Yesterday, The New York Times once again proved Alexander Cockburn’s thesis that the role of the mass media in the United States is to make non-sense out of what would otherwise be obvious. In a front-page thought-piece titled “American Energy Policy, Asleep at the Spigot,” the Times‘ reporter Nelson D. Schwartz did his level best to render reality unfathomable.
The first confusion came in Schwartz’ title, which insists that we are facing problems of “energy policy,” rather than “transportation policy.” This, despite the fact that Schwartz himself reports that “the problem is … parked in our driveways” and that “[n]early 70 percent of the 21 million barrels of oil the United States consumes every day goes for transportation, with the bulk of that burned by individual drivers.”
This mis-titling is more confirmation of my claim that our overclass’s addiction to car-peddling remains literally unmentionable in mainstream public circles.
And Schwartz’ attempts to make sense of why “the problem is parked in our driveways” are likewise conventional, which is to say utterly baseless and diversionary.
Schwartz reviews the history of legislative inaction on the long-predicted arrival of serious automotive energy-supply trouble. But why did that inaction happen? What forces keep the babysitters known as Congress from dealing with the mounting costs and dangers of our cars-first transportation arrangement?
Instead of seeking real answers, Schwartz dutifully reels off the usual propaganda line that it’s all a matter of unchangeable co-equally shared national culture: Our driveways are car-filled, Schwartz says, because of “America’s love affair with the automobile.” This “love affair,” he assures us, reflects “Americans’ famous propensity for voracious consumption.” See? It’s just all of “us,” doing what “we” do.
Undoubtedly to meet contemporary standards of mainstream reportorial “balance,” Schwartz even quotes the arch-reactionary pseudo-intellectual and former Congressman Newt Gingrich, who, in reply to those who would dare propose the even the meager palliative of raising automotive miles-per-gallon standards insists that because “[o]ur culture favors driving long distances in powerful vehicles and the car as a social expression,” the idea is too outlandish to even consider.
Of course, neither Schwartz nor Gingrich presents a single scrap of evidence to support their familiar mega-assertions. They don’t have to, because the “love affair” propaganda in which they trade has the neat (and intended) effect of erasing capitalists from the picture. Hence, it is sacrosanct, and treated as true upon mere assertion.
The reality, of course, is that no other product is as important as the motor-car to the continued existence of corporate capitalism. Both in itself and through all the allied facilities, products, and services its dominance over daily mobility in the USA implies, the private automobile is exquisitely profitable and irreplaceable to the owning class. No other good promises such a bonanza of renewable, intensive, business-boosting waste/money-spending.
In fact, without the ability to continue to sell millions of new cars and fuel and service more millions of old ones, our corporate overclass would be in very deep trouble. Switching to streetcars and bikes and walkable towns would kill the Golden Goose. Hence, they simply will continue their apocalyptic automotive “shove affair,” and continue to brook no questions about it.
In the process, “all the news that’s fit to print” will also continue to suppress the most elementary facts we need to know, if we are to rescue ourselves from onrushing Carmageddon.