Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Rise Of The Mimic Men (And Women)

By Michael Roberts

Mimicry reveals something in so far as it is distinct from what might be called an itself that is behind. The effect of mimicry is camouflage.... It is not a question of harmonizing with the background, but against a mottled background, of becoming mottled - exactly like the technique of camouflage practice in human warfare.

- Jacques Lacan, "The line and light', Of the Gaze.

In an age of what Noam Chomsky called "manufactured consent" it is safe to conclude that over the next two years the public dialogue and discourse will be dominated by incessant arguing about the use of language in politics and what is actually meant. Both sides of the national political posse will engage in the inane practice of "word-smithing" and spin that will obfuscate the true state of things in America as everything is geared towards a defeat of President Obama in 2012.

The first salvo in this battle has already been fired with Republicans claiming that President Obama's use of the word "investing" in his recent State of the Union speech really means "spending," and that they are going to work assiduously to repeal "Obamacare." This level of mimicry is an astounding feature of a "New American Democracy" where the central role of manufactured content and consent lends itself to the production of negative mantras that are like military techniques used to defeat an enemy.

While attacking Democrats all across the nation Republicans are selling a deliberately packaged set of lies, half-truths, and deceptions that are now elevated to national mantras. Talking points are a thing of the past in this new political climate. Repeating, over and over again, consumer-designed falsehoods, twisting the truth and stretching the boundaries of facts while merging them with fiction is now standard Republican (and a few Democrats) operating procedures.

So nowadays Republicans have been selling the idea to all and sundry that America can solve its economic problems by cutting taxes and programs and revising the cumbersome tax code. Democrats, of course, are more grounded in reality and are scratching their collective heads to fathom just how all these cuts and neutering of the IRS is going to magically cure America's economic woes, grow the economy (the most urgent task), and put America's 12 to 15 million unemployed and underemployed people back to work.

Naturally, this kind of thinking all but guarantees that for the next two years there will be a set of stall tactics used by Republicans to examine, reexamine and then reexamine the reexamined results of near-endless inquiries, commissions and hearings in a protracted cycle of political antics aimed at making President Obama and the Democrats look bad in the eyes of the people. Such will be the nature of mimic men politics camouflaged to look like genuine inquiry, progressive policy and taking the side of the aggrieved "we the people."

Aided and abetted by the massive media complex, television will be the Sherman tank in the Republican arsenal as it batters and browbeats a supine and malleable public. Over the years reaching back to the Bush Administration Americans have become desensitized and numb to a lot of issues that now bedevil American society. Political inertia has set in as a confused public inundated with the blathering of sundry TV personalities, radio talk-show hosts, and media shock jocks have literally made television the preferred addictive drug of the people. Today, most Americans are fed a daily diet of corporate packaged offerings that cannot be called news.

The consolidation of large communications companies and their acquisition of media houses -" radio, newspapers and television -" simply mean that what passes for news is something that does not threaten their super profits. Welcome to the rise of "manufactured and manufacturing content and consent." The leaders of this trend are Fox 5 news and people like Glen Beck, Sean Hannity and Bill O'Reilly. But Fox is not the only television news network guilty of this new technique. Radio, especially talk radio, is the domain of a pack of howling Republican commentators with one mission: to demean, disrespect, vilify and belittle the president of the United States so that he will be a "one term president."

Moreover, Republicans have put on blinkers to keep their unrelenting focus on attacking everything and anything that President Obama has done and achieved to date. In the process they have become politically tone-deaf to any other voice but their own. For example, during the last State of the Union address President Obama outlined a progressive, 21st century approach to developing new technology programs that will help grow the American economy by making its labor force more competitive and forcing improvements in education.

Republicans chose not to hear this clarion call to action but instead focused on the president's use of the word "investing" to charge that he really means "spending." In their response to the president's speech both the old Republican Party and its new bastard child, the Tea Party, stuck to their irrational and spooky premises that cutting and gutting social programs that they don't like, giving tax breaks to their rich cronies, and dismembering the social safety net was their 21st century vision for America.

