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This Is What Democracy Looks Like

(When I first published this one, it cause quite a wonderful shitstorm in the comments column when it was picked up by Stop Me Before I Vote Again.)

They range from borderline delusional to flat-out certifiable -- and they vote.

I’d been seriously wondering about the root causes of the quality of “leadership” in this country over the past twenty-odd years, beginning late in Reagan’s second term and continuing off and on during the Clinton and Bush years, but it didn’t really start banging the doors down in my head until the 2008 Presidential “election” cycle began. Things finally reached critical mass when I saw this article in Slate a couple of months or so ago. I didn’t quite agree with all of its points, but you can’t possibly imagine the thrill and relief when I finally realized that, yes, I’m not the only one thinking that the number one problem is, in fact, The People.

I couldn’t stop being amazed at the plunging quality and the attendant skyrocketing of ignorance and sociopathy among the USA’s “leadership” in the past decade. I and others often wondered just how in the hell we wound up saddled with such a bunch of sociopaths, liars, and thieves? Then it hit me: this bunch wouldn’t be in power now if they hadn’t been put there by You, The People. Yeah, that’s right – you. You, the voters, have shown yourselves to be just as ignorant and sociopathic in a trend increasing upwards since at least the 1980 “election”, climbing steadily into the “zany” category in the Bush I and Clinton years, until it finally sailed off the edge of the Earth and into the realm of “batshit” shortly after 9/11. The “election” of 2008 totally iced the deal for me. This class of hucksters and shysters is in power because You, The Voters, put them there. You complain your asses off about the quality of your “leadership” until you’re blue in the mouth, and then promptly slog off to the polls like zombies, punch a chad for a fresh batch of sociopaths, liars and thieves, then slog off home to fall asleep watching American Idol. The names and faces of the “leaders” and the little letters after their names are different, but they’re basically the same class of sociopaths, liars and thieves. Then, the cycle of bitching/voting begins again, without your having learned a single thing from any of it, like that one really stupid cow in the herd who keeps walking into the electric fence.

And, no wonder, too. Just take a look at yourselves, f’cripesake. Despite Chris Matthews and Anderson Cooper showing you Barack Obama’s birth certificate right there on TV, right to your faces – and despite the numerous third-rate forged Kenyan birth certificates exposed as fraud, right there on TV in front of your faces – a buttload of you still think Obama’s not a natural-born US citizen. Despite his having been a servant of bankers and industrialists since forever, some of you actually think that Barack Obama is a Marxist. Despite no evidence, a bunch of you think he’s a Muslim (as if there were something bad about it). Despite mountains of evidence, some of you still think that climate change is a hoax. Even more of you think that the weak, late, lamented “public option” in the healthcare “reform” bill was socialist. Despite the initial study being proven a massive fraud, huge numbers of you still insist that vaccines cause autism. Many of you still think — despite any tangible proof — that 9/11 was a conspiracy, an “inside job” perpetrated by the Bush Regime with the aid of the Saudis and Mossad and Israeli Art Students and all that other crap.

Many of you profess a love for liberty, but are so shit-scared of your own shadows that you’ll fall in line behind the first proposal that comes along requiring you to pose for digital x-ray porn at the airport. Despite reports of events coming largely from NGOs’ press releases and George Clooney on the Today Show, many of you still cry out for intervention by the greediest, most violent, genocidal and hypocritical state on the planet — the USA — in a tiny, half-assed civil war in Africa with the idea of “saving Darfur”, even though you know the only thing the “leaders” you elected care about saving is the massive puddles of oil in the ground under The Sudan.

And, please don’t get me started about the Liberals and Pwogwessives, because I really loves me some busting on Liberals and Pwogwessives. You totally went for Obama because you were so desperate and pants-pissing scared that you couldn’t think of anything else besides the possibility of a President with a “D” after his name who could pronounce the word “nuclear”. It’s not like you couldn’t have gotten onto the Internet and done some judicious search-engine sifting to find out that he was hooked up with the Democratic Leadership Council and had Wall Street and the nuclear and “defense” industries among his largest campaign donors, and seen what a cynical fake the guy was, and how he was basically a Republican. I guess that would’ve ruined your fun, though. Some of you supported Obama because he was a “peace candidate” – even though he waffled on the war and threatened Iran in his keynote speech at the 2004 Democratic Convension (or, as I like to call it, his 2008 Democratic Presidential Nomination announcement speech), and even though, in his I Heart Israel Speech at the 2008 Conference of the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee, he pretty much gave the green light to Israel to do whatever it wanted to do in Gaza, i.e. bombing, strafing, shooting, torturing, blockading and collective-punishing the living hell out of the place.

