March 10, 2007
Isn’t It Over Yet?
By Warren Pease
Here it is six-plus years after the right wing coup that seized power in this country and installed a complete ham-fisted idiot as president, ably propped up by his snarling, malevolent, utterly corrupt ideological doppelganger, the bad-to-the-bone Defibrillator Dick.
Our identities have been stolen, not by hackers but by the triumph of PR and advertising over intellectual curiosity and critical thinking. We have laid down like dogs at the lash of the corporate whip, sniveling and whining that we will be productive little worker bees and consumer drones and think good patriotic thoughts forever more if only they'd stop beating us – but they never do.
We are in the twilight of the great American experiment, watching as it implodes from the combined influences of an undereducated, uninformed, overmedicated, borderline-imbecilic electorate drunk on celebrity worship; a corporate state of which we are all wholly owned subsidiaries; a dysfunctional mass media owned and controlled by corporate America expressly to feed us a continuous diet of irrelevant pap, swill and drivel; and the omniscient presence of the national security apparatus, an alphabet soup of federal agencies that listens and watches obsessively to prevent the peril of an unapproved idea from intruding on our conventional little lives of rapacious consumption.
TV Made Me Do It
Even in such exalted company, our co-opted, bought-and-paid-for mainstream media deserves special attention. American mainstream media lost the thread of the story decades ago and are now only qualified to dish out pop culture infotainment masquerading as news; report breathlessly on the latest D-class celebrity screw-up; or act as stenographers and cheerleaders for the latest batch of official administration lies. And because it now answers to a very few corporate giants who demand orthodoxy and abhor deviation, there is an absolute blackout (PBS occasionally excepted) on the fact that America the myth and America the reality don't often match.
TV is the most efficient and powerful indoctrination machine ever built, although you can’t diminish the role AM hate radio has played in the grand corporate scheme. But TV is where corporate America has focused most of its attention. As a result, TV is where corporate values – easily summed up as "all for us, nothing for you" – are touted most lovingly and creatively, both in nightly entertainment programming and in what’s hilariously known as newscasts. According to several recent surveys, about 93 percent of Americans say TV news is their primary source of information, so corporate America has made yet another wise investment.
Ben Bagdikian in "The Media Monopoly," his seminal work on the causes and effects of media consolidation published in 1983, bemoaned the fact that there were only about 50 companies that, at the time, controlled the content and "spin" of all mainstream information sources in America. We should be so lucky.
Now, there are four
corporations in complete control of over-the-air network TV content, a few more
that run cable news outlets, and a small number of corporations, led by Clear
Channel, that own the lion's share of American radio stations. Even newspapers
have been swept up in the consolidation craze. They're too numerous to cite
here, but you can go to: http://www.cjr.org/tools/owners/
and see who owns what.
It's no accident that mainstream American political and social ideology has shifted far to the right over the past several decades. Most observers trace the resurgence of the American right to 1964, when Barry Goldwater was buried by a Democratic landslide and conservatives were forced to reevaluate their message and improve the delivery systems that spewed it out to the electorate.
They learned their lessons well. America’s rekindled love for conservative myopia is the direct result of a well-planned, long-term, stunningly successful corporate takeover. Corporate America is in sole control of mass media’s singular ability to define and delimit the boundaries of acceptable opinion, which in this case means bringing the American political agenda into close alignment with the corporate value system – a rather obvious oxymoron.
The most spectacular evidence of conservative success in orchestrating America’s ideological tilt to the right was the election and subsequent deification of its brightest star, Ronald Reagan. Soon, school boards across the country were taken over by religiously insane fundies and a procession of increasingly bizarre right wingers were winning state and national office, many of whom will be fondly recalled as members of the shameless, knuckle-dragging 109th Congress.
