Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Fear is a Poison of the Mind

100702-N-5148B-012.SAN DIEGO (July 2, 2010) Service members salute the U.S. flag aboard the USS Midway Museum during a military naturalization ceremony. Service members from all branches of the military from more than 50 countries became U.S. citizens. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Sarah E. Bitter/Released).
So when I think about the Republican Party and its brand, a few people come to mind. Mitch McConnell, John Boehner, Paul Ryan, Eric Cantor and a number of others. By and large I believe these men sit in relatively safe Republican zones, are pressured by Republican goals but are not outright in the Tea Party Crazy camp at all times, at least not like an Allen West or Michelle Bachmann. 

This is different from the Republican Media, which consists of individuals such as Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Bill O'Reilly, Tucker Carlson, Michelle Malkin. These are individuals not so much concerned with policy as they are with courting numbers, which required pandering to Tea Party Crazy at all times because it's an easy target for revenue.

They're two different things and, while it's easy to laugh at how they're currently working against each other, it's causing real problems in politics for anyone with a remotely progressive view toward anything.

Because in reality, I sort of think both Boehner and McConnell would like to make at least a few deals work with Obama. They're politicians whose rhetoric, while still stupid, does not flirt with the extremism demonstrated by a number of others that have to court the Tea Party in order to maintain their office. These are men who can afford to compromise at least to a limited degree without having to worry if they'll have jobs next year. We hear stories about Boehner arguing behind closed doors against the crazier elements of his camp, which I believe, because I do think he wants a positive brand on the Republicans, while the Tea Party Crazy just wants extremist purity. I'm not saying I agree with them on everything, or even most things, but just feel that if not for the current political environment they'd be more open to working with Democrats.

That political climate, though, is being generated by the Republican Media, which has very different objectives from the Republican Party. Members of the party, primarily, want to be reelected as well as increase their elected numbers, including the taking of the presidency. The Republican Media, on the other hand, could care less about whether or not they get officials elected. Sure, it's nice, and they'll always be able to count on a Republican presence in office, but the current times presents a prime media opportunity for Republican celebrities. They get to feed off of fear and paranoia, increase their revenues, and maybe a few Republicans get along the way. That third point, though, is actually inconsequential.

The Republican Media, after all, wants profits more than elections. It's why they're represented by fear mongering and paranoia at all levels of its media, from its online presence, twitter, blogs and websites, to its personal mouthpiece in Fox News. What would life be like for a Republican media member who didn't use hyperbole and fear inducing rhetoric to generate numbers for themselves? Why, look no further than Tucker Carlson. Salon has a great piece on his downward momentum, falling from an at least somewhat thoughtful writer, to an arguing loudmouth on Crossfire, to an online media leader for Republicans. It's that last part that's interesting, though. The Daily Caller, according to Salon, at least initially attempted fair coverage of its topics. His traffic was dismal, so his response? Do just like everyone else was doing and spread fear, paranoia and tell Republican footsoldiers how scary the world was. As Salon points out, any attempts at integrity was abandoned for numbers by, essentially, lying.

Let's not act as if this is something new. Fox News does it. Michelle Malkin does it. Hannity does it. And Bill O'Reilly is famous for screaming down anyone he disagrees with, or misrepresenting their position. And what's the end game for these media members? It's not more Republicans in office. In fact, too many would probably be bad for the Republican media. It would send a signal that the world is actually conservative enough that people don't have to be so afraid, and fear is the primary means by which they generate traffic. I'm convinced that, if they did control Congress, the Republica media would immediately begin spinning even scarier stories of how terrorists, Iran, Russia, China and Korea were all gunning for the U.S. The more frightened the population, the more views on Republican websites and views on Republican television.

That's not the situation at the moment, though. At the moment, there's plenty for conservatives to be fearful of, from a Kenyan immigrant in the White House, to the plot to bring a hundred million Muslims into America. Because there's so much to fear, it means that the U.S. has to constantly be on guard, and the Democrats are too weak to defend it. In turn this means more Republicans need to be in office, and not just any Republican, but pure Republicans willing to stand up for whatever it is conservatives believe America truly is.

That's all well and good, and maybe even worth a laugh when you consider it's tearing the Republican Party apart. Electable members of the Republican party are being tossed aside for its 'purest' and actually, craziest elements, leading to defeats such as what we saw with Allen West, Todd Akin and almost Michelle Bachmann.

However, as we witness the atrophying of the Republican party, the immediate, negative consequence is that we have to wait as the logjam in Congress continues to pile up. The Republican Party is getting what its media wants, purity members that won't compromise with weak Democrats, and in turn leading to a Congress that can accomplish nothing. The root of that inability to get anything done is fear, illogical, unconfrontable fear generated in the minds of people who seek Republican media in order to confirm what a terrible world we live in, and who seek defenders that won't compromise. An inability to compromise, to assess a situation and change course, isn't fear, however. It's intelligence. It's the knowledge that situations change. Compromise is not always a bad thing, especially when it generates a positive way forward. We've criticized Democrats of doing that too much, and I agree, but it's a consequence of wanting to do something at the very least. As it stands, Republicans want to do nothing, which is a symbol among them of their strength. Unfortunately, it leads to the withering of the Republican in the meantime, even as their numbers dwindle.

Am I encouraged by the silliness engaged by conservatives at the moment? In the long run, maybe. Continual demonstrations of craziness threaten their party and brand, a goal their media doesn't mind because it keeps lining their pockets. For now, in this moment, though, it means we bear witness to ongoing suffering as people receive little to no help from the government, which is stuck in a do-nothing position.

As a young man, I read a book, as I'm sure many Democrats and Republicans have, called 1984. I took away a few lessons from that I think are always good to keep in mind. There may, or may not be, external threats. There are definitely forces at work in the world that work against the interests of this country. However, unmitigated fear among a country's population is the worst poison to progress. It makes us suspicious and hateful of our own. It focuses the attention of a people outward, to external places, instead of focusing on what can be fixed within. That's not even just a public policy lesson, that's an individual lesson. Inside each of us we must address our fears and prejudices in hope of contributing to a national dialogue. We have to look here, within our country, accepting that the world isn't entirely safe, but also believing in our ability to come together and solve the problems that are plaguing one another.

As long as we continually are ruled by fear, of our own insecurities, of one another, of people abroad, we can't make intelligent choices. Fear forces us to withdraw, to look out only for ourselves, to our own security, to wish ourselves the best while not looking out for anyone else. We have to be bolder, more courageous. We have to have the courage to say we will support one another, to vote for programs that support the least, even when it comes at a small cost to ourselves. These principles, these notions of self sacrifice, of charity, these are the inspiring things that move man beyond his base fears. It's a damned shame that there's an entire brand of media that's perpetuated by generating fear among a large segment of the population, and one so selfish it doesn't care that it halts the progress of society as it does so.

I can only end with the words of Dean Koontz, who most immediately sums up my position:
“Fear is a poison produced by the mind, and courage is the antidote stored always ready in the soul.”

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