Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The Media Destruction of Eliot Spitzer

The GOP-controlled secret police units and Federal prosecutors lit a fuse in the media by illegally feeding them allegations about New York State Governor Eliot Spitzer's use of prostitutes. (We only can surmise they are true allegations because Spitzer threw in the towel. We can further assume that with his combative personality, if the allegations were false he would have at least initially denied the allegations.)

It was assumed from the start of the media firestorm that his position was hopeless. Somehow such a revelation automatically forces a Governor from office. (The media has no interest in the crimes committed by their "sources" in feeding them the dirt on Spitzer. Of course, such crimes impact the public and society far more than Spitzer's private sexual peccadilloes do. But the public interest has never been the guiding principle of what is "newsworthy" in the eyes of the corporate media. The interests of the permanent ruling class are what matters.)

A good example of the juvenile lynch mob mentality of much of the U.S. media is illustrated by the cover of New York magazine dated March 24, 2008. The cover consists in its entirety of a stark photo of Spitzer against a white backdrop, his hands clasped stiffly in front of him, smiling, and in large block letters in a lurid red box the word "BRAIN" with an arrow stabbing straight into Spitzer's groin. Unlike most New York covers, there are no titles of other stories inside, creating a mono-focus on humiliating the ex-Governor. (New York is a bourgeois rag dedicated to relentlessly promoting the most vapid materialism. It spawned a bunch of copycat rags that encapsulate the "Yuppie" mentality, or what would more correctly be called neobourgeois. The pushing of shallow materialism started as a counteroffensive against the Counterculture of the 1960s and early '70s, which the rulers and their minions correctly recognized as a threat to their system by challenging the arid, anti-human values of the Establishment. Unfortunately the counteroffensive, which included state violence and secret police persecution and repression in addition to media and ideological assaults, was successful.)

The same issue of New York apparently felt a need to explain away another apparent double standard or contradiction: namely why was Spitzer pulled down but not Bill Clinton? Various bogus explanations are adduced, ignoring the actual reason- Clinton had the POWER to hang on. The Federal Government, being under his control, wasn't going after him. The GOP hit man Kenneth Starr, appointed "special prosecutor" to get Clinton after the previous special prosecutor, also a Republican, failed to come up with charges against the Clintons. The Paula Jones lawsuit which led to the exposure of Clinton's dalliance with White House intern Monica Lewinsky was an arranged GOP plot. Starr took his case to the House, which under GOP control duly impeached Clinton (the equivalent of an indictment). Lacking a two-thirds majority in the Senate to convict him, Clinton beat the rap, which was mostly based on perjury and witness tampering. Spitzer, on the other hand, is subject to attack by the Federal Government (which I can guarantee you wouldn't be happening if the current President were a Democrat as Spitzer is).

Contrast the treatment Spitzer got, and his enforced overthrow within just days, to what happened when GOP Senators Larry Craig and David Vitter were caught in similar scandals. They're still in office. Both committed illegal acts (Craig soliciting sex from an undercover male cop in a public restroom, Vitter patronizing prostitutes in D.C., same as Spitzer.) Vitter isn't being investigated and prosecuted, like Spitzer is. (Spitzer hasn't been indicted yet, but that seems certain.) WHY THE DOUBLE STANDARD?

In an even more stunningly blatant example of naked double standards and media hypocrisy, the same day the replacement NY Governor, David Paterson, was installed to media and political huzzahs, he admitted that both he and his wife were adulterers! That may not be exactly the same, since presumably they weren't paying for sex, but in terms of not remaining sexually loyal to their spouses, it was the same. Also adultery is illegal in many states (perhaps not in NY however). The NY Times for one covered the news in a tone of complete neutrality. Of course Paterson is a creature of the corrupt establishment, having been in the corrupt and morally depraved NY State Legislature for the past 18 years. So he's "safe" for the powers-that-be.