So as a rational solution to America's economic and social programs the Republican Mantra is to advocate irrational cuts all across the budget -" except the military budget of course -" and present no new original thought or vision and giving new meaning to the word "conservative." Their interpretation of the word is to go back in time, presumably when white people owned Black people, and turning their backs on what worked while wallowing in the old, outmoded and backward policies of the past. That's why they can't get enough of Ronald Reagan and his supposed political genius whose persona is out of place in a 21st century age of rapid transformation and technological innovation.

How often have we heard the incessant braying by a cynical cabal of "experts and pundits" the omnipotence of the mantra of lower taxes and smaller government pounded home by conservatives and neo-conservatives of all stripes? But what does that actually mean for the future of the country even if it were possible to achieve those goals? There's always some smug snake-oil political pitchman serving up the same tired old drivel on the television or radio. But all the earnest smooth talk lacks the logical foundation needed to effect real change. In fact, far from disarming us, their dulcet tones leave us with an uneasy sense that we're about to be had once again.

I am reduced to mortal fear every time I turn on the television or radio and have to listen or see a smiling Republican, or their anointed pitchmen, making factually bereft pronouncements that they present as hard, cold facts. And my natural reaction is to bite my fingernails and shudder while failing to comprehend how was it possible that America was able to nurture a population so shallow, callow and lacking in its real understanding of American institutions and their importance to "we the people?"

From Alaska to New Mexico all kinds of unhinged political crackpots are raising huge sums of money by scaring the populace, peddling lies and half-truths, and supplementing their putrid political brew with the sustained political venom that oozes from the television and radio. And with a sense of abandon of the truly crazy these politicians have convinced themselves that this unadulterated drivel is what Americans want to hear. Do these people really believe that their followers embrace and endorse the race-baiting, disrespect, arrogant posturing and near-lunatic comments that they make?

That is a very scary thought. I mean, is it at all possible to rationally conceive that the audience that listens to this political garbage is also so dangerously unenlightened and uninformed as to actually believe all of the lies and nonsense that these folks utter? And equally scary is the thought that these people are supported by organizations that give some consideration to such ignorance reflects a sad commentary on the death of critical thinking in America.

Maybe America has in this arguably age of enlightenment and technological hubris finally descended into a most bizarre political bathos. It is as if the rise of the mimic men (and women) is the inevitable consequence of a waning empire. That so many of the new Republican Congressional Caucus has so very little to offer America by way of some constructive, progressive vision for the future, is indeed very chilling.

Still, if the truth was told the inflammatory use of the political mantra backed up by manufactured consent has worked in this new American climate. Arguably, it is now the central weapon in the arsenal of right wing conservatives. Look no further than last November (2010) mid-term elections where the public political discourse was an exercise in loud, shrill shouting, fear-mongering and the use of negative symbols to contaminate the national debate. But Republicans won -" handsomely.

President Barack Obama was depicted as Adolf Hitler and a rabid "socialist;" Nancy Pelosi, the former House Speaker, was "the joker in Batman," and in the midst of all this cartoon stuff were vocal and loud angry elderly white Americans opposed to a healthcare law they scarcely read or understood. Republicans and Tea Partiers alike attacked "big Washington government" and called the Democrats "liberal tax and spend Democrats" who was going to euthanize grandma and tinker with social security. Such scare tactics effectively drove people into the arms of the Republican and Tea Parties while bolting from Democrats all over the country.

Neither the Tea Party nor the Republican Party demanded that reasoned critical thinking, objective logic or even common sense be part of the national political dialogue. Anger and bellicose posturing egged on by many top politicians and, of course, the radio and television pundits, were raised to a hateful cacophony so loud that it drowned out all reason. So now these mimic men and women are taking Americans for another ride by vowing to repeal "Obamacare" -" an idiotic nuanced characterization of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act to nonsensically reduce both the law and the president to laughable simplicity.

But the actions of mimic men and women are never logical or predictable. Today's sanity is bolstered by tomorrow's insanity. There is no method to that form of political madness and herein lies the real challenge for the American people. We now have in the hallowed halls of the United States Congress a group elected by Americans hoodwinked and bullied into believing that insanity is the new sanity. Such a tsunami of ignorance and backwardness will not make for educated and rational debates and discourse. But we made that bed and now we must lie on it.

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