Oh, and, what percentage of black voters went for Obama – 90%, something outrageous like that? – even though he never made any commitment to actually improve life for black Americans, though nearly every campaign speech he ever gave was designed to reassure white America that he wouldn’t cause any trouble (especially that horrid Fathers’ Day speech)? It’s as if everybody totally forgot what King and Malcolm X were trying to teach us about house slaves and field slaves, and how to spot a “player”, and how we should judge people by the content of their character rather than their color. They didn’t give a damn’ about his being a corporate tool; they only cared what color he was. I’ll never forget the interview I read on the wire services, with black voters at a campaign stop in South Carolina, where one woman just flat comes right out and says she’s voting for Obama because he’s black. Man, oh, man, how fuxored is that? You don’t care about the campaign contributions from BP and Goldman Sachs, or that he’s going to escalate the war in Afghanistan; you’re going to vote for the guy anyway because he’s black.

Christalmighty. Somebody tie me to a railroad track.

That’s the really sad thing about this cavalcade of crazy: these are people who actually vote in elections in this damn’ country. It’s bad enough that the “election” process itself is rendered illegitimate by the Party’s dirty tricks, distortions, half-truths and corporate cash-whoring, but insult is added to injury when a bunch of greedy, selfish, ignorant, thieving sociopaths are empowered by several million other greedy, selfish, ignorant, thieving sociopaths, who then have the gall to claim that I have no right to complain about the shape things are in because I don’t vote. WTFF? You people helped maintain these bastards in power for thirty years; it looks like you’re the ones who have no right to complain. Losers.

Back when I first got involved in the IMCs and the antiglobalization movement, a common slogan chanted at the protests was “This Is What Democracy Looks Like!” With all due respect to my comrades, I have to disagree. This is what “democracy” looks like.

Medium-res .jpg image, 1.2mb

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john.halle's picture
Submitted by john.halle on

You probably know the Brecht poem:

Some party hack decreed that the people
had lost the government's confidence
and could only regain it with redoubled effort.
If that is the case, would it not be be simpler,
If the government simply dissolved the people
And elected another?


What follows from this? Who knows.

Actually, I'm with Hedges that the liberal class bears a lot of the responsibility for the descent of both the left and the right into loony and brainless conspiratorialism. But that's a long story and diagnosing the problem and, treating it are, in any case, two different things.

And that doesn't mean we can't all enjoy Mike's genius as we slide down the razor blade into the hell of our own making.

Valhalla's picture
Submitted by Valhalla on


There's plenty of blame to go around, but Hedges' carries much more weight with me. When things go wrong (esp. through orchestrated efforts by a few who hold all the power), then yeah, leaders (or those who aspire to be leaders) are far more responsible than "the people". Because they're, well, the leaders. Blaming the people is like a bad teacher blaming their students because they failed to learn their badly-taught lessons.

And even more so when one of the primary tools of a particular segment of "leaders" is snotty condescension, constant mockery and belittlement, to the concerns of people about, say, their jobs, their homes, their children, and their health. Hedges:

Once the liberal class can no longer moderate the savage and greedy inclinations of the capitalist class, once, for example, labor unions are reduced to the role of bartering away wage increases and benefits, once public education is gutted and the press no longer gives a voice to the poor and the working class, liberals become as despised as the power elite they serve. The collapse of liberal institutions means those outside the circles of power are trapped, with no recourse, and this is why many Americans are turning in desperation toward idiotic right-wing populists who at least understand the power of hatred as a mobilizing force.

basement angel's picture
Submitted by basement angel on

and the punditocracy. Every single issue is reduced to a political talking point. We don't hear about global warming from climatologists. We hear about global warming from Lawrence O'Donnell and Laura Ingram and that fact alone turns it from a scientific discussion to a political discussion. Every single issue gets reduced to being a political football with Rachel Maddow taking one position and Sean Hannity the other. So, people line up behind the media personality that they prefer. Now, it's true that Rachel Maddow inevitably has more facts and real science (or history) on her side, but as the primary campaign of 2008 proves, liberals ultimately aren't that much more interested in facts than conservatives are.

Both sides seduce their viewers into believing that the evidence the viewer can and does think independently, is the very fact of that they listen to whatever pundit it is that they are listening to. This reality is particularly vivid with Limbaugh listeners who see themselves as the very quintessence of independent and logical thought based on their devotion to Limbaugh.

This business (literally) of making every issue political is driving the massive schism in America. It's how Americans passionately support policies that are aggressively destructive to their own well-being and the well-being of their family. It's all about the team and never about the players, even when the bulk of the money is going to the team owner. People's world views, and thus, their own identity, have become deeply ties to the two main variants of political thought. Liberals are enlightened, well-informed and conscientious. Conservatives are stable, mature and logical. And the punditocracy reinforces that self-image in every show.

