Friday, June 01, 2012

Can Money Buy You Your Own Reality?

The Romney campaign is shaping up to be the weirdest presidential campaign ever.  Like so much about this election, it is the ultimate of something.  That something in this case would be the GOPer campaigns since 1988, the Atwater/Rove era.  They are all about creating and selling an alternate reality, very much what advertising tries to do much of the time, but on a much larger, more complete scale.  Not just part of reality, but all of reality that might determine a presidential election.

They do it by lying.  By creating lies, putting a lot of energy and power and money behind them until a lot of people are convinced they are not lies but the hidden truth.  They start with the power of right wing talk radio and their very own television network, Fox.  These outlets spend much of their time convincing their listeners and viewers that only they are telling the truth, and the rest of the media lies.

They use their power with the rest of the media, too, to always get time to tell their lies.  They are GOPers and their supporters are the owners of the corporations that own the media, and the corporations that support the media through advertising. 

By buying a controlling interest in the Supreme Court, they got the go-ahead to use virtually unlimited amounts of money to finance their lies.  This past week, a group of their billionaires committed to spend a total of a billion dollars on crafting and telling their lies.

A billion dollars.  What I wonder is the combined budget of the news divisions of the television networks, plus the news coverage of the major newspapers and magazines?  Over the six months until the election?  I'm pretty sure it's considerably less.

The superpacs will carve out their own target electorates.  The gutter sleazoids, the overt racists, will concentrate on nailing down the racist base.  The others will support the alternate reality that candidate Romney is going out and saying: that President Obama's stimulus and other policies created no jobs at all, that he's vastly increased federal spending and federal regulation and the size of government, that he is vastly contributing to the deficit with no plan to control it,  that he has no foreign policy successes, that he goes around apologizing for America, etc. etc.  Not one of which is factually true.

But if these are generalizations that are untrue, Romney is adding specific lies of a kind that are truly scary.  He did so on Thursday when he stated as a fact that "an independent Inspector General" has investigated the Obama administration investment in the Solyndra firm and "concluded" that money had gone to "friends and family, and campaign contributors."  This is an absolute and complete lie on a verifiable matter of fact, as Rachel Maddow pointed out.

So a presidential candidate is saying that the President of the United States was found to have used public money in an act of corruption to defraud the government and commit other crimes by distributing government funds to "friends and family" (which it seems would be nepotism) and to campaign contributors, which is a more nebulous charge, but nevertheless, an important one if a federal investigation had so concluded.  And none of this is true.  No investigation, no conclusion. But it is repeated in campaign ads which lots of dollars will make sure that lots of people see and hear. It is a short step to saying that the President was found guilty of murder, and then spending millions of dollars to make that the accepted truth.

The charge in itself is somewhat laughable coming from Romney, whose friends and family are in the kind of businesses he would be able to funnel millions of dollars to. (As Governor of Mass., he also spent millions on public money on tech startups that failed. Update: including a solar power company that just went bankrupt.)  Who is President Obama going to funnel money to?  His brother-in-law the basketball coach?  Malia?

But it is not laughable coming from the nominee of the other party in a presidential election, the one with a billion dollars to throw around just on media.  It is not a laughable charge as it plays into unspoken prejudices, that President Obama favors blacks, his "friends and family." 

But something else happened Thursday, something as weird but as potentially dark and unsettling as a bland candidate blandly lying.   The Romney campaign did two weird but connected things.  They rounded up reporters and put them on a bus to go to the Solyndra event, because they didn't want to give the Obama campaign the opportunity to disrupt the event.  And the Romney campaign deliberately disrupted an Obama campaign event in Chicago, preventing David Axlerod from holding a press conference by shouting him down, playing loud instruments and so on.

And the Romney campaign--and Romney himself--said both of these were deliberate, and related.  The Maddow blog reported:

  Romney apparently kept the Solyndra press conference a secret because of paranoid fears about White House sabotage.
"We knew, if word got out, that Solyndra would do everything in their power, and the Obama administration would do everything in their power, to stop us from having this news conference, "an unnamed adviser told reporters, per CNN.
Reporters raised the question of how this devious plot to derail the event would work given that the freedom to hold a press conference in public is a fairly basic right.
"Well, he's only the president of the United States," the adviser replied.... Romney alluded to similar concerns personally in his press conference.
"I think there are people who don't want to see this event occur, don't want to have questions asked about this particular investment," Romney told reporters when asked about the secrecy behind the event, according to the New York Times.
And Romney admitted his campaign organized and sent the people who prevented David Axlerod from speaking: "If the president is going to have his people come in to my rallies and heckle, why, we'll show them we conservatives have the same kind of capacity he does."

Unless the Romney campaign has actual evidence that the Obama campaign has officially sent hecklers to his events, and that they planned to disrupt his Solyndra event, he's lying.  But as laughable as these antics seemed to political reporters, they are way too reminicient of 20th century fascist tactics, striking at the heart of the public democratic process.  This is close to being right out of the Hitler electoral playbook.

Why isn't all this laughable?  Because people aren't laughing.  They are taking Romney seriously--if the polls are to be believed, a lot of women are forgetting why they would be voting against themselves if they support Romney, a lot of veterans are really deluded about who is looking out for them, etc.  And the GOPer stranglehold on the federal government makes it impossible for President Obama to do what he knows needs to be done to create jobs and improve the economy.  Unemployment is still high, and if this month's report out this morning isn't significantly better--and it isn't expected to be, though the economy (particularly housing) has shown signs of growth-- then people are going to be in the mood to listen to an alternate reality where everything is Obama's fault and there is an easy and simple solution that will make it all better.  And they are going to get a lot of opportunity to be bathed in that phony reality, especially in the swing states.

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