The Fraudulent Dissent of @Lawrence O’Donnell

Last Thursday, MSNBC’s self-avowed ‘European-style Socialist’ Lawrence O’Donnell gave what seemed like a full-throated pitch for third parties. It was surprisingly blunt – on the surface anyway – with O’Donnell averring that the media is ‘feeding you a drug called the two-party system.’ He cited silence on The Drug War and the NDAA as particularly egregious examples of the mainstream debates’ calculated emptiness. He showed footage of third party candidates passionately discussing both issues at their non-televised debate of the previous evening. He went on to say

The two-party system and the electoral college have conspired to make  most voters feel irrelevant to the outcome of the presidential election. The major party candidates ignore most states. And they ignore most voters most of the time.

He later disclosed that –

Having spent my lifetime in states irrelevant to the electoral
college, I have mostly, in fact, voted for third-party candidates for
president.

Pretty good, right? Well, no, not really, both for what else he said and what he didn’t. First of all, let’s look at the excuse he makes for the media’s studied obliviousness to third parties:

Big media does not have the resources or the interest or the intellectual capacity to cover something more complicated than the two-party system.

Putting aside the preposterous notion that third parties complicate things, this is largely true of course, at least the bit about Big Media’s ‘interest’ and ‘intellectual capacity.’ But O’Donnell makes this seem as inescapably natural as gravity, rather than the intended consequence of corporate-owned media’s brutally efficient self-regulation.

Of course O’Donnell is no dummy and has probably  read Chomsky, but he is also a generously compensated, non-unionized worker. As an employee of NBC, he is literally half-owned by media giant Comcast and half-owned by weapons maker GE. Either by force of habit or careerist calculation, he certainly won’t probe too deeply on the question of ‘why?’. Later he says

If, like most Americans, 
you live in one of the states where the outcome is predetermined, you 
should feel absolutely free to take a good, long look at third-party 
candidates and pick one whose ideas you want to encourage…

The bad news about living in a state like California is that you`re
completely ignored in the presidential campaigns. The good news is you can consider voting for a third party candidate without any worry that your vote might tip the balance the wrong way in the electoral college.

Hear that kids? The GOOD NEWS about living in an uncontested state is that voting in line with your principles will have absolutely no impact on outcomes. For viewers in swing states who find that uninspiring,  Lawrence takes a sterner tone, offering the obligatory swipe at Nader voters and a warning:

If you live in a battleground state, voting for a third-party candidate can be a lot dicier. Just ask the people who voted for Ralph Nader in Florida in 2000.

If you`re lucky enough to live in a state that the presidential candidates care about, then your vote really does count in the way most people want it to. Then you really should think about who you want to see take the Oath of Office when you cast your vote, because your vote matters much, much more than mine.

So let’s review: The two-party system and electoral college are fucked up. The mainstream media is fucked up. Ergo, vote your conscience where  your vote doesn’t count. Vote for a duopolist where it does. O’Donnell of course doesn’t even hint that this abhorrent state of affairs should or could occasion any resistance more militant than a safe state protest vote.In other words, it’s one more endorsement of duopoly couched in anti-duopoly rhetoric.

The Stockholm Syndrome that afflicts what passes for a left in the US is never more apparent than when the mainstream media throws it a bone. So it should be no surprise that after O’Donnell threw this one, the more gullible factions of the Tweetbook left lit up approvingly, with loose talk of O’Donnell ‘going rogue.’ Popular leftist comedian and podcaster Jamie Kilstein succinctly embodied the mood when he tweeted:

And that was the last we heard from [Lawrence]

Oy, where to begin with these suckers! How about we start with Safe State California resident O’Donnell’s actual vote, which he helpfully, and somewhat weirdly, cast on television only two days after his third party spiel. Spoiler Alert: He voted for Obama! The full segment is embedded below. It’s  well worth watching but here’s a summary:

He whines about California’s numerous ballot initiatives (‘I’m not a legislator! I shouldn’t be allowed to change the Constitution!’); rejects a candidate for not being ‘a team player’; casts an enthusiastic vote for war profiteer Dianne Feinstein; and, perhaps most tellingly, happily heeds voting recommendations from his creepy, arrogant chaperone, former California governor Gray Davis.

Teleplay writer that he is, he cannily saves the Obama vote for last and when he gets there, all the earlier pearl-clutching about the Drug War and the NDAA is in silent abeyance. The only third party candidate he even considers is Roseanne Barr, and then only facetiously.

If this is European-style socialism, God help Europe. Of course, it’s not socialism or anything remotely connected to actual principles. It’s heat vampire liberalism, a matter I intend to take up at length in a later post. The short version is that heat vampire liberalism counsels  compliance with the status quo after authenticating itself with superficial dissidence at the margins. Heat vampires are effectively role models of obedience, who helpfully demonstrate the easy reconciliation of apparent principles with a thoroughly corrupt status quo. Taken as a whole, O’Donnell’s impassioned third party speech and his subsequent supplication before a white-haired  career Democrat who, more than once, tells him who to vote for, are a hideous object study.

