'Oh, you can't help that,' said the Cat. 'We're all mad here. I'm mad. You're mad.'
'How do you know I'm mad?' said Alice.
'You must be," said the Cat. 'or you wouldn't have come here.'"
Awakening to a masochistic impulse last Sunday, I opened the Op-Ed section of my local paper, The Kansas City Star. Throwing caution to the wind, I plunged headlong into the mind-engulfing thicket of sophistry. Running for my intellectual life, I felt the collective breath of the ravening wolves thirsting to rip the jugular vein coursing with the life-blood of my capacity for independent thought. Driven by an insatiable hunger to devour the cognitions of those who strayed from the herd, the voracious pack pursued me with a vengeance. Yet today I was moving with the agility of Brer Rabbit navigating the Briar Patch. Powered by critical thinking and a fierce determination to maintain my noetic integrity, I evaded the ferocious canines' furious bid to sink their razor-like fangs into the succulent gray matter they craved. Emerging from the tortuous copse, my psyche was bloodied but intact. And more importantly, it remained free.
Consider that The Kansas City Star, a paper that "serves" a metropolitan population of 1.9 million, is but one of 29 publications owned by The McClatchy Company, a corporate entity that raked in a net of $160.5 million in 2005(1). With McClatchy backing them and a daily subscription of 270,000 people, the Star can afford to publish the scribblings of the best propagandists money can buy. And they desperately need them.
Burdened with a task as daunting as the Twelve Labors of Heracles, the mainstream media strive with a fury to satisfy their demanding corporate paymasters. Yet unlike Heracles, they can't luxuriate in the knowledge that quiescence awaits. For theirs is a Sisyphean challenge. Truth, the eternal and immutable one, anxiously anticipates the moment his would-be assassins crest the summit where he is poised to hurl them violently back to the base of the hill. Powerless to prevent their relentless prevarication, Old Man Verity delights at the opportunity to condemn them to perpetual toil.
Ostensibly fragmented and autonomous, the MSM duplicitously peddle their perversions of reality in a seemingly cacophonous din of independent truth-seekers. Yet how could such an incestuously entangled group of entities owned by a handful of leviathan corporations possibly adhere to a spirit of integrity? Acting in unison to protect the interests of opulent shareholders and maleficent politicians, print, radio, and television media embody the Ministry of Truth Orwell envisioned.
Thomas Carlyle once commented:
"Burke said that there were Three Estates in Parliament; but, in the Reporters' Gallery yonder, there sat a Fourth Estate, more important far than they all."
Wallowing in a fetid sewer of avarice, speciousness, sensationalism, and pornography, Carlyle's Reporters' Gallery has all but abandoned its crucial role. The Fourth Estate has evolved from a fierce watchdog of the public interest into a massive swarm of winged vectors infecting the body politic with the parasitic disease of fascism.
While Rush Limbaugh and his ilk ply their craft with obvious glee, others providing grist for the propaganda mill apologize and plead the "mortgage and family" defense. Those who defy the corporatocracy by employing journalistic integrity often find themselves relegated to obscure roles or wrangling with government bureaucracy over meager unemployment benefits. Bearing the "fools license" of medieval court jesters, a precious few mainstream journalists reach the pinnacles of their profession despite their honesty. Their satirical styles of presentation save them from the axes of the censors and "down-sizers".
Like eager equestrians breaking green horses, the mass media endeavor to provide the pecunious stratum of society with obedient beasts of burden. Conditioning begins at our earliest moments of cognition. With the ubiquity of TV, radio, newspapers, and billboards, steady barrages of thought manipulation continue throughout our lives.
Mere extensions of the exploitative perversion of Capitalism which has emerged as a means of imposing economic tyranny in our constitutional republic, the glorified spin doctors of the MSM act as priests shepherding their flock. Espousing a doctrine promoting the Seven Deadly Sins, the prelates of the mainstream media have replaced the spiritual progress of their steadfast adherents with a moral regression that leaves Satan green with envy.
Banishing human reason and compassion to distant exile, the media barons and their minions perpetuate a chronic state of group psychosis. Reality and morality? Who can be bothered with such trivial matters when Playboy Spice Platinum is on the 60 inch flat-screen, frosty bottles of Coors are in the fridge, the NFL has its own network, and we have enough military fire-power to obliterate the Milky Way Galaxy. And the likes of Fox, CBS, and Time Magazine are there to quash those nasty occasional doubts and quickly restore our shining vision of America the Beautiful.
While the corporate media entities manipulate consumers, exercise a virtual monopoly on the flow of information, rewrite history to suit political agendas, unduly influence the outcome of elections, and perform a myriad of other tasks to advance the interests of those in power, the holographic image of the United States as a benevolent beacon of democracy they work so tirelessly to etch into people's minds is beginning to fade.
However, that represents no crisis to them. They simply flood our minds with more of the narcotic-like ideas and images they dispense to mask the pain from the festering wounds on our agonized souls. Undaunted, they continue to merrily guide us down the well-trodden path to the Inferno.
