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Losing The Propaganda War

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The propaganda war waged by corporatist news media against the Occupy Wall Street movement is rapidly deteriorating.  When the occupation of Zuccotti Park began on September 17, the initial response from mainstream news outlets was to simply ignore it – with no mention of the event whatsoever.  When that didn’t work, the next tactic involved using the “giggle factor” to characterize the protesters as “hippies” or twenty-something “hippie wanna-bes”, attempting to mimic the protests in which their parents participated during the late-1960s.  When that mischaracterization failed to get any traction, the presstitutes’ condemnation of the occupation events – which had expanded from nationwide to worldwide – became more desperate:  the participants were called everything from “socialists” to “anti-Semites”.

Despite the incessant flow of propaganda from those untrustworthy sources, a good deal of commentary – understanding, sympathetic or even supportive of Occupy Wall Street began to appear in some unlikely places.  For example, Roger Lowenstein wrote a piece for Bloomberg BusinessWeek entitled, “Occupy Wall Street: It’s Not a Hippie Thing”:

As critics have noted, the protesters are not in complete agreement with each other, but the overall message is reasonably coherent.  They want more and better jobs, more equal distribution of income, less profit (or no profit) for banks, lower compensation for bankers, and more strictures on banks with regard to negotiating consumer services such as mortgages and debit cards.  They also want to reduce the influence that corporations – financial firms in particular – wield in politics, and they want a more populist set of government priorities: bailouts for student debtors and mortgage holders, not just for banks.

In stark contrast with the disparaging sarcasm spewed by the tools at CNBC and Fox News concerning this subject, The Economist demonstrated why it enjoys such widespread respect:

So the big banks’ apologies for their role in messing up the world economy have been grudging and late, and Joe Taxpayer has yet to hear a heartfelt “thank you” for bailing them out.  Summoned before Congress, Wall Street bosses have made lawyerised statements that make them sound arrogant, greedy and unrepentant.  A grand gesture or two – such as slashing bonuses or giving away a tonne of money – might have gone some way towards restoring public faith in the industry.  But we will never know because it didn’t happen.

On the contrary, Wall Street appears to have set its many brilliant minds the task of infuriating the public still further, by repossessing homes of serving soldiers, introducing fees for using debit cards and so on.  Goldman Sachs showed a typical tin ear by withdrawing its sponsorship of a fund-raiser for a credit union (financial co-operative) on November 3rd because it planned to honour Occupy Wall Street.

The Washington Post conducted a poll with the Pew Research Center which compared and contrasted popular support for Occupy Wall Street with that of the Tea Party movement.  The poll revealed that ten percent of Americans support both movements.  On the other hand, Tea Party support is heavily drawn from Republican voters (71%) while only 24% of Republicans – as opposed to 64% of Democrats – support Occupy Wall Street.  As for self-described “Moderates”, only 24% support the Tea Party compared with Occupy Wall Street’s 45% support from Moderates.  Rest assured that these numbers will not deter unscrupulous critics from describing Occupy Wall Street as a “fringe movement”.

The best smackdown of the shabby reportage on Occupy Wall Street came from Dahlia Lithwick of Slate:

Mark your calendars:  The corporate media died when it announced it was too sophisticated to understand simple declarative sentences.  While the mainstream media expresses puzzlement and fear at these incomprehensible “protesters” with their oddly well-worded “signs,” the rest of us see our own concerns reflected back at us and understand perfectly.  Turning off mindless programming might be the best thing that ever happens to this polity.  Hey, occupiers:  You’re the new news. And even better, by refusing to explain yourselves, you’re actually changing what’s reported as news.  Because it takes a tremendous mental effort to refuse to see that the rich are getting richer in America while the rest of us are struggling.  Maybe the days of explaining the patently obvious to the transparently compromised are finally behind us.

By refusing to take a ragtag, complicated, and leaderless movement seriously, the mainstream media has succeeded only in ensuring its own irrelevance.  The rest of America has little trouble understanding that these are ragtag, complicated, and leaderless times.  This may not make for great television, but any movement that acknowledges that fact deserves enormous credit.

Too many mainstream news outlets appear to be suffering from the same disease as our government and our financial institutions.  Jeremy Grantham’s Third Quarter 2011 newsletter will be coming out in a few days and I’m hoping that he will prescribe a cure.  My wilder dream is that those vested with the authority and responsibility to follow his advice would simply do so.


