Sunday, July 25, 2010

Conservatives in this country want to be lied to.

I had been rolling this concept in my mind around for a bit, trying to get up the initiative to actually write a blog post about it. Of course, to quote Uncle Bonsai, “There’s no such thing as an original thought.” Doug J of Balloon Juice has it all right there.

I used to believe this sort of thing, that it was shameful, for example, that Fox provided such a low level of journalism to its captive conservative audience. My thinking was that conservatives watched Fox and listened to crazy conservative talk radio not because they enjoyed being lied to, but because they enjoyed overtly conservative media and Fox/Rush/etc. was what they had to choose from; the lying and low level of discourse, I reasoned, might very well be bugs rather than features.

Well, I was wrong, they’re features. Compare the ratings of Shep Smith with the ratings for Glenn Beck. Compare the traffic numbers for Hot Air, Drudge, and Instapundit with those of FrumForum, The American Scene, and Eunomia. And note that the Daily Caller traffic went way up with when they started in with the JournoList silliness (whatever one thinks of JournoList, the way that Daily Caller is presenting the story is extremely dishonest).

Given the choice, conservatives as a group will go for the dumber, more dishonest, more insane option. There’s a market for good-faith conservative media, but that market is liberals. Who watches/reads the faux-good faith propaganda of David Brooks? Totebaggers. Who reads The American Scene and Eunomia? People like me.

Conservatives, by and large, have no interest in what you or I or actual journalists consider journalism. It’s telling that when Clark Hoyt and Andy Alexander muse about pleasing conservative readers, they don’t talk about covering legitimate stories that conservative readers are interested in, they talk (exclusively) about following ginned-up Breitbart controversies.

And that about sums it all up, I think. There really isn’t any market for the truth these days, because somewhere between 25% and 50% of this country doesn’t want to know the truth. They really don’t want to know what was really behind the Iraq war, or how the United States of America came to be one of the world’s foremost proponents and practitioners of torture. They don’t want to know what caused the financial meltdown of a couple of years ago, and whether or not the policies enacted by some Republicans and then taken up by the Democrats really helped or not. They don’t want to know the truth that ACORN was a small, underfunded organization trying to help low-income people get their voices heard in government and was in no way some giant secretive monster manipulating elections behind the scenes.

No, apparently most conservatives of this country want to hear stuff that feeds into their already formed ideas and positions. Government is evil. Democrats are evil. Guns are great and everyone should be allowed to carry them anywhere they want. Big business can really do no wrong, and when something bad does happen (e.g., the huge oil spill in the Gulf, 29 miners killed in West Virginia coal mine explosion), then it was just “an accident”, “God’s Will” or, once again, the fault of the government for too much regulation. All events, everything that anyone has ever said or done, all can be manipulated to fit into these narratives, so that everything, absolutely everything, confirms to the conservative mind what they already “know.”

Now, this is not to say that there are not liberals and progressives that exhibit these same traits. No doubt, there are. I am always questioning myself about this. I don’t actually find anything that makes me change my mind on certain questions, I must admit, but at least I am asking myself the right questions. I think most liberals and progressives really do want to know the truth about their government and their country. If a Democrat is behind something underhanded, then I firmly believe that most of us would want that person gone, immediately. Mostly… Right now, many of us are torn by the Obama adminstration. They are making it mightily difficult for liberals and progressive to give their unbridled support to an administration that seems determined to always “go for the middle,” even when that means shortchanging the very people who supported them in the first place. And we really don’t like the fact that President Obama is intent on ignoring the wrongdoings and lawlessness of the Bush administration, and even carrying on some of the worst of the previous administration’s policies.

But, to go back to my original point, when conservatives will never, ever make any concessions of wrongdoing and try to use every single thing that happens as some sort of cudgel to bash the other side over the head, even at the expense of the country as a whole, then, ladies and gentlemen, we have an ungovernable country. We simply cannot fix the huge problems we are facing because one side doesn’t want to admit they are problems, or else they do believe they are problems but don’t have any policy that would actually address those problems other than to attack the Democrats for actually trying to do something.

I can’t say that President Obama and the Democrats haven’t gotten anything done in the face of this overwhelming opposition to everything. There have been a number of amazing achievements made since Barack Obama took office. But what could have been has been significantly watered down, and with the Democrats a sure bet to not have anywhere near the required “super-majority” in the Senate after January of next year, then it’s a good bet that major achievements will be few and far between.

I am extremely disgusted and disappointed by the almost everyone in our society today. I suppose I should consider myself some sort of wild-eyed idealist, as what I believe in seems to be so far out of the mainstream these days. By looking around the blogosphere, I can see I am not alone. There are many knowledgeable, educated and well spoken people that seem to believe in the same things that I do. But I have come to believe that we are not going to get there. Not in the time of Barack Obama, and not ever. The tide is just that overwhelming. Huge Money, in the form of powerful lobbyist groups, mega-corporations and wealthy donors that want to see their own agenda enacted, is just too much to deal with.

This country is on a path to mediocrity, and maybe even worse. But at the very least, we are on the downside slope of the curve. Yes, the United States will remain a power in the world, just because of the money and power that is concentrated here, along with a huge consumer market. (How long that huge consumer market lasts is an unknown, given all the forces that are at work undermining the capacity of 90% of the population of this country to actually be consumers of anything past the essentials for living.) The argument for “American exceptionalism” will become less and less persuasive, if it ever were a real argument, and more and more just some myth that hardly anyone believes in but keeps telling each other anyway, just like Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny.

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