It’s funny because I did not pay any attention to politics whatsoever back when I was in high school or even early in college really, but in retrospect, you could actually see the change fairly quickly after ’96. Popular rock music went from Soundgarden and Rage Against the Machine to Limp Bizkit and Kid Rock. Gangsta rap gave way bling rap. Country music turned into pop country. All of a sudden wealth worship reality shows featuring brain dead celebutantes like Paris Hilton started popping up everywhere. The message was resoundingly clear: “Aren’t rich people great?” Clearly the executives of these wealthy corporations didn’t like the part where you actually had to have some sort of talent to be famous. Shouldn’t people be famous simply for being rich, they asked? Sadly, the unwitting Sixpackers and Stripmallers agreed, having no idea this concept was in all actuality being forcefully jammed down their throats by the exact people who benefit from it the most. They’re the predators, we’re the prey. So when you see Hollywood liberals get super upset about the Trump presidency, don’t let them act like there isn’t blood on their hands. They sold America a bunch of wealth worship-y faux reality TV hollow calories and oh shit, now we literally have a wealth worship reality show president. You decided to exploit the worst in people rather than bringing out the best because it turned a greater short term profit. Then it backfired on you quite spectacularly, like it always does, like it always will. Hope your mansion was worth it. A Donald Trump presidency isn’t just a triumph of racism, sexism, nationalism, and homophobia, it’s also an enormous triumph for the over the top anti-intellectualism these media companies have been selling America for years.
But culture aside, the first time media deregulation really bit us in the ass was the Iraq war. What do you mean? Well, I mean that when we went to war with Iraq, a majority of Americans actually supported the thing even though it made exactly no sense. Why? They believed that Saddam Hussein had something to do with 9/11. It would have required the Wall Street controlled media machine to inform them that nope, Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein were in reality, sworn enemies. The media apparatus didn’t bother to tell them this, because they stood to make a ton of scratch from the war. You’d think, maybe the supposedly “liberal media” would have pointed out that there was a pretty good reason we knew that Iraq wasn’t a threat to us in any way, and that reason had to do with the UN imposing sanctions and heavily monitoring them after the first Iraq war. They were the one country in the middle east that we officially knew WASN’T a threat but the media made only minor attempts to inform the public of this fact. You had to dig for it on like page 12 of your newspaper (also owned by these same companies).
Here’s a fictional corporate boardroom conversation I imagine took place at some point in the late 90’s:
“Hey man, how was your trip to that affiliate station outside Biloxi?”
“Duuuude, have you ever been there? Holy shit are these people stupid and easily manipulated. I went to an evangelical church service. You could convince these dumbass hicks of anything if you play on their basest fears. Absolutely anything. No, I mean, they believe that everyone who shares their faith is going to vanish into thin air in some sort of weirdo apocalypse while the rest of us are left behind to fend for ourselves. We can fuck over their futures because they quite literally don’t even believe their futures are even going to happen. Their preachers have already done the work for us.”
“No way, do you think we could consistently manipulate them to vote against their own self interests and start a for profit war?”
“Oh man, absolutely no fucking problem. It’ll almost be too easy!”
Here’s another fictional conversation I wholeheartedly imagine happened in a Koch brother’s corporate office shortly after the election in 2008:
“Wow, these big city liberals have exactly no clue how racist rural America actually is, if we intentionally ramp up this racism because of the country’s first black president, we can yet again convince them to continue to vote against their own self interests, even though it just became quite glaringly apparent that we fucked them over with Bush. These people are almost preternaturally dumb and increasingly miserable.”
“Shit, great call. We’ll make them more racist than ever and they’ll do anything we want”.
And fast forward to today. Our politicians collectively said, yep, billionaires should be able to spend however much of their money they want spreading toxic hate fueled propaganda, and they unsurprisingly did precisely that. They intentionally amped up racism in America with the Tea Party because it bolstered their short term profit margins, and now it officially blew up in all of our faces.
