Sunday, October 05, 2008

The Neocon New Age: Some Contributing Factors

Oct/Nov 08 Grassroots Press column:

Presidential elections offer a fascinating glimpse into the inner workings of the American psyche. Since we’re all so good at wearing the happy face, it can be disconcerting to see what lies beneath the surface. I’m particularly fascinated at how John "Four More Years" McCain and Sarah "One Heartbeat Away" Palin are marketing themselves as agents of change. Their audacity is breathtaking. What’s really fascinating is, it just might work. Imagine, a president worse than Bush! Only in America...

There are dozens of intertwined factors which contribute to the political spectacle we are now witnessing. Here are a few of them, in no particular order:

● DEMOGRAPHICS. There have never been enough liberals/progressives to go around. Since people prefer to associate with others who share their values and interests, liberals/progressives tend to gather together in enclaves where there are good jobs and a supportive environment. Every state has at least one – Austin, TX; Missoula, MT; Ann Arbor, MI; San Francisco, Portland, Seattle; on and on. Only within these enclaves are liberals/progressives a critical mass, and able to influence the culture at large. The hinterlands have been essentially abandoned. There are plenty of liberals/progressives out there in the boonies, but they are too few to have much local impact. Much of the country is hardcore redneck; thus we have vast areas of red on the electoral map. Due to the archaic electoral college system, red states are more influential than their small populations justify.

● LACK OF A LIBERAL MESSAGE MACHINE. The Internet has far more influence than it used to, but it has one huge disadvantage – you have to be able to read. The mass of Americans live in an increasingly non-literate culture. They believe what they are told by a human voice more than printed words. Corporate television, churches, and right-wing radio dominate. Liberals do make effective use of the Internet, but otherwise, the right wing has been very sophisticated in utilizing high technology to spread the most retrograde of messages. Liberals have been lackadaisical in creating an effective message machine -- which means satellite TV 24/7/365, nothing less. Sorry, but small-circulation print media isn’t nearly enough. Spending millions on advertising once every four years isn’t enough. Having made so little effort to prepare the soil, liberals shouldn’t be surprised when their seeds don’t grow as well as expected.

● WORSHIP OF THE MILITARY. The masses of people have been programmed to worship all things military. That’s why McCain’s "All POW all the time" strategy works so well. This country has always been militaristic, but World War Two kicked the pro-military bias into permanent overdrive, and we’re living with the consequences.

● WHITE RESENTMENT. It’s a slick trick by the neocons – outsource peoples’ jobs, destroy their livelihoods, then focus their anger at convenient scapegoats like liberals and blacks. Barack and Michelle Obama are positive, upbeat people who have made something of themselves. Worse, they’re black. This causes resentment not only among white racists in general, but within a key Republican demographic: what could be called the white loser class. Ideally, there would be no losers; we would all have something of value to offer society. But that’s not how competitive capitalism works. Increasing numbers of people have become superfluous. This makes them insecure, fearful, and angry. Karl Rove is all about manipulating the reptilian brain, and the most effective method is to utilize fear by focusing anger onto an "enemy." The enemy, as they define it, happens to be us... and terrorists, of course. Terrorists are the Communists of the 21st Century, and liberals are their enablers, so they say.

● CHRISTIANITY. There are many sincerely spiritual Christians, but wolves in sheep’s clothing abound, fleecing their flocks and spreading lies. There are two kinds of Christians: 1) the New Testament, Jesus-oriented, Sermon-on-the-Mount-type "spiritual Christians," and 2) the Old Testament, Jehovah-oriented, fear-of-hell-type "war Christians." The second category have been Bush’s most loyal followers, and are the reason fundamentalist Palin was added to McCain’s ticket. The War Christians support war (naturally enough), have no problem with torture, and would lord over us with absolute dominion if they could. What a Hell they could create for us all! Christianity in general is hierarchical (an absolute division between God and the universe; between pastor and flock) and monolithic (they have the absolute truth, and no disagreement is allowed). Diversity/democracy and Christianity are on opposite ends of the see-saw -- keeping the proper balance is critically important.

● INFORMATION OVERLOAD. The amount of information pumped out globally every second would probably take lifetimes for a single individual to assimilate. Most of this information is trivial. Americans are appallingly ill-informed by the McMedia. The most important issues are the ones guaranteed not to be discussed in our so-called national "discourse." People are intentionally left distracted, confused, and helpless.

