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Yesterday, ever the Cassandra, I succeeded once again in accurately foreseeing the worst. Gianforte of Montana won.
The common explanation is that he won because most of the votes were cast before the Republican candidate assailed a "liberal" journalist. I suspect that the assault is precisely what put him over. Gianforte's voters, like Trump's, have no consistent ideas about policy or ideology: They have fetishized brutishness. They have become convinced that all liberals are devious demons who deserve only the ax and the chainsaw. Fucking reporter got what he fucking deserved.
, my friends, is fascism. At core, Fascism is neither libertarian nor Marxist; it is engineered proletarian rage-gasm
in the secret service of aristocracy, though the aristos may not be able to control what they've started.
I don’t know if Republicans broke American politics or if Republican politics is broken and endangering the whole political system, but it can’t be fixed so long as political elites can’t acknowledge or understand what the source of the failure is.
The fact that Republicans are defending Gianforte and conservative journalists piled on Jacobs isn’t confusing or an outgrowth of “broken politics,” but the inevitable consequence of virulent illiberalism in the American right.
On Thursday morning, the anti-Trump Republican strategist Rick Wilson wrote a bracing denunciation of those on the right who defended the assault of a reporter -- though one seemingly premised on the belief that the “cultural collapse of the GOP into the Trump Troll Party” might be reversed through reason. In truth, everything that’s happened in the past year or so has conditioned conservatives to believe they will face no consequences for poor or unprincipled behavior.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) on Friday appeared to joke about shooting reporters two days after a GOP House candidate in Montana was charged with assaulting a journalist.
Abbott showed off a target sheet to a group of reporters and photographers after signing a bill reducing licensing fees for handguns, according to the Texas Tribune’s Patrick Svitek.
“I’m gonna carry this around in case I see any reporters,” Abbott reportedly joked.
A commenter on Daily Kos (I didn't bookmark the link; sorry) accurately noted that much of Montana is a Limbaugh-only zone as far as the drive-time commute is concerned. Radio listeners have no real alternatives to the GOP party line. It's daily brainwashing in the absence of anyone to snap their fingers and say: "You're in a trance. Wake up!"
Democrats must understand that remaking political reality requires retaking the media. That task requires new
voices -- attractive personalities who won't make white rage-addicts feel belittled or under attack.
This job will take money. But money is only part of the problem: The real trick is finding the right way to talk to this audience. Those Montana morning commuters don't want to listen to a voice in the ether screeching "I hate you and I hate everyone like you." People want to be flattered, not insulted.
Unfortunately, many liberals refuse to understand that basic fact of human psychology. "I hate you" is the only message liberals really want to deliver to all of those pale-skinned red-state commuters who voted for Trump and then for Gianforte.
That's one reason why Air America failed. Any attempt to create a new Air America will probably fail just as hard.
So how do we counter the propaganda of the radio rightists?
There are two kinds of propaganda, the subtle and the anvilicious
. Both saw service during World War II, when Germans were forbidden on pain of death to listen to enemy radio broadcasts.
The Brits went for the subtle approach, creating what seemed to be ordinary German-language variety programs. Lots of songs, lots of jokes. These shows were carefully laced with news segments designed to underscore the leadership's failings and to convey a whiff (just
a whiff) of defeatism.
The Russians, by contrast, went for the thuddingly obvious approach, dropping anvil after anvil. They signal-jacked official broadcasts and insulted Der Fuehrer
in the harshest possible terms. Even during the official radio announcement of Hitler's death, a Russian heckler broke in and spewed venom.
(If memory serves, the actual broadcast is heard in Syberberg's film
After the war came the analysis: Which form of propaganda worked better? Surprisingly, the Russian approach proved more effective. The British attempt to seduce the audience with popular entertainment simply did not work very well.
Limbaugh and co. have heeded this lesson. For decades, they've been incessantly anvilicious on behalf of the avaricious. This approach has proven infernally effective.
Now, the anti-Trumpians have taken up the anvil. It's about goddamned time. Keith Olbermann might as well be renamed Keith Anvilman. Lawrence O'Donnell is almost as unsubtle.
Yet not enough. The "anvil" approach is working, but it will not suffice. It needs to be combined with other methods.
Despite the lessons learned from the UK and USSR variants of WWII propaganda, I think that the time has come to reconsider the British way of doing things -- to launch, as it were, a sneak attack. Let's face it: Those Montana commuters won't listen to Keith, even if someone were to place him on the air during drive-time. They're not chomping for Chomsky. They're not aching for Amy Goodman.
We need another type of radio programming, filled with non
-newsy things red staters might enjoy, might even consider addictive. I'm not sure what kind of programming would work best. Sports talk? Discussions of superhero movies? True crime? Bigfoot sightings? Maybe all of the above.
Whatever works. Whatever fetches ears.
Every half-hour or so, expose those ears to some news. Real
news. Non-Limbaugh news, non-AlexJonesian news, yet also non-mainstream news. Interesting stuff. Contrarian. Liberal-populist. The kind of news that most red-staters never hear. Neither CNN nor Infowars but something else altogether.
The Young Turks may have stumbled onto something close to the right approach to the news. I hate to make that admission, because their lapse into Bernieism was utterly infuriating. My point is that the news programming needs to be part of a larger package. A bright and attractive package. Something fun
Will this approach work? I don't know. But I can't think of any other way to inject a new type of thinking into the red states. Until we hit upon a way to reach these people, these fellow Americans, they will remain lost. They will be drowning souls at sea, swimming away from the shore because a voice in the air keeps telling them: "Whatever you do, don't go that
Our national discourse will continue to spiral and spiral deeper into unreason, until the spiral becomes a swastika. Pretty soon, any journalist asking impertinent questions of a far-right candidate will feel lucky
to walk away with bruises and broken glasses. Until reason is restored, our screaming society remain in the most vicious of circles, dazed, reeling, writhing in