Media, In-Group Collectivism, Feeding American Denial On Inequality, Wage Theft, And More

Denial is a powerful force, and in a representative democracy, mass denial is incredibly dangerous. Combine mass denial with in-group collectivism packaged by a handful of self-serving elites, and we call it conservative media. And leading the charge is the ideological solidarity sold by Fox News for conservative consumption, a force assisting in transmuting our representative democracy into something much more closely resembling a representative oligarchy.

Unfortunately this is not limited to conservative media. Intentional or not, all media, including what Fox News viewers refer to as the “liberal media,” is complicit in a cultural malaise that also contributes to the erosion of our democracy. We get the latest dish on celebrity culture, while they offer us up a steady diet of “Reality TV,” where we feel sorry for the participants and better about ourselves. They infect us with a mega dose of reality distortion, a misrepresentation of the world, showing us the worst of humanity, not the best. The news media has long had a mentality of “if it bleeds, it leads,” and a bombardment of disheartening stories makes us more grateful for the relatively peaceful and fruitful lives we have in America. And while it’s always important to be grateful for what you have, this can be taken to extreme where we become passive, even fearful of change, for the possibility that things could get worse, not better. And we become blind to a reality in which things really are getting worse for many.

In America, workers are struggling. People are falling behind. The next generation may not do as well as the previous generation. Inflation-adjusted wages are falling. Pensions are disappearing. Safety nets like Social Security and Medicare are constantly under attack.

Wages for average U.S. workers, [Joseph] Stiglitz [Nobel laureate] notes, have fallen over the past 40 years — at the same time that American worker productivity has doubled.

“Any economic system that doesn’t deliver for a majority of its citizens,” notes Stiglitz, “is failing.”

But instead of going after the root of our problems, admittedly a complex web that weaves decades long economic policy and a culture of greed and indifference, the depressed masses tune into Fox News to find out who today’s bogeyman is: It’s the welfare queens that are the problem! It’s those crazy liberals with their bleeding heart fantasies that are destroying this country! It’s the people who keep talking about inequality, because they are causing hurt feelings among business owners, and maybe those business owners will just pack it up and call it a day. I mean, after all, who can take that kind of abuse?

In America, it seems the ruling sentiment is that CEOs and executives must be allowed carte blanche. We are told these CEOs and executives are the job creators, and that is the logic used to protect business practices that keep wages stagnant, force people to work harder for less money, and even protect illegal practices like wage theft where workers not only are not paid a fair wage, but are not paid wages they are legally due, only rectified when the company is sued. This is the culture of greed and indifference.

MIRA LOMA, Calif. — Week after week, Guadalupe Rangel worked seven days straight, sometimes 11 hours a day, unloading dining room sets, trampolines, television stands and other imports from Asia that would soon be shipped to Walmart stores.

Even though he often clocked 70 hours a week at the Schneider warehouse here, he was never paid time-and-a-half overtime, he said. And now, having joined a lawsuit involving hundreds of warehouse workers, Mr. Rangel stands to receive more than $20,000 in back pay as part of a recent $21 million legal settlement with Schneider, a national trucking company.

“Sometimes I’d work 60, even 90 days in a row,” said Mr. Rangel, a soft-spoken immigrant from Mexico. “They never paid overtime.”

While a bit over-the-top, and a nice piece of dystopic fiction, the mindset fueling this freak show is not unlike this scene from The Hunger Games: Catching Fire:

from "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire"

from “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire”

Plutarch Heavensbee: Shut down the black markets take away what little they have, then double the amount of floggings and executions, put them on TV. Broadcast them live! Sow fear, more fear.

President Snow: It won’t work. Fear does not work as long as they have hope. And Katniss Everdeen is giving them hope!

Plutarch Heavensbee: She’s engaged! Make everything about that. What kind of dress she’s gonna wear?

Floggings.

What’s the cake gonna look like?

Executions.

Whose gonna be there?

Fear.

Blanket coverage, shove it in their faces. Show them that she’s one of us now. They’re gonna hate her so much they just might kill her for you.

President Snow: Brilliant.

Now, to be clear, I’m not a conspiratorial hack. When people think there is more than meets the eye, I think it is less. I don’t believe in the idea of men sitting in a smoky and dark room, making decisions that affect millions or billions. But, with media consolidation, what we see on television is controlled by larger and larger conglomerates, with the executives of these massive corporations wielding greater and greater messaging power over the rest of us. But, I do not think there is some grand plan. I think it’s people looking out for their own interests, and when people are in places of great influence, power, and wealth, their interests many times are not in alignment with the interests or the livelihoods of average people.

So while there is no President Snow ruling over Panem, The United States of America, there is a distressing combination of fear and pacification that has infected this country. After the economic meltdown in 2008, people are still fearful of losing their jobs. A high level of anxiety and fear keeps the masses in check, allows corporations to squeeze more from less, stops people from forming unions (or stopping their destruction), and allows the people who have the wealth and influence to gain even more wealth and influence.

In our reality, you can replace Heavensbee’s playbook with the following:

An economic tsunami, caused by the elites, that hurts the average person, but leaves the elites shielded from the effects. Sowing fear.

Death panels.

Millions more on food stamps, or welfare. People on unemployment, unable to find work, dreading the day when the funds run dry. Raising anxiety.

Socialism. Takers vs. Makers. Welfare queens stealing from the rest of us.

The economy is starting to do better, but is still slow to recover, but the people at the top of the economic ladder or doing quite well. The stock market is hitting all-time highs again. The average worker is left hanging, seeing no benefits from an improving economy. Concern. Overworked. Tired.

Punishing success by raising taxes on the rich. Illegal immigrants taking our jobs, committing crimes, hurting our economy.

The point is this: Sow the fear. Create distractions. Find a bogeyman to blame. Hell, even the distraction today can be the bogeyman tomorrow. As long as it pacifies the masses in the belief that somebody else is responsible for what’s wrong, there’s never a reason to look in the mirror.

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