● POISONING THE WELL. Four years ago I referred to "poisoning the well": "Information need not be accurate -- the goal is simply to sow doubt and confusion. Sling enough mud, and some of it is bound to stick. Poisoning the well is easy and effective, but unfortunately bad information drives out the good, and Americans are reduced to a Soviet-style helpless cynicism. There is no longer any standard of truth, since even the most accurate information can and will be countered by lies -- and all but the most intelligent Americans end up hopelessly confused." Since then, unfortunately, the poison has spread from the well to the entire aquifer. The poisoning of our public discourse reminds me of the Romans plowing salt into the ashes of Carthage so that nothing would ever grow there again. We are dealing with a take-no-prisoners adversary who are destroying civilization and the entire planet in their quest for power. Even though they themselves will be destroyed as well, they simply don’t care. The more they destroy, the more frantic their destruction becomes. They are, in a word, nihilists:

● NEOCON NIHILISM. Nihilism isn’t something I think about very often, so I went to to refresh my memory. Here’s what I found:
1. Total rejection of established laws and institutions.
3. Total and absolute destructiveness, esp. toward the world at large...
4. Philosophy.
a. the denial of... the possibility of an objective basis for truth.
Does this remind you of anybody?
You know, to the extent I thought about them at all, I thought of nihilists as loser bohemian intellectuals, dressed in black, drinking coffee in depressing little dives, having dark discussions about the meaninglessness of nothingness. It’s mind-boggling to realize that nihilism has taken over both the American corporate elite and the United States Government.

● THE CONSUMERIST DELUSION. American society is based upon unlimited, cheap energy, and a relatively stable climate not conducive to famine. All this is changing before our eyes. The most intelligent Americans are now, finally, beginning to pay lip service to the concept that we really need to get serious about thinking about, you know, maybe doing things a bit differently (but not enough to make us uncomfortable). So far, they aren’t actually doing very much, because deep down inside, they’re still hoping our problems will magically go away. Thoreau said, "If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them." Looking around me I see a lot of delusion, a little bit of lip service, and so many castles, I can barely see the sky.

To summarize: for whatever reasons (a few of which I have outlined above), a critical mass of Americans live within a subjective reality that might as well be another planet, which we can call Bizarro Earth. On Bizarro Earth, there’s no need for facts or logic or any of that old fashioned crap; just make it up as you go along! Create your own reality by thinking it into existence! It’s the nihilist neocon fundie version of the New Age, with the guaranteed destruction of Earth as their backdrop. Will the critical mass of Americans who live on Bizarro Earth be enough to swing the election? The Republicans are counting on it.

I’m sure the Obama people know what they’re up against. Obama is running as intelligent a campaign, within the straitjacket of 2008 America, as anybody in history. I highly recommend Daily Kos if you want to see why Obama will win, or so they say. Personally, I’ll be pleasantly surprised if he does. Like 2000 and 2004, the neocons are running a negative campaign, slinging mud, playing to the base, feeding them plenty of red meat to keep them suitably rabid, and counting on keeping the election close enough to steal. They’re also trying to sell themselves as agents of change, which proves that Karl Rove really does have a sense of humor. Obama has a sophisticated ground game to get out the vote; his strategy is to draw in enough new voters to overwhelm the fundie vote. Considering all the Diebold machines still out there, he’ll need a substantial win to keep the election from being stolen. I’m rooting for him. Despite our policy differences, I know a quality person when I see one. I’m curious to see how much impact he’ll attempt to have as president, and whether he’ll be Kennedy-ized for it. I have no curiosity whatsoever about what a McCain presidency would look like.

I also have a personal stake in this election – I don’t want my son to get drafted, or more likely, to be crushed by the Machine when he resists the draft. The neocons successfully sold us a war based on lies in 2003. Now they’re trying to sell us a mentally unstable, vindictive, not-too-bright military has-been as President. If they can do that, they should have no problem selling us a draft to go along with the police state that is busily locking itself around us as we speak. I’d rather not flaunt the probabilities.


p.s. By the time this article is printed, the big news might well be the continuing financial meltdown which has been ongoing for the past year or so. Politically, the big question will be: can the Republicans, even though they made it happen, successfully blame the Democrats? Will the voters ask themselves why they put all their faith in the funny-money economy? Presumably, the powers-that-be will manage to fix the economy with duct tape and everything will be just fine.


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