Sunday, February 23, 2014

Oh, the Irony!

The mainstream media objecting to the FCC putting political commissars into newsrooms and broadcast studios is like a prostitute complaining because she's been told to have an annual health checkup. The MSM have been abject slaves of the Regime for so long that no one can remember when we had an independent press of any consequence, or independent broadcasters aside from marginal radio stations. The Internet has turned out to be the salvation of free speech, and it has, predictably, come under threat of “regulation”, AKA censorship.

But this gambit by the FCC is beyond rich in irony. Historically, we have never had a free press in wartime (e.g. the Civil War, World War II) for the simple reason that the press is expected to do its patriotic duty and unite the country behind the president, no matter who that happens to be (or from which party). And if it should fail in that duty, or show signs of wandering off the reservation, severe sanctions have, historically, been at hand and have been applied. The first crack in this armor, as far as I can recall, came when “Uncle Walter” Cronkite finally expressed doubts – on the air! -- as to the rationale for the Vietnam War, or at least for its continuance... and LBJ was allegedly fit to be tied, because this was tantamount to treason – to a palace coup, in effect. But even there, did this skepticism persist through the election of Nixon in 1968? As I recall, his enemies in the press were more than happy to criticize just about everything about him, but still pulled their punches when it came to the war – because the war was, after all, about America, and our freedoms, and everything that made us great, and... well, you know, all those things that allegedly make Islamic radicals hate us.

But if the press is subservient during wartime, what about the rest of the time? Ah, there's the rub – because our government has now adopted a position of perpetual war, as of 9/11 – which thus puts foreign policy forever out of the bounds of vigorous debate. So that takes care of half the territory – call it Section A (after the custom of most large newspapers devoting the first section to foreign affairs). Section B (domestic affairs), however, is still fair game... right? Well no, not really. Again, mainstream journalists act as scribes, recording secretaries, propaganda agents... but very seldom as bonafide journalists, which would imply some degree of skepticism and an ability to ask tough questions (of the right people, not just of each other). If you want skepticism and serious questioning, you have to go to the margins – to the outsiders – most of whom (again) are found on the Internet, along with a few small-circulation magazines and newsletters.

Now – and I see you, in the back, waving your hand frantically, trying to get my attention – I am intentionally ignoring the current, and completely bogus, distinction – which is talked about as though it was some kind of great continental rift – between the liberal press (being the majority, whether you're talking about print or broadcast media) and the so-called “conservative” press (being the minority, etc.). It's, you know, the usual suspects – the New York Times, Washington Post, ABC, NBC, and CBS on one side and the Washington Times, Wall Street Journal editorial page, Fox News, and “talk radio” on the other. The problem with that latter group is that they represent what has been termed “the acceptable opposition” -- i.e. people who beg to differ, but typically only at the margins. They never call into question any of the true sacred cows – things like the warfare state, perpetuation of the American Empire, the national debt and deficit spending, free trade, etc. Even the most vigorous – i.e. least pathetically wimpy – debates on social policy and economics are still, in nearly all cases, at the margins... about minuscule differences. No one seriously questions entitlements, for example – just the one or two percentage points that take up most of the time and energy in Washington.

To make a related point – when I refer to the Regime, I'm not talking about Obama and his gang of minions, hangers-on, lackeys, and hacks. They are an essential part of the Regime, certainly – they are its functionaries and tools. But it also includes the Republicans. It includes liberals and mainstream conservatives, AKA neocons. Even the Tea Partiers and the Occupy crowd are considered part of the acceptable, if annoying, opposition; they are acceptable because they accept most of the same premises upon which the Regime bases its policies and actions, even though they can have a different line of reasoning based on those premises. What the Regime most emphatically does not include are the libertarians, anyone who is genuinely anti-war (and not just temporarily for political reasons), anarchists (needless to say), and the not-sold-out portion of the Catholic Church – and as you can see, none of these entities has a voice, or a place at the table. In fact, they are actively resisted, demeaned, and marginalized at every opportunity.

So when Rush Limbaugh says that the whole FCC initiative is aimed at Fox News, and at him in particular... well who was it who said “just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they're not out to get you”. But Fox News is, in the broad scheme of things, as much a part of the Regime as are the (formerly) Big Three – and Rush is as much a part of it as... oh, I don't know... how about Brian Williams? He's kind of the Uncle Walter of our time. Oh sure, Rush may point out any number of inconvenient truths about Obama, the Democrats, and liberals in general, but he has a total blind spot when it comes to the Republicans and mainstream conservatives. Well, why not? He is one. It would be like expecting a fish to discover water, as they say. And if one is blind to half of what is wrong in this country, one may as well be totally blind, for all the good it's going to do. When you start out that compromised you can never be a radical or a revolutionary – just a complainer.

