Occupy Protests Obama & Democrats

I think I’ve been wasting my time with a troll, but I always like to give people the benefit of the doubt. Some people are unintentionally misinformed. So, I treat people as if they actually care about facts and reality until they prove otherwise. The person in question goes by the name Thomas Harbit and here is what he wrote to me in the comment section of the local Iowa City newspaper:

“I follow what Occupy does, or doesnt do in the case of pretty much going hands off with Obama.  OKAY, lets just use your “logic.” By your logic, these occupiers SHOULD BE confronting Obama at the WH(it’s where he lives and/or operates) and should have the occupy people in Hawaii doing the same.  ALL I EXPECT from a “movement,” that allegedly wants to get rid of corporate and political greed/corruption, is to apply their activities even handedly sir. And your “movement,” has failed miserably at this.”

Another commenter, Skeet Newman, decided to lend support to his fellow troll, partisan hack, ignoramus or whatever properly describes this kind of person:

“We both know that protesters are not actively camping out at the WH or in Hawaii to protest Obama.”

I have such a respect for truth and such a desire for self-education that such people truly boggle my mind. I spent a few minutes of websearching. In that brief perusal, I came across hundreds of news reports and videos disproving these anti-Occupy claims.

The following links, in fact, just came from the first pages of results, quite a few from the very first page of results (based on three different searches combining the terms ‘occupy’ and ‘protest’ with either ‘white house’, ‘obama’ or ‘hawaii’; but some of the results I found were also about protests in Iowa, including against Obama’s campaign offices here); and, on those pages, all of the results I noticed were relevant, although most were just different sources reporting on the same events (sources included both mainstream and alternative, both national and local, both conservative and liberal).

The links below include Occupy protests of Washington DC including the White House, protests in Hawaii including Obama’s residence and the APEC summit, protests of fundraisers and speeches Obama attended, and protests of Obama’s campaign offices around the country. The links, however, are in no particular order other than those about Hawaii being at the end:

http://www.myfoxdc.com/dpp/news/dc/police-arrest-11-occupy-dc-protesters-outside-white-house-122011

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QTfcGAIggXs

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Occupy_Wall_Street#The_White_House

http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-250_162-57350023/occupy-protesters-arrested-at-paul-dems-hq/

http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2011/11/06/129455/thousands-surround-white-house.html

http://www.theblaze.com/stories/occupy-protesters-set-up-camp-outside-obama-campaign-hq-in-iowa/

http://www.americanindependent.com/207607/occupy-tampa-protest-obama-national-defense-authorization-act

http://obrag.org/?p=51405

http://www.nbcwashington.com/news/local/Congressman-Asks-Why-Occupy-Protesters-Allowed-to-Camp-at-McPherson-Square-135538653.html

http://www.mediaite.com/tv/president-obama-heckled-by-occupy-protesters-during-new-hampshire-speech/

http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/11/30/occupy-protesters-mobilize-for-obamas-visit/

http://irregulartimes.com/index.php/archives/2011/12/30/iowa-occupy-protesters-demand-obama-end-links-with-wall-street-and-homeland-insecurity/

http://www.commentarymagazine.com/2011/12/01/occupiers-protest-obama-fundraiser/

http://motherjones.com/mojo/2011/12/occupy-protesters-arrested-iowa-democratic-party-headquarters

http://politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com/2011/12/17/occupy-protesters-rally-at-obamas-headquarters-in-iowa/

http://articles.boston.com/2011-12-18/news/30531896_1_obama-campaign-spokesman-activists-campaign-offices

http://www.wmnf.org/news_stories/occupy-tampa-protests-at-obama-campaigns-ybor-office-calling-for-veto-of-defense-spending-bill

http://content.usatoday.com/communities/theoval/post/2011/11/singer-sneaks-occupy-protest-into-obama-summit/1

http://hpulamalama.com/occupy_wall_street.php

http://my.hsj.org/Schools/Newspaper/tabid/100/view/frontpage/articleid/480499/newspaperid/4859/Small_but_worthy_Occupy_movement_gains_momentum_in_Hawaii.aspx

http://www.kitv.com/r-video/29499148/detail.html

http://www.mauinews.com/page/content.detail/id/555093/Police-arrest-Occupy-Honolulu-protesters.html?nav=5031

http://www.deoccupyhonolulu.org/apps/calendar/showEvent?calID=5999930&eventID=162776408

http://nation.foxnews.com/rep-nancy-pelosi/2011/12/30/occupy-hawaii-island-movement-plans-protest-near-pelosis-posh-hawaiian-hotel

http://www.democracynow.org/2011/11/14/occupy_honolulu_hawaiian_musician_makana_performs

http://www.hawaiinewsnow.com/story/16417412/occupy-protesters-pushed-out-of-thomas-square

http://www.hawaii247.com/2011/12/30/occupy-groups-protesting-at-kukio-dec-31/

http://www.radiohc.cu/ing/news/world/3681-occupy-activists-protest-apec-summit-in-hawaii.html

http://www.bet.com/news/national/2011/12/19/occupy-protestors-target-obama-campaign-offices.html

