Saturday, August 15, 2009

Lines on Ale

Now that I have cancelled HBO and ditched the expensive sports channels, I'm back to watching cable news networks when there's nothing on basic cable. I'm also back to remembering why it was worth the extra $30 per month to have the extra channels. The other night I watched Keith Obermann until I couldn't tolerate any more. Then I switched over to the O'Reilly Factor until I couldn't tolerate anymore. That continued on - back and forth until I lost the will to live. About ten times back and forth by 15 minutes into the hour.

Tonight I caught an episode of Glenn Beck's program where he does not compare the Obama administration to Nazi Germany. If you have not heard about this particular episode, Beck begins by talking about eugenics, Nazi Germany's racial politics, and healthcare reform in the United States. Beck repeats several times that he does not believe that Barack Obama is advocating eugenics, nor does he believe that Obama wants to "Pull the plug on Grandma" as he has been accused of with the so-called "Death Panels." Beck removes himself from these preposterous claims and says that is NOT what he is trying to say. Then he points out the reasons why the same philosophy in Nazi Germany may be an unintended consequence of the proposed healthcare reform. He makes no accusations that Obama's intention has any comparison eugenics of Nazi Germany, but all intentions aside - in a crisis situation, he points out why it may be a likely result if the current healthcare reforms are passed. He also goes on to suggest that the people Obama surrounds himself with may be capable of such unthinkable acts. All the time repeating that he is making no accusations on Obama's intentions whatsoever.

As Glenn Beck introduces his guests, I can't help but greet them with, "Nice to meet you. Your career is over." "Nice to meet you, your career is also over..." I'm watching and I'm shocked because I know - you can not mention Nazi Germany when speaking of the President of the United States. There are few things at all that you can make a logical and reasonable comparison to Hitler without sounding like a crackpot and losing credibility. This is especially so if you are reporting on Fox News. Likewise, if you are reporting on MSNBC making the same comparison with George W. Bush. Credibility is slim in this argument. I'm sure that the producers of this program knew how provocative this program would be, and they went ahead with it. I have to give them credit, they undoubtedly knew what kind of reaction it would get.

While I am shocked by the audacity of Beck's claims, I can't say as I necessarily disagree with part of his argument. If I try my best to be objective, I must admit I will never refute the possibility of the way this country may react to a crisis situation. If his argument is (as it appears to be) that in an economic crisis, we may begin pulling the plug on grandma as a desperate attempt to save younger patients, I can't really refute that. I really wouldn't refute any claim against our government or the American public if it began with "In a crisis situation..." Frankly, our country has a history during crisis situations to do some incredibly fucked up things.

Think of it this way - had there been a 24-hour news cycle and a 1942 version of Glenn Beck on a radio program claiming, "Japanese Americans beware!! President Roosevelt wants to drag American citizens from their homes and put them into camps!" He would not have been taken any more seriously than the current claims of Glenn Beck or Sean Hannity against Obama on their Fox News programs. Even in this lifetime, had a partisan political medium made the claim in 2000 that terrorists would fly airplanes into buildings on live television while the entire country watched, we would have found the whole scenario preposterous. That's a movie, that's a fantasy. That is not reality. Terrorists decimating the World Trade Center? Flying into the Pentagon? Taking over aircrafts armed only with box cutters? That just screams conspiracy theory. Yet, we all watched it happen didn't we? What if someone had told us that following said terrorist attack, the entire country would spend billions of dollars in resources and countless human lives taking over government and rebuilding a country unrelated to this this terrorist attack? C'mon! What are we? Idiots?!?

Well... yeah, we are.

I love this country and I think we are afforded a lot of freedoms we take for granted. (One of which is the free press that brings us these 24-hour news networks.) And for some reason, we think we are a lot smarter than we really are. This country has a long history of panicking in a crisis situation. Don't ever underestimate what this country is capable of when faced with a real fear (Like 9/11, like Pearl Harbor...) Death Panels, euthanizing elderly people... in a crisis situation? You bet. The politics of fear could easily sell this to America. Hell, people could even be scared into forming militias to be sent into senior citizen centers. History has informed me and I would not rule it out. When Americans fear our freedom and our lifestyle - we will support things that are clearly preposterous with the benefit of foresight or hindsight.

Here's the problem with Glenn Beck. The politics of fear may work in a certain demographic - in this case the elderly (which also happen to be largely Republican) may take Beck's suggestions gravely serious. But when the overall population has the benefit of foresight and logical thinking, they will clearly identify this as fearmongering. For the same reason they would not have believed Japanese internment camps would be a possibility, for the same reason none of us would would ever have been prepared for a group of well-organized terrorists to take over aircrafts with box-cutters and change our lives forever. For the same reason that forming a detention center in Cuba for terrorists, exempt from U.S. protocol would seem far-fetched. Had Keith Obermann gone on his show with a panel warning us of that outcome, it would seem just as preposterous as the Republicans do with their claims of Death Panels, eugenics, and granny mercy killings.

Glenn Beck may have crossed a line by drawing parallels between Nazis and Obama's healthcare reform and he probably won't be surprised to feel backlash and loss of sponsorship. Fearmongering is effective only when there is a clear and present danger. In this country, people are more afraid of the state of healthcare as it exists now. People who are struggling or unable to pay for insurance and medical bills could be in a crisis situation right now, and that is the fear they are responding to, not the fear of death panels or eugenics.

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