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This film was produced and edited by New Left Media’s Chase Whiteside (interviewer) and Erick Stoll (camera operator). Critics might suggest that they cherry-picked for the stupidest people they could find. That might be true. Nonetheless, it speaks to a larger phenomenon best described by Matt Taibbi at Smirking Chimp:
After all, the reason the winger crowd can’t find a way to be coherently angry right now is because this country has no healthy avenues for genuine populist outrage. It never has. The setup always goes the other way: when the excesses of business interests and their political proteges in Washington leave the regular guy broke and screwed, the response is always for the lower and middle classes to split down the middle and find reasons to get pissed off not at their greedy bosses but at each other. That’s why even people like Beck’s audience, who I’d wager are mostly lower-income people, can’t imagine themselves protesting against the Wall Street barons who in actuality are the ones who fucked them over. Beck pointedly compared the AIG protesters to Bolsheviks: “[The Communists] basically said ‘Eat the rich, they did this to you, get ‘em, kill ‘em!’” He then said the AIG and G20 protesters were identical: “It’s a different style, but the sentiments are exactly the same: Find ‘em, get ‘em, kill ‘em!’” Beck has an audience that’s been trained that the rich are not appropriate targets for anger, unless of course they’re Hollywood liberals, or George Soros, or in some other way linked to some acceptable class of villain, to liberals, immigrants, atheists, etc. — Ted Turner, say, married to Jane Fonda.
But actual rich people can’t ever be the target. It’s a classic peasant mentality: going into fits of groveling and bowing whenever the master’s carriage rides by, then fuming against the Turks in Crimea or the Jews in the Pale or whoever after spending fifteen hard hours in the fields. You know you’re a peasant when you worship the very people who are right now, this minute, conning you and taking your shit. Whatever the master does, you’re on board. When you get frisky, he sticks a big cross in the middle of your village, and you spend the rest of your life praying to it with big googly eyes. Or he puts out newspapers full of innuendo about this or that faraway group and you immediately salute and rush off to join the hate squad. A good peasant is loyal, simpleminded, and full of misdirected anger. And that’s what we’ve got now, a lot of misdirected anger searching around for a non-target to mis-punish… can’t be mad at AIG, can’t be mad at Citi or Goldman Sachs. The real villains have to be the anti-AIG protesters! After all, those people earned those bonuses! If ever there was a textbook case of peasant thinking, it’s struggling middle-class Americans burned up in defense of taxpayer-funded bonuses to millionaires. It’s really weird stuff. And bound to get weirder, I imagine, as this crisis gets worse and more complicated.
This isn’t new in America – the art of public relations (now known as “corporate communications” – the PR people changed the name) is misdirection. Yes, ordinary people are angry. Yes, they are being fucked over. Yes, they know this …. and yet, as noted in the film, when it comes down to specifics, well, they really aren’t sure why. Just who.
It is true that there is racism as a subtext here, but that’s an expression of fear, nothing more. All of us hold out some reservations about other races- it’s part of our makeup. Setting this aside, the key here is that anger is cleverly channeled away from the true culprits – the Wall Street barons who so recently mugged us, the insurance companies who are leaching on our health care system, and the public relations (corporate communications) industry whose propaganda is the Vaseline that eases the pain of rape.