Cutting Through The Crap

Monday, January 18, 2010

Lessons Learned


I learned a lot in 2009, none of it good. Not being a naive innocent, maybe I should say I had some beliefs confirmed, but to an unexpected level. I've known for a few years that, as a country, we're screwed. Still, I didn't think the end would be coming this fast.

What's funny, in the sense of non-funny, is the extent to which so many people are so easily manipulated, and the extent to which they are simply unable to see it. How ironic it is that those people who claim the current administration is like Soviet Russia, or Nazis, have been convinced of that by the fusing of a political agenda and a network propaganda machine exactly like those created and maintained by those authoritarian and failed entities.

The truth is that on average we are a stupid people, weak-willed and uncomfortable with complexity. The reason Fox has the influence it does is that it appeals to the sense of victimhood and lost entitlement that's increasingly the political mainstream. Roger Ailes' brilliance in unabashedly pushing a hyper-partisan agenda is his realization of how simple it would be. Constantly barraging listeners with repetitive falsehoods, conspiracy theories, reinforced endlessly in every time-slot by ethically empty so-called journalists, his network is the embodiment of theory of the "big lie." And the process is made even easier by targeting the very religious, with their need for certainty and their long-standing cultivation into the art of denying reality, the willful rejection of the obvious. Religiosity and political manipulation: they go together like hand and glove, peanut butter and blackberry jam, unprotected sex and STDs.

Who'd, for example, have thought that the destruction of Haiti could be so politicized? It's amazing enough that science has become partisan, with denialism as the central core of an entire political party. But charity, for Christ's sake? To what level of cynicism have our politics sunk that President Obama's actions to help a ravaged nation are mocked, decried, and demagogued shamelessly? That people are being asked NOT to help, and it's being hyped by the right wing, the party of Jesus? (I'll admit that in this, even Rush's rants seem not to have deterred giving to a noticeable extent. Possibly because, as usual, atheists are pitching in.)

How can it be that Massachusetts may well elect to the Senate a guy who, exactly like George Bush, advocates massive tax cuts, after denouncing the budget deficits, and without saying a single word about where he'd cut the spending needed to make up the difference? (And who, most Foxoteabaggingly, suggests our president's mother wasn't married.) Implicitly making the disproved argument that cutting taxes increases revenue, he also claims that the health care bills represent "government takeover," and promises to stop it. Government takeover? Relying entirely on the private insurers to an extent their stock has shot upward? Government takeover? Really? Yet there he is, the darling of an entire movement: completely divested of fact. Not to mention decency.

All of this is against the backdrop of the most misguided populism imaginable, cynically manipulated by corporate interests. Dick Armey, of "Freedomworks" must be in a state of constant tumescence over the ease with which he's pulled it off (as it were). As I've said many times, there's much to criticize about the Obama administration so far: most especially that stimulus monies seem to have been misdirected to a large extent. Not unneeded: inadequately dispersed. Nor do I agree with the buildup in Afghanistan; I'm concerned about Tim Geithner, about the lameness of some White House responses to the constant and dishonest attacks from Fox and the rest of the RWS™. But these worries have a basis in fact. Rather than lies and obstructionism, I wish the opposition would pitch in and provide sensible suggestions, work together even a little. Democracy depends on it. It might even do their party good!

Unlike the things I criticize, wild statements on the placards so proudly waved by the teabaggers are based on unquestioned belief in the steady stream of propaganda to which they're constantly and uncritically subjected. The supreme irony is that they are the very people who ought to be -- claim to be -- scared sh*tless by political agitprop and media control. And yet they eat it like cookie dough.

To them, disagreement is pure evil. I wonder what they think about the founding process of the country they claim to love, and understand not a bit. Compromise. Respect for opposing opinions. Doing the hard work of finding common ground. Contra the Nazi-baiter, it's they that have been dumbed down, not liberals.

