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The Expansionist
Sunday, June 21, 2009
 
Of Powerlessness and Influence. Power and influence are distributed only randomly. People of little intelligence and high-mindedness are given columns and TV shows, where they get a large audience, despite their unfitness to lecture anyone on anything. Meanwhile, diligent, decent people who have much good sense to impart are rendered into the proverbial "voice in the wilderness", exiled from mass media and unable to make even the tiniest dent in public consciousness. How does this happen?
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How, indeed, does it happen that a buffoon like Rush Limbaugh and a stupid bitch like Ann Coulter achieve a mass audience while I and a million other people who counsel people to follow their better nature are consigned to utter obscurity? Is capitalist democracy just inherently incapable of finding the best people and best ideas? It would seem so.
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Pedestrian minds whose grasp of the issues ranges from A to C get all the attention. Greater minds of wider scope, whose grasp of issues ranges from A to Z, get none.
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In the mass media of the United States — I cannot speak knowledgeably of other countries' mass media — trivia trumps substance and fascism trumps liberalism. The greater the meanness of spirit or ordinariness of mind, the larger the audience. Jerry Springer has been on TV for 18 years. Oprah Winfrey, a very minor intellect whose good intentions often take a terribly wrong turn, as in fomenting surgical and hormonal mutilation of gay men or lesbians to deal with gender confusion, drove out Phil Donahue, an intelligent man who dealt intelligently with important issues.
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The United States is a preponderantly moderate-liberal Nation in which propaganda organs of the Radical Right are richly funded, but voices of the moderate Left are starved to anemic impotence. The spokespersons of the Liberal/Left are, for the most part, pussies, whose rhetoric does not begin to equal in power the vitriol of the fascistic Right. And while the Radical Right is sure of its values — wrongheaded tho they be — the Liberal/Left is often confused and self-confuting, reduced to kneejerk reactivity to an agenda set by the Radical Right, and incapable of seeing how Liberal/Left values require opposition to abortion and other things that victimize the powerless.
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The Liberal/Left is indeed in an Abortion Captivity, in which the mere fact that the Radical Right is militantly opposed to abortion seems to mindless Leftists to require the Liberal/Left to advocate abortion-on-demand. Where is the sympathy for "the little guy" when it comes to abortion? The "little guy" is obviously the unborn baby boy or girl, not the infinitely powerful and heartless mother and Abortion Industry. The fetus is the Third World farmer, worker, or tribal indigene; the mother and the Abortion Industry that backs her in her heartless attack, the multinational corporation who would crush the defenseless without mercy. The Liberal/Left knows to oppose the multinational corporation when it wants to clearcut 1,000 square miles of tropical rainforest to create a cattle super-ranch, but it doesn't know to oppose abortion-on-demand. So reactive is the Liberal/Left in the United States today, indeed, that one has to wonder what would happen if the Radical Right tomorrow took a stand against rainforest destruction by multinational corporations. Would the Liberal/Left gratefully accept the Right's change of heart, and work with them to protect the rainforest? Or would the Liberal/Left suddenly re-evaluate everything they have ever thought and said about rainforest preservation, and suddenly conclude that the interests of the poor in Brazil and Ecuador require the creation of economically constructive projects like cattle ranches in place of the economically worthless rainforest?
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You say "black", we say "white". Thus has it ever been, thus will it ever be!
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No, actually that is NOT how things used to be.
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People today who are too young to remember the Forties, Fifties, and Sixties will not know that back then, many supposed intellectuals found fault in the "big-tent" major parties of the time. The Democrats had the Dixiecrats, Rightwingers of your more vicious sorts, and the Republicans had liberals/moderates, called by some people, disparagingly, "[Nelson] Rockefeller Republicans". Social critics said that the electorate had no real choice, but ended up voting for Tweedledum or Tweedledee, and nothing ever changed. They said the United States needed a real choice of political philosophy, so the major parties needed to be more ideological, like European parties that ranged from outrite Fascists to outrite Communists. They got their wish — except that our Fascists call themselves "Conservatives".
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The Dixiecrats left the Democratic Party and moved to the Republican Party, which suddenly became beholden to the most regressive forces in American society. The "Solid South" shifted from solidly Democratic to solidly Republican. Are we happy now? We are not.
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It turns out that the Big Tent was what kept us from incipient civil war, a replay of the first Civil War, in which the most evil and regressive forces in society attacked the rest of us, and the great majority, despite extreme unwillingness to face unpleasant issues, was forced, finally, to say "Enuf is enuf", and defend the last line between national decency and indecency.
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Developments in the last year and a half or so have clarified that about 35% of the United States is monstrously selfish, racist, sexist, violently disposed, and, at base (a word I use deliberately), evil. The other 65% are moderately good or very good, but don't want to be harsh. The good all too often wish to believe that moderation and kindness will achieve good results. But moderation didn't defeat Nazism, Japanese militarism, nor Soviet Communism. And there is a point beyond which avoiding unpleasantness turns into surrender to evil — yea, co-conspiring in evil.
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We passed that point during the Dumbya years. Now we have to claw our way back to decency.
