|April 11, 2006|
What If They Had Made the Trains Run on Time?
A BUZZFLASH GUEST CONTRIBUTION
So many failures, so little bandwidth!
Let’s go back over just the biggest ones. In 2001, members of the Bush administration ignored more than 52 warnings that the United States was going to be attacked, and by their negligence, purposeful or otherwise, allowed almost 3,000 Americans to be murdered by fundamentalist religious nuts. The U.S. attack on Iraq was unwarranted, poorly planned, has been and continues to be poorly handled. Huge tax cuts for corporations and for the richest Americans have made it seem as though the economy is doing well, while more and more Americans drop into poverty. The administration’s response to the Katrina catastrophe wasn’t even worthy of a third world nation. The treasury has been raided by war and disaster profiteers who have been awarded no-bid contracts on which they overcharge for what they do provide and often charge for what they don’t provide.
But Democrats are not pouncing, at least most of them aren’t. Some consultant somewhere, at some time, apparently told the Democratic leadership that three or four Americans might possibly be offended if Democrats mounted a campaign to make sure most Americans fully understand the magnitude of the failures of our government. And this laissez-faire strategy appears to be working, since Democrats are far ahead of Republicans in recent polls. It’s looking as though Democrats can win in November without really trying.
But there’s a serious problem with the “let them hang themselves” approach. The difficulty is that it will do nothing to counter the 30-plus years of right-wing propaganda that have made most Americans believe they are conservatives, when they agree with liberals on most substantive issues. It will do nothing to change Americans’ belief in myths that will help destroy democracy. It will do nothing to convince Americans that wise use of our common resources is essential to the well being of the vast majority of the populace.
There’s nothing inherent in right-wing ideology that ensures failure. Unless the propaganda is countered—forcefully, intelligently, creatively, and persistently, the next group of power mongers calling themselves conservatives may gain even greater supremacy than this one has. A competent group might, like Mussolini’s government, make the trains run on time.
Some of the myths promoted by the right wing have penetrated the American consciousness to the point where they’re even held by some Democrats.
I had a wake-up call just recently that illustrates my point. A few weeks ago, I was listening to one of my favorite radio talk show hosts, who was interviewing a male guest. It struck me that this host seemed to have male guests a lot, lately. I couldn’t remember the last time he’d had a female guest. And that started me thinking that this male talk show host was one of many male writers, talk show hosts, and bloggers, and I started wondering about the number of women in progressive media. Just thinking about it, it seemed that there were more men than women.
But I dared not utter a word on such a controversial subject without doing a bit of research. So I developed some criteria and made some lists, and found out my hunch was right. I posted the lists on my website, sent an excerpt and a link to a few message groups, and posted a link on several blogs. I dared to ask for some affirmative action to address the imbalance.
From the reaction, you’d think I had asked Americans to embrace communism.
I was told that I shouldn’t ask for equal results, even though I hadn’t asked for that. I was told that the discrepancy “must be” because fewer women apply for the jobs, though the writer offered no proof. I was told that I would point out such a discrepancy only because of my “feminist” feelings of being “threatened and intimidated” by male domination, which made the writer “ashamed and embarrassed to be a woman.” That’s right, her perception of my supposed fear of domination made her ashamed to be a woman. These are the very kinds of stale ideas with silly, twisted logic I so often see coming from the right wingers who write to me, but they came from people who call themselves progressives.
Some of the other elements of common wisdom bought into by many Democrats, at least to some extent, are as follows. Government is always bad and corporations, top corporate officers, and other rich people (except for George Soros) are always good. Helping poor people will make them dependent on government, but handing out lucrative, no-bid contracts to campaign supporters will not make them dependent on government. Abortion is murder, but killing people in an unnecessary war is not. What’s good for the richest Americans is good for all Americans. Any common effort, other than defense, is bad. Greed is good. Progressive bloggers are left-wing extremists. George Bush won the 2004 election.
These beliefs are not consistent with creating a government that is of the people, by the people, and for the people that guarantees our rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. So why have they infiltrated our belief system so thoroughly?
What a few rich, right-wing families have done very successfully over the last 30 and more years is to develop propaganda factories to promote these beliefs. Their money has been used to find, develop, and fund the talent that provides the content for those factories. Meanwhile, on the progressive side, we have gotten along with a few lonely voices who are paid for their efforts, plus a certain number of dedicated people who do the work for the love of the cause. Naturally, most of those who are not paid for their political work cannot do it full time. That’s the very reason why there’s such an imbalance in media coverage today.
