With all due respect to all those taking up the cause of "framing" of late, progressives are going to win again by embracing reality and refusing to play the mindgames or engage in the manipulation of meaning that the
neocons have conned us with, not by playing their game
The Founding Fathers developed a political vision that
is quotable two hundred years later because they were
able to use language to cut to the bone of truth and
then articulate it with laser sharpness. They would have
been appalled by our facile gamesmanship and even
more appalled at its effectiveness in the modern media environment.
Look, Kerry lost because he failed to rip the cover off
of the truth about what is really going on. He was
probably more afraid of the repercussions to Heinz
Ketchup than he was of Bush winning.
Progressives, even despite what is happening in front
of our eyes, seem to think that "reframing" debate
over issues will get the media to play ball.
The media as we know it essentially was born in the
late 1940s and into the 1950s. After W.W.II, the great
problem was that GIs who had returned from the
war and their brides, remembered the 1930s
and the Depression all too vividly. They were
starting to make money and were holding onto it.
Thrift, after all was a traditional American value.
Madison Avenue was born with the strategy to use
the new science of psychology to create advertising
to convince these people to let loose of their money
and spend. This worked really well, creating a
consumer economy in the '50s and '60s that will
astound people until the end of time.
Keeping the consumer economy going and growing
has become the one consensus element of all
American politics at any level. No one in their
right mind would get up in public and say anything
that would cause the consumer confident index
to wobble in the slightest degree.
The foundation for any media organization is
based on boosting the consumer confidence
index. The more things are looking bad, the
more necessary boosting is. Just as a shopping
mall is a carefully constructed environment that
makes people feel they are in a 3D movie about
the American Dream they never want to leave,
there is no longer any media that is not a
storefront in the great shopping mall of the
Recently, my wife and I looked through
hundreds of her family's old photographs
from the '50s after her mother passed away.
There were the cars, and the vacation trips
made possible by cheap gasoline.
There were backyard family picnics with
kids happily mugging for the camera. In
their hands, the inevitable hot dogs or
hamburgers. On the table, most likely
was Heinz Ketchup.
Kerry never opened the subject of cheap
oil and its relationship to the consumer
economy or the looming "peak oil" situation.
Had he done so, he could have displayed
real courage in leading a discussion that
is vitally needed in the direction of what
really is going on and what the true
implications for the paradigm shift we are
entering will be and a sensible national
response. Was he so much in the middle of
the consumer strategy of the '50s because
Heinz was so central to it, that he could not
see the big picture or did he see it, but feel
that this was not relevant?
But this is bigger than Kerry. The consultants
who essentially run the Democratic Party
are have become symbiotically dependent
on the media and money advertising matrix.
Look at how people are paid who make the
TV commercials. They get a standard 15%
kickback or commission when the bring a
media buy to a TV station. European ski
vacations are in prospect for even local
work on city council candidate races. The
ability of candidates to address or even
look at the degree to which consumer
marketing interests that control the media
control the grounds for political issues debate
is crippled by candidates' dependency on the
So what are the implications for the end
of cheap oil that have so scared both the
media and our political leaders that no one
will talk about this?
As demand for oil in the rest of the world,
in China particularly, rises against a
supply that has peaked or will peak soon,
the price of a gallon of gas has to rise.
NPR has reported that it is possible for
a price of a gallon of gas this year to
rise to 2.50, and that it may be that
a barrel of oil may rise from around
50 bucks to 150 bucks in the foreseeable
future. How long that is from now, no
one apparently can say for sure. But
it can't be too long.
This will cause a whole lot of things to
happen. The price of food will rise,
since grocery stores have to pay the
truckers' gasoline bills. People will
look for ways to cut back, and the
shopping mall will see fewer people
who come less often and who will
buy less unnecessary and expensive
The entire American economy depends
on cheap oil. Just look at it. Even for
food, we depend on oil to produce crops
even before they are trucked to the
Even more important, however is the
fact that America exists on the same
planet as other countries.
The value of the dollar itself is at
stake. Investors could cause a run
on the dollar, and the Chinese, who
own some huge amount of US debt,
could begin to act like a creditor.
The neocons have have been
developing a strategy
for addressing a post-cheap oil
world since the Nixon administration.
But it is extremely cynical and they
are not willing to discuss it directly
Kissinger wrote a memo predicting a
die-off of two billion people, and
actually used this to scare foreign
diplomats and heads of state. This
is not a well-known fact because
this side of things has been really
We are in need of honest discussion.
Times ahead, post cheap oil, will have
been made much more difficult for the
times past in which funding for energy
alternatives suffered. Even worse to
continue strategies that antagonize
people in other countries instead of
A main thrust of progressive policy
ought to be increased cooperation
for the survival of the human race.
We ought to be concerned that in
a world antagonized by the neocon
way, the future of democracy is
That isn't "spin" or "framing" that is
really what is happening.
We should not be setting ourselves
up as a Roman Empire, controlling
the world's resources by force or
the threat of force and then lying
about it through "framing" this as
"spreading democracy." That's the
kind of lie that will outrage people
for a thousand years. We should
not ignore this.
Maybe a lot of people would opt
for the Roman Empire scenario
if their personal comfort could
be assured, knowing that people
just like themselves in other
countries are being sacrificed to
keep the knick knacks on the shelf
and cheap bananas in the fridge.
But, the debate about this has not
been open and honest. People
are not prepared to contemplate
a world in which sustainable
living might mean reducing the
level of consumption Americans
have been used to. People are
not prepared to deal with the
implications of the world's gas tank
running dry. There are people out
there claiming that God will refill
the oil wells or that we could get
oil from miles deep in the earth's
crust. Massive Denial is taking
the place of needed discussion.
Nixonian neocons are not the only
people to develop a strategy to deal
with the eventuality of reduced oil
in the world.
Progressives on the local level
in certain cities have been
addressing this future for the
past several decades. In
Austin, Texas for instance, the
city council adopted conservation
back in the 1980s as a strategy for
reducing the cost of electricity in a
city experiencing phenomenal growth
and huge demand for air conditioning
as summertime temperatures can get
over 100 degrees for a month at a
The benefits proved themselves in
an economically sound way, so they
have lasted through over twenty years
of political debate and, along with zoning
and "Green Building" programs have
become a sound basis for the future.
In Seattle, WA a list of "Sustainability
Indicators" was created in the early 1990s
that the City Council measures its policies
and budget goals by.
National policy should follow the examples
of local breakthroughs tested with voters
and taxpayers instead of depending on
political consultants and Washington D.C.
wonks with no real-world scars from fighting
for progress where it counts.
Again, that isn't framing, that is reality.
America is like a party barge and
everyone is having a good time.
No one wants to connect the
fact that the bank seems to be
moving with the roar in the
distance. But it is time we did.
Stuart Heady (firstname.lastname@example.org)
is a political activist and a freelance
writer living in Tsaile, Arizona.