The $64 question in American politics is some version of this: If the one percent of the super-rich are sticking it to the 99 percent of the rest of us to a more exaggerated degree than ever before in our history, how come, in this democracy, are they able to get away with it?
It’s a simple and straightforward question. How is it that people act and vote in contradiction to their self-interest so often and even with such passion?
But the answer is almost impossible for “experts” to provide. You can see it in body language. The closer to the actual question, the more instant heartburn and headaches ensue. Often, trying to get a practical handle on the issue, the answer is assigned to the unequal gerrymandering of Congressional districts. There is some truth in that. But when the match up is 99 against 1, that can’t account for it alone.
No, it’s surprising how much this simplest and most important of questions is avoided. All this is by way of asking if a massive Manhattan Project-style effort put into facing down this question head on, and the national discourse be centered on solving it, shouldn’t be somebody’s priority.
After all, it’s not a partisan issue, since the 99 percent are obviously inclusive of all political parties, even the marginal ones. Nonetheless, in that context, however, the official line of the GOP is straight up and down to support policies that keep the egregiously imbalanced ratio where it is now, even with lip service from some “enlightened” Republicans to the contrary.
For some, this political division alone is what keeps things where they are now, but that’s messed up.
Why people are drawn to act against their objective self-interest: there’s no more important question for our culture, actually. It needs to be taken far more seriously, without regard for failing to nail it on the head the first time out. It requires a very serious look at what has shaped our popular culture, and why.
It’s instructive to begin with what pro-fascist covert U.S. intelligence operations did to our culture through their assaults on the motion picture industry, in particular, after World War II.
The captains of American industry – the so-called “military and industrial complex” that President Eisenhower warned against – have always seen themselves at war with anything – labor unions, government social services – that limit their maximization of profit and control.
So, coming out of World War II, they saw it imperative to reverse the new social generosity of the American people that won their wars against totalitarianism, sought to reconstruct their vanquished foes in Japan and Europe, and dedicated to advancing a new American culture grounded in the social progressivism of the Roosevelt years.
The captains invented the notion of the “Cold War” against the Soviet communist menace to advance this. The Soviet Union, which had been America’s great ally in the war, once the war was over suddenly became a great threat to American national security.
In reality, the “us versus them” theme of the Cold War had as its real objective to drive a fear-based wedge between the American population and its progressive impulses. With the formation of the CIA after the war, it turned unbounded covert machinations against those social institutions that shaped the American way of thinking. The goal was to have fear replace generosity in the American psyche.
The CIA’s main target quickly became the movies. There is a lot of documentation of the blacklisting of the Hollywood Ten, those playwrights and others driven out of the business because they were suspected of being pro-communist. But far more than pro-communist, anyone who produced films aimed at perpetuating the progressive mindset of the Roosevelt era became equally the targets of CIA covert dirty tricks.
In 1948, working with the FBI, they retained the services of rabid anti-progressive Ayn Rand to scope out hidden “pro-communist” influences in films like “It’s a Wonderful Life.” In 1955, a top secret campaign was run by the National Security Council to introduce themes of what it called “Militant Liberty” into Hollywood films.
To be continued.