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  • Kevin Bowers

The Mass Media of Oz




Oz is a damned good metaphor for our fucked up world.  The wizard is a miserable old billionaire futzing in a tuxedo behind the curtains and projecting fantastic Illusions full of fear and wonder into the hearts and into the minds of the population.  


If you start to perceive that the vast majority of the media landscape is a gas-lit projection from a narcissistic Oz, if you follow Dorothy behind the curtain and even for a minute observe the levers and pulleys and the boiler room pressure valves spewing neoliberal hot air. If you confront the anxiety that bubbles in your gut when disillusionment motions towards you and threatens your peace. If you lock eyes with the truth and realize that it has been the source of a consistent white noise in the background of your life.  If you make the simple but bold decision to not accept the narcissistic tableaus that are projected from Oz’s machines that spill out of the mouths and pens of TV pundits and editorial boards, but rather accept the realities that your eyes see, that science reveals, and that your reason and intuition agree on. Then you will feel the beautiful sting of disillusionment.


That word has been corrupted. To be disillusioned is a beautiful life affirming requirement of any growth and learning. To be disillusioned means to shed oneself of Illusion. It is the act of seeing truth unfiltered by cultural and political deceit.  Gabor Mate taught me that.

 And we better get ourselves disillusioned pretty quick. The illusions that we have at the end of the second decade of the 21st century are about to kill us.


Burdens of Proof and

Narcissistic Media Moves


The burden of  proof is on the side of the status quo. The system we are living in has spent my lifetime killing over half of the animals on this planet. It has impoverished millions in an obscene transfer of wealth to a minute number of billionaires. It has been caught lying its way into wars. It has allowed lead to poison the kids of Flint Michigan. It has melted our polar ice caps, and, according to its own science, it has offered civilization about 11 years before its own demise. 


Given these stark and inescapable truths, isn’t it strange that people who express the intention of changing our economy and energy systems and the parameters of our social contract are expected to defend themselves from this  status quo. From my perch here in North of America, our present political and economic systems have lost the authority to delineate the parameters of what is acceptable. By any reasonable measure they have failed and thus forfeited their authority. 


It is deeply tiring to watch the media attack proposals that offer solutions to the central malaises of our time.  I offer the struggle for universal healthcare in the U.S. as an example. Any progressive candidate or activist asking for Medicare for All will, without exception, be asked about the cost, and then be forced to explain and defend the expenditure.  The fact that the present system in the richest country in the world is failing both ludicrously and spectacularly should disqualify the question. The fact that 66% of all bankruptcies in the US are from medical bills should shame the newscaster before they open their mouths.  But the dynamics are such that this question is always dutifully answered by the rare progressive that has been given a microphone and air time. They will say something sensible like, “Medicare for all will save money. The US system is about twice as expensive per capita as the much more efficient, and much more loved universal healthcare system in Canada”.


This retort inevitably sits for a moment on the airwaves. It is not met with contrary data or logic, but with silence and disdain. But rest assured, this  just defunct argument will rise like a phoenix from its own ashes. It will ruffle its feathers, cock its head, and in sophisticated parrotese, will retort,  “Yeah but it's who's going to pay for it?”


I defy you, dear reader, to find an example of mass media pundentry that doesn't recycle this dead bird with conviction and  self-righteous surety after it has been publicly slain by evidence, data, and polling that clearly indicates that the single-payer-medicare-for-all has been  proven to be a better, cheaper and very popular system.


So, as will be the case on every news broadcast in America, the  progressive will be forced into a defensive stance. Indeed they will be feeling lucky to even have a chance at the microphone under the bright studio lights to defend a well sourced conviction in a 30-second sound bite.  But everyone in this game is aware that even if the pundit concedes an inch In the heat of the debate, he or she will reclaim that inch in the next segment by cleverly throwing the truth so eagerly offered to the Orwellian memory hole, and ask the next progressive that comes along, “How are you going to pay for it?”.


Narcissistic Dynamics


This is the playbook of the narcissistic. The obvious, palatable, popular  truth is loudly dismissed and shamed and replaced with an abstraction that is held aloft  with persistence, arrogance, repetition, charisma, and flatulence. 


I'm not entirely sure how to deal with this Dynamic, but our best hope is that these infuriating magical rebirths of dead arguments are not as effective as they seem. Certainly they play well to a certain segment of society that remains entranced and awed by whatever rezidual Oz mystique that CNN or Fox or MSNBC or BBC or CBC or PBS, or the New York Times or The Guardian might hold,  but the truth is that a lot of people, especially young people, are not watching. If they are, it is online and savy comedians on YouTube are squeezing the spin so all of its propaganda juice comes out.  


The extent to which young people have maintained a buffer between themselves and the mass media’s political narcissism may well determine our chances of success. It will be young people that save the world.  The problem is finding purchase in the political landscape. Especially when that political landscape’s mandate is to discourage and destabilize any would be Dorothy who would have the guts to rip open the curtains and expose this miserable charade.



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