End of the year in review: A review of the reviews

It is because I subscribe to the Times that I have commented so much about them as of late. In my mind, I serve as the latter-day incarnation of LOOT magazine from the early 1990s. Lies Of Our Times was a critique of America’s newspaper of record, the New York Times. It had an unfortunate radical-sounding name. However, the critiques were scholarly, and it taught me, before I became influenced by FAIR magazine and Noam Chomsky, how to read newspapers or magazines in a way that revealed their subtext.

The end-of-year/end-of-decade reviews are not so much a way to remind us what had gone on in the past, as it is a way to show by way of a yardstick the success to which the propaganda system which is the major media, have made it possible for the Donald Trumps of the world to divide us and conquer us.

After a solid three years of anti-Trump vitriol, the New York Times now characterizes us as “divided”, “mistrustful”, and so on, in their opinion pieces. Of course, this would not be successful had it not been for Trump’s incessant tweeting, Trump’s rallies and Fox News. The Times probably blames Trump and the Republicans; Trump blames “the fake news”, of which the New York Times is one of several targets.

I know the media would say that Trump would say outrageous thing to “stay true to his base”, or to “play to his base”. It is never stated who “the base” are, exactly. Without doing much of a survey here, I would say it’s a solid guess that anyone who would benefit from his promises would be his base. Rich people obviously. But there are also the poor white people in the southern and midwestern states that the press likes to mention so often. And middle-aged white men. I think they mean bigots and people of low literacy. Yes, the people the paper of record mentions do happen to be largely working-class and have been abandoned by the Democrats for several decades now. They have become so desparate, that they now cling to a billionaire born with a silver spoon in his mouth — just the kind of person the working class would normally despise, just because he seems to rankle the Democrats, and speak of the working class in terms that raise them slightly above the level of a doormat.

As an asside, yes, the Democrats abandoned the working class. This leaves the Democrats with nothing really to stand for. The Republicans have now shown the Democrats up on this very point by showing us all that “the party of the rich” can also command support of the working class, whose needs they will promptly ignore but for advocacy at rallies and election speeches. It is hard to see for all of the fireworks, but the Republicans being against “anything Democrat”, paired with the Democrats now fighting over what their party stands for, now lays bare the idea that for the past 40 years or so the Dems have stood for nothing, but have only appeared to stand for the working class. As of late, the charade has been revealed in the Dems uneasiness with the Green New Deal and other enhancements to working class and minorities such as raising the minimum wage, championed by Ocasio-Cortez and her like. Since the mid-seventies, America has been pretty much a one-party state masquerading as a two-party state. All the Republicans are guilty of is revealing to all of us the truth about this reality. Republicans have waged an all-out war on the poor from the start. In recent years, they have tried to undermine or tear apart the Affordable Health Care Act; and have on several occasions sought to turn away refugees and immigrants, and sending children and toddlers of these immigrants to concentration camps. The border wall is the most visible example, though largely only symbolic. No one is a friend of the working class in any true sense, but both parties need their vote.

In this light, the major media’s job apparently, seems to have been to preside over assessing how successful divide and conquer has been to guarantee allegiance to parties that are really essentially alike. Expect a lot of this from the major media in the coming week or month, under the ruse of “reflecting us back to ourselves”. We know what that reflection will look like: we are divided. This is thanks to the efforts of Fox News to cheerlead the Republican party, and of CNN and the Times to cheerlead the Democrats. A discourse of basic facts counts for little these days, when we are disputing what the facts are.

Watching and listening to the Trump impeachment debates

Last night, I listened to the debate over the Trump impeachment vote; the 30 seconds given to each member to speak their mind forced everyone to not express anything unique or interesting. It forced concision. And among lawyers and lawmakers that may not be a bad thing, but to listen to hours of speeches last evening it was clear that all the Republicans and Democrats sounded the same, and listed out the same talking points, as if they all had “the memo” from their party brass. It was only toward the end when we heard the party brass themselves speak that some utterances that were in more detail as to the learned opinions of the leadership of the House of Representatives.

Sometimes, speaking at length is just verbal diarrhea. But that is the only time we get to hear an individual’s thought process. In 30 seconds, it is really easy for a Republican to say “there is no evidence against the President”, since that already used up a couple of those seconds. A few more of these sweeping sensatioanlist statements, and their time is already up.

