Friday, January 20, 2012


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
                                                                        Bill Maher

            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.


Anne R. Allen said...

Wouldn't it be amazing if two comedians could restore democracy to this country? Citizens United was the worst decision ever. It's flooding the airwaves with negative TV ads NOBODY likes: left, right, or center. I heard that in SC, car dealers, supermarkets and other retailers can't even buy TV advertising because the SuperPacs have bought it all, and sales are hurting. This law benefits nobody but a handful of advertising executives. We have to free ourselves from the tyranny of our own marketing expertise, as Mr. Maher says.

Churadogs said...


Citizens United, by the "activist court") heh-heh -- is turning out to be a perfect example of the Law of Unintended Consequences. Republicans hailed the decision originally, no doubt thinking that the unlimited funds available, with NO restrictions, would benefit them and their corporate masters in their war against the evil Dems. Then, when Republican candidates started using those massive Super Pac war chests against one another . . . Ah, well now, that's a bear of a different color, isn't it?

Well, let's hope a couple of jokesters can make it clear to the clueless populace that evil the Corporate Oligarcic Emperor has unleashed is gonna turn on everyone, including the King and his minions. Time to Head for the hills! Or, better still, time to vote for"Move to Amend" so we can get this democracy-killing beast back in the cage.

Sandra Gore said...

I'm happy that the internet battle against SOPA and PIPA had some effect. It at least slowed the Senate down and got their attention. Just a little ray of light in the dark...

Churadogs said...

Sandra: The Internet(s) is one of those profoundly altering technologies/ideas/paradigm-shifters that change society in ways society can barely understand, let alone anticipate, so it contains vast amounts of "unintended consequences" and is a constant double-edged sword. Plus, it's like trying to understand and control fog. Just when you think you've got it settled into some box, it melts away and reforms somewhere else. That's why any laws trying to "regulate" it, whether by commercial interests or governments, is going to be very, very tricky. Box it up but then you turn around and it's leaked out and is now slithered over to some other place.

Herding cats, anyone?

Alon Perlman said...

As for the "Democracy of" the internet, it also excludes a silent majority, and a vocal minority. (Los Osos, Taylors come to mind). I'm sending all the money I don't have to Stephan Colbert's Mega-super-PAC "It's only Illegal if they send me a letter telling me so". Watching the Republican implosion is fun, but the outcome will be that the candidate visually reminding most people of Ronnie will win. So nobody wins. It's not stupidity per sae, it's the insane need to be "Comfortable", middle America isolationisem at it's worst.
Keep on keeping on, Chura.

Churadogs said...

Newt wins South Carolina, the evangelical, Christian "Family Values" state?? Comedy, for sure.

Alon Perlman said...

That was strange 40% to 26% if I remember right. Something sweet came out of S-C; Other than pulled pork vinager barbeque sauce. That "no clear frontrunner" should keep the furball rolling all the way to the election. What with them chewing on each other's tails. Too bad its a two party system, as "enshrined in the constitution". Meaning that when the Primary dust settles one of the sillies will graduate with an automatic A+. And (almost) all will be forgotten.
And there will be enough money spent in stage 2 to wipe out poverty (in the Carolinas at least). Do you think Ron Paul will pull a Perrot?

M said...

So I gather Republicans are the only party using this?
Sincerely, M

Churadogs said...

Alon: Ron Paul might have enough true believers on the ground to keep his campaign alive, so he just might pull some votes away, as Perot did. Right now, Romney's got the most money and the troops on the ground to continue this for a long time. Unless somebody give's Newt's PAC a huge infusion I don't think he'd be able to continue for long.

M: Please show me where, in my column, I identified PACS as being something only one political party is using? I mention Republican strategist, Frank Luntz, because he's the absolute master of the Big Lie game and Republicans (at least until the Tea Party) are so lock-step disciplined that once they lock onto those big lies, they stay on fake-message no matter how many facts come their way. They're far more disciplined in this strategy than Dems, which makes those Big Republican Lies far more effective than Big Democratic Lies.