Oct 072007
Authors: Ryan Nowell

Here in America, propaganda is a much more confused and slippery entity than it once was.

In the old days, it was obvious when you were being subjected to it and what precisely was getting propagated. There were standard conventions: block lettering, mentions of war bonds, patriotically garbed septuagenarians, blatant racism. Oh, those wily krauts!

But nowadays, propaganda has become so ingrained in the political process that it has, to a certain extent, supplanted it.

Going by its hipper, less ominous new moniker spin, propaganda has become integral to the functioning and digestion of all political thought and action.

Before the 2006 elections, Republicans had gone a bit out of their heads with pork projects. Using underhanded earmarks to sneak legislation past Congress on already proposed bills, billions were spent on projects that never had to gain approval on the floor of the House or Senate.

Citing, among other things, the $24 billion highway bill, containing Don Young and Ted Stevens’ infamous $223 million “bridge to nowhere,” Democrats bellowed their disgust from the highest hilltops and pledged reform if they won the majority in 2006.

Now, tell any of this to the Republican Party line and you’ll get evasive rationalizations and accusations of partisanship and media bias; you won’t get accountability.

Fast-forward to today, where our supposedly progressive Democrats have passed an ethics-reform bill aimed at making legislative earmarks transparent.

Many of these people won office spouting fiery rhetoric against a corrupt right, but now that their party has the majority vote, it seems there’s no hurry to tighten any loopholes just yet.

Senate majority leader Harry Reid recently “clarified” that the measure only applies to spending bills, meaning all kinds of crap can still be tacked on to tax and authorization bills.

The rationale for this? Well, spending bills are just different from other bills.

“When Congress passes an authorizing bill, it is simply expressing a goal,” Reid stated in a recent letter. Funny, I guess they forgot about all the artful subtleties of an authorizing bill last year when they were accusing the Republicans of doing the exact same thing they’re doing now.

Congress “simply expressing a goal” looks a lot like congress simply washing its hands of inconvenient campaign promises. Needless to say, the hard-line Democratic response to all this is “accountable for what?”

And this is happening all the time.

The three branches of government run on an economy of fluctuating hypocrisy and feigned outrage. Quietly exempted from either party’s rhetoric is the admission of any failing on their side of the aisle and any success on the other.

We start getting two versions of everything regardless of actual results, and because both sides are constantly lying in order to spin effectively, we just stop listening to the other side. Bias becomes the norm.

And what do we do when we pick sides that way? When we become inflexible and faithfully tow the line? When we walk into a voting booth and just check all the D’s or all the R’s? We become cheerleading hypocrites.

Half the decisions we support aren’t being made for logical reasons, and half the people we’re putting into office don’t deserve to be there.

This government is supposed to be run for us and by us. When there ceases to be an “us,” when our politics become arbitrarily divisive, then there is no “we the people”- there’s only an obedient, two-toned mass that only have the illusion of choice.

The key to a functioning democracy is an electorate that makes informed, rational decisions.

Make sure there’s more to your choices than Coke or Pepsi.

Ryan Nowell is a junior English major. His column appears Mondays in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to letters@collegian.com.

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