12/28/2012 08:40 am ET Updated Feb 27, 2013

They're Wagging the Dog

The entire premise of the 1990s movie Wag the Dog was a few powerful elites feeding a complicit media a made-up story about a war in Albania to distract from a president involved in a child sex scandal. Today, politicians are happily feeding a complicit media a made-up story about a "fiscal cliff" and a nation that is too broke to pay the bills. Don't believe the hype.

The hype is definitely chugging along full steam. In Wag the Dog, the media manipulators hired by the government brought in a choir to record a patriotic song to rally Americans behind the fake war effort. They even found an ex-con to play the part of the returning war hero held captive behind enemy lines, and expertly staged a scene where an actress played an Albanian refugee running away from manufactured gunfire. In this new version, there's a fake grassroots effort (re: AstroTurf) dubbed "Fix The Debt," which uses social media to push out photos of everyday, red-blooded, by-God Americans complete with quotes about how fixing the debt should be at the top of the agenda. The end goal of this effort is to convince real Americans that the debt, which they allege is caused by Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, is the one problem that needs fixing before anything else. While everyday Americans have all but laughed Fix The Debt out of the room, Congress has bought it hook, line and sinker.

What Fix The Debt doesn't tell you is that it's a campaign financed and staffed by war profiteers who don't want to lose their multi-billion dollar Pentagon contracts. 38 of Fix The Debt's leaders have ties to 43 companies with more than $43 billion in defense contracts. And while the CEOs who make up the Fix The Debt campaign are all gung-ho about cutting health care and benefits, Fix The Debt oddly never mentions the fact that the United States spends more on its military than the next 19 biggest military spenders, combined. Or that most of our debt was made possible when President Bush used China's credit card to wage two wars that have cost us over a trillion dollars and counting. Or that we've doubled defense spending since 2001 and are showing no signs of slowing down.

At the end of Wag the Dog, the president easily won reelection as the news about his sex scandal was drowned out in the cacophony of news about the made-up war and the made-up war hero. And while we've all been hearing nonstop about the "fiscal cliff" and how our budgetary woes can only be solved through tax hikes or gutting Social Security, the Senate unanimously approved a whopping $631 billion Pentagon budget in early December. The fact that Republicans and some Democrats are still hell-bent on telling us there's a budgetary crisis that can only be averted by cutting New Deal and Great Society programs shows that their true allegiance lies not with their constituents, but with the military-industrial complex that President Eisenhower, a former 5-star general, warned us about more than 50 years ago.

It remains to be seen whether or not the backbone of progressivism will be sacrificed in this manufactured "fiscal cliff" fiasco. But nonetheless, we have, as a nation, let ourselves be thoroughly played by the politicians, the corporations and the media so they can keep their goodies. To tell the truth, the history books must document how easily manipulated people can be when enough fear has been injected into the conversation.