Our journey to fascism
By Phil Rockstroh
Clearing House" -- - Many believe fascism will come to the United States of America
resembling contrived spectacles such as the Super Bowl, the
Academy Awards, and American Idol, with the proceedings intercut
with teary, yet ultimately triumphant, Oprahesque tales of how
redemption can be gained through the renunciation of one’s
rights and liberties, as well as, the dutiful turning in of
one’s subversive neighbors.
Don’t reach for that remote, folks: It’s already here.
Our journey to fascism began at the end of the Second World War,
when the tenets of the hyper-commercialized entertainment /
military / corporate state became sacrosanct by means of our
internalization of it from constant mass media reinforcement.
What purported to be only a message from our sponsors
metastasized into the 24/7 corporatized UberCulture of the
present day. The Revolution will not be televised – because the
Corporatist Coup is being continually broadcast.
Commercial advertising is a form of political speech: A very
potent one and its effects are far from benign. By means of its
cultural dominance, commercial advertising is promulgated, to
the point of total market saturation, without any form of
effective opposition; hence, by its very nature, it amounts to
corporatist propaganda and serves as a vehicle of mass
By way of a ceaseless bombardment of advertising imagery, we
exist in a nonstop, holographic, corporate Nuremberg rally of
the collective mind. We need not participate in old school,
torch-lit processions of Brown Shirts through the streets: This
brand of all-media penetration proto-fascism has been
internalized. We, like maggots born into a pile of dung, find
nothing malodorous about our place of birth.
Karl Rove, Roger Ailes, et al, are not evil geniuses. Well, at
least, they’re not geniuses. They’re simply cocktail party
variety, confidence artists of the electronic age. They're media
professionals who understand the proto-fascistic fantasies of
the populace of the consumer state.
Hitler and Goebbels grasped what any advertising copywriter is
taught early on: People can be manipulated, if an appeal can be
addressed to modern man’s yearning to break free from the
constraints of his existence as an economic animal . . . Whether
it’s the promised dawning of the Thousand Year Reich or the
empty facsimile of freedom promised by the purchase of a new
automobile, both provide the feckless sucker with the illusion
of shaking up the old order; hence, the quotidian prison will
collapse, allowing one’s imprisoned longings to escape to
freedom over the rubble. But first, paradoxically, one must
surrender their rational mind to the individuality-destroying
agendas of the state and/or corporation.
When people habitually surrender their free will to the
irrational dictates of a dominant order, an inner anxiety
results. Outwardly, one feigns strength, yet inwardly one is
ridden with doubts. To compensate, an individual will grow, over
time, more rigid, even totalitarian.
Enter George W. Bush, a man affecting a massive measure of
feigned toughness -- yet, at the same time, riddled with such a
high degree of concomitant inner doubts that when he attempts to
speak, his words trip and stagger over his lips like drunken
dwarves attempting to clear a high curb.
In temperament, Bush is as vain and brutish as any tin-plated
dictator. Worse, Bush more closely resembles an abusive pimp –
tragically -- Lady Liberty’s. Habitually slapping her around,
accusing her of holding out on him, and paranoid of betrayal,
Bush, a preening caricature of Macho Narcissism, like any
run-of-the-dark-alley pimp claims to be her protector, as, all
the while, he abuses, exploits, and degrades her. Apropos,
Bush’s vast collection of outfits for every occasion should
include a plum purple pimp suit; accordingly, the presidential
limo should be tricked out to sport 1970’s style Cadillac El
Dorado opera windows, a two tone paint job, and be accessorized
with plush, white fur-lined upholstery.
It was the wicked magicians of advertising who sold us George W.
Bush. Bush was initially marketed as a box of detergent (though
he's dumb as a box of rocks) -- a cleansing, Christian soap, to
be used as directed to wash and scour the stain of Satanic jism
left on the fabric of American life by the sinful Bill Clinton.
Bush, a former drunk, now "cleaned-up," was ready to lead
America to a whiter-than-white future -- plus provide
round-the-clock protection from the offensive odors emitted by
the body politic.
But, after the 11th of September 2001, Bush was marketed as a
Humvee. The biggest, most powerful vehicle traveling the
perilous roadways of a hostile world . . . It's okay, kids;
daddy's at the wheel . . . just sit in the backseat and watch
your DVDs . . . You're safe and protected: anybody or anything
stupid enough to get in our way will be crushed beneath us.
Challenge us you evildoers and you'll join the rest of the
smoking wreckage and pulverized roadkill in our wake.
Although -- after wildly fluctuating gas prices and a series of
deadly rollovers on the roadways of Iraq, Afghanistan, and the
Post-Katrina Gulf coast -- the Hummer presidency of George W.
Bush is sputtering: the DVD player is running an endless tape
loop of Bush strutting, clad in a flight suit, while Iraq burns
and bleeds; in addition, the vehicle’s passengers are carsick
and road weary.
The fool’s gold standard for this form of governance by
marketing subterfuge was set by former soap and nuclear missile
salesmen Ronald Reagan, who was successfully sold as a kind of
grandfatherly Marlboro Man. Reagan, whose fantasy prone
hagiographers still believe, by some cryptic act of telegenic
alchemy, brought down the Soviet Union – somehow -- by simply
reading a teleprompter. Later, Bill Clinton was a rock-a-billy
cool Elvis who fattened up the economy, like it was binging on a
round-the-clock, fried peanut butter and banana sandwiches and
chocolate cake diet.
