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Outrage Fatigue

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We've been subjected to a continuous flow of outrageous acts that, coming on the heels of an attack of true horror, seemed justifiable. At least the administration could justify them, except now it turns out they cynically manipulated the system to manufacture consent, using Pentagon military industrialists to prop up their claims with an air of martial credibility. We were all unaware of the conflicts of interest and concerted program of deception until Sunday when the NYT revealed the scope of it. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/20/washington/20generals.html?ex=1366344000&en=016e2520ffb3ab0b&ei=5124&partner=permalink&exprod=permalink

What was the result? Outrage? Hardly. Another blip on the 7.5 year chart of regular outrageous blips of varying degrees of outrageousness and importance, but so regular as to become expected. I don't have the stomach to list them and they are well-known to the readers here.

The end result, however, is a sort of shellshock, as we await the next mortar to fall on this democracy allegedly of, by, and for the people. It's been a steady erosion, as a river carves a canyon, starting where who can say, Reagan's morning in America, Coolidge, US Grant, any president aligned with corporate interests willing to wield power and force to protect the Haves. Hamilton vs. Burr on a New Jersey cliff gave the bankers their first martyr, a reason to rally forces. Turmoil then was real turmoil. Dishonor resulted in a duel, not bland words repeated disingenuously on cable TV. No one pays any real price for the ignominy they cast like stones in their glass house, that one-eyed beast, the Murdoch-, Disney-, Turner-owned Pravda of our time. We're just too numb and dumb to do anything about it.

Another excellent article at TomDispatch, Tom Englehardt's invaluable website, by the New Labor Forum's Steve Fraser about our new Gilded Age puts this in stark relief. We have no Haymarket, we do not riot (unless you count the Battle in Seattle over the WTO), but our corporate masters are no less bent on exploiting us masses. Even using language like this immediately relegates me to the periphery, a raving radical, a communist agitator beating his head against the machine. Don't get me wrong, had I the chance I would exploit the masses, too. But, as an average schmuck from the burbs of LA, I didn't have much of an opportunity to do so.

We have no outrage because we're slowly being suffocated, buried in treacly television and the promise of a dream that will always remain out of reach, at least for the vast majority. Those apocryphal Horatio Alger stories, gritty Americans pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps – all a ruse, a great big con. They're there to lead us on, intoxicated by the illusion we will get our millions handed to us in a suitcase by Howie Mandell, or from Oprah's largesse, or in the form of a new house given self-aggrandizingly by a manipulative network and received invariably by crying lucky ones, plucked from despair by ABC.

No one looks at the percentages. If they did they'd see what a brilliant deception it all is. They've trapped America in velvet cages, flashed pretty pictures between tales of woe and fear, and so we go on, working, paying taxes, funding a war we don't want fought, and propping up financial institutions backwards and forwards.

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Why don't we take it to the streets, build barricades, and demand our democracy back? It's simple. We're just too frackin' tired. We're all suffering from Outrage Fatigue, trapped between the fear of failure and the promise of success, hoping we'll find one and not the other, content to stay stuck in the middle.

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jeffreyleonard is a writer and PR guy living on an island in Puget Sound. Born in Los Angeles on the same day California was admitted into the union (but not the same year), graduated from Berkeley with a degree in History (Russian), walked the (more...)

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