Letter to Gabe in LA
I’ve been keeping a kind of distanced view of the whole US election campaign with all its dirty tricks and blatant misrepresentations etc, mostly thru Tom Tomorrow, AlterNet and cartoonist Steve Bell in the Guardian etc. Nothing on the truly Hunter S Thompson scale of sheer addiction in ‘72. It’s like a storm in the distance, you only hear the occasional thunderclap here in Ireland. People are still flapping about the new inverted commas Socialist government in Spain. Even Australia is doing its bit for the “Alliance” that indirectly caused the attack by urging ‘Spain's newly elected Socialist Government not to pull its troops out of Iraq, saying such a move could be interpreted as a victory for terrorism.’ This is classic spin. This is the worst kind of US-toadying, and it begs going into the shambles that is the cause for war with Iraq, and frankly I don’t have time for that here.
But the sad thing about the year-long election process in the States (and this is by no means limited to the States alone) is that it’s all based on personality politics and PR and ad/advertorial slander of the most blatant kind. It’s the furthest thing from intelligent debate on real issues, from dialogue and concern and foresight; in essence, the furthest thing from participatory democracy. It’s more like conspiratorial mediation. Sorry to sound slightly excessive here, but it’s an extreme thing in itself, and I’m sure this is obvious to you guys already. How does one overhaul a system (from the primaries to the TV debates up) that is inherently flawed, skewed, bought-out and open to the biggest lobbyists and campaign contributors? Why wasn’t there more of a concerted push for election reform after the last election fiasco? Simply put, because I think the American system (in the broadest sense) is in nature a republican system. Compare the way Bill Clinton was hounded and George Bush never at all, even though he is a much riper candidate for proper investigative hounding. GWB is the least accountable president of all time I think. All those promises to fund the NY firefighters and then cut, all that flipflopping about the 9/11 investigation, flipflopping about everything else, I mean this is a scandal compared to the profits Boeing and Haliburton and Lockheed are raking in. This is the greatest obscenity of our age, an obscenity masquerading as spin. Like Redford says, listen to the speeches and substitute ‘Industrial interests’ for the ‘American people’. The people are being taken for a ride while on the surface they seem to be spoken for. Why isn't there more debate on the imminent militarisation of space, the revamp of the arms race, the dreadful state of American interventionism and diplomacy and corporate corruption and social and welfare inequality...
I think it sad to see how the concerted push for youth voting and voter awareness (even on MTV) is not offset with an effective range of voting options (and sadly Ralph Nader never was an option). Republican or Republican-lite as the saying goes; one person holding both puppets (Bill Hicks); or the general feeling of uselessness which many feel by not choosing to turn up. Sad how people’s best interests can be bent and abused by mediated rubbish. Something George Lakoff said about politics in America is pertinent: frames trump facts. No matter how pressing or significant the facts, if the frame of debate within which they are viewed is skewed, then you can forget the facts because people’s minds are constrained already (his example has to do with the perception of taxes as either a necessity or burden when it comes to election spin).
Further to the mediated/deliberate constraint of debate, as though the American public are condescendingly incapable of handling more than one or two issues per election, I hate the way it does always turn into a single election-winning issue. It looks like it’s gay marriage this time. And then watch the misrepresentation of American freedoms: if you support another’s right to self-determination and belief, then what gives you the right to say it’s a crime, or godless and worse, and change the constitution? It used to be race-baiting, and now it’s gay-baiting. How far we’ve travelled.
Spain sets a rather disturbing precedent: everyone’s saying how Bin Laden has now directly affected Western democracy (this in itself is a misrepresentation: the people voted against their government because of its speed in blaming ETA, and since 90% are against the war in Iraq which for them is the reason for the latest attack). I think this might be an indirect warning to the States for election times. Of course the Bush junta will take any attack on US interests or land as an excuse for martial law and worse excesses of intervention, cronyism and what have you. Like Thatcher in 83 or 84, turning a war into full re-election potential, and cutting off real debate in the progress (by becoming more authoritarian all along: see the way only one senator voted against the usa patriot act because he wanted time to READ it). This is the way it has always been, it seems. Bush I think will play it cosy for a while and wait for something nasty to come his way, then ride it all the way.
But, if even Howard Stern is against you, then surely you’ll have little chance of re-election. Right?
Don’t blame me, I voted for Kodos, as they say in space.