Investigations On WMD Lies That Led To Iraq War

That rant was quite satisfying. I’ve noticed lately a lot of frustrated ranting from progressive liberals, specifically from people who aren’t known for their ranting. The guy in the above video is someone I regularly watch and I don’t recall ever having seen him gone off on a rant like that. Another example of this is Thom Hartmann which I made a longer post about:

https://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2011/02/16/life-is-stupid-humans-are-stupid/

I’ve grown tired of the weak sauce moderate centrists that have taken over the Democratic Party. Bill Clinton and Barack Obama seem like nice people. I respect them as far as my respect goes for most professional politicians of the moderate centrist variety, but I don’t respect them as liberals and for damned sure I don’t respect them as progressives… because they are neither.

I’d love to see Washington politics filled with passionate defenders of progressive liberalism. People like Bernie Sanders, Anthony Weiner, and Alan Grayson. I don’t care if I entirely agree with everything these people say and do. I just want people who have strong convictions that they are willing to fight for. I don’t want professional politicians who only care about maintaining their power by maintaining the status quo, who only care about advancing their careers.

I want a functioning democracy where citizens have real influence. I want civic participation like never seen before. I want people angry and out in the streets.

I know I’m part of the problem. Like most Americans, I’m apathetic and cynical. But, at least, I’m not ignorant. I know what is going on and I know I don’t like it. I want to live in a society where everyone matters, not just the rich and powerful. I want to live in a society where justice and fairness matters.

I don’t want to live in a society where the powerful get away with lying to the public, get away with blatant corruption, get away with war crimes. Is that too much to ask for? I don’t know. I too often feel isolated in caring about any of this. The media seems to intentionally isolate us. The mainstream media personalities usually just distract us from anything of consequence. When someone in the media actually says something true and says it with passion (which usually only happens in the alternative media), I feel part of myself wake up from apathy.

I want all of society to wake up. I was reading a book about the Populist Era where a person of that time was quoted. The person spoke of it in the terms of a whole generation waking up to the corruption as if the flames of the Holy Spirit brought forth a revival across the land. It’s amazing to read about that time. People were content and apathetic… and then all of a sudden they were fighting for a whole new vision of society. What wakes up a generation like that? What is the event that finally pushes people just too far and it somehow becomes collectively determined that they can’t, won’t take it anymore? How do people go from feeling like powerless individuals to feeling like a collective force to be reckoned with?

– – –

I was looking through my books about the Populist Era, but I couldn’t find the exact quote I was thinking of. Instead, I found a couple of passages from one book that describe clearly what was going on at the time.

Rebirth of a Nation
by Jackson Lears

Location 2964:

…had demonstrated what insurgents could do by connecting monetary reform to a wide range of egalitarian and anti-monopoly policies. They could challenge the notion that government was a private (white) men’s club; they could widen the public sphere by creating common ground among the indebted classes, linking farmers and laborers, even blacks and whites. Of course these alliances were shaky and easily toppled. But they provided political outsiders—people who had never imagined themselves acting effectually in public—with a glimpse of what an insurgency could do. As the historian Lawrence Goodwyn has argued, this was a crucial moment in the creation of a “movement culture”: a mass of insurgents becoming visible (to themselves and others) as political actors for the first time.

Farther west, the Farmers’ Alliances had embarked on a similar project. The organization began in Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Kansas as a counterforce to the feelings of isolation and impotence that enveloped the countryside in the 1880s. Dividing into Northern and Southern Alliances, the farmers nevertheless soon began to see themselves as part of a huge and effectual national movement—and not merely another interest group scuffling for narrow gain.

