Thursday, February 09, 2006

Puncture This

In the field of public policy studies, there's this little thing known as the punctuated equilibrium theory. Basically it says that policymaking is mostly stable, consisting of small, incremental steps here and there until things kind of explode and big things happen. Then, after the big thing happens and some significant policy change has ocurred, the system settles in at the new level of equilibrium and policymaking marches on in the same relatively quiet incremental level as before.

In today's political-media climate, we've seen a lot of this. Katrina was really big for about a week or so, maybe two. There was a hearing thrown in there, where FEMA flunky Michael Brown got grilled by the members of the House of People's Deputies. Everybody felt good about that. Blame was assigned, sort of, although there was a lot of concern on the part of the Media Industrial Complex that nobody be blamed for anything in the case of Katrina; after all, nobody knew how bad it would be, that the levies would break, and why didn't the poor blacks just leave N.O. before hand anyway?

And anyway, before long, we needed a new set of concerns to keep our attention. So when NBC's Brian Williams persisted in keeping the Katrina story afloat, months after it ocurred, well, some viewers just thought that was making too much of the whole deal.

After reading
James Wolcott's skewering of Don Imus' Emily Post moment re: the Coretta Scott King funeral, something Wolcott said made me realize that the nation's concern with foreign policy has undergone a similar punctured equilibrium kind of thing, particularly when it comes to Iraq, Iran, and the war on terror.

In the months leading up to the Iraqi invasion the Media Industrial Complex was red-hot on the case of Iraq: Iraq and Saddam Hussein weren't living up to their agreements; they were in "material breach" of UN resolutions (this from a media and country that routinely spits on international law and cooperative mechanisms); they had WMD (in stockpiles); they were harboring terrorists; when the inspections resumed, they were immediately declared to be "not working"; Iraq's people were being held hostage by a vile "dictator" bent on our, and his own people's destruction; Saddam Hussein had used chemical weapons against his neighbors and his own people (with the U.S. government's past collusion in such undertakings going un-mentioned); even though Saddam Hussein's Iraq was an imminent and potentially lethal threat to America and the world, its conquest would be a "cakewalk" and the Iraqi people would great us as "liberators"; we would quickly round up the WMD Saddam Hussein was hiding because "we knew where it was"; America had to act quickly, now, to take out Saddam Hussein, liberate Iraq, and prevent another 9-11. Yada Yada Yada.

But now, three years later, well, the Media Industrial Complex, or at least the Right Wing Intelligencia that owns the media and is more frequently hosting or otherwise bloviating on its cable tv "news" programs, is just really bored with the whole thing. Yes, yes, the "war" is still going on, 130,000 American troops are still mired in the country of Iraq; the only functioning safe part of the country is a concrete-barricaded "green zone" behind which the media's correspondents hide out in the hotels, few venturing outside to see any of the action first-hand. Some of those who have, have either been bombed or kidnapped.

And now, we hear that Iran is using the opportunity to get all uppity with the International Nuclear Arms Inspection regime and the UN over its nuclear energy projects. The west, which continues to hold onto its stash of nukes, thinks Iran, and the fanatical mullahs that run it, would be deathly dangerous with any nuclear capabilities. Such weapons would enable the violently Shiite country of Iran to harass Israel and "our vital resources" throughout the Middle East. Iran is breaking its agreements and is "defying" the UN and the world community.

And yet, while a looming confrontation with Iran thrills some members of the MIC in general and its division of neoconry in particular, and even though events in Iran and its nuclear ambitions has generated some paranoidish media coverage, I get the sense that their hearts aren't really in it. Nor do I sense the real Americans of Bobo's world are all that motivated by Iran either. They got their yah-yahs out in Iraq already. The thirst to smash some hopeless, backward, undermilitarized country has been satiated. Now they are just bored.

Getting back to James Wolcott's column, here's what he says about Imus:

"...Imus has a new fundraising crusade, the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund, a nonprofit state-of-the-art facility for veterans of the Afghanistan and Iraq conflicts. It's commendable for Imus to raise money and awareness for the facility, but he knows as well as anyone that the reason military men and women are returning home with missing limbs, psychic trauma, nervous disorders, and loss of sight and hearing is because they were sent to fight a war that was based on deception and waged with cavalier disregard for the consequences. Many if not most of those fallen heroes suffered their severe injuries because Bush, Cheney, and their neocon advisors didn't prepare adequately for war and underestimated the enemy, to the sorrow of thousands. And yet Imus wants to attend to the veterans' pain and suffering without holding those accountable for their plight the least bit responsible. Instead, we're told, as the warbloggers often say, to 'get over it.' Why? Because Imus is bored with the whole debate. And when Imus is bored, the whole world is supposed to move on to accomodate his attention span."

I think the attitude Wolcott hears Imus and those like him exuding is reflective of this. They've had their fun. But now they're "tired" of hearing complaints about Bush, about FEMA's cronies, about "Rummy", about Iraq, the deficit, and on and on. It's all just so blandly partisan after all. So when people who forget their place get all uppity on national television, and mention the war in Iraq that Imus and his media buddies were so psyched about three years ago but now want to forget when its all gone to pot and its continuance has no further useful purpose, well, that's just too much, too offensive for their virgin ears. Can't the unwashed masses be kept away from the truly decent folk, like those on Imus' show that spout rascist, homophobic, and anti-democratic inanities day in and day out?

And Iran, terrorism and WMD? Please. Don't bother the kool kids on Imus or Tweety about that stuff. And don't bring up the NSA spying thing either. They're really just bored of the whole thing and want to move on to something more to their liking. Presidential criticism was in when it was Clinton and when it was about sex. But it's not now. So you liberals, don't you be angry no more. And now with the war they started overstaying its welcome, they're not really so excited about somebody else's WMD either. Just go back to your regularly scheduled program.

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