Monday, May 8, 2017

Wariness is Good


We all know about Fox News, the original Fake News Channel, so fake it is now known widely as the Faux News Channel. Lying, or inventing untrue stories are the hallmark of Fox and its retinue of actors pretending to be journalists.  But in thinking about Brexit in the UK, The US election and the recent French election in which the far right lePen was defeated by a moderate Macron, I am tempted to ask about connections. The similarities were just too striking.  What are the similarities you might ask?

1.      Russia played a role in at least the American and French elections, with the role being to hack and distribute e-mails theoretically damaging to the campaign of a moderate/left wing candidate, Macron, and Clinton. The release of the e-mails, some real and many fake, were intended to embarrass or portray the candidates as flawed, even criminal.  We are uncertain about the British election, simply because nothing has been released about a possible Russian influence, although it seems clear that Vlad the Impaler would certainly have wanted Brexit to occur. He is interested in the destruction of a unified Europe, so Brexit would suit his purposes nicely.

2.       Lying. In each case, the right wing has engaged in such flagrant lying, and inventing tales of horror about the opposition that many potential voters were eventually worn down and they either switched their votes from the left to the right, or they simply did not vote.  Many of course would argue that the Left is as guilty as the right of invention. But in most cases, it seems not to be true.  Whatever hyperbole existed on the left, they largely refrained from making up stuff about the opposition that was pure fabrication.  Now, the lying worked in two directions. First, they invent lies about the opposition--the left candidate/position—or they invent lies about the right wing candidate’s positions on issues, or accomplishments, such that the lies played into the mindset of the voters. In all cases, the voters were worried, even frantic with worry about the economy and its effects on their personal economic well-being. So, the right wing cast the economy is being in the toilet, blamed Obama and Hillary, or Macron in France, and also then blamed immigrants for trashing the economy.

3.       That “vast right wing conspiracy” brought to our attention early on by Hillary and then described in many other publications, including a book by Paul Krugman, The Great Unraveling: Losing Our Way in the New Century. W. W. Norton & Company. . . . In his book, Krugman used the phrase ("Yes, Virginia, there is a vast right-wing conspiracy"[19]) to refer not to a conservative Republican-leaning campaign against Clinton (or Obama), but more generally to "an interlocking set of institutions ultimately answering to a small group of people that collectively reward loyalists and punish dissenters" in the service of "movement conservatism." The network of institutions provide obedient politicians with the resources to win elections, safe havens in the event of defeat, and lucrative career opportunities after they leave office. They guarantee favorable news coverage to politicians who follow the party line, while harassing and undermining opponents. And they support a large standing army of party intellectuals and activists. In Krugman's view, the network of foundations that fund conservative scholarship, the national and regional think tanks and advocacy groups, talk radio media outlets, and conservative law firms through which they pushed their agenda to move the Republican Party to the right, far surpass in funding, size, inter-connectedness or influence anything the democratic party or the American liberal movement have at their disposal. Steve Bannon and his Breitbart “News” may take much of the public’s attention, but they are but the tiny tip of an iceberg of such right wing “think tanks” and pseudo-research institutions.

4.       Even the menu of “things to worry about” if you are a prospective voter is the same, whether you live in France, Britain or Kentucky.  First and foremost, of course, is those nasty immigrants, taking all your jobs, creating Muslim Caliphates in your neighborhood, and threatening to blow up your most sacred institutions.  So, close all the doors, lock up the Muslims in your neighborhood and throw away the keys.  Your world should include only good white Christians born within your borders to families born within your borders.

5.       Government is not the solution, government is the problem, to paraphrase St. Ronald of Reagan. Remember Ronnie? Yeah, he was so cute. He actually believed in that infamous “Laffer Curve”, under which the republican proponents argued that reducing tax rates would always increase tax revenues. Instead, Reagan’s budgets produced the largest deficits in the nation’s history. Republicans who now try to push the issue in the real world might be characterized as “Charge and Spend” proponents, as distinct from their democratic colleagues whom they characterize as “Tax and Spend” Dems.

So, with all these similarities we need to be perhaps more aware that whenever right wing politicians get on one of their hobby horses, we are likely to be enroute to yet another dumpster load of trash talk that will result in even more authoritarian control over our every movement. 

I am not sure whether the United States is unique in regard to right wing takeovers of religion, education and health care. In this country, the republicans, now in charge of everything, seem headed for the elimination of public education, public health care (meaning publically funded and managed) and the imposition of organized (Christian) religion into our everyday affairs.  Thus, education will be privatized, Medicaid, and, if they can manage it, Medicare, will be privatized, Social Security will be turned over to Goldman Sachs, and Christian institutions will be permitted to discriminate against any and all members of the non-church-going public, whenever they feel like it.

Now, if you remain vigilant and call your Congresspersons on issues of importance, you might at least make them aware of the consequences of imposing authoritarian rule. So, stay awake, stop watching Fox News, and do plan to vote in the next election, assuming there are any.
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