Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Looking For Rage In All The Wrong Places


Hilarious. One of the jokers at Clownhall can't muster any populist rage, either.


Over at Swampland, both Amy Sullivan and Joe Klein question just how “angry” people really are at Wall Street. Sure, they’re angry ... but are they really, super duper angry?

Klein writes:
So, yes, people are "angry" at Wall Street. They are also "angry" at Octomom. I wonder if the depth and quality of those two rages differ--or is this all just a television show? I mean, how many demonstrations, how many economic riots, have there been? There have been real free-for-alls, featuring real violence and bloodshed, in places like China, where the level of societal unfairness and desperation makes our own not-insignificant inequities seem like a workers' paradise. There used to be economic riots and marches here--back in the Great Depression, and further back in the populist era of the late 19th century. But none lately. There doesn't even seem to be significant movement in the polls, which are our own, latter-day way of marching on Washington.


But most of the anger we see and hear comes from people who are paid to be angry, on cue, on cable television--as opposed to people with actual grievances.

Hmmm. I have a couple of thoughts on this. For one thing, to say people don't have real grievances because they aren't rioting in the streets is bizarre. People have lost jobs, can't afford their kids' college education, and have seen their retirement funds evaporate. That stuff is real.

Here's another thing, polls are not the modern day way to march on Washington, and only the most deluded Villager would think they are. Polls are tools used by PR firms to manipulate the media about public opinion and push an agenda. I thought Klein was smart enough to know that.

Guess not.

Second of all: Judging the depth of the peoples’ anger by the size and number (and violence) of demonstrations strikes me as rather odd. We’ve had some big demonstrations over the past 10 years: against the war in Iraq, against the Bush Administration, against anti-immigration bigotry, and against globalization. Half the time the media didn’t even bother to cover these demonstrations. When they did, I don’t recall Joe Klein or anyone else saying they indicated the American people were “angry.” In fact, most of the participants were written off as liberal crackpots and terrorists.

Thirdly: America is not China. We do not live under a repressive regime that is anything close to what the people of China endure. How people in Communist China react is really not pertinent to a discussion about how Americans react.

Finally: America in 2009 is in a far different place from the America of the 1930s or even the 1960s and 1970s. We’re different demographically, socially and economically. We are older. We are wealthier and enjoy a more comfortable standard of living. We’re busier. And we are more insulated and isolated from one another.

We have become insulated by our technology. We twitter and e-mail and blog, and it’s easy to feel like we’re in communication with the outside world, but that technological filter keeps us from having real interactions with people. We form virtual communities, not real ones.

How we live isolates us. We don’t stay at the same job for 40 years, nor do we live in the same house or even the same town for that amount of time. We don’t stay with the same life partner for that amount of time. The bonds of church, family, and community that joined us back in the 1930s no longer apply.

I’m not saying this is good or bad, I’m just saying that the threads that hold us together are more tenuous, and this has changed how we interract in the world.

And this is why I believe few of us march in the streets anymore. I think those days are pretty much over. Sure, certain segments of the population will stage demonstrations, some of them might be quite large and you might even catch one on the evening news, but these are usually highly structured affairs involving a lot of networking, planning, and organizing. You know, the last expression of “populist rage” we saw required the involvement of a GOP public relations company, a well-monied financier, a network of bloggers and talk radio hosts, etc. etc.

Not exactly the embodiment of "populist rage" in my opinion. We're too isolated to spontaneously take to the streets except under the most extraordinary circumstances.

I think in general “populist rage” today takes a different form. It takes place virtually, like on blogs--the kind of display that Klein once dismissed as “free-range lunacy.”

I think it's kinda funny that someone like Joe Klein would expect to see "populist rage" expressed in the exact same way it's always been expressed. And I also think it shows that the media are just as isolated and insulated as the rest of us.