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Wednesday, April 07, 2004

Knee-jerk right-wingism 

Harper's Magazine for April 2004 contains a great article Lie Down for America, which asks why American mid-western working stiffs vote Republican when the Democrats actually care about them (minimum wage, unions, medicare) and the Republicans do not (globalization, deregulation). Author Thomas Frank discusses the stereotypes this creates and the impact this has on how the media analyzes elections.
It would take a PhD thesis to explain why this has happened over the last 40 years. Maybe its all a big corporate plot.
But I think one possible contributor is how we have all become used to what I term "knee-jerk right-wingism" when we are dealing with life's absurdities these days -- and Canadians are just as bad at doing this as Americans are.
How many times have you said "goddamn unions" when a stike inconveniences you?
Or "goddamn political correctness" when reading a news report of another 6-year-old expelled for bringing a butter knife to school.
Or "goddamn politicians" when a politician does something stupid.
Or "goddamn bureaucrats" when a government tells us we can't do something we want to do. Its a common but mindless reaction.
Do we ever hear a radio talk show host or a TV commentator or a newspaper columnist, even one not rabidly right-wing, who analyzes current events without falling into this well-worn groove?
Compare to whether the average person has EVER said, or heard, or even thought, "goddamn corporate greed" when a company corners the market in some essential service, or "goddamn incompetent management" when labour relations deteriorate to the point that a union is locked out, or "goddamn tax evader" when some lawyer or accountant promotes another scheme for people to avoid taxes.
My point is, the public discourse in our society now tends to generalize and demonize the left, while the right doesn't get the same treatment.
Maybe it would help if we could at least recognize knee-jerk right wingism when we hear it. And, maybe, think it through a little more.


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