In case anybody neglected to attend their State Fair this summer, here’s a little taste of the great american freakshow…
George W. famously joked that we are a country of haves and have-mores. A rare moment of honesty to be sure, but a lie of omission nonetheless: he left out the have-nots and, increasingly, the half-nuts. The poor dupes in the video above all think Big Guvmint is coming to take their precious crumbs away. Most of these people live on the ass rim of the economic spectrum. Yet when presented with a reform effort that could actually do them some good, they lose their damn minds. To quote the Boss: “end up like a dog that’s been beat too much, til you spend half your life just a-covering up”. Matt Taibbi calls it the “peasant mentality” (from a post that I have surely linked to before). At the time he wrote this the corporate masters were trying to cajole these people into opposing executive compensation limits, but opposition to health care reform is the more natural vehicle for their vicious, self-denying ways:
After all, the reason the winger crowd can’t find a way to be coherently angry right now is because this country has no healthy avenues for genuine populist outrage. It never has. The setup always goes the other way: when the excesses of business interests and their political proteges in Washington leave the regular guy broke and screwed, the response is always for the lower and middle classes to split down the middle and find reasons to get pissed off not at their greedy bosses but at each other. That’s why even people like Beck’s audience, who I’d wager are mostly lower-income people, can’t imagine themselves protesting against the Wall Street barons who in actuality are the ones who fucked them over. Beck pointedly compared the AIG protesters to Bolsheviks: “[The Communists] basically said ‘Eat the rich, they did this to you, get ‘em, kill ‘em!’” He then said the AIG and G20 protesters were identical: “It’s a different style, but the sentiments are exactly the same: Find ‘em, get ‘em, kill ‘em!’” Beck has an audience that’s been trained that the rich are not appropriate targets for anger, unless of course they’re Hollywood liberals, or George Soros, or in some other way linked to some acceptable class of villain, to liberals, immigrants, atheists, etc. — Ted Turner, say, married to Jane Fonda.
But actual rich people can’t ever be the target. It’s a classic peasant mentality: going into fits of groveling and bowing whenever the master’s carriage rides by, then fuming against the Turks in Crimea or the Jews in the Pale or whoever after spending fifteen hard hours in the fields. You know you’re a peasant when you worship the very people who are right now, this minute, conning you and taking your shit. Whatever the master does, you’re on board. When you get frisky, he sticks a big cross in the middle of your village, and you spend the rest of your life praying to it with big googly eyes. Or he puts out newspapers full of innuendo about this or that faraway group and you immediately salute and rush off to join the hate squad. A good peasant is loyal, simpleminded, and full of misdirected anger. And that’s what we’ve got now, a lot of misdirected anger searching around for a non-target to mis-punish… can’t be mad at AIG, can’t be mad at Citi or Goldman Sachs. The real villains have to be the anti-AIG protesters! After all, those people earned those bonuses! If ever there was a textbook case of peasant thinking, it’s struggling middle-class Americans burned up in defense of taxpayer-funded bonuses to millionaires. It’s really weird stuff. And bound to get weirder, I imagine, as this crisis gets worse and more complicated.
And because my Daily Links have been hijacked by some paintballing virus, I will go ahead and link to this groovy Q & A with Douglas Rushkoff which I heartily recommend, talking about the historical roots of corporatism. (I predict Thom Hartmann fans will approve). The discussion is not about the half-nuts per se, but their participation in the corporate-media-consumofest is implicit. Read the whole thing, I say!