Part 1: An industry shill accidentally illuminates America’s Newspeak-worthy labels.
Amy Goodman’s Democracy Now! recently hosted a lively debate on the water-befouling natural gas-extracting process known as hydraulic fracturing (or “fracking”). In my estimation, the winner of the debate (albeit not by much and not on substance) was professional energy-industry shill, Phelim McAleer, whose documentary films have one consistent theme: burning fossil fuels is peachy keen and oh-so safe, no matter what those kooky environmentalists say. His thick Irish brogue and folksy, ingratiating manner were handsome compliments to his lying denials — tobacco-industry worthy, only with regard to fracking’s environmental costs — and his willingness to talk over the other guests. In all fairness, he was outnumbered by the fracking detractors on the panel and some of them had begun to debunk his false claims, credibly and in detail; they simply had to be interrupted. Brogue, you’re on!
The shill’s central thesis, however, aimed at American progressives, is a doozy, 50% surprisingly well-observed and 50% “straw man” — all in all, a well-crafted piece of deceptive corporatocracy B.S. The gist of McAleer’s thesis (the part with which I agree, even though it’s clearly intended as a dig) is that progressives are “the true conservatives” in today’s America. Banking on the unpopularity of conservatism in the world, he calls progressives “conservative” for opposing fracking and, by extension, other modern wonders such as deep-ocean drilling, trade pacts, Predator drones, military tribunals, and credit default swaps. He then takes this unexpectedly (unintentionally) astute observation all the way to Straw Man Country (where he was bound all along), suggesting that American progressives are science-ignorant Luddites stuck in the 20th century. This is pure blarney, of course, and a slander to millions of progressives who have fought for decades to keep science in the classroom, the doctor’s office, and government policy.
But the first part of McAleer’s claim, repeated for emphasis (like the rest of his industry-canned palaver), really resonated for me: PROGRESSIVES, IN FACT, ARE THE TRUE CONSERVATIVES IN TODAY’S AMERICA. Demanding reforms of our corrupt institutions, progressives can point to America’s past traditions, noting that during the half-century+ of the nation’s greatest prosperity, American banks were regulated; elite criminals were occasionally investigated, prosecuted, and jailed; the government paid some heed to the Bill of Rights; workers were reasonably protected and compensated; taxation and social spending reflected a meaningfully progressive social compact; and the economy wasn’t utterly dependent on usury and fraud, endless terrorism-fueling wars, slave/sweatshop/prison labor, blanket citizen surveillance, and mass incarceration.
Today’s progressives observe that even under Nixon there were significant advances in the nation’s environmental policies (as opposed to today, when “liberal” President Obama’s administration is more focused on corporate ambitions than environmental protection). We note that even under conservative icon Ronald Reagan our government passed anti-torture laws (whereas under President Obama, the U.S. tortures even American citizens with sleep deprivation, forced drugging and nudity, physical abuse, and psychologically crippling sensory deprivation coupled with lengthy solitary confinement (I am now describing the conditions to which American soldier PFC Bradley Manning was subjected for well over a year before he was even charged with a crime; he’s now been held for well over two years despite not having been convicted of any crime).
The corollary to McAleer’s pithy little pearl of wisdom concerning progressives is that so-called “conservatives” in today’s America are the truly RADICAL ones. They are the unabashed advocates of torture, including waterboarding. They explicitly want to replace Medicare with vouchers, privatize Social Security, outlaw abortion in all cases, and turn the routine (once perfunctory) raising of the debt ceiling into an annual panic-inducing hostage crisis. After more than three decades of dismantling (with beaucoup Democratic help) our legal, moral, and cultural traditions, conservatives want MORE, MORE, MORE: guns in every school (but zero trained educators); privatized everything (from the USPS to schools, libraries, roads, and hospitals), and nothing short of the total rescinding of the New Deal. Modern American “conservatives” should be recognized for what they are: extreme radicals (the very opposite of conservative).
In other words, we’re truly through the looking glass, Alice… or should I say, Mr. Orwell. Newspeak has come to 21st-century America, where down is up, war is peace, “progressives” are conservative, and “conservatives” are guano-insane radicals. Perhaps the first step toward taking our country back will involve reclaiming WORDS and their actual definitions.
Next: Part II — Lying labels, involving a “moderate” president and some “radical” peace activists