Monday, May 11, 2015

How I Broke America

I've had it up to my eyeballs with Neocons whining about the liberal media.

The bulk of the American media is not liberal. It's not conservative.

American media is corporate.

Hell, what we call "news" isn't even really news. It's entertainment disguised as news and it couldn't care less about politics. All it cares about is keeping you glued to the TV so they can sell advertising, and keeping advertisers happy by getting people to consume as much as possible as fast as possible without asking, "why?"

There IS ideologically driven media on both "sides" of the aisle but this still isn't news, it still isn't liberal, and it still isn't conservative. It's party propaganda. It's not meant to inform, it's meant to prop up the "one party system" by keeping true believers in one party afraid of the soulless heathens in the other party. People who trust these sources (Fox News and MSNBC, for example) are wildly misinformed even compared to people who ignore the news completely.

Media, and politics for that matter, isn't about liberals and conservatives. It's about keeping power consolidated in the existing "bipartisan" political structure.

The One Party Ideology
The ideological differences between the parties are largely cosmetic.

You don't think so? Let's look at a few things they have in common.

Both endorse big government. Both support the IRS and the federal income tax. Both endorse the war on drugs. Both endorse inflated military spending, adventurism, the Patriot Act, NSA domestic mass surveillance, and the so-called "war on terror". Both endorse the "central banking system". Both pay lip service to immigration reform but support policies that criminalize and deport as many immigrants as possible. Both are complicit in deficit spending and trillion dollar tax giveaways to big business.

Both are actively advancing secretly negotiated global trade agreements like the TPP. This is a "Free trade" treaty we can't even honestly criticize because legislators are trying to ram it though without even letting the public see what's in it. What we can be certain of, though, is that it's central to the ambitions of multinational corporate interests. These are the very same corporate interests, by the way, that fund the two party system and own the media.

In the light of day we don't really have a two party system at all. There is really only one party with an iron lock on power. It controls the "bipartisan" federal election commission and the "bipartisan" debate commission. While this party insists that "they" are private entities with no connection to government party registrations are consistently administered by the state and officially sanctioned on the actual ballots.

Maintaining an Illusion of Choice
The media doesn't talk about what the parties AGREE on, which is really pretty much everything, so there's no discussion of these important issues at all. The false dichotomy of the two party system keeps these issues out of sight and out of mind unless public outcry FORCES the system to address them by passing referendums to legalize marijuana or by bombarding administrative procedures with public comments in favor of net neutrality, and even then politicians in both parties scheme to defy the will of the voters they purport to serve in favor of paying back the corporate special interests that fund their campaigns.

The differences the "parties" pretend to argue about are a few percentage points on tax rates and programs worth a few hundred million dollars here or there. Arguing over programs like PBS and food stamps represents a pittance in the Federal budget. The stink over Obamacare is a joke. If McCain had been elected instead of Obama the Republicans would have put the exact same system in place, called it Romneycare, and they'd be heralding it today as a resounding success.

Other differences that might seem important, like abortion and gun control, are smoke and mirrors intended to keep people divided and afraid. They aren't even REALLY legislative issues at all but are instead firmly under the thumb of the supreme court.

When you get right down to it the two party system is a dog and pony show. Neither party is particularly liberal compared to the other and neither is really conservative AT ALL.

Both parties are corporate.

Following the Money
Both major parties are owned by pretty much the same special interests, and these are the same special interests that own the media.

The result isn't hard to figure out. All you need to do is step back and look, yet somehow the "party faithful" continue to stymie the sensible majority of independents who might, given half a chance, actually be able to clean up the mess left behind by a century of rampant corruption and mismanagement.

A Culture of Stupidity
It's ironic, and very telling, that so many people are constantly whining about the "intellectual elite". Smart, well educated people aren't the ones screwing up the country. The country is being screwed up by the rich, the powerful, and the stupid.

The culture of mediocrity is a thing of the past. We now live in a culture that holds intellect in abject contempt. Intellect and education are treated as character flaws, arrogance and pomposity, while the stupid and the ignorant flaunt their simple-minded provincialism with pride.

My Profession Broke America
The reason for this is quite simple, and as a marketer I must admit to a degree of complicity. The corporate media is about advertising, and any marketer will tell you there's no point in advertising to smart people. Smart people are not influenced by advertising. Smart people buy the best product for the best price. They don't buy based on what they see and hear on ads. They make purchasing decisions based on referrals and independent research. An advertisement is a paid self-promotion. Only an idiot would buy a product because the guy selling it tells you it's the best product for the best price.

Fortunately for the advertising industry there are a lot of idiots out here.

Unfortunately, media being ad driven pretty much means that pretty much everything you see on TV is oriented to stupid people. I don't want to run ads on Masterpiece Theater. The kind of people that watch that show won't buy my products. I want to run my ads on Real Housewives so the money keeps rolling in.The idiots that watch that crap will buy anything. You can move 10,000 units of any product you want just by putting it on the tank of Kim Kardashian's toilet.

