Thursday, September 14, 2006

Business as Usual

One of the reasons for the “news” media’s disconnect from reality is a subtle, but powerful factor that is not often noted—the almost universal assumption that what we’re seeing is part of the normal political process.

For example, if you watch “Washington Week” on PBS, or Lehrer’s “News Hour” (sources widely considered more intelligent than the news from the commercial networks), you will see pundits discussing in all earnestness the goings-on in our government just as if the politics and issues involved were part of an unbroken continuum with those of the past. Most importantly, the President is the President, and so all discussions about his doings and statements take place in the conventional tone of business as usual.

It would be unthinkable for the media to discuss the Bush government as a criminal operation. This possibility probably doesn’t come to mind for a pundit or newscaster, not even subliminally, for that would disturb business as usual, and require a response too risky to contemplate.

I maintain that in order to understand what has happened for the last six years, one must realize that the Bush administration is a criminal outfit. Not just criminal in the pejorative sense that one could apply to any administration since the dawn of the Cold War, but literally—criminals have usurped the political process and have actively subverted and continue to subvert our laws, deliberately breaking the law for their own gain, both home and abroad. Leaving aside the theft of elections (as if such a shameful violation of our basic right of suffrage could be actually left aside), even a cursory glance at White House actions since the 9/11 atrocities reveal a conscious and consistent pattern of lawlessness. An illegal war, suppression of civil liberties in the name of security, disappearances and torture, the outing of a CIA agent, warrantless spying—the list goes on and on. But in the eyes of the media, the narrative remains one of normalcy. It is a bitter fact that justice is being done only on the margins, by a commission of inquiry with no official sanction, and of course no attention whatsoever from the corporate media.

If the Mafia managed to elect someone to the White House, he would then be “the President” to all the media, with the aura of prestige that has come to be attached to that title. This is precisely the danger—the paradigm of “business as usual” paralyzes the mainstream discourse. Knowing this, the President can openly advocate crime, as he is doing now in his attempts to validate the torture and the NSA spying “program” through legislation, after the fact.

To fight back effectively, we need to let go of the “business as usual” paradigm and realize that we have an illegitimate criminal regime in the U.S. Only then do we gain the resolve to put up the kind of resistance needed to overcome the threat. A neofascist movement cannot be mollified or tamed through our rational discourse, although reasonable discourse is still essential for the rest of us. It must be inflexibly resisted, at every point, every time, and without remorse.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The business as usual description is very useful and might be the dominant thought-killing psychological mechanism at work.

America, up until a point well past when there's any remaining doubt as to the legitimacy of this regime, will continue to pretend it can't happen--that we can't elect a criminal government. The re-affirmation of the national myth of invulnerability, of American exceptionalism, is deeply ingrained and reflexive and unpermitting of dissent. There is no line to be crossed because no line can be admitted since doing so would violate the tautological law: whatever we do is ok, since we're America, and America only does what is within the bounds of democratic legitimacy.

There's another aspect of this that might be worth adding to this description of how it is we're able to tolerate what's going on.

Boundary testing: One could read the past 6 years as a continual testing on the part of Rove, et al., of the limits of political and public acceptance of its actions. The implicit tact here: push until the opposition is shocked at our audacity. Then, do it again. And again. Over time the unthinkable becomes normal, again and again. Push so far to the right that what was the reasonable opposition in the past is now too radical for the public to countenance. Wellstone was a solid liberal and progressive. In the present climate he would be an outright subversive.