Location 3035:

Indeed, Kansas was one of the states where the Farmers’ Alliance began to take on the characteristics of a regenerative mass movement—described by various observers as “a pentecost of politics,” “a religious revival,” and “a crusade.” Along with stump speeches by Macune and other orators, Farmers’ Alliance meetings featured long parades of wagons stretching for miles, decorated with evergreens to symbolize the “living issues” of the Alliance rather than the dead tariffs and bloody shirts of the existing two-party system. The plain people could see themselves acting politically en masse. In Kansas as elsewhere, farmers fired up by the experience of participatory democracy began to take matters into their own hands. The insurgent culture produced insurgent politics. In Harper County, Kansas, the Alliance demanded stricter usury laws; in Brown County they protested “the extortions of the binding twine trust” and proceeded “at once to the erection of a co-operative manufactory for binding twine.” This was how a democratic social movement was born.

Still, the Alliance had to overcome the power of regional and racial mistrust. Little more than twenty years earlier, Midwesterners and Southerners had been killing each other at Fredericksburg and Chickamauga. Old resentments died hard, as Garrison understood when he recommended the bloody shirt to Republican orators. At the same time, the two regions’ shared evangelical ethos began to acquire greater strength and political significance, bringing old antagonists together on common cultural terrain.

Battle In Seattle: A Personal Response

I just watched the film Battle In Seattle.

I don’t have any grand opinion about it’s quality as entertainment. It isn’t great art, but it did hold my attention. More importantly, it’s about as close as Hollywood usually ever comes to even slightly grasping the reality of a major grassroots protest… which isn’t necessarily saying a lot. It is worthy in how it gives one some idea of what it might feel like to be at such an event. But, of course, it inevitably leaves out a lot of context and substance. It’s only a movie, afterall. In order to have any real understanding, you would’ve had to been there and have read tons of material about it.

I realize many people criticize the film because of its failings, but I’m annoyed by people who criticize it with an attitude of superiority. It’s just a fucking movie. Anyway, it introduces a lot of people to an event that they would otherwise be ignorant about. It might even inspire some people do some research to learn something new.

Anyway, here is one scene that caught my attention:

Sam: “How do you stop those who stop at nothing?”

Jay: “You don’t stop.”

You could say that it’s just cheesy dialogue (“The conversations are made up of clichés or slogans.”), but that misses the point. Cheese or not, it is still true. That is the 64 million dollar question. I feel that question gnawing at my mind (not the exact wording, but the sentiment of the question). It’s always there. The character realizes that those with power control everything including the media. This protest was before the rise of the internet as we now know it. The average person couldn’t easily put videos on the web and have it go viral. Still, even with the internet today, most people feel just as powerless. The mainstream media only reports what is in the interest of the corporations that own the media.

Why did the protests fail? Was it because of the violence? No. If it had been completely peaceful, it would have had even less impact and would now be forgotten. It wasn’t a complete failure. The problem is the media won’t pay attention until they are forced to pay attention. Even when they are forced, they will still just spin the story. Seattle didn’t succeed for the simple reason it was only one protest. Imagine, however, if protests like that had been going on in every major city around the US and around the world all at the same time.

But that wasn’t the real reason I wanted to post about this movie. I was curious about the lines I quoted above and so did a websearch. I found two reviews which both portrayed different versions of an attitude of superiority.

The first reviewer is someone who apparently is an activist and he feels superior out of some sense of haughtiness. His review had two parts (here is the first part), but it was the second part that interested me where he has some minor commentary on the above scene. His commentary lacks any deep insight and so I won’t quote it, just wanted to point it out as an example. The author seemed to be expressing garden variety cynicism… and was looking down upon mere mortals who might enjoy this movie as an introduction to a major event in US history. I guess he is too cool for any movie made for the masses.

The second reviewer annoyed me even more and I will quote the relevant section below. Basically, the reviewer was entirely ignorant of this major event despite his working in the media at the time. He acts nonchalant, maybe even slightly proud, about his own ignorance. And then he blames the movie for not lessening his ignorance (considering the degree of his ignorance, that is probably expecting too much out of a movie based on a complex event).

The funny thing about this real-life incident is that I was alive and well and conscious and even working at a newspaper in 1999, and yet I have no memory of it whatsoever. I’m guessing I read the news stories, saw “World Trade Organization,” had no idea what that was or why people were protesting it, and stopped reading before I got to the good part, i.e., the part where cops were busting hippie skulls.

The film is kind of terrible. It makes almost no effort to explain the protesters’ grievances against the WTO, instead assuming that we will be on their side regardless. One of the characters even makes a joke about how the general public doesn’t know what the WTO is; all they know is that it’s bad. So, OK, ha ha, interesting comment, but it kinda undermines the WHOLE POINT OF YOUR MOVIE.

