Land of the free and home of the brave.
A phrase you often hear repeated in reference to the United States. Freedom is something everyone in this country values. You can find many surveys of citizens here ranking that as the best quality they feel is important to them when distinguishing the US from other countries.
Our wars are always fought to protect our freedom from enemies that supposedly hate us because of this freedom. To reinforce just how free our society is, we are often instructed to look at other countries which lack some of the life qualities we do. Some countries have state run media, some ban voting and are absolute monarchies, some ban freedom of expression and protests and some ban free thinking in schools and on campuses.
Upon taking a closer look, how free are we? Do we indeed enjoy all the freedoms most are proud of?
Let’s start with democracy, a process in which we freely choose between different candidates to represent us in various forms of government. The US political structure is monopolized by the two party system, Republican and Democrat. This applies on the state and federal level. Blue or red, those are our choices every time there is an election. The two party system itself is a restriction on choice rather than freedom of choice.
You can go to a supermarket and have your choice between tons of cereal brands, shampoo, soap, juice, napkins, etc. So why are we restricted when it comes to representation? The billions of dollars in lobbyist money that is poured into politics leads to monopolizing the system in favor of two parties. There are no outside lobbyists that promote one cereal brand over another, but all our politicians are paid for by lobbyists.
Let’s say I want to become a congressman, senator, governor or mayor. I want to run honestly and with the best intention of serving the people and no one else. In order to be elected, I must run a campaign that costs lots of money in order to raise awareness and have people understand my platform and get my name out to every potential voter. That money can’t be raised by having friends and family each donate $100 to my campaign fund. I will need millions of dollars to cover expenses such as TV/Internet/newspaper advertisements, campaign worker salaries, travel expenses for campaigning, etc. This is where lobbyists come in and buy our politicians and monopolize the process to turn it into a two party system.
Once a politician is elected into office, whether he is Democrat or Republican, he or she then serves the corporations that paid for his or her election. This results in many small line items in bills passed through Congress favoring the lobbyists that funded the election. Meanwhile, the voter who took time out of their day to go fulfill their “duty” as a citizen is left thinking they made a free choice to elect someone to represent them. When in reality, they were forced to choose between two corporate puppets serving a system that does not serve the voter in return.
Our free media does a great job of selling the election-democracy illusion to voters as well. Since nearly all media in the US is owned by 5 corporations, it makes it easier to control any message they want delivered to the masses. The media works in cooperation with major sponsors (“Corporations”) that pay hefty fees to have their products promoted in media outlets. So the corporations that paid for our officials also greatly influence the media which distributes any messages the government wants to its citizens.
Napoleon Bonaparte once said “Four hostile newspapers are more to be feared than a thousand bayonets.” While the days of bayonets are long behind us, the meaning stills holds. During the run up to the 2003 Iraq war, many media outlets linked Saddam Hussain to Al Qaeda and 9/11. Even though this has been proven false, to this day many Americans believe he had a role in 9/11.
Another example of just how much influence the corporation controlled government has on our media is a study that was done on the Iraq war coverage of all major US Television outlets. It found that during the lead up period to the war and throughout the early stages of it, there was a 5-1 ratio of positive coverage for the war to negative coverage. This led to the majority of US citizens supporting a war almost everyone now agrees was baseless and purely for oil and imperialistic expansion. Additionally, many journalists assigned to cover the war were embedded with military units and their reporting was vetted by the government prior to being released or airing in US media.
In today’s economy corporations are making records profits, which not only results in hefty salaries for every CEO, but also allows them to pour more money into varies aspects of our government. This has slowly led to many changes within our society. Everything from politics, university policies, school book content, food and drug safety regulations and many more areas are being influenced by lobbyist decisions through politicians.
Combine this with the ever expanding surveillance programs the government has on it citizens and the over bearing police tactics used against citizens, one has to wonder just how free we are?
If someone from another planet landed here and was asked to best describe us it would not be too far-fetched for them to use a phrase such as, “puppets who work for corporations which in turn decide everything for them.”
If the system fails for some reason, there are nine government appointed officials with a guarantee of lifelong employment called Supreme Court Justices that can fix it. Those judges can decide anything and everything from whether a person dies or lives, as every death sentence is appealed to them, to who wins presidential elections, as was the case in 2000, to deciding on enforcing or voiding any law imaginable.
However, the illusion of freedom is sold to us through the choice of a two party system, a few major news outlets to decide between and many minor freedoms such as the choice of shampoo and cereal.
Content posted to MyMPN open blogs is the opinion of the author alone, and should not be attributed to MintPress News.