[T]he American people, taking one with the other, are the most timorous, sniveling, poltroonish, ignominious mob of serfs and goosesteppers ever gathered under one flag in Christendom since the Middle Ages, and . . . they grow more timorous, more sniveling, more poltroonish every day.
H.L. Mencken, from "On Being an American"
This evening I broke my self-imposed, summer-long abstention from televised cable news. I watched Rachel Maddow gamely attempt to nail long-time shady Republican PR innovator--and crony of master manipulator Ralph Reed--Tim Phillips for his role in encouraging and staging fake grass roots protests over health care reform. His group, Americans for Prosperity, is behind much of the misinformation and bullying going on at recent town hall meetings. Rachel did a pretty good job digging up Phillips' corporate associations, and his history of forging "grass roots" outrage using industry dollars.
Now I don't doubt that the majority of people showing up at these town hall events are concerned citizens exercising their right to petition their government representatives for redress of grievances, etc. But they are being crassly manipulated and lied to by industry shills, a compliant and corporate press, and politicians and lobbyists on the take. They are given scripts, they are coached to bully and shout down opposition arguments, and they are told horror stories about Federal Agents stacking up gassed grandmas in old folks homes to keep costs down.
More than a decade ago I read a useful book called Taking the Risk Out of Democracy. The author, an Aussie named Alex Carey, traced the growth of the PR industry from its successful propaganda beginnings during WWI to its devious machinations in getting American citizens to vote against their own economic interests for much of the latter half of the 20th century. Carey wrote a densely detailed, academic tome which proves its point--that corporations run the show and routinely use disinformation and propaganda to manipulate a gullible and hapless and ignorant US electorate--elegantly and unassailably, but in a dry, pedantic manner. Unless you're a fanatic about the subject, you'll likely find the book more boring than church. Rachel Maddow is more interesting to watch than Alex Carey is to read, but even her listing of shadowy shell organizations with mysterious connections to beltway insiders would glaze the eyes of Birthers and the other yahoos intent on derailing programs which would likely benefit them.* This is the problem progressives face on health care: facts and reality are complicated, and bullshit slogans and scare tactics are simple. Show people a detailed and factual chart of health insurance and big pharma dollars going to the reps who are against health care reform and they'll shrug in mystification and stay at home. Lie to them about the Canadian and French health care systems and tell them that Obama supports eugenics and the eradication of old folks and they take to the streets waving confused and contradictory banners. And commercials featuring actors pretending to be Canadian citizens complaining about health care are unfortunately more believable than actual Canadians who receive some of the best care in the world-go to Canada and talk to Canadians. I've been there more than a dozen times, and they LOVE their health care!
When insurance industry lobbyists can use fake grassroots organizations to rally thugs to beat up and intimidate people who want to have discussions about pending legislation, democracy becomes a joke. Hence Carey's title: by gaming the system, the powerful interests minimize the risk that they might be subject to the desires of the majority of citizens--and possibly held accountable to some moral standard.
I find the whole situation frustrating, disgusting, and at the same time quite amusing. Obama and Pelosi are somehow 'socialists' and 'nazis' at the same time, and only Pauli or Heisenberg could puzzle out the mathematics behind this wave/particle problem. I'd be curious to know how many of the thugs attempting to thwart our democratic processes can describe what a socialist or a fascist is? Maybe Joe the Plumber can hire another ghostwriter to write a book explaining the difference?
I find all the 'fascist' and 'nazi' rhetoric hilarious, particularly when used by people whose stated goal is to intimidate those who disagree with them. One of the tenants of fascism is, after all, to beat the fuck out of political opponents. Or kill them! I get a whiff of post-Weimar Munich from recent events, and wonder if Limbaugh understands the irony when he compares the Obama health care logo to a Reich symbol as a means of freaking people out.
Sorry folks, but the left is getting pummeled on health care, and unless they get their shit together they are going to lose seats in the House for trying to fix a corrupt and broken system. Meanwhile Canadians and Frenchies will get quality health care guaranteed while the only guarantee here will be continued growth in profits as fewer and fewer are covered.
I fear that my biggest hope for reform is that the legislation is defeated without further violence.
*Don't assume here that I'm for the health care reform package, because I have only the vaguest idea what is going on in Congress right now, and what I do know is very disturbing. I'm for socialized medicine, and it appears to be dead in the water once again. Paying insurance executives and share holders billions of dollars in windfall profits seems a rather inefficient way to utilize money targeted at health, after all. I don't object to capitalism, but think that certain things should not be for profit: education, the military, and health care in particular. Oh, and water.