Mythology and the American Psyche
As doctrinaire Americans, we hold dear these pieties: Taxes are bankrupting the wealthy. The policeman is our friend. They hate us for our freedoms. This is the land of equal opportunity for all. Free trade is an economic godsend. The justice system protects the powerless from the powerful. TV news tells the truth. America always acts out of benign motives. The war on terror is making us safer. The bible is the literal word of god. The liberal media is poisoning our country. Brown people are disposable. Global climate change is a leftist fantasy. Evolution is just another a creation myth. Socialized medicine is evil. Capitalism lifts all boats. The rich are rich because they're morally and intellectually superior. The modern American mythos, a model for the unexamined life. USA-USA-USA…
Rarely have so many been so wrong about so much. Never before has it really mattered. But these days our virulent influence dominates the globe, and now it matters quite a bit. We have more WMDs than the rest of the world combined, we've proven that we’ll use them, we harbor millions of vengeful, uber-patriotic nut cases, and we'll soon have a new generation of "nukulur" weapons – just for defensive purposes, we're told, since America is never the aggressor.
And damned if we don't actually believe it, because to believe otherwise would be to challenge the credo of America's goodness and decency that we internalized as kids. In contrast to our childhood indoctrination of America the Smiley Face, we could read a little post-WWII history and find that America is actually a soulless brute that unwaveringly supports the bad guys and actively subverts any movement or government that seeks to bring even a small dose of political and economic self-determination to its people. This is always bad news for American corporate interests, who need a supply of cheap local labor and don't want any nonsense about human dignity getting in the way of production.
Meddling the Corporate Way
To advance the goals of its corporate employers, the CIA since WWII has often been called upon to depose or murder social reformers and destabilize the movements they represent. Guys like Mossadegh, Arbenz, Allende, Sukarno, Lumumba and Velasco, to name a few. They were replaced by, in order, the Shah of Iran; a collection of right-wing generals led by Carlos Castillo Armas; a right-wing mass-murderer named Augusto Pinochet; another right-wing general named Suharto; a right-wing stooge of Belgian colonialists named Moise Tshombe; and an actual CIA covert agent named Carlos Arosemana, who was in turn replaced by the usual right-wing generals.
The boy king knows the score. His advisors tell him America has 737 military bases strategically scattered around the world – convenient spots from which to terrorize the locals should they dare challenge American corporate hegemony. Seven-hundred-thirty-seven bases protecting "American interests." And what are these interests we're protecting with billions of tax dollars? Simply put, they're the infrastructure by which corporate America makes its money, and they're shielded by the doctrine that America, and only America, reserves to itself the right to visit the fires of hell on any entity – nation, state, tribe, union – that threatens to divert a single penny from its proper place in corporate America's pockets.
And you can see their point, since that penny might be used to provide a moment's relief from the ooze and squalor and disease and misery that much of the world's population slogs through every single day. That would be simply unacceptable, since relief can spawn hope, and hope can spawn dreams, and dreams can lead to unrest, and that kind of unrest often expresses its outrage from the barrel of a gun. And so unrest is bad for business, which is the only serious sin left in the amoral world of economic globalization.
To maintain the orderly flow of international commerce, American interests can always count on the protection of the world's mightiest fighting force. In the American brand of capitalism, profits are privatized while risks are socialized, so it's not at all unusual for taxpayers to pick up the tab when the US military or the CIA fights corporate America's battles, even though they never see a dime's return on their investment.
In fact, the US military acts as simply another wholly owned subsidiary of corporate America. Even though it's temporarily distracted in Iraq, and soon to be occupied in Iran and possibly Syria, the US military can always spare a few good men in the interest of protecting profits. And if the Dimwit in Chief doesn't understand anything else, he understands the importance of corporate profits. He's been sucking off them since he was in diapers, ill equipped as he is to actually earn a living, and they funded the right wing coup that installed him on the throne. So he understands, indeed venerates, corporate profits.
This vulgar little faux-Texan, this petulant bumbler – this is our president, chosen first by Supreme Court fiat, then by inscrutable voting machines that somehow failed to come within a mile of the exit poll numbers but still managed to come through again for Mr. Malaprop, who has become a one-trick full-employment act for the world's stand-up comics.
Our Just Deserts?
But you can make a pretty good case that we actually deserve this toxic twit. He's the embodiment of the most dismal traits that haunt the dark side of the American character – surly, shifty, unreliable, bigoted, ignorant, violent, dense, xenophobic, greedy, arrogant, vengeful. In our role as passive consumers of sham democracy, we have abrogated our right to complain about the consequences of our inaction. And the consequences finally came home to roost in the form of Bloody George and his vicious circle.
