The Republican Party is in a pickle.
The Party itself despises its own two leading presidential candidates, Donald Trump and Ted Cruz. This is a remarkable oddity just in itself. But there is good reason for it. Both of these candidates are so extreme and disastrous that they will almost certainly never be able to win a national election for the Republican Party.
But much worse, if and when one of these candidates does becomes the Republican Party's nominee for president, the Party could very well be torn asunder into factions. One wing would split off to support the extremist candidate, and the other more moderate wing would be so embarrassed by what the Republican Party had become that they might even abandon the Party altogether. And forget about attracting new members into the Party because it would be too mean and extreme.
This could devastate the Party for years or even decades to come. So the Republican Party now finds itself teetering on the precipice of disintegration.
The Republicans, however, have no one to blame but themselves. This is a crisis of their own creation. And it didn't just happen overnight.
The Republican Party has been fomenting anger and discontent in the base of its own Party for years. The mechanism through which this hate has been disseminated has been the network of extremist media of right-wing talk radio and the Fox News Channel, which is essentially talk radio transposed onto television.
Just think of all the right-wing "superstars" who spew messages of anger and hate every single day throughout the land over this enormous megaphone. Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Ann Coulter, Laura Ingraham, Ben Shapiro, Dana Loesch, Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity, to name a few.
And make no mistake, spewing hate has a significant impact upon society. It is the equivalent of modern-day propaganda where the population is barraged with a stream of consistent messaging. As ordinary people go about their daily lives, they are exposed repeatedly, day-in and day-out, to the same messages in numerous different forms and by numerous different people. Pretty soon, these messages begin to sink in and take effect. The audience begins to adopt a worldview consistent with these messages, regardless of the degree of truth. It is a remarkable phenomenon.
History is replete with examples of how propaganda can be very effective in altering the views of a population. Nazi Germany in the 1930's is a classic example. How could it possibly be that a maniac like Adolph Hitler was able to convince millions of ordinary people throughout the entire nation of Germany to go to war against the world? Well, propaganda was an extremely powerful component.
For years, Hitler inundated the German population with a stream of consistent messages that the German Aryans were the superior master race of all humans, and that Germany was under imminent threat of destruction by foreign enemies as evidenced by the Treaty of Versailles, which was the international peace treaty that ended World War I but that also imposed upon Germany the hardship of having to make enormous reparation payments to the foreign victors for having caused the war. The Nazi messaging also preached about internal threats from various segments of Germany's own population, like Jews, homosexuals, and communists. The German population began to adopt this perverse and paranoid worldview as truth, and a national war machine was born.
A more contemporary example is the Bosnian War from the early 1990's that shockingly occurred in the heart of Europe right near Italy and Greece. The government of Serbia deployed propaganda to incite its Christian Serbian population to turn against the Bosnian Muslim ethnic group. Previously, however, the Serbs and the Bosnians had lived together in peace for generations in the very same towns and villages. But the propaganda from the nationalistic Serbian government whipped-up its population into a frenzy that resulted in former neighbors and friends killing each other in horrifying atrocities of ethnic cleansing, systematic mass rape, and genocide.
Another contemporary example is the genocide that occurred in the African nation of Rwanda in 1994. The Hutu-led government systematically employed propaganda to spread fear and paranoia that the Tutsi minority was about to rise-up and enslave the Hutus, so the Hutus had better spring into action and save themselves by striking first against the devious and plotting Tutsis. This incited a wave of violence that lasted for months. In villages across Rwanda where Hutus and Tutsis had previously lived together in peace and harmony, suddenly mobs of Hutus were rampaging against their own Tutsi neighbors with machetes and clubs. One million Tutsis were killed in the genocide.
Propaganda is powerful stuff. Many people are susceptible to it and can be swayed by it, especially the less educated.
In America today, the right-wing media network is engaged in this very same activity through Fox News and extremist talk radio. This network is constantly barraging its audience, day-in and day-out, over and over again, with a stream of consistent messaging. And this messaging is overwhelmingly negative and destructive.
The messaging consists of common themes that recur over and over in various forms. One central theme is a fierce opposition against government, especially so called "big government." This reappears in various sub-forms as well, such as rage against bureaucracy, regulations, Washington, D.C., the IRS, the Environmental Protection Agency, and federal politicians.
It is really quite remarkable that a major political party could get away with so shamelessly trashing our very own government and our very own nation. But yet, there it is.
They rant and rave about how our nation is a disaster, out of control, a huge mess. The government is so far off the rails that it no longer even follows the Constitution of the United States! Absurd, of course. But wildly popular.
Another big theme is fear and victimization. You had better watch out because government is gonna getcha! "They," whoever that may be, are about to take away your rights. Your freedom is about to disappear. Your religious liberties will be stripped away. You won't be able to make your own healthcare decisions. Free choice will be gone. Your children will suffer. You are under a big threat. Even though you are just an innocent person minding your own business, you are about to be victimized!
Another common theme is the fear of foreigners, or outsiders. We must protect our own in-group from the vague and mysterious threats posed by those who are a little bit different from us. The particular targeted group changes with the times, but it has included Muslims, illegal immigrants, Syrian refugees, Russia, China, Mexican immigrants and communists. But the concept remains the same.
And, of course, someone from the Democratic Party, or some "liberal," is to blame for all of this wreckage. Demonizing a specific target is powerful. If a Democrat is in the White House, then the President becomes the favorite bullseye. Otherwise the demon is some other Democratic politician, typically from Congress.
But why would a Democrat want to take away people's rights throughout the nation? This would mean that the Democrat would also be taking away their own rights, and also the rights of their constituents. Why in the world would they do that? Well, of course, this makes no sense whatsoever. But it doesn't need to make any sense. It just needs to instill fear, anger, and discontent.
Now, a political platform comprised of nothing more than hate and anger is not a very viable or sustainable political strategy, especially for a national party like the Republican Party. It may be a good strategy for a specific election or an isolated situation, but an entire political party cannot endure based upon only a message of outrage and opposition.
So why would the Republican Party devise such a strategy that has no hope of success? Well, it turns out that they did not devise this strategy. In fact, it's not even a strategy at all. It emerged not as a result of a grand Republican master plan, but rather, it emerged as a result of market economics.
The extremist right-wing network of Fox News and talk radio was not created by politicians, and it is not funded by a political party. It is not supported by donations from people seeking political expression. No. It was created for one central purpose: to make money.
The founding motivation and the driving force behind all of this propaganda of hate and anger that is being disseminated throughout our society is nothing more than the almighty dollar. The profit motive. It is a business. Pure and simple.
And, as it turns out, the business of peddling hate and anger is a fantastically profitable one at that.
Rush Limbaugh raked-in $80 million for himself in 2015 alone. Sean Hannity was paid $30 million. Glenn Beck is personally worth over $100 million. Bill O'Reilly's television show, "The O'Reilly Factor," generates over $100 million per year in advertising revenue.
If these front-men are making this much money, well then you know that their corporate masters are making even more.
Fox News has dominated the ratings as the number one cable news channel for the last 14 years and reportedly earns over $1 billion in profits annually, making it a golden goose in the overall Fox corporate empire. Fox itself is one of the most valuable brands in the world with sales of over $13 billion. And the tycoon behind Fox News, Rupert Murdoch, is personally worth $12 billion.
This is Big Business.
It is no joke. We are not talking about some folks just yearning to express their opinions. No. This operation is not being driven by politics or by a desire to promulgate political viewpoints. No. This operation is being driven by money. Big Money. This is what it's all about.
Of course, politics is involved as well. No doubt. The content spewed by this media network is highly political in nature and it champions right-wing issues, right-wing politicians, and the right-wing Republican Party. This is no accident. In fact, it makes perfect sense when viewed through an economic perspective.
Corporate profits are greatly impacted by governmental policies. Corporations, therefore, desire the government to be controlled by whichever political party is the most favorable to corporate profits. And this, of course, is the Republican Party. So it makes perfect sense that this extremist media network would use its megaphone to attempt to influence politics by urging support for the right-wing Republican Party.
