Thanks to having our offer on a house accepted, June came and went without finding time to emit a newsletter; if you’ve ever gone through that you’ll understand. But, before July gets too old, here’s my belated take on where American political discourse is drifting, with special attention to recent gains for the political right thanks in part to recent Supreme Court decisions, and how popular consent for them gets manufactured. No surprise, it’s basically thanks to well-worn marketing strategies by well-organized vested interests with deep pockets.
(Subject line refers to Gil Scott-Heron’s 1970 jazz rap you can listen to on YouTube.)
The Six Stooges continue to appall decent Americans who somehow still believe we are a constitutional democracy. As an encore to shredding Roe v. Wade, in an environmental ruling released on June 30th, six Supremes gutted an EPA rule telling a coal plant what technologies to use to control their CO2 emissions, decreeing that only Congress has that authority.
Of course, Congress won’t do that; it can’t seem to do anything meaningful for the country these days, and the justices from the Dark Side know that. The high court effectively gave itself veto power over, not just EPA’s, but any executive agency’s power to make companies heed regulations.
Speaking of the Court, here’s something that you might not know if you live outside the DC paywall: According to The Hill, arch-conservative Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) “urged officials in Fairfax County to expand a security perimeter around the homes of Supreme Court Justices Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas and Amy Coney Barrett.”
Youngkin compassionately stated, “We believe for the safety of the Justices and their families, their neighbors, and the law enforcement heroes dedicated to preserving peace and order in our communities,” the perimeter should be expanded to “ensure both the safety of the Justices, their neighbors and the demonstrators.”
Add to that a bill Biden’s signed to allocate federal resources to securing the homes of all Supreme Court justices. And after Gov. Youngkin requested it, Attorney General Merrick Garland “ordered the safety of the justices to be ensured by the U.S. Marshal Service.”
Furthermore, Masses Media informs me that Gov. Youngkin has requested legislation to criminalize protest at the homes of Supreme Court Justices:
This amendment creates a Class 6 felony for picketing or demonstrating in or near a court or residence with the intent of interfering with, obstructing, or impeding the administration of justice, or with the intent of influencing or intimidating in the discharge of his or her duty any judge, juror, witness, court officer, or court employee, or any immediate family member of such individuals.
This follows last month’s sweeping order from Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis banning protests at private residences across the state, enabling residents of Mar-a-Lago and other corrupt and seditious officials to sleep peacefully.
So what part of the First Amendment does DeSantis, (described by Andy Borowitz as recently purchased by Elon Musk), not understand? Peaceful assembly criminalized, just like that. I’m waiting to hear DeSantis claim that this law will save lives by removing leftist demonstrators from sight of right-wing patriots carrying legal firearms just in case Antifa shows up.
Well, I hope all those frantic security arrangements will avail to to Justices Kagen, Sotomayor, and now Jackson as well, because they’re probably in greater mortal danger from antagonists that any of their right-wing colleagues.
Republicans proceed apace to criminalize public confrontations of their ilk, hoping to quiet all opposition to shoving their reactionary agendas down American throats. And, given how things are going, they’ll likely increase the supply of zombie dittoheads at their disposal.
But one needn’t be an acolyte of Rush Limbaugh to fit that description, thanks to how passively most of us consume news. Modern broadcast media, not just social media, long have tried to breed a false sense of engagement among news consumers. Ever since radio went commercial, most media is consumed either alone or in a bubble of friends and family. Cocooned audiences are more vulnerable to how news is pitched—which of course it always is—than are more broadly engaged ones. In partnership with sponsors, corporate news organs have been brainwashing viewers by meddling with the “Overton Window.” (That’s academic lingo for what society considers the range of acceptable political positions and discourse, and they’ve been shifting it to the right for a while now.) See here:
The concept of the “Overton window,” the range of ideas outside which lie political exile or pariahdom, was first batted around in a series of conversations by the late free-market advocate Joseph Overton in the 1990s. After Overton’s untimely death in a plane crash in 2003, his friend and colleague at the libertarian Mackinac Center, Joseph Lehman, formalized and named the idea in a presentation meant to educate fellow think-tank warriors on the power of consistent advocacy. Ring the bell loudly for your idea, no matter how unpopular, and back it up with plenty of research and evidence, so the thinking went. Today’s fringe theory can become tomorrow’s conventional wisdom by the shifting of the finely tuned gears that move popular opinion…
When I look outside my Overton Window, I see fewer progressive ideas and more retro ones than ever bandied about the nightly news. Even mass shooting is being normalized. And The Six Supremes are in the vanguard of this counter-revolution. There is outrage, and plenty of it, over gun violence and controlling women and minority-bashing, but it’s rarely actionable beyond angry tweets. Even Black Lives Matter, which I focused on in February, seems to have been defenestrated through the Overton Window, joining climate change in the heap at the bottom.
It took a while, but along with our progeny, me and many fellow boomers got turned inward and mediated by the consumerist Zeitgeist. We all want to lap up ever more stuff and information from companies that follow and pitch to us everywhere we go online, all the time, monetizing everything from query engines to Facebook posts to video games. We have met the hucksters and they are us.
Advertising signs that con
You into thinking you’re the one
That can do what’s never been done
That can win what’s never been won
Meantime, life outside goes on
All around you
Bob Dylan, 1965, It’s Alright, Ma (I’m only bleeding)
The question isn’t why masters of PR incessantly target us but why so many of us are such easy marks for their propaganda. It’s sad, because all it really takes to immunize yourself to spin is a habit of critical thinking: Who does this this message target? Why? What does it want people to do? Which assertions are dubious? What’s not being revealed?
And so, we bowl alone, rather than joining a team to knock down kingpins.
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