Most Americans are caught up in the idea that we have an elected government and that our opinions and votes influence public policy. We are encouraged to think that way. Many among us spend their days advancing political candidates and engaging in meaningful debate about public policy. These are our greatest fools.
Walter Lippmann (1889-1974) said that the American public is but a “bewildered herd.”
A herd has power (think of a buffalo stampede) but no intelligence or direction. Inside our leadership class it is intuitively understood that the herd should suffer the illusion of democracy.
“Democracy” allows us to spend our time and effort in debates that outside the bewildered herd are of no consequence. Elections are a distraction. Leadership will engage in the ritual, even publicly submitting themselves to the humiliation of interrogation by elected officials (as when leaders of oil companies were lined up in submissive posture to testify before congress). It is absurd, but considered necessary to foster the illusion of democracy.
I have spent many years trying to understand our political economy. I once thought Lippmann to be an elitist. But he was a realist. I do, however, see a fatal flaw in his reasoning, and that is the notion that the leadership classes possesses better vision than the herd.
There may be safety in secrecy, and all of our military and science and corporate affairs are shrouded in secrecy. Every matter of public importance has two facets, the real one, and the one told to the public. Hence we have things like 9/11 and Apollo, events of real significance, but completely shrouded in secrecy. Leadership regards this as an essential part of public governance.
But looking out over the unspeakable horrors that the U.S. and British aristocracies have inflicted on the planet, it is hard to imagine them to be more than an elite body immune to the consequences of its own mistakes – consequences that the rest of us must suffer. They seem no more than common criminals.
Life … “is a tale, told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” It’s all quite absurd, don’t you think?