October 27, 2008

Getting from Here to There

Justin Katz

The notions of the mainstream media and its demagogue and the transformation to something hardly recognizable as the United States of America spark an imaginative exercise. Admittedly, one begins to edge toward the line from analysis to creative writing with this stuff, but a few threads in current events point to an interesting tangle.

Picture this:

Shortly after his inauguration, Obama sets out to reward the mainstream media for its support. Oh, he won't put it that way. Instead, he'll express his gratitude that the "objective" press was able to overwhelm the "smears" of the propaganda machine on talk radio and the Internet. "What a shame," he'll say, "that those swamps of anger and divisiveness are draining the financial lifeblood from professional journalism." Surely, it'd be in the nation's interest — in the name of unity and fundamental change — to implement a modern day Fairness Doctrine, along with something new, something to ensure that the knowledge and experience of consummate professionals were able to dominate the Web, as well.

Having lost valuable ground with the undermining of two media that have enabled it to flourish over the past few decades, the political right would have seek other venues for communication and other spheres for influence. An obvious one, for social conservatives, is the territory of religious organizations, both the churches themselves and the groups and networks of groups that spring up around faith-based action. Since they don't proclaim themselves as sources of information, blocking them off would require an indirect strategy. The administration would have to find other issues with which to barricade the door.

One opportunity would be to institute same-sex marriage throughout the nation. Any groups that have anything to do with marriage would face the loss of their tax exempt status and any licenses necessary for operation (as with the Catholic adoption agency in Massachusetts) if they wouldn't fold. Any group with publicly available assets could be flushed with applications to allow events that are contrary to their religious beliefs, again facing the loss of government recognition and allowances.

One by one, the bastions of the right, the opposition, the subversives, could be felled beneath the benign smile of tolerance and fairness. Unity. Every discrete argument about this civil right or that government protection might come together until the line is reached at which the government would have license to jail and ruin dissenters.

Provided it doesn't come true too quickly, it's probably a story worth thinking through and composing.

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You truly are beginning to become unhinged. You are veering into Pat Crowley territory, just in the opposite direction. Time for a deep breath there Justin.

Posted by: Pragmatist at October 27, 2008 2:50 PM

How would Obama or anyone for that matter implement same-sex marriage nationally? Presidents or any political executives don’t have that type of power. Just ask the Mayor of SF. This is not to mention that Obama has already gone on record being against SSM?

As wrong as the ‘Fairness Doctrine’ is, the reality is it’d never pass even a Democratic congress unless it was quite narrow in scope and could not apply to the Web. I happen to believe it has as much chance of passing as Universal Health Care did in Clinton’s 1st term.

Even if Obama did believe in socialism over capitalism, he could never implement that dramatic type of economic change. Not even close.
I’m inclined to agree with Pragmatist here – or are trying to scare people a la Rush L.

Obama as Emperor or Dictator would be scary. Obama as President of the Democratic Republic based United States of America is, in our view, unfortunate and not in the best interest of the country, but … come on. That theory is comparable to something from NOW or NARAL saying that an increase in rape violence against women will be a result of electing John McCain.

Posted by: msteven at October 27, 2008 4:15 PM

To borrow from an old Kinks tune, Obama won't destroy ya, but paranoia sure will. I feel like I'm listening to Buck Turgidson from "Dr. Strangelove."
Tomorrow: how Obama has contaminated our precious bodily fluids.

Posted by: rhody at October 27, 2008 4:36 PM


I don't know what you do when you engage in "an imaginative exercise," but I typically take it to mean that one can, you know, imagine things without loosening any hinges whatsoever.

Posted by: Justin Katz at October 27, 2008 5:26 PM


Obama is also on record intending to run his campaign on public money. So much for his previous statements.

I'd also point out, since you bring up the mayor of SF, that his action became integral to the legal and political wrangling that ultimately resulted in the court decision implementing same-sex marriage. I'd also point out the huge gulf between a minor executive, such as a mayor, and the highest executive in US government.

Be that as it may, the premise of the plot is that Obama will find himself in an unprecedented position. With a Democrat Congress, perhaps with a supermajority, he'll have leeway there. With an in-the-bag media whose credibility is now heavily invested in his success — and whose finances are dramatically threatened, at least on the print end — he'll have one less of the usual safeguards against tyranny.

I was merely attempting to imagine the scenarios whereby he could deal fatal blows to some of the other safeguards. He'll probably only diminish them, in real life, but these are more like the first notes of a novel than a prediction.

First would be an attack on free media. Religious groups would come subsequently, as would the free market business world, in which arena, perhaps a compliant and strengthened union industry could help his regime to strengthen its stranglehold. And so on.

Posted by: Justin Katz at October 27, 2008 5:41 PM

Pragmatist, msteven and rhody... it's nice to see that you are all drinking the kool-aid of the "Messiah". Just keep brushing aside any and all who would dare to speak against "The One". If elected, time will tell boys, time will tell. Just remember where you heard it first.

Posted by: bobc at October 27, 2008 6:40 PM


There is a significant difference between changing positions on taking public campaign money and on same-sex marriage, where the majority of the public is against it. The only reason he would even pursue implementing SSM is if it were to benefit him politically. I also do not believe that the mayor of SF’s action ultimately resulted in the court decision. It was legally decided that the SS-marriages he presided over would be null and void. The case the court decided on was not a direct result of his actions.

I still feel your scenario is very extreme and implies he is much further to the left than most have presented him. The reality is that he is not running on SSM and his message is not about ‘liberal’ social policies. But even if he wanted to dramatically change social and economic policy, we are primarily a center-right country and the media, while certainly left-biased is neither THAT left wing nor that powerful. Republicans have managed to win many elections despite the media bias. I’d also point out that Clinton failed to enact universal health care despite a Democrat Congress, and it wasn’t due to a filibuster. There are benefits to being a Democratic Republic.


I'm not drinking the kool-aid. I'm not an Obama supporter. I will vote for McCain. My comment was about the fear of what an Obama administration can do, not a defense of his policies.

Posted by: msteven at October 27, 2008 7:59 PM


It takes quite a bit of gall to slam Obama for being a demagogue, then to post an "imaginative exercise" in which Obama's election leads to the collapse of western civilization. Of course, that allows you to repeat the worst of the wacko right's smears about Obama, and deny that you actually said them. After all, you were just "imagining."

Posted by: Pragmatist at October 27, 2008 8:30 PM
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