 

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Disappointing Diatribe From A Disillusioned Dionne

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Poor E.J. Dionne!  He is suffering through the same transition process experienced by many Obama supporters who have been confronted with the demise of the President’s phony “populist” image.  The stages one passes through when coping with such an “image death” are identical to those described in the Model of Coping with Dying, created in 1969 by Psychiatrist, Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross. For example, a few weeks ago, Bill Maher was passing through the “Bargaining” stage – at which point he suggested that if we elect Obama to a second term in the White House, the President will finally stand up for all of those abandoned principles which candidate Obama advocated during the 2008 campaign.  As we saw during Friday’s episode of Maher’s Real Time program on HBO, the comedian has now progressed to the “Acceptance” stage, as demonstrated by his abandonment of any “hope” that Obama’s pseudo-populist image might still be viable.

Meanwhile E.J. Dionne appears to be transitioning from the “Denial” stage to the “Anger” stage – as exemplified by his dwelling on the issue of who is to blame for this image death.  Dionne’s conclusion is that “Centrists” are to blame.  Dionne’s recent Washington Post column began with the premise that “centrism has become the enemy of moderation”.  While attempting to process his anger, Dionne has expounded some tortured logic, rambling through an elaborate “distinction without a difference” comparison of “Centrists” with “Moderates”, based on the notion that Moderates are good and Centrists are bad.   Dionne’s article was cross-posted at the Truthdig blog, where many commentors criticized his argument.  One reason why so many Truthdig readers had less trouble accepting the demise of Obama’s false “populist” image, could have been their exposure to the frequent criticism of Obama appearing at that website – as exemplified by this cartoon by Mr. Fish, which appeared immediately to the left of Dionne’s article on Saturday.

An easy way to make sense of Dionne’s thought process at this “Anger” stage is to replace any references to “centrists” or “centrism” by inserting Obama’s name at those points.  For example:

Because centrism Obama is reactive, you never really know what a centrist Obama believes.  Centrists are Obama is constantly packing their his bags and chasing off to find a new location as the political conversation veers one way or another.

*   *   *

Yet the center’s devotees, in politics and in the media, Obama fear(s) saying outright that by any past standards—or by the standards of any other democracy—the views of this new right wing are very, very extreme and entirely impractical.  Centrists Obama worr(ies) that saying this might make them him look “leftist” or “partisan.”

Instead, the center Obama bends.  It He concocts deficit plans that include too little new tax revenue.  It He accepts cuts in programs that would have seemed radical and draconian even a couple of years ago.  It He pretends this crisis is caused equally by conservatives and liberals when it is perfectly clear that there would be no crisis at all if the right hadn’t glommed onto the debt ceiling as the (totally inappropriate) vehicle for its anti-government dreams.

It’s time for moderates to abandon centrism Obama and stop shifting with the prevailing winds.  They need to state plainly what they’re for, stand their ground, and pull the argument their way. Yes, they would risk looking to “the left” of where the center Obama is now – but only because conservatives have pulled it him so far their way.

Toward the end of the piece we see how Dionne is getting some glimpses of the fact that Obama is the problem:

But when this ends, it’s Obama who’ll need a reset.  At heart, he’s a moderate who likes balance.  Yet Americans have lost track of what he’s really for. Occasionally you wonder if he’s lost track himself.  He needs to remind us, and perhaps himself, why he wants to be our president.

In reality, Barack Obama was able to deceive Americans by convincing them that he was for populist causes rather than corporatist goals.  The President never “lost track of what he’s really for”.  He has always been Barry O. Tool – a corporatist.

At the conclusion of Dionne’s essay we learn that – contrary to what we were told by Harry Truman – “the buck” stops at the desks of Obama’s “centrist advisers”:

His advisers are said to be obsessed with the political center, but this leads to a reactive politics that won’t motivate the hope crowd that elected Obama in the first place.  Neither will it alter a discourse whose terms were set during most of this debt fight by the right.

We’ve heard the “blame the advisers” rationale from others who passed through the Kübler-Ross phases at earlier points during the Obama Presidency:  There were those who sought to blame Rahm Emanuel when the “public option” was jettisoned from Obama’s healthcare bill.  We then heard from the “Hope fiends” who blamed Larry Summers, Tim Geithner and Peter Orszag for Obama’s refusal to seriously consider the “Swedish solution” of putting the zombie megabanks through temporary receivership.  In fact, it was Obama making those decisions all along.

I’m confident that once E.J. Dionne reaches the “Acceptance” stage, we will hear some refreshing, centered criticism of President Obama.


