With apologies to H.P. Lovecraft, but the proper metaphor for what I’m about to say. But first, a little meander.
Cupid without the “ity”
I believe in democracy, because I’ve seen it work. Not often, not without ugliness and stupidity, backstabbing and cupidity, but I have, nonetheless. “Cupidity” is a nice word to know for Valentine’s Day — but not a recommended practice. Merriam Webster tells us:
Definition of CUPIDITY 1: inordinate desire for wealth : avarice, greed 2: strong desire : lust
Examples of CUPIDITY
The evidence revealed the cupidity of the company’s directors.
reports of great treasure in the Indies inflamed the cupidity of Columbus’s crew
Origin of CUPIDITY Middle English cupidite, from Anglo-French cupidité, from Latin cupiditat-, cupiditas — more at covet
First Known Use: 15th century
I believe in democracy because I have seen that many minds forming consensus, adding ideas, sharing experience CAN create a solution far superior to any solution that one of the participants had come up with on his/her own. I have seen it MOST of the times that democracy was actually practiced. In practice, however, the current fad is cupidity: the greed to have YOUR idea predominate, YOUR solution adopted, YOUR ideas as the only acceptable ideas.
And therein lies the death of democracy.
I can have my mind changed. I am not married to any notion in my mental picture of the world that cannot be transformed or improved by a BETTER idea. And in democratic process — it is our unspoken Article of Faith — that is precisely what happens. Ideas change, are improved, alter and transform. IF — and this is a BIG ‘if’ — a free exchange of ideas is allowed to take place.
Not long ago, I listened to Stephen Breyer talking about the Constitution on CSPAN, and he changed a long-held idea of mine. I will not name it, because the small and petty-minded would only be sidetracked into their own ideological grease-traps. The point would be lost: that we progress through intellectual honesty and new knowledge and ideas. When those are cut off, democracy fails, and is replaced — in our case — with a Disneyland Democracy:
It’s all stagecraft and sets that only look real from the auditorium seats. Behind it, it’s plywood flats, two-by-four braces and flimsy, balsa-wood staircases that are just for show. The rocks are just paint, and the fire is a fan and an old Christmas tree rotating light on some amber gel.
If the dead tree reporters and the dancing eyebrow™ media would look at the United States as a NATION, perhaps they’ll start to unravel this Gordian Knot of secret money that’s turned our electoral process into Disneyland Democracy: The “elections” that we take part in increasingly bear that same relationship to real elections as the “New Orleans Square” of Disneyland in California bears to the ACTUAL “French Quarter” of New Orleans.
Mickey Über Alles.
~ September 28, 2007
I should add “Post-Katrina.” Because that is where we stand.
Almost reportage rather than fiction
The cupidity of the Rupert Murdochs, who, as late great Chicago newspaperman Mike Royko pointed out in 1984, (appropriately enough) from Wikipedia:
In 1984, Rupert Murdoch, for whom Royko said he would never work, bought the Sun-Times. Royko commented that “No self-respecting fish would want to be wrapped in a Murdoch paper”, and “[H]is goal is not quality journalism. His goal is vast power for Rupert Murdoch, political power”. Mike Royko then worked for the rival Chicago Tribune. For a period after the takeover, the Sun-Times reprinted Royko’s columns, while new columns appeared in the Tribune.
Consider the fundamental bastardy of that: even when you quit, Murdoch will continue to exploit whatever he owns of yours, even if you’re Mike Royko. It is symptomatic of the fundamental dishonesty of Murdoch, and, in a larger sense, the cupidity of the modern “private enterprise” monopoly of the American airwaves and media (which will grow even larger, should the GOP manage to succeed in defunding NPR and PBS.
Dangerous leftist Gwen Ifill of PBS
— still behaving herself we see
Murdoch provides us with our segue here, as MediaMatters reported last week, before the trolls swarmed, attempting to stifle all debate and cognition (thus, proving the danger of the Murdochian Putsch of Reason and Democracy) [emphasis added]:
FOX NEWS INSIDER: “Stuff Is Just Made Up” February 10, 2011 7:20 am ET by Eric Boehlert Asked what most viewers and observers of Fox News would be surprised to learn about the controversial cable channel, a former insider from the world of Rupert Murdoch was quick with a response: “I don’t think people would believe it’s as concocted as it is; that stuff is just made up.” Indeed, a former Fox News employee who recently agreed to talk with Media Matters confirmed what critics have been saying for years about Murdoch’s cable channel. Namely, that Fox News is run as a purely partisan operation, virtually every news story is actively spun by the staff, its primary goal is to prop up Republicans and knock down Democrats, and that staffers at Fox News routinely operate without the slightest regard for fairness or fact checking.
