Feb 24th, 2011
by Stephanie Baselice
Once upon a time, people sought to educate themselves with news. For founding father Thomas Jefferson, an educated public was seen as key to a functional democratic society. Yet education can be a slippery concept in today's media. Corporate interests and billionaires invest heavily in selling us their vision for our future, and we buy this vision at the expense of that very future. They utilize Orwell's “newspeak”--simplifying the language and message so severely that no argument is possible, and defining the very arguments against them in their own terms, such as the Orwellian juxtaposition of “Freedom=Slavery”. This is very simple; once you understand it you will begin to see it used everywhere. They vigorously and repeatedly associate any person or idea working against their interests with persons or ideas the audience hates and fears. The idea is that you repeat a VERY big lie loudly and often enough that listeners will believe it must be true. This strategy is attributed to Adolf Hitler - it is popularly known as The Big Lie. Once you have done this you just insert your preferred truth, and voila! Propaganda success.
For the audience it all starts to make sense if you don't really think too much about it but just let your mind flow with the words and images washing over you every night when you are tired from a day at work, or looking for work. So now on propaganda outlets like Fox news, “Socialism” =Totalitarian Social Control. Political opponents are “Nazis”. Since the word Nazi was an acronym for a term that included the word Socialist, it is easy to permanently associate the concept of socialism with Nazis rather than with the comparatively high living standards of common people in Europe. In the same manner, “Social Justice” = “Redistribution of Wealth” which has been redefined to mean that middle class savings will be taken and given to the lazy and indigent. So “Social Justice” becomes “Un-American” since it has been construed to mean unfair taxes and limits on personal freedom. Just put the two next to each other. Social Justice = Un-American. “Freedom” is now defined as the freedom to choose between similar products, produced and sold by monopoly.
And monopoly is everywhere. Market Capitalism itself no longer implies an open field of economic competition, since collusion and oligarchy and even monopoly are so deep in our markets that we no longer are even aware of them. Conservatives are strangely silent as mega mergers eliminate competitiveness from the markets. If you disagree, first try to change your cable provider then argue. The “Market” has become an object of worship, yet without any discussion of what markets can and cannot actually provide. Markets cannot provide shared public goods such as roads, hospitals or schools because the costs of building these things are very high, but the value/profit goes to the whole society instead of to an owner. So since no one with even the most rudimentary understanding of economics will agree with the blind worship of markets, the power behind outlets like Fox seeks to either control economic terminology or to preemptively define economists as “other”--effete intellectual elites who are working against the interests of the common people. That is unless they can be paid to support corporatist views. Given the economic conditions facing academics, this must be relatively easy.
The greatest danger to the corporate oligarchy cause is that people will start to question what they are told and think too critically about who is telling them what to do and why. Billionaires benefit heavily from the American prejudice against the smart and well educated, so their paid pundits (and politicians) must appear humble, “folksy” and must wrap themselves in the mantle of tradition. In this way they redefine what is sacred in proper in the minds of the audience. The founding fathers and their documents have become objects of worship. These very texts are selectively mined to re-write their intentions, in the same manner as used by the Ministry of Truth in Orwell's 1984. Faux Conservative pundits even call this activity “Constitutional” all the while decrying the “Judicial Activism” of those who would expand the rights of women and minorities. Since so few of the audience have the critical thinking skills to read and study the actual documents for themselves (sorry, but prove me wrong-I beg you) those who own the pundits have the opportunity to re-define them as they please. Americans identify themselves as religious, so faux conservatives seek to define what religious means: Christian = God-Fearing=obedience to authority and to the existing power structure rather than a personal questioning of these very things in service of a higher good. This is the antithesis of what the Bible says Christ did, but how many people bother with the second half of the Bible when obsession with the first creates so many opportunities to vent one's anger on others?
The Spanish have a saying: “God helps the strongest”. This is certainly appears to be true. Right now Mega-corporations and Oil Barons are the strongest. And they have remade God in their own image. They are calling God a conservative, which flatters conservatives while taking away their actual voice. Mega-corporations have nearly unlimited resources to apply, and near total control of the media environment by virtue of ownership of media outlets. They leverage the American prejudice against intellectuals to silence those who would speak against them—artists, philosophers, writers, teachers etc... Anyone who disagrees with them or works counter to their purposes is defined as “Evil” and “Enemies of God” or enemies of the “American Way of Life”. Those terms are so frightening to people that they are afraid to even research the actions and opinions of anyone against whom these accusations are levied. The general laziness of the audience is also a big factor in this process. Trained to revere and follow authority, many people blindly follow the pronouncements of the authority which profit seeking corporate interests have created. Just the act of putting a person on TV gives them the power to define authority, goodness, even God as they see fit. As long as actual conservatives are silent, this power will continue to grow. And by watching uncritically and indulging in our darkest fears, we will see those fears realized in a totalitarian two tier society where a powerful elite control even our thoughts and morality. The American ideals we revere will be lost forever, with only the redefined language of a once visionary society sputtering in soundbites from the mouths of TV shills for the likes of the Koch Brothers.