I’m not the greatest fan of the BBC. There are loads of things about it which I hate. I’m not so enamoured of paying the equivalent of $300 per year just for the privilege of having a television in my home. I don’t like the fact that, if I don’t pay this licence fee, I can get slapped in jail and fined $1500 in real money.
But the BBC has made me appreciate one thing: their news and political coverage. Here in the UK, the BBC has news bulletins at 1pm, at 6pm and their main one at 10pm. Of the three terrestrial commercial networks, two have bulletins at 1pm and 10pm, and a third has a comprehensive hour-long news bulletin at 7pm nightly. Yes, there’s a 24/7 cable channel, BBC News 24, but hardly anyone ever watches it.
Wow, that’s a first. Imagine being able to say that hardly anyone ever watches CNN or Fox or even MSNBC.
Anyway, people make do with those mainstream news bulletins, plus an hour-long analysis show nightly called Newsnight, and a weekly panel discussion entitled Question Time.
But the difference between the US and Britain is this: all of the people purporting to be political correspondents for the BBC or any other commercial outlet are steeped in political history, strategy, and fact. They’ve been doing political journalism since the cows came home. They know the way their Parliament works, they know the way their politicians work and they know how their government works. In the analysis show, where the pundits weigh in, we’re treated to political savants who’ve made politics their life’s work. They’re ex-politicos or political opinion journalists, and they know their stuff. They debate in measured tones, take tough questions and give tough answers. There’s an occasional bit of snippiness and rudeness, but no argumentum ad hominem.
In short, there aren’t any ex-sportscasters screaming down the tube or interrupting guests on the show, no comedians purporting to be political pundits who speak in generalities and offer ill-founded advice. If a BBC political commentator were ever to refer to a politician from a party he disdained as “a fat bastard,” he’d be forced to apologise cravenly and publically and summarily sacked from his job as incompetent. And if any political commentator referred to the Prime Minister as “needy” or called him a “pussy,” his feet wouldn’t touch the floor and they’d make sure the door didn’t hit his ass on his way into unemploymentland.
Too many people in America these days suffer from a terminal dearth of ability to think critically. That’s a laziness that needs to be conquered. The Left as well as the Right find it all to easy to vegetate in front of a television full of political rhetoric, be it Fox or MSNBC, designed to cater to your political pleasure and provide you with opinion you’re too intellectually lazy to foment, yourself. In the evolutionary process, your cranium was filled with gray matter called a brain. It might be wobbly in substance, but it sure ain’t jello.
Just as watching too many violent movies de-sensitizes us to violence in general, watching too many shouting, frantic, ill-informed and deliberately misinforming celebrity talking heads not only makes us ruder in discourse, it closes our minds to proven facts behind the opinions our icons are spewing at us. And too many people these days are clearly unable to discern fact from opinion; and many of those who are, dispute facts in favour of opinion.
Not only are we living in a world exceedingly worshipful of the celebrity cult (and that’s being kind), we also live in a world where the political modus operandi is total illusion. In the blink of an eye a talking head can have us believing that the President is the master of illusion, himself – a Manchurian candidate who isn’t even legitimate owing to his supposed foreign birth, his alleged enemy religion, his socialistic, communistic, fascist political bent … all euphemisms to mask the real reason that the Right side of the political coin is uncomfortable with the fact that there’s a black man in the White House.
And on the other side of the coin, we’re led to believe, by those who – supposedly – speak for us, the viewing public, that, among other things, Obama’s sold us out, Obama hates the Middle Class, Obama’s homophobic, Obama’s caved on single payer/the public option/Elizabeth Warren/tax cuts for the rich (take your pick), Obama’s weak, Obama should be more like Bush, Obama should be less like Bush, Obama’s done nothing. Again, that’s pretty much a masquerade in and of itself too. These whinges, whinings and moans distort the fact that certain elements of the Left don’t like the idea of having a black man in the White House who doesn’t do what they want when they snap their fingers.
When Egypt’s middle classes rose up in revolt against their dictator, celebrity talking heads on MSNBC, demanded that the President intervene in the crisis – the selfsame people who, rightly, decried Bush’s interventionist policies in relation to Afghanistan and Iraq. So whilst it wasn’t kosher for us to barrel into a couple of countries and dismantle their own elected governments, without anything concrete to set up in replacement, it’s perfectly all right to wade into a civil dispute in another country, taking sides with an opposition which really wasn’t an organised opposition at all, but a plethora of people with differing beliefs but united only in that one of wanting their dictator gone.
