In this summer of global tumult, the debate in Washington essentially boils down to two opposite positions: It is all President Obama’s fault, according to his critics; no, it is not, according to his supporters, because these are events beyond his control.So, which came first? The shallow play-acting of the elites, or the shallow reportage of the sycophants?
And what does it really matter? Peter Baker's front page article in the New York Times, which turns complicated world events into a Manichean debate between foes and friends of the current front-man of the plutocracy, is all too emblematic of what passes for journalism. He said/she saids/ pseudo-feuds breaking up the Money Party, and the erection of straw men serve to mask the real story: that democracy is a theatrical sham, and that ordinary people are screwed.
It's the kind of reporting that makes the civil unrest in Missouri all about how much it is ruining Obama's vacation, or guessing how long it will take Hillary to "weigh in" on the events. ("Twitter Is Starting to Wonder!") It's the lazy soap opera method of political reporting. It's what happens when six media conglomerates control 90% of we see, hear, and read. It's when advocacy/adversarial journalism in the public interest is transformed into access stenography in the service of "the debate in Washington."
It's the kind of journalism that inspired Maureen Dowd to write a column last week on the death of Robin Williams and quickly morph it into a column about Hillary publicly dissing Barry's foreign policy. Actually, Dowd does make a sly, barbed, satirical point: Everything in the Consumer States of America -- even death -- can be connected to everything else. Everybody has infinite degrees of separation... especially celebrities in the incestuous world of media, politics and entertainment!
My published comment, playing right along, in response to her piece:
Robin Williams had a thousand faces. Hillary has two.
Robin Williams had a wicked sense of humor. Hillary's recent performance art has just been wicked and senseless. First, she claimed to be dead broke and blamed it on her lack of artfulness. And now she's resorting to bare naked artifice, a two-bit Medea claiming that Obama didn't want to arm the Syrian rebels and bomb Assad into oblivion. She would have preferred unilateral bellicose action. An imperial presidency on steroids is what we can expect if we elect Hillary (or any other Republican) as our next commander in chief. Not for nothing was she John "Bomb Iran" McCain's honored guest at his elite and secretive Sedona festival of the neocons.
Elizabeth Warren is the one with the humor. Last April, as various pundits tried to back her into a corner about running, she allowed that Clinton would be a "terrific" candidate. She just kind of cagily forgot to mention for which party.
Warren is among the throngs of people all too well acquainted with the woman of two faces. Back when Hillary was newly installed by birthright in the US Senate, Warren was a consumer advocate lobbying for a strong bankruptcy protection bill to benefit regular people. Hillary promised she'd vote for it. And then she promptly voted against it.
So, while Obama is carefully pondering foreign policy as he golfs, this latest act in the All About Hillary melodrama is simply par for the course.In the past week alone, four (Dowd, Gail Collins, Frank Bruni and David Brooks) of the eleven-hack Times stable of op-ed writers each devoted entire columns to the staged Hillary-Barack Tango. And for one-sided sycophancy on steroids, you might as well also throw in Thomas Friedman's Sunday puff piece on Obama. Only Charles Blow saw fit to address the social upheaval in Missouri without making it all about sleazy politicians. Then again, he is the Designated Black Columnist at the Grey Lady.
Meanwhile, Paul Krugman is wisely ignoring topics both shallow and fraught, and actually still talking about stimulus and austerity. He framed his piece around a comparison between the reactionary "too-muchers" (stimulus causes inflation and Greece!) and the "not-enoughers" (himself, and others who thought there was not enough stimulus) and how austerity in Europe is a big, big mistake and might even cause another lost generation, like in Japan.
And then he again went into his standard Doctor Pangloss mode, soothing that "the good news is that things don’t look that dire in America, where job creation seems finally to have picked up and the threat of deflation has receded, at least for now."
The trouble with the too-muchers is that too much is never enough. The one and only goal of capitalism is constant expansion, even if it means engorging itself on our lifeblood like a demented tic. The plutocrats will die of gluttony, we will die of anemia.
You know who the real "not-enoughers" are? Average Americans whose wages have decreased by 23% since 2008. To say that the situation here is not as dire as in Europe because job creation "seems to have picked up" is cold comfort to those who are literally having their lives cut short by the insatiable greed of those at the very top.
At least the too-muchers don't have so much influence in Europe that they've destroyed government-run health care, or dumbed down and privatized public education, or weaponized and militarized their countries to the point of no return. At least they don't arrest people for sleeping in their cars. At least their income inequality isn't nearly as severe as ours, ranking as we do at rock bottom on the Gini coefficient scale.
The caterwauling of American conservatives over inflation is just part of their free-floating crusade of terror, designed keep us cowed and quiet as our numbers are cruelly culled via Social Darwinism. When it's not the inflation bogeyman out to get us, they'll say it's ISIS who's sneaking across the border to murder us all in our beds.
Anything to deflect our attention from the real culprits: the parasites of the plutocracy.
They are just too, too much.
Update 8/17: In the same spirit, Maureen Dowd has written a fantastic piece on Times reporter James Risen's fight against the Obama administration, which is threatening him with jail for refusing to name a source in a book which outlined a CIA plot (what else). Dowd writes:
How can he (Obama) use the Espionage Act to throw reporters and whistle-blowers in jail even as he defends the intelligence operatives who “tortured some folks,” and coddles his C.I.A. chief, John Brennan, who spied on the Senate and then lied to the senators he spied on about it?
Wow. If you thought this was another Dowd column that would bring the usual knee-jerk chorus of outrage from the Obamabots, think again. I've read through all of the 80 or so comments posted so far, and I think a grand total of two (both highlighted by editors) are actually in the president's court on this issue. Here's my comment:“It’s hypocritical,” Risen said. “A lot of people still think this is some kind of game or signal or spin. They don’t want to believe that Obama wants to crack down on the press and whistle-blowers. But he does. He’s the greatest enemy to press freedom in a generation.”
Great column exposing the rank hypocrisy and bone-chilling assault on the free press which characterizes The Most Transparent Administration Ever (TM).
It is baffling to me how a president who has never denied holding weekly "Terror Tuesday" meetings to decide whom to drone-kill, who has jailed more whistleblowers than any other president, who has gone after leakers like a paranoid Nixon on steroids, who has protected torturers and Wall Street fraudsters while millions of people have slid into poverty, could still enjoy an approval rating in the low 40s.
People either aren't paying attention, or they prefer their lesser evilism with a personable smile as opposed to the blatant malevolence that is the face of today's GOP.
Risen, along with such stalwarts as Glenn Greenwald and Jeremy Scahill and Times Public Editor Margaret Sullivan, are the exceptions to the rule. When not self-censoring out of fear of surveillance, most reporters seem more interested in gaining access to the powerful than in afflicting them. Advocacy writing in the public interest has gone the way of the rotary phone.
The recent police crackdown in Missouri is nothing new. The war on terror is a euphemism for the war on civil dissent. Under Obama, police arrested at least 7,000 Occupy protesters nationwide in an orchestrated crackdown, while Homeland Security fusion centers spied on their every move.
James Risen deserves the Medal of Freedom for having the courage to stand up for all of us.