Friday :: Sep 3, 2004

Propaganda Palimpsest


by larre

Lewis Lapham in the September issue of Harper's Magazine writes a vicious but compelling eye-witness retrospective on the failure of the "Radical chic" liberal community and the consequent ascendance of "The Republican Propaganda Machine." Lapham includes a first-person account about the unsuccessful attempts to recruit him to the wrong-wing cause. Along the way, he also puts on the table some astonishing numbers that show just how much venture financing from a handful of fat-cats has been committed to poisoning our politics, our news organs, and our policy think tanks.

Harper's doesn't provide free full text access to most articles, but I am shocked... shocked!... to see someone else, helpfully, post the whole thing on the Internet -- strictly, of course, "in an effort to advance the understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic, democracy, scientific, and social justice issues, and so on." You can advance your understanding of the entire article "and so on" by visiting Mindfully.org right here.

On the jump, two small samplings are provided, also in the interests of "social justice... and so on." As for me, I have to leave, now, to help sustain what little is left of the liberal press by renewing my Harper's subscription.

For a few years I continued to attend convocations sponsored by the steadily proliferating agencies of the messianic right, but although the discussions were held in increasingly opulent settings --the hotel accommodations more luxurious, better food, views of the mountains as well as the sea-- by 1985 I could no longer stomach either the sanctimony or the cant. With the coming to power of the Reagan Administration most of the people on the podium or the tennis court were safely enclosed within the perimeters of orthodox opinion and government largesse, and yet they persisted in casting themselves as rebels against "the system," revolutionary idealists being hunted down like dogs by a vicious and still active liberal prosecution. The pose was as ludicrous as it was false. The leftist impulse had been dead for ten years, ever since the right-wing Democrats in Congress had sold out the liberal portfolio of President Jimmy Carter and revised the campaign-finance laws to suit the convenience of their corporate patrons. Nor did the news media present an obstacle. By 1985 the Wall Street Journal had become the newspaper of record most widely read by the people who made the decisions about the country's economic policy; the leading editorialists in the New York Times (A. M. Rosenthal, William Safire) as well as in the Washington Post (George Will, Richard Harwood, Meg Greenfield) ably defended the interests of the status quo; the vast bulk of the nation's radio talk shows (reaching roughly 80 percent of the audience) reflected a conservative bias, as did all but one or two of the television talk shows permitted to engage political topics on PBS. In the pages of the smaller journals of opinion (National Review, Commentary, The American Spectator, The National Interest, The New Criterion, The Public Interest, Policy Review, etc.) the intellectual décor, much of it paid for by the Olin and Scaife foundations, was matched to the late-Victorian tastes of Rudyard Kipling and J. P. Morgan. The voices of conscience that attracted the biggest crowds on the nation's lecture circuit were those that spoke for one or another of the parties of the right, and together with the chorus of religious broadcasts and pamphlets (among them Pat Robertson's 700 Club and the publications under the direction of Jerry Falwell and the Reverend Sun Myung Moon), they enveloped the country in an all but continuous din of stereophonic, right-wing sound.
And from another section --
"How does one reconcile the demand for small government with the desire for an imperial army, apply the phrases "personal initiative" and "self-reliance" to corporation presidents utterly dependent on the federal subsidies to the banking, communications, and weapons industries, square the talk of "civility" with the strong-arm methods of Kenneth Starr and Tom DeLay, match the warmhearted currencies of "conservative compassion" with the cold cruelty of "the unfettered free market," know that human life must be saved from abortionists in Boston but not from cruise missiles in Baghdad? In the glut of paper I could find no unifying or fundamental principle except a certain belief that money was good for rich people and bad for poor people. It was the only point on which all the authorities agreed, and no matter where the words were coming from (a report on federal housing, an essay on the payment of Social Security, articles on the sorrow of the slums or the wonder of the U.S. Navy) the authors invariably found the same abiding lesson in the tale -- money ennobles rich people, making them strong as well as wise; money corrupts poor people, making them stupid as well as weak.
larre :: 11:05 AM :: Comments (1) :: Digg It!