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18 Responses to The Fraudulent Dissent of @Lawrence O’Donnell

  1. Nobody says:

    Gray Davis was recalled in 2003; hardly a credible source for voting recommendations.

    • ohtarzie says:

      True that. I should include that in the post. But to me the most significant thing is O’Donnell’s willingness to take a professional politician’s word. Some watchdog press.

  2. Jaa Zee says:

    Lawrence O’Donnell reminds me of the “class bully” who needs a slap across his socialist face to shut him up. This is the same idiot that actually “challenged” Romney’s son because the young man said what any child would say seeing his father under attack from Obama. The only reason O’Donnell looks half way intelligent is because he is followed by Ed Schultz.

  3. ohtarzie says:

    Jaa Zee, if you think I have any sympathy for Romney or the notion that O’Donnell is actually a socialist, you are not reading me very closely. I will concede that the liberal establishment’s reaction to Tagg Romney’s remarks was idiotic, though not in any way surprising.

  4. alhambralahomo says:

    It’s a bit much, noooo, way crazeh, to blame ‘corporatism’ on the audience’s stupid passivity. You might want to look deeper into the audience’s responsibility for accepting what they’re fed, rather than blaming the artisan for providing a product that didn’t have ‘public enfranchisement’ as its prime function.
    The corporation is there to make money. No matter how ubiquitous it is, it does not follow that the audience must choose to believe it.

    • ohtarzie says:

      alhambralahomo, I don’t give the public a pass. But I also don’t negate the sophistication of the media at manipulating them, which is what I am attempting to demonstrate here.

      You are correct that the corporation wants to make money but in that regard it has short term goals and long term goals, all of which require a constant campaign of indoctrination. Knowing why it does what it does doesn’t make it any more defensible. It doesn’t make O’Donnell less of a fraud.

      If you are going to indulge in misanthropy, it seems that you should heap at least some abuse on the ‘artisan.’ Otherwise, you just sound like an elitist reactionary who’s biased toward power.

      • alhambralahomo says:

        What is sounds like will be based on what the reader brings to their reading.
        I don’t express an opinion on the mechanism (the stupidity is part of the mechanism, not a moral judgment on the public). An elitist will take it to justify the innocuous goodness of the coporate enterprise and a plaid wearer will take it as disingenuous abuse of the little man. Both will try to justify their sins.

        In the case of the corporation as artisan, I used to find their canniving deleterious but I’ve come to see that the citizen’s willingness to be fooled, his complicity, and moreover his actual sympathy with corporate masters, despite his claims to the contrary (I’m not talking limbaugh listeners), is the more effective agent in what you call the teleplay.

        Lawrence O’Donnell and the whole lot of them just aren’t sexy/funny/thrilling enough for me to consider them pied pipers.

      • ohtarzie says:

        Well maybe you should tell the oligarchs that all the cash they spend on manipulating people is a total waste. People will do the stupid thing regardless. Except you, of course.

  5. alhambralahomo says:

    Who says I’m not stupid?
    Who says the oligarchs are smart?

    We all just get along. You have to spend your billions on something. And you can only buy so many luxury level hookers, yachts, islands personal roller coasters and space ship oribts before you feel like dealing with ‘the public’.
    The accusation levelled against oligarchs is that they’re afraid people will rise up and take away all their wealth. This forces them to promote their ideas behind closed doors and in a golden light for public consumption.
    Fact is, behind closed doors is just faster, not more manipulative. if anything, it’s more honest.
    Golden light is what people want.
    Occupiers aren’t doing what they do because they woke up one morning and figured out that Lehrer and Hannity are wastingtheirtime/lying/incompetent. Or that the government isn’t so nice after all.
    And people who insult them and dismiss them don’t do it because they don’t understand. Have you spoken with low info voters and rich people in a while? The mix up is by personality. There are rich people and their lesser courtiers, officials, who are genuinely afraid of crime. Not revolution. Muggings. Litter.
    And there are hippy trippy easy goers whose main concept of purpose is that ‘nothing will ever make a difference’. They don’t buy a single rotten egg that’s being sold.

    • ohtarzie says:

      alhambralahomo, this conversation would be easier if I knew what the hell you are talking about. The gist seems to be that inequality is the natural order of things, largely because…well…I don’t know what your thesis is but structural inequality doesn’t seem to be part of the mix. I do know that counter-intuitive claims about why all the various social layers do what they do would be greatly enhanced with actual examples.

  6. alhambralahomo says:

    You mean you want names and incident coordinates?
    I’ll give more generalized examples. Good intellectual exercise for me.

