Monday, March 29, 2010

fear and loathing in ohio



Post Carbon Institute | The contagion of fear and anger can infect those you might least expect. Take the case of Chris Reichert who became an Internet sensation when he threw dollar bills hostilely at a man suffering from Parkinson’s Disease (video here: 1:15 mark). In the days following the incident, Reichert struggled to make sense of what he had done. He finally came forward to issue an apology.

"I snapped. I absolutely snapped and I can't explain it any other way… He's got every right to do what he did and some may say I did too, but what I did was shameful," Reichert said. "I haven't slept since that day... I made a donation (to a local Parkinson's disease group) and that starts the healing process."

Reichert said he is not politically active. He said he heard about the rally on the radio and a neighbor invited him to attend. "That was my first time at any political rally and I'm never going to another one," Reichert said. "I will never ever, ever go to another one."
Thanks to the massive reach of television and radio talk show hate-mongers, and the untold number of websites calling for violence and sedition, these days you don't even have to leave your house to join a mob. The mob will come to you.

And don't fool yourself in thinking that this is all just uncontrolled, and unorganized, populist rage. When nested fears meet vested interests, a cloud of discontent can turn into a raging storm. It's instructive to look at the role that corporate-minded special interest groups like Americans for Prosperity have played in the healthcare debate.
In early November, thousands of protesters descended on Capitol Hill to hear Representative Michele Bachmann decry House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s “takeover’’ of health care. As they disembarked from their buses, they were greeted with doughnuts and coffee, and handed protest signs and talking points about socialized medicine. Few of the protesters were aware that a right-wing billionaire had paid for the meals, buses, or salaries of the helpful guides...

Across the New York social circuit, Koch is hailed for his donations to reputable causes, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art. But for years, Koch has also been funneling tens of millions of dollars to more subterranean efforts that reflect his conservative politics. His flagship group, Americans for Prosperity, sponsored Bachmann’s rally against health care reform.
David Koch is the ninth wealthiest person in the United States, worth an estimated $14 billion. How did his family make all that money? Oil and gas, of course.

If Koch and others are feeding fear to protect the profits of health insurers, just imagine the kind of fomenting we'll see when the stakes are even higher—when the energy and climate crises come front and center in the national debate. For a glimpse of what we could be dealing with, consider this: in 2008, just ten percent of the profits of ExxonMobil, the world's largest energy company, could have funded the campaigns of every single Congressional, Senate, and Presidential candidate. By that I mean every candidate.

Forget coffee and doughnuts for rent-a-crowds. Forget the signs littering the Capitol Mall and the halls of Congress comparing healthcare reform to laws in Nazi Germany. The battle over our energy future could make all this furor look like a real tea party.