“It is their M.O. to undermine the administration and to undermine Democrats,” says the source. “They’re a propaganda outfit but they call themselves news.” And that’s the word from inside Fox News. Note the story here isn’t that Fox News leans right. Everyone knows the channel pushes a conservative-friendly version of the news. Everyone who’s been paying attention has known that since the channel’s inception more than a decade ago. The real story, and the real danger posed by the cable outlet, is that over time Fox News stopped simply leaning to the right and instead became an open and active political player, sort of one-part character assassin and one-part propagandist, depending on which party was in power. And that the operation thrives on fabrications and falsehoods.
“They say one thing and do another. They insist on maintaining this charade, this façade, that they’re balanced or that they’re not right-wing extreme propagandist,” says the source. But it’s all a well-orchestrated lie, according this former insider. It’s a lie that permeates the entire Fox News culture and one that staffers and producers have to learn quickly in order to survive professionally…. [lots and lots more here]
Take a moment to scroll down and look at all the troll traffic. The most cogent “argument” advanced is “so what?” Which limns the depths of depravity and cupidity into which we have fallen. Murdoch isn’t the only offender, or perhaps even the worst, but surely he’s the Poster Boy for the cupidity of power and the depravity of propaganda. Consider the effect that stifling all real exchange of ideas has had from this short thread on a story from The Hill on the departure of Robert Gibbs from his position as Obama’s first Press Secretary (the biggest Maalox® consumption job in Washington D.C.):
Obama honors Gibbs on press secretary’s last day at White House By Sam Youngman – 02/11/11 04:41 PM ET
And then the story, and the flying monkeys come winging by:
Did he get a FULL PARDON… BY GRANDMA on 02/11/2011 at 16:55
Hey Gibbs—just go away. You’re now about as relevant and influential as Mizzz Pelosi—not at all significant. BY JUST GO AWAY on 02/11/2011 at 17:35
How poetic…Gibbs and Mubarak leaving on the same day. Too bad Obama isn’t leaving with them. BY ELC on 02/11/2011 at 17:41
gibbsee has NO HONOR BY JBOBOJAKE on 02/11/2011 at 18:45
WHY DON’T YOU TELL THE WHOLE STORY AND FINISH THE TIE JOKE WITH OBAMA TELLING GIBBS TO TAKE ONE FOR THE “GIPPER”? BY BARB on 02/11/2011 at 19:34
For all that Gibbs has done, all the talk, all the fielding of questions and all he gets is his used tie back in a frame with a picture of Obama… sad, so very sad! BY DIANE L on 02/11/2011 at 19:36
It’s probably the single greatest day for the press corp they’ve had in a long time. BY DUKE on 02/11/2011 at 20:24
Yes, Barack Hussein Obama referenced Fibbs Gibbs as taking one for the GIPPER for surrendering a flipping neck tie. Totally disgusting analogy. http://dailycaller.com/2011/02/11/obama-refers-to-himself-as-the-gipper-in-farewell-to-gibbs/ BY SUNSHINE CONNIE on 02/11/2011 at 21:25
Obama called himself THE Gipper…Arrogant fool,what a laugh BY ROBERT on 02/11/2011 at 21:28
I think he is Reagan reincarnate..wow,I’m going to faint..OBAMA,Obama,Oba ma,,wow BY JOSE on 02/11/2011 at 21:30
With all the calls for a civil society, the only thing the commenters can emulate are foul-mouthed kindergarteners ?
One fears for the life of the republic with such as these. BY HART WILLIAMS on 02/11/2011 at 21:37
Good Riddance! BY ANONYMOUS on 02/11/2011 at 22:03
keep it classy right wingers. BY K-L-A-S-S-Y on 02/12/2011 at 00:00
@ Diane L on 02/11/2011 at 19:36 No he was paid 170K per yr. on the tax payer…And he has a job on team obama in ill. BY NO DIANE L on 02/12/2011 at 09:42
You can see how they are trying to work this President Reagan thing into their speeches. Numb-n**s Andrea Mitchel claimed that Obama, in his SOU, was Reagan. Not hardly Andrea. Andrea take some more kool-aid. BY DON S on 02/12/2011 at 10:13
Gee, worst vitriol since they called Lincoln
an ape and a monkey and a “Black Republican”
Notice anything (other than that I am the only commenter with the cojones to use their real name)? Yes: no rational arguments are propounded. Merely character assassination. Blind hatred. Savage vitriol. And this is one of the more moderate, mainstream blog sites, attached to a New York newspaper publisher NOT noted for Right Wing dealings. This is NOT the dialog of free, educated citizens. This is the cross-jabber of schoolchildren.
