Friday, September 17, 2010

Politics of the Centrifuge

Perhaps the biggest irony of the so-called Information Age is that the truth seems to matter less all the time ... especially when it comes to politics.

The process of obscuring truth/reality hasn’t depended on a shortage of info. Quite the opposite. Just trying to keep up with politics can so clutter our heads with spin and hokum that even if the simple truth is in plain sight, it can be hard to spot.

Information? Who has the time to sift through the heap of hype?

So in 2010, to save time, Americans are tending more and more to focus on the brand of reality they prefer to see. For millions of consumers it’s as easy as choosing between Fox News and MSNBC.

In the process, we the people are losing our collective grip on the desire to solve our society’s largest problems through cooperation. The constant whirl of conflicting political messages seems mostly to inflame our grievances, which alienates us more than it pushes us toward common sense solutions.

Consequently, instead of politics of the American melting pot, today we have politics of the centrifuge.

The middle ground of the moderate is frequently portrayed in political commentary as hopelessly sold-out, tied in knots and passionless. Many who follow politics, on both the right and the left, now view any crossing of the aisle between Democrats and Republicans as a betrayal.

Speaking of elected officials, rather than search for insight into what’s really happening, to do with wars America is fighting or the long-term implications of the nation’s economic woes, their staffs save time, too. They depend on focus groups to reveal how best to package truth-challenged propaganda to give it credibility, to dupe a target audience.

The endless doubts about President Barrack Obama’s birth certificate and the drumming that he’s a secret Muslim are organized campaigns to underline the notion that the sitting president isn’t really one of “us” -- he’s not a legitimate American; he’s not even a bona fide Christian.

Although they tell it in different ways, both Fox News and MSNBC have amplified those mean-spirited hoaxes because the stories have sizzle with their respective audiences. How much warmed-over racism might, or might not, be behind such ugly mischief is up to the reader to decide. While you're deciding about that, ask yourself how many Birthers are also Tea Party activists.

On the other hand, some of the same Democrats who now carp about Republicans not recognizing Obama’s legitimacy spent eight years saying George W. Bush was a bogus president, because Al Gore actually beat him in Florida. Didn’t matter to them that "officially" Bush won. Regardless of how tiresome it got, lots of donkeys brayed about that his entire term in office.

The spinning picked up speed as the ninth anniversary of 9/11 approached: While knowing that a public burning of Islam’s holy book would surely incite riots abroad and probably get some people killed, some ultra conservatives tried to use the specter of the Quran-burning threat as leverage against establishing what they have dubbed the “Ground Zero Mosque” in Lower Manhattan.

By linking the issues, as if they were moral equivalents, Fox News personalities Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck egged on the mustachioed Rev. Terry Jones to burn baby, burn. It says here they were openly offering Jones political cover if he chose to stick his thumb in the eyes of zillions of Muslims.

Although Pastor Jones said he was convinced that Jesus would approve of the book burning, eventually the pyromaniacal preacher changed his mind about the stunt. After all, the threat of it had already made him into a celebrity, which had obviously been his chief motivation, all along.

It’s hard to say the threatened Quran-burning did any of the rest of us any good, unless you want to count how it demonstrated, once again, that information delivered at lighting speed isn’t necessarily fostering much wisdom. Yet, it can instantly tear us apart.

The entire frenzy of Jones’ threat cast a creepy shadow over 9/11 ceremonies. It also served to further stifle the art of compromise.

Yes, kids, there really was a time when lots of ordinary people of all stripes understood that compromise has always been an essential element in making a democracy function properly.

Compromise greases the wheels of progress. When angry factions bellow that they must have their way, without an iota of compromise, it merely throws sand in the gears. Apparently, the easy wealth of information enjoyed by citizens today is apparently not teaching them those basic lessons about civics.

Published just after World War I, “The Second Coming” by William Butler Yeats (1865-1939) foretold of a people without the desire to find common ground. Here are the poem’s first eight lines:
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
-- 30 --

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I completely agree that the Dems should have backed away from their complaining about Bush's being awarded the victory in 2000, but at least there was some basis in fact for those complaints. The attacks from the right, going from the Birthers, to the Swiftboaters, and all the way back to Nixon's dirty-tricksters' "Canuck letter" that sunk Muskie, have been made from whole cloth, and are deliberate attempts to smear the opposition with no concern for the truth. Comity can survive a debate of the facts, but not these outright smears.

Ernie Brooks
Washington, DC