[Marxism] ‘Centrists’ Running the Asylum

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Fri Jul 18 07:27:02 MDT 2008

‘Centrists’ Running the Asylum
Posted on Jul 17, 2008

By David Sirota

In the asylum that is American politics, beware a candidate like Barack 
Obama when he is lauded for moving to “the center”—because usually that 
means he is drifting away from it.

Over the last month, the Democratic presidential nominee has backed a 
measure to permit warrantless wiretapping and protect telecom companies 
when they violate customers’ privacy; sent conflicting signals about 
whether he will reform the NAFTA trade model; and threatened to revise 
his timetable for ending the war in Iraq. Universally, reporters have 
billed this dance as a move to the middle. As the Associated Press 
claimed in a typical description, Obama’s shifts are designed “to appeal 
to the center of the electorate.”

However, empirical data prove “the center of the electorate” is exactly 
the opposite:

-- Polls by Quinnipiac University and the Mellman Group found majorities 
support warrant requirements for wiretaps and oppose immunity for 
companies that released private consumer information without such warrants.

-- Surveys by Fortune magazine, CNN and The Wall Street Journal report 
that most Americans oppose NAFTA-style trade policies.

-- For years, major polls have consistently shown Americans want a firm 
timetable for withdrawal from Iraq. As just one of many examples, five 
separate USA Today surveys since 2007 have shown majorities want the 
president to “set a timetable for removing troops from Iraq and to stick 
to that timetable regardless of what is going on in Iraq.”

So, the undebatable evidence tells us precisely where the center of 
public opinion is. Yet when a presidential candidate moves away from the 
center, we are told he is moving toward it. What gives?

Part of the up-is-down distortion reflects perspective—or lack thereof.

Most politicians and journalists who set the parameters of our political 
debate live in Washington and make six-figure salaries. They are 
geographically, financially and socially isolated from the 
blood-and-guts consequences of today’s two wars—the one in Iraq and the 
one on the middle class. That insulation skews viewpoints.

Indeed, the center of opinion in the nation’s capital is very different 
from the center of opinion in the country at large. In elite D.C., a 
moderate is one who backs job-killing trade deals, legal immunity for 
corporate wrongdoers, and wars for oil, regardless of casualties. And so 
when Obama embraces those positions, Beltway opinion-makers really think 
he’s being a “centrist”—regardless of how far away from the actual 
center he’s moving.

But, then, not all politicians and pundits are completely ignorant of 
life outside the palace walls. A calculated Jedi mind trick is at work 
here, too.

When regular folks talk to friends and neighbors, we sure feel like our 
desire for privacy, disgust with NAFTA and opposition to the Iraq war 
are mainstream majority positions—and they are. But then comes the barrage.

Day after day, smiling anchormen, blow-dried correspondents and 
silver-tongued congressmen follow the Big Lie theory of indoctrination, 
taking to our televisions, radios and newspapers insisting that crazy is 
normal, the majority is the minority and—most important—the fringe is 
the “center.” This is no accident.

These voices of the status quo do not want the status quo challenged. 
They deliberately broadcast messages crafted to get us—the mainstream—to 
question our mainstream-ness, while convincing politicians that the 
Establishment’s extremism represents a responsible middle ground.

More Aldous Huxley than George Orwell, these are the methods of modern 
propaganda, with the celebration of Obama’s “centrism” the latest 
doublespeak. In this brave new world, language is sculpted to skew the 
“center,” intimidating the majority from demanding concrete change for 
fear of looking like lunatics. It is a slickly packaged process of 
marginalization and demoralization—one with an underlying goal: keeping 
the real lunatics running the asylum.

David Sirota is a best-selling author whose newest book, “The Uprising,” 
was released in June. He is a fellow at the Campaign for America’s 
Future and a board member of the Progressive States Network, both 
nonpartisan organizations. His blog is at www.credoaction.com/sirota.

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