The plutocracy has temporarily lost its absolute control of the executive and legislative branches of our government, and it desperately wants to “take back America.” The rule of the people by and for the few who are wealthy existed for eight years each under Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush, and the plutocrats got spoiled. Even though Reagan and Bush gave us – each in his own turn – the deepest recession, the biggest bank failure, the worst stock market crash, and the biggest savings and loan or bank bailouts since the Great Depression, the plutocrats seem to have a lot of allies among those who are not the “haves and have-mores.”
Multi-millionaire Rupert Murdoch has created a media empire that includes FOX “News” intended to get the masses to support the plutocracy. One of Rupert Murdoch’s henchmen is popular entertainer Bill O’Reilly. Mr. O’Reilly also writes a mostly harmless syndicated weekly column. One in April 2010 was particularly enjoyable. In it he identified Jon Stewart as being a “cornerstone of liberal media.” Mr. Stewart on Comedy Channel’s “The Daily Show” had put on a skit imitating Glenn Beck’s performances on FOX, and it was hilarious.
Mr. O’Reilly then wrote, “By the way, why are there not any conservative comedians with TV shows?” That was the funniest thing I’ve ever read in any of his columns. The answer is that there are conservative comedians with TV shows. They are Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck, and he. If these entertainers are not comedians, what are they?
Even Mr. O’Reilly admits that the popularity of FOX “News” is that he and his colleagues are more entertaining than any of the competition on other networks. He has a point. They are funny. What concerns me is that I know several people who watch FOX to actually get their daily news. Also, polls have indicated that FOX is considered by more viewers to be more trustworthy than any of the other news networks. This is very scary, but it certainly indicates that Mr. Murdoch is getting his money’s worth.
Rupert Murdoch’s FOX “News” has strongly promoted the TEA Party rallies and candidates. That’s one of the many reasons that the TEA Party movement is more accurately referred to as an astro-turf movement rather than a true grass-roots movement. (Koch Industries – led by multi-billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch – is another major factor behind the TEA Party movement through Americans for Prosperity, its political action arm.)
Mr. Murdoch’s FOX “News” is also a driving force behind the Republican Party’s strategy to oppose everything that the Democratic Majority or the Obama administration proposes to resolve any of the many crises left by the Bush-Cheney presidency. George W. Bush’s economic speechwriter, David Frum, recently said it best: “Republicans originally thought that FOX worked for us, and now we are discovering we work for FOX.” I’ve always considered FOX to be nothing but a propaganda tool for the Republican Party, but recently I’ve also lamented that the “court jesters” on FOX – and Rush Limbaugh on hate radio – have become the leading spokesmen for the Republicans.
Another promoter of the TEA Party movement is the FreedomWorks Foundation, co-chaired by former Republican Representative Dick Armey. In the past Mr. Armey has had moments of lucidity, but they have always been brief and quickly scrapped. As the Republican House Majority Leader, he originally opposed the idiotic and irresponsible impeachment and trial of President Bill Clinton. He was easily persuaded by the then-real power in the Republican House, Tom Delay, that it would be good for the party to impeach the president even though there was no reason or chance of conviction.
Once Mr. Armey mercifully retired from Congress, he again showed signs of understanding the Constitution, only to quickly fall silent. After 9/ll when the Bush-Cheney organization hurriedly got Congress to pass the so-called PATRIOT Act, private citizen Mr. Armey pointed out that much of it subverted the Bill of Rights and was unconstitutional. When the Bush-Cheney war hawks were using 935 documented lies to get us to invade Iraq even though it had nothing to do with 9/11, Mr. Armey thought the invasion was a bad idea. He inexplicably dummied up on both issues. The man knows right from wrong, but ultimately he doesn’t care. Whatever is best for the Republican Party is all that matters.
Now Mr. Armey is telling the TEA Party candidates who win the Republican primaries that they should not claim to be TEA Partiers. This makes sense. Having purged the moderates from the party, the Republicans are widely perceived by the public as being a strictly conservative party. Most voters don’t understand how extreme to the right it has really become: the term radical-reactionary has little meaning to most of the electorate. However, the TEA Party is definitely known for its extremism.
Rand Paul, the Republican-TEA Party nominee for the Senate in Kentucky who was endorsed by FreedomWorks, has not only defended BP. He has also defended the right of owners of stores and restaurants to discriminate against whoever they want, opposing part of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. And, he has defended the right of businesses not to make their facilities wheel-chair accessible, opposing the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.
On the other hand, Dick Armey can’t do anything about the Joe Bartons in his party from being identified as Republicans. Joe Barton, a representative from Texas, is a certified Republican who might still be the chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee had the Republicans not lost its majority status in 2007! When Mr. Barton apologized to CEO Tony Heywood for President Obama’s strong-arming BP to set aside $20 billion to deal with the consequences of its oil gusher in the Gulf of Mexico, he clearly reminded viewers where Republican sympathies really lie. Even though Mr. Barton was stating the 100-member House Republican Study Group’s position, he is expected to know better than to let the general public know about it.
The plutocrats want their country back; and by using the TEA Partiers, they may be able to pull it off. They are very well organized. They also have a 5 to 4 majority on the U. S. Supreme Court, which recently ruled that corporations can spend unlimited amounts on our elections. However, if they can’t find a way to get the Joe Bartons and Rand Pauls to shut up, it may not be as easy for them as they think.
by David Offutt
A version of this essay was published July 1, 2010, in the El Dorado News-Times as a letter to the editor.