Preeminent American wit, H.L. Mencken, had no idea how right he was. The "Sage of Baltimore" died half-a-century ago, but only had he lived to see the Jewish state's latest shenanigans could he have begun to fathom how absolutely on the mark he was to observe that "no one has ever gone broke by underestimating the intelligence of the great masses of plain people."
Israel's plain people still lend their ears attentively to the analyses and opinions liberally purveyed by politicians who market timidity as prudence, prattling generals, self-glorified security-experts and a host of media-pundits sincerely impressed with the sounds of their voices. All the above rarely pass up the opportunity to get it outrageously wrong.
Yet when their egregious blunders regularly blow up in the plain people's face, these same plain people tune in to the talking-heads' repeat performances and indeed confer renewed credibility on their recurring jibber-jabber.
It's less than a year since banners and bumper-stickers everywhere alerted the plain people to disengagement's dangers. "Whoever flees from Gaza will be pursued by Gaza," these proclaimed. But the plain people were told to disregard such warnings because they came from the "enemies of peace," those loony Rightists who wanted to deprive folks of the Good Life.
Retreating from Gaza and expelling 9,000 hard-working Jews will vastly improve our strategic situation, the people were assured. Escapism was too enticing to resist.
Moreover, salesmen of snake-oil to the masses and their arrogant mouthpieces spared no effort to delegitimize and demonize anyone who tried to draw attention to the fraud. Mind you, this was nothing new. It was a tactic first used to great advantage by Yitzhak Rabin, the man who fell for and facilitated Oslo, triggering Israel's since-inexorable downward slide.
On the first anniversary of Gaza's handover, Rabin cockily excoriated what he dubbed as "the Likud's scare stories. They promised us Katyushas from Gaza. It's been a year already that Gaza is mostly under Palestinian Authority control, and there haven't been any Katyushas and there won't be anyâ€¦The Likud is simply frightened to death of peace, and this is the reason it's reacting in a truly childish manner."
This mild appetizer was followed up by more pungent and acerbic offerings like calling Oslo critics "Hamas collaborators."
The neo-Rabinite cheerleading chorus, dominating the airwaves and drowning out any dissonant overtones, had since made this perception the common wisdom. Anyone who heretically thinks otherwise is excommunicated from sacrosanct consensus.
Typically, though, when things didn't go as the know-it-alls prescribed, it was never their fault. Take Haaretz's court columnist to the powers-that-be, Yoel Marcus. On September 28, 2001 - a year after the Israel's peace-partner and Nobel peace-prize laureate launched his bloody intifada - Marcus had the temerity to write that "few among us correctly gauged Arafat, his character, abilities and intentionsâ€¦Nobody could foresee that the weapons we handed him would be turned against us, along with lethal terror and mortar fire."
Did his-master's-voice incredibly manage never to encounter a single bumper sticker bearing the slogan: "Don't give them guns"? How intellectually dishonest can one get? Why not write a mea-culpa instead of the outright lie that "nobody could foresee"? People did foresee, but were disdainfully denigrated by him and his like.
IN TIME Marcus became Sharon's confidant, disengagement's ardent booster and unofficial spokesman. This renders his updated cop-out all the more galling. "Escalated shelling of Israeli territory," he recently asserted, "was the last thing which Israel's peace-seekers expected with the beginning of the end of occupation and the parting from the Land of Israel dream."
Really? Did "peace-seekers" truly not expect Gazan aggression? They obviously didn't listen to those of us who did expect it and didn't stop shouting so, despite all the abuse that earned us. With relentless haughtiness they dismissed us as pesky nuisances at best, if not villainous antagonists of democracy and enlightenment. Now with colossal intellectual duplicity they dare pretend that Gaza's war is a bolt-from-the-blue.
The flipside of the peace-seekers' expedient sensory deprivation is the admission that their self-acclaimed omniscience is worthless. They obviously can predict nothing accurately, which should generate a great outcry from the plain people for an apology and acknowledgement of inadequacy. But instead of contrition we get more kibitzing.
The demolition of disengagement's premise led only to limited introspection like that of Yaron London, who with uncommon candor wrote that "we must own up that the warnings of disengagement's opponents were validated. Disengagement didn't reduce the intensity of conflict, and despite ourselves we are forced to dispatch our army to the sites it abandoned."
With well-honed verbal scalpels, avowedly leftist London surgically exposes layer after layer of misguided assumptions that uncooperative reality discredited.
But London's challenge to leftist orthodoxy is so far unique and perhaps a one-off indiscretion which - considering the flack he got - he may well yet come to rue.
His peers continue to congratulate themselves as unerring clairvoyants and all-wise specialists. They fill newspaper inches and crowd every broadcast studio to pompously pontificate on the nuances which distinguish Khaled Mashaal from Ismail Haniyeh, advocate that we enter into a dialogue with the better-terrorist and fortify the roofs of Ashkelon because we can't win militarily. They know best. Their remarkable record shows it.
Hence the plain people - in Mencken's words with "yearnings to be instructed, edified and pulled by the nose" - mindlessly lend an ear to the supercilious babble. Too bad they're ignorant of his admonition that "no trumpeting of falsehood, no matter how virtuous in intent, can be anything but vicious."