One thing that has always interested me about the American tea party is how the working-class membership is so willing and eager to do the bidding of the super rich, as if the two groups have something in common.
Democracy has always been a problem for the wealthy, who know that they constitute an extremely small voting block in a one-man/one-vote system. However, what they do have is money--in fact, most
of it--which they use to influence and condition the masses through mass media.
One of today's primary hegemonic agent
s of the super rich is Rupert Murdoch's NewsCorp, which continues to be wildly successful at recruiting working-class citizens into service for the rich. How do you convince working-class people that labor unions are evil, that Jesus hates the poor, and that the founding fathers were oligarchs?
Here's how: You keep saying it over and over on television while constantly demonizing all other media channels. You convince your followers that the only place they can get "the truth" is on your station. You constantly reinforce the message that what's bad for the rich is bad for everyone.
Eventually you have an army of working class folks willing to believe almost anything you tell them. It doesn't take long before belief supplants fact, science becomes evil, ideology supersedes patriotism, and exclusion and intolerance define righteousness.
To historians, the model is very familiar. It comes from the original big business--religion, the most successful method ever developed for controlling the masses. So it should be no surprise that the majority of history's hegemonic overlords have sought the assistance of priests. When the ancient Roman oligarchs realized that their cash-cow empire had become too large and diverse to control, they embraced the Church as a unifying agent. With that decision, Europe entered the Middle Ages--named so because it falls between two ages of enlightenment: the classical world and the Renaissance.
By the 18th century, our founding fathers were prepared to build a democratic republic here in the New World, and they knew that the way to avoid the religious/political strife and corruption of the Old World was to allow citizens to believe whatever they want. So they addressed the religion problem not by forbidding it, but by embracing pluralism and separating the state from its influence.
The contemporary American radical right does not accept that the United States was designed as a pluralistic nation. They consistently and purposely muddle the values of the first wave of European colonists that started arriving in the 1620s--religious zealots from England--with those of the Enlightenment
neo-classicists who set up the United States 150 years later. These are not the same people.
The U.S. was founded on the principles of both political and economic freedom, but the plan was never for 10 percent of the population to control half the wealth or for the 1 percent to control so much of the political process. We know that things have gone terribly wrong when a presidential candidate can state publicly that "corporations are people" and gain the support of millions of working-class citizens in doing so. Thankfully, that candidate did not win, but there are more where he came from, and those same voters remain willing and eager to serve a new master.
I am interested to see how right wingers respond to this article from the PBS website: What the Found Fathers believed: Stock ownership for all
. I think I already know, but I'll keep an open mind.