Saturday, May 27, 2006

Wall of Blather

Which would you rather do? Get involved with organized party politics, or wade into quicksand to grab an overhanging hornet nest? For most folks busy working for a living, staying in touch with essential interests, not to mention raising families, it’s probably a tough call.

It’s a shame, too. Without an informed citizenry, without ordinary people investing their time, it seems democracy gives way to something else. Unfortunately, it leaves the power to rule society with the determined political insiders -- today that's the super wealthy, their brown-nosing hired hands and just enough ordinary fools -- to rule virtually unchecked.

On the network news John Q. Public sees and hears a parade of partisan shills making constant accusations and denials; then there are the fairly balanced and the crackpots. Newspapers mostly offer a tepid version of the same product. Cable television and radio talk-shows growl year-round; political blogs churn out copied copy to add density. Then come the attack ads of every election season. The sum of which forms a cacophony, which acts as a wall of blather separating John Q. from the raw truth of any given moment.

My point here is that many politicians, their financial backers and their consultants don’t really want John Q. to follow political news all that closely. You see, it could make him more difficult to manipulate. Better that he just chant the slogans, as if they are his opinions. Please note, this rant isn't about left and right thinking, or taking stands on particular issues. It's about language and how it's used. It's about propaganda which is effective, or not.

Propaganda shapes thought by framing ideas in a context which carefully limits the viewers’ perspective. It can draw you in, or push you away. It can be obvious or subtle. If boring the audience ultimately makes it more predictable, then the blathering process empowers the pollsters and consultants of both parties, but perhaps one party is actually benefitting more than the other.

In 2006 too many Americans seem numbly content with working increasingly more hours every year to maintain the same lifestyle. Once again the environment is increasingly at the mercy of narrow, short-term business interests -- quick bucks. The nation’s infrastructure is crumbling. America’s healthcare system in running amok. Yet, instead of fixing any of that the Republican party which controls the federal government gives us an imperious presidency which has spawned a disaster in Iraq and ignored a disaster in New Orleans. Hey, the national debt is off the charts.

Although it would seem these conditions would cause the electorate to look to the opposition party, the pitiful Dems have been so busy copying the GOP’s style of public relations, sadly with less success, an awful lot of people can’t tell the difference.


Propaganda. The Republicans have been kicking ass on the propaganda front for a long time. A key to the way it’s been done has been to make the busy middle class disgusted with the sausage-making world of politics and even quit voting. Hey, those cultural conservatives and war hawks, they don’t fail to vote Republican, no matter what. Bored or not, they vote because they are motivated by fear of a changing world.

Whereas, when the Democrats use the same tactics they make more of their natural constituency want to either take a nap or look to support third parties.

Allow me a baseball analogy: Let’s say the Democrats are a National League team and the Republicans are an American League team. The Democrats are strong on defense and pitching. Their offense is based on producing runs with singles and moving speedy runners. The Republicans have a power-hitting lineup, a bunch of big slow guys who can all hit home runs. Well, by using the Republican style of campaigning -- their lingo and methods -- it is as if the Democrats are playing all of their games in the Republicans’ ballpark. That would mean the Republicans get to use their designated hitter and aim at fences set to favor their hitters. Even the cut of the infield grass and the slope down the baselines would be tweaked to suit the home team. In such a world the Democrats are always the visiting team; they win occasionally, but not enough.

So I worry that 2006 will turn out to be another opportunity lost, another painful year of hammering slogans and negative campaigns from both parties. If the clueless Democrats keep helping the Republicans in this manner, as they've unwittingly done since copying Newt Gingrich’s GOP talking points strategy in the early-90s, no one should expect much to change.

Moreover, the establishment media isn’t going to willingly change this picture. It is making money, as is. But the Internet isn't yet under the control of the powers that be. No one really knows its potential, yet, to put over a candidate, to sway an election.

My advice to blogging Dems, stop copying copies in the name of expression. Stop preaching only to the choir. Try being persuasive to the undecideds. In your style, try being as different from the obstreperous Republicans as you can get.