The intellectual of the group refers to a female reporter as “Numb-n**s” — evidently not understanding that one’s n**s CANNOT be numb if one is a woman: because women don’t HAVE n**s.*
[* Aside from that, the proper spelling for the former schoolyard vulgarity is 'numnuts.' No "b." As one pronounces the first "r" in February, in the name of accuracy, one does NOT spell the "b" of the "num" in "numnuts" for the same reason. Those who were the coiners and most enthusiastic users of the term were the least likely to be capable of spelling "numb" and it is a slur on their fundamental stupidity to suggest that they would have added the effete "b" to their charming colloquialism for anesthetized testicles.]
The Hill, a subsidiary of News Communications, Inc., is a newspaper published in Washington, D.C. since 1994. Its first editor was Martin Tolchin, a veteran correspondent in the Washington bureau of The New York Times. It is written for and about the U.S. Congress, with a special focus on business and lobbying, political campaigns. and other events on Capitol Hill. The newspaper features investigative reporting, profiles of lawmakers and aides, features describing the sociology and politics of the Hill, book and restaurant reviews, and a weekly column about the Capitol Hill neighborhoods. Since 2003, The Hill’s editor in chief has been Hugo Gurdon, previously a reporter and editor at The Daily Telegraph (London) and the National Post (Toronto). Gurdon turned The Hill from a weekly paper into a daily during congressional sessions. The newspaper has the largest circulation of any Capitol Hill publication, above 21,000. It has a free website and 10 blogs dedicated to specific political and policy issues ..
And here is the New York Times‘ 1994 birth announcement for the paper/entity:
New Paper to Vie for Readers on Capitol Hill By WILLIAM GLABERSON Published: May 25, 1994 A company that publishes community newspapers in the New York metropolitan area said yesterday that it would begin a small Capitol Hill newspaper war by starting a weekly to compete with Roll Call, the twice-weekly publication that bills itself as the hometown paper for Congress and Congress watchers. The new paper, tentatively called The Hill, is to be published by News Communications Inc., a New York City company with more than 20 community newspapers in Manhattan, Queens and the New York City suburbs. The company’s chairman and biggest shareholder is Jerry Finkelstein, 78, a politically influential publisher whose son, Andrew J. Stein, was a Democratic officeholder in New York for years and was City Council President until an abortive campaign for mayor last year. [...] Mr. Tolchin and Mr. Finkelstein said that News Communications had assured Mr. Tolchin complete editorial independence. Mr. Tolchin said such independence was particularly important because Representative Gary L. Ackerman, Democrat of Queens, is a major shareholder and member of News Communications’ board.
And yes, I DO fear for the life of the republic.
These could be congressional staffers, or even congresspersons making these insipid and childish comments.
Because the trolls swarm and dominate all non- “right” wing sites, like The Hill, and Media Matters, and the Right Wing sites DO NOT ALLOW any comments that disagree with their point of view. Monopolizing the airwaves, monopolizing radio, monopolizing any open fora, and exercising a Stalinesque monopoly on the right wing sites, the intent is to STIFLE debate, negate any free exchange of ideas and kill all new information.
If that’s how the brownshirts of the reicht behave on “The Hill,” think about how they behave when they’re “among friends.” I won’t bother to grab examples here. They are utterly ubiquitous. If you need to find them, follow your nose: the more it smells like shite and burning sulphur, the closer you’ll be getting.
That is, if you haven’t lost your sense of smell already.
We stand at the mountains of madness. We are mired in crisis, and the cupidity of a party that — by its actions — HATES democracy, strangles our ability to respond to that crisis, verging on national bankruptcy, even as we all sink into the fatal bog of the septic tank that American discourse has become.
Consider how representative democracy works: As large a franchise as possible, with the people expressing their will through their votes, but, more importantly, pushing their individual issues into the agenda of one party or the other, as a national consensus builds.
Their representatives working, as Edmund Burke said: “A representative owes the People not only his industry, but his judgment, and he betrays them if he sacrifices it to their opinion.”
It is a quirk that we ASK our representatives to not merely represent their LOCALIZED constituency, but to be WISE in working for that constituency — not merely their party, mind, but their REGION. So, what have we seen as the tactics of the right in addressing that representation? First, to strip as many voters as possible of their franchise. Which betrays a fundamental mistrust of democracy. Second, focusing national funds on local races, and, as in Oregon, focusing STATE PARTY LEADERSHIP funds on the seat in question, both of which make the local constituency the afterthought in our elections.
