Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Power of the Narrative

I want to talk about what I believe to be the great failure of Obama as president, and in fact the great failure of the Democratic party in the last sixty years.

The Republican party, starting in the years before World War I, has presented to the people   a consistent narrative about our country.  You know the details: less taxes for the rich mean more money for everyone; the "free market," i.e. big business, is best equipped to set the rules by which we have to live; regulations (that would be laws to protect ourselves from crimes committed by businesses) are illegitimate, although we have a perfect right to be as harsh as we want, to protect ourselves from crimes committed by ordinary people; government always does the wrong thing;  Democrats are weak pussies who can't be trusted to run the country, and on and on.  Yes, all of this is nothing but an immense mass of lies, but they have repeated it over and over again for a hundred years, and at this point they have succeeded in getting well over half of the country to buy into some part of it or other.  And at this point, the Republican party has a whole host of "think tanks," bought and paid for pundits, television news networks, newspapers and all of the rest of it, to push their line 24 hours a day.

What Obama could have done from the day he took office was to present a contrasting narrative, woven not from corporate lies, but from the truth.  In this narrative, the Iraq war was one of the greatest military blunders in history, and proceeded directly from Republican thinking.  The crash of 2008 was a product of cutting taxes on the rich and deregulation, just like the Republican depression of 1929.  Republicans care nothing about our troops, or they wouldn't send them off to die for nothing.  Republicans are doing everything they can to destroy Medicare and Social Security, so their backers can get their hands on the money.  Endorsing torture is the sign of a person who is as degraded as a child molester, and needs to be treated the same way.  People who fight against global warming initiatives are selling future generations into a nightmarish life, for no other reason than to generate short term profits for oil and coal companies.  Again, I could go on and on here- you know the rest of it, because you know the truth.

Sure, it's not likely that three years of openly telling the truth would crack the facade of deception so carefully crafted by decades of Republican lies, but we have to start somewhere, and until Democrats begin to tell a consistent and truthful narrative about how we got into the trouble we're facing, there is no chance on earth that we will survive as a free country.


Magpie said...

It would be really interesting if Obama was asked that question.
I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t disagree with your narrative, because it’s no less and no more than the truth, and he would know that.

Right-wing narratives are potent because they exploit the worst of human emotions – fear, hate, suspicion of informed opinion.
They don’t offer you a better future, but they do offer to pay lip service to God and guns. And if that’s the limit of your vision that that is what you will buy.
Effectively you don’t have to create a narrative – you just thread together all the nastily useful ones that are already out there, amplifying them with ‘think tanks’.

The temptation becomes to focus on deconstructing that. On telling people the truth.
All good but immediately you are playing the Right-wing at their game. Talking about their points.

On Christmas day I was at my sister’s place looking at pictures of her trip to the US. She and her husband were marvelling at all that was built during the New Deal. The scale on which America did stuff back then.
Infrastructure, employment and innovation all brought together to pull the country out of the Depression. Collectively one of the great wonders of the industrial age.
And my brother-in-law - who is not that political – said “there it is! That’s what they should do, instead of pouring money into wars on this and wars on that”.

There is ever one great truth of capitalism: you create lasting prosperity by making stuff. All else is theft.

Dave Dubya said...

Let's not forget the corporate media's part in the narrative. Their job is not to investigate and report the facts. Their job is to promote conflict, sell advertising, and make profit.

When a Republican says the sky is yellow and a Democrat, or anyone else for that matter, says the sky is blue, Blitzer's job is to say, "Let's just say the truth is in between the two positions, so the sky is green".

"And we'll have to leave it at that. Coming up next, should we be afraid of the OWS protestors?"