January 19, 2004
A friend in New Zealand asked about Arianna Huffington's recent piece in
AlterNet, "Unelectable, My Ass!" (1) She deplores the Demycrap and Republicrat
attacks on Howard Dean. She cites Robert Kennedy's aborted 1968 campaign as
being more relevant to Dean's candidacy than McGovern in 1972. Overall, I agree
with her. The attacks on Dean are unconscionable. A puzzling lose-lose strategy.
I like the quote she attributes to Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR). "The test of
our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much;
it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little."
For my Kiwi friend, I drop back for perspective.
Huffington is a rolling paradox slammed into a conundrum. Her former personas are less than inspiring no matter what she says now. Ever the opportunist, it is hard to trust that she will not do another chameleon act tomorrow. Molly Ivins or Jim Hightower is more consistent. Arianna gets off some good jabs, nevertheless. That said, she is perceptive regarding the Dean assault now in high pitch. However, expressed, the Demycraps have quite thoroughly lost perspective or connection. The quote from FDR is instructive regarding that loss.
Regarding Bobby Kennedy, we need to note that he was assassinated under circumstances and with motivations as obscure as those of his brother. We will also note that since Republican President McKinley was shot (2) at the turn of the 20th century, only Democrats have been assassinated. The man who shot McKinley had a known political perspective. He was an Anarchist.
I need to take a few more steps back to find some perspective, though. First, the political spectrum is not a two dimensional line from right to left. Right and left, per se, as political references have lost all meaning. As Wilhelm Reich demonstrated in The Mass Psychology of Fascism, which was written in the context of late '20s, early '30s Germany during the transition from Weimar Republic to Nazi, the political spectrum is a circle with a tiny gap between Red Fascisms and Black Fascisms.
An essential characteristic of both Red and Black Fascisms is the absolute compulsion to control far beyond merely authoritarian, despotic and tyrannical. Totalitarian is the word now commonly used.
Leo Strauss, the Republican Neo-Cons' guru, reduced this to a simple formula: Take control at any price. Keep control at any price. Keep that formula in mind and use it as a gauge.
Secondly, given the emergent primarily electronic technologies of the 20th and 21st centuries, a parallel phenomenon has to do with use of these technologies as melded into the attendant mentalities of those who control them. Media owners and media-controlling executives show an immense need to control. They are well aware of their power. And it is a raw, quite naked power lust that drives them. Call it advertising, public relations and/or propaganda; these processes are analogous to the differences between authoritarian, tyrannical and totalitarian control systems. William Randolph Hearst was an autocrat. Rupert Murdoch is a totalitarian. His reach and tools are systemic.
That media ownership and control happens to be bedded too closely with those who have seized control of the Republican Party may be coincidental, accidental or simply propitious.
Third, parallel processing again, note the development of corporate structures now supplanting governments as centers of societal organization and operations. An absolutely crucial factor is the emergence of the attendant legal structures which have served to put corporations beyond law and, going further, through their immense resources and staffs in control of legal processes. In the United States, the critical step was the equation of corporations and their legal status as and with that of individuals. As such, then, corporations drape themselves in the protections embodied in the Constitutional guarantees subsumed under the ten amendments to the original 1787 Constitution called the Bill of Rights.
Given two hundred years plus of case law appended to the vast structures of English Common Law, a now impregnable construct prevails. Corporations in the mega-national forms are now the closest approximation of world government we are ever likely to create. Corporations, unlike the political structures of geo-national entities previously taken to be governments, are autocratic, authoritarian, despotic, tyrannical, totalitarian -- take your choice. They share a critical characteristic with drug traders and terrorists: borderless and trans-national. Some corporate structures may be relatively benign, even benevolent in some senses of those words. There is, however, no requirement to be thus. Laws once possibly relevant or restraining such as Taft-Hartley are now administratively gutted.
Fourth, pay attention to Leopold Kohr's admonitions related to size. Everything, in essence, has its natural limits or size. If exceeded, the relevant structures will implode. Notice he uses the concept of implosion as opposed to explosion. They will collapse unto themselves. Critical variables relate to "when," i.e., timing. While this general set of probabilities is quite ignored by analysts, activists, and anarchists who are fixated on revolutionary endgames Kohr's concept is descriptive of much of what is evolving. Orwell was nibbling around aspects of these constructs with Animal Farm and 1984. Daniel Quinn is likewise on target with his series of books which began with Ishmael. I can name others, many of whom are using fictional forms to communicate perspectives. John Toland's Gods of War is a classic.
Fifth, take note of historian John Lukacs' prophesy that the late 20th and early 21st centuries would be witness to a resurgence of barbarity.
Those in the USA who have now seized control of the Republican Party, as only one focus of the processes in process, go back more than a few years. In a fuzzy logic sense, the attitudes involved, the congealing of mindsets over time are as inherent in the governmental structures emergent from the 1700s as they are presently apparent. The now-sainted founders of this geo-national construct feared democracy or mass rule. See the history of Alien and Sedition Acts now come forward to the Patriot Act of 2001.
