Wheat Among the Chaff

needle The just-ended marketing bonanza known as “the election” once again smashed records for the amount of money it absorbed and deployed. The Center for Responsive Politics says it exceeded $6 billion this time around. TV ads aren’t cheap, and the whole of our politics is now run as marketing campaigns, and TV ads are still the main delivery vehicle for that method of cynical mind management.

But, in keeping with TCT‘s ongoing championing of the thesis that the masses are not hopelessly stupid, there were some rather encouraging results buried in the mountains of diversions and false promises. According to Miles Mogulescu:

• In Montana, which Mitt Romney won with 55 percent of the vote, 75 percent of voters backed Montana Initiative 166, which charges Montana’s elected officials with supporting a Constitutional Amendment to create a level playing field in campaign spending and establishes as official Montana policy that corporations are not people.

• In Colorado, 74 percent voted to support Amendment 65 instructing Colorado’s congressional delegation to propose and support a constitutional amendment that allows Congress and the states to limit campaign contributions and spending that allow all citizens, regardless of wealth, to express their views on a level playing field.

Imagine what might be possible if we actually had “major” politicians willing to represent such demands, or even mention them…

Election 2012: Another 45% More Farcical

money-for-nothing Television advertising, an inherently dishonest and irrational means of communication, has long been the primary venue for state and national electoral debate in the United States.

Unsurprisingly but importantly, that disastrous trend is in the process of making yet another upward leap. In the wake of the almost complete deregulation of political money after the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling, a Barclays Capital expert quoted in Advertising Age is projecting political advertising will this year see “a 45% increase from the 2008 presidential year.”

Most of the money goes to local TV station owners, according to Ad Age:

By the Nov. 6 election, campaigns will have spent $2.6 billion, with 85% going to local TV.

Advertising from political campaigns has become Lin TV’s [the Providence, R.I.,-based owner of 17 stations in the 12 swing states] biggest growth category, CEO Vincent L. Sadusky said at an investor conference in December.

“Fortunately for us, if you want to get elected in America, you do need to advertise,” Mr. Sadusky said. “Political has been very, very strong in the last couple of cycles and we anticipate it to be very strong going forward.”

That’s not to say that it’s unimportant to the national TV peddlers:

“There’s going to be a lot of money spent,” CBS CEO Leslie Moonves said in December. “I’m not saying that’s the best thing for America, but it’s not a bad thing for the CBS Corporation.”

CBS will receive about $230 million in political advertising this year, Mr. DiClemente estimated in the note. Without political ads, CBS’s broadcast revenue would be unchanged from a year ago, he wrote.

Ah, the free market at work…

As for this post’s title, I kid. It wouldn’t be possible for an election to be 45 percent worse than the fraud-fest of 2008. We’re far, far into asymptote territory on this front.

Electile Dysfunction 2010

vote toilet If you’ve subjected yourself to television in the United States within the last several months, you already know this.  But it bears quoting, if only to create a record of the hurtling, heedless decline of this market-totalitarian society.  From Advertising Age for November 1, 2010:

NEW YORK (AdAge.com) — Another election cycle, another year of bitter partisan bickering [ed: exclusively over cynical claims and phony distinctions], another record-breaking mountain of cash spent on political advertising — all of which add up to tight inventory for local TV affiliates. According to Kantar Media’s Campaign Media Analysis Group, ad spending this season will top $3 billion. Borrell Associates has predicted spending will get as high as $4.2 billion this year.

We’ve come to expect steadily increasing ad outlays in political election cycles, but this year is different.

“I’ve been doing this for 20 years and I’ve never seen anything like this,” said Evan Tracey, president of Kantar Media’s Campaign Media Analysis Group.

Aside from issues of anti-incumbency fervor and Tea Party madness, “the big difference in this election is the Citizens United impact,” he said, but not necessarily because major corporations are funneling more cash into the system. Rather, last spring’s Supreme Court ruling that upended many of the former restrictions on political advertising has given political ad groups more time to spend, and increased fundraising firepower.