So if the media are already on the side of the Regime, and more explicitly on the side of one of its two heads (the Democrats or the Republicans), why do they need continuous monitoring by the government, like kids in some special needs class? Well... there's always a chance that someone might start getting funny ideas about way this country is run, and we can't have that – especially if their job is to represent the mainstream, i.e. the Truth!! No one in the MSM can ever be allowed to look up from their work like the cow in the classic Gary Larson cartoon who says “Hey guys! This is grass! We're eating grass!” You can marginalize pacifists any day of the week, but you can't marginalize CBS, ABC, and NBC – they are charter members of the propaganda ministry. Even the Associated Press and the Washington Post have started talking back to Obama once in a while – cautiously, of course, lest they get smacked upside the head (or worse, have their front-row seat at White House press conferences taken away). So this is what the FCC has in mind, basically – keep the troops from wandering off the reservation (now there's a mixed metaphor for you). As usual in a totalitarian system it's the inner circle that is held to the highest standards, and is punished most severely for failure; Orwell said this very clearly in “1984” and it was shown time and time again in Soviet Russia.

See, here's the point. Obama and Co. have been going from one victory to another – island-hopping, if you will, like our troops in the Pacific after the war turned around – and the amount of control and influence they had over the media back in 2008, say, is no longer enough. The amount they had a year ago is not enough. Power is like any other addictive substance – it only begets the desire for more of the same. So why not clean up the loose ends... get our own house in order (this is the liberals thinking)... and once we have a sworn loyalty oath from the MSM, and a non-aggression pact with Fox News and other neocon outlets, then we can police up the outliers (this process is already underway with, by the way – but you ain't seen nothin' yet, as they say).

The thing of it is, the totalitarian mindset simply does not tolerate dissent. And it doesn't tolerate any sort of ambivalence, backsliding, doubt, or lukewarmness among its adherents. The notion of the acceptable opposition – well, the Soviets had both Pravda and Izvestia, whoop-te-do. Competition is good, supposedly – but did you ever see the Big Three TV networks of old compete when it came to ideas? No – they were clones of each other – Tweedledee, Tweedledum, and Tweedledumber. All the competition was commercial, based on games and circuses. How about Time vs. Newsweek? Don't make me laugh. It's been pointed out that the total range of acceptable opinion in this country is dwarfed by that in most of Western Europe – and from what I've seen this is totally true. And yet they are supposedly more “socialistic” (implied: collectivist and conformist) than we are. It's getting to the point where we are as phobic and petrified when it comes to the hard questions as people used to be in the Soviet Union or its satellites. The amount of difference that is perceived as a threat grows smaller with each passing day – the squeeze is on. So small wonder that the FCC wants to formalize (and make overt) something that has been informal and not always reliable up to now. The ultimate goal is to put us all into a prison of ideas (or non-ideas) – a conceptual gulag, as air-tight as North Korea. And this, in turn, is based on the premise that a happy serf is a good serf. What is more pathetic and more productive, and less trouble for its master, than a willing slave who is strung out on social brainwashing?

So yeah, MSM – you've been lapdogs for so long you forgot all about this mysterious thing called “journalism”. And every once in a while a lapdog needs to be treated for fleas – and the FCC is up to the task. But frankly, it won't hurt the liberal press all that much, because their model of reality is that everything is political anyway. So if they can be persuaded that one approach or point of view is more politically acceptable than another, they'll latch right on to it, no problem. They never have any original ideas, after all; leave that to the academics. The neocons, on the other hand, for all of their obvious faults do appear to have a lingering notion of principle and of truth (even if their “truths” are frequently dead wrong) – so they will take offense more readily (as they already have) and feel more put upon when all of this becomes a daily fact of life. Or – they will go out of business entirely and leave the field to the political animals; that's a real possibility.

Self-censorship is all kinds of fun. You don't like the real news, you make it up. You stay on the right side of the powers that be. Et cetera. You get perks. You get invited to the White House correspondents' dinner. But when someone decides they can do a better job of censorship than you can – oh, the indignation! I say it's all richly deserved. If the press had maintained their principles and standards all along, this wouldn't be happening because the government would be – guess what – not a little afraid of the press. But no one's afraid of a lapdog. Even if it only takes a playful nip once in a while, that's one nip too much. The press has been toothless for a long time; now even its dentures are about to be confiscated (for its own good, of course – and for ours).

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