by John Eberhard
One of the most interesting things in this election has been the extremely polarized attitudes of some of my friends and associates towards the candidates and their positions. This article will be the first of several that I will send before the election, to try to out some perspective into it all.
First of all, I have noticed over the last four years, a polarization of the US electorate like none I have ever seen in my lifetime. There are a couple factors involved in this.
First of all, and liberals won’t want to hear this, but conservatives are coming up out of apathy. For years, liberals have owned the mainstream news media (meaning for years they owned ALL the news media), they owned the colleges and Hollywood, they dominated Congress for 40 years, and liberalism pretty much dominated the national political debate.
Prior to Ronald Reagan, the argument was never whether or not we should implement aspects of socialism, but how much. In other words, it became a given that we need to have socialism, and the liberals managed to frame the debate in terms of how much socialism we should have.
Ronald Reagan was the first to loudly champion the idea that we should get rid of elements of socialism. In a way he was the first true conservative President in the 20th century.
Since that time, Reagan style conservatism has been growing in popularity. At the same time, over the last 15 years a true conservative alternative media has grown up, blossomed and become extremely popular. This has included cable news, web sites, books, and talk radio. Brian C. Anderson, publisher of City Journal magazine, wrote an excellent article, We’re Not Losing the Culture Wars Anymore, which covers this.
So for conservatives, there are places they can go now to get conservative news and information, that agree with their point of view. Instead of being driven into apathy by non-stop news with a liberal slant (see previous articles on liberal bias) they can hear conservative analysis of events.
As this happened, the liberals have taken some losses. They lost control of Congress for the first time in 40 years in 1994, and for the past few years Republicans have controlled both the Presidency and Congress for the first time in my lifetime. So at the same time that conservatives have been gaining more confidence and agreement on their positions through developing and/or finding their own alternative media, the liberals have taken some hits.
As a result, we see polarization. Conservatives are more willing to speak up and fight back against the non-stop onslaught of liberalism which we hear in the mainstream news media, on TV and in movies, and on college campuses.
And we’re also seeing a bit of desperation on the part of liberals. They’re not used to being the underdog in both Congress and the Presidency, and they are willing to do anything to get power back. Case in point would be the continuous, orchestrated and often unfair and unfounded attacks that we’ve seen on President Bush over the last year (see my earlier article on this).
Hence we see a rather contentious debate.
The Third Wave
I believe another aspect of the polarization of the US electorate has to do with the advance of society into the "Information Age" or the "post-industrial society" or what author and futurist Alvin Toffler calls simply "The Third Wave," in his book of the same name.
Toffler argues that there were certain inherent characteristics of society in the industrial age (the second wave), which were significantly different from the agricultural age (the first wave). These included centralization of people in cities, massification of the media (we all watched the same few shows and read the same few magazines), and standardization of products, information, education, jobs, schedules and so on.
Now, in the post-industrial area, which began in the 1960s and is gradually gaining momentum, particularly in the US, we are seeing changes in these major ways in which society is organized.
People are moving out of the big cities (less centralization). With the Internet, they can live and work anywhere. There’s less standardization. Parents are deciding to take a more active role in deciding what kind of education their kids get. Witness the boom in home-schooling.
In my lifetime I’ve seen a huge boom of specialized newspapers, magazines, and now web sites and email newsletters. When I was a kid we had Life, Look and Time. We all watched the same network TV news programs. Now, those programs have been steadily losing audience for 20 years. This is partly because of their liberal bias, but it’s also due to de-massification of the media. We see less and less domination by a handful of media giants and more people getting their news and entertainment from a wide variety of sources.
One of the results of the de-massification of the media, as reported by Toffler, is a "fracturing of consensus."
Earlier, everyone was pretty much hearing the same information – massified and standardized, from a small group of information sources that were able to completely control the message. But as I talked about in my last article, the gatekeepers are dead. And so, it would appear, is a solid consensus.
The Iraq war has been another extremely polarizing event. Attitudes about the war seem to fall into three camps:
a.That war is never justified for any reason
b.That war is justified in certain severe circumstances, but we did not reach that threshold with Iraq, and
c.That the war in Iraq was justified
I belong to a religion where we believe that war is wrong. My friends who think that the Iraq war was a wrong move, fall into categories "a" or "b" above.
Part of our societal consciousness on the subject of war was formed during the Vietnam War, when there was an anti-war movement in the US, and when the US news media was almost universally against the war. Ann Coulter’s excellent book "Treason" gives an eye-opening account of the media?s near-unanimous anti-war slant, and how this deeply affected society’s viewpoint on the war.
