I was thinking about this after yet another 7th inning stretch "God Bless America" rendition. Time after time lately I get these flashbacks to the Soviet times... be it after seeing yet another politician with a little american flag on his jacket, listening to a speech on patriotism at the time of war, or watching a rock concert at campaign events.
Here are some main features of today's political climate in America -- though I'm quite sure that it's not that much worse than it has been for decades.
- Propoganda instead of dialogue -- Dishonest talking points, misleading 30-second commercials, endless stump speeches in front of partisan audiences, armies of partisan talking heads flooding TV and radio shows, "Mission Accomplished" photo-ops, kissing babies, 9/11 imagery, etc. The leader of the Free World gives a press-conference once a year (!) answering PRE-APPROVED questions?!
- Dissent is suppressed or ridiculed -- anti-war protests are only covered if some kind of violence breaks out. Even Vietnam-era activism is seen as unpatriotic and somehow shameful. Anyone questioning defense spending is immediately relegated to the fringes of "public discourse". Widespread, pervasive poverty in our society is another taboo subject, as the "welfare=bad" associations are ingrained in our brains after years of belief through repetition.
- Corporate, nearly monopolized, control of the press -- 2-3 corporations control all of our TV and newspaper media. They are driven by corporate profits, thus easily abandoning serious reporting for ratings-driven programming. Apart from the high-brow premium cable History Channel, when was the last time you saw a real investigative documentary on any major channel, from Fox News/CNN to ABC? When was the last time a non-partisan-hackery opinion was aired on any of the news programs? They speak of the polls incessantly, or of how the candidates looked or sounded in this or that opinion, or of Mary Cheney's, Monica Lewinskys, or other nonsense. People got a bit of a wake-up call with this Swift Boat documentary scandal, but this is just the beginning. Of course Janet Jackson showing a nipple, ooh, that's another story altogether.
- Orwellian program names (Patriot Act, No Child Left Behind) -- this is more amusing than anything else, but yea, surely nobody in their right mind can be against the PATRIOT act! I mean, that would be unpatriotic! What, are you against "No Child Left Behind"?! You must want to leave American children behind, you bastard.
- Cult of the forefathers -- this is the weirdest one of all. The Constitution and the Forefathers are revered like the Bible and its prophets. Some people in the XVIII century wrote a document. Yay. It's a nice document, great, but it was not divinely inspired, it was written by some men 250 years ago! Like Christ's disciples, our courts and politicians try to infer the "true intent" of the Founding Fathers In Their Unlimited Wisdon. Just strange.
This is a sham, not a democracy. Are "we the people" really THAT dumb that the politicians can't actually discuss issues with us and need to resort to round-the-clock propoganda? Shouldn't we be outraged? Or has the economic prosperity of the majority basically made us indifferent to any of this?
Look at the range of what is acceptable for politians to express in the public domain today -- they HAVE to be pro-war, they HAVE to be pro-low taxes, they HAVE to be anti-welfare, they HAVE to be anti-internationalist, they HAVE to be anti-"Big Government". What's the consequences if they don't? Well they'll be branded all kinds of names and discarded into the fringe. Why is that an acceptable state of affairs?
You'll tell me "Oh that's because the American people are pro-war, people disagree with you, so deal with it". No. That's not how democracies are supposed to work. People need to hear out arguments, they need to be exposed to points of view. They simply aren't.
My personal position is far from liberal on most issues, but I am shocked and appalled by the lack of public discussion.
Dissent IS suppressed, except it is suppressed by economic means (here's a tax cut for you, so that you don't worry too much about the dire poverty in our inner cities), by corporate media that lacks serious news coverage, by the enormous amounts of money needed to run a political campaign, and by pseudo-patriotic rhetoric ("Oh don't mind him, he is just an anti-American zealot, he's in bed with Stalin really, haven't you heard?"). Democracy can be suppressed in more ways than one.