Furthermore, it's in my best interests to keep people stupid so I can continue advertise to them. I don't want the media educating and informing my customers. I want the media to tell people that they're OK "just the way they are" and at the same time turn words like "intellectual", "thoughtful", and "educated" into pejoratives.

And because I'm the one giving them money to run my ads that's exactly what they give me.

Stupidity and Democracy

Being smarter than average doesn't make you smart. It just makes you a little less stupid. Hell... my IQ is more than a little on the high side and I know I can be a complete idiot. Stupid is a chronic condition we all suffer from occasionally. 

Just because we are all prone to stupidity, however, does not mean we should aspire to it. This is where media culture has failed us. You're not OK just the way you are. It doesn't matter how smart or how stupid you are, you should aspire to be more. It's never OK to be content with what you know.

Stupidity and democracy are a bad mix and when the people who shape the media deliberately cultivate a culture of stupidity it can't help but influence our politics. Uninformed voters might be great for the established power structure, but it doesn't do much for the quality of an election. People who don't really understand an issue can't reasonably be expected to cast an intelligent vote in regards to it.

The Tragic Genius of the One Party System
This culture of stupidity has allowed idiots, cynics, and cowards to pretty much form the dedicated "party faithful" of both major parties, with idiots by far being the best represented.

If you are content to be a part of "Muhrican" culture than you haven't gotten this far into this post, and thank God for people like you because there is an underlying America that's still worth being proud of. Thanks to you there is hope.

Waking Up
Third party voters call major party voters "sleepwalkers". There's a simple litmus test to find out what kind of sleepwalker you are. This is the key to waking up.

Becoming an informed voter is about identifying what kind of voter you are now, and a bi part of that is accepting the painful truth that if you are voting for major party candidates you are not currently informed. This will require some brutally honest self-reflection but you need to understand what aspect of the system has co-opted you. Once you've done that you at least have a chance to stand up to it.

If you are worried about the governments ability to keep you safe, you're a coward. And probably something of an idiot also if you really believe the government CAN keep you safe.

If you are simply siding with the lesser of two evils you are a cynic... but cynicism alone doesn't excuse party loyalty. Again, you're probably also a bit of an idiot. The existence of only "two evils" is, after all, a false dichotomy.

Maybe you're jaded (cynical with a streak of cowardice) and realize there are other options but refuse to explore them because "they won't win".

Hopeless Follower
Jaded or not cynics actually represent another pretty important voting block that I call the "two party faithful". These are voters who consider themselves "independent" but remain slaves to the choices of the "party faithful" on both "sides". They are constantly switching allegiances between the two parties trying to support the "lesser evil" suffering under the delusion that which evil you vote for could possibly even make a difference. They see that something is broken, but they just can't wrap their head around the idea that the politicians aren't the problem, they're just a symptom. The problem is the system. 

And this brings us to the core constituency of both parties. People being just plain stupid.
  • If you sincerely believe that the rank and file voters who support the other party are "evil", that they are trying to "destroy the country", or that they "hate America" you're being just plain stupid.
  • If you believe it is the proper function of a legislator to "hold the line" or if you think "compromise" is a dirty word in a parliamentary setting you're being just plain stupid.
  • If you believe this is a democracy, that most Americans really want free market medicine, or that we even have free market capitalism in this country you're being just plain stupid.
  • If you believe that US Currency is backed, the Federal Reserve Bank is part of the government, printing money stabilizes the economy, or that there is gold in Fort Knox you're being just plain stupid.
  • If you sincerely believe there is still any real scientific doubt or debate about cigarettes being carcinogenic, global climate change being influenced by human activity, or vaccination posing a greater health risk to your kids than polio or measles epidemics you're being just plain stupid.
  • If you believe EITHER party is any more or less responsible than the other for our national debt or deficit spending, you're being just plain stupid.
  • If you voted for a major party candidate thinking he or she could change the system from the inside; if you sincerely believed anyone who's part of that system would even try; you were likewise being just plain stupid.
Oh... wait... That last one was me, wasn't it?

When Obama came around talking about ending wars, condemning NSA surveilance, putting an end to drone strikes on overwhelmingly civilian targets, shutting down Gitmo, and just generally demilitarizing the country I swallowed his bullshit hook, line, and sinker.

Yeah. I being stupid.

And that brings us to our happy ending... we don't have to be stupid. We can learn from our mistakes. We can walk away from the one party system, and when enough of us have turned our backs on them they will either change and become more responsive to the will of the voters, or they'll lose their power.


Sick Mother F***ers
One last thing... I almost forgot...

There is one other option.

If you are a dedicated believer in either of the two major parties but none of the sleepwalker archetypes really applies to you you need to consider the possibility that you are a sociopath. Sociopaths see exactly what's going on and don't care. They would rather exploit the system as a means for personal power than do anything to fix it... but if that's the case you're probably already in (or invested in) politics so you already know that. 

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

What Would Martin Luther King Jr. Say?

Ron Paul recently posted a video in a post titled "Violence in Baltimore: What Would Would MLK Say?"