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The Dumbya years accustomed us to thinking of greed as natural and actually good. It worked. Or so we were to believe. Never mind that those years, and even a few years before, had started to destroy the very foundation of American society, in corrosively indebting the great preponderance of Americans to credit-card companies that were permitted to charge insanely high interest rates, over-limit fees, and late fees, and treat fees as purchases for purposes of figuring the (usurious) interest then to be charged on consumer debt. I tried to warn the Democrats in the 2000 Presidential election, and again in 2004, that debt — not the national debt, but personal debt, consumer debt — was the most important domestic issue, which threatened the Nation's very soul and stability, but they didn't want to hear it. The terms "consumer debt", "interest rates", and "usury" did not appear on their websites in either Presidential contest year.
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Then 2008 arrived, everything I warned about happened, and it was too late. No one had listened to me, nor to the other voices in the wilderness that cried out that personal debt could destroy us. And now we are in the worst financial condition since the Great Depression, because the Democrats would not address personal debt.
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I also warned, on September 23, 2002, long before the invasion of Iraq, that it was not credible that Saddam Hussein would risk having everything he aspired to ruined by an overwhelming counterattack after any use of "weapons of mass destruction" by Iraq:
Saddam is not a suicide bomber. Nothing he has ever said or done would lead anyone to think that he believes he will go instantly to Paradise if he attacks the United States and is vaporized in return. Who can believe that a man who has built dozens of palaces all over Iraq and holds out grandiose hopes for a reunion of "the Arab Nation" under his leadership would throw it all away and cause it all to be destroyed by an insane and reckless attack upon the United States?
I knew, just from logic and understanding of human nature, that Saddam did not have "Weapons of Mass Destruction" and did not even for an instant entertain thoughts of attacking the United States. But the U.S. Congress and media didn't? How could so many people be so insanely stupid? Or did they feign stupidity, in order to use fear of an attack upon the United States to permit them to attack Iraq because it was an actually credible enemy of Israel, a country far more important to many members of Congress, both Houses, than the United States could ever be? After all, Israel is God's doing; the United States, only man's. Or so they seem to believe.
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Why, more generally, are the stupid heard but the intelligent completely, absolutely, and perpetually unheard?
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Even in the democracy of the Internet, the few get all the attention, and the many get none. Mass media steer the bulk of the public to a few websites. The frequency with which those few sites are visited induces search engines to produce them first in the results of further searches, which produces more visits, which produces higher search results in future searches. It's a self-reinforcing circle of mediocrity, in which the exceptional are marginalized.
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Search engines don't value-judge, producing the best or most intelligent commentary first. They produce the most-searched, the best publicized, first. Fame replaces merit in commentary as in everything else in the mass society. There are too many voices to listen to every one. We have to focus on the ones that matter, the ones that are heard. And who determines who is heard? The mass media, with their notoriously low standards for quality.
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At end, we have still not even begun to explore — nor, thus, fix — the problems of mass numbers of people on this grotesquely overcrowded planet. Democracy has given us mediocre commentary as much as mediocre and unprincipled politicians, and celebrities more famous for being famous than for accomplishing anything of value. It's sad, and a little infuriating. I would be angrier, except I'm too busy and too tired — too old, for one thing, at 64, to be fiting this long-run battle that has no obvious outcome, but the dismal prospect that things will only get worse.
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In prior eras, arbiters of quality and good taste controlled what people got to read and see. Now, arbiters of popularity control what we read and see. We have replaced the tyranny of the elite with the tyranny of the mass. We still suffer from tyranny over our minds.
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What do we not hear? see? read? get to understand? Flash substitutes for class, fireworks in language substitutes for depth of thought. Is there any way out? Or is the mass incapable of distinguishing between chaff and wheat?
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I would like to be hopeful, but I'm not at all sure there is any mechanism whatsoever that can save us from the mess that irresponsible heterosexuals have gotten us into by putting 6.8 billion people on a planet suitable for 4 billion. And of course no one is talking about reducing the planet's population to the 4 billion that Earth could support in great good style. We're not even talking about population anymore, just the consequences of overpopulation — but without ever mentioning the word "overpopulation". For instance, all the talk about "man-made global warming" would end if the population of the planet were plummeting like a stone.
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If once we accepted that there are more than half again as many people as there should be on this planet, we'd have to confront issues that pedestrian minds do not care even to think about, like not just legalizing but actually encouraging exclusive homosexuality to cut the planet's population. We need a 50% or 60% change in mentality, but most people are willing to entertain a change of 7%. There is no 7% solution to the problems of a planet that is 70% overpopulated, any more than there is a two-state solution to the Palestine-Israel mess, which can have only a one-state solution, a Unified Palestine into which "Israel" is peacefully dissolved, with no loss of innocent life.
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Simple solutions are not necessarily easy solutions. Sometimes the only thing that will really work is hard, like a morbidly obese person's losing half his or her body weight. Planet Earth is, in terms of human population, morbidly obese. It needs to shed 2.8 billion people, and reduce mass-society to just-society. Maybe when there are far fewer of us we can pay more, and more careful, attention to each of us.
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(The current U.S. military death toll in Iraq, according to the website "Iraq Coalition Casualties", is 4,315 — for Israel.)



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