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How do you get through to people who’ve been thoroughly propagandized against their own common good? Propagandized against the common good of all?
I’ve been pondering that question for three decades now, having watched the slow but steady erosion of a public discourse once based on fact but turned to fiction. Believe me, special interests have always had a way with facts, and the facts weren’t always evident when some of them were just plain left out. But today, after three decades of moving opinion to the right, all facts have been left by the wayside in this Brave New World.
That’s what allows a Minnesota farmer I heard on the radio to believe that after a life of hard work, he’s getting the short end of the stick. Somebody else is getting the giveaways and he’s paying for it. All those people on welfare are living a Life of Reilly. And those immigrants are bad news and just want to come here and get things for free. This particular farmer, likely a nice man, said he just didn’t want all the bad apples to come here and make things harder on people like him who didn’t ask for anything.
At this point in the radio interview I spoke out loud and told him, hey wait a minute, what about the price supports for milk we all pay to you out of the federal coffers. Without that support you couldn’t possibly make a living just so we can get a gallon of milk for two or three bucks. On the flip side, without the price supports none of the rest of us would be getting a gallon of milk for two or three bucks.
I realized that I wouldn’t be able to go to the café in Finlayson where he was interviewed and get him to understand my point: that you’ve been propagandized for the past three decades to believe that some kind of liberal policy, with a bunch of socialists hanging around in the room, is the cause for our social decay. I could offer some facts about the rise of industrial farming and the decline of rural America , that family farms just can’t compete with large agricultural interests and so they’ve disappeared over the decades taking the small towns with them. That process was the result of government policies that handed the reins over to corporate farming interests that worked to de-unionize packing plants and made everybody a corn and soybean producer to feed the food processing industry and the feedlot owner.
I have a feeling, based on my discussions with quite a few folks who sound like the farmer, that some pretty standard answers would be offered to describe the decline of our nation at the hands of the liberals and socialists. Taxes are too high. Single payer health care is socialism. Government policies like NAFTA caused companies to close manufacturing plants and leave the country. Social Security and Medicare are causing the deficit to balloon. Obama wanted to take our guns. Climate change is a hoax. The liberals are elitists from the coast and don’t care about the middle class. You name it, the talking points are all there in plain sight.
My simple theory is that conservative talk show hosts and Fox News have kidnapped much of the population. The fear and loathing, the fear-mongering and blame, are key components of the message telling people like the farmer that there are bad people (liberals and socialists) out there trying to take away everything you’ve worked for. Stop them now and Make America Great Again.
The right wing manipulators have managed through simple but direct messaging to massage the opinions of whole segments of the population without their knowing it. The right has created the divisive political atmosphere, the race-baiting, the fear of social change, the fear of demographic changes. They worked hard to distract people from truly discussing the real reasons this country is in a pickle. How can you solve problems when you can’t even hold a conversation because the other side has been demonized to the point of treason?
I know the farmer would tell me in simple terms why the country was headed in the wrong direction but that now with a liar and a cheat in the White House we’re headed back in the right direction. I know the farmer, likely a good Christian, might say that maybe the president shouldn’t tweet so much but, by golly, he’s got my vote here in rural America where the liberals and socialists in New York and California have forgotten about us. Most of the folks like the farmer think the liberals and the socialists just wouldn’t understand that good Christians understand that it’s the fault of the immigrants that their children were taken away at the border because they should’ve known better. We have laws you know.
I won’t get too religious about this but a pal recently wondered if Jesus were around today would he be walking with the immigrant caravan or going to a Rumpt rally?