Also undermining the movie: the terrible, terrible dialogue. I quote some of the more generic examples:

“The press would have a field day!”

HE: “You know nothing about me!”
SHE: “I’ve been around men like you all my life.”

(Spoken to a pregnant woman.) “You want adventure? You just signed up for the greatest adventure of all!”

“You’re gonna turn downtown into a war zone!”

“How do you stop those who stop at nothing?”

So … yeah. “Battle in Seattle.” The minute I saw this film, I knew it was poo.

I’ve noticed there are many other films about the WTO protests in Seattle:

Showdown In Seattle

This Is What Democracy Looks Like

I noticed that some people highly recommend them, but I haven’t watched them. So, I can’t say anything about them, much less compare them to the Battle In Seattle. But let me end with someone defending the relevance of the Battle In Seattle (emphasis mine):

The issue that Battle in Seattle filmmaker Stuart Townsend seeks to raise, as he recently stated, is “[what it takes] to create real and meaningful change.”

The question is notoriously difficult. In the film, characters like Martin Henderson’s Jay, a veteran environmental campaigner driven by a tragedy experienced on a past logging campaign, and Michelle Rodriguez’s Lou, a hard-bitten animal rights activist, debate the effectiveness of protest. Even as they take to Seattle’s streets, staring down armor-clad cops (Woody Harrelson, Channing Tatum) commanded by a tormented and indecisive mayor (Ray Liotta), they wonder whether their actions can have an impact.

Generally speaking, the response of many Americans is to dismiss protests out of hand-arguing that demonstrators are just blowing off steam and won’t make a difference. But if any case can be held as a counter-example, Seattle is it.

The 1999 mobilization against the World Trade Organization has never been free from criticism. As Andre 3000’s character in the movie quips, even the label “Battle in Seattle” makes the protests sound less like a serious political event and more “like a Monster Truck show.” While the demonstrations were still playing out and police were busy arresting some 600 people, New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman issued his now-famous edict stating that deluded activists were just “looking for their 1960s fix.” This type of disregard has continued with the release of the film. A review in the Seattle Weekly dismissively asked, “Remind me again what those demonstrations against the WTO actually accomplished.”

While cynicism comes cheap, those concerned about global poverty, sweatshop labor, outsourced jobs, and threats to the environment can witness remarkable changes on the international scene. Today, trade talks at the WTO are in shambles, sister institutions such as the World Bank and International Monetary Fund are now shriveled versions of their once-imposing selves, and the ideology of neoliberal corporate globalization is under intense fire, with mainstream economists defecting from its ranks and entire regions such as Latin America in outright revolt. As global justice advocates have long argued, the forces that created these changes “did not start in Seattle.” Yet few trade observers would deny that the week of protest late in the last millennium marked a critical turning point.

Republicans Support Big Government… just as long as Republicans are in power

This post relates to the post right before this one (Tea Party: prejudiced against marginalized groups?).

It’s not that these conservatives don’t trust government. What they trust is government when it serves their own interests and the interests of capitalism. But not when government serves the interests of the underprivileged working class. And not when government serves the average American by regulating the excesses of Wall Street.

I remember a media person (probably Cenk Uygur) commenting that the only time bipartisanship happens is when Democrats agree with Republicans. However, the only principle Republicans stand by is that they refuse to cooperate in almost any bipartisan effort. This data seems to support that in that it shows that Democrats are the only party willing to be fair in both support and criticism.

(As an interesting side note, I just heard reported of a poll that appears to show Tea Party supporters have more favorable ratings of George W. Bush and the Republican party than even those who fully identify as Republicans. That seems to fit into this data since the problems the Tea Party complains about mostly began under Bush’s administration: Wall Street dishonesty, economic downturn, bank bailouts, trampling on Constitutional rights including the seizing of legally owned guns in Washington, DC.)

My favorite comment to the above video:

FirstAmongNerds Wayne’s claim that the government is as much to blame for this catastrophe as Wall Street is like claiming police are as much to blame for rape as rapists. “That rapist might have raped me, but the police consciously assisted by not being in the vicinity by chance at the time of the rape.” The government did a terrible job regulating Wall Street, but the moral onus lies with Wall Street to not intentionally fuck over their investors.

http://firedoglake.com/2010/04/19/new-pew-poll-republicans-only-skeptical-of-government-when-democrats-are-in-charge/

Look at those numbers. Democrats are about as trusting of Barack Obama’s administration (33%) than they were of Ronald Reagan’s (34%). Compare that to Republicans, who are supposedly wary of government, out of principle. Nope. When there’s a guy with an “R” next to his name at 1600 Pennsylvania, they just completely toss that out the window.

