THIS ESSAY WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN APRIL, 2011
by Annabel Park & Eric Byler
There are consequences when people are misled about the place of the President’s birth. Irresponsible news entertainment, and the confusion, hatred, and alienation it causes, have the effect of preserving the status quo.
So long as We the People are mesmerized by false controversies and manipulated by partisan bickering, we will be unable to confront the real challenges we face: our two unfunded wars, our millions of homes facing foreclosure, and our gridlocked Congress corrupted by money.
Endless streams of celebrity gossip and divisive political theater presented as "news" serve no one, except for a small, powerful collusion of interests that prefer to see Americans actively despise one another while ignoring what truly divides us: money and power.
There is only one America; but there are two American economies.
Wall Street’s economy has already recovered from the financial collapse of 2008. Thanks to taxpayer-funded bailouts, Wall Street’s major players have been rewarded handsomely for causing the Great Recession, and are again enjoying record profits and record bonuses.
But Main Street’s economy has not recovered. Too many of us are unemployed or under-employed. Our quality of life has declined as our incomes have stagnated. One out of four children lives below the poverty line. And our parents and grandparents are being told they might not receive benefits from insurance programs they paid into all their lives.
We also have two political classes in America. There are the multi-national corporations and the wealthy few who can afford to hire K Street lobbyists and make large campaign contributions. And, there are everyday Americans who cannot.
Wall Street corporations and the wealthy few lobby Congress for policies that benefit them financially while the basic needs of We the People go unanswered, drowned out by money and power. Thus, we have a circular, self-reinforcing problem. Money is converted into political power. Political power is converted into policy. Policy is converted into more money. That money is converted into more political power. And so on, and so on.
If we look behind the curtain of manufactured culture wars and circus acts on cable news, what we see is plain, old-fashioned corruption trying to hide itself. Our job is to drag this corruption into the light. We must force our Congress to confront abuses of power, rather than facilitating them.
How will we do this?
- By becoming producers of content, rather than just consumers.
- By becoming spreaders of information, rather than just recipients.
- By flexing our muscles as voters, as consumers, and as active citizens.
The good news is we've already begun. Although few of us can reach millions of people like cable news channels and broadcasting networks can, our interlocking spheres of influence — powered by social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube — are growing every day. More and more of us are learning to use these tools and others like them. We are realizing our power, and we accepting the civic duty that comes with it.
Look at the progress we’ve made in recent months. A year ago, America’s Tax Day narrative was limited to, “We are angry about paying taxes and we are angry about the outcome of the 2008 election.” This year, in addition to these voices, we are hearing from ordinary citizens, experts, and elected officials advocating for tax code reform to reduce our deficit, for the closing of tax loopholes, and for reducing tax expenditures — taxpayer-funded giveaways to the wealthy and to corporations engineered by that same circular problem:
Thanks to the democratization of media, We the People have the power to break this corrupt cycle. We will do this by becoming Information Activists — by rivaling corporate media with people-powered media, by replacing alienation, confusion, and division with accurate information and sustained civic engagement, and by claiming our rightful place in the process of self-governance.