There are a lot of people who would have to develop a new identity for themselves if pundits were to disappear from the air. Developing a real identity that you really own takes work and many of us aren't willing to do that. Media has found a way to simplify the process. Provide an identity and people will vote accordingly.

Submitted by mike flugennock on the end of the day, The People™ are to blame, I think, because it's not like anybody's putting a gun to their heads to stop them believing everything Glenn Beck and Bill O'Reilly and Rachel Maddow and Ed Schultz blather at them on TV every night. Nobody's sending the cops around to confiscate their computers and shut off their 'net connections so they can't do some judicious search engine hits to help them connect the dots, or hit any number of blogs or alternative news sources to find out what the hell's really going on. Nobody's twisting their arms to force them to be insane and stupid.

People in this country have chosen to be lazy and ignorant because it's easier than actually putting out a bit of effort to educate and inform themselves instead of slurping down candy-coated bullshit from the punditocracy; they've chosen to be insane and stupid because it takes less effort than actually waking the hell up and getting a goddamn' clue. They've chosen to let politicians fight their struggles for them and not give a shit because it's easier than putting out the effort and taking the risks involved in organizing and acting on their own behalf. Why the hell should they give a rat's ass about what's happening to poor people and people of color in this country -- and what the government is doing to poor, black and brown people around the world -- as long as nobody bugs them, and they get to keep the new Explorer and the cushy house and the 720p flatscreen and Dancing With The Stars?

The American People™ have spoken with a clear voice, and their voice says that they choose to be batso morons and are happy that way.

That goes double for Democrats, Liberals, and Pwogwessives.

Valhalla's picture
Submitted by Valhalla on

I had to dig pretty deep on the internet, before I found my way past the 'A-list' blogs to find this place and others like it.

Most of the "the people" have to work for a living. They don't have endless hours to spend keyboard-warrioring on the blogs, or make a life's study of, say, global warming on their own. Hell, I don't even have time for that, and I'm a blog barnicle. "The people" are a mix of selfishness, self-interest, charity, friendliness, tribal loyalty, manipulated, manipulators, outward-focused, inward-focused, hard-working, lazy, smart, stupid, inspiring, demeaning, responsible & irresponsible. These days, they're mostly hoping they have a home, a job, and their health at the end of the day.

A leader, any sort of leader, can exploit the negative impulses we all have, or the positive. The same country which houses the Tea Partiers and waged an unfound war on Iraq poured millions of their own dollars into charities after Katrina, the Tsunami, and Haiti, so much money that organizations whose job it is deliver human services in such emergencies couldn't handle it all. For people they didn't know, who they'd never meet, and for which they received no return which help them buy an SUV.

We live in a gigantic ecosystem of lies, but you want to blame only the lied-to and not the liars. I have no idea what your purpose is, but if it's to change the status quo, perhaps teeming condescension isn't the best way to go.

vastleft's picture
Submitted by vastleft on

Lies are as fundamental to our culture as water is to a fish's. It's a minor miracle if someone figures out a clear path through the lies and tribal values fed to them by every authority figure and most every peer they encounter.

I give American voters credit for going against the programming they're given as much as they do. Certainly, very few think outside the box... and maybe nothing we do can cultivate that. Odds are, condescension isn't going to cultivate it, I'm pretty sure.

Submitted by lambert on

And despite all the protestationsMR SUBLIMINAL Lies that "America is a center right nation", Americans clearly voted for the more domestically left (if not domestically and internationally left)* alternative in 2000 (certainly stolen in FL and the Supreme Court), 2004 (probably stolen in OH, with Kerry rolling over on election night), and in 2008 (almost certainly stolen in the D primaries with TX caucus fraud and the Rules and Bylaws Commission).

I find the 2008 D primaries especially heartening, since a majority of D voters paid no attention whatever to our famously free press or the access bloggers, and gave the WWTSBQ candidate their votes. I find that heartening.

NOTE * Do note the careful wording here.

Submitted by mike flugennock on

...I do spend most of my time during the day either working, or doing the job of looking for work (I'm a freelancer), and while I may not face the same problems as folks working at nine-to-fives, I still have to face the problem of keeping my underground work separate from my "straight" work; witness my creation of a separate nom de guerre and separate persona -- a "secret crimefighting identity", as it were -- to try and avoid the risk of losing a gig, or being bounced from a gig, because a client finds out who I am behind the cowl and cape. I've spent a huge number of years working in activist media as a content creator and organizer on antiwar/antiglob mobilizations and helped found the Indymedia site here in DC, and have probably spent twice as much time in the streets as I have behind a keyboard.