What’s going on here?

One, Republicans are simply more authoritarian than Democrats. For all their talk about individual liberty and personal freedom, they’re ready and eager to goose-step behind whatever Republican Daddy figure that comes along. Think back at the cottage industry of sickeningly fawning books about Bush during his first term and you get the picture. This is why right-wingers saw black helicopters in the skies when Clinton was President, but cheered on every egregious executive overreach — from domestic spying to torture — when Bush was at the helm.

Paraphrasing Truman, Republicans have leaders and Democrats have bosses.

It’s also pretty self-evident from these results that a Democratic President trying to appeal to Republican (or Teabagger) voters is completely wasting his time. So Barack Obama can escalate in Afghanistan and cut taxes and he’s still considered a communist pacifist by the right.

Finally, look at the steady decline of trust in government among Independents. That’s the result of 30+ years of “government is the problem” Reaganism. The Democrats and Barack Obama must make an affirmative case for government or this trend will continue.

The party of “government sucks — vote for us” is still winning the messaging war.

http://people-press.org/report/606/trust-in-government

First, there is considerable evidence that distrust of government is strongly connected to how people feel about the overall state of the nation. […] The recent downward trend in trust in government began in the fall of 2008, when public satisfaction plunged amid the financial crisis. […]

A second element is presidential politics. Trust in government is typically higher among members of the party that controls the White House than among members of the “out” party. However, Republicans’ views of government change more dramatically, depending on which party holds power, than do Democrats’. Republicans are more trusting of government when the GOP holds power than Democrats are when the Democrats are in charge. […]

A third factor is that a particular subgroup of independents, who are financially pressed, chronically distrustful of government and who typically lean to the Republican Party, appears to be especially angry today. Pew political typology surveys in the past have labeled these individuals as “disaffecteds.” This group may explain, in part, why at least as many Republican-leaning independents (37%) as conservative Republicans (32%) say they are angry with the government. And identical percentages of Republican-leaning independents and conservative Republicans (53% each) say they agree with the Tea Party movement.

Finally, record discontent with Congress – and dim views of elected officials generally – have poisoned the well for trust in the federal government. Undoubtedly, this has contributed to growing discontent with government even among groups who are generally more positive about it, such as Democrats. […]

A desire for smaller government is particularly evident since Barack Obama took office. In four surveys over the past year, about half have consistently said they would rather have a smaller government with fewer services, while about 40% have consistently preferred a bigger government providing more services. In October 2008, shortly before the presidential election the public was evenly divided on this issue (42% smaller government, 43% bigger government). […]

While the public is wary of too much government involvement with the economy, it suspends that concern when it comes to stricter regulation of major financial companies. A clear majority (61%) says it is a good idea for the government to more strictly regulate the way major financial companies do business, which is virtually unchanged from last April (60%).

TAX DAY TEA PARTY 2010

There are all kinds of real issues to worry about. Why do these people complain about paranoid conspiracies and absurd notions of socialism?

These are the same people who deny global warming science because they believe scientists are evil liars working for the liberal one world government. These are the same people who deny Darwinian science because they believe God created the world. Is it easier and more comforting to live one’s life according to baseless fantasies?

Political Jiu Jitsu

I liked the last point made in the video below.

Various corporations, media & political groups are constantly trying to control the narrative. The narrative that would be most financially beneficial to powerful corporations is that of voter apathy & disenfranchisement. Riling people up & then misdirecting them away from real problems inevitably leads to a sense of helplessness. If this is repeated enough, the entire lower class develops an attitude of learned helplessness where they just give up entirely.

Combine this with the slow destruction of the middle class then you a combination punch. In the US, the middle class always aspired to be part of the upper class. This aspiration has caused many Americans to identify with the wealthy class. We like to watch rich people live their lives on tv and the middle class will fight for tax cuts for the rich (even though it personally harms their own class). Instead, middle class anger gets directed at the working class (i.e., worker unions), the working class anger gets directed at the poor, and the poor class anger gets directed at everyone who is at the very bottom (welfare receipients, homelesss, immigrants, etc).

