The “Chutes & Ladders” Effect

We all remember the childhood game “Chutes & Ladders”. You know, the Milton Bradley board game of up’s and down’s. Count off as you race your character from square 1 to square 100. Finished with your chores? Good job, you can move ahead 21 spaces. Got caught with your hand in the cookie jar? Then it’s down the chute and back 63 spaces for you! Chutes & Ladders was a simple game that was easy to play, even when we were still learning to read. In going up the ladders and down the chutes, children learned with pictures the rewards of good deeds and the consequences of naughty ones.

Now there is a grownup version of this childhood favorite, featuring words instead of pictures along with an all-new game board and all new characters for 2002. As adult players we have learned to read, write and, in many cases, even speak with a degree of intelligence. Those of us who may not be able to speak intelligently have learned to surround ourselves with people who can, so now just about everybody can get in on the fun. Well, I call this new 2002 adult version of the classic Milton Bradley game the “Chutes & Ladders” Effect. You know, the media and mainstream manipulation game of political up’s and down’s. Count off as you race your politician or world leader from square 1 to square 100. Steal an election? Good job, you can move ahead 17 spaces. Get caught covering up your involvement in the Enron debacle? Have you been labeled as an “irrelevant” Palestinian leader? Then it’s down the chute and back 44 spaces for you! The “Chutes & Ladders” Effect is a simple game that we can all learn to play, even when we are still learning to THINK. In going up the ladders and down the chutes, politicians along with elected officials, media show host and world leaders learn through wordplay and rhetorical maneuvering the rewards of dancing around truth on important issues and the consequences of telling too much of what you really know. It’s quite simple. Move your game piece in search of big budget increases, military campaigns in Iraq or biased foreign policy objectives and you may just get to climb up a ladder or two. Move your game piece in search of a closer representation of facts as it relates to a set of “controversial” circumstances and eventually you will be pushed down a chute landing in that area designated by labels such as “extreme”, “radical”, “fanatical” or even “anti-Semitic”. These labels, when used effectively can make the average mainstream player uncomfortable with what you have to say or what you believe in. This means that eventually nobody will be willing to listen to you or believe anything you have to say. It is kind of like to being sent to jail if we were playing the board game Monopoly. You know, “DO NOT PASS GO!! DO NOT COLLECT $200!!!” But let’s keep it simpleé “Chutes & Ladders” is our game and if we are fortunate and skilled enough to maneuver our way around the game board without taking too many long slides down, perhaps there is a chance we can gain a better understanding of the political wordplay associated with the Arab/Israeli conflict and the “War on Terrorism”.