Today, for the second time in a few months, someone forwarded me a breathless email. Strewn with full caps and varying colors like holiday fireworks, it claims Obama has demanded a stamp be produced to honor a Muslim holiday. "If you only forward one email.... patriotic Americans.... reject... stand up.... " The usual crap. (The wild-eyed commentary is based on the fact that every year for around ten years such a stamp has been issued, much like those commemorating Christmas, Hanukkah, and Walt Disney characters. Of absolutely NO significance, but seen by the crazed hordes as proof of Obama's treason.) Into the streets they march; into the Congress they send like-minded (in the loosest use of the word "mind") representatives, intent on destruction. It's working.

In a perverse way, I hope I live long enough to see it, because I'm absolutely certain I'm right. And I'd like to know if at any point along the decline those blind and dumb right wingers and teapartiers will realize what they've done, even though I already know the answer.

[PS: speaking of lessons, here's a good one.]
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10 comments:

Frank Drackman said...

C'mon Sid, that 1st Ammendment t'aint so bad...how else would we have learned about John Edward's Love Child??? A Stupid People, Weak-Willed, and Uncomfortable with Complexity??? Well I'll have U know I have an IQ of, umm not really sure, but I scored perfect on whatever part of the MCAT it was with all the graphs and pie charts. And I only jerk off once a month(OK TWICE) and replaced the water pump on my wifes BMW..(talk about complexity, no wonder the Krauts lost 2 World Wars)
I've seen this movie before...its 1978 and Jimmy Carter's about to take off his Sweater and slip on his little rubber boots to go inspect 3-Mile Island...
and BTW did you know Git-Mo's still open???

Frank

#1 Dinosaur said...

You know, one important lesson I've learned about the internet is that it is always possible to find exactly what you're looking for, and avoid seeing anything else. This can make it difficult to see the big picture, as it's very easy to assume that what you're seeing is all there is to see.

I wonder if your despair is fueled by your constant monitoring of Fox and the right wing internet presence. Yes, it's scary how ridiculous it is, but folks like Jon Stewart and Steven Colbert (among many others, Rachel Maddow, et al) are doing quite a bang-up job of tearing them down to size. Remember, Obama won the election. That means that for every right wing screamer out there, there are probably 3-4 sane people trying to go quietly about their lives, voting accordingly.

Intolerance may be loud, which makes it seem far more prevalent than it is. Just about every Xtian commentary I've heard has been denouncing Pat Robertson's hateful remarks. Despite what he thinks, it appears he does NOT speak for the majority. Remember this, and realize that it's okay to calm down a bit. (Although then I would be deprived of one of my favorite reads. heh; still, for your health...)

Sid Schwab said...

I appreciate that, Dino: the problem is what's happened after Obama won: an unprecedented 24/7 barrage from the right. I agree Stewart and Colbert and Maddow are about the only people on TV able to provide a credible counterbalance. But, first, their networks are heard by a fraction of the people addicted to Fox. Nor is there any equivalent on the left of Limbaugh, Savage, Ingraham, Coulter, etc ad nauseum. For one thing, liberals don't need a constant reinforcement of their ideas to survive.

And it's not just "monitoring" Fox. It's witnessing what's happening: the fact that it's even close in Massachusetts when the R is a classic Bushian...

Dr. John Baldwin said...

I constantly "enjoy" reading Dr. Sid's blog. His intelligence and breadth of knowlege should boggle all of your minds, and yes, many of the commentators are equally brilliant, so this makes a good forum, just keep it civil. On a different note, let me comment:
In my long life of observation and digestion of facts, I have learned that INVESTING 101 has very little to do with WHO is PRESIDENT. Corporate earnings, interest rates and gross national product count most. Witness Brazil with inflation but a fabulous stock market. Look at "emerging markets" with riches in the ground but hardly a government. All non-existant 40 years ago. And surging past us.
I dearly love Sid and would have him in my foxhole (if he would promise to shoot) and the bottom line is: If you folks let despair over America and its future cloud your image of the future, you are making a huge mistake. On March 9 of 2009, the Dow touched 6,547...and today has come back to 10,600. I can tell you that March 9 was the opportunity of a lifetime, and Sid can tell you I called it and told him. It took guts, but more than that, it took faith in America. As in, "Where else would you invest your IRA or your life savings?"
This is non-political. I am just a "retired surgeon" but have some smarts and some retrospective memories which help plan my future.
If you love or don't love Obama, just remember...where else on earth would you rather invest your earnings? And what a better time than now with pessism abiding and the recovery not yet here?
Pundits aside, 2010, unless we have terrorist nuclear war, will be a growth year. You heard it here.