My Criticisms: Liberals vs Conservatives

I can be quite opinionated… as anyone knows who knows me.  I’m not shy about my opinions most of the time.  But my opinions are ususally nuanced and I don’t tend to shove them in people’s faces.  I’m open to listening to the opinions of others.

On the other hand, I can be outright aggressive in stating some of my opinions.  Some statements seem so obviously true based on the facts that I find irritating anyone who denies them… which isn’t to say my opinion is black and white even in those extreme cases.

I don’t try to hide my liberal bias.  Part of my liberal preferences are just my personality and some are based on research I’ve done.  I can’t help but be who I am and so my inborn liberal tendencies do cause me to be a bit unfair in my assessments at times.  Usually, though, my desire to be fair and reasonable wins out.

My liberal bias particularly shows when I’m talking about certain topics related to conservatism.  I don’t like Fox News, Roger Ailes, Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin, George W. Bush, Karl Rove, etc.  I don’t like them not simply because they’re conservatives, but because they represent the worst of conservatism, the worst of mainstream, the worst of human nature in general… and I’ve written many blog posts with examples and data to back up this conclusion.  That said, I’m not therefore promoting Democrats as a better solution to what ails the world. 

Yes, Fox News is propaganda, Roger Ailes is a Republican operative, and Glenn Beck is a political hack… then again, I don’t generally trust any mainstream media.  I find other mainstream news sources less annoying, but I never let my guard down when checking out the news.  My annoyance with Fox News is that it’s slogan is “Fair and Balanced” which is an obvious lie.  The other mainstream news outlets don’t make such ostentatious claims.  No news source is fair and balanced… which doesn’t mean that reporters shouldn’t strive towards this ideal.

Anyways, I prefer alternative news sources because you have a better sense of seeing what you get and getting what you see.  In mainstream media, any story has gone through numerous layers of people who decide what to approve, who decide how to present it, and who edit it down.  The final product often is closer to fiction than reality.  In the alternative media, there is less funding and so there are less layers between you and the information… and, if there is a bias, it tends to be more obvious.

In the political realm, yes, George W. Bush was one of the worst presidents that we’ve ever had and yes Karl Rove was a sinister mastermind… then again I don’t generally trust any mainstream politician.  I pick on the Republicans partly just because their evil behavior can be just more blatantly obvious (the Patriot Act being a prime example.  When Bush told a lie or was trying to obfuscate, it was obvious because he lacked (or maybe just pretended to lack) political slickness.  Some liked Bush because he appeared to have no pretense and just said things as he believed.  Assuming that is true, a lie blatantly told annoys me all the more because it insults my intelligence.  The way Bush acted seemed to me like a child pretending to be a grownup, a child playing at some game… ya know, the whole Texas cowboy act or his wearing a flight suit.  Whatever game Bush was playing, he wanted us all to play along and just ignore the man behind the curtain (ahem, Karl Rove).

I don’t assume that Obama doesn’t lie or that his policies are entirely motivated by some higher moral sensibility.  However, Obama does seem to take the moral authority of his position seriously.  He is just another Washington politician, but at least he makes his lies sound pretty and he inspires us in the process.  Ultimately, I doubt the end result of Obama’s presidency will be much different than the end reult of Bush’s presidency.  I’m of the opinion that presidents have a lot less power than we like to think.  Politics is just politics.  The politics we typically see in the media is just a show and there are people behind the scenes pulling the strings.  But, with Obama, for a brief moment I can suspend my disbelief and let myself be carried away by the rhetoric.  If we must have evil politics, it might as well be entertaining and uplifting.

So, am I being unfair to conservatives?  If most of the mainstream media is propaganda and if most Washington politicians are evil, then why spend more time complaining about one side or another?  I know I’m being biased in my liberal preferences, but I do complain about both sides even if my complaints about one side tend to be stated more strongly and more often. 

The reaon for this is partly just my response to conservatives and mainstream culture in general.  When Bush lied, why didn’t the mainstream media question the administration and do real investigative journalism?  Why did the American public buy into it hook, line and sinker?  Why do many conservatives still believe the lies?  When Obama lies (or simply doesn’t live up to his promises), everyone is all over it.. the media obsesses over it, the rightwingers attack him, and the leftwingers complain that he isn’t progressive enough.  Why did Bush get a free pas so often?  Because of 9/11?  Because he was a “War President”?  Is Obama not a “War President”?  Bush campaigned on bipartisanship and then acted entirely partisan when in office, and what was the response?  There was a public call for national unity and Democrats bowed to his every wish and command.  Obama campaigned on bipartisanship and then sought bipartisanship in office, and what was the response?  There was Fox News attack-fest and the Republicans went into obstructionist mode.