Before I started freelancing around '98 or so, I'd spent upwards of twenty years working at "straight" design jobs, where maintaining two personas was even more important and even more difficult, with the risks being even greater if found out. To anyone who claims that most Americans' political-organizing risk-taking is constrained by their day jobs, I can only say "take a look at the French" (and ask yourselves who the real surrender monkeys are).

I'm not trying to say the likes of Beck, O'Reilly, Maddow and Schultz are blameless here, but let's face it: the American people are at least partially to blame for falling for it so easily, for their seeming total lack of skepticism and basic critical thinking skills.

vastleft's picture
Submitted by vastleft on

French culture, media, and/or political-economic system is less fully subsumed by merde?

vastleft's picture
Submitted by vastleft on

What makes you different, Mike?

Clearly, most Americans march to the drum of one legacy party or another, else they're apathetic on politics or wringing their hands of which of the major-league teams to support.

Very few politically inclined people are prepared to reject both parties. Did anything in particular prepare you for, or lead you to, that?

Submitted by mike flugennock on

...starting in 1976, the first election I was old enough to vote in, at the age of 19. Not only did I vote for Carter, but actually volunteered for the Carter campaign in Fairfax County, VA. I went for him as he offered us a clean break with the Nixon years, as well as his friendliness towards the idea of Federal leglization of marijuana.

Fast-forward three or four years. Carter had rolled over on pretty much everything, and was allowing himself to be bullied and chain-jerked on the campaign trail by the Christian rightists and the Reaganoids on issues such as renewed draft registration and Afghanistan. By then, disillusioned by his empty "human rights" talk -- as the US continued to support the Shah Of Iran and the murderous rightist states in Nicaragua and El Salvador -- I'd fallen in with the Yippies and the like, doing leftie underground political comix for the Yipster Times and the local Yippie zine in DC. I'd done posters and other promo media work for the White House Smoke-Ins and other events, and the Yipsters' idea of "electing Nobody" made a helluva lot of sense to me.

So, disgusted with Carter's cutting, running and backpedaling, I sat out 1980. Becoming even more disgusted with the Democrats' craven knuckling under to the rightists -- especially the way they fell all over themselves to support Reagan's draconian Drug War policies -- I took a pass in 1984 and '88. As it was, the Democrats' slate in '88 wasn't particularly inspiring, and that one goddamn' campaign ad sure didn't help any; I still think whoever had the bright idea of showing us that goddamn' little shrimp Dukakis driving a fucking tank should've been dragged into a dark alley and beaten to within an inch of their life.

But, aaa-aaaanyway, comes 1992. Bush I had distinguished himself by stomping all over Panama and Iraq, and I was ready to help get rid of the sonofabitch at all costs -- so I made the biggest goddamn' mistake of my life, voting for the first time in over a decade, for a slick-talking, skeezy, greedy little sociopathic bastard named Bill Clinton. Christ, I'm still living that down; I'm still trying to undo the damage from that one. Hell, I should've known better when I watched him at the '92 Democratic Convention, declaring his support for Bush's slaughter of thousands in Iraq as the crowd went wild. Needless to say, he was going back on campaign promises even before his hand slapped Bible leather. Then came NAFTA. Then came Waco. Then came his crime bill, and his anti-terrorism bill, and the Defense Of Marriage Act, and the Communications Decency Act, and the sanctions against Iraq. Then came his massacre of civilians in Somalia, Iraq, The Sudan, Afghanistan, and Serbia.

Of course, the real back-breaker for me was in 1996; Ralph Nader had just announced his Presidential candidacy under the Green Party banner, and some high-ranking White House flack -- his name escapes me now -- was quoted in the media as saying that the Progressives would still vote Democratic, no matter what, because "they had no place else to go". This hit me like a punch in the teeth. "No place else to go", huh? Oh, yeah? Just watch me, motherfucker. By this point I'd dedicated myself to not only never lifting a finger in support of the Democrats again, but to doing whatever I could to help speed the collapse of the Democratic Party. I voted for Nader and the Greens with gusto and without shame or regret in 1996, 2000, and 2004.

