My last post on “Why aren’t more Americans more visibly angry?” drew a few responses.
Tameri says “I am totally pissed at where our country is right now … (but I) desperately want to believe that (politicians) genuinely have our best interests in mind when making decisions.” She concludes with “I’m pissed, but feel impotent to change anything. What would you suggest we do?”
Rissa points out that no one forced people to take out mortgages they couldn’t afford and then draw down equity to buy “a boat or some other expensive plaything… Where is the outrage at their part in crashing the economy?”
Valerie (garagesalefinder) posted a fairly punchy reply. She says “I believe quite the opposite of Tameri about our elected officials. I don’t believe most of the politicians have our best interests at heart. I believe they have their own self-interest in mind with the decisions they make.” She is upset at the influence of lobbyists and says about politicians, “for the most part, if you have enough money behind you, you can spend your way into office. That tends to make them susceptible to influence by rich lobbyists.” She adds, “I find it fascinating that nobody is protesting in Hollywood outside the studios where top actors make tens of millions of dollars for a few months of work. Or protesting outside stadiums where athletes are paid millions of dollars for playing games.”
Cheryl says, “Since the protesters [the occupy Wall Street groups] are standing up against the very corporations who have bought and paid for both sides of the government, through lobbying and political donations, they’re not likely to find much sympathy with the politically motivated media.” And she wants lobbyists and corporate funding of politicians outlawed.
Andrew asks why he should care about the distribution of wealth. “If you redistribute that wealth, what do we get?” (The figure of 1.5 trillion – Forbes estimate of the wealth of the top 400 in the US – were spread over 150 million people would be $10,000 per person. Not that such a redistribution is politically possible, even if a society could actually reach agreement on such a thing.
Where should a discussion like this go?
Let’s look at two problems my writers have identified.
It seems odd that Americans who are left-leaning believe the media are controlled by large companies (and hey, they don’t get any bigger than News Corporation) while those who are right-leaning believe that the ‘liberal media’ distort the news leftward. On the face of it it’s hard to imagine the media as a whole being left leaning. After all, if newspapers and television stations aren’t owned by large corporations, who are they owned by?
I lament the fact that what should be intelligent coverage and debate over national issues is trivialised and turned into entertainment, where professionally indignant shock jocks simply make provocative statements and then insult and talk over the top of listeners or viewers who disagree with them . The level of debate in politics in Australia is lamentable. Ten second sloganistic sound bites rule the media. And I don’t see much higher level of debate in Britain or the US. Sorry to anyone who feels offended at that.
If there is to be intelligent debate about issues, I suspect it has to take place on the internet, free from the domination of corporations that own the TV stations and newspapers. BUT, on the internet too much discussion about political issues just turns into personal abuse, with posters on many forums giving no sources for their alleged facts. Too many posts in blogs and websites turn into ‘you’re a socialist liberal communist / right wing repiglican asshole’ (or insert whatever insult the writer feels happy with.)
Somehow, some of us have to make a conscious effort to engage in debate without descending into personal abuse, and start to cite sources for our facts, and concede that there might be possible arguments against our own positions.
We need to recapture the notion that political debate is something more than name calling.
Perhaps the replies that resonate the most with me are Valerie’s and Cherly’s comments on lobbyists and money in politics. It seems that to make it thru a primary election season in the US a politician has to be independently wealthy, or get a lot of donations from large corporations. Five of Obama’s top 20 campaign donors in 2008 were Wall Street banks. (I didn’t know this until last month, but the information is easy to find once you google it. Look for the “opensecrets.org” website and the Centre for Responsive Politics” ) Somehow, those of us in democratic countries need to be pushing for laws that aren’t in the interests of the people who would need to enact them. That’s a tough ask.
But somehow a groundswell of public opinion needs to be created that says ‘NO, it is NOT OK for Goldman Sachs to donate $1 million to a political candidate.”
Any thoughts on how this can be done?