Our prevailing mood

Is anyone getting tired of the fear factor? I am. Maybe that’s some of the appeal of Obama. I’m not just talking about Bush and his relentless insistence that we need to be more afraid. “It a lot worse than you think”, he seems to signal with every word and deed. Its so bad, in fact, that he needs the ability to act without reference to Congress, law, or courts. He just trying to protect us, you know. Its that bad.

And its not just the war on terror. Consider the Oscar nominated movies this year: the overall winner told the story of a sociopath traveling through Texas, killing people with a pneumatic cattle killer. He had two main adversaries. One is motivated by crazy greed and gets killed. The other, the sheriff, apparently gives up because the uncontrollable force of evil overwhelms him. Its uplifting stuff. Other nominated movies had similar “dark themes”. I read somewhere that a Hollywood producer justified the movies on the theory that it’s our “zeitgeist”. I suppose.

In case you aren’t quaking in your boots after Bush and the Oscars, you can read up on the status of our social insurance programs. Even “moderates” play the fear card: There’s “$41 trillion in debt” they scream; “$135,000 for every man, woman, and child”. If we don’t DO SOMETHING it will require “giant tax increases”; or”gutting spending”. Pick your poison.

We might as well be watching Godzilla movie.

All of this reminds me of an Arrianna Huffington post about Orwell a while ago:

“I spent much of yesterday having people try to scare the hell out of me. In the morning it was President Bush. At night it was Big Brother. At times, it wasn’t easy telling them apart. Let me explain.

My very scary day was jump-started by the president’s chilling tale of how my hometown had narrowly escaped a 9/11-like attack, with hijacked planes being flown into a downtown Los Angeles skyscraper. I know, I know: the story is old news, a four year-old plot that we were already told about years ago, which, in fact, some experts believe never got off the al-Qaeda drawing board. But the president sure made it sound really, really frightening.

Then, at night, I saw a preview performance of a brilliant new production of George Orwell’s 1984 — and was struck by the ways that Big Brother uses fear and perpetual war to keep the citizens of Oceania under control. And, especially, how that fear effectively blots out memory.

“His memory,” writes Orwell of his rebellious hero, “was not satisfactorily under control.” Memory “satisfactorily under control” is a perfect description of the mindset that allows Bush and Cheney to repeatedly lie to the American people and get away with it. Thanks to the constant fear-mongering. Again and again. (‘Last throes’? who remembers anything about ‘last throes’?)

Orwell also shows how a frightened people will look to the strongest and most confident to save and protect them. As Goldstein says in the play: “Even the humblest, most industrious citizen is expected to be an ignorant fanatic, whose prevailing moods are fear, hatred, adulation, and triumph, regardless of his own suffering. In other words, the mentality appropriate to a state of war. And being at war, and therefore in danger, makes the handing over of all power to a small caste seem the natural, unavoidable condition of survival.”

I knew Karl Rove was a student of history, but apparently he’s a student of literature, too.

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