In the middle of all that came Seattle/WTO, A16, Prague, and Quebec City, and as I watched the reactions of Democrats and Liberal politicians in the US, I found my values being edged closer and closer to plain old flat-out anarchism, especially in the wake of the '00 freak show, legal skullduggery, and Democratic partisan whining about how Nader "stole" their votes. Huh, yeah. Didn't anybody tell those doorknobs that my vote didn't belong to them, but had to be earned, and those rank-ass worthless bastards hadn't earned it, but Nader and the Greens had? Fuckin' losers. By '00, I'd pretty much decided that American "Democracy" was a big fuckin' corporate sham, not a free election at all but a goddamn' Soviet election, and that participation in it through voting was to consent to our rule by thugs, thieves, sociopaths and corporate stooges. I voted for the last time in '04, for Nader, as my final "fuck you" to the Democratic Party and American "Democracy". I haven't voted in any "election" -- local, citywide or national -- since then.

This brings us more or less up to date; to fill you in on my attitude on events since then, in the context of the piss-poor, craven, opportunist Democratic Party, you can check out my cartoon blog, especially the pieces created during the "election" of '04 and up to the present -- and, in particular, my pieces on the Kerry campaign, the Democratic take over of the House and Senate in '06, and my illustration of the "difference" between the Democrats and Republicans during the '08 campaign.

vastleft's picture
Submitted by vastleft on

... to get a smart guy like you to wise up to the trap that is the two-party system.

That plus probably a stronger skeptical sense than the average bear is what it took for you to "wake up," as has been described in this thread.

Shouldn't that give one pause before flipping the bozo bit on the whole of the public -- who have been misinformed, constantly and by nearly everyone -- since birth?

Roman Berry's picture
Submitted by Roman Berry on

It seems to me that H.L. Mencken reached pretty much the same conclusion long ago. I had to Google to get a few relevant Mencken quotes, but here they are...

Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard. - H. L. Mencken

"As democracy is perfected, the office of president represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart's desire at last and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron." - H.L. Mencken

And so on...

Roman Berry's picture
Submitted by Roman Berry on

That wasn't my take-away from either the diary or from Mencken. Maybe what I should say is this...

"The left" (or what there is of it in these United States), the right, the middle and pretty much everyone else are in a big old melting pot but despite the best efforts of the alchemist, we don't mix into gold.

I'm not a fan of the LOTE voting strategy that I keep getting from partisan Democrats, and where I live, it's not something I have to engage in. Alabama is flaming red. The county in which I live went for McCain in the last presidential election by something like 85-15. And of course I am stuck with the odious Shelby and Sessions as my Senators and they also win by wide margins. I get to vote my conscience without reservation or complication because (at least for now) no one other than a Republican or a Blue Dog DINO is gonna get into office from here. But I digress...

What I'm trying to say is that I do believe we have arrived at this sorry state by our own (collective) accord. The great masses of people are in fact too busy trying to make ends meet to really dig into what is going on so that they can make informed decisions. And even of those who have the time, a great many are really not interested. And of those who are interested, a good portion already has their mind made up as to what they will believe and...well...let me hand off this thought to Thomas Jefferson for completion:

“In the fevered state of our country, no good can ever result from any attempt to set one of these fiery zealots to rights, either in fact or principle. They are determined as to the facts they will believe, and the opinions on which they will act. Get by them, therefore, as you would by an angry bull; it is not for a man of sense to dispute the road with such an animal.”

Now the fact is that I once believed that political zealotry was something limited to the other side, AKA Republicans. The ugliness I encountered from many I once thought of as liberal when I did not fall in love with Barack Obama -- "Whaddaya mean you have doubts? Racist!" -- served to disabuse me of that notion.

Anyway, I don't read Flugennock's diary as saying that "the left, or progressives, or whoever, are just too good for the American people." I read it as saying that the masses, by and large, have gotten more or less what they have asked for (even if they didn't realize that they were asking for it) and as a result deserve.

From Reagan to Bush, from Clinton to Obama, we collectively have done it to ourselves. I was guilty of the same thing. I worked for and staunchly defended Democrats as a partisan party loyalist. And I gotta say that partisan loyalty worked a lot like blinders. It kept me from seeing a lot of things, both from the party and from its supporters. Frankly, I am to the point where I essentially wish a pox upon both their houses.

I think a lot of partisan Dems labor under the delusion that the Democrats are still the party of the people, still the party of FDR's New Deal. I think the party is perfectly happy to allow that delusion to continue, but it is a delusion. Or at least I think it is.

We have two corporate parties that are essentially headed in the same direction. They use wedge issues and differences along the margins to divide us, not because the party elite give a damn about these issues and margins but because that's the path to power. And those in power get to divide the spoils.

I know I'm rambling, and for that I apologize. It's just that I only in the last six or eight months cast aside my political self identity as a Democrat and began identifying as what I call a "principled independent liberal"...which makes me a PIL that neither major party wants to swallow.

Hell, may as well ramble some more...

