Sunday, April 28, 2013

The Koch Machine and the True Cost of Jingoism

                                                                                  Cheshire Regiment, The Somme, 1916                             Photo by Ernest Brooks

I was reading an article in Common Dreams about Koch Industries’ bid to buy up major news outlets[i] when I came upon a term that poked my curiosity and gifted me with a hunch. Here’s my line of thinking.

The author of the article, Robert Parry, used the term “entrenched power” to refer to today’s uber-rich elites who don’t appreciate the fact that, for a brief time in our modern history, major media outlets occasionally reported actual facts that embarrassed and even threatened to disempower them. They yearned for “the good old days” before the “liberal media” afflicted the nation with the “Vietnam syndrome” which made Americans allergic to nationalistic propaganda that preceeds all violent foreign adventures known as “wars” to us lucky Americans whose last military conflict on our native soil was during the 19th century. 

But the term “entrenched power” is a modern phrase, my hunch went, and says something more than what most people intend or infer.

Whenever my curiosity is piqued by a word, I look it up in my antique set of Funk and Wagnell’s, where I didn’t find any mention of the modern political usage of the word “entrenched”, which is why I love my Funk and Wagnell’s. It's history. The "good old days”, back to the 40s,  when the word "entrenched" was all about trenches, as in trench warfare.

As any American school kid should know, World War One was fought mostly in trenches. And as most American school kids should also know but probably don’t, it was fought yard by bloody yard by boys and men who were put in those trenches by the “entrenched powers” of their day, using the jingoistic propaganda methods from what our contemporary Entrenched Ones now term “the good old days”. Sixteen million people were killed in World War One. Twenty million physically-wounded and untold millions pschycologically-so, which set the stage for World War Two, when almost 60 million people were killed. The wounded from that war set the stage for the Cold War, from which we will apparently never recover.

We try to put numerical costs on various wars, which we hope helps a little. For example, America’s Afgan-Iraq adventure, brought to us by our modern “entrenched powers” using jingoistic propaganda methods that date back to their “good old days”, will run about $4-$6 trillion[ii]. “Horreurs!” we say to that, and then we move on. It feels a little better to at least have a number to work with. “Whew!” we say in place of approaching War’s true reckonings, and we move on. But as most people in the world know, and as we Americans are really just learning, that number just scratches the surface of the tip of the iceberg. Sure, the iceberg’s melting, but it’s still a big iceberg, and any dollar amount is just a tiny scratch on it in terms of reckoning the true cost of jingoism.

One statistic from World War One that should give pause to those of us who seem so gullible to the various distractions our elites deploy against us is that there are still hundreds of pounds of unexploded, still-deadly ordinance for EVERY YARD along that war's hundred-year-old front. If you add up the unexploded ordinance remaining from World War Two, this grim statistic literally skyrockets. And that’s just in Europe, where the word “war” means a bit more than the mere lack of a “syndrome”, n'est pas? Speaking of which, the French still employ bomb disposal units, who gather up the century-old ordinance from the farmers who find them when they plow their fields. They will continue to do so for decades into the future, at huge cost. For unexploded bombs. From World War One.

My hunch is that the word “entrenched” didn’t start getting used for politics until well after World War Two, and I further hunch that at least some of the original evolvers of the word had that iconic trench war--World War One--in mind when they were stretching our language for a phrase to describe the corrosive all-powerful entities inhabiting the inner circles of our modern corporate states. I can't prove it. It's just a hunch. But I can literally visualize the aptness of using a literary relic like "trench warfare" to describe the toxic blend of 21st century elites employing 19th century propaganda that’s occurring on our watch. In the context of the modern definition, the trenches are always where "entrenched powers" put the rest of us, to fight yard by bloody yard for their priorities, not ours. For nothing, in other words, and at great cost to ourselves and our great-grandchildren's' futures. Visualize Global Warming. We're fighting--literally fighting-- each other in the trenches to prove or deny THAT? For who?

We worry much about economic monstrosities such as the Koch Brothers and Rupert Murdoch running amok through our nation’s always-fragile news outlets, as well we should. But we shouldn’t worry about whether the kind of propaganda these “entrenched powers” want to entrench us with are anything new unto the face of the Earth or more ominous than what we’ve seen in the past. They're not. And as always, we can either deal with it through our still-breathing democratic mechanisms, as the New Dealers did when they declared our spanking new airwaves "public domain" and limited its control by corporate powers. Or not, and let Koch and Murdoch, Beck and Limbaugh define our terms for us. What price Enfotainment? 

As any American school kid should know, some few folks made a lot of money in World War One. Some of the same made a killing in World War Two, and the Iraq-Afgan conflicts have been veritable cash cows for for the Zombies of War who kill but never die, the deep-pocketed reality-shifters who wear the face of the Koch brothers today, to whom “entrenched powers” is a most apt, modern and meaningful description.

“It was that resurgence of participatory democracy that was the real fear for those who held entrenched power, whether in the segregationist South or inside the wood-paneled rooms of Wall Street banks and big corporations. Thus, there developed a powerful pushback that sought to both hold the line on additional (and possibly even more damaging) disclosures of wrongdoing and to reassert control of the channels of information that influenced how the American people saw the world.”


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