Anonymous said...

Let's see if I can sum up your argument here: People write and say things you disagree with. Other people believe these things. This is only possible because most people are stupid. Clearly, what you mean is that most people aren't as smart as you...so you are one of the very smart ones.

But how do you explain the election of Obama? Was everyone just really smart (like you) that day? If Brown wins in Mass, he's getting dems to vote for him. Are those dems stupid too? Or just for today?

I would hope that it was beneath you to simply ascribe moral failings and lack of intelligence to people simply because you disagree with them. But, it seems, since they're not as smart as you, they are worthy only of your contempt.

Incidentally, JFK cuts taxes to increase revenue. Was he stupid as well?

jd

Sid Schwab said...

No, jd, the problem isn't about intelligence or being given opposing points of view. You miss (get but ignore, probably) the point entirely. It's about LIES, deliberately told and easily spread. It's about a 24 hour "news" outlet DEVOTED to spreading misinformation, with an overt political goal. It's about the extent to which that is frighteningly effective, which makes democracy fail to function, as people are misled. It's about a political party in Congress unashamedly out to destroy a president's agenda, unanimously voting against him. You will recall in all of his initiatives, including the America-destroying decision to invade Iraq, Bush had plenty of Democrats' votes.

Your reaction is very illustrative, so I thank you for it.

PS: when JFK cut taxes they were extraordinarily high. In other posts (which I doubt you've read and, for you, I don't plan to take the time to find them but you could search the blog) I've acknowledged there's a sweet spot. ie, 100% tax rate = no production; 0% tax rate = no government. The problem is the only one who may have found the sweet spot is Clinton. Reagan's cuts, so idealized by the right, and Bush's the same, led to massive deficits. In the first case, George the first had to raise them. In the second, it nearly (and may have, still) destroyed us.

Anonymous said...

"It's about being full of sh*t, sorta like you."

Excuse me?

I guess I misunderstood your comments:

"so many people are so easily manipulated,"
"they are simply unable to see it."
"we are a stupid people, weak-willed and "uncomfortable with complexity."
"it's they that have been dumbed down, not liberals."
"the decline those blind and dumb right wingers and teapartiers"

Okay, so it's not about people being stupid. My mistake.

On the other hand, you are "absolutely certain (you're) right."

But you make my point nicely: "To them, disagreement is pure evil."

Sounds like it's to you that disagreement is evil.

jd

PS--any Congressional culpability in the Reagan deficits? Remember Reagan's budgets being "dead on arrival"?


To them, disagreement is pure evil.

Sid Schwab said...

Ironically, before you posted the above, I revised my comment and removed the "full of shit" part.

As to the rest, well, we can keep this up all day. So, yeah, I DO think they're stupid, at least in some sense. If they buy the lies and distortions then they're either stupid or lazy, or so hide-bound in their need to believe certain things that they're refractory to factual refutation. It's undeniable. Call it what you will. Stupid doesn't mean intellectually impaired, at least in this context. It means, willingly or not, swallowing the crap that Fox feeds them. Crap that's easily disproved and is, daily, were they interested in discovering it. So, whatever it "is," in my mind it rounds off to, or is effectively the same as, stupid.

#1 Dinosaur said...

The problem is the only one who may have found the sweet spot is Clinton.

Great line to take out of context!

The real problem in Massachusetts is that Coakley is a hypocritical scumbag who ruined people's lives with a truly outrageous display of prosecutorial indiscretion. Is having a "D" after her name the only necessary qualification? It's tragic that the senate is now so polarized that to Obama, the answer is yes.

Sid Schwab said...

I agree, Dino. My more recent post, of Jon Stewart, says it better than both of us.