Tuesday, August 7, 2012

US politics: would they spend $6 bn on TV ads if they didn't work?

After 911, the US mass media, under direction of the tiny minority that own and operate it, convinced a majority of the American people that Iraq was behind the attacks despite the fact that no Iraqi was on the planes.  We had Colin Powell at the UN lying though his teeth and the weapons of mass destruction and.......well we all know where we are now a million or so dead Iraqi's later.

Consciousness has a material base.  No matter how much they spend convincing us we are happy and free and that we can get what we want if we just work hard, in the last analysis, what is matters. But this doesn't mean the capitalist mass media doesn't have an effect. If you watch Terminator 2 as Schwarzenegger, the good cyborg now, heads to Mexico with the boy and his mum, he makes the point of telling him that the Russians are our friends now. Just like that, almost overnight, never mind that for years they had been the devil incarnate out to destroy our way of life.  This is a conscious political statement as is all art in class society.

Those that own the means of production, producing the commodities we use in every day life also own the means of producing ideas, they manufacture ideas as well.  The schools and universities are their institutions.  The dominant ideology in society is the ideology of the class that governs. Naturally, objective reality clashes with this ideology as what actually is doesn't correspond to the propaganda.

I recall in Fast Food Nation about advertising and how they employ psychologists and other "experts" to design the right approach that will get the commodity sold, the hero accepted who will sell the commodity to the child that wants to be like him or her; they work on producing what they call, "Pester Power". After working 50, 60 hours a week, they want to influence the child enough to pester the folks to spend money.   They spend millions of dollars on Saturday morning television and other children's media in order to manipulate mass consciousness. Nice folks huh?

The US has traditionally had one of the lowest voter turn outs in the world.  Americans are sick and disgusted with the lack of choices but for candidates from one or the other of the two Wall Street Parties.  The mood is so dour, the candidates in the present election cycle which will be over in three months, are spending more than ever in the media market trying to influence potential voters.

"Campaigns, political parties and outside groups are expected to spend some $6.5 billion on television and cable ads for federal and state elections this year" reports the Wall Street Journal.  This is almost $2 billion  more than in 2008; they spent $39 million last week.  The media companies are raking in the dough with Time Warner Cable's advertising revenues up 18% in the second quarter of this year at $265 million.

But as one of Romney's spin doctors points out, if these politicians didn't think TV ads worked, "You wouldn't run television ads"

This statement alone is enough to demolish the often stated, "I have my own mind". I don't know how many times I would get in to heated discussions with some friends and co-workers who argued that their thoughts, their minds, are their own.  "I am my own man" says one.  Crime, degenerate behavior, what we think about the world around us, it's all down to the individual making the right choices.  This view is very strong in the US but not everyone buys it and in this period of the decline of the influence of US capitalism on the global stage and with the capitalist class shifting the burden of its crisis and costs of its predatory wars on to the backs of workers, the poor and the middle class, more and more people reject this view.

Millions of Americans reject politics altogether because they see it for what it is, a competition between representatives of billionaires for which section of the capitalist class will plunder society for the next four years.  The mood of anger and hatred that was so strong after the crash has not dissipated.  And we remind readers, Business Week reported that the US Chamber of Commerce found through its focus groups in its public campaign to reinvigorate faith in the market after 2007, that it could not use the term "Capitalism" as most people associated it with the strong devouring and exploiting the weak.  This reflects a powerful tendency to feel compassion and solidarity with others.  The same with a global survey that asked women what do they want most in a sexual partner.  The overwhelming response was kindness.

This is despite that we are inundated with magazines and film as well as everyday mass media that pushes us to buy this car or these clothes or that jewelry so we can get the girl or the boy; so we can be something.  Selfishness and individualism is the dominant theme.  Hollywood turns out endless hours of junk in this fashion compared to movies about kindness and compassion.  The reason?  Kindness and solidarity are connected, and have potential to lead to action when the forces of the state bear down on us, take our homes, our jobs, our livelihoods and blames us for it.

The propaganda does work, but not totally and less and less so as it conflicts with objective reality.  It drives people crazy, makes us sick, destroys personal relations and our humanity; it turns us against one another.  But it is not knowing what to do about it that does the most damage.  The murders, violence, drug abuse and family annihilation's and massacres that occur on an ever more frequent basis are directly connected to the alienation and helplessness people feel about society and their feeling that there's nothing they can do to change it.

That is why the Occupy Movement had such support across all sections of US society.  Finally, there was a force that was standing up, challenging these thugs and their rotten system. Many union members, many of them conservative, also welcomed Occupy, saddled as they are with a stifling bureaucracy atop organized Labor that refuses to fight the capitalist offensive handing over workers rights and gains that were fought for and won over decades.

The Occupy movement had its own problems and appears to have dissipated somewhat although that may change.  The moribund leadership atop organized Labor could transform the balance of forces and organize an offensive of our own which would have a profound effect on consciousness, increase confidence, undermine demoralization and effect all aspects of society, racism, sexism, crime etc.  There have been many missed opportunities here, the Wisconsin events for example.  But the Labor bureaucracy is restrained by its own view of the world.  Besides the job security and obscene salaries and other perks, the heads of organized Labor see no alternative to capitalism, for them, mobilizing the working class and all of society's victims of market savagery can only lead to chaos so they plead with the masters of the universe, the hedge fund manager, the bankers, to please be a little nicer, kinder, less aggressive and please, please, can't we return to the good old days.

There is only one certainty; the working class will fight back, history teaches us this.  Our greatest weakness is the subjective factor, we have no leadership that can direct this struggle and because of this the road ahead is unnecessarily rough and bumpy to say the least. But in each upsurge, each battle, we learn lessons and building leadership is one of them.

We have been in worse situations, but one major difference is that the ruling class of today has nuclear weapons and the means to destroy life as we know it.  Their system is already poisoning the environment and will continue to do so------there is no way out on the basis of capitalism.

For a democratic socialist society

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