beck's ideas), is Mega PR located in the middle of the Mohave with the mysterious pay phone? Because if they're not, that prologue makes even less sense.

    Not that anything in the book has made sense yet.

  4. Oh, good god, why didn't Eli just email the damn powerpoint presentation to Beverly?? What kind of damning proof could he deliver over a pay phone in the middle of the mojave that would lead to any prosecutable action? Ouch, my brain!

  5. I got distracted by outside affairs midway through this post and came back later, thus coming under the assumption that this plan of destroying the country and then ruling what blooms out of the ashes was the Beckite plan. Because it sounds like something they'd want to do, Rapture-esque.