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Citizens United Breaches the Levees of Democracy: Will We, the People Defend America?

The American political system has been breached like the Ninth Ward in New Orleans by a judicial-activist Katrina: The Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision.  Super PACs and billionaires are flooding the airwaves with billions in bile,  but you and I,  our neighbors and fellow citizens, are most to blame.

We buy into it.

It is estimated that $2B+ that will be spent on negative advertising this campaign cycle by both sides. Politicians’ approval ratings are at historic lows.  Even Super PACs poll poorly. Negative ads poll poorly.

Yet the money gushes into the system without regard to public opinion.  The American public is no longer a Wall of Democracy, the balancing common sense that has kept this country on keel for centuries.  Modern Americans are consumerist sheep that can be easily herded into doing anything. Millions of us head for the rotating knives, thinking we’re patriots for doing the bidding of our corporate masters.

The uselessness of our public “opinion” became crystal clear in last week’s elections in Wisconsin and the referendum on the tobacco tax increase in California. It left Liberal pundits like MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow and Ed Schultz scratching their heads like the Grinch.  “How could it be so?”

America has always been divided. Much more so than now. The revolution. The Civil War.  The Cold War. Even the Vietnam War.  The problem is not the issues, or the money.  The polarization that we’re experiencing, the extreme gridlock, is coming from a segment of the Far Right that knows that, no matter what polls say, it isn’t going to matter because the same people who pad their campaign war chests will spend millions to tell you what to think.

As a People, “We” will sit idly by Tweeting statements of outrage or just staring at CNN with helpless disappointment while a vocal minority well funded by an even smaller minority dominate the political landscape of this nation.

It’s easy for them to push us around. We, the People, are growing pretty damn ignorant.

Not stupid. As “ignorant” implies, we’re much worse. We can willfully turn a blind eye to what common sense should tell us is wrong.

If someone came up to you, and told you that your car was edible, or that the sky had invisipurple rays that require special glasses to avoid getting eye cancer, you’d call them a nut.  Get your daily dosing of that in radio and television messaging ads for months, and Americans would be gnawing on fenders, and buying purple filter sunglasses en masse.

Think that’s extreme?  How about a California tobacco tax initiative that polled 73% approval in March, in the second lowest tobacco-use state in the nation, that is still too close to call days after the election.  How about those 38% of Wisconsin public worker union members that voted for Scott Walker and cut their own throats?

Negative advertising is heroin for our fears and anxieties.

It works too well on a passive public that is spoon fed thousands of hours of bitchy women backstabbing for TV, dancing with stars, morons flinging themselves at angry cattle, battling bitchy chefs, recovering addicts, prisoners on lock down, guys shooting cannon balls through houses, cop car chases, bitchy roommates, waning celebrities embarrassing family moments, crying pregnant teens and their bitchy moms, fascist fashionistas, hunk anchorman wannabees throwing themselves in harm’s way, has-been celebrities fawning over feckless racist real estate tycoons, sham spirit chasers, vainglorious plastic surgeons, junked in hoarders, touchingly intervened addicts, junk raiding storage vultures, storm chasing pseudo-scientists, ex-VP wannabees shooting wildlife, six-tooth guys wrasslin’ gators, and if you’ve read this far and you’re not already brain dead, hallelujah! You might just have avoided becoming part of the new zombie apocalypse.

What little “news” most Americans get consists of two minutes of information followed by twenty-minutes of panels of putrid pundits who rinse and spin the day’s events to tell you what you should think.

They keep the public ginned up enough that the station can rake in millions from Super PACs.  Inform the citizens? Function as the Fourth Estate?  Wolf Blitzer? Megyn Kendall, er Kelly? Please.

Journalism of your Rather/Safer/Wallace variety is a distant memory in TV land.  Just about every television station in America is run by a corporation which grinds the Far Right agenda, CNN included, because it sells more soap to simps, big TV watchers, who suck up the quick catch phrases and sound bytes.

Americans regurgitate pearls of wisdom worse than this like kidney stones: “Gasoline’s higher because Obama tells his Africans on the coast to hijack oil tankers.”  (Apologies for giving Karl Rove and Donald Trump ideas.)

A huge chunk of the public has been brainwashed into the “both sides are wrong” lie, a motivation defeater, and the “government is evil” myth anyway, right?

We are at the darker end of four decades of conditioning, along with the dumbing-down of news and entertainment programming, the full-frontal war on the credibility of the media, and even the mistrust of anyone who is smart.

Educated, common sense people are “elite” because they know something, and Liberal guilt and not wanting to be one of the rest of the gang seem to silence the smart, and even the common common-sense citizen.  Joe the Plumber is a TV God, his strings barely showing as he dances the Far Right’s program for the masses.

Which causes many moderates and Liberals to say: Why even vote?  With the flood of money from Citizens United, a handful of rich people can outspend you and me 100, 1000 to 1, as they did in Wisconsin. Game over.

This is not the first time that cultivating moron America has been tried. The Know Nothings of the 1850s, lower or middle class workmen led by bright, manipulative ambitious Whigs who fanned their xenophobic anti-Catholic ignorance into political capital.  Television is the gasoline that their fire lacked.

Citizens United is just the water. Television and all of its rotting influence is the storm that unleashes the flood.

