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Truth, To Powerlessness

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There is a growing consensus that President Obama is more talk than walk when it comes to repairing the economic damage created by the collapse of consumer spending. And yet, there are still those — such as Paul Krugman — who believe that Obama needs to spend a great deal more – and quickly.

Unfortunately for Obama, members of his own party — I watched Indiana Sen Evan Bayh express this himself live on LA's KTTV "news" show Monday morning — are straying across the aisle to assume fiscal attitudes reminiscent of the minority party against any further economic stimulus packages escaping the Congress headed for the Oval Office. Somehow, as I write this, the news is out that the budget passed anyway, and with some GOP support.

With the economic outlook growing dimmer by the day, people are increasingly afraid to spend money. It's easy to poke fun at the party set cutting back on "excess", but in too many cases, this is a genuine Main Street concern. Layoffs are increasing across our land as corporate interests shed their workforces in what may prove to be futile efforts to remain profitable. The pace of this decline is accelerating, leading to concern that – as Krugman put it in his March 9, 2009 article – "the Obama administration’s economic policies are already falling behind the curve."

One of the sectors drastically affected by the economic collapse of the world's wealthiest corporatocracy has been newspapers. There are many problems connected to the struggle that print media is currently enduring. Rising prices for ink and paper – along with drastically slashed ad revenue as retail customers cut back spending themselves, or close — make providing the news an unprofitable venture. And yet, as Joel Connelly of Seattle's faltering Seattle Post-Intelligencer asks, "Who will speak truth to power?" Who indeed! Who is to keep the rampant esurience of the corporate world and their political lackeys in check lest they take the entire economy over a cliff?

Oh, wait! They already are doing that. That must mean that no one is now speaking truth to power. And thus so it is: The Post-Intelligencer's owner, Hearst Corporation, has invested large sums into an e-reader system — which will include proprietarily "locking" some news content in a pay-per-view mode — which could have gone instead into efforts to save Hearst properties such as the P-I and the San Francisco Chronicle. Hearst obviously sees no profitable future in printing the hard copy news. They may consider printing an obsolete venture, one emulating the buggy whip manufacturers of the previous century: out of date and out of time.

Hearst isn't alone. Newsday is also going the "pay for the online news we see fit to offer" route, and it isn't hard at all to understand the economics which drive these decisions.

There's no need to ask for whom the writing on the video wall scrawls — it scrolls for thee.

Certainly, technology always advances, and Hearst sees a line of proprietary e-readers as the way to go. As a technologist in my real-world employment, I understand this development as progress, even as such developments could — and have — cost me and my peers our professional employment. E-readers will evolve into something viable as more publishing converts from paper to PN-junction electronic applications. Our own website sponsor Amazon is included in this evolutionary movement, currently offering a new Kindle reader and likely to be providing a newer, larger, and "more improved" version later this year.

But not every advance offers advantage. In fact, it can also make things worse. At this juncture, it is necessary to return to Joel Connelly and reframe his pertinent question: If access to the news becomes dependent on proprietary technology, how can one trust that the truth isn't sacrificed on the altar of corporate profit? I don't see that it can, and yet there isn't enough economic capital remaining to support much news reporting competition. Despite desperate appeals made to wealthy liberals to invest in a more socially-friendly media, fighting that war is – and has long been – a lost cause. We fought on ground of their choosing, and with their choice of weapons. We lost the public. Instead, we must rethink our message tactics and our distribution strategies. We must live to fight another day, not refight the lost war only to lose again.

It is likely that the news generated in the US will become the exclusive economic bailiwick of just a few companies diverse enough to cover the range of media options available to consumers. They who are themselves increasingly strapped are too concerned about staying afloat to worry about whether the Rocky Mountain News or the Philadelphia Inquirer remain in business. With the numbers of hours worked growing even as wages shrink and health care becomes too dear (increased productivity!), there is for most people little enough time for reading in any form. It thus becomes necessary to trust those in forms of media which can provide some kind of news coverage that fits into the available niches, such as drive-time radio. Unfortunately for the truth, that time slot has become the exclusive domain of a narrow spectrum of thought (and I use that term advisedly).

Thomas Jefferson called a free press vital to the functioning of a free nation, and Benjamin Franklin is purported to have said that the Constitutional Convention had produced a republic – if we could keep it. That we could lose our republican representative democracy can be seen in the ominous ambition of actor Chuck Norris, who has publicly threatened an outbreak of revolution emanating from right-wing militia cells across the land. This is no idle threat. The Secret Service is "visiting" those who make inflammatory threats [see: here and here for examples] to inform them that hostile comments attacking Obama won't play in Peoria. There will be a backlash. As was done to protect George W Bush, so will it be done for Obama — and Chuck Norris can like it!

It wasn't all that long ago that this regressive movement claimed a media victim. Radio talker Alan Berg was gunned down in his own driveway by such paranoids over his commentary on June 18, 1984. Sarah Palin's crowd-baiting comments during the electoral campaign, and Rush Limbaugh's recent CPAC blathering — which inspired The Milwaukee Small Business Times to insist that "Conservatives need to put Limbaugh in his place" — can be seen as whipping up the rabid rabble into taking violent action in a misguided attempt to save the nation by destroying it. Add in the frenzied e-mail campaign "defense" against claims of excessive weapons control on the part of the Federal Government (which can't possibly have had time to convert from the Bush laissez-faire approach to law enforcement), and the paranoia is loosed upon the land. If a chimpanzee in a Swedish zoo can plan ahead to attack the humans it despises as symbols of its captivity, could not Rush's Dittoheads – who consider themselves superior to all other simians — do so as well?

