Empire Burlesque - Chris Floyd - Polls coming out after the disaster, which show that around 45 percent of the American people approve of Bush's handling of the relief effort. It seems inconceivable that any sentient being could witness the agonizing results of the Bush team's dithering, dilatory response -- an agony played out in the full glare of non-stop media coverage -- and not come away with a sense of towering anger at this criminal incompetence. But it's obvious that nearly half the American people have now left the "reality-based community" altogether; they see only what they want to see, a world bathed in the hazy, golden nimbus of the Leader.
No Direction Home
Tuesday, 06 September 2005
"How does it feel
To be on your own
With no direction home…."
-- Bob Dylan, "Like a Rolling Stone"
Let's be clear about one thing. Nothing that has happened in the past week -- the mass destruction in the Mississippi Delta, the obliteration of the city of New Orleans, the murderous abandonment of thousands of people to death, chaos and disease -- will change the Bush Administration or American politics at all. Not one whit. The Bush Administration will not reverse its brutal policies; its Congressional rubber-stamps will not revolt against the White House; the national Democrats will not suddenly grow a spine. There will be no real change, and the bitter corrosion of injustice, indifference and inhumanity that is consuming American society will go on as before.
One proof of this can be found in the first polls coming out after the disaster, which show that around 45 percent of the American people approve of Bush's handling of the relief effort. It seems inconceivable that any sentient being could witness the agonizing results of the Bush team's dithering, dilatory response -- an agony played out in the full glare of non-stop media coverage -- and not come away with a sense of towering anger at this criminal incompetence. But it's obvious that nearly half the American people have now left the "reality-based community" altogether; they see only what they want to see, a world bathed in the hazy, golden nimbus of the Leader. The fact -- the undeniable truth -- that behind this carefully-concocted mirage lies nothing more than a steaming pile of rancid, rotting offal means nothing to these true believers. The Lie is better, the Lie is more comforting, the Lie lets them keep feeding on the suffering of others without guilt or shame.
This painful split between obvious reality and popular perception is nothing new, of course. Today we look at old footage of Adolf Hitler and wonder how on earth such a pathetic and ludicrous creature could ever have commanded the adoration and obedience of tens of millions of people. Yet he did. As Eliot said, "Human kind cannot bear very much reality."
The fact that a few conservative commentators and politicians are making mild criticisms of Bush means nothing. There has been much trumpeting of the remarks by David Brooks of the New York Times that Bush's manifest failures in the Delta -- coming after the debacle of the Iraq occupation, the torture revelations, etc. -- could be a "watershed" moment when the nation loses faith in its institutions, a situation Brooks likened to the 1970s. But even in making these comments on one hand, Brooks was taking them back with the other, saying clearly that he might "get over" his disappointment with Bush soon enough. Think of it: Brooks has watched people literally dying before his very eyes after being abandoned to their fate for days by Bush's criminal negligence - and he thinks he can "get over" that at some point, and give his full-throated approval to the Leader once again.
This is the general mind-set (if you want to dignify the inch-deep shallowness of Brooks' intellect with the word "mind") of all the conservative critics: gosh, Bush really dropped the ball on this one! He'd better turn the PR thing around, or he might lose some of the "political capital" he needs to "advance his second-term agenda." That's it. That's as far as it goes.
After all, they fully support the "agenda" -- more war, more tax cuts for the rich, more impunity for big corporations, more welfare for the oil barons, the coal barons, the nuke barons, more coddling of elite investors, more state power for Christian extremists, more media consolidation, more graft, more kickbacks, more easy money for greasy palms. And now that Karl Rove has finally figured out his response -- employing brazen lies to smear state and local officials -- you will very quickly see the conservative critics, especially in Congress, fall into lockstep with the porcine counsellor's program.
By the time Congress holds hearings into the disaster, they'll be singing love songs to the Leader; the hearings themselves will doubtless turn into a pageant of heroic tableaux -- glittering stories of the heroic federal effort to rescue the perishing, all of it driven by the calm and steady hand of the Commander-in-chief. Oh, there might be a scapegoat or two for the Congressmen to pummel with puff-cheeked righteous rage for the cameras. But anyone hoping for a fearless, presidency-shaking probe will be disappointed.
Just as the media have always overhyped Bush's popularity, they are now overhyping the "political crisis" he is supposedly facing. There is no political crisis whatsoever, if by "political crisis" you mean something that will cause Bush to alter his politics or his policies. The war in Iraq will go on. The war against the poor will go on. The slow destruction of middle-class security and stability will go on. The long and ferocious rightwing campaign against the very idea of a "common good" will go on, unabated - perhaps even strengthened as it faces a backlash from the half of the American public that actually accepts the reality of what they saw in New Orleans and all along the ravaged Gulf Coast.
This is what you must understand: Bush and his faction do not care if they have "the consent of the governed" or not. They are not interested in governing at all, in responding to the needs and desires and will of the people. They are only interested in ruling, in using the power of the state to force their radical agenda of elitist aggrandizement and ideological crankery on the nation, and on the world.
They have a large, hard core of true believers who will countenance - even applaud - any crime, any corruption, any incompetence of the Leader and his minions. With this base, and with all three branches of government already in their hands, the Faction need only procure the reluctant support of just a small percentage of the rest of the population - through fearmongering, through smears and lies, and, as we saw in 2000 and 2004, through the manipulation of election results via politically connected voting-machine corporations and politically partisan election officials.
None of this will change because of what happened in New Orleans. If these people could be touched by suffering and injustice, by death and destruction, by corruption and incompetence, then they would not be where they are today. If there was a viable opposition in the American Establishment to Bush's policies, it would have stood up long ago. Like the people left behind in New Orleans, we're all on our own - "with no direction home."
How does it feel?