Want’s the Matter with North Carolina?

The Culture War

The Culture War

How would I go about viewing politics through an empathetic lens? Politics is the second most pervasive subject to grip the human psyche–the first being religion. I am opposed to both, really, at least in the way they are practiced. There seems to be no honor in politics, and each organized religion has its conceptual boundaries, beyond which lies universal empathy–the Forbidden Zone.

I’ve written on both subjects, and at least with politics, I’ve tippy-toed around the ugliness. No more. In viewing politics through the lens of empathy, one must first find the truth, point out the truth and the deception, and then attempt to find an empathetic way to a solution that is best for society. In most cases, I suspect, the solution necessarily would be utilitarian in nature–the greatest good for the greatest number of people. This would include the “least of these” in society. And so I dive into the ugly, with empathy in mind.

In a State known for its class 1 colleges and its Research Triangle, one would think the good people of North Carolina would not be so easily swayed by misinformation and disinformation.

The neoconservatives, decades ago, having lost their beloved Soviet Union “evil empire,” declared a “Culture War” against liberalism. It had been going on since the founding of our republic, but this time it was different.

Right wing movements in a democratic republic must have an “enemy” in order to plant fear in the minds of the people, and then harvest their votes. The enemy must be painted as evil and destructive to society’s “values,” and the best way to do that is through coordinated, party-wide propaganda in the mass media.

The Strategy: in 1996, Newt Gingrich wrote a memo to GOPAC titled, <a href=”http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article4443.htm”>”Language: A Key Mechanism of Control,”</a>, in which he codified the neoconservative plan of political attack that the neocons had been using since before Reagan, but this time it was for all conservatives. This memo provided virtually all conservative politicians and political hopefuls with their tactical marching orders. It had little to do with policy. Indeed, the voter would vote against their policies where they argued on their own merits. Therefore, the strategy was to destroy the public’s view of the enemy and their policies, but never detailing one’s own policies.

Keep in mind that the neocons considered the “Culture War” a real war, and the strategy was to infiltrate the minds of the public, control the message with disinformation (kick up sand and muddy the water), and stamp out liberalism once and for all. But this was not for the benefit of the public, it was for the benefit of themselves.

Arguably (or not) the most potent weapon in any war is “psychological operations” (psyops), i.e., propagation of propaganda as a means to control the minds of the citizens and turn them against one’s enemies. No organization/nation/party can survive long without the support of the people. Therefore, to achieve this end, the conservatives needed a seemingly legitimate propaganda network. Thus was born Fox News and a radio/television nation seeded with right wing, talking-head think-alikes.

Why did this work so well in America? First, it began in the days of pre-Internet, so it was more difficult to ferret out the real truth. Then the message was peppered with emotional words and phrases like “family values,” and “communist liberals,” and “Nazis,” and “patriot,” and “Second Amendment,” and “the liberals have expelled God from our schools and are coming for your guns and Bibles.”

Liberals, unfortunately, were very slow to pick up on this. The conservatives were talking to the nation, but effectively, liberals were not. Thus the conservatives controlled the message.

No conservative voter I have debated has ever noticed the difference in the messages coming from their political camp and that of the liberal, and they have denied it when pointed out. Where the liberals concentrate on policy, the conservatives concentrate on demonization of the left–mostly personal attacks against the person and the person’s family. It actually works.

Few people noticed when the main thrust of conservative politics became less about policy and more about party-wide, unified, personal attacks, misinformation, and concentrated, emotion generating rhetoric. Hate speech! Now, thanks to Newt, et al, it is now the very foundation of conservative politics. Rarely will you hear a conservative politician speak on a policy without a personal attack against the president, designed to spike emotions. It is their deceitful modus operandi–method of operation. One need not present an alternative policy; just a demonization of the enemy and his policies.

So, again, why do conservative psyops continue to work with all the information now available? It works because it is emotional and it works because far too many voters simply do not vet the information (it’s on Fox News, to it must be fact). And it works, too, because of the apparent legitimate “reports” coming out of conservative, corporate funded think-tanks that are accepted as authoritative by the corporate media.

The end-game: The United States is in a precipitous slid into oligarchy (note, in the graph below, the ever widening income gap between the wealthy and the working class).

Image

The United States already is a corporatocracy. Few things will get done in DC without Wall Street’s approval, and they continue to see record profits while the working class virtually flat-lines. With a corporate Supreme Court and multinational corporations (loyal to no flag) mainly funding the conservatives, I see no means of recovery at anytime in the near future.

 

 

GITMO: An Enduring Symbol of Conservative Shame and Dishonor

I have written much about the meaning of empathy and benevolent reciprocity. This entry is about what these concepts are not.

Guantanamo Bay prison Camp (Gitmo), located at the southern tip of Cuba, is a major source of frustration for me. The Bush Administration brought deep shame to the U.S. with their Gulag Archipelago of torture camps–torture of suspected terrorists, many of whom were completely innocent, having been the victims of the U.S. policy of handsomely paying “snitches” to finger people with terrorist links. Quite obviously, many thusly accused were those with whom the “informer” had a personal grudge and had no connection to terrorism at all.They were well paid simply to get rid of someone they didn’t like. Quite a temptation, wouldn’t you think?

Image from Salon.com

Image: Salon.com

Today, with 154 untried prisoners in perpetual political limbo, Gitmo still stands as a black symbol to our shame. Conservatives blocked President Obama’s two attempts to close the camp. On his first day in office, the president signed an Executive Order to shut down the camp and try the prisoners in the U.S. The conservatives squealed like angered chimps, leaped about, shook branches, and then blocked funding for the shutdown and transfer. This inhuman action has continued, along with fighting and blocking other policies and legislation, and it is all with pointed political purpose—to make the president appear to have broken his promises, turn the voters away from him, and thereby regain power. For the conservatives, it’s all about politics and power.

Patriotism is defined, in part, as devotion to one’s country, especially the ideals set by its founders. George Washington, for example, after capturing 1,000 Hessians at the Battle of Trenton, ordered that they be treated with the same rights for which our young nation was fighting. After the Battle of Princeton, Washington wrote of the prisoners; “Treat them with humanity, and let them have no reason to Complain of our Copying the brutal example of the British Army in their treatment of our unfortunate brethren…. Provide everything necessary for them on the road.” 

By continuing to honor this concept of kind treatment for our enemy prisoners, we gained the moral high ground around the world. We were highly respected for this, and a few other nations soon followed. We were leading by example! This is why, in the closing days of WWII, German troops went out of their way to surrender to U.S. troops instead of the Russians.

Will conservatives in this nation ever wake up and realize that their “leaders” are not patriots and certainly are not honorable men, but turncoats to the values that made our nation great? Will the conservative base ever be able to put themselves in the place of an innocent prisoner, tortured and held for life without trial? Think about it. What a living hell it must be. Where is the humanity? Where is the empathy? Where is our honor?


— Max T. Furr is author of The Empathy Imperative, a philosophical novel based on the epic struggle between religion and science, and brings the true nature of justice, mercy, and love into sharp focus.  What sort of world would a truly benevolent god have created?

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