The media, of course, get to have their cake and eat it too. While feigning shock and moral outrage that a man would want to have sex with someone other than his wife (which would occasionally require paying), the New York tabloids, two reactionary rags, the NY Post and NY Daily News (owned, respectively, by two foreign plutocrats and arch reactionaries, the Australian fascist buccaneer Rupert Murdoch and the Canadian Jewish real estate baron and ardent Zionist Mortimer Zuckerman), drooled and slavered over the prostitute and ran large photos of her breasts (in a swimsuit) and other such T & A fare. (That's internal media code for Tits and Ass.) It also provided an excuse to do "explorations" of prostitution, as if the public has no idea what it is. Merely an excuse for voyeurism and titillation. (Perhaps their readership, thus aroused, is expected to masturbate and steer clear of prostitutes.) The Times did the same, only more "tastefully," that is, archly and stuffily instead of openly salacious and tawdry. Because the tabloids are aimed at working class lunkheads and the Times fancies itself the paper for the socioeconomic elite, their tones and styles differ, but not necessarily their essential content.

The Times gave as part of the "explanation" for the inevitability of Spitzer's fall the fact that he has an abrasive, prickly, arrogant personality. Unlike, I suppose, Rudolph Giuliani! Giuliani was extreme in all those descriptions, even browbeating and abusing reporters at his press conferences (and many other people besides). It never hurt him in the slightest. The media constantly built up Giuliani, (as they did Reagan, Nixon, and numerous other pathological beasts who run the apparatuses of state power in America). All that time they told us he was "America's Mayor," a National Hero after 9/11. (Besides providing fleeting emotional comfort to bereaved citizens and making sure to get his photo constantly taken, it's hard to see what he did that was so "heroic." His ineptitude was shown by the fact that he insisted on locating his Emergency Command [Fuhrer]Bunker in one of the destroyed towers, against the recommendations of security personnel. So millions of dollars were squandered on a command post that was destroyed in the very first emergency it would have been used in! )

So neither the "sex scandal" explanation, nor the "lousy personality" line holds up to logical analysis.

Let us move on to the "he had no allies" explanation. This certainly has merit. But it wrongly ascribes his lack of allies to his rotten personality. Again, many, many successful politicians are bullies, are abrasive, are prickly. (Many are criminals and even mass murderers, like virtually all U.S. Presidents. Their reputations don't suffer as a result.) I cited just one example above, that of Giuliani. So why didn't Spitzer have allies?

Because the people who would be his natural allies, the Democrats, are part of the corrupt political system in NY State. By threatening that system, Spitzer was a threat to them. They could only be relieved to see him knifed, à la Caesar, by the media. And the media certainly wouldn't ally with him, since they too benefit from the corrupt system and thus support it.

As for the special interest groups like Common Cause and anti-rape activists, they actually have no power anyway. But the ones privileged to get a quote in the media also said he had to go- the good-government types because they decided he could no longer be "effective" (i.e., in terms of power, he was effectively castrated), and the anti-rape anti-prostitution activists because of the obvious- that he was the type of man they regard as the enemy. Not to mention amazingly duplicitous. And they hate non-monogamous husbands. (Interestingly, women's rights groups stood behind Bill Clinton during his sex scandal. One explanation proffered for this at the time was their view of him as a bulwark in defense of abortion rights.)

The assault on Spitzer actually began months ago. When Spitzer frontally assaulted the ruling caudillos of the State Legislature, Joseph Bruno and Sheldon Silver, two horribly corrupt machine politicians who rule their respective chambers with iron fists, the media attacked Spitzer, mostly by criticizing his personality. (Which is irrelevant, of course.) When Spitzer sought to expose the venal Bruno's misuse of State Police helicopters for partisan political purposes and personal use, the media made the scandal THE EXPOSURE of Bruno! Instead of Bruno being investigated, Spitzer and his aides were subjected to witch-hunts by various bodies. These "investigations" continue even now. The NY Times led this assault, with the two city tabloids. Despicably, the Times likes to pose as pro-reform and pro-good government. Apparently it is not. (Bruno also corruptly arranges deals with various businesses that fund him and his party, including outside clients to whom he sells his favors. This has been endlessly "under investigation," despite that the facts are well-known, indeed common knowledge within the corrupt political and media establishment.)

