02 September 2009

"Capitalist" Propaganda

The Saratogian newspaper yesterday ran a full-page ad from an organization called the U.S. Citizens Association. Its banner headline announced: "Barack Obama and the Democrats did not inherit the bad economy; they caused it and made it worse." There follows the usual Republican-Libertarian account of the recent financial collapse, in which all blame is placed on the Community Reinvestment Act, a product of the Carter Administration, which "forced banks to lower their standards so that previously unqualified people could get a mortgage." This bomb ticked merrily throughout twelve years of Republican rule before the Clinton Administration "doubled down" and "intimidated banks with threats of legal action" if they did not give loans to "unqualified borrowers" under the "greatly lowered mortgage standards." These bad mortgages were then bought up by Fannie Mae, whose corruption was protected by Democrats against probes by the George W. Bush administration despite Republican control of Congress for all but two years of that regime. The present President comes into it by filing lawsuits on behalf of the infamous ACORN, further pressuring the stiff-necked bankers to "give loans to people who could not afford to pay them back." Nowhere in this account does one learn why all this should have so damaged the larger economy, since it isn't explained how or if any of the aforementioned culprits forced banks to buy mortgages from Fannie Mae and sell them at profits to themselves or otherwise commodify them. It seems like the damage should have been fairly localized even if all the Democrats were as guilty as this ad claims. Since it was more extensive, others must be to blame, though it isn't in the U.S. Citizens Association's interest to name them.

Speaking of naming, a little research revealed that "U.S. Citizens Association" is this organization's second name in a so-far very brief existence. It sprung to life under the name "Better Government Association," only to discover that a Chicago-based civic watchdog group has had that name since 1923. The original BGA did not find this imitation flattering and filed for an injunction against the newcomer, which solved its problem by adopting its current label.

So what is the USCA about? It's a "non-profit organization made up of U.S. citizens." Membership is free and donations are optional, but the Association's own website sets fundraising as a major goal.

In essence, conservative capitalists need an organization with mega-money and the expertise to compete with the organized efforts of the liberal socialists. This must include getting the message of the conservative talk show hosts and conservative organizations out to 100% of the public.

The USCA identifies itself as "capitalist" above all, rather than conservative (except as a modifier) or Republican. In the ad, the Association emphasizes that "Both parties, Republicans and Democrats, have been guilty of taking our country in a direction which most U.S. citizens do not want it to go. They have taken it in the direction of socialism." The ad then goes on to accuse Democrats exclusively of "a push for socialism that has never occurred in the history of the United States."

Just so everyone understands, "It is capitalism that has made the United States the most powerful nation in the history of the world. Capitalism means free enterprise and freedom for citizens. Socialism means government controls everything and no freedom for anyone else."

"Socialism," the copywriter asserts, "has never worked in history for any nation that has ever tried to produce prosperity for its citizens. Socialism only produces prosperity for the socialistic government rulers. In capitalist countries, only 10% of the people temporarily live in poverty. In socialist countries, 99% of the people live in poverty permanently. The 1% socialist rulers permanently live a life of prosperity and ultra-luxury."

The Association claims that President Obama knows all this as well as they do. Why, they ask, does he seem to want socialism for America? The answer is plain greed. "Because socialism provides much more power to the government rulers than capitalism. It prolongs their power and, in many cases, makes their power permanent. Their reasons are totally selfish; they don't care about you. They care about themselves."

Do you want proof? "Barack and Michelle Obama's wealth has skyrocketed and they live a life of luxury. The Obamas throw lavish parties on a regular basis at the White House for their socialist friends. Those parties include flying in Kobe beef from Japan which costs over $100 a pound. Michelle Obama wears designer clothes to these parties which cost thousands of dollars. These exorbitant parties cost taxpayers millions of dollars."

Oh, the scandal! And what a contrast to the the Spartan simplicity that prevailed under the previous President and his humble librarian wife -- or at least so you're left to believe, since this advertisement cites not one single statistic to back up any of its claims about the Obama's luxuries or the "permanent" poverty rate under socialism, which to no one's surprise is defined as broadly, vaguely and unfairly as possible. But nothing different was really to be expected from a paid advertisement that goes on to denounce health care reform, the "fraud" of man-made global warming, the "destructive force" of labor unions, and the notion that the top 5% of income earners should be called "rich."

But because the Association fills a page with small type and bullet points, some readers are bound to mistake it for an objective presentation of facts, if they aren't immediately tipped off by the headline. If anything, its obvious partisanship (or, more precisely, ideological bias) guarantees that it will convert nobody, but will only provide talking points to those already converted to the reactionary side. But it wasn't really designed to convert anybody; it's meant to get hysterical reactionaries to join the U.S. Citizens Association and receive its free membership kit, "which will instruct you on how you can change the government to benefit you." Again, "donations are optional," but anyone who sends in the membership coupon should expect to get asked for money very often. The Association needs money to "educat[e] the public with truthful information such as that presented above." In other words, it needs money to buy ads in order to get more members to beg money from. I'd be interested in seeing what their office parties look like.


hobbyfan said...

Oh, so they're resorting to the blame game, are they? Yes, the Obama administration did inherit the economic crisis left by George W. Bush. Where the "US Citizens Association", a front for a scam if I ever saw one, I might add, got enough funds to buy ad space in newspapers with this garbage, I'll never know, nor would I really care to find out.

Of course, these dweebs don't want to name names. A whining baby with an axe to grind just points a finger of blame, and people jump to conclusions.

Anonymous said...

There used to be something called "Truth in advertising".

Samuel Wilson said...

Problem is, ideology has been granted the privilege of faith so that ideologues can pretty much get away with saying whatever they believe as long as it isn't so personally defamatory that it becomes libel. It's part of our postmodern decadence that the right to believe anything you please has become pretty much sacrosanct, with small exceptions made for such stuff as explicit racism or Holocaust denial. A lot of garbage still gets through, though, as long as it's paid for.

Anonymous said...

Then this country is lost.