How, Exactly, Would We Know This?

Far be it from me to disagree with the asskickingest writer on the political Interwebs these days (seriously, 12 times a day he writes something that makes me want to tear off my own head and eat it because what is the POINT, if I can’t do it like that?) but I think this is a little unfairto the idiots of America:

And let’s assume that Kasich gets kicked around, the way it looks like he might, and the way he thoroughly deserves to be, god knows. What happens next? Is there really an actual movement building here, a parallel mobilization among the largely white middle class that would parallel the one taking place in the Occupy camps around the country? Or will the people on the lawn go back to sneering about the drum-beating hippies sleeping in the parks? Will they all leave the state capitol in Columbus and go back to listening to the hundreds of sub-Limbaughs on their local radio stations, telling them that teachers have it too good because they have summers off, or that firefighters are gaming the disability system, and that “government” is merely a way for all of Them to steal Our money, and that voting is just a waste of time? Do they all go back to worrying about The Deficit, which is merely convenient shorthand for all the things they don’t want to pay for? Do they all go home and prepare themselves, through ignorance and apathy, to vote for the next John Kasich who comes along?

There are other elections going on today, too. It looks as though the Democrats may lose the state senate in Virginia, which will hand the entire state government over to the Republicans. I am going to be very impatient, then, with Virginians who get angry in a year or so that their public services have withered and that a decent middle-class lifestyle is receding from view. In Mississippi, they are voting on a fantastical proposition whereby a zygote is declared to be a “person” protected by law. If it passes, I am going to be very impatient with any Mississippians who get angry in a year or so that they must remain childless, because everyin vitrofertilization clinic in the state has fled to places where they don’t see Jesus in the trunks of gum trees.

Here’s the deal: Everybody should know by now what the results of these elections will mean.

How? How would they know this? I’m not saying people are devoid of responsibility for seeking out truth and knowledge, but it is more acceptable these days to have an opinion on the Kardashians’ marriages than it is to have an opinion on politics that goes any deeper than “fuck ’em all, Charlie, they all suck.” This, right now, is a sampling of stories on CNN’s home page:

A bunch of random shit about Silvio Berlusconi’s “gaffes,” which is apparently what we call being a disgusting pig these days

Some throwaway stories about Greece and “austerity,” as if there is a universal understanding of what austerity is

This Obama-Sarkozy open-mic thing, as if it is news that in the UN lunchroom nobody wants to sit with Netanyahu ever

The Duggars having another kid

Some freakjob buying John Lennon’s tooth

Giant asteroid to pass close to Earth Tuesday

Dog makes pals with police horse

Where, in all that, is Ohio? Where is Mississippi? Again, if you live in those states you absolutely have the responsibility to inform yourself on local issues because asking national news to do it for you is a long wait for a train don’t come, but attacking people for not developing a national narrative that Republicans are backwards-ass necks seems a little … I don’t know, misplaced? There are people of my acquaintance who consider themselves very well-informed, who were comparing, the other day, Sarah Palin to Jesse Goddamn Jackson, as if Sarah Palin had spent her entire life fighting for the betterment of others and then fucked some stuff up along the way. I mean, there are people I know who are not morons, who think Brian Williams is authoritative and that Bob Schieffer is some kind of role model.

We are so utterly broken here, is my point. Out here where the message gets delivered, not just produced, we are so completely fucking busted. We are informed by people who have little information about politics they profess to find trivial or repulsive or both, and this meager diet of buzzwords is served in between 10 minutes of weather, three minutes of anchor banter and a bunch of commercials for Cialis, and then we cut to a story about a viral video of a baby giggling that, if you have Facebook or an elderly relative with e-mail, you’ve already seen 57 times. That’s what you get for free. That’s your bottom line, foundation media.

And the thing that makes developing an alternative narrative to the national media so goddamn critical is the same thing that makes it so hard: AMERICA IS REALLY FUCKED. The amount of time it takes to pay bills and argue with insurance assholes and four different online specialty pharmacies on the phone, for example, eats into a lot of reading and discussion time. If you’re lucky enough to still be employed, on your commute home you mostly think about how much gas costs and how you’re going to afford the increase in your mortgage payment because the bank that held your loan went tits-up and now nobody even knows who owns your house anymore. Your kids are sick, and the doctor can see you only during the hours you have to be at work or else, and the washing machine is making a noise, and your spouse saw a roach in the kitchen, and it never fucking ends.

My point isn’t to let power-humping fetus-fetishizing union-busting dickheads off the hook here. My point is that I have a lot more contempt for the people selling this stuff than the ones buying it.


14 thoughts on “How, Exactly, Would We Know This?

  1. Thank you for that!
    I have been a political junkie since I watched the President murdered when I was seventeen. It has become progressively more difficult to find out anything, about anything except the weather, from local news sources. I am grateful for the interwebs.
    Most people are not activists or political junkies so they trust the local and national news media to draw their attention to what is important. Your list of what CNN thinks they should think is important is a perfect example of how well the wedge applied in the eighties has split the tree.

  2. There’s also the despair factor. Going into 2006, the country is going in the wrong direction. So the voters flip control of Congress. How did the Democrats handle their majority? Name the big accomplishments? They could have at least ended the wars. Nope. OK, so maybe the problem is Bush. Put a D in the White House in 2008. And the economy stays in the toilet. So after a couple years people look around and go, huh, we’re still fucked. So what then? There are two parties. Broadly speaking, all the electorate can do is flip control. So you keep flipping until one of them finally addresses what’s wrong.
    And if you try to do something like get a third party going, you’re unserious.
    Also, crack van if you can whip one up. I’ll try to update from these parts as results come in.

