Some years ago, when stories first began to surface about how corporations were tracking people’s on-line interests and then selling that information to others, I read an interesting article contrasting the different view Americans and Europeans had of the practice.
Essentially, polling on the issue showed that Europeans were relatively unconcerned that their government might have access to their on-line histories, but were much more wary of private corporations having the same. Americans essentially subscribed to the opposite viewpoint; the poll showed that Americans didn’t very much mind corporations tracking their on-line activities, but Americans were worried that their information might wind up in a government database somewhere.
To tell you the truth, I’m a fairly big fan of maintaining one’s privacy (this is the single biggest reason I refuse to have almost anything to do with FaceBook) and so neither prospect fills me with much enthusiasm. However, I have to admit that the European mindset seems to make more sense. One’s government is, at least theoretically, comprised of elected officials whose activities subject them to review and recall by citizens through the ballot box; if they engage in outrageous practices, one can at least lobby the government to have that practice banned. One has no such control or influence over a corporation.
In any event, I was reminded of that article whilst watching The Daily Show’s October 5th episode. During its first segment, Jon Stewart ran clips of Conservative commentators decrying the Occupy Wall Street protesters – who, let’s remember, are protesting against corporations’ outsized power and the heavy skewing of wealth in this country to the top 1% of the population – as “anti-American.” Stewart contrasted this with Conservative commentators who previously had praised Tea Party protesters – protesting the actions of the government – as “patriotic Americans.”
This struck me as a fairly stark illustration of just how much Conservatives in America have come to associate “patriotism” not with our country, not with our society, and certainly not with our government . . . but with Big Business and the existing corporate power structure.
For Conservatives, people – fellow Americans – who disagree with and challenge the corporate power structure are labeled “anti-American.” The nation’s own duly elected officials are labeled “anti-American” if they do anything that might regulate, restrict or limit in any way that existing power structure. (Remember Michele Bachmann’s infamous suggestion that members of Congress who hold liberal views should be investigated for being “anti-American”? Until very recently, Bachmann was considered a frontrunner to secure the GOP’s presidential nomination).
But being pro-Big Business? Being pro-Plutocracy? For Conservatives, that’s what “patriotism” is all about these days.
Truly, for these people the time for democracy has passed; Conservatives don’t recognize the American government, they don’t recognize the American people, they don’t even recognize the rule of law as legitimate occupiers of the seat of power. No, for Conservatives that throne is reserved for our Corporate Overlords, and therefore any protest against those Overlords is an act of treason.
Something to keep in mind during next year’s election.