I’ve mentioned this before, but when right wing politicians go around talking about cutting social services for our country’s most vulnerable, it would be up to the media to point out that these social services only make up like 1% of the budget, while military spending at this point represents by some estimates, more than 50%. I’ve on occasion watched both the liberal and the right wing media. This is almost never pointed out as far as I can tell, just like it was almost never pointed out that Saddam Hussein had absolutely nothing to do with 9/11.
Media coverage is now based solely on ratings. Trump got the best ratings because he was click bait gold and because of that, Trump then won the presidency (on the electoral college technicality of course). Did the mainstream media ever really point out that there is exactly no doubt that he’s a compulsive lying dullard and not even a very good businessman (fact)? Not really. You had to dig for that info just like you had to dig for the fact that his Dad was arrested at a fucking KKK rally. You had to dig for that info just like you had to dig for the info that his entire proposed economic policy involves completely fucking over the vast majority of the poor people in rural America who voted for him. There was very little talk about policy in this election cycle. Policy is boring. Not good for the ratings. Politics have officially turned into the Jerry Springer show because it puts up numbers. Fine work. Of course, this is why we had shit like the Fairness Doctrine and a regulated FCC in the first place.
Also, don’t get me wrong, media deregulation is just one example of how corporate deregulation has screwed us. We deregulated the pharmaceutical industry (mainly under Bush), now we’ve got a new heroin epidemic in rural America thanks to Oxycontin. Could it have been prevented? Yep. How about the meth epidemic? Yep, could have stopped that and you know what? A former Drug Czar did in fact try to stop it by changing pseudoephedrine’s over the counter status and setting limitations on how much one person could buy at a time, but was conveniently shut down by big pharma greed. Great Job!
So, as much as I loved David Wong’s piece, let’s not pretend that people in rural America’s lifestyle is just dying naturally. We’ve been actively killing it for years by psychologically preying on the country’s most vulnerable and convincing them to vote against themselves, which they just did again…resoundingly. The predators are certainly going to feast under president Trump. There used to be regulations in place to prevent this sort of thing, but we gutted those regulations. One of the things I loved about Wong’s article is that it ended with the point that he’s from rural America and he’s going to have to hug the exact people who voted for Trump this Thanksgiving.
This hits a bit close to home for me. My parents, on both sides, come from liberal California families in the Bay Area. Both my mom and dad went to Berkeley during the 60’s for Christ sake. But my mom isn’t all there mentally and my parents split up when I was maybe 3 and divorced when I was 5. She’s about as vulnerable as vulnerable gets. You know those: “you can totally get rich buying real estate even if you’re poor” scams that Donald Trump is literally being sued for running next month? My mom’s fallen for those. That’s part of where half my college fund went and why I had to pay for most of it myself. My mom moved out of Seattle to a military town in Trump country over a decade ago. It’s only an hour ferry ride away from downtown Seattle, but it might as well be a different universe.
Despite being a life-long liberal, in the last few years she started dating a dude who seemed nice enough at first, but upon further inspection turned out to be a virulent racist. He’s almost a classic parody of an alt right conspiracy theory creep. Everything’s the Jews fault in that guy’s world and he sure hates the blacks. It took us several years to even realize this I might point out, but guess what? The disease has now infected my own mother. The woman who took me to all black Boys and Girls clubs as a kid and used to have a framed Susan B. Anthony plaque on her wall now forwards me pro Trump e-mails. So, on Christmas when I go over to visit, I’m going to have to sit there listening to her new boyfriend loudly spit vile nonsense at my wife and I while I try my best not to drink myself into oblivion to keep my own sanity. While I’m doing so, what I have to keep telling myself over and over again is this: he’s just an extremely lonely, broke old man with no real family of his own who’s been intentionally ramped up by an unchecked propaganda machine that’s preyed off his misery and driven him hatefully crazy. Him having someone visit who’ll actually pretend like they’re listening to his batshit alt right conspiracy nonsense will probably be the high point of his entire holiday season. Every time we visit he excessively guilt trips us for not coming over more often. I cried a little bit just writing that.
I’ll leave you with this fun infographic, and keep in mind, this info is from 2011. It’s only gotten worse since then: