Wednesday, October 10, 2012

How to Construct a False Narrative


We can see a demonstration of how Tom Bissell has ably ingratiated himself with the mainstream media in his recent piece for Yahoo News on the Obama-Romney debate,

Note how Tom Bissell arbitrarily pulls three questions out of the air, then insists that these are the necessary questions that must be answered. Why these and not three others?

Through these three questions, Bissell is establishing the terms of the discussion. He’s setting the parameters of how we’re to think about the two political parties. In front of our eyes, he’s constructing the narrative. The Republicans are the party of business and the Democrats the party of government. It’s an either-or choice—as Tom Bissell presents it. Government or business. He assures us that claiming to be Independent is a nonexistent stance. Bissell then takes the narrative one step further by showing us the real choice as caring or not caring about your fellow man. He’s set up the choice—a very stark choice, with visions of people thrown suddenly into the brutal streets. (Never mind that in every city, hundreds of homeless are already visible on the streets. Maybe including a few writers.)

How true is the Tom Bissell narrative in this instance?

The narrative avoids the uncomfortable truth that both major political parties are financed by big business. Both are also inextricably tied into the perpetuation of big government; the various gigantic federal bureaucracies. Sure, one party will lean a trifle more toward social and regulatory bureaucracies; the other towards the military-industrial complex. But these are marginal differences. Under Mitt Romney, not one federal agency or department will be abolished. He may, as Ronald Reagan did, slow the growth of the massive social-welfare bureaucracies. That’s it. Just as “radical” Barack Obama has maintained the entire network of the national security system, drones and Guantanamo included.

Tom Bissell either has a distorted view of who Barack Obama and Mitt Romney are, or he’s deliberately presenting a distorted view. Both Obama and Romney are technocratic caretakers of the system, whose function is first to maintain the system, not radically alter it. There are marginal differences between them, and they’ll make marginal changes, but nothing approaching, in even an infinitesimal way, the extreme portraits of both men painted by their supporters and opponents.

That it’s an extreme choice is the game whereby the two parties maintain themselves. It gets people to the polls and justifies the two-party monopoly on power.

We saw this in the debate. Get beyond the pyrotechnics of Romney’s grin and Obama’s grimace and look at what the two actually said. They bent over backward to agree with each other. Romney assured us he supports regulation. The reality is, he does, and he will, though he’s likely to pull back on it enough to get the economy moving. On the most contentious issue of Obama’s term in office, Obamacare, Mitt Romney said he wanted not to remove it, but replace it with something similar. He’d retain many of its components. Aside from the rhetoric, how do we know this? Because the model for Obamacare was Romneycare in Massachusetts. As Obama has said himself many times, the fundamental ideas behind Obamacare originally came from Republicans. The differences between the parties are cosmetic. Their concern isn’t to change the corporate-government money machine, but to make the machine operate more efficiently. They differ not on strategy, but tactics.

The election presents the electorate with a false narrative. A stereotyped yes-no good-bad black-white presentation which is a caricature of reality. Tom Bissell emphasizes, and further exaggerates, this false narrative in his Yahoo News article. We note Tom Bissell’s ability at creating caricatures. We see again Bissell’s function as able mouthpiece for a status quo, which was exemplified in his essay on the Underground Literary Alliance.

1 comment:

Wred Fright said...

Is voting for Gary Johnson or Jill Stein the presidential equivalent of reading stuff from the ULA? Even if not, I'll likely be voting for Johnson for reasons such as you note, King. It might be futile but at least when Obama or Romney bombs some more little kids in Pakistan or whatever and cranks up the debt a few more trillion, I'll feel a little better.