It has been years since I wrote on this blog, and months since I have had the time to organize my thoughts concerning the current state of American politics. A few recent items in the news have helped crystalize my concern that the media in general have focused on (and as a result amplified) powerful adults acting like obnoxious children.
Take for example former Senator Alan Simpson of the Deficit Commission. He has been the subject of much deserved criticism for his patronizing tone in how he addressees recipients of Social Security and the other government institutions he intends to strip of all necessary funding. Currently, there exists a split between those media outlets who deride his sexist and clueless tenor and those who for some reason celebrate his “bravery” in fighting the “overwhelming problem” of the defecit by attacking children, seniors, and anyone else who does not have an retirement account invested with Goldman Sachs. This assignment of bravery of course, includes willfully ignoring Simpson’s misconceptions of the basic mechanisms behind Social Security.
Right now Congressman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin is the subject of op-ed’s from supposedly serious journalists like David Brooks. The standard make up of these remarkably similar articles focus on praising the “bravery” and “strength” of someone willing to tell taxpayers to deal with less so that the richest 1% can get a tax cut, while ignoring the hypocrisy of the messenger (Ryan went to college on saved social security death benefits after his father passed) and commenting extensively on that same person’s physique (Ryan you see, does P90x, which makes him a serious person to talk to about economics). The increasingly creepy tone of these op-ed’s comes as a result of the failed search to find any reasonable and intelligent conservative legislator, forcing supposedly worldly pundits like Brooks or George Will to literally fall in love with this Ayn Rand sycophant (whose dreamy body would make Leni Riefenstahl all hot and bothered) .
Meanwhile the movie adaptation of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged came into theaters, and despite the fact that FreedomWorks and other Tea Party groups promoted it extensively, it failed to capture an audience to repay its producer, an exercise machine magnate. For some reason in the midst of a massive recession, people do not want to spend $12 to be told they are “parasites” by the same class of people who fired them. Despite this, the creators of the movie are blaming the “liberal media”, because apparently Roger Ebert can single handedly ruin an otherwise genius movie whose biggest star was the guy who punched Don Drapper in Season Two of Mad Men.
Osama Bin Laden was shot in the face two weeks ago, and before the shock that a Democratic President (once again) ordered a competent military operation took effect, every channel on television overwhelmingly featured current GOP officials or members of the Bush Administration’s National Security team to discuss the matter (at an 8-1 margin according to Rachel Maddow). Now most people might (correctly) conclude that such an action would be akin to allowing members of the Hoover administration to talk about their economic successes in 1945, but for some reason the major media outlets allowed the likes of Karl Rove to discuss the dubious idea that the tactics of the Bush Administration directly led to the success of their successor in achieving the goal they expressly abandoned in 2003. These tactics of course included torture, which lead Rick Santorum to conclude that critics of this embarrassing chapter in American History, especially John McCain, “does not understand” how torture works. Despite the fact that most of what these people were saying was verifiably wrong, the media allowed the focus of the Bin Laden raid to be taken over by a coordinated effort of individuals who still refuse to admit that they royally screwed up every major action they took concerning foreign policy while they were in office.
Donald Trump is not running for president. He declared as much last week, but anybody who actually followed the news could have told you that he always was playing the media cycle for his own profit. Trump’s hypothetical inclusion in the 2012 race may demonstrate the utter desperation of the GOP, but it mainly should serve as a reflection of our own collective stupidity and immaturity that such a person should ever be taken seriously. Frankly, there is little difference between Trump and the much maligned Paris Hilton. Both inherited their wealth, and while both have little talent at creating capital, they each have perfected grabbing public attention at their willingness to flaunt their ostentatious lifestyles. For some reason, despite the fact that unemployment officially hovers around 9%, and wages have been stagnant since the 1970’s, people have been told to enjoy this constant glorification of the modern day celebrity Court of Versailles and their conscious lack of empathy for those who did not win the ovarian lottery.
All of these stories share a common theme of supposed adults acting like spoiled, opinionated, children. Michael Gershon’s brilliant equation of Ayn Rand’s objectivism to adolescence and Paul Krugman’s post on the continued use of the phrase “class warfare” by proponents of Reagan’s failed trickle down economic theories each show just how devoid the current focus of American Politics is of any substantive thought. Today we have a party that has wholly embraced a philosophy celebrating absolute selfishness to the point where the use of the word “empathy” can generate a few days of examination within the news cycle. It is simply amazing, but since the health care debate, any sense of communal responsibility or shared sacrifice is thought to be morally wrong. At a time when our country is in three wars and continues to suffer through an economic collapse, people actually believe that it is essentially evil to work for the benefit of anyone besides your own id. This is not a way to run a modern society of over 300 million people. But beyond the obvious evidence to the contrary, there remains a powerful aspect of this country that is comfortable with having our most influential citizens act like this person.