Interestingly, the Fox media empire that is dominated by the tycoon Rupert Murdoch is shockingly reminiscent of the media empire from around 1900 that was dominated by the tycoon William Randolph Hearst.
Mr. Hearst was notorious for printing false information in his media network of newspapers in order to influence public opinion and politics. Instead of using his vast media network to objectively and fairly report news and disseminate information, Mr. Hearst used his media network as an instrument of power by controlling the content and distorting the truth in order to manipulate public opinion for his own benefit.
So we have seen this playbook before. One would think that we would now be savvy enough to prevent this terrible abuse from happening again. But apparently not. It is astonishing that Mr. Murdoch has been able to recreate right before our very eyes the abusive practices pioneered by Mr. Hearst over one hundred years ago.
Today, the bottom line is money. Politics is secondary. While the media content is highly political, the purpose behind influencing politics is to serve the primary objective of protecting the big profits.
Just think what would happen if the Republican Party suddenly proposed a tax on excessive corporate media profits. This right-wing network would shift away from the Republican Party so fast your head would spin. Bill O'Reilly would be sporting tie-dyes and Birkenstocks.
Corporate profits is what led to the creation and expansion of this extremist right-wing media network. And it is indeed a cozy little business model. The network builds an audience by appealing to people's fear, insecurity, and anger, and simultaneously directs its audience to support the right-wing political party that best protects the network's own profits.
It's like a rigged game. The content disseminated over the network masquerades as being objective and informative, but in reality the content has instead been carefully designed to promote the network's own business interests.
What is best for corporate profits, however, is not necessarily best for a democratic society.
From a political perspective, it is certainly not healthy to incite anger and hate within a nation's own population. And it is not very wise to inflame hostility and rage against a nation's own government. From a business perspective, sure, it is perfectly understandable because a corporation can exploit this and profit handsomely from it. But from a political perspective of creating a cohesive society and maintaining peace and harmony among the population, this is disastrous.
Responsible politicians certainly know better and would never endorse any enterprise seeking to inflame anger and hostility in the population. A true political leader would not participate in any such conduct, but instead would speak out against it. A true political leader would not condone the dissemination of false and misleading information, but instead would seek to correct it with accuracy. A true political leader would not sacrifice unity in society in order to capture a few easy votes, but instead would uphold his or her principles and integrity even at the risk of losing votes.
That is genuine political leadership. Doing what is best for society, even in the face of adversity.
But politicians in the Republican Party could not resist. The extremist right-wing network of Fox News and talk radio had built up an audience that could easily be exploited for political support. Even though the extremist media network was fomenting anger and hatred that is disastrous for society overall, the network could also be used to deliver political votes to Republican politicians.
And there it was. The Republican Party had made a deal with the devil.
An unholy alliance was formed. The Republican Party would allow the extremist right-wing network to promulgate its destructive propaganda throughout society in order to generate its enormous profits, and in exchange, the network would direct its audience to vote for the Republican Party.
The allure of easy votes was too great. Exercising true leadership was too difficult.
So for years and years, the extremist right-wing media network spewed out content full of anger, hate, and division. And Republican politicians jumped on the bandwagon. They began preaching the same destructive messages and appearing on the extremist right-wing network all across the nation.
And guess what? It worked.
The base of the Republican Party grew more and more angry. Their resentment against our very own government grew ever greater. Their sense of victimization became ever more acute. Their fury at the establishment boiled over.
And then, predictably, it backfired.
The base of the Republican Party became a Frankenstein. It became radicalized into an extreme movement that turned against the established order, including the leadership of the Republican Party itself. It has become a monster of its own that is now roaming the countryside and terrorizing the very political party that created it.
This is the reason behind the rise of candidates like Donald Trump and Ted Cruz. The Republican Party establishment despises these candidates, but the Party has no idea how to slay these dragons.
These candidates now pose the enormous threat of potentially causing a giant split within the Party that could lead to the utter destruction of the entire Republican Party itself.
It is a remarkable story.
The Republican Party has enjoyed its dance with the devil. Now it must pay the piper.
This post also appears on Salon here.
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