Progressives need an organized effort dedicated to establishing, developing, and supporting talented researchers, linguists, writers, investigative reporters, social psychologists, speakers, filmmakers, and cartoonists who believe in truthful reporting and commentary, and making sure their work receives wide exposure. Creating and supporting new and independent media outlets is one of the ways of accomplishing this goal.
But for almost five years now, I’ve not been able to convince those who have the resources to do so, help me make this happen. Lots of people agree with me, but they don’t have the resources. The people with the resources don’t seem to understand. They apparently are listening to the biggest purveyors of the Washington common wisdom, Democrats in power and the big consultants—you know, the people who have lost the last three elections. These donors are putting a lot of their money into grassroots efforts, which is good, but not enough. And much of the money goes into campaign ads—ads that line the pockets of the very media moguls who pay their employees extremely well to denigrate Democrats at every opportunity. Participating in your own demise is one thing, but paying for it, too, is just plain ridiculous.
After beating my head against the wall for so long, I’m thinking that I should give up the insanity of trying to convince the big donor progressives to fund a media strategy. But I still believe the media issue is of prime importance. So I have another proposal.
I call it the Adopt A Progressive strategy. It’s radical, as you’ll see. Progressives help humanity, right? Who has the time to help other progressives? Progressives who have a media platform seem so busy trying to save the world all by themselves that they don’t see how they could leverage their efforts by helping other progressives who want to have a platform, but don’t.
Before I lose everyone who doesn’t have a media platform, let me suggest that you can help, too. You can call the attention of those with a platform to your favorite commentator who doesn’t have one. And you can keep doing it. And doing it. And doing it.
Some of you that I’m challenging here may say you don’t help anyone because you can’t help everyone. People are always asking you for help, and it’s too much. But if each progressive helped just one other at any one time, the number of progressive voices would double. And then, if all those with a platform would again help one other person, the number would double again. Like a progressive pay-it-forward program.
Some commentators may be afraid to help others. They may think political commentary is a zero sum game, and that helping someone else might cost them something. But the success of Air America Radio should dispel that fear. Before AAR’s debut, my Unconservative Listening page was down to just a very few hosts. There are now thirty-three weekday shows listed. Showing radio station owners that progressive talk radio can be profitable created opportunities for hosts who don’t work for Air America.
But to those who are still afraid of helping someone in their own area, I say help someone in another line of work. If you’re a radio talk show host and you’d rather not help potential competitors, help someone publish a column or a book. Considering all the powerful people you talk to on a daily basis, you should have oodles of influence to help others.
Use some creativity. Get some spunk. We encourage our Democratic elected officials to get some spine, but maybe we need to build some ourselves.
I suggest that you consider going outside your personal list of immediate acquaintances to find someone to help. I don’t have the resources to investigate the backgrounds of paid progressive commentators, but I’d bet that, in addition to being primarily white and male, they are predominantly graduates of Ivy League (or the equivalent) universities and live in DC, New York, San Francisco or Los Angeles. Not all the smart people in the United States have those characteristics.
As an Arthur Andersen alum, I can tell you that there were some things wrong with that company, but there were some things right, too. One of the things AA&Co did right was to recruit aggressively from colleges and universities in what some call flyover country. They picked the best and the brightest from all over the country. And it worked well for them until the partners became so greedy that they started cutting corners to get and keep clients.
I submit that I’ve been doing my part. I promote the work of others whenever I can—I’ve promoted the work of columnists, cartoonists, bloggers, radio talk show hosts, and book authors. But there hasn’t been much reciprocation. People are very glad when I help them, but then when I ask for help, there’s often a sudden silence. When staff is chosen for a project I helped promote, my name never comes up. I had never asked for a quid pro quo until recently. A group asked for my help in raising money, and this time I said I’d do it, but that I wanted to be considered for a job if the deal worked out. The deal did work out, but once again I was passed over. It really is getting beyond frustrating.
So you can see that part of this appeal is personal. But if you don’t want to help me, then help someone else. At this point, the fate of the planet may hang in the balance.
But the extra added benefit, if someone will adopt me, is that I might be motivated to stop writing these annoying, nagging essays.
A BUZZFLASH GUEST CONTRIBUTION
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