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Sunday, September 22, 2013

Distort and Capture: a New Technique for Our Times!

“Don’t believe everything you hear!”  Have you heard that before, perhaps in childhood, or in the workplace, or at a friendly gathering?  So, how come so many people in this country are more than eager to believe every negative thing they hear about the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”), and more especially about our President?  I suspect it is the way that right-wing radicals distort the truth that draws people in, and makes them forget everything they should have known about political rhetoric.  So, beware, and do not fall into their web of distortion and capture!  Watch for the following warning signs:

1)  You can’t often trust what comes from a politician’s mouth, or from the broadcast booth of a right-wing commentator like Rush Limbaugh, or Glenn Beck, or Ann Coulter.   Why?  Simply because they have ulterior motives in saying what they say.  The politician wants above all to be re-elected so it is in his/her best interest to garner all the money and votes possible to win.  The radio commentators want fame, sponsors, and a substantial return for their “entertainment value.”  So, they distort the truth to make it palatable for you to swallow.  And, they continue to be quite successful in capturing the loyalty of their audiences.

2)  You can’t trust their rhetoric because they are intent on “blaming” someone else for their lack of ability to control all the power necessary to turn the world toward full acceptance of right-wing conservative ideology.  And, that someone else is clearly Barack Obama.  For some unexplained reason, the two-term, duly-elected President, is to blame for pushing a left-wing, socialistic, Islamist- and communist-inspired agenda that has detracted from their own agenda, and which continues to hamper their road to POWER. 

The “unexplained reason,” of course, has been, and will continue to be, that Barack Obama is a man of color, and therefore unworthy of the Presidency, in their view.  Their efforts to fault him for everything, their rhetoric about his birth, about his religion, about his “differentness,” about his socialistic agenda, about his association with “revolutionaries” in Chicago, about his “laziness,”  his lack of leadership, his aloofness (“Uppity?”), and so on and so forth -- it’s all a cover for what they cannot say directly, but want to say in the worst way.  He is not white -- he is not really a Christian -- he is not “one of us” -- he is black, and for them that constitutes an illegitimate Presidency!  Whenever they speak, this is the “shadow” that stands behind their words: he is not worthy of the Presidency because he is an Afro-American!

And so, they rant and they rave and they conspire, and they act upon de-funding his crowning achievement - the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.  They try to pin some made-up “scandals” on him, threaten to impeach him, say he is weak in foreign policy, say he plays golf too often, say he “leads from behind,” and we will thereby destroy any legacy he might have been able to claim.  But most important, they say he was elected illegitimately because he is not native-born! 

3)  You can’t trust their rhetoric because they can’t escape their own duplicity and hypocrisy.  This is a group of prevaricators who have taken lying and distorting to a whole new level.  In fact, because they have now made distortions and lies an integral and accepted part of campaigning, of legislating, and of garnering votes, they have achieved a level of indecency and lack of respect for voters that has perhaps never been accomplished to this extent in the past. 

But, more to this particular point, they have turned their own failings into achievements, their own former views into not their views, their own past laws and policies into things that never existed.  Take RomneyCare:  in Massachusetts, the plan is good and touted as working to a great extent; when it became associated with Obamacare, it was just the opposite.  Or take use of drones: have you forgotten the U-2 spy plane, or the strafing of innocents in Vietnam, or even agent-orange?  But let’s be more current.  What about the latest turn-around: we shouldn’t be going into Syria with a military strike they say!  What about the Eisenhower doctrine and the battalion of Marines sent  into Lebanon?  What about Desert Storm and H.W. Bush?  What about dispatching of troops to Lebanon by President Reagan? 

4)  You can’t trust their rhetoric because they have an agenda that wants to weaken and perhaps destroy the power of the central government.  They are using all kinds of tactics to achieve their goal, and one of them is to get the public to believe that a strong central government is detrimental to the people’s freedoms and liberties. 

