The Runaway Society

Hola mi Gente,

My contempt for the so-called “liberals” on MSNBC and elsewhere increases as the days go by. Case in point, Rachel Maddow…

Last night Rachel performed what can only be described as a hatchet job on Sanders last night. She disputes that there was a record turnout for the democrats, throwing shade on Sanders claim that he has energized the electorate. And while the numbers weren’t as high as they were in 2008, they came close! You see what she did there?

“Voters for Democrats showed up in numbers just shy of the turnout seen in 2008… ”

So the New Hampshire numbers didn’t shatter the 2008 numbers but Sanders turned out the vote in numbers that came close to a record shattering year. Other inconvenient facts left out by Ms. Maddow was a new and prohibitive voter ID law targeting college students (among others), a key Sanders demographic, that wasn’t in effect in 2008 and possibly impacted turnout. Finally, one the reason why the GOP garnered more voters was that there were eight GOP candidates:

“In Iowa our two candidates, along with Martin O’Malley, turned out 171,000 caucus-goers, compared to the eleven Republican candidates — who ended up virtually in the same spot at 180,000,” Democratic National Committee Chairman Luis Miranda said in a memo after Tuesday’s voting. “We saw that same kind of enthusiasm in New Hampshire.” [here]

Any first-year political science major could’ve told you this, but not Rachel Maddow — she didn’t mention any of this. This was shoddy reporting.

* * *


The Runaway Society

I don’t give a damn about semi-radicals… This is not a time of gentleness. It is not a time of lukewarm beginnings. It’s a time for open speech and fearless thinking. — Helen Keller


Towards the end of Emile Zola’s The Beast of Man, an engineer and a fireman are quarreling in the locomotive of a passenger train. In his rage, the fireman has stoked the engine’s fire into an inferno. They grab at each other’s throats, each trying to force the other through the open door. Losing their balance, both fall out and perish. The train rumbles on at breakneck speed. The passengers, soldiers en route to the war front, are sleeping or drunkenly unaware of the impending disaster.

Zola’s story has been seen as a parable of modern runaway societies. Those supposedly in charge, embroiled in their own personal dramas, paralyzed with performance anxiety, or caught up in their ambitions, have left the driver’s seat. Meanwhile we, their oblivious passengers, are about to pay the price.

So how did we all get here? Let us consider some facts. A common conservative strategy is setting up government agencies for failure (by slashing funding, for example) and then blaming any failure, not on disinvestment or deregulation, but the very agencies they set up to fail. Politicians, who rail against government and how they hate government (actually, “We, the people… ”), run for the offices of that very government. We ignore the fact that a gun endows people — in a violent gun culture — the power to inflict destruction like no other instrument. Sure pencils don’t cause people misspell words, but let me see how many people you can shred with one pencil as opposed to an assault weapon. All of these things are true but as a society we become inured — we have fallen asleep — to our reality. The train hurtles on while we watch “reality” on a two-dimensional flat screen.

The genius of the conservative movement lies in how they have convinced many of us that a regressive rather than a progressive tax structure is better for us (they call it “tax relief”). Conservatives have been very strategic in how they convinced a number of us to go along with trickle-down or “supply-side”economics — an economic theory no real economist has ever backed.

In any case, our opinions are most often driven by the beliefs — or better put, by the metaphors we live by. Conservatives have known this for some time and that is partly why many of you voted for Trump in the New Hampshire primary and why many more consistently vote against their own economic interests, or find some identification with something called a teabagger. Conservative operatives discovered long ago that people vote their values, not on the issues. Therefore, if you can frame, say, “family values” in a way that puts conservatism in a better light, you have co-opted the most important metaphor we all live by — families.

Progressives have labored under the false notion that reason or issues should come first. Yes, issues are important, but people vote on values (frames) and if you can’t connect with people on values, you will never get your agenda on board. Let’s take the following facts as an example:

On trade, polls consistently show the public is very suspicious of the free trade agreements that have hurt the middle class. On health care, surveys dating from as far back as President Truman’s administration consistently show that about two-thirds of those asked desire a government-guaranteed universal health-insurance system — even if that means higher taxes.

If the mainstream is more left of center, then why aren’t these issues on the table for public discourse? Why? Well, for one they haven’t been framed adequately and there is a substantive number of so-called progressives who have abandoned the progressive principle of health care as a right rather than a privilege. Many of Hillary Clinton’s supporters, for example, like to say they support this principle but will not vote for a candidate who wants to implement it, nor advocate for it. This is what they call pragmatism — the politics of “no you can’t!”

And this is unfortunate because one of the ways issues are framed is through repetition. Comic Jon Stewart formerly of The Daily Show, made a career highlighting hilarious video clips of the right-wing noise machine using the same words over and over. Every day. This is a very effective way to express and embed an idea. The words come with frames of reference attached. Those frames in turn latch on to and activate deeper, subconscious frames. When repeated incessantly, the words serve to reinforce deep frames by actually strengthening neural connections in listeners.

In that way, I can stand up on a stump and yell out catch phrases like “family values!” or “tough on crime!” and immediately in your brain a barrage of conservative-framed neurologically connected issues appear. I can blurt out, “tax and spend” and immediately conservative frames come to your mind. “Tough on crime!” “Traditional marriage!” “Choice!” For the last 40 years, a vast network of think tanks, newspapers, radio and TV shows have embedded these values into the collective mind of unsuspecting or apathetic Americans, creating a passive mindset. Shit, people all over the world, who are taking to the streets to fight for their equal share are wondering, “Where are the Americans?” Sadly, we have fallen asleep and the train is hurtling towards sure disaster…

My name is Eddie and I’m in recovery from civilization…


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s