Once upon a time — and it wasn’t better, or good ol’, but different — there were state-owned or party-owned media outlets. When I studied something called communications, we learned how good it was that party-owned newspapers had withered, and given way to “objective” newspapers and magazines. It was around the time when Austria still had only two state-owned TV channels. Privately-owned channels were to follow soon; they were already big and growing in Germany. Finally, the market was set free. Liberalized, as they called it. Liberated, really!
What followed is well known, and probably similar almost everywhere: It got appallingly stupid. All the casting shows, all the gossip about stars and starlets, all the so-called reality TV, not to mention the outrageous shows that I called “Drill-TV.” They were all about teaching the excluded and exhausted and jobless and angry and dejected, in front of their screens from the early morning on, that they had to start working on themselves: To improve their skills, their looks, their readiness to be exploited by horrible and poorly — if at all — paying jobs, their eagerness to let themselves be humiliated and degraded, in order to become a functioning member of the greedy markets again. Whatever the tasks were that people had to perform, whatever they had to learn, whatever bad habits they had to let go of, it all boiled down to one single objective: Getting ready for the next interview in an assessment center, being humble and thankful if someone could find use for a person who had failed before. It’s your chance, it’s all up to you, all your problems, all your inhibitions, all your inner struggles and anxieties are your problems, all within yourself, and you have to get rid of them through positive thinking and surrendering to the forces that be. And, what goes without saying, your problems don’t have anything to do with the society you’re living in — and the modes of production you’re living under.
Yet, if someone dared to call stupidity by its real name, they were told: Hey, calm down, that’s what people want to watch. Take a look at the market share. We simply deliver.
Isn’t that precisely what happened in politics? Isn’t that how the right wing, the so-called populists, the neo-fascists hijacked the public discourse? Market share turned into the “justified fears of common people.” If you called them racist for being racist, if you called them sexist for being sexist, if you called them fascist for being fascist, you were told: Hey, calm down, that’s how people think and talk. We simply take them seriously. You live in a different world. You have lost touch with reality. You have no clue about real problems. Your humanitarian delirium is detrimental to others.
That’s what I’ve got to hear time and again. There’s a class war going on. But not only is it waged by the rich and powerful, by big business, their interests and their various lobbyists, the characters also really got inverted. Who speaks out against social injustices and against racism, or sexism, or homophobia, or fascism, gets transformed into a member of the elite, in the blink of an eye. Who dares to refrain from the “justified fears” is turned into an inhabitant of an ivory tower. This has contributed to why people often don’t listen, or don’t engage in arguments anymore, because they know and want to believe what they’ve been told, or because they simply claim their right to their very own “truth:” Someone with a sympathetic stance on refugees, foreigners, gay rights, right wing parties, the history of fascism, etc., has to be part of the elite and better off. Just recently, someone was mesmerized because I told him that I too found it horrible if men didn’t shake women’s hands because they’re women. One could laugh, if it had been funny.
As state-owned TV channels gradually succumbed to the dumbness of private channels, traditional parties — conservatives and social democrats — succumbed to the rhetoric of the right wing and neo-fascists. Now they wanted their market share back. All of a sudden, established parties had to take people seriously again, that is: Their prejudices and their scapegoats and their blame games. One had seen, from election to election, that it didn't work. Still they kept on going. Today, fascists take votes of people who are disillusioned by social democrats, and while their rhetoric encompasses national social justice, they endorse cruel neoliberal economics that will strip their poorer voters of the last remaining social benefits. At the same time, a party-owned media is back. We see it every day on social media. There are basically two parties: The right wing, often fascist, so-called populist under the banner of “Justified Fears;” and the Liberals, whose main target is to be politically correct, and to either laugh about people’s stupidity or scandalize it, while maintaining moral superiority by using the right language. The two big topics for the two parties are “refugees/immigrants” and “climate change.” They talk about the future. Both parties paint a dismal future: Too many immigrants on one side that will change the fabric of society, culture as a whole, and most probably impose alien ideas and customs upon us, if it hasn’t already happened. The other side fears nothing less than the end of the world, through destroying its atmosphere.
Yet both topics really are questions of distribution, redistribution, modes of production, and capitalism. There’s a class war going on. And an ideological battle. When the cards are dealt, one shouldn’t play the game and thus accept its rules, which means playing by them. The real dividing lines lie elsewhere.