It was kinda lukewarm to say the least. A couple of old white guys with axes to grind. Smart white guys, yes... but they came off as a little clueless even if they made some very astute observations.

It got me thinking, though. What would MLK say?

I think he would say something like this.
"The media is calling this a riot.

"They do not understand.

"The politicians are blaming you for destroying your own homes and what few economic opportunities your communities offer.

"They do not understand.

"The village elders are dismissing you as thugs. 
"They do not understand. 
"I understand.

"I understand what it is to be so filled with rage that I cannot see past my desire to lash out. I understand what it's like to be told I must make my own way in a community where there ARE NO economic opportunities. I understand what it is to be stopped... to be searched... to be beaten... to be murdered for the color of my skin. 
"I understand that days melt into months, months melt into years, years melt into decades and nothing ever seems to change.

"I understand that a police officer, bound as he is to serve and protect, cannot serve and protect you because all he sees is the color of your skin and that alone is enough to make you a suspect. 
"I understand. 
"I understand that they have taken your power. They have left you feeling hopeless and without a future. 
"I understand what the media, and the politicians and the village elders do not. I understand that this is not a riot. 
"I understand that the economic opportunities the politicians are accusing you of destroying are like the lotteries they let you play and the liquor they let you buy and the cigarettes they let you slowly kill yourselves with; they are all lies. 
"I understand that you are not thugs. You are young men and women; you are American boys and girls, just like them, but driven to the edge of hopelessness and despair. 
"I understand that all you want to do is take your power back. 
"I understand.
"But I also understand that the power you think you are claiming for yourselves is ALSO a lie. 
"Burning police cars does not give you power. It gives THEM power. Killing and maiming police officers does not give you power. It gives them power. Burning down or robbing shops does not give you power. It gives THEM power. 
"You are not challenging their lies, you are feeding them. And when this is over they will continue to gun down and pack their prisons with your children, and they will blame you. Then they will turn off their TV's and they will sleep soundly.
"But there is another way. 
"I will not tell you to go home. I will not tell you to trust the system that we ALL know we cannot trust. I will not tell you to submit... or to surrender... or to give the liars another chance to soothe your rage with more empty promises. 
"We have already tried that. Too many times." 
"If you truly have the courage to stand up to these liars... to these thieves of life... to the dogs and the guns and the body armor and the gas... then put down your rocks RIGHT now. Look to your brothers and sisters around you. Take each others hands and sit right where you are. Wherever you are. Do not be moved but by force and when they come for you... and they will come for you... accept their cruelty and do not break. 
"That is real courage. 
"And when the liars turn on their TVs tonight they will not see the police waging a noble stand against thugs. They won't see lawless savages being meted out justice. They will see children being herded into squad cars and police wagons. They will see mothers and sons, and fathers and daughters... they will see tears. They will what we really are and through us they will see what they really are
"And they will not sleep so soundly."
Of course, I am just an old white guy with an ax to grind.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Flat Earth Believers Live On

The shape of the earth was one of the first theories verified using the modern scientific process. Europeans screwed the math up pretty badly and grossly underestimated the size of the planet, but Greek and eastern mathematicians pretty much nailed it. 

No scholar of any real note or relevance believed that the earth was flat as far back as 500 BC. 

But everyone else did. 

Like climate change deniers of today the resistance to the concept of a spherical earth was not led by scholars. It was led by interests invested in the concept of a flat earth in very much the same way climate change denial is being promoted by special interests now. The "round earth" theory was denied mostly by religious leaders invested in discrediting the scientific process, and climate change theory is being denied mostly by oil and gas companies who stand to lose a great deal of money if it gains popular acceptance. In both cases denier factions used very similar strategies to hold up the advance of these theories. 

The concept of a round earth was mathematically proven more than two and a half thousand years ago using Pythagorean mathematics, but until a couple centuries ago very few common folk could even add, much less understand what at the time was considered advanced mathematics. Round earth deniers were able to play on that lack of understanding in exactly the same way climate change deniers are playing the complexity of climatology against the general public now. After all... how could the earth POSSIBLY be anything but flat? It just stands to reason all the oceans would drain off the edge. 

Round earth deniers used "common sense" to debunk the mathematics that most people didn't understand. The contrast in messages between scholars and layman was profound. While scholars were insisting that the universe was something complex and outside most people's understanding, deniers were able to mock that contention as pompous and arrogant. 

Given the choice between...

"I know you don't understand it, but you must believe me the world is round," a message which made people feel small and ignorant...


"Bah... those guys are jerks who think you're stupid, OF COURSE the world is flat," a message which allowed them to keep their sense of understanding and control...

...Most people quite naturally chose to believe the latter. Flat earth believers formed the overwhelming majority of the public, in open contempt of scholarly understanding, pretty much right up until Magellan proved the earth was round by circumnavigating it in the early 16th century, about two millennia after mathematicians had first proven the theory. 

The problem, of course, being that we don't have two thousand years to realize that maybe the scientific process works this time, and if it's going to take a practical demonstration to prove it the way Magellan did we're completely fucked because we don't have a spare earth lying around to destroy.