Gone are the rules barring such advertising 60 days out from an election, meaning two full months of more spending for [groups with huge amounts of cash].

Here is another example of why ceding the mass media environment to “the private sector” is poison to democracy and society. How much do national and local media outlets love this trend? As “the electoral process” asymptotically approaches complete decline into Coke versus Pepsi land, as welfare-state-hating candibot Tweedledum attacks ashamed, pseudo-liberal candibot Tweedledee for cutting Medicare while candibot Tweedledee is busy crowing about giving “entrepreneurs” more tax cuts, and as real problems become ever more undiscussable, both the cash register and the wall of sponsored hooey ring louder and louder.

Orwell and Huxley would be out of work these days. Dystopian fiction has little left to invent.

Empire of Boondoggles

In American Theocracy, Kevin Phillips reviewed the fact that all decrepit empires become increasingly sclerotic and psychotic  in the last days of their hegemony.

Conservative true believers will scoff: the United States is sue generis, they say, a unique and chosen nation.  What did or did not happen to Rome, imperial Spain, the Dutch Republic, and Britain is irrelevant.  The catch here, alas, is that these nations also thought they were unique and that God was on their side.  The revelation that He was apparently not added a further debilitating note to the later stages of each national decline.

Dmitry Orlov adds to Phillips’ observations by pointing out that, in their senescence, failing empires, being ruled by narrow, long-pampered overclasses that have lost the interest and capacity for self-criticism and institutional innovation, always try to solve their problems by redoubling, rather than altering, established practices.  High on their own fumes, late-imperial bigwigs try harder and harder to get different results from the same old practices.  Nothing else is permitted serious consideration:

Economic collapse has a way of turning economic negatives into positives. It is not necessary for the United States to embrace the tenets of command economy and central planning to match the Soviet lackluster performance in this area. We have our own methods that are working almost as well. I call them “boondoggles.” They are solutions to problems that result in more severe problems than those they attempt to solve.

Just look around and you will see boondoggles sprouting up everywhere, in every field of endeavor: we have military boondoggles like Iraq, financial boondoggles like the doomed retirement system, medical boondoggles like private health insurance and legal boondoggles like the intellectual property system. At some point, creating another boondoggle becomes the preferred course of action: since the outcome can be predicted with complete accuracy, there is little risk.

So why not, as a matter of policy, only propose solutions that are guaranteed to simply create more problems, for which further solutions can then be proposed?

I would suggest that this is precisely the proper context in which to view yesterday’s multiply amazing Supreme Court ruling in favor of the Orwellianly-named front-group plaintiff in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.

In the short run, the further heightening of the power of money in elections will probably matter very, very little.  It’s not like there has been anybody other than money-grubbing corporate stooge-whores within a country mile of power in this society since the FDR epoch, if then.

But, in the long run, you have to wonder about the fate of a society facing so many immense negative consequences of market totalitarianism, which permits its ruling class to keep granting itself more and more privileges.  As another blogger writes:

maybe i’m just in a leftist mood or something. but if money is speech according to the conservative court, then constitutional rights vary directly with income. now they do anyway, always one sort of argument for programs to redistribute wealth etc. but what i’m saying is that conservatives need to think about where explicitly endorsing this idea will take them. and then let’s add the premise that corporations are persons – a kind of legal commonplace, but fearsomely radical if the idea is that corporations possess inherent rights in the declaration-of-independence sense, and hence if the first amendment and others apply to them.

alright start off with the idea that i and goldman sachs both have free speech. now throw in the premise that this right varies with, ranges over, or actually is money. then my right is shockingly negligible and circumscribed. we might say that goldman sachs has ten million times as much right to free speech as i have, approximately. in part, i admit, this is simply a statement of antecedent fact rather than some sort of normative program. but these things cannot all be true at once: a corporation is a man. all men are created equal, that is, they have certain inalienable rights. money is speech.

i would like to do an excursus, for one thing on individualism and the relation of corporatism to communism, but instead i will say: the decision makes the most basic ideas on which the american republic is founded entirely incoherent. it makes the basic american political vision inyourface absurd. that, one would think, should have given the court some pause.