I am Piggy (or Rome is burning)

Posted: June 2, 2011 in Delusional in AZ, Firebaggers, Lord of the Flies, MSM, Progressivism, Tea Party, The Economy, The Media

Update:   I originally wrote this very long rant back when the Healthcare debate was going on in Dec 2010. Many of the themes are still relevant.  I find the reference to unicorns particularly relevant as of late, so without further ado, enjoy……

Since the election of G.W. Bush, as I like to call him Pres. Shrub1, back in 2000, I felt isolated in my opposition to the right. As time wore on and the neocons gained greater influence over foreign policy, I noticed that many more Americans were becoming disillusioned with their wild and dangerous notions of supposed “democratic” imperialism. When Pres. Shrub pushed for the war in Iraq, I was the lone voice of reason with everyone I knew (literally). At the time, I asked anyone who would listen, “What if he’s wrong and there are no WMD? What if he’s lying? What if he’s lying about WMD, about ties between Al Qaeda and Iraq? Shouldn’t we be questionning him?” No one wanted to hear it then. It was very much like being the only sane, rational person on an island filled with crazy people. But I assumed there would be a shift, as there always is and some sanity would be restored.

By the end of his second term in office, practically the entire country (except for those die hard few) turned away from Shrub’s policies (EXCEPT for our response to the economic recession). Overall we had embraced change and my hope in America was renewed. “At last, free, free at last”. I thought I had escaped the room full of mental patients and was breathing the sweet, free air again. I’m sure many other liberals and moderates breathed that same long sigh of relief.

Unfortunately before Pres. Obama had even taken the oath of office, the right-wing meme machine was in full gear and in sync, taking over the MSM through the illusion of bias. There was also an undercurrent of dissatisfaction on the left, whose seed had been planted during Hillary’s loss in the Democratic primaries. Add this political climate to our rapidly declining economic situation and the conditions could hardly have been less favorable for our first African-American President.

Over the last two years things have only gotten worse. The MSM entertains even radical and crazy ideas from the right in their desperation to counter the supposed “liberal media bias” on everything now and always fail to challenge outright lies. Facts be damned. The left has not only continued it circular firing squad tradition, it has now perfected it and taken common cause with their former opponents on the far right.

For example, just today The New York Times headline about the constitutional battle raging in the courts regarding Health Care Reform was “The Man Who Took on Obama Health Care — and Won Round One”.  Hunh, what are you doing?  How is that journalism?

I even heard NPR, long considered some kind of liberal bastion of propaganda, this morning on my drive into work saying in their lede that the ruling was a “major blow” to Health Care Reform–if one were to actually stay and listen to the story or read it online the details of the story were quite different. But the lede resonates and is often all that many people hear. Ledes matter very much in how the average American gets their news.

Nevermind a fairer, more objective lede, even from the supposedly liberal NPR. For the rest of the MSM, Facts Schmacts!10 The reality is that there have actually been three federal cases now, of which 2 of the 3 decided that it WAS constitutional. This ruling should have no significance in the larger scheme of things. Reporting this would mean reporting the honest facts and a meme is so much more fun and sensational!

The only seeming contradiction to my thesis that the MSM has gone over to the dark side are those self-avowed liberals on MSNBC, which comprises only a small spart of their overall lineup. Many on the right jump up and down and say ‘See! The media is liberally biased!’ whenever any of us “pinko commie nazi liberals” cite Keith Olbermann, Rachel Maddow, Ed Schultz, etc. But reality, or facts as I like to call them, on that meme aren’t what I’m talking about. What I’m talking about is the amount of crazy presented on MSM isn’t the same from the left and the right. No doubt that the liberal hosts ARE the opposite side of the coin, ideologically speaking, of the conservative hosts. However, the amount of time on TV and radio that the liberal hosts spend versus their conservative hosts, the size of their audience, the amount of advertising dollars spent on them, and the number of liberal memes that get repeated by other MSM outlets, does not even come close to being comparable. The conservative hosts win, hands down, every time. So, I think the facts on this thesis holds water2.

The President himself has been encouraging bipartisanship since he started campaigning and he has made good on his promise. Of course, the right hasn’t met him half way. How could they? I mean to engage in discourse with a Manchurian candidate of islamo-fascist and commie origins is out of the question!!3 The only time they really engaged in negotiations was recently over the extension of the Bush tax cuts-and sweet baby jeebus look where that has taken us. The rich will get more money than ever before and instead of investing in the country, they’ll simply sit on it–as they have been with all the extra cash they have NOW.4 This has served to please the 20% in the middle and piss off the 10% on the far left and the 10% on the far right. Which is nothing new for the far right, but it is something new for the left. What did they do in reaction?

The FDLrs have protested on the blogosphere and to the White House. They have expanded their reach beyond the blogosphere5 and have become TV pundits for MSM. To add injury to insult, they started accusing the President and his supporters of some pretty ugly things on the blogosphere like “capitulating”, “corporatists”, “Obamabots” , etc. Barbs have been traded back and forth. The far left bristled at the use of the term “professional left” and the President bristled at their most recent accusations of “failing to fight”. The President actually addressed it at a recent press conference. It was official, the President’s feefees were hurt. Not to make light of his feelings, but there is a legitimate debate to be had over just how much the far left’s criticism matters. It probably matters to the President because he considers himself a man of honor and the left has been openly questionning that view of himself. It would probably hurt my feelings too.

