An Illegitimate Public Discourse – Or, Liars Everywhere

stack of newspapersBear with me on this…it’s a simple point and one I’ll keep making as The Errant keeps “heralding the unwritten”: Where will we find truth regarding our world–the world that is factual and verifiable?  Politics has devolved and those in positions of power seem as unlikely to know the facts of the issues they “debate” as anyone who looks to newspapers or television or partisan websites to find it.  The below is a lengthy excerpt from The Daily Howler (highly recommended)–a site dedicated to simply pointing out the circus of our media–on both “sides” ideological divide. [Italics set it apart.]

In this morning’s editorial, the editors sensibly say that the debt limit should be eliminated. But good lord! In service to that sensible goal, look at what they suggest:

NEW YORK TIMES EDITORIAL (8/5/11): The debt limit should ideally be dispensed with, but, at a minimum, it can no longer be held for ransom. The president and Congress are free to continue talks to reduce the deficit, but not while the economy is dangling in the balance. The president should assemble a coalition of business leaders, mayors, governors and ordinary Americans ready to spend the next year explaining to voters why the debt limit should be eliminated, or blunted as a tool to change budgetary policy. If Democrats continuously remind the country how dangerous this path is, Republicans may think twice about repeating it.

Someone should “explain this to voters!” Darlings! It just isn’t done!

For our money, this editorial makes perfect sense—but we almost spat our Ovaltine out when we read that highlighted sentence. It’s ironic to see the New York Times make that suggestion, since the paper made little attempt to explain any part of the months-long debt limit fight.  (snip)

Even at the top of our “press corps,” voters rarely see things get explained. And propaganda abhors a vacuum! In the absence of explanations, voters hear the darnedest things from other post-journalist news orgs. On Monday evening, to cite one example, misused viewers of Fox News saw Mr. O say this:

O’REILLY (8/1/11): Congressman Cleaver is misleading you. America can take care of the poor and the elderly in a responsible way. Change the tax code—that can happen. But Mr. Cleaver doesn’t want that. He wants to redistribute income. And so does Paul Krugman.

KRUGMAN (videotape): From the perspective of a rational person—in other words of a progressive—on this stuff, we shouldn’t be talking about spending cuts at all now. We have nine percent unemployment. These spending cuts are going to worsen unemployment. That’s not even—it’s even going to hurt the long-run fiscal picture because we have a situation where more and more people are becoming permanent long-term unemployed.

O’REILLY: Now you may remember Professor Krugman supported a massive stimulus spending package saying it would bring down unemployment. He said it over and over and over again; it didn’t happen. But instead of learning his lesson, Krugman demands even more stimulus spending. And this guy teaches economics at Princeton University? How much is the tuition there?

Mr. O took that video clip from Sunday’s This Week. On that program, Krugman went out of his way to make a key point; he noted that he had said all along that the Obama stimulus package wouldn’t be large enough. (He then made the same accurate point in Monday morning’s column.) But so what? Mr. O (or his staff) played viewers for fools, pretending that Krugman had endorsed Obama’s “massive stimulus spending package.” As the Times refuses to explain basic things, others “explain” what’s untrue.

Okay, so the above is common: A) no one (other than Krugman or Galbraith or or Yves Smith) is even trying to tell you what’s REALLY going on and WHY it’s going on and WHAT the consequences might be, but instead you get B) Bill O’Reilly, Limbaugh, Beck, but likewise, Maddow and Matthews and Olbermann feeding you the “party line”.

In fact, Krugman, today:

Truly, our public discourse has been entirely about problems we don’t have, at the expense of dealing with the problems we do have.

Another long excerpt from a man with integrity, Noam Chomsky:

First of all, don’t believe anything you hear from power systems….gifts don’t come from above; you’re going to win them, or you won’t have them, and you win by struggle, and that requires understanding and serious analysis of the options and the circumstances, and then you can do a lot. So take right now, for example, there is a right-wing populist uprising. It’s very common, even on the left, to just ridicule them, but that’s not the right reaction. If you look at those people and listen to them on talk radio, these are people with real grievances. I listen to talk radio a lot and it’s kind of interesting. If you can sort of suspend your knowledge of the world and just enter into the world of the people who are calling in, you can understand them. I’ve never seen a study, but my sense is that these are people who feel really aggrieved. These people think, “I’ve done everything right all my life, I’m a god-fearing Christian, I’m white, I’m male, I’ve worked hard, and I carry a gun. I do everything I’m supposed to do. And I’m getting shafted.” And in fact they are getting shafted. For 30 years their wages have stagnated or declined, the social conditions have worsened, the children are going crazy, there are no schools, there’s nothing, so somebody must be doing something to them, and they want to know who it is. Well Rush Limbaugh has answered – it’s the rich liberals who own the banks and run the government, and of course run the media, and they don’t care about you—they just want to give everything away to illegal immigrants and gays and communists and so on.

(snip)

I mean, the liberal democrats aren’t going to tell the average American, “Yeah, you’re being shafted because of the policies that we’ve established over the years that we’re maintaining now.” That’s not going to be an answer. And they’re not getting answers from the left. So, there’s an internal coherence and logic to what they get from Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, and the rest of these guys. And they sound very convincing, they’re very self-confident, and they have an answer to everything—a crazy answer, but it’s an answer. And it’s our fault if that goes on. So one thing to be done is don’t ridicule these people, join them, and talk about their real grievances and give them a sensible answer, like, ”Take over your factories.”

Shorter Chomsky: Don’t trust Power, tell the truth, give people some idea of how to take control of their lives.

What motivates your CEO, your University President, your Superintendent, your Governor, your President?  Equal rights?  Universal health care? Justice?

Nope.  Power.  Comfort.  Privilege.  For themselves and anyone who helps them achieve and maintain it.  The rest?  Silence.

Chomsky, somewhere else in his corpus speaks about two distinct versions of daily life offered in the international media.  One, the “stories” told to “the people” to encourage their distraction and division (and thus, disaffection and inaction); and the other, the business press, which must tell the truth; it’s hard to make money without a clear understanding of how the world really works.

He recommends the London Financial Times as the most serious newspaper in the world.

Whose line’s got you hooked today?

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