|A USEFUL DISCUSSION of American mythology by Michael Kinsley, "Bush's absurd obsession with small business", followed by an inane
exchange on Pen-l over the origin of party names. Here's the point: the "GOP," whatever the lineage of its name and appropriateness
of its nickname plays the 19th century myths like a violin. The Democrats pay homage to the myths but can't seem to match the
melodramatic, cynical fawning of the Repugs. The left dismisses the myths *as myths* and wants to move on to talk about "real"
issues. The real issue, though, is as much how those myths constrain and distort political discourse as anything else.
Not coincidentally, the myth of the self-made man became sacrosanct at the same time in the 19th century as the formula was
established for the commercial mass media -- that is to say integration of advertising and content; blending of entertainment, news
and opinion; large circulation made possible by cheap subscription prices, cheap subscription made possible by advertising and
advertising attracted by mass circulation.
A pertinent quote from the 1930s: "A shrewd observer remarked, one day, that fascist Italy was being run like a large newspaper and,
moreover, by a great journalist: one idea per day, with sidelights and sensations, and with an adroit and insistent orientation of
the reader toward certain inordinately enlarged aspects of social life -- a systematic deformation of the understanding of the
reader for certain practical ends. The long and the short of it is that fascist regimes are publicity regimes."
That raises -- but does not answer -- the question: "if fascist regimes are publicity regimes, are publicity regimes necessarily
'fascist'?" I think there is a tendency to simply equate the ideology and the modus operandi ("if it walks like a duck...") This
misses the insight that a certain form of publicity apparatus will tend to keep throwing up 'publicity regimes,' which whether
strictly fascist or not have comparable demogogic, deceptive and strategic characteristics.
Bush's obsession with small business is thus not "absurd" but an obligatory set-piece of the genre of politics that is permitted by
the U.S. publicity regime. Anyone who can't perform that specific set piece *with conviction* (usually feigned, of course) is
summarily disqualified from the game.
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