Unfortunately, feefees have been hurt all around. The far left’s (or “professional left”, Progressives6, Firebaggers, Hamsherites, etc) feefees have been so hurt, they’re out to defeat the President on a number of issues, welfare of the country RIGHT NOW be damned. Purity and the warm snuggly feeling of sanctimony will keep the fed and sheltered while the rest of the nation is left out in the cold. So rancorous have their feelings become that they have resorted to occasionally joining the far right in a self-destructive illusion of bipartisanship7 and have proposed primary challengers to the President in 2012. They have become louder, more influential and more virulent in their criticism over the last two years. Now their con-Obama message blends perfectly into the chorus of negativity from the right.

Those of us on the left who don’t agree with the FDL crowd are left trying to preach restraint and patience and understanding to anyone who will listen, be they conservative, tea party members or FDLrs or independents. None of that reasonable appeal mattered in the last mid-term election…..the swing voters (I suspect they consist of that group of irrational actors) bought into the MSM-meme that the President had TWO whole years and hasn’t given everyone unicorns that poop rainbows so ‘off with his head!” As a result they voted in a sea change of new candidates into Congress, of which many would be laughable (Aqua Buddha, anyone?) if they weren’t in positions of power. Again, I am left pleading with my fellow bloggers and citizens to think and be rational, to no avail.

Speaking of negativity, you’d have to be hiding under a rock not to have noticed the trends in ugliness toward the President. This all began during the 2008 elections (and best illustrated by the now infamous elderly McCain supporter declaring then Candidate Obama “an Arab” on national TV). Over time conservative pundits (e.g., Andrew Breitbart), bloggers (e.g., Erick Erickson, now a regular CNN commentator), entertainment figures (e.g., Limbaugh, Beck), and supposed newscasters (O’Reilly, Hannity, Scarborough, Blitzer, Crowley, Hume, Wallace, etc.) have been trying to outdo each other every day with either “teh crazy” or the most sensational stories with sensational ledes. In fact, having someone representing the other side, regardless of how crazy or factually inaccurate that other side might be, is expected in the MSM now.

Those relying on “teh crazy” play on the ignorance of their audience. One example, out of literally hundreds, is Glenn Beck’s misuse of Thomas Jefferson’s position on separation of church and state.8 How about the hundreds of times that the President has been directly called an enemy of the state, or anti-American, or foreign, or not a citizen…..I could go on and on with examples. And how does all this craziness and vitriol affect the country and progress in fighting to save our economy?

The Republican Party has shifted their strategies to appeal to the far-right, adopting a policy of “No” and a policy of appeasement of their wealthy corporate donors. The right won’t allow anything through Congress that might give the President and the Democratic Party any successes whatsoever until the 2012 elections. They will work instead to give massive unpaid tax cuts to the wealthy (remember they’re not investing the cash they already have). They will refuse to extend unemployment insurance to the average American who is out of work and refuse to deal with the thousands of Americans who have gone past tier 5 (aka, 99rs) and can no longer receive UI benefits without action by Congress. The  7Republicans have blantantly stated that there number one goal is to defeat the President in 2012 regardless of any other issues. Does it remind of you Nero playing the fiddle while Rome burned?8 It should.

It also reminds me of Lord of the Flies. A bunch of boys gets stranded on an island without any adults. Ralph is the first one to assert control in the crisis–he has the Conch, the bully pulpit. He’s the practical, popular, charismatic boy advised by Piggy. Piggy is the unpopular, idealistic boy who gives the Conch to Ralph. Piggy thinks we should all just get along to survive. Everything goes okay until Jack decides to ignore the Conch, and it all goes to hell very quickly. Ralphie bar the door the Huns are here and Rome is burning9. Too bad the Huns or Jack are already in the house…on the island……Screw it! There’s too many metaphors now…but you know what I mean. Jack is more powerful, he’s scarier and he’s ultimately more fun. So we don’t have much of chance really, unless some grownups come along to save us. Probably, in reality, there aren’t any. Stories end happily but reality rarely does. Luckily in the story, Ralph…..er, I mean Pres. Obama may come out of it okay. But you know what happens to Piggy? He gets skewered no matter what.

1Thanks to late, great Molly Ivins who coined this fantastic moniker!
2I, or someone, should write a book about this….wait, they probably already have but no one has read it.
3For any fill-in-the-blank-tards out there, this IS snark
4Or burn it (a la FamilyGuy father-in-law burning $20,000 because he can), or wallpaper their house with it, or gamble on a housing bubble with it…..you know, all good stimulative things
5Not saying this is inherently bad, but their influence on the wider societal discourse beyond the limited reach of the Internet has expanded.
6I don’t like the use of Progressives for the far left because all Progressives do not agree with the arguments being made by Jane Hamsher on FDL, writers at DKos, Digby’s, Susie Madrak, etc.

7I guess this falls under the cliche of “Be care of what you wish for, you just might get it”.
8If you don’t know this, you’re one of those who would be confused. Jefferson clearly wrote that he meant the Establishment Clause and the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment to not only protect the government from religion but also religion from the government–it goes both ways. Here’s the famous James Madison quote.
9If this seems overly self-important to you, that’s fine, I understand the argument that the US is nowhere near as important to western history as the Roman Empire. Although we haven’t lasted as long nor conquered anywhere near the amount of territory, neither of these is important when you consider the reach of U.S. culture through commerce and modern technology (not to mention the standard meddling and military hegemony we’ve engaged in similar to the Romans).
$I am aware that this is not factually correct that Nero didn’t watch Rome burn while playing his fiddle, but the metaphor still works.
10After all no one is dying….except in Arizona, in Iraq, in Afghanistan….or all over the U.S. actually.

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