25 October 2010

They're out to destroy ME?

To be specific, the scare quote on the front of the envelope read, "They're Out to Destroy You." The envelope came from The Nation, and inside was a pitch for The Nation Associates. The revered progressive weekly can't support itself on the income from subscriptions, newsstand sales and advertising alone, the pitch explains so on top of my $79.95 subscription The Nation wants a further subsidy from me in the form of an Associates membership of $35 or more.

But no, it's not The Nation that's out to destroy me or my bank account. Actually, their sole authority for anyone's destructive intentions toward me is an unidentified "political analyst" who actually said, "They are out to destroy progressives."

"That's you -- and that's us," the pitch writer helpfully adds. But this was an Edmond O'Brien moment when, in the manner of the crazy old coot from The Wild Bunch, I have to ask, "Who the hell is they?" The answer was prompt.

Who? The conservative elite that increasingly controls this nation's wealth -- and the credulous media they can buy to advance their ultimate end game: the abolition of Social Security, minimum-wage laws, gun control, a woman's right to choose, all personal and corporate income taxes, corporate regulation.

Find someone who advocates all of the above and you do have a bad guy, but I'm not sure if any politician has been so bold, even in this season. But it isn't the politicians driving the agenda; according to the Nation Associates, it's the Koch Brothers, fast becoming the counterparts in progressive demonology to George Soros for the right-wingers. The Koch's most terrifying donation, or at least the scariest one the pitch writer cares to cite, was to the diabolical Cato Institute. I'm sure all of you tremble at the thought of a richly-funded libertarian think tank, but fear not: your donation to the Nation Associates will help rebalance the scales, since the magazine's "influence in exposing the motives and malfeasance of corporate power and media is huge -- and as the country's oldest magazine of opinion -- peerless." The Kochs and Catos of America fear The Nation because it's "a united voice that gets heard above the din" and "still the most widely read and highly respected weekly journal of news and opinion in America." Believe it or not.

I read The Nation loyally but I think they flatter themselves here. I doubt that America's evil billionaires feel threatened by an opinion magazine that by its nature preaches to a choir and is unlikely to change anybody's mind about anything. It's more likely that they remain more concerned with stamping out what remains of "liberal bias" in television news, or with their new project of ending government's token support for National Public Radio. The Nation also exaggerates its stake in the midterm elections. "If we lose this fight," the letter reads, "and the major test that is just ahead with the November elections -- things are going to get a lot tougher." In fact, the worst case scenario for the country may be the best for The Nation. When conservatives rule, progressive media flourish in opposition. The George W. Bush years were a bonanza for dissident media. Print media still faces the challenge of perceived obsolescence in the internet age, but it's a stretch to tie that to a conspiracy of reactionary oligarchs.

Almost all opinion journals make this kind of pitch these days. They're the equivalent of pledge drives for public radio, and I sympathize with the straitened circumstances that force them to beg for something above and beyond a subscription renewal. I'm just not in any position to help them, beyond renewing, and some of these journals (like The American Conservative) may be beyond help, not because of any conspiracy against them, but because of changing times and changing channels of intellectual communication. When print magazines cry, "they're out to destroy us," the correct response may be less Edmond O'Brien and more Clint Eastwood -- something along the lines of, "you've all got it coming" and "deserve's got nothing to do with it."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Of course they're out to destroy you. You're one of those liberal lefty socialist commie baby-eaters who, like Obama, is out to destroy America and sell what's left to the muslims.