I have a friend from Pakistan that I talk with often. I've learned a lot about life in Pakistan since meeting this person. Media is state controlled. Elections are bought and paid for. How odd it would be to live in a world like that, where the free expression of ideas and free elections really weren't available.
But I'm starting to notice things in this current election that are starting to make me wonder.
I watched the Republican debate Saturday. There is one candidate that does not take corporate donations, has never taken lobbyist money in 20 years of congressional service, and so he obviously doesn't have corporate backing. To me he looked like a man amongst boys, but I will admit I'm liberterian, so obviously I prefer him. I'm of course talking about Ron Paul. He was involved in a few of the heated exchanges, so he certainly made the debate interesting.
But the post debate coverage was a little strange. I think it was Diane Sawyer and George Stephanopolous. They started by speaking with reporters from the camps of each candidate to get the candidates spin on the debate. They spoke with 5 reporters and excluded the spin from only 1 candidate. Ron Paul.
This debate was sponsored by facebook, and if you know about facebook and myspace you know that Ron Paul owns both. He is far and away the favorite Republican candidate amongst facebook users. Diane Sawyer said "Let's see what facebook users are saying." The first of two questions on facebook asked which candidate was most presidential. Ron Paul was winning handily. The second question asked which issue was of greatest concern. Most respondents indicated that it was the economy. Comments were streaming in. Most were about Ron Paul. How did ABC describe what was happening on facebook? They mentioned the results of the economy question and mentioned a couple of generic comments that had nothing to do with any particular candidate.
In fact, Ron Paul's name was never spoken. I noticed on facebook that the initial two polling questions about who was most presidential and the one about the economy were removed and replaced with a single poll question which asked "What was the biggest surprise of the night?" There were 5 options, each having to do with one of the Republican candidates, except one. Ron Paul. What is going on here? Why is he not being mentioned?
In last night's debate on Fox in NH Paul was excluded. Paul is polling near third in NH, and with the selection process just now getting underway he's certainly a viable candidate. The NH Republican Party thought so, and they withdrew their support from the debate because of Paul's exclusion. Fox didn't let this stop them as they declared at the beginning of the debate "One of these 5 candidates will be the Republican nominee."
I pay less attention to the Democratic side of things, but from what I can see things look pretty similar. I watched Bill Moyers interview Dennis Kucinich. He pointed out that the magazine The Nation declares that the person that truly embodies the values true Democrats is Kucinich. I know a lot of liberals, and they all love Kucinich. In fact, most of them either despise Hillary or simply are not thrilled about her. Yet Hillary seems to be the de facto nominee. Even when she loses the caucus in Iowa most of the resulting coverage is about her. John Edwards, who took 2nd in Iowa, seems to be barely mentioned. Is it any coincidence that Hillary has more corporate donations than any other candidate?
Fascism is defined in different ways. One way says that corporations are simply wedded to the government. Government bails them out when necessary, imposes regulations that help exclude competition, etc, and corporations return the favor by dolling out the money by lobbying and contributing to campaigns. Hillary and Guiliani play this game very well, and get a lot of coverage despite the fact that the American people don't seem too thrilled about either, whereas Paul and Kucinich don't play this game, and they can't seem to break through the media stranglehold. Paul and Kucinich both do very well in the unregulated media (the internet) and not so well in the media that is owned by large defense contractors (NBC), and other huge corporate giants (ABC, Fox, CBS). Is the U.S. really all that different from Pakistan? I'm afraid I'm not so sure.