Sunday, October 12, 2003
The ideology of being without an ideology
I've been reading Chomsky's "Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media." My god, it's depressing to realize that our free press voluntarily censor themselves and serve as propaganda outlets. Whether it's willful, unconscious, or they're pressured into in; his conclusions are inescapable, I think. It's not that the media is biased toward the "left" or the "right"; it's that there's an underlying set of assumptions (false ones) that guide everything they do--what stories are important, how to approach them, what to emphasize and what to leave out, what the background/context should be, etc. etc. You say "propaganda" and people will roll their eyes. But it's because we're immersed in it. After reading some of this book, I look around and realize that he's absolutely right.
I'm also reading "Rogue State" by William Blum. He notes, "Propaganda is to a democracy what violence is to a dictatorship." This is an interesting way to approach the question (that is, the question of how much propaganda we're being fed). The more free and democratic a society is, the more difficult it is to control the population; you don't control them with force, you control their minds. In other words, the default assumption should be that we're being fed a huge amount of propaganda, because our opinions have the potential to shape policies and decisions. (Though to what extent, I'm not sure . . .)
Another insight Blum makes is that the establishment media does have an ideology; its "ideology is a belief that it doesn't have any ideology." I think this little remark [is it a paradox?] is quite important, and it's not just applicable to the media. "Ideology" somehow has acquired baggage and connotations that make it a bad and horrible thing. How did that happen? There's a perception that those on the left are "ideologues," while those on the right are not; those on the right are just good, rational, realistic, open-minded people not guided or hampered by any kind of "ideology." (Wha???) Think about it: "ideology" is almost always applied to the left, and almost always in a negative way. And then there are those people (we all know them and are incensed by them) who think they're rational impartial objective thinkers and everyone who disagrees with them does so on the basis of his or her "ideology" or "partisanship." They're like "nihilists": they claim to believe in nothing, without acknowledging that the belief in nothing is a belief system in and of itself. Don't let people dismiss your statements because, supposedly, you're an "ideologue." These people have a far deeper ideology--deeper because they aren't even aware of it, many times; they're self-deluded. That is, the ideology that they don't have any ideology.
(On some level, we might say that if you have no ideology whatsoever, then you are indeed a nihilist, or an anarchist, or an apathetic cynic, or whatever else we might say. I don't like "politics" anymore than anyone else. Any I don't like the polarization or dichotomy we've come to accept between "right" and "left," or "liberal" and "conservative," or "democrat" and "republican," or whatever. But let's be honest, here: people don't sign up as members of this or that party and then say "O.K., I'm a member now. What am I supposed to believe in? Tell me what to think." They associate themselves with a party or organization that seems to best represent their individual beliefs, etc., even though they're going to disagree on many issues.)
Had the opportunity (or misfortune??) to watch cable TV today, and saw Al Franken and Tucker Carlson on CBS in a sort of debate functioning as publicity opp for their books. Franken makes no secret about favoring "the left," while Carlson claims to have no bias--his judgment is "unclouded" by ideology or partisanship. Now, I haven't read Carlson's book (or Franken's, for that matter--though I plan to); but just listening to him speak, his ideological bent is so glaringly obvious that it's an absolute joke for him to claim to be without one. He's one of the above-mentioned people. And, as I said, his ideology is the most insidious, because he's unaware of it (or at least won't admit to it).
Had the great pleasure of seeing Michael Moore speak last night here at the U of M. Jesus--I've never heard him so incredibly pissed off. He's mad, folks. Really, really mad. But he didn't lose any of the humor, either. At one point he brought out a cardboard cutout of Saddam Hussein ("look, we found him!"), and sort of used it as a puppet, doing this really outlandish deep Arab voice ("Hey! You tricked me! Take your weapons back, take them, I don't want them!" Etc.) He mentioned that while he was speaking on CNN, he happened to look at the teleprompter (with the little news bites constantly scrolling past the bottom of the screen) and noticed one that said "Terrorists believed to have gained access to maps of our hiking trails and parks." "Noooooo! No, God, Noooooo! Not our hiking trails!" And then, in what was meant to be an arab accent: "Hey, Abdul. Look! Four tents! Let's go."
Ah, so many great moments. It was worth the $10--which many people, including me, thought was a little high (though it was only $5 for students). But you can't really expect him to pay for everything out of his own pocket. No one else would.
This Tuesday Al Franken is speaking at a Wellstone memorial event. Should be grand.
Speaking of Wellstone. I've always been quite suspicious of the plane crash (I know I'm not alone on this). But yesterday I learned something new and quite startling. During the Q&A at Michael Moore, someone asked his thoughts on the Wellstone crash and whether it could have been an assassination, and wondered if he was aware that about 70 witnesses say they saw the plane explode in the air. (If I were speaking, I 'd pause here for that to sink in. Instead I'll just say: stop and let that sink in for a minute.) I don't know if this is true or not, or where she got the information, but it's definitely something to look into. (By the way, after she asked this, someone sitting right behind us said "Does anyone doubt it?"--just want to make it known that it's not just me.
To move on to another topic, which is rarely discussed, how about 9-11. (That was supposed to be a joke, by the way.) I have been reading about the CIA recently, and at this point (though I hate to say it because people will call me a nut and then disregard everything else I say), I submit that the burden of proof is on the administration to show that no one in our government had any foreknowledge or complicity in the attacks. Even widely-known history suggests this possibility (Gulf of Tonkin, Pearl Harbor, etc.); but after considering such things as "Operation Northwoods" (essentially a 9-11 orchestrated by our government on its own people that would make it look as if Cuba had done it), it seems all the more likely.
Here's a quote for you:
"The plane striking the pentagon is particularly spectacular. After it was known that the plane had a problem, it was nevertheless able to change course and fly towards Washington, for about 45 minutes, fly past the White House, and crash into the Pentagon, without any attempt at interception. All the while two squadrons of fighter aircraft were stationed just 10 miles from the eventual target. Unless one is prepared to allege collusion, such a scenario is not possible by any stretch of the imagination."
(And keep in mind that the Pentagon crash was almost an hour after the first crash [into the WTC], and two hours after it was known that the first plane had probably been hi-jacked. Also keep in mind that it is routine to scramble fighter aircraft within minutes at the first sign of trouble.)
Are we questioning this enough? Doesn't it seem so insanely impossible that a commercial plane could manage to crash into the Pentagon??
To read the article from which the above quote came, go here:
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