Since I last submitted my perspective on the crisis in the Middle East and the Bush Administrations “War on Terrorism” I have been pushed down the long slippery slide of rhetorical maneuvering only to land smack dab in the pool designated for extremist. For example, after reading my first submission many of my friends and family members said they learned things they did not know, but I was presenting a perspective that was a little too far to the left for them to accept. This has led me to ponder over a few possible conclusions. Many of us are often uncomfortable with the truth or the possibility of uncovering truth, especially when it forces us to reexamine things we have become accustomed to hearing and believing. Additionally, the farther we are removed from a situation the easier it is to accept falsehoods or blatantly biased policies and reporting. More importantly, there are many people in powerful positions and high places that realize this and take full advantage of it. Remember, our game is not about uncovering truth. We are trying to master the art of maneuvering around the truth. If there are people working towards discovering, uncovering or passing on factual information that could possibly lead to shedding new light on a specific event, we must learn to effectively counter such actions while still dancing around the truth. In other words, we have to learn to push such troublemakers down a chute before they uncover too many facts. Over the years the most effective game plan has been to dismiss such truth seekers and what they have to say as “radical”, “controversial” or “counter-productive”. This has proven to be the best strategy for world leaders, politicians and media correspondents. The application of such labels to information which may just involve a little bit of truth is a valuable lesson for us to learn and perhaps the most important strategy for us to master if we are to advance in our game of “Chutes & Ladders”. For one to be branded with such labels is the first step towards taking a slide down the chute. So this leads us to the “up-side” of the equation. Where there is a way to slide down, there must be a way to climb up. If we learn to tag our enemies with these labels, we can push them down a chute or two. Then we can make our way up the ladder. If we modify our vocabulary to include such labels and master this game strategy it is possible for one to climb up to a position that is amazingly above suspicion, investigation, indictment, negative press, political scrutiny, international monitoring or international law. Thus we have the up side of The “Chutes and Ladders” Effect and the ultimate objective of the game. To better comprehend the use of such a strategy, we need only examine a few chapters of recent history since the horrifying attacks of September 11th 2001. Thanks to a united and determined effort to hunt down Osama Bin Laden, the Bush Administration no longer has to deal with questions concerning illegitimacy. George Jr. and his top officials now feel 100% legitimate and maneuver with the same swagger and arrogance he was famous for while traveling around the country with his “Pre-Presidential” entourage raising bags of money for his campaign. They feel powerful enough to take bold new steps around the “Chutes & Ladders” game board with no apparent fear or concern when it comes to the possibility of being pushed into taking a slide down a chute. George Jr., with the assistance of his top aides, is learning to push his adversaries down slide after slide and use the momentum to climb up one ladder after another. Our good friends in Israel have also mastered such techniques. Similar game plans have always been very useful tools for politicians, world leaders or the media, but nowadays if we simply watch the news, listen to the radio or read the paper we are bombarded with newfound applications and mastery of these principles. Even the most basic common sense questions are easily manipulated with the simple application of this “Chutes & Ladders” Effect game strategy, which has it’s effectiveness increased exponentially when we use it in conjunction with many of the rhetorical scare tactics associated with the “War on Terror”. We now have countless new clichés to use as a part of our “Chutes & Ladders” game strategy. You know, new sayings such as “Since September 11th EVERYTHING HAS CHANGEDé” or “Our cause IS JUST”, “Either you are with us or against us” and of course my two favoritesé “This war has no clear end in sight” and “Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East”. The list of these clichés gets longer every day. Such clichés are designed as new ways to keep many of the facts buried and out of mainstream eyes and ears. Brilliant game strategy if I do say so myself. Perhaps if we take the time, we can also learn how to master these rhetorical principles of persuasion or, at the very least, see through them. Let’s give it a try, shall we?

In this exercise we will attempt to apply the basic principles associated with our “Chutes & Ladders” Effect game strategy and the “War on Terror” rhetoric to the many questions people around the world have about the destruction in the Palestinian city of Jenin. Let’s start with a little bit of background information. The Israeli Defense Force (IDF) moved into Jenin in a “defensive”, “counter-terrorism” operation designed to root out terrorist cells responsible for sending suicide bombers into Israel to kill innocent civilians. They were met with resistance from local townspeople who were determined to counter any incursion on their sovereignty. This sounds a whole lot like a concept know as self-defense to me, but the invading forces always seem to see things a little different. In the days to follow, a number of Palestinians suspected of terrorist activity were arrested, hundreds of Palestinian civilians were unaccounted for and the entire city was destroyed. Not just a few street blocks. Not a neighborhood or two, but the ENTIRE CITY. The Palestinian authority, accusing the IDF of a massacre of civilians, asked for a United Nations probe into the situation to determine whether the IDF was guilty of atrocities against humanity. What takes place next is nothing short of a brilliant use of our “Chutes & Ladder” Effect game strategy and “War on Terror” rhetoricé Let’s examine things a bit closer.

In a skillfully vague effort Israeli Foreign Minister Shemon Perez and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon recognized that the slightest slip of the tongue could lead to Kofi Annon and the United Nations snooping around the rubble that was once Jenin. They made sure to always use the words “defensive” and “anti-terrorist” when describing IDF operations that were clearly offensive. Additionally, after declaring how open Israel was to an investigation, Perez added that no U.N. investigative team would be acceptable unless it included personnel schooled in “anti-terrorist” military operations and approved by the Israeli government. Why? It does not take specially trained military personnel to recognize that a whole city was destroyed and that hundreds of civilians are missing? The Israeli army has not even allowed recovery teams from the U.N. and other worldwide relief organizations to come in and search for the bodies of missing people possibly buried beneath the rubble of what was once Jenin. Since the United Nations could not satisfy Israel’s prerequisites, Mr. Annon and his efforts were sent sliding down chute. Because Mr. Annon could not count on any support from the United States to encourage the Israeli government to allow the United Nations in to investigate, we may never get any kind of explanation for the missing segment of the Palestinian population in Jenin. The Israeli government, while openly declaring there was nothing to hide, had everything to hide from the world. While stating that they were open to a United Nations investigation into what happened in Jenin, there was never any intention of allowing Mr. Annon in to search the rubble for clues. By constantly reminding the world that the Israeli people have a right to defend themselves against Terrorist, just like the United States, an investigation into the disappearance of a couple hundred Palestinians may never be conducted. Why? Because the association of Israeli actions with the Bush Administrations “War on Terror” is a reminder of how we must do all we can to prevent a repeat of September 11th and how the world must fight to eradicate terrorism. To question Israeli actions any further would be like questioning United States in it’s bombing campaign in Afghanistan. Remember, “Either you are WITH US or AGAINST US”. If you are against us, then you must support the terrorist. Sharon and Perez were skillfully vague with every statement they issued concerning Jenin and made every word count as they borrowed from the vocabulary of George Jr. We all know limitations of drawing on a loan from that bank, so they had to make it count.

