Well, we are only a few days away what could be a historic election and the one thought that I keep having is ‘what a shame that no one is actually talking about the issues’. This election will indeed go down in history, but not for the reasons that many think. It isn’t going to be about Democrats or Republicans, or even Obama for that matter. This will be remembered as the ‘election of stupidity’.
The Tea Party – The Uninformed and their Corporate Masters
It is both scary and a little funny that a web cartoon captures the essence of something the press can’t seem to get their heads around – but here we are.
So what is the Tea Party? Is it a grass roots movement of concerned citizens trying to ‘take back America’ and ‘save our freedoms’? If we could only be so lucky. No, in fact it is a coalition between the power players of some corporations and a gullible segment of the US population who will believe any message, no matter how detached from fact or reality, if it is wrapped up in a flag. Now every country has an under informed segment of their population which is more susceptible to nationalistic propaganda, but the US this segment is a bit larger than other nations. Why you may ask? Is it because Americans are less intelligent than other peoples? Well, actually no. The reason for this is based is a few good factors that make Americans somewhat unique.
The first of which is the fact that Americans are generally fiercely patriotic. While this may not come as a surprise to most, it is one of our defining features as a nation. We have a history of being very proud of how we became a nation, our unwavering efforts to become a better nation, and the principled stands we have made throughout our history. This pride is real and on display every day. One example of this is how often we fly the flag (literally). If you get in your car, drive around your town for 10 minutes, and count every flag that you see, you will probably have more sightings than you can count on your two hands. If you were to do the same thing in the UK, France or any other nation for that matter, you would probably be able to count these on one hand. This is a direct display of our collective patriotism.
Another factor that makes American’s unique is the fact that we work very hard. We work more hours per week than any other industrialized nation. We do this because there is a belief, one that is imprinted into our very DNA as a nation, that 1) if you work hard, anything is possible and 2) work is good and a point of personal pride. It is the classic Protestant work ethic on steroids.
Now when you mix these two factors together, fierce patriotism and an overworked population, you get the ‘perfect storm’ for a Tea Party type reaction (Notice, I didn’t call it a movement, because a movement it is not. The Tea Party ‘thing’ is a reaction to well planned stimuli.). Because so many Americans work so hard, there is literally not enough time in the day to stay well informed on the plethora a important national issues. This is where FOX News enters the stage.
FOX News is both genius (but not original) and purely evil. FOX News feeds the patriotism and provides what seems like news. Here is there tactic. Present a situation where a basic American value is under assault (hard work, love of country, etc.), then take a real news item (name, place, event) and in less than 15 seconds show how the person, party, or group is threatening this value. This fires up the patriotism of people, creates a bit of anger and discontent, and results in them tuning in again (almost a patriotic duty) to become well-informed about the dangers to our country.
If you want to ramp up the effect, suggest something so over-the-top that it really grabs peoples attention. Doesn’t matter how unrealistic or detached from reality it is – just get it out there. This will stoke the fire even more and get more viewers. So, you may be wondering why suggesting something that is a complete fabrication can be so effective. Well, think about peoples schedules. Off to work early in the morning, back home by 6, 7 or 8, you have time for around 30 minutes of news, then your off to sleep. The seed has been planted. By the time your watching the news again, it will be some other enraging (albeit fabricated) story. The one that enraged you last night, even if completely debunked is already out of the 24 hour news cycle. More importantly, FOX News won’t run the debunk story in the first place. Death Panels, Obama is Muslim, Obama is not a US citizen, Healthcare is socialism and the list goes on. This formula is used over and over, day after day, week after week.
