Drinking the Kool-Aid, America: Political Fiction in
an Age of Televised Lies
By John W.
got to face it. Politics have entered a new
stage, the television stage. Instead of
long-winded public debates, the people want
capsule slogans—‘Time for a change’—‘The
mess in Washington’—‘More bang for a
buck’—punch lines and glamour.”— A Face in
the Crowd (1957)
- Politics is entertainment.
It is a
heavily scripted, tightly choreographed,
star-studded, ratings-driven, mass-marketed,
costly exercise in how to sell a product—in this
case, a presidential candidate—to dazzled consumers
who will choose image over substance almost every
presidential election, much like every other
election in recent years, is what historian Daniel
Boorstin referred to as a “pseudo-event”:
manufactured, contrived, confected and devoid of any
intrinsic value save the value of being advertised.
It is the end result of a culture that is moving
away from substance toward sensationalism in an era
of mass media.
Noam Chomsky rightly
“It is important to bear in mind that political
campaigns are designed by the same people who sell
toothpaste and cars.” In other words, we’re being
carefully crafted product by a monied elite who
are masters in the art of making the public believe
that they need exactly what is being sold to them,
whether it’s the latest high-tech gadget, the
hottest toy, or the most charismatic politician.
Tune into a
political convention and you will find yourself
being sucked into an alternate reality so glossy,
star-studded, emotionally charged and entertaining
as to make you forget that you live in a police
state. The elaborate stage show, the costumes, the
actors, the screenplay, the lighting, the music, the
drama: all carefully calibrated to appeal to the
public’s need for bread and circuses, diversion and
entertainment, and pomp and circumstance.
a reality show, America’s favorite form of
entertainment, dominated by money and profit,
imagery and spin, hype and personality and
guaranteed to ensure that nothing in the way of real
truth reaches the populace.
who cares about police shootings, drone killings,
SWAT team raids, asset forfeiture schemes, private
prisons, school-to-prison pipelines,
overcriminalization, censorship or any of the other
evils that plague our nation when you can
listen to the croonings of Paul Simon, laugh
along with Sarah Silverman, and get misty-eyed over
the First Lady’s vision of progress in America.
But make no
mistake: Americans only think they’re
choosing the next president.
however, they’re engaging in the illusion of
participation culminating in the reassurance ritual
of voting. It’s just another
Blue Pill, a manufactured reality conjured up by
the matrix in order to keep the populace compliant
and convinced that their vote counts and that they
still have some influence over the political
drinking the Kool-Aid, America.
is drowning in debt, crippled by a slowing economy,
overrun by militarized police, swarming with
surveillance, besieged by endless wars and a
military industrial complex intent on starting new
ones, and riddled with corrupt politicians at every
level of government. All the while, we’re arguing
over which corporate puppet will be given the honor
of stealing our money, invading our privacy, abusing
our trust, undermining our freedoms, and shackling
us with debt and misery for years to come.
taking place on Election Day will alleviate the
suffering of the American people.
government as we have come to know it—corrupt,
bloated and controlled by big-money corporations,
lobbyists and special interest groups—will remain
unchanged. And “we the
people”—overtaxed, overpoliced, overburdened by big
government, underrepresented by those who should
speak for us and blissfully ignorant of the prison
walls closing in on us—will continue to trudge along
a path of misery.
roughly 22 lobbyists per Congressman, corporate
greed will continue to call the shots in the
while our elected representatives will grow richer
and the people poorer. And elections will continue
to be driven by war chests and corporate benefactors
rather than such values as honesty, integrity and
public service. Just consider: it’s estimated that
more than $5 billion will be spent on the elections
this year, yet not a dime of that money will
actually help the average American in their
day-to-day struggles to just get by.
military industrial complex will continue to bleed
us dry. Since 2001 Americans have spent $10.5
million every hour for numerous foreign
military occupations, including in Iraq and
Afghanistan. There’s also the $2.2
million spent every hour on maintaining the
United States’ nuclear stockpile, and the $35,000
spent every hour to produce and maintain our
collection of Tomahawk missiles. And then there’s
the money the government exports to other countries
to support their arsenals, at the cost of $1.61
million every hour for the American taxpayers.
when faced with the grim, seemingly hopeless reality
of the American police state, it’s understandable
why Americans might opt for escapism. “Humankind
cannot bear too much reality,” T. S. Eliot once
said. Perhaps that is one reason we are so drawn to
the unreality of the American political experience:
it is spectacle and fiction and farce all rolled up
into one glossy dose of escapism.
escapism or not, Americans should be mad as hell.
