Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Stocking stuffer

Last night when I stopped at the Crackhead Market at the bottom of The Hill to get a soda for the ride into the big city, the featured item next to the cash register was Toby Keith's "Angry American Chopper", presumably destined to be a big hit this Christmas in the trailer courts surrounding the market and making up much of its clientele.

For the uninitiated, Toby Keith is a pedestrian country music singer whose greatest claim to fame comes from a song in which Mr. Keith threatens to shove his Tony Lama up the ass of any Arab who might get in the way of the mighty Yew Ess Ay. Word around town is that Keith is a mild-mannered fellow none too proud of the ass-kicker image which has netted him a small fortune, having suggested that his record label has taken the "angry American" thing too far in order to promote him. Yet the image of the chopper comes from his own website, where you too may get your own Angry American Chopper replica for $29.95.

On the interstate on the way to the big city, this got me to thinking about an article I read the other day on ZNet, written by Mark Harris:

The right-wing media trades on the grudges, resentments, and frustrations of a section of the popular culture defined by almost endless disgruntlement. It's a world of faux populism where an unjust war is painted in red, white, and blue hypocrisy, while issues such as unaffordable health care or a pension system under attack fade before the burning evils of gay marriage or stem cell research. In this media world, evolutionary biology is bad news, but political evolution toward a more just, compassionate, and progressive society is just some laughable Hollywood fairy tale.

The trouble is the media warriors exploit the public's various frustrations and fears and offers nothing in the way of real solutions. This is a milieu that thinks it's having a serious discussion when it solicits callers' comments on the topic of whether the minimum wage should ever be raised, or even exist! Their product is especially toxic when what's for sale is a belligerent brand of patriotism, the kind that equates “supporting the troops” with unquestioned support for an administration whose fogged vision has meant death for nearly 3000 troops.

Big business, stirring up anger for anger's sake. Instead of sitting down and working out answers to real problems, a big part of our media stirs up resentments against Arabs or Mexicans or gays or whoever might be a convienient target at the moment. We can't find a way out of the quagmire, but hey, we feel good. Some kid in a trailer has a new toy for Christmas. Toby Keith makes money. The media conglomerates make money. Another Iraqi gets Uncle Sam's boot up his ass. All this anger in the end strips us of our power to make real changes, doesn't make us a better people, and brings out some of America's worst instincts for all the world to see.