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Thread: How America Went to War Against Itself

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    How America Went to War Against Itself

    How America Went to War Against Itself, recent history by George Stanciu, writer at "The New Conservative," while I'll summarize with excerpts.

    The citizens of a Nation-State are held together by storytelling, which is especially evident during wartime....

    ...Without the grand narrative setting the goal of the United States to “save the homes and ideals of free men from axis domination,”[3] and then after the war to bring freedom to “all nations and peoples,”[4]Americans would not have so readily accepted the necessities of world war—economic hardship, prolonged separation from loved ones, and the deaths of spouses, siblings, and sons in far away, foreign lands.

    ...Television and photojournalism brought the cruelties and suffering of war into American homes and questioned President Johnson’s narrative that the jungle war was a struggle for freedom on every front and that its purpose was peace; as a result, Americans divided into two camps, those opposed to the war and those adhering to the carry-over story from World War II. Nevertheless, the Cold War against the Evil Empire united most Americans.

    ...Civil disobedience ended the Cold War and made irrelevant the story that the mission of the United States is to bring freedom to all peoples and nations. The Evil Empire was gone forever, as was the fifty-year-old grand narrative of war that had held Americans together.

    Two other unexpected culturally-transforming events occurred: 1) The mouse and the Graphical User Interface made the Internet available for the technically ignorant; Netscape, the first browser, was released on December 14, 1994; and 2) Cable television challenged the dominance of ABC, CBS, and NBC. What would become the two extreme poles of cultural and political storytelling began in 1996, MSNBC (July 15) and Fox News (October 7)....

    ...With 20 basic cable channels and 70 in the extend service, and with the information overload on the Internet, advertisers, marketers, and other storytellers faced an enormous problem—how to get above the clutter. For most, conservative talk radio supplied the model.

    ...Taking their cue from Mr. Limbaugh, the producers of Fox News and MSNBC soon learned what would hook a person to their channel was outrageous speech that evokes anger, fear, and moral indignation through overgeneralizations, ad hominin attacks, and belittling ridicule of opponents. A 2009 survey of political opinion media by sociologists Jeffrey M. Berry and Sarah Sobieraj revealed that “100% of television episodes and 98.8% of talk radio programs contained outrage.”

    ...MSNBC, Fox News, and corresponding Websites skillfully cater to and reinforce the opinions and prejudices of political junkies, seeking a fix of anger and righteousness. Such political junkies live in a safe bubble, where not one of their deeply held ideas and beliefs will ever be challenged by argument or facts. These faithful attend a political church of their own choosing and hear sermons that dramatize their opinions and prejudices that leave them feeling smarter than the yahoos in the other political church.

    Both MSNBC and Fox News present a simplified morality play, but with different heroes, villains, and lessons. In both plays, only two sides exist, Left and Right, Democratic and Republican; beyond the pale are pacifists and anarchists. The two major East coast newspapers have narrowed their political perspective to Left versus Right. The New York Times ensures diversity by lining up hardcore conservatives Bret Stevens and Ross Douthat against staunch liberals Paul Krugman and Nick Kristof. At the Washington Post only the names change, George Will versus Max Boot, Jennifer Rubin opposite Dana Milbank. The wisdom of Mark Twain will never appear in newsprint or be heard on air: “Nothing could be worse for a country than this. To lodge all power in one party and keep it there, is to insure bad government, and the sure and gradual deterioration of the public morals....
    Edmund Burke: "In vain you tell me that Artificial Government is good, but that I fall out only with the Abuse. The Thing! the Thing itself is the Abuse!"

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