Many of our
politicians live like kings. Chauffeured around in
limousines, flying in private jets and eating
gourmet meals, all paid for by the American
taxpayer, they are far removed from those they
represent. Such a luxurious lifestyle makes it
difficult to identify with the “little guy”—the
roofers, plumbers and blue-collar workers who live
from paycheck to paycheck and keep the country
running with their hard-earned dollars and the sweat
of their brows.
Conveniently, politicians only seem to remember
their constituents in the months leading up to an
election, and yet “we the people” continue to take
the abuse, the neglect, the corruption and the lies.
We make excuses for the shoddy treatment, we cover
up for them when they cheat on us, and we keep
hoping that if we just stick with them long enough,
eventually they’ll treat us right.
the government they deserve.
who wins the presidential election come November,
it’s a sure bet that the losers will be the American
political science professor Gene Sharp notes in
starker terms, “Dictators are not in the business of
allowing elections that could remove them from their
thrones.” As I make clear in my book
Battlefield America: The War on the American
People, the Establishment—the shadow
government and its corporate partners that really
run the show, pull the strings and dictate the
policies, no matter who occupies the Oval Office—are
not going to allow anyone to take office who will
unravel their power structures. Those who have
attempted to do so in the past have been effectively
put out of commission.
So what is
the solution to this blatant display of imperial
elitism disguising itself as a populist exercise in
playing the game. Stop supporting the system. Stop
defending the insanity. Just stop.
thrives on money, so stop giving them your money.
Stop throwing your hard-earned dollars away on
politicians and Super PACs who view you as nothing
more than a means to an end. There are countless
worthy grassroots organizations and nonprofits
working in your community to address real needs like
injustice, poverty, homelessness, etc. Support them
and you’ll see change you really can believe in in
your own backyard.
depend on votes, so stop giving them your vote
unless they have a proven track record of listening
to their constituents, abiding by their wishes and
working hard to earn and keep their trust.
into the lie that your vote matters. Your vote
doesn’t elect a president. Despite the fact that
there are 218
million eligible voters in this country (only
half of whom actually vote), it is the electoral
up of 538 individuals handpicked by the
candidates’ respective parties, that actually
selects the next president. The only thing you’re
accomplishing by taking part in the “reassurance
ritual” of voting is sustaining the illusion that we
have a democratic republic. What we have is a
dictatorship, or as political scientists Martin
Gilens and Benjamin Page more accurately term it, we
are suffering from an “economic
representative government is hard work. It takes a
citizenry that is informed about the issues,
educated about how the government operates, and
willing to make the sacrifices necessary to stay
involved, whether that means forgoing Monday night
football in order to attend a city council meeting
or risking arrest by picketing in front of a
It takes a
citizenry willing to do more than grouse and
complain. We must act—and act responsibly—keeping in
mind that the duties of citizenship extend beyond
the act of voting.
all, it takes a citizenry that cares enough to get
mad and get active. As Howard Beale declares in the
1976 film Network:
you to get up right now, sit up, go to your
windows, open them and stick your head out and
yell, ‘I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to
take this anymore.’ Things have got to change.
But first, you’ve gotta get mad!...You’ve got to
say, ‘I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to
take this anymore!’ Then we’ll figure out what
to do about the depression and the inflation and
the oil crisis. But first get up out of your
chairs, open the window, stick your head out,
and yell, and say it.”
Copyright 2016 © The Rutherford Institute •