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We’re All Headed Into The Hudson

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February 9, 2009

It’s Monday, February 9 and Change Airlines flight 2008 is just taking off from Senate Airport.  In the cockpit are:  Captain “Barry” Barackburger, Co-pilot “Turbo” Geithner, and Flight Engineer Larry Summers.  During its takeoff roll, the plane came dangerously close to an open container belonging to the Bad Paper Company.  The Bad Paper was to be loaded onto a Xeng Airlines flight, bound for Beijing.  As the Change airplane passed the open container, a large amount of the Bad Paper was sucked into the plane’s jet engines.  Just after takeoff, the airliner’s Captain radioed the tower:

Captain Barry:  Senate tower this is Change twenty-zero-eight.  That paper container was too close to the runway and our engines sucked most of it in.  We’re losing thrust and we need to come back around.

Senate tower:  Change twenty-zero-eight you are clear to land on runway 18.

Captain Barry:  We can’t make it back.  That’s too far for us.  Do you have anything closer?

Senate tower:  Can you make it to Taxcut International?

Captain Barry:  Are you kidding?  Taxcut doesn’t have enough runway.  C’mon!  Help me out here!  We’re running out of time!

Senate tower:  I have our navigation technician here to come up with something.  What do you have, Irene?

Nav Tech I. Newton:  Your best option looks like runway 27-Left at States Field.

Larry Summers:  What the hell do you know about math or physics, Missy?  This plane has a much higher “sink rate” than your estimate.  Save your science fair project for those broads on The View.  I’m sure they’ll be impressed.

Captain Barry:  Larry!  Chill!

Captain Barry:  Senate tower, we’re going to be making a hard landing and I don’t want to try it on a runway.  There’s no time for that, anyway.  We’re going to have to set down in the river.

Senate tower:  That sounds awfully wasteful!  Do you know how much that plane costs?

Captain Barry:  At least we can get some salvage value out of the plane this way.  Besides, I can’t gamble with the health and welfare of my passengers.

Senate tower:  But first, you should at least try   .  .  .

Captain Barry:  Hey!  I’m the Captain.  Remember?  Okay, Turbo!  Throw the “ditch switch” and alert the passengers for a water landing!

Will Captain Barry be able to make a “soft landing” in the river?  Will Senate tower delay this attempt long enough to make that impossible?  Stay tuned.

In the mean time Steven Mufson and Lori Montgomery have reported in the Washington Post, that conservative-minded economists are in agreement with liberal economists that an economic stimulus bill should be enacted as quickly as possible:

While economists remain divided on the role of government generally, an overwhelming number from both parties are saying that a government stimulus package — even a flawed one — is urgently needed to help prevent a steeper slide in the economy.

Many economists say the precise size and shape of the package developing in Congress matter less than the timing, and that any delay is damaging.

There is no doubt that the fight over the stimulus bill has turned into a partisan political battle.  This was best exemplified by the fact that no Republican in the House of Representatives voted in favor of the House version of that legislation.  Battle lines have also been drawn by many commentators.  In his February 5 op-ed column for the New York Times, Paul Krugman (recipient of the Nobel Prize in Economics) complained about Republican efforts to downsize the spending provisions in the bill and to add more tax cuts.  He was particularly upset about President Obama’s willingness to make compromises in those areas:

So what should Mr. Obama do?  Count me among those who think that the president made a big mistake in his initial approach, that his attempts to transcend partisanship ended up empowering politicians who take their marching orders from Rush Limbaugh. What matters now, however, is what he does next.

It’s time for Mr. Obama to go on the offensive.  Above all, he must not shy away from pointing out that those who stand in the way of his plan, in the name of a discredited economic philosophy, are putting the nation’s future at risk.  The American economy is on the edge of catastrophe, and much of the Republican Party is trying to push it over that edge.

The very characteristics of President Obama’s behavior that are causing so much anxiety for Mr. Krugman would seem to make it unlikely that Obama will follow Krugman’s advice.  The President has done plenty of talking about his bringing us into an era of “post-partisanship”.  As David Brooks pointed out on February 5, there are many in Congress headed in that same direction.  For Obama to abandon them would not only be unlikely, it would be political suicide:

The big news here is that there are many Democrats who don’t want to move in a conventional liberal direction and there some Republicans willing to work with them to create a functioning center.  These moderates — who are not a party, but a gang — seemed willing to seize control of legislation from the party leaders.  They separated themselves from both the left and right.

*   *   *

The liberals already are mobilizing against the Moderate Gangs. On Thursday, the liberal interest groups were intensively lobbying against the stimulus cuts.  But there’s no way that Obama, who spent two years campaigning on postpartisan politics, can reject the single biggest manifestation of postpartisanship in the country today.  If he does that, his credibility will be shot.

One reason why Barack Obama is the President is because many voters are impressed by his willingness to sit down and work out solutions with his opponents.  Now is his chance to show them that he can deliver results by using that strategy.