Sunday, September 19, 2021

Fool Me Once, Shame on You; Fool Me Seventy Times Seven, Shame on Me

I agree that social media are an abundant source of misinformation.  Take this meme, shared to Facebook last week by a friend.

I commented that it's odd, because despite relentless propaganda campaign over many decades, most Americans favor all those things by a solid majority. Who exactly has been propagandized? It seems to be whoever made this meme.

Someone replied:  "the ~35% of the population (a majority of whom identify as Republicans and evangelical/Christian) that believe it's all socialism, but are somehow the only portion of the population the GOP caters to?"

I replied: "
Like I said, you've been propagandized very effectively. I'm surprised at how many liberals and even leftists have been convinced that 35% of the American population is a majority."

Someone else, presumably a friend of the first responder, wrote: "no one said anything about that being the majority. And he's also not wrong. The right is so lost and confused because they blame the left for everything when we actually fight for most of the things they complain about not having."

It went downhill from there, though I suppose it was my fault for being sarcastic.  I still think it tells a lot about the mindset of many liberal Democrats that they see a 35 percent minority as an insuperable obstacle to instituting polices that most Americans want, or say they do.  At least that person acknowledged that it is a minority, not most Americans, who oppose universal healthcare.

In terms of public support and approval, the struggle for universal healthcare and those other programs and policies has already been won: comfortable bipartisan majorities support them.  It's worthwhile, I guess, to try to persuade right-wing opponents of such programs to support them instead, but I don't think it's where most of our energy should go.  I doubt they could ever be persuaded, though I also believe that once those programs were in place they would use them and support them, as they do with "socialist" Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.  (Remember the line "Keep your government hands off my Medicare"?)  Republican politicians who voted against Biden's stimulus payments and other big-spending acts are already trying to take credit for them, because they know how popular they are even with Republican voters. 

True, the corporate media would like us to believe that most Americans don't want universal healthcare, and they give very sympathetic coverage to its opponents.  You'll see plenty of warm fuzzy stories interviewing rabid Trump fans at breakfast in small-town diners, or with anti-vaccination fanatics on ventilators in ICUs; you'll see columnists urging pro-vaccination Americans to sympathize with the anti-vaxxers and anti-maskers.  I suspect that many people who are derisive of those stories will still post memes aimed at telling their opponents that they've been propagandized, or better, "brainwashed."   

It doesn't help that so many liberals manage to convince themselves that Democratic politicians like Barack Obama, Joe Biden, and Pete Buttigieg support universal healthcare, despite those pols' explicit and public repudiation of it.  It isn't only Republicans who've been effectively propagandized, and not only on these issues.

Or consider the failed recall vote in California.  Jacob Bacharach cited a corporate-media commentator who claimed that the recall "highlighted the vulnerabilities of leaders who seemed well positioned before the coronavirus pandemic."  Bacharach pointed out that California's system requires "signatures only equal to 12% of the total votes cast in the last gubernatorial election" to trigger a recall; I suppose such a small number of partisan malcontents can be called a vulnerability, but the commentator mainly seemed interested in inflating the influence of the Right, even though Governor Newsom trounced his opponent soundly.  This sort of thing has been going on too long for clear-eyed, rational liberals to be fooled by it, but they still keep falling for the propaganda -- while blaming the Right for being brainwashed.

I confess I'm a little uneasy about vaccine mandates, another policy that has bipartisan majority support among the public.  Getting injected with anything against one's will is profoundly invasive, and the fact that a majority of one's fellow citizens support it doesn't make it less so.  But those who support a mandate have presumably already been vaccinated.  We're not forcing something on our neighbors that we wouldn't and haven't accepted ourselves -- or that they haven't already accepted for themselves and their children.  (Someone in a local Facebook group angrily denied that schoolchildren have to be vaccinated against numerous diseases to attend school; I replied with a link to Indiana's state requirements.)  Besides, there seems to be considerable overlap between those who refuse vaccination and those who refuse to wear masks, which aren't invasive.  Yet not only do they refuse to wear masks, they attack (verbally and sometimes physically) people who do wear masks.  Whatever motivates them, it isn't a concern with personal freedom.

My critics under the Facebook meme talk as if they believe that unanimity is needed to institute progressive policies.  Maybe they know better, but a third of voters voted against FDR in 1936, at least partly in opposition to the New Deal.  I doubt that any important program has been enacted without that much opposition.  The one-third proportion seems to be stable over time.  Those who feel impotent in the face of such a minority should remember that most elections in this country are won by a simple 51 percent majority; the Presidency is the main exception, because of the Electoral College, but in general no one except a Republican is going to win sympathy by protesting that he or she got 35 percent of the vote.

As bothersome as that hardcore thirty to thirty-five percent of right-wingers are, they really aren't the reason we can't have nice things, and it's a distraction to blame them first. The real obstacle is a much smaller minority of wealthy right-wingers and their collaborators in the corporate media, who either platform them or promote them as the reasonable center.  If the Trump base weren't useful to those elites, they'd be dismissed as easily as the real majority of Americans are.

Someone else posted a meme depicting a flag with the legend "Get Vaxxed and Shut Up!"  An anti-vaxxer complained that it was authoritarian and oppressive.  I commented that I half-agreed: he doesn't have to shut up, but he does have to get vaccinated.  The reactionary -- and authoritarian -- Right minority has had its way for too long.  I don't necessarily want to say to them, "Who cares what you think?" but as long as they're in the minority they don't get to run things.