Thursday, January 31, 2008

Oh politics.

Ever since we started to think that there probably weren't any weapons of mass destruction in Iraq (besides our army of course) I've skewed leftward and, um, upward (?), distancing from my Republican roots. It's not surprising I considered myself a Republican. Everyone where I grew up was a staunch Republican with varying degrees of conservative dogma.

For example, the other night I was around my parents' friends in Baltimore when one of them came up to me and said, "Hey! We have the same birthday! And we share it with Rush Limbaugh!" In Washington, outside of the Caucus Room or some other Republican haunt, this statement would have carried the implication that Limbaugh's a pompous demagogue. Forgetting my environment, my reflex was to say, "That's unfortunate." The woman promptly huffed off. Somehow I never bothered to think that someone could still seriously consider a man like Limbaugh to be a positive figure. Now that I have realized this I'm sort of depressed.

Similarly, I quit watching Fox News years ago because I realized it was essentially a flag-waving, jingoistic wad of propaganda. It made the invasion of Iraq look like a fucking videogame. I remember sitting at a bar watching the tanks triumphantly roll through the deserts and cheering them on while drinking my $1.00 beers (it was an AWESOME happy hour special). Over on CNN, they were a bit more skeptical of the war, so I didn't even bother to watch it. Why should I waste my time with those left-wing nay-sayers; they're just bitter they lost the election (even though they actually won it). "Just wait until they unearth the nuclear weapons," I thought. Say what you will about CNN--"Communist News Network" or twatever you want to call it--they were right to be skeptical. And I'll emphasize that they were only skeptical, because being adversarial to the Administration at that time was considered "un/anti-American" in those few years of McCarthyist patriotism. Sure, overall, CNN may have a leftward lean, but on the bidirectional seesaw of mass media political ideology, Fox News sends it careening into the stratosphere. Since I'm going to be taking a grain of salt anyway, I'd rather take my political and social commentary from conceited middle-left pundits than exuberant right-wing nationalists. At least I'm given the option to filter out the conceit.

Now, I still treat Fox News with scorn and contempt, but I've also realized that it's just as self-polarizing to blank out the praddle coming into my right ear as it was to do so for my left ear years ago. So, I'll watch a few minutes of Fox News now and then just to contemplate what they're going on about. For instance, John Bolton, the former U.S. Ambassador to the UN, was being interviewed by someone two days ago on FN. He said something like "the NIE [National Intelligence Estimate] report has been the most damaging thing to our country's foreign policy in a long time." I think I might have yelled at the TV then. If you don't know, the NIE report represents the collective wisdom of our entire country's intelligence resources and said what every right-wing asshole doesn't want to hear: Iran hasn't been working on a nuclear weapon since 2003. Whoops. But, rather than showing weakness and accepting the facts, our former UN Ambassador prefers to stammer in disbelief that this report had the nerve to even exist! What especially pissed me off was that the Fox News anchor agreed with him. If we just wanted to to hear what we wanted to hear all the time then I don't even know why we'd spend billions upon billions of dollars on intelligence programs. Unfortunately, I think this interview is quite representative of the Administration that I used to support. As infuriating as this is, it's useful to try and see where the Republican establishment is getting its information from.

A final fit of anger erupted from me during the State of the Union address, during which Bush contradicted his own record and wrongly chastised "Congress" for not fulfilling his wishes. The fact that he uttered ideas of fiscal restraint was beyond laughable. If you're looking for that extra trillion dollars or so to fix things in our own country that desperately need fixing (social security, health care, infrastructure, education, security, immigration, etc...), you might want to check that big hole in the ground in Iraq we've dug ourselves into. Fiscal restraint, fuck you Bush, seriously.

What should be particularly depressing for "true Republicans" is that this Administration isn't really Republican, or at least so they say. Being sponsored and supported by the Republican National Committee largely undermines that argument. And the fact that political camps evolve ideologically over time is another point against [e.g. the Democratic Party under Woodrow Wilson successfully resegregated the federal government so that whites and blacks couldn't work in the same offices]. Here are your Republicans.

This Administration has shown that it is indeed possible, in 6 years time, to take an overwhelming majority and turn it on its head through gross incompetence and a sense of righteous entitlement. What was hailed as the New Conservative Movement is now fractious, irreconcilable, and irreperable. I guess it should be somewhat comforting that this camp evolved itself out of power, but then again, we still have another goddamn year to go.