My thought is that this Vietnam experience has affected a lot of people today, people who didn’t live through World War II. Vietnam was presented as a huge mistake, and thus their only major war experience was with one that was viewed as a mistake. Thus the idea that war is never justified, and the "War is Not the Answer" bumper stickers that we see.
LA area radio talk host Al Rantel had an interesting comment on this point of view recently. He said that to those people who say "War is not the answer," he would ask would they have said the same thing during World War II, when Hitler slaughtered 6 million Jews? Would they have said then that war is not the answer? Or during the Civil War when we fought to save the Union and for the freedom of slaves? Or during the Revolutionary War? Would they have said then that war is not the answer?
I think this brought up an interesting point. Most of the people of my generation or younger, don’t remember World War II, like my parents do. Many cannot conceive of a valid reason for war, either because of the Vietnam experience, for religious reasons, or both.
Sitting in That Chair
I wish to bring up a different point of view on the war. I know some people may not like it, but I cannot remain silent on it any more.
Please imagine a scenario with me. You, personally, have been elected President of the United States. You are sitting in that chair in the Oval Office.
It is your sworn duty to protect the safety and security of 280 million people. Those people depend on you for their safety and security, whether they realize it or not. But you realize it. You realize and accept the awesome responsibility. You believe that their safety and security is your first duty, above all others.
Now that you have been sitting in that chair for a while, you find out the country has been attacked by terrorists, causing 3,000 deaths, along with awesome emotional and financial devastation.
You consider this an act of war, not simply a crime. You decide that the best way you can carry out your sworn duty to protect the American people is to take the battle to the enemy’s turf. Keep the enemy on the defensive in his own territory, so he cannot mount another attack. You rally the country and send the army to Afghanistan and root out the Taliban, a terrible and inhumane regime that sponsored the terrorists, among other horrors.
Next, you start thinking about Saddam Hussein. His brutal regime has been going on in Iraq for 25 years. He had WMDs and used them against the Iranians and even against his own people. He refused to carry out the terms of surrender of the first Gulf War, and ignored 14 UN Security Council resolutions. All indications are that he still has WMDs and is working on developing more, since he has refused to comply with one of the terms of surrender of the first Gulf War, which was to provide evidence that he destroyed his WMDs.
Now, you consider another aspect of the modern age. You saw the film "The Peacemaker" with George Clooney, in which a terrorist gets a hold of a nuclear device and carries it into New York City in a backpack, and tries to detonate it there. Actions movies have covered this same theme for years. You are aware that our borders are not secure and that today this scenario is actually possible.
You know that the French sold Saddam Hussein nuclear technology that could have been used to develop nuclear weapons grade material – before it was destroyed by the Israelis.
So, now looking at this scenario, remembering your responsibility to protect 280 million Americans – what would you do?
Remember that sanctions did not work. The UN "Oil for Food" program has been exposed as perhaps the biggest financial scandal of the modern age, allowing Saddam to skirt the limitations and skim off billions for his own personal and military use.
You go to the UN to try to get them to enforce their own resolutions against Iraq. You seek a collation similar to the one from the first Gulf War. Many countries support it, but several with Security Council veto power do not, including France and Russia. (You learn later that both countries had massive financial agreements with Iraq, that Jacques Chirac has a personal friendship with Saddam Hussein and has been wining and dining him for 25 years, and that top UN officials are implicated in the massive "Oil for Food" scandal. You find that some top UN officials even believe that all nations – including rogue and terrorist states – should have the right to have nuclear weapons.)
In retrospect, you see that there would never have been a situation where the UN would have supported the war. But you may or may not have known that then. What you did know, sitting in that chair, was that 280 million people were depending on you. You could not wish the situation away. What would you do?
My point is that, although one of the primary goals of my religion is a world without war, a goal that all but the most insane could embrace, unfortunately I believe we live in a world where there are still certain situations that can be handled only with war. Freedom, as the saying goes, is not free, but has to occasionally be fought for.
I believe we will someday reach the goal of a world without war. But for that to happen, we will have to come up with solutions to situations such as aggressive fascistic terrorists, and despotic rulers with aggressive, totalitarian and destructive aims. Part of the solution will be an international organization such as the UN, but one that is not completely corrupt and broken like the UN is today.
If you are or were against the Iraq war, I hope this article caused you to think about the situation in a new way. I’d like to hear your reactions and thoughts.
Part II will be about Senator John Kerry.