They restricted the franchise to relatively affluent property owners. They built in a theoretical balance of power, now long abrogated but hanging around in appearance. Much as in corporate structures, the executive branch has emerged as beyond effective reach of either electorate or shareholders. Stakeholders is a common buzzword these days. Whether electorate, shareholders, or stakeholders, all are irrelevant in actualities, but useful for obscurations.
Voting, actually not voting, reflects the judgment of too many. Not voting forwards the agendas of those who have seized power. The demographics of those who vote is quite skewed from those who register and even more so when compared with those eligible to vote.
Now and then, in some token senses, when corporate excesses exceed excessively for a short period, there are feints toward corrections as now seen with Enron et al. The recently enacted Campaign Finance laws have already been made irrelevant as well as turned to advantage by Republican strategists.
We are now told voting irregularities will be minimized by computerized voting systems. Actuality, perhaps available to some degree after the fact, will likely show an opposite result. Look at Georgia's strange 2003 gubernatorial election. Even if the machines prove more honorable than Caesar's wife, registration processes remain corruptible and politicized by both major parties. At this point, the degrees of corruption may be exponential in process. As Strauss suggests, keep power by any means.
As illustrated rather blatantly in 2000 with the anointment of George W. Bush, control of appointments to the Supreme Court is a critical variable. That fact alone makes preventing Bush's possible election quite compelling. It will take generations to undo the chaos of an eight year Bush reign.
The Senate's role to advise and consent in judicial appointment, noise aside, has been eroded by executive persistence. The current Supreme Court has a majority who will, when required, support a Republican Party executive Executive on political matters. Much as corporate boards of directors are shadows of their executive management so is the present US Supreme Court a political shadow more than a relevant balance within the Constitutional structures still in place.
To continue, an essential element of emergent control processes is embedded in media, those physical means by which advertising, public relations and propaganda are delivered. These means are more and more electronic in nature as even print media are now constructed and produced electronically.
Yes, there is a potential wildcard in Internet and Web evolutions. Of note is the role of spam -- unsolicited advertising. Through efforts nominally to counter spam we see openings to external, i.e., governmental (now meaning corporate), control of the Internet. "Parental control," as an illustration, is one avenue to censorship. In parallel, postal rates now serve to limit, hence control, alternative media in terms of market access. Restrictions to market access translate into restrictions of political process, i.e., control.
I'll go a bit farther. History has virtually disappeared as a subject which may be offered in educational institutions, particularly through secondary school levels, i.e., tax-supported schools. What little still trickles in is very much controlled by political processes. Textbook selection processes nearly universally within the 50 states have been taken over by those of a similar mind to those who have taken control of the Republican Party. What remains is mytho-history at best -- politically tainted mytho-histories for sure. Look at evolution and sexuality as topics distorted.
Many years of non-random parallel processes are coming to fruition in interacting seizures of American forms and practices of governance and mass market ideological control. Under Bush II, the security state has escalated exponentially.
It helps to stop now and then to remember that the sainted founders established a republic, not a democracy. The control points established lie within the legal system, on one side, and through the filter of the Electoral College on another. At several instances within American history, those who voted in a presidential election named an individual who was subsequently denied office through Electoral College processes.
To repeat, those who will judge are now effectively under executive control as noted. The Court system is thoroughly politicized. The balances of power are irrevocably tipped.
Those who control American media, through ownership or effective executive reigns, especially mass market media, rarely, if ever, would be characterized as democrats or even republicans although they may name their political allegiances as capitalized versions of one or the other.
A rhythm or cycle of American media appearance has emerged over time. It is tuned to the political cycles of elections. Typically, local elections are set to avoid the four-year cycles of national Presidential elections. They may coincide with the two-year cycles of national Congressional elections or they may use off-year timing. The intent was to minimize the influence of national politics on local elections.
Budgetary and political actualities are gradually muting these separations. Coat-tail politics are anathema to some and the way it should work to others. Those who will control as absolutely as possible are more and more addicted to coat-tail elections. That is, to coincide local and state elections with the national cycles so that national propaganda will aid local candidates who align themselves appropriately.
A recent chilling statistically-valid survey of those who voted in the 2002 Congressional elections revealed that they received less than 20% of their information about candidates and their positions through television "news" broadcasts. 80% came through advertisements: 60-, 30-, and 15-second hits.
Add in one more factor. Electoral districts related to the national House of Representatives, state legislatures, and local councils are theoretically to be determined by the ten-year cycle of national census. Once every ten years, after the census results are available, electoral districts may need be redrawn to reflect changes in population. That is, an increase or decrease in numbers of people within a state would be reflected in proportionate changes in Representatives, i.e., Congressional districts, at the national level.
