Thursday, January 05, 2006

Hype and Reality
OK, so I was totally wrong about the Texas/USC game last night. In this era, it's incredibly rare for a sporting event to exceed the pregame hype heaped upon it, but this game clearly did. It really was an epic clash of titans played out at the highest level of skill, with a storybook ending that left everybody who watched it breathless.

Most people wouldn't name hype as one of the big problems our country faces. It's a bit like the air--it's everywhere, and we can notice it if we want, but more often than not, we don't. But hype really does distort: When everything in our lives is pumped up as the greatest or biggest or most importantest thing that's ever been, we lose our ability to tell the difference between what is truly important and what is not. Take the threat of Islamic terror after the September 11 attacks. That sure seemed hype-worthy at the time, and the war on terror that followed seemed justifiable (theoretically, at least) as a result. But what we have learned since 2001 makes it clear that the abiding threat of Islamic terror was grossly overhyped. However, our government, and its supporters in the Repuglican Party, are continuing to hype it--because the hype is so damned useful.

Glenn Greenwald, subbing for Digby, put up the first truly great blog post of 2006 at Hullabaloo this morning, analyzing the hyping of terrorism fears, and what we ought to do about it.
It is that deeply irrational, fear-driven view of the world which has to be undermined in order to make headway in convincing Americans that this Administration is engaged in intolerable excesses and abuses of its power. The argument which needs to be made is the one that we have seen starting to arise in the blogosphere and elsewhere: that living in irrational fear of terrorists and sacrificing our liberties and all of our other national goals in their name is the approach of hysterics and cowards, not of a strong, courageous and resolute nation.
This is something I and others have talked about here before, although I haven't done it nearly as thoroughly or convincingly. What the Repugs are asking us to do is, in effect, to surrender--to give up 230 years of personal and political freedoms and 219 years of Constitutional government because terrorists mean us harm. The Civil War couldn't make us do that, the Nazis couldn't make us do it, the Russians couldn't make us do it--all of which represented real threats to the continued survival of the United States as a nation. Islamic terrorism does not. Nevertheless, we're being told that if we don't burn down the village, we won't be able to live there anymore.

I doubt, however, that Dick Cheney, for one, is really afraid of what he tells us we should be afraid of. Terror fear is, as we have seen, a useful tool for gaining the sort of control over Americans and their money and their religion--and their thoughts--that no one could get through normal political processes. But no matter what the fear is used for, until we can start getting our fellow citizens over it, we're going to continue to see its toxic effects--the worst one, at the moment, is a willingness on the part of many Americans to give the administration the benefit of the doubt as it concentrates power in violation of every American political norm of the last two centuries.

Recommended Reading: You may not have the time or the inclination to wade through all the comments to Glenn's post, although doing so will be worth your while. But read this one, at least--a slightly dissenting view that suggests hormone-driven machismo, rather than fear, is what's driving the administration and its supporters. Money quote:
Bush supporters are emotionally swept up watching a movie. Their hero is trying to rescue America, and so what if a few laws are thrown out the window, a few hundred thousand people killed, a few million people impoverished to benefit his friends. He's a cowboy, a pirate, a bandit, a fiercely competitive football coach, trying to beat the bad guys! And, as in the movies, anyone at all who stands in his way is a bad guy.
Sounds feasible to me, too.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?