November 28, 2008
Hereís a brief excerpt from a speech the admirable and usually correct Noam Chomsky gave in Boston last week. In it he explains the difference between a democracy and whatever it is we have.
Certainly not a democracy, if by that you mean a government responsive to the people. Every poll shows beyond question that a huge chasm exists between what we want and what our unitary form of government allows us. Unitary meaning that we only have, effectively, one party.
The goal of advertising is to create uninformed consumers who will make irrational choices. Those of you who suffered through an economics course know that markets are supposed to be based on informed consumers making rational choices. But industry spends hundreds of millions of dollars a year to undermine markets and to ensure, you know, to get uninformed consumers making irrational choices.
Posted by Jerome Doolittle at November 28, 2008 09:12 AM
And when they turn to selling a candidate they do the same thing. They want uninformed consumers, you know, uninformed voters to make irrational choices based on the success of illusion, slander, and effective body language or whatever else is supposed to be significant. So you undermine democracy pretty much the same way you undermine markets. Well, thatís the nature of an election when itís run by the business world, and youíd expect it to be like that. There should be no surprise there.
I think this election season brought me to a similar epiphany. That we aren't really a democracy and are in many ways a more brutish nation than Soviet Russia was (perhaps not so much to our own people thus I'm excepting Stalin's killing which was truly evil, unless there's more out there in the American system that I'm not aware of. Many of us know about the awards to the Tony (ears) Poes of the world, including the current administration. Perhaps there are things that have gone on in America that I don't know about - although our prison system is in many ways as cruel as the gulags ever were and imprison more of a percentage of our population than the Soviets ever did as well). On the other hand, I suspect all the wars and engagements we involved ourselves in since WWII have perhaps caused more deaths than Stalin did.
On the other hand, Eugene V. Debs ran in successive elections in this country in the earlier part of the 20th century and garnered more of a percentage of the votes on each occasion and the authorities finally locked him up for opposing WWI and basically ended his political career. So maybe we lost our democracy even before FDR, who was also a business candidate but just had an intense dislike for certain industrialists. Apparently the feeling was mutual if you believe Lt. General Smedley T. Butler's account of the coup attempt against Roosevelt. And of course we have one of the alleged coup perpetrator's grandsons who tried to undo everything Roosevelt created and in the process repeated the same mistakes that caused the great depression.
A couple of years ago I mentioned that we were essentially a fascist state that had the opportunity to change the head of state every four years and I think that one could objectively make the same argument today and not be too far off the mark if one accepts the definition of fascism that has been making the rounds on the liberal blogs for the past few years (the marriage of the corporation and the state).
Unless and until we have more than two political parties in this country, I'm not expecting any change. Quite depressing to think about, especially if one believed for quite some time that all the malarky taught in the schools about our government was more than basically a Santa Claus fable and there was some great substance in it.
However, having said all that, perhaps Obama will indeed make some substantial changes in our system of government. If he doesn't, there's certainly a very good chance that the problem of race in this country will get much worse rather than better and African Americans will rue the day we elected this man to the Presidency. I'm not happy with some of his appointments, but until he makes substantial policy changes that I vehemently disagree with, I'll give him the benefit of any doubt, not that I don't think that we on the left won't have to make loud noises to get ourselves heard by many of the people in this administration. Even though Chomsky says some of them belong in prison and not in this administration. He's seldom wrong about such things.
Thanks for linking to the Chomsky lecture, he is brilliant and points things out in such a matter of fact, calm way. He really changes my perspective in a way no other writer (with the exception of yourself) does. Hope springs eternal.