Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Anderson Cooper is Hellspawn

My comrade in bloggerdom says that he will one day tell his kids that his country sold its soul for 300 dollars.

If I ever get some chick to shit some kids out, I will tell them that what did America in was the corruption of the flaws in free markets. That inherently, free markets lead to this when they are given too much freedom.

Now, free markets are great. I am a fan. No commie here. Free markets allow for innovation and advancements in science, technology, agriculture, communication, etc. etc. Without a doubt, these advancements make the world better. Even in the face of legitimate worries that “progress” can sometimes alienate and complicate life.

But the effects of free markets on American democracy have led to some really terrible consequences. Especially since the markets aren’t truly “free” (in the sense that monopoly power is experiencing a renaissance) and we’ve never achieved actual democracy here in the US that lives up to the ideal espoused in the holy documents of the Constitution and Bill of Rights.

The central axis of making American society more or less work has been the operation of checks and balances. If for no other reason, the Founders realized that if you give multiple groups their own power and allow these self-interested parties to check each other so that none gets too powerful, this is better than government by one centralized autocrat.

If the three government branches were compromised, there was always the freedom of speech clause to empower a fourth body – the people themselves for direct action, as represented most powerfully by the press. But free markets have corrupted the press. More money can be made by distraction and shiny objects than by actual information. Add this realization to the general comfort found in an American standard of living (though this is clearly in significant decline) and Americans themselves have a powerful incentive not to care – to numb out and let themselves be distracted. And the press finds this avenue more profitable.

When that check disappears, plus one party dominates all the other three branches and two of those three branches must obey the president, you have America 2006.

It’s the greatest crisis to the idea of America since the Civil War.

There’s some good news. Other nations around the world have evolved as well. They may not match US military power, but they have surpassed the US in average standard of living, health care, and average income, and they have much more interested populaces which leads to much more open society and true checks and balances.

The further good news is you are allowed on this planet to move to these other countries and join them – the ultimate free market choice. I’m not quite at that point. I still love my country and I’ve had a very American life in many respects. But, like the ozone layer, this love is wearing thin.

This post was inspired by the recent inexpressibly depressing series of shallow, shameless exploitation by CNN and CNN.com of the New Orleans Mardi Gras. Every single CNN.com frontpage headline for the past several days has been one variation on the party at Mardi Gras. You see photos of white people drinking and waving their hands in the air. But it’s literally one of the most cynical, disgusting, non-human exploitation decisions to package and sell this story this way, and we’re talking about our press. Repellent in a way that cannot be encapsulated in words. What CNN is doing is literally what you see in creepy horror films depicting Satan/evil, where pretty people appear to most everyone, but to those who see the truth (the main characters), it’s hideous demons feasting hungrily on human flesh.

See, this is one of the down sides of “free markets.” How have free markets corrupted the press? A century ago, there was intracity competition between bad rags as to who could promote the most yellow journalism. But that was when people read for information. This is pre-radio, pre-TV. It was 100% of how news was disseminated. Propaganda has always been there, but with much higher ratios of (#Americans : outlets for info) a century ago, there was more accountability because the higher ratio meant more people were paying attention. The more attention, the more straight the news orgs. had to play it. Now, the competition is over access. If one party controls every political branch and looks out at a sea of competing groups who want the scoop, it exploits the free market principle of supply and demand. We'll supply to the groups who promote our propaganda. And if there are qualms among some in the press about such behavior, relax, the political landscape and atmosphere'll eventually switch (based on the principle of 'it always has, hasn't it?') and no harm will be done in the long run, so sit back, relax, and take your ratings and profit and let us do what we need to.

That's the danger of the free market vis-a-vis the press today. The competition is not for investigative journalism, it's for spoon-fed access, set against a long-developed Big Lie about the press being Too Liberal that helps justify raping the truth.

Will it come around? I don't think the Republicans think it will. I think they use that line to get the girl into bed. They desperately want permanent power, permanent control. They want this to be the permanent system. But if the press will take its panties off with the comfort that all this will blow over eventually, they will use it to get what they want. They're ruthless powermongers. They're very good at understanding how to gain and consolidate power. The press just wants justification for being on the payroll. Something they can tell themselves so they get the perks - the right parties, the right salaries and raises, the right amount of fame.

There's always been a strong mix of powerful men and whores. And there always will be.


Blogger TubaOnFire said...

A huge part of the problem with the free markets has been the introduction of money into politics. Now, there has always been money in politics, but today the stakes are just so huge. Companies like Haliburton make billions just on government contracts. Sometimes it seems the sole function of the government is to funnel money to the right companies.

What is missing is the courage of politicians, the press and the people to say enough. It boggles the mind that a college basketball player for UNLV can't sit in a diner with a known gambler, but a senator can fly to a luxury resort in France and get donations of thousands of dollars from a lobbyist the day before he votes on a bill the lobbyist is pushing - hell, sometimes the lobbyists write them. Why do we have higher standards for college athletes than senators?

I think there are 4 reasons. First, no one thinks it is corrupt when it helps them. So, if your senator brings home the pork, you don't care. The tremendous apathy we see in elections means the people who are directly effected have disproportionate power as they are the only ones who care. Second is the idiotic 2 party system that means its my team or the other team. So, you will take a lot of shit from your own team. Politics today is purely about demonizing the other side. Third, people are stupid. As you say, they are easily distracted. A well funded candidate will win elections by running idiot ads on American Idol. People are easily duped. The last, and in my mind most imporant thing is a total loss of the idea of a common good. Everyone, the press, the people and the politicians is only out for themselves. The idea of doing what is best for all of us - not just me - is dead. Tax cuts for me, no child support enforcement for you. Cheap gas for me, dead or wounded soldiers for you. Profits for me, unemployment for you. That crazy shithead from Alaska was not giving up his bridge to nowhere for New Orleans. No politician has the guts to turn down the money, the press doesn't have the guts to tell the story - to force it down our throughts, and people just don't care enough.

Marx nailed it. It is all economics. I am not (like many on Kos or other liberal sites) anti-coporate. Hell, coporate America is more responsive to me than my government. The problem is that companies exist to make money, that is it. They are like Terminators. The government that is supposed to be representing us and providing a check on that desire has abdicated its responsibility and is happy to take the cash and look the other way. It's reprehensible. The press seems to have no desire to tell this story.

11:47 AM  

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