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The Long Sad History of American Anti-Radicalism and How It Affects Bernie Today

Robin Alexander

Posted on May 3, 2019 18:21

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As esteemed historian Howard Zinn points out, our system was designed to empower a white, male, land-owning, slave-holding elite (aka the oligarchy). Since then, every democratic advance has been fought and won by radicals: abolition, labor, civil rights. Radical ideas are never good for business. So, how do we get from the founding fathers, to American radicalism, to the recent CNN poll that has Biden ahead of Bernie by 24 points? It’s a long and treacherous journey, but we can go together.

In 1912, America had 70 socialist mayors in large cities, multiple socialist publications with respectable circulations, and Eugene Debbs received 6% of the vote as the Socialist Party of America presidential candidate. This was the culmination of lengthy and often violent struggles against the oligarchy for which many working men and women paid with their lives.

Enter WWI. Wilson had run on keeping America out. But if the French and British were defeated, they might not repay those hefty Wall Street loans. What to do, what to do? In the end, Wilson established a new mass propaganda machine. Never mind Wall Street, we had to save democracy.

(Sound familiar?)

The creation of the Committee for Public Information (aka the Creel Committee) churned out films, cartoons, speakers and news. It was partly, “repeat often and they’ll believe it.” The Committee also understood that people aren’t moved by facts or reason, but by the skillful manipulation of emotion.

(Sound familiar?)

In addition, Walter Lippmann further explains in Public Opinion (1922), "The real environment is altogether too big and too complex” for people to understand. Most need the world summarized for them by the well-informed. This became the role of mainstream media, itself influenced by the Committee.

And so, with these tools at hand, the Committee successfully seduced both the masses and most of the intellectual class (aka centrist liberals) to support the war. Manufacturing consent was born.

In his book, Manufacturing Consent, Noam Chomsky explains the propaganda model as it further developed:

·         Mass media outlets are corporations operating for profit and must cater to their owners’ financial interests.

·         Mass media outlets derive most of their income from advertising, making them beholden to those corporations, too.

·         Access to news sources by mainstream media vastly decreases the cost of generating news and keeps mainstream media lapping up the “official word.”

·         Editorial decisions, whether consciously or not, are made accordingly.

Another phenomenon appearing post-WWI, which promoted the rise of centrists over radicals: The dreaded Hun was replaced by the dreaded Red, and the psychosis of permanent war was safely ensconced. Once a society becomes obsessed with ferreting out internal and external enemies, radicals are easily imprisoned, deported or otherwise marginalized (perhaps in foreign lands).

(Sound familiar?)

Lesson: centrist liberal = incremental change = maintaining the status quo = what’s good for big business (aka the oligarchy). Hence, the pivotal role centrist liberals play: they assume a moral veneer, while complying with the established structure (hey, gay marriage isn’t bad for business). Just listen to today’s centrists and you’ll hear them enticing you into accepting less change whenever it does affect business.

Is it any wonder that CNN’s poll mostly left out millennials and Gen-Xers, the base of Bernie’s support, and included mostly over 65-year-olds? Biden’s way ahead they shout (not really); Biden has the best chance of winning they yell (also untrue).

Watch for this throughout the campaign season and try, if you are so inclined, not to consent.

Robin Alexander

Posted on May 3, 2019 18:21

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