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Monday, July 25, 2011

Far-right hatred is a sickness, but it's a symptom, not the cause | #Norway

Late-night submissions on a heavy Sunday night ...

I thought I'd seen, heard and read it all by now.

That worthless piece of shit used dum-dum bullets. The cherry on the shit sundae.

Another sick, cruel piece of shit says those kids all but deserved what they got because, apparently, they said some things that weren't abjectly devoted to Israel.

And a few other worthless yammering transmitters have been treating the facts as an inconvenient speed bump in their haste to continue repeating their revolting message of Islamophobia and demonization.

Perhaps it's not the best time to try putting this all in a larger context, or raising sententious questions like cui bono, and it may seem a little glib to try situating this within the wider dynamic of class warfare, but consider the narratives we're being fed – and the things we're not hearing or reading about.

I'm not a historian and I don't pretend to have a comprehensive knowledge of everything that's happened in the last few generations, but thwap's post a couple of weeks ago has stuck with me. It's a good description of how Western societies have evolved and then started to degenerate in the decades following the Second World War. A sample:

To a great degree, in the Western democracies, democracy was never stronger than after the war. The ordinary people, who felt deserving of a say after the shared sacrifices of the war, and all the hooting and hollering about "democracy" and "equality" from those leaders inspiring them to fight, made their demands very clear. And those demands were all about material concerns, and why not? Protection from the appalling insecurities of unemployment in an industrial capitalist economy. The right to unionize to deal with the collective of the industrial corporation or conglomerates with some degree of equality and dignity. The taxation of the super-rich to fund a more human way of life in the great cities. Access to education. Access to decent health care ... 

Was it a perfect time? Of course not, and I don't know anyone who argues that it was. But I'm compelled to contrast it with what's been happening in the years since the Reagan-Thatcher era; behind all the syrup about America being back and the lady not being for turning, what we've been witnessing is a concerted effort to roll back the gains thwap describes. Tax cuts. Union busting. Social safety nets shredded. A massive reallocation of wealth and resources away from the middle and lower classes and toward the wealthy.

Fast-forward a few years. Listen to the transmitters in the corporate media go on about mobility and competitiveness and free trade and austerity and restructuring. Look at the diet of crap we're fed today; lies, distractions, manufactured scandals, celebrity gossip, lifestyle "journalism," terror alerts, and other Shiny ObjectsTM – and don't forget to Support the Troops. All the while, citizenship itself is devalued, cynicism and disengagement are cultivated, and we reconcile ourselves to more and more authoritarian forms of governance because no one wants to be Soft on Crime. And while this is going on, more and more people are falling through the cracks while the people at the tops of the hierarchies amass more and more for themselves.

The backdrop to all this, of course, is what we're hearing, reading and seeing every day: that's the reality now, globalization is good and/or inevitable, free markets are the key to prosperity, labour and environmental protections have to be approached with more flexibility, and the result is that we have to work harder for less money, fewer benefits, a diminished public sphere, no pensions, and no security.

And again, we're back to the lack of critical thinking skills. Analysis? Deductive reasoning? The ability to see analogies, recognize patterns and draw conclusions? No. The interests who own the transmitters, frame the issues and shape public discourse don't want that. They've made sure people are tired, overworked and resentful, and they want to make sure people are distracted and misdirected as well.

Hence the simple narratives, slogans, thoughts that can fit on lapel buttons, and manufactured storylines that don't require any engagement at all (gravy trains, tough on crime, you should have stayed home ...). Oh, and way more than thirteen channels of shit on the TV to choose from. Goddamnit, I'm working my ass off and not getting ahead because my taxes are paying for ... [insert scapegoat of the week]:

  • Anarchists / demonstrators / dirty fucking hippies
  • Immigrants
  • Unions
  • Homosexuals
  • Environmentalists
  • Liberals
  • Atheists
  • Abortion
  • Revolving-door justice systems
  • Bike lanes
  • Feminists
  • The poor
  • The jobless
  • Rapidly breeding brown people
  • Muslims (you must have been wondering what the hell this has got to do with Norway ... )

Regardless of the target, the tactic is basically the same: divide and conquer, distract, and shift the blame and resentment onto some easily identifiable Other. And we can hear that tune playing on Fox News North, in the messages we're getting from the rest of the right-wing noise machine, and in that worthless violent loser's "manifesto."

None of this makes the overt racism, Islamophobia or violent and hateful rhetoric any less sickening, of course. And it's not as if this kind of pathology wasn't around well before the New Deal or the mythic post-war consensus. But as we work to resist, it might be worth pausing to draw the connections.

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