Wednesday, November 14, 2007

My Blogging Milesone (Part 4): The End of the American Republic

The recent Pakistani constitutional crises provides me with an opportunity to reiterate some political observations concerning our own democracy.

Those of us who were required to take civics classes in high school learned that our constitution provides sufficient checks and balances to fend of the aspirations of a would-be king or a monolithic political party. The salient point of my June 14th article was this: the enduring legacy of this radical neocon Republican era may be the formulation and proof of the idea that our constitutional form of government can be overthrown from within.

Republicans in the Nixon and Reagan eras nipped away at Constitutional safeguards; the present Bush/Cheney administration neocons have swallowed them whole. While we may have weathered the current crisis, the anti-democratic institutions are still in place to try it again some time in the near future.

So here once again is my recipe for overthrowing the American Republic:
  1. Subvert the news media: It is clear that the major media outlets, and their journalists and editors, have been compromised in various ways. Not only have they become self-editing, but also the administration is adept at playing the news cycles. News organizations focused on the bottom line have closed overseas bureaus, cut experienced staff, depleted research resources and pandered to the gossip mongers. Without a truly adversarial Fourth Estate, this administration has led us into war, politicized public agencies, committed any number of felonies and thumbed their noses at the other branches of government.

  2. Stack the courts with anti-Constitutional judges: This is not an issue of left or right or conservative or progressive. This is an issue of upholding and defending the Constitution, as it was intended by the Founding Fathers. Republican appointees who put party above the Constitution allow the Republic to fail.

  3. Distract the public: This may be contingent on #1. The main stream media fill their airwaves and pages with non-news trivia. These modern bread and circus pageants distract the population from understanding and pursuing the own best interests.

  4. Cripple the military: The Iraq adventure has accomplished two key things. It has severely stretched our professional military and it has depleted our national guard resources, both in manpower and material. It has also allowed the creation of a large private army that is loyal to their corporations ahead of their country. The Romans had their Praetorian Guards. We have Blackwater.

    Another unintended consequence of the occupation in Iraq is the filtering of any senior military opposition to the administration's agenda. Military yes-men have risen to the top, the naysayers have taken early retirement.

  5. Weaken the middle class: With more of us scrambling to meet our financial obligations, fewer of us have sufficient time to devote to investigating political wrongdoing and participating in its correction.

  6. Game the political process: Republicans have been adept at filling local election positions with those key players who can help stack the deck in their favor. Control of local election oversight positions has been used to influence election rules, purge voter lists and swing close contests to their party. Districts have been gerrymandered to ensure reelection of the incumbent.

The current takeover attempt has failed due to corruption and incompetence spread throughout all three branches of our government. It isn't too hard to imagine a future in which a more competent, less corrupt cabal of political radicals succeeds where their predecessors failed. The blueprint for a future successful takeover of the United States has already been created for them.

What would a Media Ecology patriot do?

Clearly the field of Media Ecology has a lot to offer in the analysis of what is happening in our society, if not a solution to the problem. Championed by Terry Moran as a part of the NYU program in Media Ecology, the impact of propaganda on our public discourse has always been a key aspect of Media Ecological analysis. Neil Postman's Crazy Talk, Stupid Talk and Amusing Ourselves to Death, provide us with cogent arguments concerning the degradation of public discourse brought on by the sloppy use of language and unthinking acceptance of broadcast media-based news programming.

Other key Media Ecological figures like Lance Strate and Paul Levinson have provided a solid foundation in the Media Ecology tradition concerning the various attacks on our Constitutional rights and the impact of media biases. A hint: Media Ecologists are pro civil rights and anti media biases.

So what should an ME patriot do? Clearly analysis must be balanced by action, and I'm happy to say that among the honors granted annually by the Media Ecology Association is an award for the best example of Media Ecology praxis. Following the lead of Strate and Levinson, Media Ecologists should make greater efforts to publish in the various popular print media and make their presence known in broadcast and new media. Now more than ever, Media Ecologists should participate in the election cycle, lending their expertise to any candidate who champions the Constitution over party politics. This would include fact checking, media production skills, technology assessments and yes, practical approaches to counteracting propaganda and political dirty tricks.

To repeat: Our contemporary neo-cons have succeeded in introducing the idea that the our Constitutional form of government can be subverted from within. The immediate threat may be abating, but the danger remains.

When future historians attempt to pinpoint exactly when the United States ceased being a constitutional democracy, they could do no better than to choose the years between 2000 and 2008, in other words, the second Bush administration. This may prove to be the era when the seeds were planted that led to the end of the American Republic and the beginning of the American empire.

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