Another use of the 30 second rule is that if you say something truly absurd, you don’t need to elaborate. You drop your verbal bombshell and just leave your nonsense hanging in the air. Like when one of the nameless, faceless speakers stated that Jesus was given more rights by Pontius Pilate than Trump was given by the Democrats. It had the effect of a crazy Trump tweet. There is no journalist asking the person questions, so the statement is disconnected, taken as it is. The beauty of crazy statements made to “the speaker” or of tweets made in social media, is that no one is there to question you, your grasp of reality, or ask for details. Who cares if Pontius Pilate consigned Jesus to carry his own cross, endure public scorn, and suffered 40 lashes, only to have nails driven through his feet and hands to the wooden cross at the end? What kind of numb-nut would say that Trump had it worse? It is great copy for those who don’t care about the Bible.

Would a more accurate comparison be to compare Trump’s public speaking appearance at a Michigan stadium yesterday (same day he was being impeached) to the Nuremburg rallies, and the propaganda against the Democrats as being like the Reichstag fire? Actually, it is close: the New York Times has compared it with Castro rallying his followers after the government did the same thing to him one year. The Nazi comparisons I’ve made as an example are kind of extreme too, and would only rankle die-hard Republicans. Those views don’t teach us much nor advance any discussion regarding articles of impeachment based on evidence. In fact they do the opposite, in inhibiting clarity of thought and in discouraging honest and open debate and discussion.

The origin of the phrase "silent majority"

This phrase was made popular by Richard Nixon around 1968 when he attempted to discredit Vietnam war protestors as a group of vocal fringe elements, while he was secretly escalating the war into Cambodia. “The silent majority”, it was supposed by Nixon, still supported the US involvement in Vietnam.

It must be admitted, that 40 years later, the phrase still resonates with us. But as clever and smart as Nixon was, he did not come up with it himself; the phrase actually had its origins in classical literature. It was used to describe dead people. So, surely that must mean that in Nixon’s democracy, we should always respect the opionions of the dead, since there will always be more of them than of us. This need to respect their opinions is made more urgent by the fact that dead people cannot speak for themselves, and thus have no voice of their own in our political discourse. In addition, most of them are hard-working dead people who have never committed crimes.

In recent elections, however, dead people have in fact lent their weight to various political parties by voting in several recent elections in several states in the US. Dead people have also run for political office, and one of them won an election in a race against John Ashcroft. In America, dead people are full participants in the democratic process, benefitting both Democrats and Republicans.

Surely, Nixon’s phrase has resonance, not in the apologetic, hawkish, warmongering sense, but in the originally intended sense, backed by over 1000 years of classical European literature.  I think Nixon really was referring to dead people, and he may have even been invoking the spirit world.

What is the true origin of that phrase? I was itching to find out.

At first, I thought “silent majority” must have originated from Dante’s Inferno, where would likely have used it to describe the dead. It turned out to be too juicy a fact to be true. He doesn’t use the phrase.

Phrases close to this have been pointed out a few years ago by the late classical scholar James B. Butrica, who quoted several writers, including the ancient Roman writer Petronius (AD 27-66): “Abiit ad plures” or, “S/He’s gone to the majority”, a fancy way of saying “S/He’s dead”. Butrica says that the same phrase was also used some 200 years earlier by Roman writer Plautus (circa 254–184 BCE).

At any rate, all I have to say is: one man, one death. It wouldn’t be terribly democratic if one man had two deaths. And also, I believe quite strongly that if you vote when you are alive, then if you die right after you leave the polling station, then you shouldn’t be allowed to come back and vote again as a dead person before the polls close.

In closing, I must say that the constant invocation of “the silent majority” over the years whenever most discourse opposes what a politician does, is a fallacy. We only have one way to read “silent majority” (I’m talking about the living this time), which is to say that if you don’t speak up, it is because it (whatever “it” is) doesn’t arouse your passions, and thus you don’t care. If the majority of voters decide not to vote, for example (as is too sadly the case most of the time), then their silence is not seen as a vote for anyone, and their non-votes are never counted. A politician cannot “listen” to the silent majority, because there is nothing for them to hear.

Santa Claus Bailout Hearings | National Lampoon

C-SPAN coverage of Santa Claus asking Congress for a financial bailout of the North Pole – Present Giving Industry. If they dont approve his aid pack … watch now