FIRST, you must be loyal to your money. Second, you must be loyal to your party. Third, you may represent your constituency as will best get you re-elected. And in that process, we had formerly been practicing — that “anglo” arm of American contract law that goes back to the Magna Carta and the Mayflower Compact — the fundamental necessary agreement that is the bedrock of the system: HONORING the outcome of elections.
And yet this is what I’ve seen since 1992: A presidency paralyzed with non-scandals and minor scandals (the blue dress that screamed impeachment). Then a questionably legitimate administration, with virtually ALL dissenting voices stilled and silenced by the same yowlers who had screamed Whitewater for eight long, pointless, meaningless years. And now, an unquestioned electoral victory delayed and debased, blocked, stymied, filibustered and smeared via insane, underground emails continually conflating the President’s skin color with the color of skin of the terrorists of NineLebbin’ and questioning his very legitimacy as an American. Somebody’s not willing to abide by the results of elections. All of which run the train right off the rails into a children’s hospital.
Or, rather, they only honor elections that THEY win. THEN said elections are sacrosanct. Otherwise … ?
So, I’ve noted the breakdowns in our democratic process. And each of them would be disastrous to the life of the republic.
Each and any of them, let alone ALL of them.
But it is in the silencing of all dissenting voices that the truest danger lies — to the silencers themselves. Dick Cheney actually believed it when he said that the Iraqis would welcome us with flowers and kisses. Because the modus operandi of that group admitted no dissenting voices. Heard no contrary debate.
Like Rush Limbaugh who will debate no one but himself. Every time since the late ’80s that he has been engaged in an actual, fair, debate, he has been flummoxed and humiliated, flabbergasted, red-faced and wheezing, his mouth working silently as the words fail to come. But he’s a great shadow-boxer and the listeners happily listen every day to have their weltanschauung validated, stroked, caressed and re-enabled.
The problem is that a shadow boxer is no boxer at all.
And, you have seen, endlessly, what it looks like when some Dittohead (“brownshirt” in American English) thinks he’ll shadowbox TOO at a party or a public forum. And the real person with a different opinion CANNOT be admitted or accepted, and so the Dittohead REPEATS his cribbed lines from Limbaugh, or Beck or Hannutty or whomever EXACTLY AS BEFORE, BUT LOUDER. The thought process ends there. And that is where we step into the mountains of madness.
It is admitted that plutocrats and autocrats have worked silently to undermine and destroy our representative democracy. I could take the cheap shot that now Egypt’s on the road to democracy maybe we could get some here, too. But you know, every comic and columnist will instantly spot that shiny meme and use it, and why bother? Let’s take the path LESS traveled, shall we?
We now know that computerized voting is hacked, that politicians are bought, debate is stifled and the actual issues are not allowed into the public debate. So, is it surprising that we’re all insane? Last night on Real Time with Bill Maher was a perfect example.
Maher started off talking about Bill O’Reilly’s outrageous interruption of the President while interviewing him, and it was noted that O’Reilly condescended astonishingly by asking “Do you know about football?” to the President of the United States before the SuperBowl. They were shooting fish in a barrel. And then it turned. And all present started savaging the president, with Maher offhandedly saying “I don’t think Obama’s a Christian” and the gotcha journalism of the modern trope Rode Once More in Service to the Lost Clause.
Glenn Davis / Mediaite: Bill Maher Says He Doesn’t Think Obama Is A Christian — When someone says they don’t think President Barack Obama is actually a Christian, the expectation would be that they think he’s secretly a Muslim. Not Bill Maher. On tonight’s Real Time, in the process of arguing that Obama’s … –
Is this ‘foulmouthed kindergarteners’ or is it not? This is little brother Jimmy, aged five, running into the kitchen and yelling to mom: “Hart said a dirty word! Hart said a dirty word!”
Well, fuck Jimmy.
Jimmy is most of what passes for journalism, these days, and it seems an astonishing irony that we now live in times that no self-respecting science fiction or horror author could ever manage to sell as a backdrop to any editor or publishing house: the sole superpower on Earth is ruled by the civility and rhetoric of an ugly kindergarten recess.
(Note that popular culture has become enamored of farts and boogers, formerly the provenance almost exclusively of male culture from kindergarten through junior high school and virtually never seen thereafter).
Or that in an age of the greatest possible access to knowledge and information in human history, the increasingly dominant minority party succeeds through a steady stream of discrete disinformation and screwball slander.
