“Americans are the best entertained and least informed people in the world.” – Neil Postman.
I still watch football. I’m sorry — mea culpa — but I do. Always have. But it’s different this season. Though my hopes for my teams have always been subject to injuries, something worse gets injured every two years: truth.
Watching the Gophers (University of Minnesota) and Minnesota Vikings (NFL) last weekend, most of the ads were what we’ve come to expect. They sell us products by entertaining ads that create our appetites for what we don’t need.
But there were other well-placed ads during breaks in the action: “information” ads meant to stir my righteous anger by painting Dean Phillips (D) — the candidate running against Congressman Erik Paulsen (R) in my district (Minnesota’s 3rd Congressional District) — as an immoral hypocrite. It’s not information; it’s carefully crafted disinformation meant to evoke outrage and fear. The campaign season and football season are a lot alike with one big difference: football has penalties. There are referees and umpires.
Neil Postman’s Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business appeared way back in 1985, years before Citizens United uncorked the tightly secured laboratory vile containing the life-threatening, infectious virus of unaccountable slander, and released the contents into electoral stream of a democratic republic.
We Americans pride ourselves in being a nation “under the rule of Law.” Everyone is equal “under the rule of law.” Citizens United exposed the dirty little secret that we’re not. Slowly over time, the American democratic republic has become an oligarchy. Dark money — big money from unnamed deep-pockets, vested interest sources — was legitimized under the rule of law by the U.S. Supreme Court’s 5-4 Citizens United decision. The rule of law became more explicitly the rule of oligarchs, who buy presidencies and congresses with their campaign contributions, and who spend big money for ads like the one they hope will keep Rep. Erik Paulsen in the House of Representatives.
Congressman Paulsen represents my district. I know him. Well, I don’t really know him. I’ve never had the opportunity to meet him face-to-face. During his eight year tenure in Congress, he never held a town hall meeting before candidate Dean Phillips made an issue of his inaccessibility to the people who elected him to represent us. While others across the country held town hall forums in their districts, Rep. Paulsen refused to hold one. Finally, after increasingly public criticism, Rep. Paulsen offered an alternative: a telephone conference call. My phone would ring at 7:00 P.M. “Hello, This is Congressman Erik Paulsen inviting you to join me in a live conversation . . . Press 1 to participate….” I couldn’t bring myself to press the button lest I contribute to his claim of accessibility. Finally, after his unwillingness became a bigger issue in the Paulsen-Phillips debate, Erik Paulsen held his first face-to-face town hall meeting in eight years.
Yesterday we shared the ads that interrupt my football watching. The Paulsen ads interrupt far more often than the Phillips ads. There’s a reason for that. Money. The Paulsen campaign is well-funded by the unaccountable deep pockets uncorked by Citizens United. The Paulsen ad we posted yesterday is dark in tone and slanderous in content. The Phillips campaign refuses PAC, special interest, or federal lobbyist money. They too are carefully crafted to tell the truth with humor.
Football couch potatoes in MN District 3 are the best entertained voters in the country.
- Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, September 20, 2018.