This process has become sullied over time by gerrymandering, redrawing districts to increase the probability that a particular party will be favored. Whichever political party happened to control a state legislature and executive would jigger district boundaries to match demographics considered favorable to that party. Gerrymandering, to varying degrees, became an American norm.
There were some vague, once generally accepted and somewhat loosely understood restraints on the most excessive applications. It was assumed that redistricting would only happen in relationship to the national census, that is, every ten years. That restraint has been cast aside by those who seized control of the Republican Party. As illustrated by blatant recent cases in Texas and Colorado, Republican-controlled legislature/executive combinations have tailored Congressional districts to guarantee increased numbers of Republicans elected.
An examination of the manipulations within Florida in preparation for the 2000 presidential election is revealing. The Governor of Florida then and now is Jeb Bush, brother of George. Ms. Harris, a Bush devotee who headed the relevant state office in control of electoral processes from registration through voting, worked carefully to reduce the numbers of potentially Democratic Party voters through delaying, losing or canceling registrations as only one tactic. The famous chad problem coupled with an awkward ballot layout or organization which muddied votes cast is relatively well-known.
Almost instantly, when results were seen to be close, a modern-day version of Brown Shirts flooded Florida to intimidate local election commissions. Republican bigwigs with Texas imprimaturs stormed in to manipulate the courts. With some courage, the Florida Supreme Court, in obedience to the shadow principle of nullification (i.e., States' Rights) ruled that state law prevailed. The ordered recount should proceed to completion and under State law. The politicized US Supreme Court, in a very messy decision, overruled States' Rights, the Florida Supreme Court and stopped the recount. US Supreme Court rulings have no appeal possible outside of congressional action post facto. Hence, George Bush was anointed President by one vote, cast by a Republican Supreme Court Justice.
American political history has established a norm related to close elections. It was generally assumed that an administration installed by a close election or by the Electoral College rather than popular plurality would be restrained in its purely partisan processes. The word commonly applied is "Bipartisan." We will note that the Bush people hit the road with a blast of partisan processes which has accelerated with time. With Newt Gingrich's Republican Congressional victories in 1994, the stage was set for extreme partisanship. Since then, the worst has gotten worse. Bad grammar, nevertheless descriptive.
To return to the media cycles related to national elections, media follow a four-year pattern. After a presidential election, the first subsequent year's editorial direction would be relatively open to varieties of reporting. Readers would see a more balanced presentation. Seemingly contrary or atypical "news" would get better presentation, more space, more time, placement to the front of the publication or broadcast and some times above the fold and toward the right edge (the most scanned placement in newspapers). This process served to lull readers and to mute criticism. As local or Congressional elections came along in the two year cycle, the balance would shift toward more and more partisan play of "news" and reporting. Editorial and Op-Ed ranges of opinion would constrict accordingly. After the Congressional two-year cycle, there would be some return to the more balanced-appearing layout and organization of material to be printed or broadcast. Gradually, as the combined presidential and congressional election approached, the games of propaganda would become less subtle and more open. I could describe in detail the many ways to do these things. Rest assured that these cycles are in effect. Now more than ever do I notice the clues of bias and timing.
Which brings me full circle to Dean-Bashing. Anyone who in the judgment of media owners may represent a potential opposition candidate beginning at local levels is presented within the contexts of the overall cycle. The history of such a person will be colored in ever deeper tones of negativity throughout their career. Should they reach national level politics, the taint will be deeply established within the minds and attitudes of readership, listenership or viewership of the relevant media. Should someone slip through and get too big too soon, media will go into a full-court press to chop down that person.
Hence Dean bashing of the moment. Vermont is a tiny New England state with few people, little impact on national or even regional politics. Dean was okay but not outstanding as governor. For contrast, look back at how Ed Muskie was destroyed by a savage assault on his wife in the Manchester (NH) Union-Leader newspaper, a bastion of rabidly biased Republican invective. He cried. Crying is weakness in men. Q.E.D. Muskie is weak. End of Muskie's ambitions.
Those who somehow have survived or been elected are all in some significant way tuned into these cycles. Their actuality has a strong influence on them. So strong that established office holders understand how much their incumbency is a factor of media processes. Note that the strongest Dean bashers among presidential hopefuls tend to be incumbents. With media consolidation, that influence is stronger than ever. As corporate structures supplant government and corporate executives consolidate control, personal political biases of a very few individuals determine actualities. Arianna, Molly and Jim get no play in the Manchester Union-Leader, which is a paragon of political biases now more typical of media as a whole.
There are few greater Big Lies than that of a liberal media.
· · · · · ·
Notes and Resources
1. "Unelectable, My Ass!" by Arianna Huffington, AlterNet, January 7, 2004 - http://alternet.org/story.html?StoryID=17512 (as of January 15, 2004). (back)
2. Buffalo, New York, September 6, 1901. (back)
America the 'beautiful' on Swans
Milo Clark on Swans (with bio).
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