I realize this has already been all over the web, but nonetheless…
This video condenses everything wrong with American establishment politics in the last six years. John Kerry stands there and “politely” tries to answer the young man’s questions as the police carry him away and brutally shock him with tazers, all in full view of the Senator. Similarly, the Democrats have stood there and responded politely as the administration has torn apart civil liberties, engaged in torture, started an unjust war, reduced environmental restrictions, and done everything they can to favor the wealthy-elite.
Jodi Dean has written a post responding to Frank Rich’s article describing Americans as apathetic.
Someone in the NYT today, I think Frank Rich, describes Americans as apathetic. The hopeless situation of the war, the recalcitrant lies of the White House and the cynical shallowness of the Democrats, has made Americans turn against even fictional accounts of war.
People might be turning away, not watching the President continue to lie to our faces, trying to tune out the falseness of Petreus (I kept thinking of Doctor Zaius). But it isn’t out of apathy. It’s something else, something that it not quite trauma, but close. Perhaps it’s a kind of profound depression, a depression that shopping and you tube and Britney can neither cure nor cover.
Maybe I’m wrong, but I think even conservatives and most Republicans are depressed. It’s not just a left thing anymore. The manic obscenity of Fox News doesn’t have its characteristic triumphal air of self-satisfied mockery. It’s mean and tired, and tries to hide its own awareness of the pointless incredible losses we’ve inflicted under a manic ADD, moving around from false issue to lurid story and hoping people we think it’s news. They won’t. And that’s likely part of the appeal. Any real news adds to the depression.
Is it even depression, or is it sheer numbness? We see events like this take place, and figures like John Kerry do not even raise their voice to intervene and later issue press releases hoping no one was seriously hurt (get some spine you asshole). We watch figures like General Petraeus give testimony before the Senate, presenting a report filled with lies and omissions, yet all the administrations claims are reported exactly as the administration would like, without question. The administration even gets to say that we’re having a troop withdrawal, when in fact this was planned from the beginning and simply returning us to pre-surge levels. To add insult to injury, MoveOn’s ad attempting to draw attention to the ridiculousness of the Petraeus report becomes the topic of discussion, rather than the war itself, and 22 Democrats vote in support of a resolution denouncing the ad. We witness events such as the gross injustices in the Jena Six story, which seem as if they come from some archaic past. Today men were pulled over on Louisiana driving a pick-up truck with nooses tied to the back. Everywhere there are images of gross stupidity, ugliness, injustice, hatred, but also experience a profound sense of powerlessness to do anything about it.
In The Reality of the Mass Media Niklas Luhmann claims that media technology has the capacity to make certain events seem more frequent and omnipresent than in fact they are, by perpetually drawing attention to instances of these events. Thus, when an idiotic public school teacher prevents a student from reading the Bible because he doesn’t understand the first amendment and that it prevent him from leading students in prayer, religious affairs, etc., not students, this story is picked up in the news and creates the impression that such things are going on everywhere. Similarly, when a child is kidnapped or molested, the omnipresence of reporting on this event creates the impression that there is an epidemic of such occurrences. According to Luhmann, this phenomenon serves a moralizing function for the social system, by steering the system to create legislation and other acts that prevent these occurrences. Luhmann’s reasoning is similar to Nietzsche’s in Beyond Good and Evil (or is it The Gay Science) where he argues that the criminal actually serves the morally useful function of reproducing morality.
Is this what is really going on? Is the world really this ugly, stupid, unjust? Or is this a sort of illusion produced by the magnifying effect of media technologies. At this point, tending to my garden looks like a fairly good option.