  • Of the top twenty-five American magazines’ subscription sales in the second half of 2011, only TIME, at No. 12, is a general news magazine, and it saw a .5% shrinkage from same period a year earlier. No news magazine is even in the top twenty-five for single-copy sales in the U.S. [1]
  • In March, 2012, the Audit Bureau of Circulations reports that the top 25 national newspapers, both print and digital, are read by only 12.79M people, in an election year.[2] Daily newspaper circulation has been on a 20 year slide, from 62.3M in 1990 to 43.4M in 2010, a a 30% drop that continues, even with more publications moving to digital media. [3]
  • The majority of the students graduating the 8th grade fall below the proficiency level in a national math and science exam, and only 2% are identified as “highly proficient.” [4]
  • According to Xavier University’s Center for the Study of the American Dream, half of Americans fail a simple civics test. “[O]ne in three of us fail the test, based on answering just 6 out of 10 questions correctly. Had the pass rate been 7 out of 10, a startling 50% of us would fail. [5]

It is ignorance and fear, stimulated by all that Citizens United money, that crumble reason and negotiation so essential to Democracy.

One would think that new media, like this article that you are reading, would help lift Americans to a smarter place.

On a good day positive, or informative news, even here, might garner 1,000 eyeballs.  Talk trash about Karl Rove or the Kochs, or Obama and George Soros, and the partisans start popping out of the woodwork by ten score more.

Once upon a time, television aimed to be the thing that empowered a healthy Democracy, even with its side-show tendencies. The men who built CBS News set the bar for nearly thirty years before Fox News polluted the airwaves, and Rupert Murdoch’s trash rags brought the American newspaper to its knees.

Television is still, for better and worse, the largest political force in America. The web is a work in progress, as are “smart” phones, because both have yet to be fully adapted to dumb down America. There is too much of that nagging freedom here where a few thousand people here or there could be enlightened in ways that do not accord with the wishes of our corporate and Teahadi masters, but fear not, they have people on it.

There are versions of the biblical axiom floating around the web: “Tell a man what to think, and he’s a Republican. Teach a man to think, and show him the truth, and he becomes a Liberal.”  Pleasant thought.  How it deals with the kind of ignorance that has been inculcated in the exploitable majority of the human race for centuries, though, seems to be wishful thinking.

What is even more wishful thinking, though, is that you, the “elites” who read and think and communicate in your small circles, will DO anything to oppose them more than talk here on the web.  Less than 1 in 10 will make phone calls, knock on doors.  A good chunk of the “outraged” here on the web will pay lip service to Democracy on the web and not even vote.  Liberals argue amongst ourselves about what our pet peeves are, and further break down our will to succeed.

The GOP’s masters know this.  They count on it.  They also know that you, independent as you may think you are, are still consumerist sheep to be herded. Your outrage can be diverted, diluted, as they have so successfully done with the Occupy movement.  Hell, if it hadn’t been for Keith Olbermann’s driving rants most of the “legit” media might not have even covered what was, two generations back, a guaranteed news event of civil protest.

2008 was a shining moment because the power structures had been brought to their knees by their own greed, the public momentarily rebelled, as it has in revolutions great and small, and Barack Obama leveraged the web to form a momentary coalition of liberals and enough scared white middle class Americans to put aside generations of racism to carry an election.

After that, the door slammed shut. Mitch McConnell, John Boehner, and the rest of the GOP in D.C. and state houses since 2010 have put the brakes on progress not for the good of the people, but the preservation of their two generation power quest.

So it comes down to you.  What are you willing to do to preserve this Democracy that you love?

When will you stand up and say that it’s okay to be elite. You worked hard to get there, and being smarter is a good thing in this country, not something to be embarrassed about. TV has taught you that American modesty dictates that you be the everyman.

We need Supermen and Superwomen. We need them now.

If you will not stand up to the Teahadi hordes, these programmed know-nothings, our government will crumble. Our infrastructure, pipes, roads bridges, will crumble. Our seniors will be victimized until they have nothing left to live on, and go back to the old ways of burdening already over-taxed families or early graves from lack of care.  Legions of youth will grow up without a hot meal, or an opportunity to learn from a school that isn’t commoditizing them into a monthly voucher payment.

I dare more than a 1,000 of you to read this. I dare 10,000 of you to get 10 of your friends to go out and do something to help President Obama put this country back on a progressive course.  I dare 1 of you to oppose a Teahadi candidate in a state or local election that is being unopposed.

It’s time to stop being apolitical or passively political. Our forefathers, even the Greatest Generation have been hit with worse, from fascism abroad to English hegemony.  It’s our turn to be exceptional.

Stand up and fight Democrats, Liberals!  Prove them wrong.

My shiny two

About Brian Ross

Brian Ross is a writer, screenwriter, political satirist, documentarian and short filmmaker who blogs for Truth2Power, the Huffington Post, and the Daily KOS, among others.

3 comments on “Citizens United Breaches the Levees of Democracy: Will We, the People Defend America?

  1. Katie Shea Getman
    June 13, 2012

    sorry I stopped listening when you mentioned Obama putting the Country on the right track…I think we may have very different ideas about what the right track is.

    • Brian Ross
      June 13, 2012

      Perhaps we don’t, Katie. What do you think the right track is, and why do you think that President Obama isn’t getting us there?

    • Brian Ross
      June 14, 2012

      People of principle may comment. People of action back up the shot with substance, and do something about it. Where do you stand?

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