  3. This is my first time posting here and I’m doing so because I so agree with you. Love Charles Pierce’s posts, but I disagreed with this one for the same reasons you mention. Our media is corporate owned and TV “news”, such as it is, serves the 1%. The vast public that are not political junkies who get their info online are most definitely underinformed and misinformed and that isn’t an accident. Furthermore, people do indeed have plenty of worries to occupy their time and attention, which makes it easier for the media to continue to disinform them.
    And around we go. Corporate owned and consolidated media are lynchpins of the 1% stranglehold on our government, lives, country.

  4. As a bit of counterpoint. I know that my problem is that my own field is expanding so quickly that there is no way that I can keep up with even just it. While there is a need for information exchange between people of different fields, the different fields are necessarily fragmenting as the former specialist, out of simple self survival, has become increasingly focused on just a narrow sliver of their field (example, what used to be called a Chemist first had to split into broader chemical fields such as organic, physical, etc. But now has trouble keeping up with what is known about just one enzyme.)
    So I can’t individually quiz each of the relevant candidates (not to mention, how close can I get to say, one of the repub prez hopefuls before I’m in handcuffs and what is the chance of MY question being asked and answered instead of some other question or air time for gratuitous sex and violence.
    Admittedly, I’m upset with the situation (and I’m sure you understand the anger isn’t directed at you). But in the world of constant connectivity to the internet, it is starting to seem like we are further removed from the candidates than we were in the days of Washington and Jefferson.

  5. Amen.
    Thanks for that — as a teacher I’m often astounded and discouraged at the vast, vast indifference and ignorance of a big portion of college students I see, but this is a good reminder of why intelligent and responsible people would have no time or attention for politics. It makes sense from where they sit. Yeah, that’s probably not an accident.

  6. Good one. And to further add to what you said – Noam Chomsky’s perspective :
    There is a right-wing populist uprising. It’s very common, even on the left to ridicule them. But that’s not the right reaction. If you look at those people and listen to them on talk radio, these are people with real grievances. I listen to talk radio a lot and it’s kind of interesting. If you can sort of suspend your knowledge of the world and just enter into the world of the people who are calling in, you can understand them. I’ve never seen a study, but my sense is that these are people who feel really aggrieved. These people think, “I’ve done everything right all my life, I’m a god-fearing Christian, I’m white, I’m male, I’ve worked hard, and I carry a gun. I do everything I’m supposed to do. And I’m getting shafted.” And, in fact, they are getting shafted. For 30 years their wages have stagnated or declined, the social conditions have worsened, the children are going crazy, there are no schools, there’s nothing, so somebody must be doing something to them, and they want to know who it is. Rush Limbaugh has answered: it’s the rich liberals who own the banks and run the government and run the media. They don’t care about you. They just want to give everything away to illegal immigrants and gays and communists and so on.
    The reaction we should be having to them is not ridicule, but self-criticism. We are the ones that ought to be organizing them, not Rush Limbaugh. There are historical analogs, which are not exact, of course, but are close enough to be worrisome. This is a whiff of early Nazi Germany. Hitler was appealing to groups with similar grievances and giving them crazy answers, but at least they were answers: that is, they blame the Jews and the Bolsheviks. They were the problem.
    I mean, the liberal democrats aren’t going to tell the average American, “Yeah, you’re being shafted because of the policies that we’ve established over the years that we’re maintaining now.” That’s not going to be an answer. And they’re not getting answers from the left. So, there’s an internal coherence and logic to what they get from Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, and the rest of these guys. And they sound very convincing, they’re very self-confident, and they have an answer to everything—a crazy answer, but it’s an answer. And it’s our fault if that goes on. So one thing to be done is don’t ridicule these people, join them, and talk about their real grievances and give them a sensible answer, like, “Take over your factories.”

  7. Great article G3. I had not read that before but I was beginning to get a sense that the Dems needed to step up and actually educate people instead of ducking and covering everytime a Rethug says something mean.
    There are disgruntled people and rightly so but they shouldn’t be listening to bloated crackhead for answers. Dems need to provide answers based in reality and market, yes market, those answers to the aggrieved American public. Occupy Wall Street has created a huge marketing opportunity and it is rolling big time. The Dems need to get with this and fill the void in peoples’ lives with real solutions.

  8. OkieBlue wrote: “Occupy Wall Street has created a huge marketing opportunity and it is rolling big time. The Dems need to get with this and fill the void in peoples’ lives with real solutions.”
    The problem is that the Dems, just like the Rethugs, get the lion’s share of cash for their campaign coffers from the one percent elite. Like the late, great Molly Ivins always said, “You got to dance with him that brung ya.” The beltway Dems won’t get on board with a populist uprising because they stand to lose just as much as the GOP if the system changes.

  9. CNN (and cable news in general) is rapidly becoming the newspaper of tomorrow. Probably has already.
    (Athenae, if I may.) *steps onto soapbox*
    Once upon a time, children, newspapers ruled the media world. Men like William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer could elect presidents and start wars by using two simple tools: journalism and a printing press.
    Then television came along, and while newspapers didn’t vanish, they kind of stepped back into second place. TV ruled the world, and men like Rupert Murdoch could elect presidents and start wars by using two simple tools: journalism and a cathode ray tube.
    Now the internet has arrived. TV isn’t going anywhere, and neither are newspapers, or magazines, or books for that matter. But cable ratings are dwindling and Murdoch’s empire is falling. No doubt some internet yellow journalist will arrive on the scene soon enough to elect presidents and start wars. That seems to be how this storyline goes. In the meantime, well, be excellent to each other and party on.
    *steps off soapbox*
    Also, Charles Pierce rocks.

  10. Pierce may be the asskickingest political writer today, but you’re giving him a run for his money, Athenae.

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