If Obama does fail to quickly fix the economy, he will only have poured gasoline onto a conflagration. The seeds of violent revolution are all in place, and you don't need a Weatherman to see which way the windbag blows. Just follow the scraps of what was once the Constitution as they waft in the breeze, accompanied by the tattered shreds of that layoff notice you attacked in frustrated rage. You don't need someone to sell you a "translated" version of current events packaged especially for your personal edification. That litter is the only truth that you need to know, and all it cost you was your entire tradition of freedom and prosperity.

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About pessimist

  • Aetius Romulous

    It took 30 years to create this mess, and I suspect it will take 30 years to rebuild. Does anybody have a firm grasp on the time it takes to reconfigure and reboot an entire civilization?

    Patience is one thing America has learned to live without, unfortunately.

  • roger nowosielski

    I’m not certain I understand exactly your concerns, Realist. Are you suggesting that if we won’t see results, and quickly, we might see a rebellion from the right?

  • Joanne Huspek

    The newspaper thing is quite troubling, and I’m not sure this pay per view tactic is going to work. The Detroit News is going for it in a few weeks, printing the “real” paper only on weekends. The paper has been thin for years and the content is teetering on the extreme left only, so I may not renew.

    Of course, real journalism is in decline, so maybe this is the next step toward Armageddon?

  • Ruvy

    Bit by bit, folks, the glue holding America together is becoming unglued. The same is true for parts of Europe, and most assuredly for Pakistan, and the middle East. The civilization we knew is disappearing. Not changing, as some would argue, as they clean their rose-coloured glasses, but disappearing.

    It’s no happening all at once, and Realist is picking at the front end of the scene, the stuff before the real event. But, at some time soon, the rest will follow the trailblazers to oblivion.

    Ah! To live in interesting times!

  • roger nowosielski

    “The civilization we knew is disappearing. Not changing, as some would argue, as they clean their rose-coloured glasses, but disappearing.”

    You may hit the nail on the head, Ruvy. This really is my greatest concern. I don’t think you’ve read one of my pieces here (The Hidden Dimensions of American Politics, Part III) where I address this concern specifically, but I do. I sure hope we will be able to avert this. Unlike Chris Rose, I’m not very optimistic about the immediate future. After the dust settles – perhaps, but not before, I’m afraid.

  • Silas Kain

    Perhaps, Ruvy, the United States hasn’t been ‘glued’ since September 11, 2001. Come to think of it, our union has been fragile since day one, they just forgot to teach that to us in our non-existent civics classes in public schools..

  • roger nowosielski

    More likely, Silas, it’s becoming unglued. Which perhaps is an indication of the kinds of fissures which existed all along. Perhaps all unions and confederacies are like that.

  • Silas Kain

    Roger, I was 3 days shy of my 8th birthday when JFK was shot. Even today I remember that weekend as if it were last week. And the one thing that I remember most was an old aunt who kept saying that she thought one of ‘those Southerners’ did it. She detested LBJ and went to her grave believing that somebody in the South did it to Kennedy because he was a Catholic. Perhaps, you’re right. Perhaps all unions are like that.

  • roger nowosielski

    I’ve also experienced JFK’s assassination; and though I was 16 at the time, it was a hulluva impact. I didn’t detest LBJ, though. I’d like to believe he had nothing to do with it. Still, we were at the zenith then. Ever since, America’s been on the way down.

    I suggest one heck a book – it’s fiction but it reads better than the truth – by James Elroy, the author of Black Dahlia, namely, American Tabloid, dealing specifically with JFK sad end.

    It reads like a movie. Damn, they ought to make a movie.

  • Silas Kain

    I loved Black Dahlia, so I will check that one out. And, you’re right. It’s like we’ve been on a downward spiral since November 22, 1963.

  • roger nowosielski

    You’ll love Elroy’s style – it reads like a police blotter. Ongoing action. In the Tabloid, he’d perfected it even more – beyond Black Dahlia.

    I wish I could write like that, but he’s not to be surpassed.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Roger –

    I’m not certain I understand exactly your concerns, Realist. Are you suggesting that if we won’t see results, and quickly, we might see a rebellion from the right?

    The Republicans do this every time. I clearly remember how just after Clinton took office, a congressman from one of the Carolinas (Jesse Helms, IIRC) claimed that Clinton should stay away because if he comes to one of the military bases there he might get shot. I think it was then that I started seeing through the right-wing bullcrap faux patriotism (that was in the eleventh year of my military career) and began my journey from being a Republican to a bleeding-heart liberal (and doggone proud of it!).

    Another great example is Chuck Norris – it looks like he wants to become President of Texas since he’s of the opinion that the “state of the union is turning into the enemy of the state”…and that states will begin to secede from America.

    Yeah, the right wing doesn’t change a whole lot.

  • roger nowosielski

    Yes, I realize the last part Glenn, just being skeptical about what they can really do. I think their power is waning – as evident, for instance, by the desperation you see on this here site.

    Correct me if I’m wrong.

    Glad to see you back, BTW. It was kind of hard to carry on this fight all by myself (Cindy, Jet, Handy, Silas Kain, few others perhaps). I definitely feel like I need reinforcement.

  • Clavos


  • roger nowosielski

    Words of wisdom from Clav. Good to see you back, too.

  • handyguy

    Of course Obama won’t “fix” the economy quickly. Nor would McCain have done so. I mean 12-18 months would be pretty fast. It’s certainly not going to be any faster than that.

    All a president can do is try to limit the damage until the economy heals itself. [Yes, I realize our GOP friends claim he is doing more damage; I say they don’t know what they’re talking about. And only time will tell.]

    It was good at least to see the stock market go up 4 days in a row. But that probably doesn’t mean much.