Tuesday, January 20, 2004

Fred Reed does it again. You need to read this column. I guess that link will only work until he posts a new message there, so I'll post the whole thing below.

Aside from a couple of textual glitches and yet another mislabeling of the U.S. as a democracy (I'm pretty sure Fred knows better; maybe he's playing to the crowd?), this is right on the money. Here is an illusion-free assessment of our current status.

Take it away, Fred Fred Bo Bed Banana-fana Fo Fed Fee Fie Mo Med.

----------------------------------------

Faking It

A Brief Textbook Of American Democracy
Monday, January 19, 2004

While the United States is freer and more democratic than many
countries, it
is not, I think, either as free or as democratic as we are expected to
believe, and becomes rapidly less so. Indeed we seem to be specialists
in
maintaining the appearance without having the substance. Regarding the
techniques of which, a few thoughts:

(1) Free speech does not exist in America. We all know what we can’t say
and
about whom we can’t say it.

(2) A democracy run by two barely distinguishable parties is not in fact
a
democracy.

A parliamentary democracy allows expression of a range of points of
view: A
ecological candidate may be elected, along with a communist, a
racial-separatist, and a libertarian. These will make sure their ideas
are
at least heard. By contrast, the two-party system prevents expression of
any
ideas the two parties agree to suppress. How much open discussion do you
hear during presidential elections of, for example, race, immigration,
abortion, gun control, and the continuing abolition of Christianity?
These
are the issues most important to most people, yet are quashed.

The elections do however allow do allow the public a sense of
participation
while having the political importance of the Superbowl.

(3) Large jurisdictions discourage autonomy. If, say, educational policy
were set in small jurisdictions, such as towns or counties, you could
buttonhole the mayor and have a reasonable prospect of influencing your
children’s schools. If policy is set at the level of the state, then to
change it you have to quit your job, marshal a vast campaign costing a
fortune, and organize committees in dozens of towns. It isn’t practical.
In
America, local jurisdictions set taxes on real estate and determine
parking
policy. Everything of importance is decided remotely.

(4) Huge unresponsive bureaucracies somewhere else serve as political
flywheels, insulating elected officials from the whims of the populace.
Try
calling the Department of Education from Wyoming. Its employees are
anonymous, salaried, unaccountable, can’t be fired, and don’t care about
you. Many more of them than you might believe are affirmative-action
hires
and probably can’t spell Wyoming. You cannot influence them in the
slightest. Yet they influence you.

(5) For our increasingly centralized and arbitrary government, the
elimination of potentially competitive centers of power has been, and
is,
crucial. This is one reason for the aforementioned defanging of the
churches: The faithful recognize a power above that of the state, which
they
might choose to obey instead of Washington. The Catholic Church in
particular, with its inherent organization, was once powerful. It has
been
brought to heel.

Similarly the elimination of states’ rights, now practically complete,
put
paid to another potential source of opposition. Industry, in the days of
J.
P. Morgan politically potent, has been tamed by regulation and federal
contracts. The military in the United States has never been politically
active. The government becomes the only game available.

(6) Paradoxically, increasing the power of groups who cannot threaten
the
government strengthens the government: They serve as counterbalances to
those who might challenge the central authority. For example, the white
and
male-dominated culture of the United States, while not embodied in an
identifiable organization, for some time remained strong. The
encouragement
of dissension by empowerment of blacks, feminists, and homosexuals, and
the
importing of inassimilable minorities, weakens what was once the
cultural
mainstream.

(7) The apparent government isn’t the real government. The real power in
America resides in what George Will once called the “permanent political
class,” of which the formal government is a subset. It consists of the
professoriate, journalists, politicians, revolving appointees,
high-level
bureaucrats and so on who slosh in and out of formal power. Most are
unelected, believe the same things, and share a lack of respect for
views
other than their own.

It is they, to continue the example of education, who write the
textbooks
your children use, determine how history will be rewritten, and set
academic
standards—all without the least regard for you. You can do nothing about
it.

(8) The US government consists of five branches which are, in rough
order of
importance, the Supreme Court, the media, the presidency, the
bureaucracy,
and Congress.

The function of the Supreme Court, which is both unanswerable and
unaccountable, is to impose things that the congress fears to touch.
That
is, it establishes programs desired by the ruling political class which
could not possibly be democratically enacted. While formally a judicial
organ, the Court is in reality our Ministry of Culture and Morals. It
determines policy regarding racial integration, abortion, pornography,
immigration, the practice of religion, which groups receive special
privilege, and what forms of speech shall be punished.

(9) The media have two governmental purposes. The first is to prevent
discussion and, to the extent possible, knowledge of taboo subjects. The
second is to inculcate by endless indirection the values and beliefs of
the
permanent political class. Thus for example racial atrocities committed
by
whites against blacks are widely reported, while those committed by
blacks
against whites are concealed. Most people know this at least dimly. Few
know
the degree of management of information.

(10) Control of television conveys control of the society. It is magic.
This
is such a truism that we do not always see how true it is. The box is
ubiquitous and inescapable. It babbles at us in bars and restaurants, in
living rooms and on long flights. It is the national babysitter. For
hours a
day most Americans watch it.

Perhaps the key to cultural control is that people can’t not watch a
screen.
It is probably true that stupid people would not watch intelligent
television, but it is certainly true that intelligent people will watch
stupid television. Any television, it seems, is preferable to no
television.
As people read less, the lobotomy box acquires semi-exclusive rights to
their minds.

Television doesn’t tell people what to do. It shows them. People can
resist
admonition. But if they see something happening over and over, month
after
month, if they see the same values approvingly portrayed, they will
adopt
both behavior and values. It takes years, but it works. To be sure it
works,
we put our children in front of the screen from infancy.

(11) Finally, people do not want freedom. They want comfort, two hundred
channels on the cable, sex, drugs, rock-and-roll, an easy job and an
SUV. No
country with really elaborate home-theater has ever risen in revolt. An
awful lot of people secretly like being told what to do. We would
probably
be happier with a king.

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