At this point, hapless George W. Bush, as was the case with his
geeky, hyperthyroid father before him, must be beginning to
cause his corporate creators to drastically up the dosages of
their respective SSRI prescriptions, because, while they
intended to market Bush II as the heir apparent of the iconic,
cowboy Ron Reagan, it's clear he couldn't handle the
responsibilities of the San Diego Chicken.
Bush should serve out the rest of his term wearing a chicken
costume. Such an act would be emblematic of the man, as well as
our era: Bush as an emblem of the populace of the United States
-- a people who have lost their dignity, by way of surrendering
it to the corporatist order.
In a more literate age, F. Scott Fitzgerald, in his masterpiece,
The Great Gatsby, limned characters emblematic of his era. Yet
the words he wrote in the 1920s still resonate today as a
powerful indictment of those who created and enable men like
Bush -- the corrupt corporatist classes of the present time:
"They were careless people, Tom and Daisy -- They smashed up
things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or
their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them
together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made .
. ." (Pg. 180-181)
Carelessness is the manner by which extroverts manifest despair.
Being a nation that considers introspection a loser’s gambit,
carelessness has been our national mode d'Ítre since the
country's inception. Bush is only its latest manifestation.
And the mess is piling up by the hour. As was the case with
Gatsby, beneath the carefully constructed image and manic
consumption of the UberCulture, the American empire is doomed.
Although, we, unlike Gatsby, for all our cunning artifices and
desperate subterfuge, are not flaming out and falling amid the
glittering debris of frenetic, jazz-imbrued bacchanals -- we
have only managed shopping spree debt, overpriced coffee jags,
McMansion-enclosed anomie and porn habituation.
Gatsby remains an emblem of the hollowness howling beneath the
convivial veneer of capitalist man. An updated version of the
model is Oprah Winfrey.
Yes, I realize Gatsby is a fictional character, imagined and
realized by F. Scott Fitzgerald within the context of a novel;
Gatsby is a construct of the mind sent out into the world to
synergize with the imagination of the reader. Yet the Oprah we
hold in our mind’s eye is also an imagined character -- a
character wholly created by Oprah, fully imagined and realized
inside the media hologram.
Oprah is a corporate capitalist, performance propagandist. Her
rousing tales of personal redemption are very useful to the
plutocratic order of the present day; an elitist order in which
she's comfortably ensconced.
In a time when the besieged laboring and middle classes would
benefit from an honest exposť detailing the ruling class
machinations that belie their sense of powerlessness, Oprah,
instead, proffers 12-step platitudes, "Self Help" bromides
(suggested book club title: An Idiots Guide To Idiocy) and
shopworn Horatio Alger doggerel, all refitted to the media age.
The Gospel of Oprah reeks of faux redemption. Even when Oprah
addresses a topic such as the wage enslavement of minimum wage
jobs, she avoids the obvious question of who benefits from
having this exploitive system in place. Such disingenuous story
telling is analogous to Charles Dickens penning "A Christmas
Story" sans Ebenezer Scrooge.
Oprah is a plutocratic enabler disguised as the populist
underdog who made good. She is a shill for the status quo. She
will never point a pampered finger towards the corrupt ruling
elitist of the corporate class -- because that finger would end
up pointing back at her.
The Uberculture’s frenetic come-ons and false promises flatten
people out emotionally, rendering them depressed, passive, and
conformist. Moreover, in a culture where success is deemed the
end all/be all of all things -- even a measure of God’s love and
grace -- when contemporary Americans risk straying from the
mainstream and fail, the repercussions are terrible, more than
most people can endure, economically, as well as
psychologically. And within the parameters of a corporately
controlled economic structure -- rigged for the benefit of a
privileged few -- failure is altogether likely. Then combine
those noxious realities with the puritanical idea that failure
is due to some character flaw (a toxic notion Oprah has given a
makeover for the media age) and we’re left with a populace who
are conformist, terrified to risk, yet cling to the defining
delusion that they live in a society where industry, innovation,
and pluck are rewarded with success.
For this reason the corporatist order needs a consummate
propagandist like Oprah; a charismatic mountebank who, by means
of her stem-twisting tales of personal redemption, dangles
before her credulous audience the elusive and illusionary carrot
of success. Success and personal fulfillment are possible for
one and all, she lies, if only one will surrender their rational
instincts and avail oneself of her gospel of self-help
salvation. In doing this, Oprah simply sells a variation of the
old totalitarian snake oil.
Oprah Winfrey is a sleight-of-hand artist. One of an order of
corrupt illusionists who have conjured an all-pervasive,
corporatist narrative, a ceaseless mass-media phantasmagoria,
wherein empty imagery deluges authentic apprehension and our
minds are whirled within a virtual reality vortex that drowns
out resonate experience. The Virtual States of America.
In reality, a large measure of our lives are comprised of long
work hours, rounded by tedious, time-decimating commutes, while
in unison, mass media manipulation creates a psychological and
societal dynamic whereby we must work, nearly continuously, so
that we can afford to purchase the empty distractions needed to
stave off the demoralization attendant to this soul-numbing
arrangement; yet, for all our efforts, we only accumulate more
enslaving debt. Ultimately, condemning ourselves to exist
indentured to our corporate bosses, by means of our own
These circumstances and our own complicity contrive to fetter us
to the global company store of late capitalism as, all the
while, our perceptions remain imprisoned within the
proto-fascist panopticon of the Uberculture. Part prison, part
holographic theme park of the mind, it spins a ceaseless
spectacle of commercial propaganda. Call it: Six Flags over
Phil Rockstroh, a self-described, auto-didactic, gasbag
monologist, is a poet, lyricist and philosopher bard living in
New York City. He may be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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