Blog on...

Note: This piece was originally poted on Feb. 20. It was updated at 2:30 p.m. May 27


Scott said...

It comes down to principles- unfortunately the Democrats no longer have any. What do they stand for? Anything that will get them elected- and that's not working anymore.

I belong to the Green Party because it has principles- Ten Key Values. It has also stood up when the Democrats have stood down- the war in Iraq to name just one example.

I also hang out a lot with the Libertarians- who may not have the right answers- but at least have principles I can debate and people can relate to. Besides, these days we need all the anti-authoritarian types we can find- and I am certainly not finding them in the Democratic Party.

F.T. Rea said...

Scott: Thanks for commenting. I have rewritten a few parts of this piece because you made me see it needed it.

Scott said...

At the risk of simply posting something I did not write...

The Antiwar Movement Must Work Outside This Corrupt Party

Cindy Sheehan's Message to the Democrats


For a fleeting moment it looked as though Cindy Sheehan was going to toss her antiwar weight into the election ring and confront Senator Dianne Feinstein of California in the Democratic primary. But instead Sheehan has subtly withdrawn herself from the race.

Sheehan's decision, which was announced on February 9, came after substantial pressure from elite Democrats who thought her bid could damage Sen. Feinstein. Certainly that was the point of Sheehan's threat to take on the senator -- and the elites of the pro-war Democratic Party, including Sen. Barbara Boxer, knew it. Since her decision was made public Sheehan has been taking heat from antiwar activists who believe she has given into the Democrat's coercion. They believe she has succumbed to lesser-evil politics. But I wouldn't be so quick to jump to such a conclusion.

Sheehan obviously believes the best way to challenge the Democrat's ineptitude is to continue her activism from outside the party. So don't go counting on her to endorse Feinstein this summer. If anybody still honestly believes that the Democrats are open to radical changes at the national level, they need look no further than Paul Hackett's recent demise or the centrist Howard Dean's campaign during the 2004 elections. If the grassroots of the Democratic Party are engaged and empowered -- watch out -- their challenges to way business is done in Washington, whether genuine (Hackett's) or spurious (Dean's), end up becoming just another casualty of Democratic corruption.

Surely Sheehan knows this and isn't about to exert energy reforming a broken Democratic Party. She wants the troops home now -- that's her mission. Why get hung up tooling around with DC Dems and their misguided ways? It would be a waste of time.

That doesn't mean Sheehan is going to disregard electoral politics altogether. As she answered questions during her press conference, she implored California voters to look into another antiwar candidacy: "Todd Chretien is a personal friend of mine," she said. "He is a man of integrity and peace. I encourage all Californians to take a hard look at his campaign."

Chretien is running on the Green Party line against Feinstein and hopes to rally the antiwar movement to his side. Sheehan's statement wasn't a formal endorsement of Chretien's campaign, but it certainly gives us a glimpse into the philosophy of Sheehan--for she isn't going to support any pro-war candidate of any party. Period.

And that's a lesson that the antiwar movement should take home and think on. Activists shouldn't get bogged down in the Democrat's web of power and deceit. They should instead stick to their cause and fight for what they believe in. Lesser-evil politics can only damage social movements and pro-war politicians like Sen. Feinstein will only respond to the antiwar movement when it starts to turn its back on the Democratic Party and their unwillingness to oppose the occupation of Iraq. Until then the Democrats will simply take antiwar voters for granted as they did during John Kerry's sour presidential bid in 2004.

Cindy Sheehan is a leading voice of sanity in this age of war and disparity and her message to the Democratic Party is a poignant one -- until you oppose this war we will continue to oppose you.

Joshua Frank edits the radical news blog and is the author of Left Out! How Liberals Helped Reelect George W. Bush, published by Common Courage Press (2005). Josh can be reached at

Scott said...

Libby said...

I continue to enjoy your blog for ORIGINALITY, no copying and pasting here :) Thanks for putting into words what I've been feeling about politics for a long time.