Jessica said...

Fox News is considered a joke here. Until it dawns on you that it's not in many American homes.

Hey, while I'm commenting and all - I really enjoy your blog, if I haven't said so before. You have some unexpected ways of expressing things that makes me laugh out loud sometimes :)

adspar said...

Here's a way of expressing the situation that I hadn't thought of before in these exact terms.

The way a politician makes a living is by creating a "market" of supporters and then selling that market. [Just like the job of a TV station is to build a market of viewers they then sell to advertisers.) They build support through rhetoric, or by tapping into existing tribal identifications, and very occasionally through a few actual efforts to work in the interests of their supports.

But mostly they use the power of their supporters to work for the interests of whoever buys that power (corporations), and then use some of the proceeds of the sales to continue to protect and build their support. It is just like TV.

Our two major political parties just try to attract the support of slightly difference audiences, but they both sell to the same buyers. Just like CNN and Fox News.

The whole political game then is just using marketing/propaganda to convince the majority to surrender their interests to the interests of a few privileged elites.

Republican and Democrat are just brand names, they're Coke and Pepsi. Same death juice with different emotional attachments.

Anonymous said...

Yes. But how do you feel about Lou Dobbs?? :-)

Brice Lord said...

That's pretty odd that Fox News would try to break into the Swedish market. I can't imagine it would ever get much traction considering its inherent disdain for anywhere in Europe but the UK. Thanks for the kudos, though, much appreciated!

As for adspar's comments, it's going to take awhile for me to put together what you're saying here. First of all, let me state that both Coke and Pepsi have diet varieties, so you're argument is null. Just kidding.

The analogy is an interesting one. You have to look at who the special interest groups are, or in your terms, the "buyer" of political capital and thus majority support from the masses.

First of all, the equation seems to assume that political capital is directly transferable from the electing masses to the special interests groups. It is true that politicians are able to get away with things their electing supporters would not agree with, but it is also true that that they cannot certain instances. Since elections seem to be largely a popularity contest, it serves to reason that the elected representative is going to act in accordance with the general social conscience of the electing population. Say a senator elected un Utah is expected to vote against abortion rights by those who elected him/her but instead voted for them. S/He'll likely be voted out of office come the next cycle, regardless of the work of special interest groups. Those groups can do everything in their power to wage a skewed campaign to sway the voters, but there will likely be an opposite campaign pushing back. Ultimately, the issue still resides with the people voting someone into that office. I think that shows that political capital can be "bought," but its conversion rate can be positive or negative.

Additionally, sometimes the special interest groups are the masses. E.g. labor unions, veterans and retired workers organizations.

Finally, just because we disagree with many things Congressfolk do doesn't mean the people who elected them do as well.

You do touch on an important idea behind responsible media. While in this post I show my preference for CNN over Fox News because I think it shows less of a bias, I do not think it should serve as a primary source of information. As "anonymous" below can attest to, I get pissed that the "best political team on television" can't seem to ever discuss the presidential candidates' political agenda, only their campaign strategies. It's no different to me than learning who Brad Pitt's fucking this week. Sure, it can be riveting and full of dark inrigue, but it's essentially empty. In fact, this is the essence of Fahrenheit 451. The loss of intellectualism and the rise of superficiality. I mean, it's horribly erudite and pretentious for me to lecture about this, but hey, there it is.

As for the Rep./Dem. dichotomy, I've posted before about this 2-D wasteland. I'm not happy with either party, but I identify more with the Democrats than the Repubs. I'm somewhere in Libertarian land I guess, but there's no news channel for us.

And I hate Lou Dobbs. God, he's fustian and obstinate. A fucking Populist Rush Limbaugh.

adspar said...

"Since elections seem to be largely a popularity contest, it serves to reason that the elected representative is going to act in accordance with the general social conscience of the electing population."

I can see why this notion would be plausible at first glance, but I think it is flimsy as hell, unless you restrict the analysis to divisive wedge issues like the abortion example you mentioned.

In regards to a broad range of issues, US Policy is and has been vastly different than public opinion for a long time. Public opinion about military spending, social spending, taxation, etc is far out of line with both party platforms and histories.

One explanation is that the public is essentially forced to choose between 2 barely distinguishable parties (with the exception of those wedge issues, which are intentionally amplified to create the illusion of meaningful choice), and those 2 parties act as a consortium preventing any outside challenges to their power, even as they jockey between each other for internal power.