The Establishment Speaks

I noticed three opinion pieces at The Wall Street Journal. They were published over the past couple of weeks.

Trump, Sanders and the American Rebellion
by Peggy Noonan

Trump’s America
by Charles Murray

The Young and the Economically Clueless
by Daniel J. Arbess

They are fairly typical mainstream views. And all of the authors are fully part of the Establishment. These are the voices of the ruling elite. They speak with authority and are taken seriously in the mainstream. Each author attempts to explain those crazy commoners, the great unwashed masses.

These people are worldly, smart, and highly educated. They have worked and hobnobbed among the wealthiest and most powerful. They do understand much about what is going, far from being entirely clueless. They occasionally make valid points and they are capable of describing some of the major problems.

Yet they never venture far from the mainstream views that rationalize away the deeper challenges and justify the status quo. I have to wonder if they understand more than they let on. Are their opinion pieces a form of propaganda? They are telling the stories that those in power want to be told. It’s part of the attempt to control the narrative. But have they repeated their lies so many times that they’ve come to believe them? Or are they genuinely so disconnected from the experience of most people that they simply can’t comprehend?

These are people who have access to all kinds of info. They even can contact insiders. And, of course, they are part of the intelligentsia. They know how the world works, at least on the level of power and wealth. They know how the rulers think and they know how the system is designed. But I get the sense that average people are mostly just demographic numbers to them. Their focus is extremely narrow, lacking any larger context and deeper insight. They know intimately the world they are a part of, even as they know so little of what happens outside of that reality tunnel and echo chamber.

What is odd is that I sense that people like this don’t see themselves as insiders, as part of the Establishment. The way they talk makes them seem like neutral observers and disinterested analysts. Yet their lifestyles and careers are part of the problems they describe. They are expressing concern that the boat is taking on water, which is why the last thing they want to do is to rock the boat.

2 thoughts on “The Establishment Speaks

  1. I know Chomsky has gone on and on about this ad nauseum, but debate is restricted within defined limits – and as long as our media is either owned or populated with rich people who are part of the establishment – then ain’t nothin’ changin’.

    The internet is interesting though. Each year, with more and more people getting their news online, there’s a growing awareness of the limited focus of the mainstream media.

    At present (in the UK), more and more people are aware of the establishment bias of the BBC – once famed and rightly renowned for their impartiality and willingness to challenge government/power – but now sadly a propaganda wing of No.10 Downing Street. e.g. Presently our Conservative Government are attempting to dismantle our publically owned NHS. Our Doctors have been striking in protest of changes to working hours/contracts – based on bad science and bad politics. In any poll, 2/3 of the population supports the strikes. But routinely – in its main news broadcasts – the BBC only features critics of the strikes – not even giving voice to the majority who support it. I could go on and on – and don’t get me started on the coverage of the Scottish Indy Ref (I’ll only need a strong whisky and lie down)…

    Both the USofA and the UK are witnessing an interesting struggle for real democracy. We live in interesting times.

    • Yeah, Chomsky was at the back of my mind while writing this.

      There is something that I read recently that caught my attention. It was about Marx and how he saw even the wealthy as victims or products of the system. I’ve had that sense for a while, that the ruling elite have a lot less power and control than they think. They may be slightly bigger cogs in the machine, but sill just cogs. It might feel great being a bigger cog that makes all the smaller cogs go round. Still, it’s just a bunch of cogs, all the way up and all the way down.

      That is what most people don’t understand about propaganda. A better way of thinking about it is like how Mormons send young adults to proselytize. The main purpose is, in explaining their religion to strangers, these young Mormons end up convincing themselves. Psychological research has proven this is an effective method. Similarly, those who end up working in mainstream media, in politics, or similar career fields repeat certain narratives so often that they can’t help but come to believe them after a while.

      Marx had the idea that what we produce both produces the world we live in and produces who we are. Each generation goes on rebuilding the system they were born into and so in the process shapes the next generation that will do the same. A society is successful to the degree it can become self-contained and self-reinforcing. This requires that all that is outside of the system is assimilated, excluded, destroyed, or nullified. The two most successful models have been imperialism and neoliberalism.

      It seems to me that such things as this extend far beyond particular countries. The system and the Establishment is international at this point and has been so for a while. It doesn’t matter if it is the BBC or WSJ. They serve the same basic purpose, just two cogs among many in a vast machine. The internet does throw a monkey wrench into the works. But it’s not that the internet has exactly provided any viable alternatives that are capable of challenging the status quo and replacing it with something better. There needs to be some greater force of instability, such as climate change, before the new media could be used more effectively to redirect and organize the public. It’s a matter of time.

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