Surviving the Democratic National Convention: Night 1

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The suicidal incompetence of the American government, federal and municipal, has extended from the political to the practical and palpable in the last five months of the so-called pandemic. We are no longer anticipating the downfall of the American economy as an abstract possibility, one which will be realized only in the distant future; today, we witness personally its active collapse, and we cannot help but see for ourselves the damage in department stores and supermarkets. The victims of this sadomasochistic neocapitalist scheme are no longer the anonymous, unknown characters in reports of far-off towns we will never visit; today, we can greet them at every intersection, where they silently beg of the employed. In the cities of New Hampshire, they panhandle in shifts: as one homeless man stands before traffic with his cardboard sign, another reclines in the adjacent shade, waiting for his turn to degrade himself before the comparatively well-off.

Such a scene, commonplace throughout urban America, ought to give even the most gullible and propagandized person pause, but in the United States, where psychological programming is more of a science than a sophisticated art, the people are uniquely impervious to proof. Americans have reached a point where they are no longer affected by manipulation, but evolved by them, reared to acquiesce to the informative demands that are placed upon them. Julian Assange, and doubtless a bevy of writers before him, warned of the credible possibility of a system of propaganda so precise and exquisite and detailed that its victims would be unable, and not just unlikely, to surmount it. I will stop short of describing America’s current system of propaganda in such terms, but how else can people disregard the bourgeoning homeless population as a momentary error in an otherwise impeccable process? How else can people maintain their insouciance when they are told that forty million more Americans, currently housed, are facing imminent homelessness, too? How else can they trust that the solution to these problems—if they consider them worthy of the significance of “problems”—will come from a disgraced institution like the Democratic Party?

As difficult (and disquieting) as it is to consider, the Democratic Party still enjoys broad popularity in the United States. More than sixty million people will vote for a moribund oligarch named Joe Biden in November, convinced as they are that some benefit, be it vague or voluminous, will result from such an action. I am reminded of Freud, who wrote of the idea of a benevolent, paternalistic religious figure: “The whole thing is so patently infantile, so foreign to reality, that to anyone with a friendly attitude to humanity it is painful to think that the great majority of mortals will never be able to rise above this view of life.” Nevertheless, the great majority is a very great majority, and is to them, the masses who preserve their faith in the American enterprise despite the inestimable evidence of its inherent failing, that the Democratic Party makes its crooked pitch. The Party does not need them to think; it needs them to vote. Ergo, it wisely declines to make them knowledgeable, lest it expedites their panicked departure.

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Preserving the people’s ignorance of the Party’s innumerable iniquities is a single task, persuading them of the Democrats’ benevolence is another, and both are accomplished through a coordinated curtaining campaign in the corporate media. In my next essay, I will review an especially ominous instance of the Party’s suppression of critical information; for today, I will focus on the production and dissemination of Party propaganda, of which the Democratic National Convention is the most prominent current example. The Convention is an elongated advertisement for Biden’s presidential campaign, a protracted promotional feature in itself. All of the unsettling psychological techniques employed in American marketing are exploited here, and the public is consistently oblivious. I had the masochistic pleasure of attending the New Hampshire Democratic Party Convention one year ago, and while I was disappointed (but undoubtedly fortunate) to have no opportunity to attend the National Convention, I am sure it would have been even more shamelessly carnival-esque.

According to Emily Shah of the Fiscal Times, the Democrats’ last National Convention, staged in the ignominious shadow of WikiLeaks’s most unsettling revelations, somehow cost $127 million, or $30 million more than the production budget for any one of the Lord of the Rings movies. The American taxpayers financed $50 million for security—against foreign terrorists, presumably, but most likely to shield the wealthy politicians from the infuriated public whom they’ve betrayed. In the time of the pandemic, when millions of people suddenly find themselves with nothing to lose, such protection would need to be enhanced and fortified. Apropos, the current convention is closed to the public, allowing the Party spokesmen and –women to speak without fear of brutal disruption. It is broadcast to the public, though, the silent and submissive public who cannot even raise their fists in protest—at least, not in view of powerful people.

The powerful people are spared from seeing us, but we can see them, and we can hear them as they mutter the mellifluous mottos of corporate empathy. The preternatural power and unnatural wealth on display at these conventions combine to form the massive elephant in the room, a creature that the Party makes not the slightest effort to ignore. Why else would the Party ask Eva Longoria, who has more than $80 million in the bank, to shake her fist in outrage at Trump’s disregard for working families? Surely the Party must recognize how feeble the gesture, how antiquated the affectation? Nobody appears to have learned from Trump’s successful assault on the unseemly rigidity of the political class. It may be that the Democrats’ creative bankruptcy is so pervasive as to have become a pathology, rendering them legitimately incapable of thinking beyond celebrity endorsements.

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If the stardust surrounding Longoria is the gloss, then the Convention itself is the ugliness it masks. The Party’s self-indulgent, self-pitying, and self-aggrandizing spectacle began on Monday night, released to the people through PBS (which, YouTube politely informs us, “is an American public broadcast service”) and to cable subscribers by CNN (which, YouTube strangely forgets to declare, is an almighty arm of Warner Media). Perhaps to reassure the public of its enduring patriotism—a luxurious sentiment in days of decline—the Party recorded an unsettling rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner”, performed on Skype by dozens of children as well as a few misplaced adults. A garish visual scheme (every singer wore a red, white, or blue t-shirt) accompanied the stentorian soundtrack for a crudely amateurish production that wouldn’t impress the youngest of viewers—although, to be fair, Marianne Williamson did tweet out her praise. Before the variation even came to a close, I asked myself if the Party sincerely believed it would go over well, if it really expected to elicit an enthusiastic response.

Luckily for the Party, few of those who are unplugging from the Matrix bothered to watch any part of the convention, thereby muting ridicule that should have been much more merciless and vocal. Only after many generous servings of Boston rum punch did I battle my way to the miserable end, and although I remember very little, I do remember Bernie Sanders thanking the Party for showing him and his wife so much respect. He described the election of the present year—one which many commentators insisted is truly the most important of our lives—as a fight for American democracy, an institution to which Trump has laid siege. Perhaps someday Sanders will thank WikiLeaks for proving to us, with far more persuasive evidence than this discredited Party could ever amass, that American democracy is, in fact, imperiled, although not by the particular forces to which Sanders makes ominous allusion. Sanders’s retirement from the Senate, and from public life, cannot come swiftly enough: there isn’t even a sadistic pleasure to be gained in seeing Sanders prostitute himself in the interests of the Party.

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Sanders understands as well as each of his colleagues that the Party will not halt the destruction in which Trump so giddily engages, yet he will play an instrumental role in convincing eligible voters that the carnage cannot end until the Party is in charge. Such was the leitmotif of the first agonizing night of the convention, and it was Michelle Obama who, in concluding the joyless festivities, took the theme to its plangent coda. In a shocking feat of pseudohistorical revision, she blamed Trump’s Department of Homeland Security for adhering to the psychopathic policies her husband ordered; Trump’s Department of the Treasury for enriching the wealthiest Americans, as her husband did; and for failing to exhibit “strong moral values”, which is an astonishing charge from a woman who stood by her husband after he orchestrated the murder of 40,000 Libyans. It is this brand of brazen moral hypocrisy that so vividly characterizes the Party, a characteristic to which Michelle Obama must blind the electorate.

At the beginning of her speech, Lady Obama lamented the political nihilism, apathy, and cynicism of registered Democrats. Perhaps the Party’s finest achievement with this convention will be the prolongation of these same conditions.

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