This Friday just past (July 22nd,2011) certainly cannot be described as a "good-news day." First the continuing drip-drip-drip of Tea Party poison from Washington, with the House Republican leader John Boehner walking out on talks with the President on deficit and debt issues, because of the continuing refusal of the Republicans to consider ANY kind of revenue increase as part of a "grand deal" to reduce the debt and deficit. Then the sad and painful news of a massive bomb explosion in Oslo followed by the gunning down of teenaged Norwegians attending a summer camp sponsored by Norway's Social Democratic party.
Though I have been trying to reduce my exposure to news media to improve my spirits and tame my blood pressure level,I could not help but be transfixed by both of these news stories. Now, with some time to reflect on how these situations have been represented in the news media, I have some thoughts to share, though I fear that further exploring these issues will lead me and perhaps a few of my readers to experience such a precipitous rise in anger-and-frustration-driven blood pressure that our heads may erupt in agonizing showers of blood,something like what happens to a number of characters in the 1983 David Cronenberg film, "Videodrome." It may be wise to put a plastic covering over your computer to shield it from the inevitable, so that your heirs and/or debtors will be able to realize full value from your computer after you are gone. Or maybe not...
What strikes me is how in both cases, certain types of assumptions are privileged, and continue to be maintained, even when there is rather definite evidence to the contrary.
In the case of the breakdown of debt-ceiling/deficit/budget negotiations, an assumption of many in the news media is that this is a problem of "partisan politics," the failure of both sides to compromise. WHOA! Wait a minute there. This is a kind of fake structural, phony neutral analysis that pretends to achieve some kind of objectivity by simply blaming everyone involved without analyzing their roles and objectives in any meaningful way, also without considering the situation in any kind of historical perspective. This is NOT just a game of who's up and who's down, who will attain advantage in the next election, who will please Wall Street investors and who will not. This is NOT just a situation of two parties with points of view of quite equal value and justification asserting themselves and reaching an unfortunate deadlock.
There is ONE party, that of the Democrats,that is asking Congress to do a simple thing that it has done many times before as a routine matter, to raise the debt ceiling so that all hell does not break loose in our country from senior citizens not receiving their monthly checks to veterans not getting theirs to private companies that rely on government contracts being thrown into chaos and the international investment funds losing confidence in the USA and triggering a massive rise in interest rates and perhaps another 2008 stock market collapse. The Democrats are also refusing to accede to massive cuts in government programs like Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid that generations of poor, moderate-income and elderly Americans have depended on and need now, more than ever, in the face of the grueling, lingering recession that has driven so many out of their jobs and homes. That's right, that's what those crazy fucking Democrats are up to, those sick, unreasonable, America-hating fiends. Why oh why are they taking such an extreme, radical, dangerous, future-threatening stand? Why are they so stubborn? I'll tell you why. They are standing up not only to protect our economy but also to protect our form of government and way of life from some truly extreme, radical, dangerous and future-threatening folk, the Tea Party Republicans.
Yes, the Tea Party Republicans. Those god-fearing, flag-loving, super-duper-hyper-ultra patriotic-to-the-max American Tea Party Republicans (TPRs). They have used the debt ceiling issue to hold the country hostage, demanding incredibly massive cuts in government programs, cuts that have never been seen before and whose effects are agreed by most analysts to be potentially catastrophic for Americans who are not insulated by wealth and privilege. They insist that these cuts be done in the size, scale and way that they want, OR GRANNY* GETS IT! (Note: for *Granny, you may substitute any other vulnerable member of society and even the entire society in general.)That's right: their position on budget negotiations is AT LEAST 4 TRILLION BUCKS CUT WITH A CHAIN SAW OUT OF THE BIG EVIL GOVERNMENT BUDGET, OR ELSE! (Obama offered 3 trillion in cuts coupled with 1 trillion in new revenues; they said HELL NO!)
Now, to be fair, I don't begrudge these persons the right to advocate their views or advance them in negotiations. What is REALLY DIFFERENT about what they are doing is that they are (a) seeking EXTREME cuts like have never been seen before, cuts which are sure to cause major damage to many across the country) and(b) they are using the debt ceiling issue, an unrelated issue, to hold Obama and the Democrats hostage and force them to agree to the foresaid extreme and destructive budget cuts, which are far beyond anything previously discussed at a serious level in Washington.
What makes it all even crazier is that the TPRs claim to care deeply about the budget deficit, but refuse to acknowledge the obvious point that there are two (2) ways of dealing with such a deficit: (1) cutting spending, (2) raising revenues through increased taxes, closing of tax loopholes, or other such measures. If someone loses their job and is trying to raise a family, they can either seek new sources of income, such as finding a new job, or they can reduce their spending by such means as switching from three meals a day to one and learning to live without heat and electricity. The TPRs would rather see the American government become the equivalent of the family trying to exist on one meal a day and without heat or power than raise ANY revenues in ANY way. If they can't get this, 100% of an extreme demand, they are willing to let all hell break loose, even though a financial collapse will do nothing to resolve long-term budget and debt issues, which they CLAIM to really care about. I think they only care about those issues as a way of getting at their real goal: reducing government programs that they dislike out of ideological distaste for the public sector, as they tend to believe that most things in society are better handled by businessmen than government.
The Democrats in Congress, and even moreso Obama, have indicated willingness to agree to a "balanced approach" of some budget cuts and program alterations along with some increases in revenue. Opinion polls show most Americans agree with such an approach in principle.
