Calhoun’s Can(n)on for January 20, 2012
The true axis of evil in America is the brilliance of our marketing combined with the stupidity of our people
Do you suppose Stephen Colbert will save America from itself? As a comedian/satirist playing a blowhard right wing pundit on TV, his latest stunt just might do the trick.
Months ago, Colbert sat with his attorney on air, discussed the unbridled, unfettered, astounding benefits and hilarious lack of rules or restraints of a political Super PAC and then, right there on air, started his own. And the money from his gleeful, in-on-the-joke fans poured in.
That was part one. Part two came a few days ago when his “Daily Show” compadre-in-comedy arrived, and with Colbert’s lawyer standing by with the papers all drawn up, he transferred control of his Super PAC to Jon Stewart. Then he announced that he was thinking about running for President of the United States of South Carolina.
After which he and Jon solemnly pledged that, of course, they would have NO COORDINATION between themselves as “candidate” and “Super PAC” administrator. Nossir. Absolutely no coordination since that would be . . . illegal. But, if Colbert discussed in great detail all of his campaign strategies on his TV show and Stewart just happened to tune in and took detailed notes and followed through with everything Colbert discussed, well, that wouldn’t constitute “coordination” under the law and would be perfectly legal, wink-nudge, wink-nudge. And in short order, spoofing “political” ads showed up on the South Carolina airwaves in time for the Republican primary election.
It was a perfectly delicious comic skit, with only one problem. Everything they were setting up was absolutely real and legal and already at work in the current presidential race. The Supreme Court has decreed that money is speech so there can be no limits on political money since it’s “speech,” and if it does not specifically mention a particular candidate (wink-nudge) there can be no limit on it. So, Super PACs, formed by often unknown people and groups funneling unlimited amounts of money to organizations with fake names, no accountability, and with no requirement to report either the amount or source of those donations, are now the real drivers of our political campaigns. Indeed, the amount of PAC money available to support a candidate is often two or three times the amount that’s in the candidate’s official campaign coffers.
It’s an oligarch’s wet dream. Rich individuals, corporations, unions, various affinity organizations, even foreign governments, are now effectively free to “buy” any candidate they want and win any political race they want. It’s all in the numbers.
For example, a well-funded PAC can buy/bid up all the print space and airtime in a specific district to tout their candidate, thereby forcing any opponents to make do with the few ad spaces left in some small local advertorial publications read by nobody. Strategically target Congressional districts and you can effectively pack Congress with your minions. Get a sufficient number of hand-picked Congresspersons beholden to you for their new, cushy jobs, and you’ll soon get legislation beneficial to your interests. All it takes is money. Which is speech. Which is free.
And it’s all perfectly legal.
The media savvy and political junkies are hip to what too many ordinary Americans apparently don’t understand: Control the narrative and you almost always control the outcome. If that means you falsify the narrative, then that’s what you do, since politics is no longer about educating and informing the voter, or competing with the best vision or policies; it’s about winning by any means necessary. And the voter too often goes along with the deception, even when the outcome will harm him or her in very real ways.
And that’s where PACs have their real power: Unlimited funds to hire the expertise needed to create those false narratives with no way to hold them to account. If voters thought the “death panels” lie was bad, they haven’t seen anything yet. Well-financed Big Lies can be half-way on their way to becoming Received Wisdom before Poor Truth can put on his shoes. It’ll be one multimillion-dollar Swift Boating campaign after another. It’s a good bet that pollster Frank Luntz, Republican political strategist/False Narrative meister extraordinaire, already has his clients all lined up. America, The Uninformed, The Badly Informed, The Falsely Informed is now up for sale to the highest bidder.
Unless a pair of comedians performing a piece of theatrical satire wake up enough voters who will ask: Is this any way to run a country? And do it before American democracy is put up on the auction block.