Wednesday, February 3, 2010

False Prophets for Profit

One manufacturing industry is thriving in these United States, unaffected by recession and creating a new class of millionaires.  It manufactures bogeymen.

The tactic of controlling the tribe by inventing demons is as old as human society.  Shamans and priests, warlords and demagogues, clerics and dictators have used it to their own profit and that of their closed circle of abettors.

Only in America, however, has an entire industry emerged to manufacture bogeymen on demand for the ideologues who keep the corporatocracy humming. The industry thrives because Americans seem to want to be deceived.

You can, for example, rent a protester -- an army of them, if you have enough money; the going rate is $1,800 per head at various PR firms. These rent-a-hecklers, trained in tactics devised by the right-wing strategist Frank Luntz,  touched off the "grassroots" protests at congressional town halls during the 2009 recess.  You can rent a scientist:  the most widely quoted deniers of climate change had their "research" funded by the likes of Exxon-Mobile, the most profitable corporation in human history. Pen poised over checkbook, the buyer  says: "Here is the conclusion; give me the science." You can rent a spook. The CIA actually permits its top intelligence agents to moonlight for private corporations, thereby doubling or even tripling their income. The big banks and financial hedge funds that gave us the Great Economic Meltdown are the most avid spook-renters.  The rent-a-specialist industry exists to verify that bogeymen are real. 

Now that it's so profitable, the bogeyman makers have learned to move with remarkable speed.  No sooner had a paid flack for an insurance company discovered  a way to spin one paragraph in draft legislation for health care, than the bogeyman industry took over.  "Killing grandma" was the result.  Another bogeyman factory spotted another paragraph in the bill and soon "you'll be forced to buy government insurance."  More little bogeymen were built and soon all of them were rolled into one big bogeyman called "Obamacare." 

It would be difficult to choose which recent bogeyman was most successful.  Certainly a prime contender is the Saddam Hussein bogeyman, which frightened us into an endless war that has cost not only lives but trillions in taxpayer dollars.  The Obamacare bogeyman was a big winner for corporations.  The Cap and Trade bogeyman may well succeed in scuttling health protections for millions of Americans breathing polluted air or drinking contaminated water; in obstructing the creation of millions of clean energy jobs; and in licensing polluters to drill, drill, drill and profit, profit, profit.

Bobby Burns was right when he reminded us that "others" see us with far more clarity then we see ourselves.

Thus a Brit, writing in The Independent UK, perfectly described what's happening here:

"A streak that has always been there in the American right's world-view -- to deny reality, and argue against a demonic phantasm of their own creation -- has swollen. Now it is all they can see."

This is a phenomenon that, in Bill Maher's words, "has moved the Democrats to the right and the Republicans to a mental hospital."  Where, I might add, one hopes that their health insurer will deny coverage because of a pre-existing condition.

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