So watch your step. As they say, even the paranoid have enemies. And if you value personal liberty, this administration is your enemy, make no mistake. After all, the right to free speech is one thing; exercising it is another. George and his policies, or the ones he fronts for, are an organized, take-no-prisoners assault on the most basic rights and freedoms of the citizens of this country, packaged as the patriotic and righteous response to his personal Reichstag fire of 9/11. He never misses an opportunity to hopscotch over the charred corpses of the World Trade Center to sanctify his claim of a moral imperative to shut down dissent in this country.
Since those Americans who haven't completely succumbed to the temptation of apathy stand opposed to the groveling servility George demands of his subjects, he subverts them, spies on them, grinds them into indentured servitude through the tax code, and wipes his scrawny bum with the Bill of Rights. He moves in small, incremental steps – here a new violation of basic civil liberties, there another Constitutional guarantee down the drain – driving you slowly crazy as you wait for the hammer to come down.
The hammer will probably fall when fate or another convenient fiction, say a 9/11-class event that can be pinned on the usual Mideastern suspects, that provides the pretext to lock this country down like a giant Devil's Island. At that point, it's game over for the great experiment. Sickeningly, many Americans will cheer the death of the Republic as a necessary step in the war on terror. Others will have our date with O'Brien in Room 101.
The war on terror is, of course, a sad joke elsewhere, a novelty that's lost its appeal. Everybody everywhere (except Tony Blair) knows who the world's most dangerous rogue state is. They're scared stiff of America, even as they laugh at our epic hubris, ridiculous posturing, and limitless sense of entitlement. But they know the grim reapers in Washington might just decide to mess up their lives, too, so they don't usually laugh out loud.
Democrats Ride to the Rescue
In 2006, despite a rising societal trend toward political apathy and alienation, voters turned out in sufficient numbers to overcome traditional GOP ballot tampering and voter roll purging and actually elected Democratic majorities to both the House and Senate. These candidates had united behind vows to end the Iraq occupation and mitigate the more outrageous thefts of Constitutional freedoms. Those of us still warped by a trace of goofy pollyannaism expected them to actually follow through on these commitments.
So… Are US troops still dying over there? Are they still killing Iraqi civilians? Is the Patriot Act up for debate? How about the Military Commissions Act? Are US sadists still torturing "unlawful combatants" in offshore hellholes? Is Gitmo still a going concern? Is Cheney next to come under scrutiny in the treasonous outing of Valerie Plame? Is Conyers finally going for the throat as he implied he would when the Dems were the powerless minority? Who will finally rip the cloak of secrecy off the Bush crime family, which reduces the legendary New York syndicates to the comparative status of petty thieves and street punks?
Silence from our fine new crop of elected representatives. We thought they showed traces of a collective spine back in November. Evidently, it was just a benign tumor that has since been removed. They ask us to please pardon the brief flash of apparent motivation; they'll return to their normally shoddy work momentarily.
They talked tough and promised action but, so far, the best our congressional flunkies can do is debate non-binding resolutions and bloviate about sending messages. Even though they were put in office specifically to end the Iraq disaster and investigate the massive corruption that oozes from every orifice of this putrid administration, old habits die hard.
Because they, too, are wholly owned subsidiaries of corporate America, bought and paid for many times over by the system of institutionalized bribery we call campaign finance. So it's asking a lot to expect our representatives to act out of conscience, since a conscience is usually purchased along with its owner.
But one final note of cautious optimism: The Twenty-second Amendment to the Constitution requires that the reign of Bloody George end after eight loathsome years. He'll leave the Republic wheezing on life-support, but there will probably still be some trace of vital signs and a dim chance for recovery.
On the other hand, since he and his fellow wing nuts regard the Constitution as a disposable byproduct of silly idealism, maybe they'll mount a giant PR campaign to overturn the Twenty-second Amendment and give George a chance to steal elections for life. If that fails, Jeb is waiting in the wings. USA-USA-USA…
Oh, never mind. Thinking is for people without cable. Give me American Idol reruns and let me get back to my anesthetized evening of drooling American catatonia.
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