CNN has been reporting that conservative patron Sheldon Adelson might donate as much as $100 million to help Republicans take back the Senate.
Now that the U.S. Supreme Court has officially declared money to be the same thing as free speech or, put another way, that billionaires can freely put elections in their trophy cases along with those rhino tusks bagged last summer, democracy is truly fucked.
More significant than any other use of the green stuff, needless to say, is that money buys media.
Ever since the earliest days of advertising, whether for soap or cigarettes or cars, consumers have hated to think they can be influenced to do things they may not otherwise do. Sure, they reason, it’s all bullshit but we can see past it and make up our own minds. It doesn’t matter how many images, catchy slogans, beautiful women and men, or lies are put in the mix, they think, we are independed-minded American citizens and we’ll decide for ourselves, Goddamit!
The problem is that they can’t and don’t; none of us do. Advertisers have long claimed they aren’t responsible for creating demand, they simply respond to it. Political spinmeisters similarly claim, just a bit disingenuously, that they don’t create opinion, they simply put the truth out there and let voters decide for themselves. Fox News, the formal advertising wing of the Republican Party describes it like this: “We Report. You Decide.”
Advertising, whether political or product, is about manipulation because, ever since Edward Bernays, they know how to do it, and we’re very close to being helpless once they get us in their sites.
But, because voters in particular don’t like to believe they are capable of being led, they aren’t as upset as they should be that billions more in paid media increases the likelihood that others will be telling them what to think and for whom to vote.
I’d like to believe that Democrats won’t engage in the same kind of manipulation as the other side with the gazillions they raise, but of course they will. So, this is not really a partisan rant.
The sooner we realize that independent thought in the face of incessant media conditioning is harder and harder to achieve, the sooner we will get at least a little frightened at the idea that unlimited money in politics leads no where good.