Letter to International Herald Tribune re political names and journalistic malpractice
These letters are of an unpublishable genre, since they are long (if you go as far from decency and common sense as has American political language, it’s a long and winding road back home) and each one accuses IHT journos of malpractice.
Edward G. Nilges
24 Sep 2009
International Herald Tribune
To whom it may concern:
Although I live in Hong Kong, I am somewhat familiar with developments in Chattanooga, Tennessee as described in “US mayors confront growing threat: recall” (Michael Cooper, IHT 24 September 24).
It is well known in communities from Hong Kong to Chattanooga that the boundary between business and government has been dissolved in such a way that local governments are now run in the interests of the largest businesses of the community, which use the theodicy that they are the only entities that “create jobs” (something that is just false given the Tennessee Valley Authority and Hong Kong’s public housing).
Ordinary people know that the Tai-Pans and good old boys enter and exit government through a revolving door because they know Wing Nut Ho or Billy Joe Bob personally or in local news.
However, elite journalists are “educated” which means they are able to reify and they think that reification is a Good Thing, because education confuses reification with concept formation. Journos think abstractly in terms of “politicians” and “businessmen” and, with the pseudo-scientific ease so prized in academia, imagine these sets must be neatly disjoint ceteris paribus and if the creek don’t rise.
This explains the “Tea Party” phenomenon as a myth that as a myth can become something real, even as Fascism bootstrapped its small initial base of support.
Diverse groups in Chattanooga call its mayor corrupt; this means that he occludes the line between governing in the people’s interest and crony capitalism, and is neither fish nor fowl. Some of them do so from a Tea Party and conservative ideology, others from a traditionally liberal perspective, still others from an environmental perspective, and even more from a perspective that’s just fed up.
A default cynicism being another thing being learned in elite universities, it becomes impossible for the journo to imagine what words mean. “Government” “as such” means in a decent society governing in the interests of the governed, but this becomes unimaginable if along with your learned liberalism you also learn to smirk a lot and be a “realist”. But this means you have no words to ask for what the people of Chattanooga want. They want what as recently as the 1940s was called “good government”.
“Good government” was mocked by tough minded macho journos (who learned machismo by way of Hemingway rather than a real job or in the Army, unlike their less fortunate fellow Americans) as “goo goo” which codified the Progressive movement of the turn of the 20th century as a thing for women and “little old ladies in tennis shoes” as opposed to the tough-minded liberal of that era, who then morphed into the neocon.
But, in another case of over-education in malarkey, Cooper does not describe Littlefield as corrupt; instead he slyly implies that Littlefield is not corrupt by leading in with a completely different mayor who Cooper knows/believes isn’t corrupt. The reliance on a failure in logic on the part of the International Herald Tribune’s “educated” readers is astounding, since Cooper clearly means Littlefield to be “like” the California mayor who was raising taxes to provide a better water supply.
The malarkey here is “journalistic objectivity” renarrated as “don’t speak truth to power”. Refraining from saying that Littlefield is corrupt, or actively implying that the other mayor is an Honest John, doesn’t even meet the test of “objectivity” used in polite society, where “objectivity” is renarrated as “not offending anyone”.
For in fact it is offensive to citizens’ groups to call them, in effect, liars and boneheads. If you defend the politician they are attacking you might not be “speaking truth to power”, but you’re not objective using your rule about not being offensive.
Nor are you objective if you identify only one group, the Tea Party, which has made a small contribution to dissidence in Chattanooga. It becomes the over-amplified label of people who in fact and on Facebook are simply not Tea Baggers.
Modern journalism hides the merging of business (that is, the interests of the rich), and government. It makes unsayable the fact that a corrupt government is nothing more than a mailed fist inside of a velvet glove…inside a mailed fist in some cases. It also fails to mention that “business” means “the interests of the wealthy”.
This creates a myth which feeds on itself, because people can only use the language created, which creates the call for an end of “government”. They can only affiliate with the groups that the journos name, and here it’s the Tea Party, a one-size-fits-all movement like a gimme cap. People without elite educations aren’t permitted to affiliate with anything else. They are herded by the language of elite journalism into a kraal labeled Tea Baggers.
There is no grassroots liberalism because the educated elite have learned all too well that language is malleable and spin is all. To speak as a “Progressive” means being unheard. And another name for inarticulate rage is, of course, Fascism.
If you’re wondering where the grassroots left populism went, the populism of William Jennings Bryan and Henry Wallace, it’s been deprived of a voice by an elite which itself is not so much educated as certified. Elite journalism is concealing its existence, because liberalism is thought by the liberals themselves to be too valuable to waste on ordinary people.
But it’s all over Facebook like kudzu.