That science and rational debate are suspect, but heretical superstitions (rapture theology) and anti-science screwball magic (creationism) and pseudo-science magic (Intelligent Design) are considered reasonable and proper.
Not a day goes by that can be explained in any coherent or logical sense. Our discourse is ruled by madness and purely emotional, irrational behavior.
Tell me that the Republikkkan/KKKonservative point of view hasn’t gone off whatever little rails were left:
Byron Tau / The Politico:
YAF kicks out Ron Paul — A prominent conservative activist group has given Ron Paul the boot. — The Young Americans for Freedom has voted the Texas congressman off its national advisory board in the aftermath of his straw poll win at CPAC over his positions on national security issues.
A lot of you don’t even remember WHO the Young Americans for Freedom even was. In September, 1960, YAF was founded at William F. Buckley’s estate in Sharon, Connecticut. The most nouveau riche of East Coast blueblood grasping estates, one might say. In 1964, they supported Goldwater for President rather prominently.
So take a look at this headline from the ever-frothing-at-the-mouth Jim “Magic Eyes” Hoft:
Since its founding, YAF continuously identified itself as “conservative”. The founders were among those who helped to define the modern meaning of this term in American politics.
However, the term “conservative” has changed in meaning over several generations. Before World War II, most American conservatives were non-interventionist. But as the Cold War began to dominate American foreign policy, the old conservatism disintegrated. After Robert Taft was defeated for the Republican nomination in 1952, non-interventionist conservatism mostly vanished. In the 1950s, a new kind of conservatism arose. This new ideology was formulated in large part by the newspaper Human Events, the magazine National Review, and National Review’s editor William F. Buckley, Jr. This new conservatism combined free-market economics, respect for traditional values, orderly society and anti-communism.
In the late 1960s, the term libertarianism began to be used for a political philosophy. Many of those who popularized this term were initially part of the conservative movement, but came to separate themselves from the conservatives on certain issues. Libertarians within YAF believed, for example, the military draft was a violation of the individual freedom the organization claimed to embrace. The conservatives (or traditionalists as they were sometimes called) supported the draft as being necessary to defeat communism.
After 1969, the relationship between conservatives and libertarians in YAF was often rocky. A majority of members identified themselves simply as conservative, but some identified as both conservative and libertarian, and still others identified themselves simply as libertarian. From time to time, power struggles broke out; when this happened, the libertarians almost always ended up losing.
In later years, new viewpoints would be amalgamated by the conservative movement, including neoconservatism in the early 1970s, the New Right in the late 1970s and the Religious Right in the 1980s. Some YAF members identified with some of these philosophies, others opposed them and still others were content to simply identify themselves as conservative without further specificity.
Since its founding, YAF members on college campuses focused primarily on national and international politics, rather than on-campus politics. Thus members were much more likely to pass out handbills for a candidate for Congress than for student body president.
So, Ron Paul is Taft and YAF* hates them some Taft?
We have a politics entirely run by cognitive dissidents.
And that is only ONE example of dozens that I might have cited THIS WEEK. Here’s 0ne from today (nice to hear that he’s putatively switched sides):
Joshua Miller / ABCNEWS: Gingrich Calls for Worldwide Democracy Promotion
When the going gets tough, the tough start marketing. (I wonder if they’ll give away free balloons?)
Never have such irresponsible, clueless and deaf dunderheads wielded the levers of power in the most powerful nation that the world has yet seen.
[* I'm surprised that the YAF chapter in Michigan manages to keep qualifying as a hate group, according to the SPLC. On second thought, I'm NOT surprised. Now we SUPPRESS that information in news reports.]
Yes, I fear for the life of the republic, but, moreover, I fear for every other nation on Earth, that we would harm through ignorance, through malice and brutishness, and yes, through sheer stupidity and self-inflicted ignorance.
As Occam’s Dull Razor tells us: Never ascribe to malice that which can be explained just as well by stupidity.
And the affluent suburb of stupidity is cupidity.
Now, I brought up the tale of H.P. Lovecraft’s, and, without giving away any spoilers, I will extract my metaphor and be done.
Lovecraft: The Video Game version
At a certain point in the tale, one of the characters sees something even worse than anyone else has seen, a place where no one else has looked, giving the title its meaning.
And his mind simply snaps. Off into hopeless madness, doomed, at best, to a lifetime institutionalized in a mental hospital somewhere, for the sake of his and society’s protection.
I believe that the GOPs and their usurpers have looked into that place.
So, this Valentine’s day, look for Cupid — but avoid Cupidity.
Lest you find yourself at the Mountains of Madness.
Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day. For obvious reasons, there will be no post.