Saturday, July 16, 2011

Small Icicles of Fear In Their Hearts

Timothy Garton Ash takes a particularly excellent look at the scandal that is bringing down the Murdoch empire in Britain. (h/t to John Ballard)

Garton Ash examines the variety of small icicles of fear:
But at the apex of British public life, there have been men and women walking around with small icicles of fear in their hearts, and fear is inimical to freedom.
This is a very important point, and there are far too many of those icicles in American hearts.

I'm writing from a place where, up until about twenty years ago, hearts carried even colder icicles of fear: the fear of the Soviet government. Soviet icicles were even worse than Murdoch icicles. Do as we say, or you will be sent to Siberia. There were lesser punishments, too, like those meted out by the Murdoch empire, and small satisfactions to be gained in following the approved pathways. But people here overcame that fear; some entered government with the purpose of changing it to a more humane form; some formed forbidden political parties, some demonstrated in the streets, some flew the flag of independent Estonia. With that pressure, here and in other parts of that empire, the Soviet Union, rotted at the core, fell.

What do the icicles of fear in American hearts consist of? Many things, I think. The idea that Terrorists Want to Kill Us is one that affects many. It provides support for the prison-like screening required at airports and could, ultimately, provide support for more curtailment of American rights. The real fear of unemployment is another. Media icicles force compliance with the rightwing line: fact-checking has disappeared from reporting on Republican and Tea Party policy demands. As a result of these two, politicans' hearts carry icicles of can't be done. We can't consider what the country needs now because we must bow to the government-destroying budget demands of the Republicans, and far too many fearful people, egged on by the erroneous media, will rise up against anyone who slights those demands.

So now we can look at how those icicles have been spread in Britain, as Garton Ash so clearly lays out. Murdoch has his way with the media, with the police, and with the politicians. He will say, of course, that it is the people who worked for his empire who did wrong, but the idea that money is the measure of all, that favorite of the right wing, inevitably leads to the ignoring of the law and eventually human decency, if you can make a buck on it.

And we have to wonder: is spreading that fear the goal of the lies that Fox News constantly promulgates? That its viewers be the most poorly informed of news viewers? The Tea Party had enormous support from Fox as it started up; some say that it is an invention of Fox. Murdoch seems not to have had time yet to corrupt the Wall Street Journal, or perhaps his purpose there was to give his empire a veneer of respectablity.

Is the deference of the American media in all forms to rightwing claims a result of the same sort of fear of Murdoch that Garton Ash describes for Britain? That's something to think about now.

As Garton Ash says, there is an opportunity here. Let us hope that it is an opportunity for America as well as for Britain.


troutsky said...

I believe the fear is more primal, less conscious and spread evenly between "conservative" and "liberal". It is fear that modernity has no meaning.

Cheryl Rofer said...

Troutsky, what does that even mean?