The Cult of Spectacle

The 1% chill on the taxpayer's dime.

The 1% chill on the taxpayer’s dime.

One image can encapsulate the glaring disparity between politician’s lives and the lives of average American citizens.

Four rich white guys [one unidentifiable but we can safely assume he isn’t a Home Depot employee] relax in Romney’s private jet while laughing their ass off in the face of extreme economic adversity, middle-class wage stagnation, poverty, and catastrophic injustice. It’s just another day at the office for “Conservatives” who rally around antiquated dogma concerning women’s reproductive rights. same-sex marriage, and marijuana use. (Rubio states at his website that “there is no responsible way to use marijuana recreationally”).

Amid the debacle known as the “Republican debates”, candidates have decided to split their agenda between taking down Donald Trump and reiterating their positions. It isn’t winning them any accolades. To his credit, John Kasich has abstained from the lowbrow Punch and Judy antics that have replaced substantive political discourse. But have we heard substantive discourse from the Republicans? Mostly, we’ve been subject to a spectacle. It is galvanizing public opinion and preying on people’s penchant for quick and pithy sound bites. Since no one has any faith in good ole political rhetoric, the candidate with the most extreme platform and catchy buzz-words steam rolls ahead.

In a recent CNN interview, Romney claimed ”Trump has tapped into our anger – and taken it down a long dark alley…he has taken the campaign into a deep gutter”. But we can’t blame Trump for harnessing the ennui and sense of powerlessness that emerged out of the Mortgage crisis of 2008. The gutter was already excavated by Wall Street, investment banks, and lack of regulatory laws that paved the way for millions of hard working Americans to lose their jobs, their life savings, their homes, their hope. And lets not forget that Republicans overturned the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform law that would have allowed government to regulate big banks. Republicans continue to block all legislation that would impose more stringent oversight in the financial sector. Could it be that Wall Street is lining Republican’s pockets? Nearly 19% of Ted Cruz’s funding came from Wall Street donors and Jeb Bush received 30 million from Wall Street – though it did him little good. Cruz funded his senate campaign with a million dollar loan from Sachs and is known as being “pro-bank”. Yet, both candidates have repeatedly castigated Wall Street. Republicans pulled in a record $356 million from Wall Street in 2012 due in part, to Mitt Romney’s intrepid leadership.


The Fox Theatre, Detroit, where the March 2rd Republican debate took place. It resembles Moulin Rouge – perhaps more garish

Yet there they stand, debate after debate telling us that it’s a travesty that “big banks” are allowed to straddle so much power. Hypocrisy swarms the candidates as Donald Trump grandstands and promises draconian measures to deal with all of society’s ills. It’s no wonder people are angry and fed up. We have deteriorated to a place where we prefer presidential candidates to assume the demeanor of reality TV stars. Why not?

Our political process has become spectacle and that bodes poorly for the average person. Chris Hedges, former overseas bureau chief for the New York Times wrote that Totalitarian societies are spectacle and image-based societies and that’s what we’ve become. “We are awash in electronic hallucinations.” He couldn’t be more right. We are drowning in superfluous information coming at us 24/7 and yet, the corporate state has managed to make complete segments of American society invisible.

Reflection and thought are no longer valued – witness Trump and the support he’s amassed. He is manipulative, self-important, and superficial – all the attributes of a cult leader. He uses emotionally charged words and images that appeals to our desperation. And because our attention span has become so short, we gravitate to his cliché and jargon. Trump is the tip of an iceberg. Corporate America, including the media, has dispensed with complex intellectual discourse and as a result, so have we.

— D. Johnstone

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