Beast Banner October 5 - 19, 2006
ISSUE #108
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Features

ArrowWelcome to the Monkey House
On Safari at “The Chapel” in Getzville

Ian Murphy

ArrowI, Left Gatekeeper
Why the "9/11 Truth" movement makes the "Left Behind" sci-fi series read like Shakespeare
Matt Taibbi

ArrowGet on Board
A farewell to Habeas Corpus in one act.

Allan Uthman

ArrowThe Madness of King Us
Think we're turning a corner? Think again

Donnie Dobovitch

ArrowSexual Predators
What can you do?

ArrowHow the Media Lies About China
"Try harder," American worker – and Thomas Friedman thinks everything will be fine
Matt Taibbi

Local BEAST

ArrowPig Roast
Tom Reynolds is done. Let’s all stick forks in him.
Allan Uthman

ArrowBEAST Staff Aids Non-Millionaire
“Relief for Reynolds” Campaign a Modest Success
Josh Bunting

ArrowCaring is Hard Work!
A selection of transcripts from our neighborhood canvass in the 26th district.

Departments

ArrowThe Beast Page 3
Incredibly Full of Shit Asshole

ArrowKino Korner: Movies
Jackass Number Two, The Guardian, Flyboys, All the King's Men, School for Scoundrels, Fearless

ArrowBEAST-O-Scopes
As divined by your ethereal guide

Arrow[sic] - Letters
Partisan Bickering, A Bold Challenge, Crocodile Punter, Reynolds R.I.P. and more

The Madness of King Us
Think we're turning a corner? Think again
Donnie Dobovitch

After all of the various outrages we’ve seen congress endorse in the last few years, it’s still stunning to see how little fanfare accompanies the revocation of basic political principles that have been in place since 1100 AD. The president orders congress to legalize all of the criminal acts he’s denied committing for years, and they do it. And everybody yawns.

Get it straight: the Military Commissions Act of 2006 means the president can arrest you, torture you (come on, let’s be honest), and keep you in prison for the rest of your life without charge, representation or trial. No evidence needs to be produced, even of probable cause. But there’s a pedo in congress and some nut just shot a bunch of Amish girls, so hardly anyone even noticed.

Of course, the congressmen who voted for this fascist disaster, especially Democrat traitors like Buffalo’s own representative Brian Higgins, should be dragged through the streets by their constituents. But they won’t be, and the blame ultimately rests with the constituents themselves, whose woeful ignorance about the basic principles of free society can’t be overstated. It’s got to be one of the top rules in the “how not to become a slave to your government” handbook—don’t ever give your government the right to throw you in jail for nothing. Governments are never capable of handling this kind of power responsibly, and ours has already proven no different.

Of course, this is just another insane, stumbling step towards our seemingly inevitable future authoritarian police state. Otherwise normal, sane people seem hell-bent on enabling corporate oligarchs to take away every basic protection their ancestors fought for, all in the fear of a terrorist bogeyman which has been so sensationalized in the media that it’s almost hilarious.

So what’s the problem? Why are we, the nation formerly known as freedom land, so ready to submit to authoritarian control after one solid kick in the nads? How have we forgotten the madness of kings when the old monarchies of Europe have not? What, seriously, is wrong with these people?

The answer is obvious: they’re stupid. They don’t know anything, and it’s not really their fault. Their notion of history is a spare and loosely bound collection of fables: Washington chopping down a cherry tree, Franklin and his kite, Lincoln freed the slaves, Reagan won the cold war through frivolous defense spending.

Education really is the primary issue for any Democracy. But in America, it’s just become another issue we like to complain about, but never really demand action on. Meanwhile, our public schools have become a terribly unfunny joke. Of course it’s not all about the necrosis of the department of education; it’s also about a country that turned on the TV, and never read a book again.

Everybody likes to complain about how stupid everyone else is. But it’s a real problem when it’s true. The fundamental flaw in self-rule is that the government is only as smart as its constituents. Widespread public ignorance is like kryptonite to democracy; it can’t survive long in its presence. It’s not a hard process to follow—the dumber someone is, the easier it is to fool them, to take advantage of them. And we have become a nation of marks.

To make matters worse, while Americans have grown more intellectually undernourished, a major industry devoted to manipulating them emotionally has rapidly evolved into an exact science. Nowadays, when a politician “approves this message,” you can bet that message has been tested on selected voters while their brains are monitored to determine its precise emotional impact. So while our mentally enfeebled populace is ever less able to defend against manipulative PR messages, those messages are ever more calculated and refined. We don’t stand a chance.

Here’s the real buzzkill, though: if our diminished capacity to think is the root problem, there really is no hope. Our schools have been deteriorating for decades, and they’ve gotten consistently worse, even when it seemed they couldn’t possibly get worse. With Republicans intent on choking the Department of Education to death and Democrats maintaining the status quo to appease teachers unions, there is no visible end to this trajectory. So if today’s average voter is gullible enough to, for instance, still believe that there were WMD in Iraq, or that Dick Cheney really has severed all ties with Halliburton, it’s terrifying to contemplate the collective mental capacity of America by the time Lindsay Lohan receives her Lifetime Achievement Award.

There’s no getting around this problem. Stupid people make stupid decisions. And when a stupid majority votes on a complex issue, your only hope is to fool them into making the right choice. Hence people argue not that torture is simply wrong, but that it doesn’t work. And congressional Republicans are in trouble not because of the twisted mockery they’ve made of the federal system, but because one of them has been exposed as a creepy old pervert. Frankly, it’s pathetic, and it’s only going to get worse.

Our educational deficit may have already doomed us to total collapse. Just as the baby boom has sounded the death knell of social security, the dummy boom is an insurmountable obstacle for sensible government. Maybe the Democrats will manage to win a few seats in November, but it’s just a minor fluctuation in a much larger trend. We as a society are slipping inexorably further into a long, tragic future of benighted, test-marketed chaos.

No intelligent democracy would tolerate the kind of corruption that’s become so painfully apparent in Washington for long. Nor would one seriously consider the validity of intelligent design as science. No smart nation would allow evidence of vote fraud to be swept under the rug, or allow itself to be subjected to the tyranny of only two major parties, neither of which is in any way serious about reform. But America does, and the only conclusion to make is that we’ve become too stupid to govern ourselves. This is the real problem, and everything else—Bush, Iraq, Guantanamo, whatever—is a symptom.

You might be expecting me to offer a possible solution to this problem, but I have none. Even if we could somehow hit the reset button on public education and start churning out a generation of well-read, thoughtful people this year, it would take decades of backwards, tragic policies before their impact became significant. But even this scenario is too rosy for reality, as the dumber we get, the less interested we are in fixing education.

All I know is, the situation is drastic, and it calls for drastic measures. This country needs to get serious about education, and today, right now. Either that or pack your bags and get the hell out, because it only gets worse from here.

 

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