Why Jesse James endures
Because we know we’re being swindled
While the press waves its front row tickets and our stagy and terminally adolescent politicians put on yet another great government shutdown opera three of the most important questions in the life of the nation go begging:
Let’s look. Here and there stories about how the Koch brothers funded the Tea Party, so the press says been there, done that. But the press hasn’t been there or done that. Libya is in the news every day. The threat of a federal shutdown is in the news every day. Donald Trump is in the news every day. Lady Gaga is in the news every other day. But the seeming fact that an election was bought and paid for by a handful of plutocrats seems to be passe for the press.
Why is that? Perhaps it’s because these same plutocrats-the ones who bought media silence about the oncoming sub-prime mortgage debacle-have bought media silence about the election. Not absolute silence, because the silence, after all, needs a cover story, and the cover story is, Oh we ran that story. The best place to hide a story is in plain sight. And the best way to determine when this is being done is to ask yourself why some stories are milked to the last drop and others are dropped. The ones that are milked usually don’t have much of a money trail behind them, at least not only from which the media are themselves feeding.
Take defense and its astronomical costs. Then look at all those defense contractor advertisements. But the press does raise and maintain a great hue and cry about the costs of health care. Yes, it does, because Insurance Nation, a major advertiser, stands to gain handsomely from most proposed legislation. But the millions of people who would be dislocated and harmed in so many ways by a shutdown don’t advertise, and therein is the squalid side of the fourth estate.
This story, the ongoing story of a self-proclaimed free press so compromised by the economics of its own industry, is far more important to us than Libya or Donald Trump or even NATO, because we have always presumed that without a free press the politicians will buy and sell Grandma’s homestead out from under her-and now of course they have.
It is our instinctive knowledge of this game that makes the Jesse James legend so durable. No matter what the truth is about Jesse and his pals, we need that legend because the predator class is hard at work stealing our homes, our livelihoods and our republic. Our subconscious understanding of this makes Jesse’s and Robin Hood’s legends ours. But the press, which made Jesse famous, is not on his side, no matter how much it romanticized him. The press is on the side of the predators who butter its bread. This is a cold fact of American life made ever more stark by the advent in the 1980s of the media giants who brought to a pathetic close the era of family-owned newspapers across the land.
It is a story we must tell each other on Facebook and other social networks so that it becomes imprinted on our consciousness and we see events in its context.
Yeah, the press ran most of the stories I’m talking about, once upon a time. It also ran the Trump story. Every damned day. Nobody had to buy any silence there. After all, Trump and his eerily ignorant pronouncements about President Obama’s birth are more important than an election that amply demonstrated that the right people, people willing to reach a consensus, can’t afford to run for public office in America.
That story will never have been there, and we will never have been done with it, not until the republic falls because there wasn’t enough honesty to uphold it.
We need to know to the dollar where the Tea Party’s money comes from. And not just the Tea Party, but your Congressman’s and mine. We not only need to know, but we need to be told again and again in every so-called news story about them until it finally sinks to whom they are beholden. If they can yak about Donald Trump and Muammar Qaddafi and Lady Gaga every day, why can’t the press, as a matter of context, in the interests of the big picture, keep before us the story of the money behind politicians who have proven themselves stone-deaf to reason and negotiation. And we need to be told much than where the money comes from-we need to be told how a politician’s behavior can be traced to his money sources. Every day, not just once in The New Yorker or twice in The Washington Post but at least as often as we’re told about all the foolish things politicians say to get attention, all the foolish things they say so we won’t notice them picking our pockets and handing over the contents to their benefactors.
This is the way republics are brought down. Why isn’t this the off-lead story day after day? This is the way the Civil War, The War Between The States, started-with people unwilling to hear each other, unwilling to compromise. And it, too, was about money as much as anything else, which is why there was so many Copperheads on Wall Street and so many slaveholders unwilling to let go their human possessions.
It wasn’t about ideology, no matter what the ideologues said, or say today. It was about money. And the republic almost came tumbling down. What is it about this the press doesn’t get? The answer is that it doesn’t get what it has been ordered not to get, ordered in the form of advertising support from the people who have bought our electoral process.
And this, this is one of the great unreported stories of our time-: the fact that we don’t have a free and unfettered press and are greatly in peril because of it. There’s a reason Tunisian protesters thanked Facebook on their city walls, and we Americans are in the same boat. Facebook enables us to speak with each other more honestly than the press will ever speak to us.
Now about that operatic shutdown issue. These are deficit hawks who won’t compromise, won’t negotiate, men and women who claim they’re in Washington to cut costs and attack the deficit. So what are all the preparations for the shutdown costing us? Isn’t it a fair question? What will it cost all those families, military and civilian, whose wages and benefits are obstructed? What are the costs involved in a shutdown? All of them. And why should it be so hard to determine them when there is precedent?
Or is the situation like the Defense Department not knowing exactly how much the Iraq War is costing us?
And why isn’t this a story? Why aren’t the deficit hawks being asked to account for the illogic of their behavior? I don’t mean Republicans and Tea Partiers only, I mean every politico who came to Washington to do the bidding, not of the rest of us, but of the big shots who funded his campaign?
The cost of 24/7 politics in America far outweighs the national debt. We can’t afford the cost, and we shall never be able to afford it, because the price is our republican ideal, namely that an American puts down his hoe or his pen or his saw and goes to Washington to serve for a time as honestly as he can and then returns home, like most of our soldiers. Politics around the clock has afflicted Washington and state capitals with trench warfare. Money is to today’s politics what modern weapons were to the Civil War; it is mowing down the best of us, leaving the worst in their offices and clubs.
The cost of our permanent political class is as high as the cost of our predator class, and the former serves the latter. The story should not be Donald Trump with his millions toying with the presidency, the story should be the honest farmer or computer scientist who gives a little of his time to serve his country. Something is horrifically wrong when this is not the story.
Del’s book, Far From Algiers: http://upress.kent.edu/books/Marbrook_D.htm
New review of Far from Algiers: http://www.rattle.com/blog/2009/05/far-from-algiers-by-djelloul-marbrook/
Artists Hill, Literal Latte’s fiction first prize: http://www.literal-latte.com/author/djelloulmarbrook/
His blog: http://www.djelloulmarbrook.com
His mother’s art: http://www.juanitaguccione.com
His aunt’s art: http://www.irenericepereira.com