To 'wag the dog' means to purposely divert attention from what would otherwise be of greater importance, to something else of lesser significance. By doing so, the lesser-significant event is catapulted into the limelight, drowning proper attention to what was originally the more important issue. The expression comes from the saying that 'a dog is smarter than its tail', but if the tail were smarter, then the tail would 'wag the dog'. The expression 'wag the dog' was elaborately used as theme of the movie. 'Wag the Dog', a 1997 film starring Robert de Niro and Dustin Hoffman.
Here’s a “far-out” opinion. But does it have merit? Let us contemplate both the timing and sequence of stunning events and possibilities, the ease with which they can and do change the channel of the fearful, forgetful American mind.
(Yep. This kind of thinking exposes another rabbit hole most of us would rather not fall through. Who knows what lies at the bottom of it? Is there any bottom? And BTW: according to this personal story, the suspected “Boston bombers” — and their mother — thought 9/11 was an inside job.)
April 19, 2013
by Paris Tosen
What if we could turn a bag of Tostitos into a kitten? Or what if we could swap one event for another event? Say we wanted to swap a nuclear missile launch with two bombs at a marathon. Pretty good trade. In order to do so we would need quite a bit of theatrical license. How about 10,000 police, Blackhawk helicopters, and SWAT?
The Boston Bombings, the worst terrorist attack on US soil since September 11, 2001, happened on Monday April 15, 2013 near the finish line of the annual Boston Marathon. It claimed several innocent lives, wounded nearly 200 people, and shook the confidence of America. President Obama made a speech. Homeland Security launched into action. The FBI, using images of the suspects from video captures, releases them to the public for their help on Thursday, April 18. A 15-hour manhunt starts.
By about 1 am that morning, the older suspect, Tamerlan Tsarnaev (26), is killed in a gun fight; 15 policemen are taken to the hospital as a result. The younger suspect, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev (19), escapes on foot. A few hours later they are identified as ethnic Chechen brothers. Ten thousand police, SWAT, Special Operation Forces, and the Bomb Squad hunt Dzhokhar through the night in Watertown and into Friday. They come close to capturing him, but even after several gun skirmishes the suspected bomber has eluded them all. The tension is high in America.
The brothers themselves are oddities. They thought they were invincible. Friends said they were normal kids. Their parents said they were framed and set up. After the attacks they made no attempt to escape Boston. One of them even returned to school the next day.
Millions of people are watching the minute-by-minute event. The people of Boston are on the edge of their seats. The entire city has been shut down, transportation is closed, schools are closed, and businesses are interrupted from their normal activities. It becomes a ghost town as the entire city of Boston became a crime scene. Every journalist makes the same comment, “I have never seen anything like this before.”
By Friday evening, April 19, after the largest manhunt ever for the two suspected Boston Marathon bombers, the last suspect, Dzhokhar, is captured by Boston Police to uproarious applause. The Boston Police are heroes.
On the surface, Bostonians have every right to celebrate the end of 5 days of fear and terror. But that is on the surface. What happened just days before the bombings is even more surprising. Four days ago on Thursday, April 11, a week before the manhunt started and days before the attacks, the Pentagon said that North Korea could deliver a nuclear warhead with a ballistic missile to an American target. The new leader Kim Jung Un, after several intense weeks of belligerence toward South Korea and America, was intent on testing his mobile ballistic missiles.
Its missile technologies were limited, as CNN’s Tom Foreman pointed out on television. North Korea’s threats were valid, but their missiles couldn’t fly the 5,500 miles to reach California. But there were 38,000 US troops in Japan, only 800 miles away and about 2,000 miles away, in Guam, there were 5,700 troops; both reachable targets.
It was only one year prior that Pyongyang defied the US and test-launched a missile, which fell apart in mid-air. By October 2012, North Korea insists that it has missiles that can reach the US mainland. It successfully launches a missile in December 2012 and then turns its attention to nuclear tests after the United Nations imposes new sanctions on North Korea.
Kim tests a nuclear bomb underground in February. By March 2013, no longer with a hypothetical situation, Kim threatens to launch a pre-emptive strike on America; it denounces the joint declaration on the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. President Obama responds with military exercises in the region and orders new missile defense systems to the region.
Kim threatens to attack the United States and South Korea. “The moment of explosion is approaching fast. No one can say a war will break out in Korea or not and whether it will break out today or tomorrow,” said the state-run media. Pyongyang’s tough rhetoric wasn’t taken lightly by the US. “It only takes being wrong once, and I don’t want to be the secretary of defense who was wrong once,” said Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. Days later, Congress, quoting from a new intelligence assessment, says that North Korea’s threats have merit; they have nuclear-capable missiles. On April 11, the state-run media says that what happens in the next few days depends on South Korea’s attitude.
But what happened in those next few days had nothing to do with Pyongyang and everything to do with two Chechen brothers and their pressure cooker bombs. What happened? Was this a real-life scene from the movie Wag the Dog?
In the 1997 black comedy classic, directed by Barry Levinson, a spin-doctor (played by Robert De Niro) creates a bogus war with Albania just days before a presidential election is upset by a sex scandal. Oddly, the release of the film coincided with Bill Clinton’s sex scandal with a 22-year-old Monica Lewinsky and political unrest in Albania that toppled the government. (And in the film a bag of Tostitos is digitally morphed into a kitten.)
Are we seeing the effects of a spin-doctor, working behind-the-scenes, at the Boston Marathon? Were the Boston Bombings a replica of a fake Albanian war in a Hollywood film that turned out not to be fake? Or is it just a coincidence that an imminent nuclear attack from North Korea, escalating for at least 12 months, documented and recorded by journalists and politicians, that this greater threat was replaced by a lesser threat?
In Wag the Dog, De Niro’s character, Conrad Brean, hires Stanley Motss (played by Dustin Hoffman), a real film producer, to fake enough footage about an Albanian story that will take away media attention from the scandal. Motss takes a lot of pride in his work and when he is not rewarded, because it’s all secret, Brean has him killed. The president is re-elected.
According to a CNN poll released on April 8, 2013, a week before the bombings, 41% of Americans considered North Korea an immediate threat to the US. And then, by April 15, as if by magic, the imminent thermonuclear war was gone. Whoosh! Oxy-clean away!
In the reality business, you cannot help but to see these remarkable events and how they are linked. What the Boston attacks clearly did, and it would be hard to argue because it is so blatant—and people already have forgotten about North Korea—is that they averted a giant military disaster. Or at least delayed it and in delaying it likely averted it. But if it too was false to begin with then it might be gone for a very long time. We might have seen one fake bombing avert a fake war.
But the truth is that none of these things are fake, and the term “fake” might be misleading, but these are certainly constructed events. Someone may have been constructing the nuclear missile threats from Pyongyang and then when that crossed the line that might have activated another spin-doctor to construct a smaller event, in just the right psychological dosage, hoping that the media (along with the public) would change the channel. Because that is basically what these spin-doctors did, they changed the channel. They swapped a greater evil for a lesser evil.
Before all that was the gun control issue. Heated debates. That’s gone. It was important and then it wasn’t. North Korea was important and then that too wasn’t. Then it was all about Boston and the two terror suspects and the entire city was shut down and there was the biggest manhunt in American history. All eyes were on Boston. And if they were on Boston they weren’t on North Korea.
Ask yourself this question: if Pyongyang was truly bent on launching a nuclear warhead against America or South Korea, as it clearly indicated, then why hasn’t it? And why did the rhetoric and threats stop all of a sudden after the bombings? The only answer is that Pyongyang was just another chess piece on the spin-doctor’s chessboard. And if the Boston attack was designed to harm people then why is the body count still quite low?
It is hard to think that one tragedy is better than another tragedy. I do not support tragedies. I do not cheer them on. But, if Boston averted a thermonuclear incident, and we don’t know for sure just yet, then it is certainly a better tragedy and much easier to clean up (radioactive fallout is pretty messy, I hear). Plus the attack at the Boston Marathon ended up inspiring America and strengthened its resilience.
This raises the question, are the people behind the Boston attacks evil? Who are they working for if they averted a potentially larger disaster? Are the two bombers just patsies who needed to serve a larger purpose? Did the leaders know that something would happen but also knew not to say anything?
I think the evidence is pretty solid. The Boston attacks changed the channel of discussion. And, I for one did not want to see a thermonuclear attack.
So, whoever you are, you spin-doctors, my hats off to you. But try not to cause any trouble that isn’t necessary. We are watching.