Thursday, July 25, 2013

The Zombies We Call Americans

Growing up, I had some opportunities many other American children did not have.  My father was a ham radio operator and he built many shortwave radios with his own hands, the kind that used tubes.  I still have one of them.  He let me keep one in my room and nearly every evening, when others were watching TV, I would tune into Radio Moscow, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, the Voice of America, The British Broadcasting Corporation, Radio Havana Cuba, and Deutsche Welle.  This was during the 1970s, deep into the Cold War, when the Internet did not exist and most Americans got their news from three national news networks.  I grew up exposed to a wide range of propaganda.

This brought me many advantages.  I would hear coverage of the same stories from many very different points of view.  At times it appeared that these different news services were reporting from different universes, where the same event played out completely differently and had behind it mutually exclusive causes.  Importantly, I also noticed that the USSR would sometimes report on events in the USA that were not reported in American news.  The USA would report on events in the USSR that were not reported on Radio Moscow.  Sometimes even the Canadians would cover things in the USA that the USA would not cover.  For the most part, the three American networks were in lock-step compared to their foreign counterparts.  I grew up very suspicious of any single source of the news.  I used to tell people I was "triangulating" the truth by listening to these different sources.  In time, I realized this was not possible because the various powers shared many concerns as well.  Both the USA and the USSR benefited from the arms race.  They had a mutual interest in promoting the idea that the world could break out into war at any moment, even if they knew secretly that it would not.

When Vietnam invaded Cambodia, I heard the news straight from Vietnam before I heard it in the US media.  The Vietnamese were reporting on the genocidal campaign led by Pol Pot and announced that stopping this genocide was their primary goal.  The American news presented it as a territorial expansion.  Long before most Americans had the opportunity to experience foreign news, I was at it every evening.

As I grew older and studied German and Russian, I would go to Out of Town News in Cambridge, Massachusetts and buy copies of Der Spiegel, Soviet Life, Izvestia, and Pravda.  I did my best to read the German and Russian papers.  I was determined to take in information from beyond the cognitive curtain thrown up by our corporatist society.  When the Internet finally caught up to me, it became my primary source of news and my use of Shortwave and foreign magazines declined.  Unlike most Americans, I am not the product of American Media alone.

Long ago I completely abandoned television.  Occasionally I catch an episode of South Park or Family Guy as I sit at my computer and my daughter watches TV, but I do not get my news from TV - at all.  As the years have passed, I've noticed the growing gap between my understanding of the world and the typical American take on the world.  Ironically, my father hardly ever listened to news on shortwave radio.  He didn't trust those "foreign news sources."  Over the final decade of his life, he watched Fox News exclusively.  By the end of his life, we lived in different cognitive universes and I did my best to avoid any discussions with him regarding the world beyond our family, for it was like communicating with an extraterrestrial.  His world and my world were not the same world.  Within the same country, we were living in parallel universes.  His universe was filled with villains, evil foreign nations, criminals, and American heroes beating back these demons.  My universe was filled with American war criminals and war mongers waging endless war on foreign peoples who were merely trying to get on with their lives.  In his universe, humans were basically bad and needed to be kept in their place.  In my universe, humans were basically good and corporations and governments were feeding on them.

The divide within my own family is profound.  Two nephews have gone to war in Iraq and/or Afghanistan. My sister, mother of one of these nephews, has transformed from a liberal to a conservative and beams with pride about her son's "service" in Iraq.  I love my nephew and, fortunately, he was a medic, so as best I know he did no evil overseas.  My sister is now gun-ho about war.  She cheers the police and she cheers the troops.  She too watches Fox News endlessly.

I find myself increasingly alone.  While a handful of people at the various places I have worked understand, to a degree, that the USA is not angelic, the vast majority see the world exactly as it is created by the American news networks.  A lifetime of public school and corporate media has transformed them into Zombies that voluntarily enforce the world view of their corporate masters.  They have become antibodies for the dominant American memeplex.  No foreign idea can come into their cognitive space without a passionate effort to dismiss it, crush it, or threaten the source that brings it into their awareness.  Words of wonderfully positive and humanistic concepts have been painted with poison by the corporate media and by our education system, and they are flung as if poison darts at anyone that mentions them.  You cannot say "universal healthcare" with being hit by the "socialism" dart.  Sure, it is socialistic and I think that makes it a good thing, but to these antibodies, the word "socialism" is dirty, foreign, and evil.  You cannot criticize the police without the standard poison dart that goes "Yeah, but who will you call in an emergency?"  The obvious answer is "not the cops because they are likely to kill you," but though that is true, it will be construed as mere childishness (despite all the evidence that they do, in fact, kill us more frequently than terrorists do, much more frequently).

If you point out that an employer abuses its workers, the standard poison dart is "You're lucky to have a job.  Millions of people would kill to just have a job" or "Yeah, drive the businesses out of our state!"  When was the last time you heard of anyone killing someone to get a job?  I bet it almost never happens.  That obvious counter-argument will be dismissed out of hand, because antibodies don't argue, they just attack.

For just about any positive goal that could be undertaken to improve the lives of Americans and workers, the corporate media and our public education system has already installed an arsenal of poison darts to shoot at anyone that even mentions one of them.  The poison darts do not hold up to scrutiny, but they don't have to.  All they have to do is make the Zombie feel like his/her world view has been defended and discourage any thinking person from speaking up lest they attract more poison darts, perhaps from someone who can fuck up their lives (e.g. their boss).

As these Zombies fling their darts to protect the virtual world created for them by their slave-masters, they form an immune system that maintains the power of those responsible for creating the suffering of the very Zombies leaping to the system's defense.  It is a sad state of affairs.

Do your Zombie friends and family a favor.  Smash their televisions.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

omfg i love you.