You know what really gets me? The Democrats I hung out with a places like Salon's Table Talk always referred to themselves as part of "the reality based community." They (and I along with them) made fun of Republicans and Tea Partiers and pretty much anyone and everyone who seemed to be utterly immune to facts. The phrase we often used was "facts tends to be liberal things." But since Obama, I have realized that while facts may indeed be liberal things, a lot of the people I once thought of as liberal...aren't. They are just as immune to the facts as the other side. Anything that doesn't fit their preconceived notions is simply not allowed. They aren't liberal, they're dogmatic. It's the mirror image (the same, but reversed) of what I always found the Freepers to be, and was sure that we were not.

George Carlin was quite the cynic in the years before he passed away, and I hate to be cynical, but I think he may have had a point. Certainly not everyone is the way he describes, but a lot are. In any case, enough are that we have arrived at the present point.

What to do? My Democratic partisan friends are still by and large wearing their Democratic partisan blinders, and those blinders render the words of people like Chris Floyd and Arthur Silber virtually invisible to them. (Now I know how the few "principled Republicans" felt when Bush was in office. It's like screaming into a dark, anechoic empty void.)

Everything is binary. "We're good, they're evil" say my not-really-liberal Democratic friends. "We're good, they're evil" say the partisans on the other side. And me? Hell, I already said it. A pox on both their houses.

Divide and distract. ("Look! Sarah Palin! Christine O'Donnell" says one group. "Look! Clintons! And the Kenyan!", says the other.)

Charles Hugh Smith had a good entry a few days ago. It's titled "The Stealth Coup D'Etat: U.S.A. 2008-2010", and in it he argues (and I agree) that even the so-called "health care reform bill" is part of the coup:

1. Once you have control of the financial powers of the U.S. via the tiny Elites of the Congress, the Executive Branch, the Federal Reserve and the U.S. Treasury, then the rest of the government will follow.

To the degree that ownership of the Healthcare cartels is in the hands of the same Financial Power Elite, then the passage of the 2,300 page "Healthcare Reform Bill" in 2010 was simply another way for the Power Elite to expand its share of the national income.

The health of the citizenry or healthcare per se had essentially nothing to do with the passage of this monstrosity. The entire purpose was to increase the Elites' share of the national income by siphoning off an ever-greater share to the "healthcare" cartels.

2. This is how the Stealth Coup D'Etat works: the machinery of governance grinds through a simulacrum of democracy, but it's all for show; the theoretical structures are now completely different from the political realities. The citizens were against the bailout of Wall Street and the money-center banks 600-to-1; they were rightly ignored as inconsequential.

The citizenry replaced the political party leadership of Congress and the Presidency; absolutely nothing changed except the flavor of PR, spin and propaganda. The Power Elites and their Stealth Coup are apolitical. They don't care about the color of your uniform; whether you wear a blue shirt or a red shirt is inconsequential.

I can't argue with that.

Valhalla's picture
Submitted by Valhalla on

in Mike's (and to a lesser extent, your) comments, shared by the cheerleaders on both sides, which is pretty problematic. It is just as much a distraction as any you listed.

You missed one of the biggest reasons "the people" don't care: learned helplessness. Many days, I wonder if we're not the stupid ones. Why expend a great deal of energy (or any) when, as your excerpt aptly demonstrates, the game's rigged from the top down? Why not say 'bah!' and walk away, and try to drown your sorrows in your vice of choice, whether over-consumption, Dancing with the Stars, self-medication, or sensory-overloading super-effects entertainment media?

Are you making a practical point, or a theoretical one? If you aim at changing the status quo, then ruminating on how superior we "in the know are" is perhaps, not the most effective way to go. Because "the people" certainly know when they're being smart-alecked (like that old joke, how come they don't send donkeys to school? Because no one likes a smartass). Or condescended to. And it's as like to turn them away as to enlighten. That is distinct, I suppose, from a rant, to which everyone is entitled.

Not to absolve the amorphous "people" from any responsibility, but it's a system, not a binary (as you say). In some parts of the system, a few players wield enormous power. It's upside-down to distribute the lion's share of the blame to the less-powerful part of the system.

In that vein, Welcome to the Class of 2010! The separation from the "reality-based" community can be trying. You're among friends.

Submitted by lambert on

Sometimes, the enemy of my enemy is still my enemy. That's difficult to see. I'm still a third pole in American politics guy. That's the pole "we're" at. The nature of the "we" being precisely the question.

I share the distaste for "the reality based community" as a moniker. It comes from a critique of the Bush administration, but the people who claim the moniker are completely unwilling to use the analytical tools they used with Bush for Obama. The rot didn't take long to set in, either.

