The real news is miserable, who wants to constantly hear about the suffering of the Palestinians, the Congolese, the Mexicans, the Americans, the Russians, the collapsing economies. The news outlets had to make it fun, mixed the wacky, or made the hard news wacky to keep our attention. That is how “Infotainment” was born. I see a need for a new word, Politainment. Politics as or through entertainment. The participant gets the good feeling of being political, without any of the nasty tawdry bits.
Who wants to think about the intricacies of tax policies when O’Donnell”s talk about masturbation is available. Who wants to consider the implications of high unemployment rates, when a silly man is busy making up stories about conspiracies and making up bad guys that are way more fun than the real bad guys. Who wants to understand the mortgage crisis when you can go to a rally in DC and get some laughs and get your sign on a blog. Who wants to really commit to change when all one needs is to be “inspired” to want change.
I am a spoil sport, I know it. I was always a spoil sport. I remember in high school at the peak of the Vietnam war, blowing my lid in Social Studies. We had a great teacher, who made us think. Made us ask questions, but one day, the class ganged up on him and accused him of not being fun. Honestly, I went off on the word “fun”. I had a meltdown. Never liked the idea of serious things having to be fun. For fun, I go to the Real Housewives, Top Chef, Project Runway, Curb Your Enthusiasm. I love fun and yes, I laugh all the time. But like the Germans say, work is work and schnapps is schnapps.
The idea of making things fun, spawned the notion of Politenmaint: Politics as fun, sport, or entertainment. A constant clash for clash sakes, with periodic matches (the days we vote) where one side declares victory and then starts to prepare for the next match. Meanwhile, the citizenry, blogs, talks, tweets, friends, likes, youtubes and watches as the sides talk about the past match and the next match. The actual act of politics, getting your team to have some say at the table, is completely avoided. The polls the prognosticators, calling for tsunamis, waves, storms and the jokers of the news industry, adding more and more color commentary to the upcoming match. To the joy of the plutocratic oligarchs, we sit in a miasma of thinking we are political.
It’s all perceptions of the issues that matter, I heard one pundit say. The real issues do not matter, is how you manage to get the issues perceived.
As the matches come up from time to time, you would think we have two teams, two teams that have their given players. But, now we are in an era of free agents. The free agents, have to be lured, seduced and beguiled by fun. So, this is where the Politenmaint comes in. The political parties, have to be willing to create a story, a narrative and to get the free agents on their side. The ward boss who delivered the voter, is now anathema, Facebook is tasked with that now, ” Commit to vote”. Honestly, you are telling me to commit to vote? Shows how much you know me, read anything I wrote or even friggin care: “Unfriend”.
The citizen, the free agent, has only one ace, one card to play. To be the spoiler and change teams. No need to commit when there are better offers and better promises of entertainment. Politics, in the age of Politentainment, is who can give, or promise, more fun. Back to Roman times, how bloody will the gladiator fights be and how much bread are you giving out. Damn, at least the Roman oligarchs gave out bread, now the promise of bread as a possibility is enough. The Greeks used to have theater competitions with meat as the offering. And you thought Aristophanes was culture, it was American Idol.
My alleged side on the left, got a big crowd out yesterday, yay us. It was fun seeing Cat Stevens/Yusef, heh, compared to Ozzie, maybe the clean Muslim life has something to say for it. But, the kicker for me was the Kidd Rock song, the lyrics went something like this: ” I cannot stop homelessness, or the war, but at least I care”. Really, this is politics? This is the sentiment? I care therefore I am. I will not act, I will not work towards, I will just click on the “like” button on Facebook, then I am done. Back to the fun. That was not us, that was some group of people. Who are they out there for? What is their unified voice?
I cared and got entertained, Politenmaint. I went to a rally, I got inspired, but what did I do after that? What was the political action that I took? Did I learn anything about people who are hurting in America? Yes, the 40 Million plus in poverty and the working class Americans that are on the way to join the ones in poverty. No, but I promise to be nice and care.
“Nice is a babies butt” an old politico used to tell me, politics is not nice. It’s dull, it takes hard work, it takes loads of commitment and unity. You have to join a real group that will serve somebody. Serve somebody beyond your desire for “nice” and fun. To be surprised at the Chamber of Commerce now, is really silly, back in 2008, Donahue the head of the chamber said:
“We plan to build a grass-roots business organization so strong that when it bites you in the butt, you bleed,” chamber President Tom Donohue said.
Don’t know about you, I will continue being nice to the other side while my butt is bleeding, this is why I wonder, where all the smarts of the Obama people went when they knew, this was the plan? There is a vast right wing conspiracy and it’s not secret.
Now for some fun: