If you ask your average Merikan about demagoguery, you’re probably going to hear about Stalin and Hitler and Mussolini. If you are specially lucky, you might hear reference to Joe McCarthy. A significant number of Merikans, perhaps most, won’t have a clue what you refer to, beyond a vague sense of “bad” floating in the air.
It’s no secret that American youth are fairly poorly educated in this country. While there are plenty of reasons and excuses for this, top of the heap is probably because they are taught lies.
Such is underway in Texas anyway, where new textbooks will play down slavery as a cause of the Civil War, and emphasis a lie–states rights–as being its motivation. Now states rights had something to do with the Civil War, but not in protecting states rights–in actuality it was the states rights of northern realms that they despised and set out to separate themselves from. In fact, up until the 60’s there were specific “southern” textbooks on these issues, not used in the rest of the land. We are returning to that era, when again, Southern kids will be taught a different “history” than the rest of the country.
A demagogue is one who through resort to fear and prejudice, appeals to the common people, in an attempt to manipulate their approval to gain personal power and influence. Lies are a common vehicle used to gain the support of lower socioeconomic classes which is then used to gain the ends (usually hidden) of the demagogue.
Americans think they are smarter than the average demagogue, and always have. We look at people such as Hitler, Stalin, and others of that ilk with a certain disdain, sure in our adolescent minds, if not our later adult ones, that such a thing could not happen in the good old USA, because we are “on to them” sorts. And the slightly smarter among the great unwashed will use Joe McCarthy as an example. Sure we toyed with demagoguery for a bit, but in the end we censured Joe and sent him packing, destined to go down in history as a rather sinister chap who in the end was admonished, “Have you no sense of decency sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?”
So, we sit in smug superiority.
We of course were and are wrong. We are no better at ferreting out demagoguery than your average Athenian was when Cleon was stirring the people to behaviors we normally don’t associate with Athens in the classical period.
We live in a soup of demagoguery with any number of suitable candidates lined up to become the populist hero of the day. Fox Noise serves as the propaganda disseminator with plenty of minions named Rush and Ann and Rich and Sean ready and willing to spout the memorized script of why “they” are destroying America, and “we” must get out our guns and show them we will not tolerate their warped secular world.
We finally, at long last, sat down and watched Game Change the other night. Sure, it was filled with lots of giggles and nodding, as we saw our Sarah entering the national stage. We saw the almost comical cluelessness on anything beyond the demagogue’s rhetoric. We watched as she puzzled over basic European history, attempting to take notes (on paper in the beginning, precursor to the famous hand writing), and figure out who was who, and what was what.
And we saw the debacle of interviews that broke open the wisdom of hirin’ Sarah wide open finally, and exposed what McCain referred to as the “dark side” of Populism–the degree to which it is based not on facts and well-thought out logic, but rather instilling and promoting fear and anxiety regarding “others”.
Sarah is pictured as sitting mesmerized listening almost spellbound to the criticism of her. Yet, either through brilliant acting, or truth, one sees a startling revelation. Sarah is not studying her detractors to learn what she is doing wrong, so much as she is carefully examining her detractors for weakness, and how she might better exploit it.
She studies, not foreign policy position papers, but what makes people smile or frown, what makes them cheer, what makes them nod in approval. She is all about one thing–how best to sell Sarah, and reap of course the benefits–fame, and more importantly fortune.
Sarah, as we have come to know, is really only about becoming wealthy. She forcefully and loudly proclaims that “they are boxing her in”, preventing her from doing what she does best–talk to the common folks. She ends up in a long and exhausting war with her handlers over who will control the agenda.
And of course, we have seen the fine results. After the election, Sarah made all her own decisions and she’s managed in six years, to not be the “new young leader of the GOP” that McCain predicted, but rather she has become a cipher in the conservative movement. A few thousands still shout her name, but largely the great uber right wing has moved on.
But the not surprising popularity of Ted Cruz, Donald Trump, and Scott Walker remind us all too well, that there are more than one ready to take over the mantle from Ms. Palin.
Cruz, following the SCOTUS decision regarding marriage equality enters the arena with the lie: a few people who were never elected by us have dictated to the rest of us how we must live. Now of course, Cruz leaves out that this is exactly how our constitution intended. It is what was established in Marbury v. Madison. Trump contends that Mexico is sending us criminals, and then sets out to find an example to make his case.
Walker advises he will do to the Middle East problems exactly what he did with unions in Wisconsin–destroy them. Santorum suggests that the rights of every real Christian are at risk if gays marry. Jeb, not quite as capable as demagogues go, wrings his hands and mutters the code words, but doesn’t exactly know how to utter them convincingly.
We need not fear that demagogues will become extinct. We must fear that we are perhaps more susceptible to them than we thought.
Look, we live in a busy world. As has always been the case, the vast majority ignore politics and worry about paying the electric bill and getting packed for that fishing trip to the lake. But while you sublimely watch fireflies at water’s edge, back in the recesses of taverns and game rooms in fancy townhouses and estates, grifters like Sarah are busy trying to figure out what will scare you into voting for them.
I’m not expecting you to spend two hours a day reading what’s going on in the world. It would be nice if you took that interest in the now and future, well mindful of the past, but that’s asking too much. Half aren’t mentally up to the task, and half of the rest are just too bored by anything that doesn’t speak to the World Federation of Wrestling.
But I ask you to remember one thing. The better it sounds the more likely it is to be not true.
You do not need guns to prevent the government from overreach. If the government wants to stop you from mouthing off, it will kill you, and no weapon you have will make a difference.
You’re way of life will not end because gay people can marry each other. I’m quite sure almost none of them will want to marry you and with good reason.
ISIS is not plotting to blow up your neighborhood. It is quite more likely that you will die from a bee sting or be blown up by your neighbor’s arsenal when it goes off in a house fire.
You are not being attacked as a Christian. Nobody has ever stopped you from reading the bible you want, interpreting it the way you want, and going to the church you want. There is no war on Christianity, and as much as you want to think of yourself as a martyr, you aren’t. You would piss your panties should the feds show up and demand you become a Sikh or Buddhist, and all to many of you would bow and ask for the rules of proper worship.
If it sounds good, and makes you feel vaguely selfish–it’s a lie and you are being selfish. Don’t fall for it, even though it would mean a cut in your taxes and some sort of wispy comfort that your way of life is being protected. It isn’t and won’t be. We are becoming both NON-white and NON-Christian. It’s a fact. Learn the word ameliorate and learn it well.
If in doubt, don’t vote. A stupid vote is worse than no vote at all. Remember the demagogue is not looking for a smart vote, but a stupid one. Don’t take the bait. There is really nothing in it for you. EVER.
But keep an eye out for Sarah. She’ll be opening a supermarket near you.