Nimbly disabling the mind and conscience, corporate-supported propaganda shock troops have enticed and manipulated untold millions of people to embrace severely distorted realities and spiritually vacuous lives.
Consider our nation's repeated and egregious perpetrations of the Seven Deadly Sins and our information tsars' complicity as instigators, enablers, and participants:
LUST (LUXURIA): Pornification is rampant in our culture. Television, movies, catalogues, and nearly every form of media imaginable are teeming with salacious photos of women wearing little or no clothing. Waves of new pornographic print publications and Websites leave Larry Flynt's Hustler Magazine looking almost puritanical. Sexual taboos are on a path to extinction. Inducing ravenous appetites for carnal pleasure, the mass media have tapped into major veins of pathological obsession and the exploitation of women and children. Yet they don't care. Because sex does indeed sell. It sells so well that Dante's vision of spiritual cleansing by the flesh-searing flames of a raging conflagration doesn't even give them pause.
GLUTTONY (GULA): Imagine that the United States is a hog amongst a herd of swine that represents the world population. And that the world's resources are their slop. America would be one of twenty pigs. Yet come feeding time, the US porker would leave only three fourths of the pig swill for the remaining 19 squealers to share. More than 850 million people around the globe face starvation (2). 33% of US Americans are obese or overweight (3). Like Tantalus, the gluttons in Dante's Purgatorio spend eternity yearning for food that is in sight but just out of their reach.
AVARICE (AVARITIA): Avarice is the black heart of rapacious capitalism and corporatism in the United States. Enron, Halliburton, Lee Raymond, Big Oil, Big Tobacco, Tyco, Bernard Ebbers, 33% of the wealth concentrated into the hands of 1% of the population (4)...examples of obscenely acquisitive entities and individuals are nearly infinite.
SLOTH (ACEDIA): Sloth is perhaps best exemplified by the shocking indifference many US Americans show toward the innocent victims of their pitiless war machine. The United States' economic and military juggernaut has been waging genocide against Iraqis since the Gulf War. So naturally, instead of focusing on culpability, remorse, or demands to end the state-inflicted murder of millions, our high priests of the temple of information fuel a debate over how much (or how little) "collateral damage" has been caused by US military aggression. Sloth also entails avoiding spiritual work. In a society of people indoctrinated to worship wealth, physical beauty, quick fixes, themselves, and immediate gratification, there is not much danger of over-exertion to reach self-actualization.
WRATH (IRA): Throughout much of its relatively brief existence the United States has inflicted misery upon billions around the globe through intervening militarily and wielding its economic power like a mighty cudgel. When the oppressed finally realized they could resist by employing asymmetric warfare, those crafting Goodthink whipped the multitude into a fury. Directing US Americans' wrath against Islam enabled the Bush Regime to invade and occupy two geopolitically strategic nations. And the millions of dead or suffering human beings in Afghanistan and Iraq were and are the illegitimate targets of the vengeance and unwarranted rage of wrath.
ENVY (INVIDIA): The moneyed elite in the United States have long coveted their neighbors' land, resources, and cheap labor forces. Eager to invade, annex, and exploit, the plutocracy began to disseminate the warped notion of Manifest Destiny in the Nineteenth Century. Purporting to have the unwavering support of the Almighty, the "superior" Anglo-Saxons rationalized slavery, the Native American Genocide, the conquest of half of Mexico, the annexation of Hawaii, and their eradication of over 300,000 "savages" in conquering the Philippines. With its vast and sophisticated media network at its beck and call, those monopolizing power in the United States continue to cull popular support for obtaining the objects of their envy. Complex obfuscations and demagoguery may sell their agenda to today's more sophisticated audiences, but the underlying goals and results have changed little. The power elite want what others have and employ whatever means are necessary to get what they want.
PRIDE (SUPERBIA): Considered by many to be the most grievous of the Seven Deadly Sins, pride was the impetus for Lucifer's fall. Before their umbilical cord is even severed those born as citizens of the American Empire begin receiving a barrage of assurances from the media matrix that theirs is an exceptionally superior nation. Brimming with hubris and a pathological nationalism, those who have internalized the Big Lie wave their blood-drenched flags in open support of fire bombings, nuclear assaults, the installation and support of ruthless dictators, neocolonialism, and brutal invasions of tiny and vulnerable nations. Enmeshed in the protective cocoon of the Empire, we are imbued with the warped psychological capacity to pursue our narcissistic fantasies while callously disregarding the misery we are inflicting upon other human beings. Many US Americans regard hubris and narcissism as their natural rights. And they exercise these "rights" with the zeal of a jonesing crack addict hustling for their next fix.
To paraphrase Bon Scott, Angus Young, and Malcolm Young: We're going down. All the way down. We're on the Highway to Hell.
So revel in the mass delusions, suck the marrow that the wretched may gnaw upon the bones, and excise your conscience.
And for God's sake, savor each second of the ride...Because Hell awaits, America...