There are few writers who pay more attention to the political follies of our time and who provide their readers with more meticulously documented reasons to be outraged than James Bovard, whose new book, Attention Deficit Democracy, presents his diagnosis of what is so terribly wrong with modern American democracy…
A partisan of neither major party, only of liberty, Bovard sums up the lies surrounding Clinton’s Kosovo war of the late 1990s. Clinton and his cabal called the terroristic Kosovo Liberation Army “freedom fighters”; distorted the history of the region and exaggerated the Balkans’ threat to the world; cried “genocide” when in fact the killings were far fewer in number than what was suggested; lied about the precision of the NATO bombing campaign; and disingenuously told the Serbian people that they would be protected by the United States when peace broke out. Bovard also takes issue with what Clinton’s “aides labeled the Clinton doctrine” — which the author says boils down to the principle “that the U.S. government is allowed to attack foreign nations on false charges.”
As a helpful reminder that today’s Republican administration is guilty of repeated deception, Bovard lays out the case plainly, citing the shameless lies of such officials as Condoleezza Rice and Dick Cheney. The book’s focus on Clinton and Bush alike reminds us that wartime deception cannot be addressed by simply switching the party that occupies the White House.
We have come to the point where Americans, confident that their democratic rulers will behave virtuously, have empowered Leviathan and granted their rulers a de facto “right to lie for 72 hours.” “As long as the lies are not exposed in the same news cycle,” Bovard explains, “the refutations may as well be done in a different century.” The political establishment tells as many lies as it wants because the people have come down with a bad case of attention deficit democracy; they forget what it was that got them riled up and so supportive of the president’s new power grab or military invasion only days after it happened and the lies have been refuted.
Attention Deficit Democracy is an indictment of the modern American democratic state. It is an indictment of the American people, who have lost interest in the sweeping and dangerous powers their rulers have grabbed and abused in recent history, especially since 9/11 but also going back many years before that. Following in the tradition of his other books, Bovard carefully documents hundreds of instances of government wrongdoing and deceit in domestic and foreign policy. But more than in his other recent works, he draws on history and on sociological insights to form his diagnosis of the general affliction in modern America. The book shows that the problem is nonpartisan and deeply seated in American culture and will not be likely to reverse simply when another man moves into the Oval Office. Things must considerably change for our democratic government to stop ravaging the freedoms it is supposed to guard. The American people must reclaim their libertarian heritage, and understand liberty and the limits and dangers of government power, even when brandished by a popularly elected power elite. They must start paying attention, and thus start being more outraged. Reading Attention Deficit Democracy is a perfect place to start.