What accounts for this support of a Soviet and Chinese-style legislature that "votes" in lockstep with party bosses? Firstly and most fundamentally, the rulers hate democracy, so the less democracy, the better for them. They don't want independent elected representatives who might actually represent the citizens who elect them (or who at least live in their districts if not actually bothering to vote). Secondly, the present arrangement allows for corrupt deals and favoritism directly for these three newspapers. The Post for example pretends for purposes of state taxation to be a nonprofit and is tax exempt. The Times just got the state to use its power of eminent domain to force out property owners on a site where it subsequently erected a new propaganda temple for itself to operate out of.

None of this should be construed as sympathy for Spitzer on my part. He himself is obviously a loathsome hypocrite, on several counts. As a prosecutor, he had a vindictive attitude towards the customers of prostitutes. And as Governor he pushed through more punitive legislation on this score. This is a sick deception on the level of all the gay-bashing reactionaries in the GOP and on "religious" right soapboxes who publicly hate gays and sponsor legislation to assault gays, while they themselves are in fact homosexuals! (There are numerous examples of them by now.) Or we could compare it to Jews who masqueraded as Nazis during World War II, although they at least had the excuse of survival, not mere opportunism and cynical self-promotion.

He is also a hypocrite (and a just plain liar), like so many politicians and other "respectable" elements of society, in that he pays homage to certain values which he claims to live by, and condemns those who don't, in this case, monogamy and the "sacredness" of marriage. He took a solemn vow when he wed his wife, which included a presumption of sexual exclusivity. Like so many pillars of the establishment, he wanted to have it both ways. He wanted to appear to believe in the values he claims to live by, but not really be restricted by them. So he "cheated." That is, he defrauded his wife, the mother of his children, the person he made a commitment to.

The members of the establishment, their minions, and all who want to be "respectable," the definition of which they endorse, don't necessarily want to live in the straitjacket they have
constructed for themselves. While hating "hippies," they want to have some of the same freedoms the hippies championed, while condemning those freedoms. But it doesn't work. There cannot be freedom in the context of repression. People who "cheat," betraying their wives or girlfriends, or who use illegal drugs and marijuana while condemning drug use and supporting repressive anti-drug laws, are not experiencing freedom. They are like burglars in the night, surreptitiously stealing pleasures they are ashamed to openly claim a right to. They cheat the rest of us by upholding our oppression while carving out a covert exception to the rules for themselves. And usually the rules are applied selectively so they get away with it even when caught. There are various legal loopholes and trapdoors and exceptions and carveouts and "diversion programs" by which the privileged and those who can afford expensive, politically-connected lawyers are allowed to slide for their indiscretions, even in the face of allegedly "mandatory" sentences.

Spitzer earlier in life could have chosen to live by less restrictive personal values. However he had ambitions to climb up the power structure, so he bought into that structure's repressive dictates, which includes demands of marriage and monogamy, upholding the criminalization of paid sex and using drugs for pleasure, and so on. (It's another irony that the police state instituted by establishmentarians like Spitzer entrapped him in its web. That is, banks filing "suspicious activity" reports is what led to his downfall. A half million of these reports are filed annually with Federal inquisitors. We can safely presume that the vast majority have nothing to do with real crime. Likewise, while the alleged purpose of currency reporting and "structuring" laws (that is, requiring the filing of reports of withdrawals of $10,000 and up in cash, or smaller amounts that add up to $10,000,) is to catch "terrorists," "drug dealers," and other despised scum, these laws are in fact used most of the time to punish "law abiding" citizens; ; that is, they are instruments of control and repression of the general population, i.e. usOur money has to be controlled, our freedom of action is considered suspect, our privacy is considered a cover for evildoing, so we are stripped of it, and we are taught that we shouldn't mind if we "have nothing to hide." Thus is the desire for privacy and to be left alone by those in power, the "Government," itself considered quasi-criminal or evidence of criminal intent. The logic of repression, which demands ever-increasing controls and ever-shrinking freedom, was kicked into high gear after the 9/11/01 attacks, which the secret police deliberately allowed to take place for that very reason.)

