A university is just a group of buildings gathered around a library. ~Shelby Foote

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Have You Stopped Beating Your Wife?

That's the classic trick, or loaded, question-- if you answer "yes", it implies that you used to beat your wife, while if you answer "no", then you are still beating your wife. And I had a serious "Have you stopped beating your wife?" moment a few days ago when I read tc's response to my post regarding a DailyKos poll that boggled my mind.

The poll [in response to the tremendous hue and cry over inaccuracies in "The Path to 9/11"] asked which was a greater threat to democracy, Corporate media consolidation or terrorists, and fully 70% of respondents voted for Corporate media consolidation. I was, and still am, stunned by that result.

tc, apparently agreeing with the 70% in fear of Corporate media consolidation (I keep capitalizing Corporate, btw, because that's how the poll creator did it-- Corporate got a Capital C, but terrorists did not warrant a capital T. Telling in and of its ownself.), responded with this:
Nick, are you saying that American Democracy is so weak, so fragile, that the sporadic actions of small, ill-equipped militant fanatics are realistically going to topple it?
So, if I answer "Yes" I'm granting that American Democracy is weak and fragile, and if I answer "No", then I'm tacitly admitting that Corporate media consolidation is more dangerous to American Democracy. Have I stopped beating my wife yet?

The basic premise is wrong, and therein lies the problem. No, I don't think that American Democracy is so weak and fragile that the sporadic actions of small, ill-equipped militant fanatics are realistically going to topple it. But neither do I think that the terrorists are ill-equipped nor their actions sporadic. 9/11/2001 should have driven that point home so hard and so painfully that nobody would ever be able to believe that terrorists with no compunction, no mercy, no regard for their own, much less others, lives could be dismissed as "small, ill-equipped militant fanatics".

And that was without true weapons of mass destruction.

In the DailyKos world, the Disney Corporation is a bigger threat to our existence than fanatics with designs on attaining nuclear weapons and no qualms about using them on as many infidels-- Israeli or American infidels, preferably, but Europe, Asia or Australia will do in a pinch-- as possible.

Now, I'll grant you that there is an awful lot of the same old same old on TV and in the theaters these days, and I'll grant you that it would be better if there were more media outlets available for disparate voices to be heard. But considering that The Daily Show, Keith Olbermann, Bill Maher, etc., etc. are still on the air, and considering that satirical shows like South Park and the Mind of Mencia are still poking fun at everybody and everything, I don't really think Corporate media consolidation is going to bring us down any time soon. By all means, monitor it, keep people aware of it, contact your legislators and voice your concerns.


Do I think that attacks on our soil or on the soil of other democracies and repulics, against people with no connection to anything military, political or religious, are a threat to our democracy? Yeah, I do. Do I think a few nuclear bombs detonated in New York, LA, and D.C. will threaten our democracy a little bit more than a screenplay written by a guy who knows Rush Limbaugh? Yeah, I do. Do I think that genocidal massacres in Africa, and beheadings in Iraq and suicide bombings in Israel are a threat to democracy? Yeah, I do.

And here's the ironic twist-- part of the reason that terrorists ARE such a threat to democracy is precisely because of a point that seems so near and dear to liberals. Near and dear to me, as well, for that matter. A natural reaction to terrorist activity is to crack down on individual freedoms-- to crank up the Big Brother aspects of government to increase security. Above and beyond the threat of death and destruction, terrorism breeds insecurity and fear, and a democracy does not do well under those conditions.

Which is why I think President Bush was right to take the fight to the terrorists, why I think he was right to attempt to plant democracy in the Middle East, and why I am appalled by the actual means he has chosen to accomplish those ends. Do I think that the current administration's reliance on fear is a threat to democracy? Yeah, I do that, too. But that does not mean that the terrorists-- you know, the guys that started this whole mess?-- are any less of a threat or any less responsible. It just means that we have to keep our own government in balance lest we lose many or all of the freedoms were purportedly are fighting the terrorists to keep as our own.

So, let me pose my own "Have you stopped beating your wife?" question to tc and all the other DailyKos people who are so terrified of Corporate media consolidation:

tc, are you saying that four hours of inaccurate television, that didn't even make the week's twenty most viewed shows and which was seen by less than 7 million Americans, is more of a threat to American Democracy than terrorist groups that have already killed thousands of your fellow citizens and whom are the direct cause of the Patriot Act, NSA wire taps, and the Iraq War?


Not to pose another delema question, but are you implying that the Patriot Act is a threat to our democracy? That thought would be awefully anti-American and freedom-hating if you ask me. (But only if I were Dick Chaney.)
And are you Dick Cheney? Hmm...

Didn't think so.

More seriously. Is the Patriot Act a threat to our democracy? In a general sense, yes, it is. It gives the gov't more access to private data and increases the government's ability to keep tabs on it's citizens. Big Brother is watching.

Of course, it is also a tool to help preserve our democracy-- if another 9/11 is prevented because of the measures implemented by the Patriot Act, it would be hard to argue that the tilting of the scale towards more security, but less freedom, wasn't worthwhile. The hard bit is making sure the scale doesn't tip too far one way or the other, and that our gov't isn't using its expanded powers for things other than protecting its citizens.

The whole "power corrupts"/1984 thingie. Which is why, though I basically disagree with him, I think that Russ Feingold's objections to the Patriot Act are a good thing. He helps to keep the powers granted by that act visible and scrutinized so that they don't veer off into 1984 land.

And for the record. It's 'dilemma', 'awfully' and 'Cheney'. Have you been taking spelling lessons from Rod?
Very interesting that you of all folks is giving spelling lessons!
Yes? Do I misspell a lot? I know I do some-- I find it much harder to edit my own writing than someone else's-- but I don't think I do it super frequently.

And, to be extremely pedantic, it really should be "are giving spelling lessons!" not "is giving spelling lessons!" =P
Well, as you point out Nick, it's a loaded question, and somewhat unfair; because in both cases, it's actually two questions. The first about the relative dangers of terrorism and terrorist groups to american citizens, and the second having to do with threats to a whole country.

Realistically, of course, terrorists are only a threat to the country of America IF WE ALLOW THEM TO BE. If we allow ourselves to be terrorized, and stampeded into foolish and destructive behaviors.

Which does lead us to the second question, indeed. In fear, ignorance, and being goaded by greedy, grasping, cynical leadership, the country has reacted with too much fear and too little consideration. And here comes Disney, part of the constant drumbeat of rightwing enabling jingoism, with more hyperbole and propaganda, notable only for its inaccuracy.

But the actions of the Congress this week shows the cumulative danger of the atmosphere of fear and hatred that Bush et al have cultivated through repetition and adroit use of many forms of media: legislation that does violence to the Constitution and provides legalistic cover for moral relativism in the form of human rights abuses.

The greatest threat to America as a country is from within.

As far as terrorism being a personal danger, Nick, you're in more danger driving to work, and not because the Patriot act is protecting you. As ill thought out and preliminary as the overly hyped recent terrorism busts in London and Canada were, they were exposed and terminated by old fashioned police intelligence work, not by any tactics provided by the Patriot Act.
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