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March 25, 2006

The Blogs' Message: The Nature Of American Government Has Changed

-- by Dave Johnson

In Administration tells Congress (again) - We won't abide by your "laws", Glenn Greenwald lays it out:

The reality is that the Administration has been making clear for quite some time that they have unlimited power and that nothing -- not even the law -- can restrict it. ... As I have documented more times than I can count, we have a President who has seized unlimited power, including the power to break the law, and the Administration -- somewhat commendably -- is quite candid and straightforward about that fact.
I think this is the key line:

And the media continues to fail in its duty to inform the country about the powers the Administration has seized, likely because they are so extreme that people still do not really believe that the Administration means what they are saying.
This is the key. Maybe, just maybe, they mean the things they are saying. And I think this warning about the extreme things the Right is saying is a big part of what political blogging is about.

Blogs are an Internet phenomenon. So bloggers tend to be people who spend a lot of time online, and political bloggers read a lot about politics. So political bloggers are more likely than others to be visiting websites and forums where right-wingers more openly discuss their ideas, or are more likely to be listening to Limbaugh and others on the radio. And what we are reading and hearing is frightening. The things they are saying to each other are DIFFERENT from what they are saying to the public. The things they are writing and saying are extreme and violent and subversive. It is not like what we as Americans are used to reading and hearing.

The things the Republicans are saying and doing are so extreme that regular people refuse to believe it when you try to warn them about what is happening. For example, several years ago I had been reading the right's newsletters, forums and websites, and I was trying to tell my moderate-centrist aunt that the conservatives were talking about getting rid of public schools. She called ME an extremist for saying something like that. It's a natural reaction. But now, years later, we know that this is what their agenda has been all along, and like the frogs in heating water it no longer seems so extreme. Bringing this back to Glenn's post, if today you try to tell someone that an American President is asserting that laws do not apply to him, they think YOU'RE the crazy person in the room.

Bloggers are trying to warn the public that what is going on in America is DIFFERENT from politics-as-usual. The bloggers have been trying to get the Democratic leadership and the media to understand this. We are seeing something new to America forming, something dangerous to democracy. The "pendulum" is not swinging back. It is right there in front of your eyes if you are willing to see it, but it represents something so radical, so different from what we are used to, that it is difficult to believe this could be happening to us.

Yes, the President of the United States is asserting that he is above the law. The nature of American government has changed. The question is, who among us has the courage to stand up and say that we do not accept this? Who among us is willing to speak out, beyond the blogs? When will the media begin to understand what is happening, and start to warn the public? When will the Democratic leadership begin to realize that the extreme things the Republicans are saying might be what they mean to do?

Posted by Dave Johnson at March 25, 2006 12:40 PM

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Comments

Great article, and right on target.

But I think the 'talking points', the subtle propaganda that has been the republican tactic along, has so filtered into the public psyche that without massive re-education (bad word) of the public to the truth, there is little that the Media would be able to do here.

Posted by: Branedy at March 26, 2006 5:21 AM

Well, the media could, and should, be reporting on this. You get a hint of it now and then, but nobody really believes this could happen here. What will it take, not just to get the word out to the public, but to get them to actually believe this?

Posted by: MJ [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 26, 2006 5:46 AM

To get the word out to the public in general, I would suggest that perhaps a major motion picture on the subject of pre-Nazi Germany during the 1930s might help. If this movie could draw the parallels between Germany in the 30s and America today, at least the subject will be put into the forefront of discussion and debate. And because movies are watched by everyone, red and blue, dumb and smart, the message will permeate into all corners of this country. Of course there still will be the hard-core fascists that will deny this parallel. They are the 33% that still support this administration.

Posted by: Michael Prah at March 26, 2006 8:59 AM

How do we protect America? High-jacked by people calling themselves Christian. The world now hates Christian people. Who are this people - for real? They practice reverse of real Christians. Much later for this cult. Vote. Jose

Posted by: Joe Gallardo at March 26, 2006 9:49 AM

To quote a letter I submitted at Salon, which begins with a quote from another letter there:

Letter submitter Ufansius describes the 'my gosh, it can't get worse, can it?' chatter from the seats of Starbucks:

"This is where we are, folks. I sit in Starbucks with friends, all of us shaking our heads over our coffees, reassuring each other that "it can't get any worse, surely?"... I keep getting this mental vision of a group of people sitting in a sidewalk cafe on the Kurfurstendamm in 1936, shaking their heads over their coffees and reassuring each other that "it can't get any worse, surely?""

I'd like to point the readers to the preface by Paul Krugman in his book, "The Great Unraveling", in which he identifies a doctoral these written decades ago by, of all people, Henry Kissinger, on the topic of how the public in stable societies are unable to face and stop radical new governments - newly and ironically relevant to the changes the (formerly radical) right are implementing. Here's Krugman summarizing:

"Paul Krugman: Well, it’s really good for explaining how reasonable people can’t bring themselves to see that they’re actually facing a threat from a radical movement. Kissinger talked about the time of the French Revolution, and pretty obviously he also was thinking about the 1930s. He argued that, when you have a revolutionary power, somebody who really wants to tear apart the system -- doesn’t believe in any of the rules -- reasonable people who’ve been accustomed to stability just say, "Oh, you know, they may say that, but they don’t really mean it." And, "This is just tactical, and let’s not get too excited." Anyone who claims that these guys really are as radical as their own statements suggest is, you know, "shrill." Kissinger suggests they'd be considered alarmists. And those who say, “Don’t worry. It’s not a big deal,”are considered sane and reasonable.

Well, that’s exactly what’s been happening. For four years now, some of us have been saying, whether or not you think they’re bad guys, they’re certainly radical. They don’t play by the rules. You can’t take anything that you’ve regarded as normal from previous U.S. political experience as applying to Bush and the people around him. They will say things and do things that would not previously have made any sense -- you know, would have been previously considered out of bounds. And for all of that period, the critics have been told: "Oh, you know, you’re overreacting, and there’s something wrong with you."...

Paul Krugman: Well, you know, just about a year ago, in one of the new columns in my book, I said that the stakes are very high for the Bushies, because we all know that there are terrible suppressed scandals. And that was before we even had any hint about Abu Ghraib. They will do anything to win. You have to expect that it’s going to be the dirtiest campaign in American history, and so it’s proving. We probably ain’t seen nothing yet. Over and over again, the people who made a judgment about the motives of the Administration, and assessed the facts on the basis of that judgment, have proved again and again to be getting it right in interpreting the latest story. People who keep on clinging to the belief that these are reasonable people who behave like a conventional government have been snookered."

Posted by: Craig at March 27, 2006 9:03 AM

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