When I look at what goes for mainstream liberalism, it seems fairly moderate.  There are, of course, the polls that show most Americans favor a moderate form of progressivism, but that isn’t entirely what I mean by this.  Obama seeks bipartisanship and his actions seem to be pretty much a carryover from Bush.  Obama is a progressive in words only.  Obama is just a politician.  The so-called liberal media bias is only liberal in that it supports a liberal status quo.  Mainstream America is slightly liberal and the media reflects that and shapes it to an extent, but there aren’t any flaming communists or populist progressives in the mainstream media.  Social liberalism is just the natural tendency of modern society.  Democratic and capitalistic idealism tends lead towards social liberalism.  It isn’t any scheme of the “liberal elite”.

On the other hand, when I look at mainstream conservatism, it’s been moving towards more extreme manifestations.  Maybe this is just the fundamentalist response to modernism as many have pointed out (e.g., Karen Armstrong).  Ever since taking up the Southern Strategy, conservatives have been fighting against the liberalizing elements of modern society.  They do succeed to an extent in obstructing and in riling up populist anger, but they seem to be fighting against the very nature of our society.  Some conservatives try to explain their failure by claiming Republicans such as Bush have moved away from true conservatism.  That is fair as far as it goes, but true conservatism hasn’t been allowed within the GOP for a very long time.  What I consider true conservatism are the “live and let live” libertarians.  The people who don’t want other people trying to control their lives and tell them what to do… whether it’s big government, big business, or big religion.  Despite what they may think, the moral conservatives aren’t the true conservatives.  The desire to control public morality inevitably leads to big government and the oppression of civil rights.

Maybe liberals have strayed just as far from true liberalism… I don’t know.  I guess that I tend to emphasize social liberalism which oddly can at times be fairly in line with true conservatism.  I think of social liberalism as being true liberalism.  From my perspective, true conservatism and true liberalism have more in common than either have to their mainstream equivalents.  The mainstream equivalents do talk the talk (Republicans call for smaller government and Democrats call for progressive change), but they don’t walk the walk.  I’m more forgiving towards the Democrats in that they seem closer in their ideology to the actual emerging public opinion.  Republicans too often just complain about the world, and their attempt to portray their complaint as populist is unfounded.

My ultimate bias towards liberalism isn’t in liberal ideology itself but in the overall liberal attitude.  I’m an intellectual liberal which isn’t necessarily the same thing as a political liberal.  However, there seems more similarity between the two than not.  Mainstream liberals seem on average to be more intellectually respectable than mainstream conservatives.  You can find intellectual liberalism within the conservative movement.  Buckley attempted to make conservatism more intellectually respectable, but Bush was definitely the intellectual bottom of the barrel.  Nowadays, within the conservative movement, the best examples of intellectual liberalism probably can be found among the libertarians.  The problem is that the intellectually liberal libertarians recently haven’t had a place at the GOP table.  Instead, the anti-intellectuals have become the loudest voices of the conservative movement.  That bugs me more than anything.

I’m fine with someone calling Keith Olbermann a ranting pundit if they so wish, but Olbermann isn’t merely the leftwing equivalent of Glenn Beck.  Unlike Beck, Olbermann isn’t an anti-intellectual.  Even the more intellectual conservatives on Fox News such as Bill O’Reilly don’t seem all that impressively intellectual.  I haven’t come across a popular rightwing equivalent of Noam Chomsky, for instance.  I’m not saying that all conservatives are stupid, but I am saying the smart conservatives tend not to be as popular within the mainstream conservative movement.

So, if more conservatives were willing to embrace intellectuality instead of moral righteousness, then I’d be a lot less critical of the conservative movement.  My complaint isn’t against conservatism as a general category.  True conservatism, in fact, seems quite appealing to me.  I wish more conservatives would think for themselves.  I see the Tea Party being promoted by the Republican Fox News and being taken over by the Republican agenda.  I’d love to see a true conservative protest movement.  When liberals protested the Iraq War, no media outlet promoted the movement and the protest remained independent of mainstream politics.  During Bush’s reign, you had to look to the Peace Protests in order to find the true conservative outcasts.  But, now in Obama’s reign, it seems true liberals have less of an outcast status.