And now these same people, who have microphones and mega salaries, are saying, demanding, haranguing that the President go to Wisconsin and align himself physically with the marchers on the picket lines. This is the political advice being given, in particular, by ex-sportscaster-ex-neocom-cum-Damascene-converted Progressive Ed Schultz.
This is an absolutely puerile demand.
To begin with, Obama’s already recognised that Scott Walker’s brief is to bust the unions and he’s denounced that. He’s made statements asserting that people in unions must not lose their rights to collective bargaining. Then there’s Organising for America, who’ve worked extensively and recently with these activists and organisers in co-ordinating these protests.
To think that a serving US President, no matter what he spoke in the rhetoric of his early campaign days, would physically place himself on a picket line or at the head of a large group of union activists with a gripe against a duly elected state governor is beyond the pale of critical thinking.
First of all, such an action would demean the Office. Secondly, there’s the security question. Can you imagine the President with his cordon of Secret Service Agents amongst the demonstrators in Madison? Can you imagine the police responsibility? And can you imagine if the Kochs had sponsored a counter-demonstration with Teabaggers, some of whom might be packing a piece loaded with bullets all engraved with the President’s name?
Good grief, we’ve already had one Teabagger ask a Republican congressman once this week who was going to shoot the President.
Thirdly, this dispute is between the people of Wisconsin and the man they duly and legitimately elected their governor. On election day 2010, a great many people stayed away from the polling booths because they were angry. They’d been told their President wasn’t working for them, that he was weak and pandering to the Right, that he was really a Republican in a Democrat’s guise. And when the people stayed home and didn’t vote, those who did elected people like Scott Walker with a hidden agenda which is now only just becoming apparent.
Rather than the snarky Nixon-era subject of Paul Simon’s Seventies’ classic “Love Me Like a Rock,” hiding behind the Presidential Seal on the Presidential podium, Walker’s got the State Seal tattooed on his hairy ass and he’s mooning the people of Wisconsin. They got sold a bill of sale and now they’re exercising their Constitutional right to protest.
This is between Walker and his constituents.
If the President shows up, it then becomes Obama pitted against Walker. It would be an absolute field day for the states’ rights advocates on the Right, Fox News would experience an organism which would register 12 on the Richter scale and Glenn Beck would spontaneously combust. If his presence meant failure for the protestors, he’d be assailed by both Right and Left – nothing new there. If he were successful, then a precedent would be set and scores of other states would expect a magic presence to make all their problems go away. And the Republicans would probably try to impeach him.
News Flash: The President is not our daddy, and we are not his children. Somethings we have to do for ourselves.
At least one union, the SEIU, was adult enough to thank the President for his words of support, but that’s as much as they wanted. They know the score.
As for Ed Schultz, this is the same political pundit who, not once but twice, in the late summer and early autumn of 2010, urged first the long-term unemployed and then all Progressives not to vote in the mid-terms. Not voting would teach the Democrats a lesson; in fact, Ed said he wasn’t voting. He demanded the first moratorium because Congress could not agree upon an extension of Unemployment benefits before the summer recess; the second moratorium was a hissy fit in reaction to Robert Gibbs’s frustration with the Professional Left, which Ed and others of his ilk managed to convince their hoi polloi that Gibbs’s remarks were directed at them.
Considering the fact that the GOP made record gains in the House and in gubernatorial slots and state legislatures nationwide, it sure looks like Ed achieved what he’d requested. So for all his blustering and posturing the past week, the actual truth is that Ed Schultz bears some of the blame for Scott Walker getting into a position of power.
And now, this week, he’s been haranguing the President to appear in Wisconsin or risk becoming a one-term President.
Well, considering that Ed has had a long history of association with the Republican party, including having run as a Republican (and lost) for a Congressional seat, and considering that Ed, too, is one of several high-profile people on the Left who, prior to November 3, 2004, identified themselves strongly as conservative Republicans, maybe Ed’s operating from another agenda altogether.
November 3, 2004 must have seen a helluva lot of Damascene conversions for the price of a corporate bag of Rovian silver.
But then, we do practice the politics of illusion in America.