Submitted by mike flugennock on

...and that was pretty much the reasoning that inspired the six panels in Yes, We Can! Of course, I was working independently, not knowing at all about Chris Floyd's WIBDI Test, which is in itself simply and elegantly brilliant. Go back to that cartoon and check out the writeup, and you'll see me asking that key question at the end of every paragraph: the Liberals and Pwogs were raising holy hell in the streets when Bush pulled this shit; where the hell are they NOW?

In fact, I hear Joe Scarborough -- yeah, that Joe Scarborough -- asking that question regarding the war in Afghanistan on the Morning Joe show: where's the "antiwar Left" now? Jeezus, it's pretty goddamn' sad when I have to thank Joe Scarborough for asking that question.

Roman Berry's picture
Submitted by Roman Berry on

...of reading the diarist and of explaining my own feelings/position, or others are. I absolutely do not get the whole "air of superiority" thing that is coming in reply to either. What I'm saying is that after years of being blinded, my eyes are open. And frankly, that (eyes open and aware) is a pretty standard meme here at Corrente from a lot of corners. But being awake isn't the same as being superior. It's just being awake.

Submitted by lambert on

... now that we've had these exchanges, but look at the original quote from Mencken. If that's not taking a position of superiority, then what is??

Valhalla's picture
Submitted by Valhalla on

or, ok, several points:

1) as one of the walking wounded from the down side of the class war waged by "progressives" and Obama-fan Democrats, for whom making fun of "low information voters" is a campaign strategy, I'll admit that I read both your and Mike's comments as more of an extension of that than either really is. In short, I'm frakking sick of listening to my supposedly liberal friends sneer at how stupid the working classes must be, not to understand how they'd be so much better off if they'd just accept their roles as serfs to the new techno-prog-neoliberal-faux-intellectuals who are so obviously their betters. For conflating your and Mike's comments with this odious methodology of the Obamafans, I apologize. I can only claim lingering PTSD from the campaigns (and before).

2) as a strategy, conceptualizing the whole problem as one of what "the people" deserve is problematic. Certainly, it is problematic strategically, because even stupid people don't like to be called stupid. And very, very few people are so stupid they don't realize they're being called stupid (esp. not with the blatantcy with which the sneering abounds these days).

3) then there is the whole problem of discussing desserts by placing the burden of deservingness on the groups with the least power to alter the game. The game is rigged, after all.

4) methodologically, one problem with Mike's original post is that "the people" aren't really to blame for most of his supporting points. Most of the people aren't birthers, or calling Obama a socialist, or whatever, just very vocal minorities. The brush is far to broad there. And ignores (as Lamber and VL pointed out, the counterexamples).

5) as I said before, it's an ecosystem of lies. Really, it's an ecosystem containing many factors that interact dynamically to give us an environment where lies and other criminality flourish -- it's everything from the media, to a failing education system (some aspects of which are discussed elsewhere here), to pre-absolution of the criminal classes (ie, bankers, health insurers, defense industries), to political sellouts (Hedge's point). I don't think saddling "the people" per se is helpful. Are they one part of the ecosystem? Well yeah. Do they then "deserve" all that they get? Um, no.

6) I don't think the standard should be that "the people" can't escape the full blame without a gun to their heads. For one thing, it's not really a workable standard logically -- hardly any players in the entire drama had guns to their head -- did Obama have a gun to his head when he gave away the candy store to Wall Street? For another, I'm not sure it's such a sin to want to go to work (if you're so lucky as to have work to go to), take care of your friends and family, and enjoy a bit of entertainment at the end of the day, all without having a second job as a political activist or what-have-you. I'm not really convinced that for that, they deserve to have their future economic security stolen to enrich a few already uber-rich societal parasites, or their present health or economic security destroyed in favor of the same people. Or any one of the several other disasters-in-the-making we're in the throes of now.

Submitted by libbyliberal on

I remember years ago bumping into then Senator Pat Schroeder on a street corner in Manhattan. I gushed that I really admired her as a senator. She seemed genuinely appreciative and interested in what i might have to say and seemed EAGER to talk to someone. I suddenly realized I was pretty much a ninny at that point in time in terms of what was happening in my country and my government and I kind of said a few over-generalized things and escaped much to both our dismay. I look back and realize, wow ... I would have loved to have such an opportunity today to find out from her what she might be willing to reveal about what was happening in the senate. It was the beginning of a wake-up call how disconnected I was. I was swept with that shaming realization.

I also let people like Mark Shields in Newshour or Charlie Rose or whatever essayists or certain relatives give me their summations about what was going on and that was quite enough for me. If I had a nice friendly sense from the personality or look even of a politician, that was enough for me.

