The Glass Teat: November 15, 1968
This week reveals the limits of the late 60's understanding of the media by politicians of the time - and the rise of the scourge we deal with today.
TV's eye is much too merciless, and the generations raised on TV are wise to the fraudulent; they've seen too many commercials to ever again be taken in by demagogues and political used car salesmen."
[. . .]
Yet the demise of the one postulates the rise of another. The Show Biz Politician. Reagan is a classic example, of course. In a way, the Kennedys are another. I think the element is charisma. If a man can look sincere on the tube, if he can seem to be honest and forthright and courageous, he can sweep an election merely by employing the visual media.
In which case, the term "bad actor" would come to have a new, more ominous meaning.
We also delve once again into the question of how the public reacts to those who jump the dissidence gun, as it were - a survey reveals 73% of Americans agree with Lyndon Johnson's halt to the bombing of North Vietnam. To which Ellison responds:
Now, I don't know what boils your blood, gentle reader, but that is the same 73mother% that was out in the streets shouting "Lynch! Lynch!" at the kids who showed up at Century City, who chased the Dow recruiters, who burned their draft cards, who sat-in at a dozen universities, who marched to Washington, who got their skulls crushed in Chicago streets by the all-powerful John Laws. They are the same hypocritical 73% who refuse now to draw a line between all that dissent, through Johnson's vanished popularity, past Johnson's decision (forced on him) not to run, ending with the bomb halt.
[. . .]
At what stage of cultural adolescence do the people assume responsibility for their mistakes?
That, of course, is the stage at which it becomes politically meaningless to take the dissenting view - the point at which it's safe to criticize.
Think about the Iraq War - how easy is it to find someone, outside the knuckle-draggers of the Tea Potty, who now thinks it was a lousy idea to invade and occupy that country? Forgetting, of course, that many of us predicted this 'way back in 2003 and were dismissed as a "focus group", as "treasonous" and "hating America". We also see that now with Occupy, that its high approval ratings seem to have wilted in the face of "all the violence" - 99% of which is due to police raids on encampments. And if the movement is further successful beyond merely bringing up economic inequality as a subject - if, say, they manage to raise taxes on the wealthy or forgive student loans, many of these people who now wring their hands over "violence" will suddenly find support for the dissidents.
And even that still isn't enough. For all the blather about "responsibility" we hear, so many of us are still so loathe to take it that we'll listen to outright lies from people like Bachmann and Cain and Perry and Romney and Glennbeck and Limbaugh, lies that tell us there's no guilt that needs to be addressed and America Is Exceptional and that We Are Always Right because shut up, that's why.
We still aren't beyond that cultural adolescence, decades later - far from it; we're still living in our parent's basement and playing Xbox 360 and bitching when we're asked to take out the trash or walk the dog. Which is pretty fucking pitiful.