    Diplomatic representatives to conferences (free trade, multinational defense, national eco-poseury), counter intuitively, are not all there with the intention to screw ‘the people’. They believe it is their honorable job to ‘do the business of government policy’, whatever it may be. They don’t see protests as political but as dangerous for stupid reasons (like you might stepped on by accident). What actually count as big issues in their mind are what would qualify as local news (garbage on streets, rowdy kids, kid masturbating at the library, porn mags too easy to obtain by minors, porn too accessible online): pap gets their passions going, not deep political issues. Wealthy dowagers who don’t make the connection between their investments and economic reaction to terrorism and yet are still afraid of terrorism because it might hit them, buying into the ‘it could be you, next 911’ excess caution.

    On the flipside, if you’ve seen how small occupy protests are, it isn’t because people don’t agree with them. But the reason they don’t join up isn’t because they’re too busy working either. They don’t wistfully dream of going, while at work, rather they scorn the occupiers for not ‘getting jobs’ and just getting on with the business of life. They’ll not watch msnbc or anything else because they know it just sells them limited options and the phony American dream. They never make a purchase choice based on a corporations ethical record because ‘voting with your wallet’ is too petty and impotent and yet it’s too much effort to join a signing campaign against corporatist abuses so they don’t do that either. In fact, this leads them to go with the lesser of two evils all the time, right down to a vote they know won’t matter anyway. So, they go and vote, let’s say, Democrat, without any love of Democrats.
    I know you bloggers have encountered miles of phony liberals/progressives who are truly dedicated to what their party does, whether it veers right or (hypothetically) veered left. But most people are as undedicated to unprincipled partisanship as they are to principled idealism.
    It isn’t that they actually love drones that makes them minimize the issue or that they truly fear republicans, hysterically, so that they quiver, holding the knees of their most likely knight, it’s just that they might as well keep on keeping on. And if they voted Democrat before, they might as well do it again. End of motivation.

    Secondarily, if they enjoyed a corporation’s image of morally clean, predictable control, despite everything they’ve come to learn and believe and resent, they’d rather stick with that childish, idealized image of ‘how exciting [insert big corp] is to think about or live with’. Of course they don’t go around babbling that infantile fantasy to their neighbor but it motivates their passivity.

    To take O’Donnell, he might not be a servant to power or an admirer of any underlying goodness in a compromised party but just an affable, aw shucks, Democrats are the good guys, emotional infant.

    With my thesis here, I’m saying if you played prince and pauper with everyone, you wouldn’t see much change in how society worked and believed.
    If you redistributed wealth for real and somehow avoided the political trap of politbureau elites becoming the new aristos, you’d see the same passivity, the same lack of vital political act-on-what-you-believe behavior that O’Donnell exemplifies. As every post revolution society ultimately obtains.

    If that’s misanthropy, is the alternative to believe that if only the media would work up the population with nightly stories of how bad Obama is and how the GOP is the same and how if you’d all just go out, go out, go out right now and vote your conscience, ‘you people out there are real, we’re the illusion’, that they would? Network is a great movie because it got it right, not because it insights people to a different, more active outcome.

    The fact is that right now a 3rd party can not win. Those who will vote for one will do so to show that out there is a lot of support and free thinking that was unsuspected. And they might even delude themselves that it will build momentum for greater 3rd party gains over subsequent elections until it’s a meanigful force. This credits a huge number of people as seeing their meaningful place in history, over a significant number of years, and acting it out with conviction.
    You’ve got to be kidding me.
    The only reason to vote 3rd party, if you see it from my attitude, is that you feel like exercising your freedom to do so. But then that doesn’t feel as childishly predictable as going with the Disney corp and all its wonderful bigness. At this point, feeling that you must vote Dem against Repub is basically like being proud of buying apple instead of MS. But if you care that way, it feels good.

    If your point about O’Donnell and the media manipulations was that structural economic inequality is evil, I don’t think you need one point to support the other.
    If it was that media concentration reduces the voices available and you want more variety in your media, for your own passive consumption, I suggest you intensify your internet searches. If it was that you want established, high audience outlets to broadcast more diversity so that you can share that with people, I wonder what the point of that would be, given their nature to agree and do nothing about it, anyway.

    • alhambralahomo says:

      Ex: teachers who see no link between their style of teaching (whether it’s their own or what their dept. of ed has mandated) and the political development of their students.

      Ex: masses pick up a book of fiction to read, repeatedly, but never pick up a science or math book, unless it’s stupid-friendly, all words no numbers. Despite the fact that they are not innumerate, having learned to count and even do a little geometry in school.

      Ex: police who don’t see their actions as political.

      Ex: everyone who thinks drugs are wrong. Not because they kill, not because they cause crime, not because they’re addictive. Because they’re unnatural.

      The list can get less sexy but I don’t feel like going santorum.

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