We all are dependent on our trusted sources, even here, but I am learning from the net and some walking the walk courageous types there are a lot of places to learn from. And also feel more confidence in not succumbing to authority as much but making up my own mind, particularly when it comes to the magic box. And some people get it right sometimes and other times get it wrong. VERY WRONG. As do I.

And as for personality vs. character, character is far more important. And character does not seem to matter so much to people. And sometimes narcissistic people appear courageous from their willfulness. There was a book by Susan Forward, I think, Men Who Hate Women and the Women Who Love Them. She makes the point that women who fall in love with psychopaths should not waste time beating up themselves for doing that. It might be hard NOT to fall in love with a psychopath, after all, they are not limited by conscience and feel willing to tell all the lies they want in order to seduce and are gifted in the art of the schmooze. The important thing is to recognize that you have become enthralled by a psychopath and to DETACH. Sometimes to the point of even having to cut your losses. Sometimes the scope of lies are so massive, they are harder to challenge since one does not want to accept that someone can be so empty of conscience. So manipulative to lie so baldly and broadly.

I wish I knew why there is not more moral outrage in America. There is a blind collective ego of this consumer culture. Or more than one, a blue and a red and others, too, I guess. Collective egos. And a counter-culture began waking up under Bush, waking up even more strongly under the fantasy of Obama, but many became profoundly sedated again, enthralled by, Obama's and his associates' razzle dazzle hypocrisy. 50 million proverbial Frenchmen can be wrong. Another 50 million proverbial Frenchmen can be wrong in another direction, too. Obama is the most extreme liberal president ever. Good grief. It is surreal.

After saying all this, I still don't get the bubble most Americans exist in re conscience, drones, wars, lack of health care deaths and suffering, soldier suicides, etc. How can they not provoke head-banging outrage?

I mean when what's his name in New Haven, Mil-something,who did his tests on random people in his quarters at Yale and their willingness to respond to white coated authoritarians to inflict pain on random strangers, it was 6 out of 10 was it who were willing to do that. If feels like right now, we don't have the momentum of 40% standing up to power, but maybe that is the cleverness of the media and politicians to DENY that solid 4 of 10 Americans who are willing to kick ass and stand up to authority. The 40 percenters need to make the counter-culture strong and functional!

nihil obstet's picture
Submitted by nihil obstet on

Why do late 20th c. voters act the way they do? I find Adam Curtis' "Century of the Self" convincing on a lot of issues. It's a four-part documentary that he made for the BBC, and it's fascinating. It explains among other things what in hell Bill Clinton had in mind in that loony 96 re-election campaign (it's in the 3rd or 4th part, I forget which). It also sets me back a little in my fantasy about the convincing nature of rational speech to voters.

In the final analysis though, if you condemn people for not being what you want them to be, you're not in any reality-based world. That doesn't mean you can't make moral judgments or pursue social goals that involve others, but it does mean that expecting socialist man to love his tractor, as the Soviet Union did; or economic man to choose only on carefully researched material self-interest, as the Friedman disciples do; or liberal person to follow enlightened advice, as our creative class does; is to run to disaster because other humans are just so defective.

Submitted by libbyliberal on

Walter Lippman calling public the "bewildered" herd ... and Edward Bernays was a mighty colluder with corporations, wasn't he? Even story about getting women to consume cigarettes. Psychology for profiteering. Makes Mad Men all the more disturbing to watch, too. Not since I listened to the documentary "The Corporation" have I been this jarred. Will be back when I finish the set.

Submitted by mike flugennock on

...for not recalling the looniness of Clinton's '96 campaign; what's especially embarassing was that I lived through that. I suppose it's because the only thing that sticks out in my mind about that campaign was the aforementioned White House honcho telling me I'd vote Democratic because I had noplace else to go -- and my attendant indignation -- and President Bubba doing a speechifying-and-foto-op tour of the sites of a then-recent spate of church fires in the South. I remember it seemed almost every other day there were news reports of black churches being torched, followed almost immediately by a Clinton visit, speech and foto op, causing me to think "jeezus, has the '96 campaign started already?"

I suppose, looking back, that the '96 campaign just doesn't look as loony as it really was back then -- especially compared to the steadily escalating zaniness of the three Presidential campaigns that followed.

okanogen's picture
Submitted by okanogen on

I'm heartened that there was a discussion giving at least some words to what I saw as a very, very, very elitist cartoon, as well as the the poster's (not "diarist's") subsequent description.

Kicking the proles for being "low information" just doesn't get old, does it?

Clearly, the biggest problem in the world these days is the substandard judgement of our most powerless classes.