Saturday, July 30, 2011

Bleary eyed sense

One morning this week I opened the Washington Post to its op-ed page and as I read, to my astonishment, it all made sense. A columnist had written:
[T]he country is ruled by a cabal... democracy is a sham... politicians and the... newspapers are tools of... financial interests.... The entire system deserves to be overthrown...
American newspapers seldom present this perspective.  I was still only half awake though.  I rubbed my eyes, took another sip of coffee and examined the passage more carefully:
In contemporary America, we also have people who are — and I am inventing this word here — illegitimists: They believe that the president of the United States is illegitimately elected, or that the country is ruled by a cabal that is in turn controlled by some other sinister force or forces. In the past, left-wing illegitimists were quite common, and in fact Marxism is a classic, paranoid version of this creed. The illegitimist Marxist argument goes like this: Bourgeois democracy is a sham; bourgeois politicians and the bourgeois newspapers are tools of shadowy financial interests. The entire system deserves to be overthrown — and if a few people die in the course of the revolution, it’s all for a good cause. 
I had overlooked considerable verbiage, words and phrases such as: "sinister force or forces," "Marxist," "bourgeois" this and "bourgeois" that, "die" and "revolution."   I saw that the idea that had first jumped off the page at me was, in fact, almost completely buried under prolixitous grandiloquence

I saw that in the next paragraph, the columnist proceeded to compare the original argument to the toxic fruits of America's right-wing lunatic asylum:
There is also a right-wing version of this argument, one that has been honed to perfection by novelist Charles McCarry (in Lucky Bastard, he imagines that the Bill Clinton-like American president is a Communist agent and his Hillary-like wife is his controller). More recently, right-wing illegitimism has taken the form of birtherism. The attempt to prove that Barack Obama isn’t American-born was, at base, an attempt to prove that he is illegitimate and that he therefore deserves to be removed from power — somehow. Birtherism is also linked to other forms of illegitimism, such as the belief that Obama is a Muslim,...
Straightforward hypothesis: America is not in the hands of its people, but powerful financial interests.   That hardly seems like an outrageous claim to make in late July 2011.

But if your boss is the corporate media, first you cloak reasonable suspicion in the jargon of Karl Marx.  Second, you juxtapose it with the insane rants and racist conspiracy theories of the far right.   Some days I wonder why I still buy newspapers. 

UPDATE: Last week a columnist for the Independent had a crisis of faith.

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