Saturday, July 23, 2016

The Hollywood-Republican Promotion of Paranoia And Fear Has Turned Us Into World Class Chumps For Trump

I have been posting things I write online long enough to know what things will get someone's knickers in a knot.  If I wanted to, I could probably get a lot of readers by writing stuff that would get the kind of reaction that Salon and AlterNet clearly use as their marketing strategy, but I don't see any point in that, regularly, though it is, occasionally, necessary.

One of the more certain ways to do that is to diss the movies and TV.  Americans, alleged left to far right love their movies and TV.  And one of the figures of Hollywood whose dissing will get the biggest reaction is the man who, in his younger days sold his vision of paranoid violence with (women fearing, woman using) sexuality,  Clint Eastwood.   If it were not so hellishly hot here right now, if I were not enervated from the heat I might try, try to imagine the mind-set that has been influenced by Clint and that genre of movie he epitomizes, though it would probably put me off thinking about sex for quite a few days if I got anywhere with it.  So I won't go any farther with that, not today.

I re-read Marilynne Robinson's essay Fear,  published in the New York Review of Books.  As a number of writers have noted, since the Republican-fascist convention, it is especially timely as they are trying to sell the show-biz, likely ersatz billionaire crack pot as President of the United States through exactly those fears that Robinson goes through in that great essay.  That Donald Trump as a public figure is a creation of show biz, entertainment TV, it is especially appropriate to concentrate on the role that entertainment - which includes cabloid era "news" - has had in selling him to enough voters to make him the nominee of the Republican party.   He's not the first such figure, Ronald Reagan was elevated by the same use by Republicans of entertainment to create him as a politician, one who reportedly couldn't focus on briefings, who would spontaneously start talking about the movie he watched the previous night as he was to be dealing with even the most momentous issues of government, foreign policy and the use of military power to kill lots of people, many of them entirely innocent.  It is a growing consensus that for a good part of at least his second term he was already well into the dementia which eventually killed him.   Consider the fact that he was sold by the media to the American public, defeating Jimmy Carter who, well into his nineties, shows no sign of mental debility and you have to conclude that the media, far from being the savior of American democracy is it primary source of destructive decay.

There is no rational case that this year the American media, the entertainment side and the less powerful part of that devoted to cabloid style infotanement is not repeating that pattern, that it has produced a country which could well elect Donald Trump over one of the most competent candidates and certainly the most investigated, tried and vetted candidate who has ever had a chance to win the office, Hillary Clinton.   Far from sounding any kind of alarm, the media with the real influence is presenting Donald Trump's message of fear of others, of pandering to insecurity and anxiety as if any of his alleged and ever shifting ideas - of, by and for the oligarchs - will do anything for the majority of people.  Far from pointing out that he is, by his own words, promoting strong-man fascism, the American media is selling him as a normal candidate instead of what he is, a man whose vision is fascistic as his CEO role in his reality TV show which raised him to his position in popular culture is.

If you want to know how the people of the United States came to the mind-set that could elect its second, Hollywood invented Republican candidate for President in less than four decades, look at Dirty Harry and the High Plains Drifter.    That vision of life, that concept of America was what produced where we are now.  A hell of a lot more people watched those than ever read a book by Milton Friedman or one ghost-written to be published as by Donald Trump.


Marilynne Robinson's essay makes many excellent points about the irrationality induced by the Republican campaign of fear and paranoia, none of them more terrifyingly appropriate than that of the current market in Kalashnikovs,  It is so excellent that I'm going to give you more than I probably should, though you really need to read the entire essay to get its total impact.

At a lunch recently Lord Jonathan Sacks, then chief rabbi of the United Kingdom, said that the United States is the world’s only covenant nation, that the phrase “We the People” has no equivalent in the political language of other nations, and that the State of the Union Address should be called the renewal of the covenant. I have read that Americans are now buying Kalashnikovs in numbers sufficient to help subsidize Russian rearmament, to help their manufacturers achieve economies of scale. In the old days these famous weapons were made with the thought that they would be used in a land war between great powers, that is, that they would kill Americans. Now, since they are being brought into this country, the odds are great that they will indeed kill Americans. But only those scary ones who want to destroy all we hold dear. Or, more likely, assorted adolescents in a classroom or a movie theater.

I know there are any number of people who collect guns as sculpture, marvels of engineering. When we mount a cross on a wall, we don’t do it with the thought that, in a pinch, we might crucify someone. This seems to be a little different when the icon in question is a gun. A “civilian” Kalashnikov can easily be modified into a weapon that would blast a deer to smithereens. That’s illegal, of course, and unsportsmanlike. I have heard the asymmetry rationalized thus: deer can’t shoot back. Neither can adolescents in a movie theater, of course. Neither can anyone not prepared for mayhem to break loose anywhere, at any time. And, imagining an extremely improbable best case, it is very hard to threaten or deter someone who is suicidal, as most of these assailants are. Gun sales stimulate gun sales—a splendid business model, no doubt about that. Fear operates as an appetite or an addiction. You can never be safe enough.

I know that hunting is sacrosanct in this country. This is beside the point, since hunting rifles are not the problem. And the conversation around this issue never stays long with hunting. It goes instead to the Second Amendment. Any literalist reading would notice the founders’ words “well-regulated” on one hand, and on the other the alarm that arises among the pro-gun people at the slightest mention of anything that resembles regulation, and their constant efforts to erode what little regulation there is. The supposed neglect or abuse of this revered document, and the supposed “defense of the Second Amendment,” is leveraged on that other fear, the fear that those bland blue helmets might be gathering even now, maybe in Canada, to commence their internationalist march into the heart of Texas. Will we wake to find ourselves betrayed by our own government!! Maybe nothing has deterred them to this point but those Kalashnikovs. How fortunate that the factory in Russia is up and running. And how hard those Russians must be laughing, all the way to the bank. And all those homicidal insurgents and oppressors in the turbulent parts of the world, how pleased they must be that we cheapen these marvelous weapons for them. Oh, I know there are all sorts of reliable gun manufacturers, in Austria, for example. Our appetite for weapons is one of those vacuums nature hates, that is to say, fills.

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