So WHY then do many in the news media keep insisting that the problem is "partisan politics" and stubbornness on both sides? There is one side that is being reasonable, trying to be fair-minded and accept the other party's proposals to some extent, and one side which is both extreme in its demands and unwilling to negotiate.
The American public, reading, hearing and watching media blather about "partisan deadlock," is not being educated about the deeper issues at stake and the extreme right-wing,anti-government tilt that the Republican party has undergone with the rise of its now-dominant Tea Party faction. That is to say, the media is cooperating in concealing the extremeness of the right-wing movement in America, and as a result, the right-wing gains more and more power.
The same criticism applies to the President. He began to lose his temper in his press conference yesterday and to show his exasperation with the Republicans' unwillingness to budge from their extreme demands, but he still was not willing to call a spade a spade and say,"the Republicans are in the grip of an extreme right-wing ideology which I reject." He just can't do it. Instead, he said things like "both parties need to do their best..." This is like witnessing a crime on the street where a man with a knife takes out a knife and starts slashing people at random, and then telling the police, "We all need to be more concerned about violence on our streets and to consider sensible restrictions on how many people a knife-wielding gentleman is allowed to murder in one day," instead of telling who did what in plain terms, who is being harmed, and who is responsible.
The moral: one must NEVER EVER criticize right-wing, Tea Party Republicans or characterize them as right-wing or extreme. One must always be polite and obsequious to them. Obama makes snide, mocking references to progressives who criticize him for his rightward tilt on many matters, but he is always unfailingly respectful to the very right-wingers who are trying in every way to destroy him.
I see similar bias in the media coverage of the Norway attacks. How quick the media was to assume that this was the work of Al-Qaeda or similar Islamic terrorists,and how reluctant many media pundits were to let go of the Muslim boogie man and come to terms with the fact that the person responsible for this awful orgy of violence was a white, Christian, Norwegian farmer. Even when the news media began learning that this man was the prime suspect and was being questioned by police, they still kept muttering nonsense about possible Islamic connections. Just can't let go of it, can you? Because you know it FEELS SO GOOD to be SCARED of Muslims and to HATE them. Oh Yes, Baby, yes! Mmmmm!! More Muslim-bashing, PLEASE! More fear-mongering, PLEASE! I love being scared out of my wits about these demonic beings from the planet Allah! I love being a soldier in the "War on Muslims," I mean the "War on Terror!" Huh? What's that? A WHITECHRISTIANNORWEGIANFARMERDIDIT? No, that can't be right. Has to be a Muslim, got to be a Muslim, I wants me an evil dirty bearded Muslim, one just like Mamma used to hate, one that I can hate and fear and go to war against and kill Kill KILL with whoops of joy.
So now what? We have proof that the attacks were carried out by a white Christian Norwegian farmer. Do we now have a "War on Farmers?" a "War on Christianity?" a "War on White Norwegians?" Of course not. This Anders Behring Breivik guy was a one-in-a-million nut case, just a bad apple, just a crazy kook to be put away, so we can all go back to our lives without thinking. That's all there is to it, whew....!
Wait a minute, now you're telling me he may have either been influenced by or been associated with an extreme, anti-Muslim, right-wing, fundamentalist Christian movement? IMPOSSIBLE! Does not compute. Let me tell you a thing or two about terrorism, which I have learned from the media since 9/11 (blessings be upon that sacred date,and may all blasphemers be punished.). The term "terrorist" does not apply to white people, Christians, or right-wingers. If they engage in violence, it is nothing to get worked up about. Nothing to go to war about. Just a bad apple....like that Timothy McVeigh fellow.
Again, the media goes very soft and easy on right-wing misdeeds. Imagine if the killer had been a Muslim or an Arab or an African. What a shit-storm you would see!
Let's hope there will be some thoughtful discussion in our media about the dangers of right-wing extremism and Christian fundamentalism. Back in 2009, the FBI put out a report warning that the greatest terrorist threat would come from right-wing extremism, Timothy McVeigh-esque individuals and organizations. Since that time, with the rise to dominance of the right-wing Republicans in Washington and Obama's inexplicable eagerness to accommodate them, the FBI and Congress have backed away from taking any action on this threat. Maybe after what happened in Norway, they should get back on the case....if the American right-wingers will let them.
Wake up, America (and Norway, and Hungary, and...) Today's right-wing movements are extreme and dangerous, and also,sorry to say, often very effective in bullying their way to power. They will take hostages. They will resort to violence. Let's stop empowering them by offering them excuses and compromises. I truly believe that the right-wing tide can be turned back by exposing its extremeness and ugliness. It thrives on ignorance and cowardice.
Pagans have a role to play, too. Pagan religions can be twisted into justifications for racism and militarism, as the Nazis showed. If you see this happening, even to a small extent, speak up or get out. Reach out to others and you will find that there are indeed those who share your concerns and values. Don't let yourself be intimidated by racist thugs. Don't let your spirituality and traditions be hijacked by right-wing extremism.
Considering the quick move to scapegoat Muslims in light of the Oslo bombing, I also suggest that everyone who reads this try to be extra nice to Muslims that they know or meet, and if you hear someone spouting off with anti-Muslim rhetoric, remind them that Muslims are people, too. Trite as it may seem, reminding others that "we're all brothers and sisters" is a powerful message that is at the heart of every progressive movement for the last two thousand or more years and still has the power to cut through a lot of racist bullshit. Try it and see!