On the contrary, the central government has been, and continues to be, the protector and defender of civil, consumer, and patient rights, and of the rights of the vulnerable in our society.  The states have not measured up in this regard.  They never will; they are incapable of it.  But, the Radical Right would have you fear the national government that mandates anything, even if it is in the best interests of a majority or of a significant minority of the people.  That latter is a good reason to have a strong central government: the protection of minority interests.  Let us count the ways:  the ADA (persons with disabilities), repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” and the promulgation of gay rights, the Civil Rights and Voting Acts, the many programs and benefits for veterans, children, and the poor, the emergency relief efforts of FEMA and other national agencies. And something we keep forgetting -- the role of first responders (police, firemen, EMTs) in protecting and rescuing a small portion of population when they are in harm’s way; let’s not forget to mention the often unsung National Guard, as well.

You would think that this would be enough to overcome the objections to having a strong central government, but apparently not for many in this country who actually benefit from the many laws and programs that are legislated and operated by the central government -- Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid come to mind-- while still buying into the idea that we need to give more autonomy to the states. Devolve any of this to the states, and you will soon find yourself back in the boots of General George Washington who could never forget (especially after the hard winter at Valley Forge) how inadequately the states responded to his need for troops, supplies, and support.  That’s partially why he knew that to be successful, America must have a strong central government, focused mainly in the legislative branch. 

5)  You can’t trust the political rhetoric of the Radical Right because they want the power of the central government and state governments to be used only in ways that will favor them and their cohorts, not the vast majority of the people.  You won’t hear many complaints from the Far Right when the following happen:

--when they can cut all tax rates, especially for those at the top of the ladder - the 1% who they figure should get all the breaks because they supposedly make the economy stronger
--when they can force all public institutions and entities to incorporate prayer and the Ten Commandments into their domain, and we become a “Christian” nation, whatever that is
--when they can totally ban all abortions and severely restrict any use of contraceptives
--when they can drastically reduce the involvement and the freedoms of the lower classes, minorities, and immigrants to a level of minimal impact on our government and society; voter suppression, drastic cuts to “welfare” programs and devolvement of many programs to cash-strapped states should about do it
--when they can eliminate all unions and have Right to Work laws govern all the states in relation to labor
--when they can put women back into the role of subservient housewives by reducing their rights and their access to government and the marketplace
--when they can control who goes to what universities and colleges, and when they can control the curriculum that exists in K-12 grades, so that their ideology is the only one reflected in our history and in our schools

--when they can place most of the national government functions and operations into the hands of private contractors
--when they can control all regulations so that big (and maybe small) businesses can act in whatever ways will grow them and allow them to profit in whatever ways are of their choosing: no more FDA, no more EPA, no more consumer protection agencies
--when they can make an exit from restrictive international agreements, the United Nations, and involvement in any international courts
--when they can strip the federal government of social welfare programs and allow everyone to beg for assistance from wherever they can get it
--when they can further the War on Drugs (read “arrest more minorities and immigrants“), expand the prisons, further militarize the police forces, and use the military to achieve hegemony once again for their belligerent, bellicose nation
--when they can procure for themselves more privileged positions in business and finance that come with service in the national Congress

This has been  a snapshot of what we are going to look like if the rhetoric of the Radical Right continues to capture the minds of our electorate.  They are already working toward these goals.  They will not stop; their actions will not abate.  Their interests are not the interests of most of the middle class, yet there are still those who will vote for them even though it is against their best interests. Indeed, their interests are not even in accord with their constituents in some cases, such as regards gun background checks.

The challenge is: how do progressives counter the rhetoric of the Right Wing zealots?  By winning elections.  By acquiring newspapers, radio stations and TV stations, and by flooding the social media.  By paying more attention to local politics and the need there for Progressive voices and candidates.  By winning statehouses and state legislatures.  By training a new generation of leaders and volunteers.  By growing the Progressive Movement.  Progressives like to talk and debate, but action is the key.  Is it too late?  2014 may give us a partial answer.