Why, you might wonder, does FOX News do this? Very simple, profits. Discontent breeds viewers (and misplaced passions). When I mentioned that this was not an original idea is because it rose out of AM radio. In the early 90s, an AM radio star was on the horizon – his name was Rush Limbaugh. Much like FOX News, he is part genius, but mostly evil. He found a segment of the US population that he could charm – the middle-aged white guy with low self-esteem. He tapped into and spoke to their feelings of patriotism and created a well crafted enemy they could blame for all their own failings. He used the FOX formula (or rather FOX used his) and he explained in great detail how everyone else was keeping them from their American dream. There is no easier way to unite a people than to give them a good enemy. Hitler did this with the Jews and Rush did this with a fictitious fabricated group he called the ‘Liberals’. The much talked about, but rarely seen ‘Liberal’ was based on the reputation of a segment of the political scene that was for expanding social spending in the early seventies. This ‘liberal’ evokes the image of a whole segment of the population who ‘wants something for nothing’ and ‘plays the system to get a welfare check’. While people like this will exist in any civilised society, this enemy was exaggerated beyond any connection to reality. Fundamental to his tactics is the fact that in the back mind of every American (and especially middle-aged men with low self-esteem) is the thought that ‘I too could rise to financial greatness’. This is one of the reasons that classism is not particularly strong in the US. That person that you see cleaning garbage on the side of the road could have a great idea and be a millionaire tomorrow – so who am I to judge them. Where Rush’s genius comes in is he explains to his listeners, day-after-day, specifically why these ‘liberals’ are keeping YOU from that dream – and how it is their goal to keep everyone from reaching this dream. They (these liberals) are against the American dream you are trying to achieve and are trying to destroy the very fabric this country was founded upon.
So, Rush has his followers. How did this turn into the FOX empire we see today? Deregulation of AM radio in the mid 90s. When the law was passed that allowed for companies to buy AM radio stations in more than just a few markets, the industry of AM radio changed over night. A little company called Clear Channel communications basically bought all the AM radio stations within a few years. The AM era had begun. Seeing the success of Rush’s formula, and the fact that Clear Channel communications owners and board were well-know Republican lobbyists and loyalists, the format was repeated over and over. AM radio was a great way to catch people on there way to work in the morning (enough time to plant the seeds) and late at night.
Then came FOX News. Rupert Murdoch, an Australian-born American media magnate and the founder, chairman, and chief executive officer of News Corporation saw the opportunity to emulate the success of AM radio and put it on our televisions. Since the time of its launch, FOX News has risen to the top of the cable news industry and has spawned some of the best-known ‘infotainment’ personalities of the day. Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly, and most recently Glen Beck have ridden to fame, and significant personal wealth, on the back on this media machine. Sarah Palin is also one of FOX’s new darlings because of her ability to charm this segment of the population. FOX has brought this vile profit machine into the mainstream. The other cable networks were sent scrambling to find their piece of the news pie. CNN has probably suffered the most and has been flailing for most of the 2000s trying to find its position in the market. MSNBC has been more successful by taking the role of the station to debunk the daily distortions of FOX News. Unfortunately, NEWS as we have known it has been the greatest victim. The line between news items and facts have been (perhaps) forever blurred. In the all-consuming race for ratings, it looks like actual news has been pushed to the side in favour for rhetoric and spin.
So what does all this have to do with this election? Well, the corporations (and the front groups like The Chamber of Commerce) are flooding the market with advertising supporting ‘Tea Party’ and to a lesser extent Republican politicians. These politicians in-turn will do the bidding of the corporations in exchange for the power they will receive from being elected. Middle-of-the-road Republican beware – fall in-line of be crushed.
Do the Republicans and/or Tea Party candidates need to provide any details how they plan to accomplish their seemingly conflicting rallying cries (less taxes, lower deficits)? Nope, just feed off the discontent generated by the FOX machine and repeat the patriotic phrase ‘takin’ back our freedums”.
So are these hard-working, but seeming gullible Americans to blame? Is ‘stupidity’ too strong of a word to describe the theme of this election. Actually, for the most part YES. It is the (patriotic) duty of all citizens to inform themselves about the issues of the day. If you are too lazy or don’t have to time to do this, DON’T VOTE.