Is sociopolitical polarization necessarily a threat to social integration in an open society, or does it enhance pluralism to have interest groups organized behind opposite camps (to the degree that they appear opposite in rhetoric, despite serving the same goals) that exacerbate identity politics and may cause disharmony? Finally, does sociopolitical polarization provide the pretext of pluralism and distract mass public opinion from the underlying source (s) of society's structural impediments to progress and decline of the middle class when seemingly opposite camps responsible for sociopolitical polarization serve the same political economy?
No one should be surprised that Sarah Palin and the army of TEA PARTY propagandists have gone on the offensive against segments of mainstream corporate-owned media that had the audacity to a) demand toning down extremist rhetoric; b) linking the Arizona massacre with the TEA PARTY's extremist rhetoric; and c) questioning the sanctity of GUN-OWNERSHIP! All of it, of course, part of a Democrat opportunistic scheme designed to capitalize politically on what the 'Arizona assassin' did; apparently acting entirely on his own, as Palin said, and never influenced by TEA PARTY fanatic rhetoric. In short, public officials have no responsibility for extremist rhetoric that an unbalanced individual may use as justification to carry out acts of violence.
When Palin used the anti-Semitic term 'blood libel', however, a term that has a long history dating to the Medieval era, she immediately attracted the attention of some Jews who were justifiably offended and expressed outrage. That the gunman's mom is Jewish is another issue that right-wingers and Anti-Semites will use to deflect attention from the essential issue of political violence.
Not to be outdone, Newt Gingrich jumped into the discussion, defending strong militaristic language as part of free speech, and stressing that the 'Arizona assassin' had left-wing books in his library, adding, “He was apparently an atheist. He was by no standard that I know of had any connection with any tea party of any kind.”
Never mind that books found in the assassin's collection included a disparate collection - Animal Farm, Brave New World, The Wizard Of OZ, Aesop Fables, The Odyssey, Alice Adventures Into Wonderland, Fahrenheit 451, Peter Pan, To Kill A Mockingbird, We The Living, Phantom Toll Booth, One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, Pulp,Through The Looking Glass, The Communist Manifesto, Siddhartha, The Old Man And The Sea, Gulliver’s Travels, Mein Kampf, The Republic, and Meno.
This list reveals nothing out of the ordinary for any high school or college student, but then again, Newt always liked to tell THE TRUTH. In 1994 Newt, newly elected Speaker of the House, said on Meet the Press that he had evidence that up to a quarter of the White House staff were drug users. Few in the corporate media challenged such outrageous remarks from the Speaker whose goal was to always speak THE TRUTH.
Bill O'Reilly, one of the least credible right-wing opportunist-talking-heads, matched Newt's rhetoric criticizing "the far-left MSNBC line" and insisting that "The hatred spewed on that cable network is unprecedented in the media." I had no idea that MSNBC, - co-owned by two of the largest corporations on earth - and GE investors was 'far left'. If that is indeed the case, all those multimillionaires owning the company must be dangerous Marxists posing a threat to America, a good deal of it which they own!
Rush Limbaugh came along and announced that in criticizing Palin, the TEA PARTY, FOX NEWS, and right-wing talkradio, "THEY" (anyone criticizing the aforementioned) need to remember "THEY ARE ACCUSING A MAJORITY OF AMERICANS OF BEING ACCOMPLICES TO MURDER." For those who are not familiar with Limbaugh, let me assure you that he knows very well the majority of Americans (54% according to a CBS poll) are against the TEA PARTY (29% in favor).
But then again, Rush like Bill O'Reilly has said and will say just about anything to entertain his audience, while laughing all the way to the bank. This is the same 'family-values Rush' who constantly criticized gay marriage and gays in general, but paid ELTON JOHN $1,000,000 to sing at his 4th wedding! Shame-shame Rush, hiring Elton, when the OSMOND FAMILY could have added some heterosexual Christian 'family values' to your 4th wedding!
All of this shameless polarizing rhetoric immediately after the mass killings in Arizona and Rep. Giffords seriously injured and fighting for her life reminds me of the famous saying by Joseph Welch, head counsel for the US Army during the McCarthy hearings. On 9 June 1954, in response to Sen. Joseph McCarthy who accused one of Welch's young lawyers of having Communist ties, Welch replied: "Until this moment, Senator, I think I never really gauged your cruelty or your recklessness... Have you no sense of decency?"
During the early 1950s amid the heated nuclear arms race and US-USSR global competition for hegemony, the American political, military, and business establishment permitted Joe McCarthy to destroy the reputations and careers of many talented people dismissed as Communists. With the exception of high profile newscaster Edward R. Murrow, the media went along with the hysteria of McCarthyism and projected the images that the business, political, and military elites wanted projected, namely, that the alternative to rigid conformity to the Cold War ideology entailed BLACKLISTING and ruin for non-conformists in the land of pluralism. When McCarthy began to accuse people too close to the political and military establishment, the media that had raised him to a Cold War demi-god ended his days of glory.
Today (and since 1980) we have segments of the political and military, and above all the business elites that support political leaders they believe will swing public opinion toward conformity to keep the American people as docile as possible to all policies foreign and domestic. Naturally, the centrist segment of the media - the segment that Rush, Newt and others like them call far left-wing, tries to present a point of view that appeals to centrists. Nevertheless, the goal they are trying to achieve the exact same one of conformity. Using Liberal ideology to counter the right-wing, the centrists provide a sense of legitimacy of a political system that presents itself as 'democratic' and 'pluralistic'.
Although the centrists embrace a more enlightened approach to a number of issues, especially social and cultural, both ideological sides present politicians, not the business elites behind them as the real villains for all calamities that befall society, of all problems, while all the success stories are invariably attributed to 'the heroes of business'. It is never the fault of finance capitalism or the business elites behind the political establishment even when they are caught in the act, but always of the politicians who failed to do their job on behalf of citizens. Never mind that financing for candidates comes mostly from business establishment that controls the media that can make or break a political candidate.
Although party affiliation as related to social class is not nearly a factor in the US as it is in Europe, the US has been drifting toward polarization in the last 30 years. Sociopolitical polarization is more evident today than it was when the Reagan-Bush team came to Washington and contributed to that phenomenon. But is it the fault of the politicians seeking elected office at almost any price, the well-paid taking heads that propagate for one side or the other, or is it the source of polarization a political economy that has resulted in the socioeconomic polarization reflected in the harsh and divisive rhetoric of both sides as expressed by politicians and news analysts?
In direct and very subtle ways, McCarthyism is alive and well today, resurrected by the Reagan-Bush camp and kept alive by an institutional propaganda machine behind which is corporate America whose goal is to keep a population docile and conformist to existing institutions, to prevent radicalization arising from discontent in the political economy. From 1980 to the present, there is a noticeable trend toward bitter partisanship and disintegration of 'consensus politics' that has exacerbated sociopolitical polarization. Scholars do not agree on the source (s) of such a trend, nor do they agree on the beneficiaries. Given the declining living standards with the erosion of the middle class at a time that we have seen vast wealth concentration, the beneficiaries are clearly the financial elites that want the state to maintain the appearance of pluralism but in fact have Leviathan traits.