Spitzer should have told his wife he was no longer willing to abide by their life contract. Of course he wouldn't do that because he needed a nuclear family to meet the definition of "respectable." (Apparently bachelors are unfit for public office, or for that matter high corporate positions, for which marriage is a strict requirement.) He not only double-crossed her ("cheated"), he potentially endangered her health by seeking condomless sex with prostitutes, a nearly sure way to spread diseases, including the lethal AIDS.

Politicians like him are usually allowed to practice a double-standard, until they get in the way or outlive their usefulness. If they're right-wingers exposed by some media outlet seeking immediate attention to juice their circulation or viewers, we see that they are usually allowed to stay in office. There is something arbitrary or capricious about Spitzer's treatment, but in no way is it akin to a Greek Tragedy. Nor do I buy the pop psychology analysis that it bespeaks some self-destructive impulse in him. More likely, having grown up rich and privileged, he merely assumed, with a combination of arrogance and thoughtless complacency born of habit, that he could do what he wanted if he was discreet. He was "stupid" in that he failed to calculate that, far from his position of seeming power making him less vulnerable, it made him more so, because he would be under heightened political scrutiny from his enemies in the GOP and on Wall Street, the financial plutocrats who sit at the very apex of power in this society, and who he antagonized when he put a brief fright into them with his threats and prosecutions as State Attorney General.

The establishment of the U.S. is pathologically schizophrenic about sexuality. While titillating the populace every day with scantily clad young women posing as sexual vixens and filling both the "news" and entertainment arms of its media with racy sexual content, it carries out increasingly puritanical policies. Sex education is mostly abolished in American schools today, replaced by anti-sex scolding called "abstinence education." Abortion is nearly illegal, now being unavailable in 87% of U.S. counties, subject to increasing restrictions and legal assault, and regarded as disreputable and a fit target for harassment and terrorism by primitive religious fanatics. "Family planning aid" abroad is barred to any entities that would even mention abortion. Chastity is the only method of birth control considered morally acceptable. The U.S. today practices a medieval sexual politics while its culture is drenched with overt sexual imagery. This is a form of mental derangement.

The counterculture implicitly made an honest critique of society's strictures. It said that relationships are naturally fluid and temporary, that sexual desire if polymorphous and fleeting and of its own accord cannot be limited to just a single person. In direct opposition to 2000 years of Western Christian culture based on guilt and suffering and repression, it said that pleasure is good, not evil. It advocated honesty in relations. Of course that was in theory. In fact the counterculture fell apart in part due to its own failures to live up to its ideals and the various contradictions they contained.

Rather than honestly advocate for greater human freedom, honesty and realism, the "solid citizen" duplicitous hypocrites want to have it both way, skulking around under cover of darkness to try and grab some furtive pleasures to fill the void in their bleak souls. Apparently the alleged satisfactions of "conservative social values" leaves them living in a spiritual desert, deeply unsatisfied with their lives and unconsciously groping for some gratification of an inner hunger they do not understand.

As for Spitzer and his ilk, a person who would deceive the person closest to them in life, their life partner, their soul mate, is obviously an untrustworthy person. In that sense, there is a "character" issue here that is relevant to a politician's public duties.

But you're a big boy or girl now. You didn't still trust politicians, did you? As a subspecies of (alleged) humanity, they are literally a different type of being from the rest of us.

But that must be the subject of another essay.