Liberals seem more willing to embrace difference and self-criticism.  If there had been as many conservative critics of Bush as there are now liberal critics of Obama, then we might’ve been able to avoid at least some of the mess we now find ourselves in.  I’m critical of conservatives lack of criticalness (and by criticalness I don’t mean calling Democrats names), but maybe it’s just not in the nature of conservatives to be self-critical.

Mediating Your Own Reality

Saturday Night Live: High School Muical 4

Troy Bolton: “I’m here to talk about what happens after you leave East High.  Here’s the deal.  No one sings at college.  And from what I can tell this is America’s only singing high school.  I was as shocked as you are.  Let me tell you how my first day went.  I was nervous but excited.  So, I started singing a song called ‘nervous but excited’.  People just stared at me.  There was zero choreography.  Zero!”

 

That dance video is a publicity stunt (i.e, guerrilla communication used for marketing), but it’s become a viral video.  I think people like the idea that people in normal life could just start dancing together.  The next two videos are musical numbers that some people did which aren’t publicity stunts.  It’s just some people who wanted to dance and/or sing in front of an unsuspecting audience (the first video is by Improv Everywhere which is a very active group).

Here is an interview with Ryan Mackey about staging a guerilla musical.

All of this relates to flash mobs (and the more general smart mob; also related subjects – rave culture, subway party, mobile clubbingwifipicning and tempoary autonomous zones).  The basic idea originated before the internet with performance art and happenings, but new technology has brought such public activities to a new level.  Many flash mobs are just for fun.  Popular varieties of flash mobs include the flash mob bang, the pillow fight flash mob, the silent disco, and the time freeze.

But flash mobs do have practical application such as political demonstrations.  Even though political flash mobs have been used for a long time, technology has brought protesting to a new level.  The internet of course allows a flash mob to be publicized widely after the event, but more maybe importantly cellphones and twitter allows people to gather quickly and disperse again before authorities can interfere.  Also, it’s just an easy way to organize with minimal effort.  A flash mob could be organized well ahead of time, but it doesn’t need to be.  Just text or twitter some directions and those who aren’t busy can convene on the same location.  Here is an example of a political flash mob.

This reminds me of tactical frivolity and tactical media.  An example of the latter would be the Merry Pranksters who were the first culture jamming activists to gain mainstream media attention.  As for a contemporary example, the Yes Men have become well known for their media pranks.  It’s amazing how much the Yes Men can get away with.  I feel sorry for the audience/victims of their comedic activism.  The next video is one of their stunts and I find it quite impressive how straight-faced they can act while making an absurd presentation.  The video after that is an interview with one of the members of Yes Men.

Street art and art intervention comes in many forms and serves many purposes.  I like subvertizing, but I must say that yarn bombing and guerrilla gardening are quite amusing.

The space between media and everyday life has become very small.  On a more serious note, I once read an analysis of contemporary media where the author pointed out that the O.J. Simpson chase was one of the first national events in the U.S. where the public realized they were a part of a media event (the first live feed of a car chase was, according to this article,  in 1992).  People watched it live on tv and then went outside to watch it.  The people waved at the news helicopters (there were at least 7 of them) as it passed knowing they were being broadcast to the world.

This interactive aspect of media has become a normal part of reality.  News reporting often depends on the cellphone videos of people who happened to be on the scene and news agencies watch twitter closely to discover breaking news.  News is whatever is happening now and with the internet the news spreads very quickly (here is an article that discusses the tabloid nature of media sensationalism which ‘reports’ the news before it’s even been officially released).

This demand for immediacy disallows analysis or even vetting of sources.  News reporters are constantly swamped by new information that they want to be the first to report and so this is why they are easily fooled by hoaxers (here is an example involving major networks).  Groups like the Yes Men are able to accomplish their pranks because of how the internet has levelled the playing field.  It’s hard to tell an official website from a hoax website because outwardly they may look exactly like and no one has the time to look at every website in detail, no one has the time to research every single claimed fact.  Truly convincing hoaxes are rare.  People tend to trust sources that appear legitimate and it’s easy to miss details such as a single letter being off in the url.

It all comes down to control.  Those in authority, of course, want to be in control.  However, new media technology offers much opportunity for the average person to regain some control.  We’re saturated with media, but people are no longer content with one-way passively received reporting and advertising.  If you want to have a flash mob in the middle of your downtown, there is no way anyone can stop you.  If you want to express yourself through song and have choreographed dances at college, more power to you.