Throughout the course of history it has always been relatively easy to massacre innocent civilians under the dreary clouds of war, then create vague explanations to explain what must have happened. Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Foreign Minister Shemon Perez are obviously students of history. The recent Israeli Defense Force (IDF) operations in Palestinian controlled territories have been a subject of international controversy and disgust. Perez claims that the operations are not punitive in nature and have been purely based on defensive strategies to protect innocent Israeli citizens from terror attacks. The IDF strategy? Go into Palestinian controlled territories and wipe out terrorist capabilities and destroy terrorist networks before they can send more suicide bombers into Israel. Here is the good part. Perez, Sharon and Israeli officials justify IDF actions based the operations of the U.S. military in Afghanistan. America took the necessary steps to dismantle terror networks in Afghanistan and Israel is simply following our lead by doing the same thing in Palestinian controlled territory. America bombed civilian Afghan cities and killed who knows how many people in the process, so the IDF must act in a similar capacity to destroy the complex terrorist networks that, in all likelihood, have infiltrated every household in the city of Jenin. Now after the three most recent suicide bombings on innocent Israeli civilians, Sharon and Perez have their troops ready to go back into Jenin in an operation that was drawn up before the latest terror attacks. Basically, they are on a mission to terrorize, humiliate, dehumanize and even kill innocent Palestinians. Remember, THE WORLD MUST STAND UNITED AGAINST TERRORIST. Up the ladder they go with an added boost from the Bush Administration’s “War on Terror” rhetoric. So this basically gave Israel the green light to go in and demolish hundreds of homes in Jenin? Approximately 800 or so? Now they are poised to go in and destroy what is left. It seems as if any sense of justice for the Palestinian people has been pushed down the longest chute of rhetorical maneuvering. I guess it should be obvious to the world that all of the families of Jenin MUST have some kind of connection to the terror networks responsible for suicide bomber attacks. If not, we must destroy their way of life too, just in case. Justice is a chute that the average, non-terrorist Palestinians must slide down on an everyday basis. So in other words, it is perfectly fine for an entire city to be destroyed by the IDF if a few terrorist cells are broken up? Perfectly logical, right? Of course it isé Israel is simply climbing up the ladder with the United States towards the eradication of global terrorism. To suggest anything to the contrary means taking that slippery ride down the longest chute reserved for extremist, fanatics, militants, revolutionaries and supporters of terrorism. We may not all see it this way, but this is all part of the game. There are people in powerful positions and high places who understand and value the effectiveness of our strategy. Terrorize innocent people in the name of fighting against terrorism while, at the same time, moving forward in land clearing and settlement operations. Those who create and effectively implement such a strategy stand poised to climb to a position of political, financial, military and diplomatic invulnerability. Disagree with them and it’s down the chute for you. Challenge them? Down you go. Question their authority? Take a closer look at disputable evidence? Assemble a fact-finding team or dare to investigate? You get slapped with a label and pushed down the chute. Again, this is all a part of the game. The “Chutes & Ladders” Effect teaches us the values and skills we need to develop in order to maneuver in a world of up’s and down’s, slip-ups and long slides, oil and more oil, illegal settlements and suicide bombers, tanks and bulldozers, wars with no clear ending in sight and democratic governments with no constitution. Let’s get ready to take a slide, shall we?