With the shooting and capture of David Sweat 2 miles from the Canadian border yesterday afternoon, the saga of the two escapees from Dannemora's Clinton Correctional Facility came to an end.
Still, it left me slack- jawed, while watching Michael Smerconish on CNN Saturday, to learn that hundreds of people were cheering for the escaped New York killers, Richard Matt and David Sweat. Smerconish had received a ton of tweets on it, and put up one from a woman whose hubby was actually a cop, insisting they were both "rooting for these two guys, don't ask why- LOL". But one must ask why! And it's clear the couple hundred tweets Smerconish received, cheering these slime balls on, could not have been the only ones.
How to address it? Well, when all else fails bring in a psychiatrist, or shrink! And so he did. His guest therp proceeded to explain this misshapen phenomenon on the basis of "fantasy" - assuring Smerconish and his viewers that one must take care to distinguish one's wild, untamed thoughts from what one would actually DO. So we could be sure if either killer came knocking at one of the cheerleaders' homes, they wouldn't hesitate to call the cops and not sit down and pour out a glass of Bailey's to make a toast.
What manner of "fantasy"? Typical of the shrink profession - known for churning out BS and twaddle (see e.g. 'The Book of Woe: The DSM and the Unmaking of Psychiatry'), we learn it has to do with the basic reality that we are all "prisoners". Workers feel in prison as a result of their 8 to 6 jobs, from which they can't escape. And hubbies may feel "prisoners" of their marriages which keep them tied down with kids and chores instead of doing what they want and when. Thus, the daring escape of Sweat and Matt from the Dannemora upstate NY prison was like a breath of fresh air, in that it provided a vicarious escape for all those who feel confined to their own little prisons.
Can we all call out 'Balderdash!' on this? If so might there be some other less obvious explanation that doesn't require dime store psychology? Possibly!
Let's begin with the sad situation of a surfeit of trite, crappo, low grade, PR-infested bilge generated by a co-opted corporate media, devoted more to manipulating citizens' minds than informing them. This abomination has perhaps been no better expressed than by author Chris Hedges in his terrific book, ‘Empire of Illusion’ (p. 45):
“Hour after hour, day after day, week after week, we are bombarded with the cant and spectacle pumped out over the airwaves or over computer screens by highly paid pundits, corporate advertisers, talk show hosts, and gossip-fueled entertainment networks. And a culture dominated by images and slogans seduces those who are functionally literate but who make the choice not to read…….
Propaganda has become a substitute for ideas and ideology. Knowledge is confused with how we are made to feel. Commercial brands are mistaken for expressions of individuality. It’s in this decline of values and literacy, among those who cannot read or have given up reading, that fertile ground for a new totalitarianism is seeded.”
Which is to say, false consciousness has been inserted into too many millions of our fellow citizens' brains- turning them into repositories (I say "garbage dumps") for the propagandists and disinformers. This is exactly why the excess media barrage is dangerous, because it makes discriminating selection so difficult and too often encourages the choice of lowest common denominator fare.
What is false consciousness? It’s the name given to a false information system that's been absorbed in part or whole, osmotically or via direct mental ingestion, by the majority of a population. It has specific uses in the Neoliberal Corporatocracy to mislead a population about how things actually work. The political system ('democracy' is the rhetoric, but corporate dictatorship the reality), the economy ('free market' the rhetoric, but controlled markets the reality) and so on. If understanding can be obfuscated, and attention deflected to specious distractions and titillation, then the people can be disempowered. And even cooperate in their own economic (or social, political) subjugation.
As Carl Jensen also notes (Project Censored Yearbook: The News That Didn't Make the News and Why, 1995, pp 12-13):
"More than a half century ago Hitler said the masses take a long time to understand and remember, thus it is necessary to repeat the message time and time and time again - the public must be conditioned to accept the claims that are made no matter how outrageous or false those claims may be. We as a society, appear to have been well-conditioned to accept any number of claims regardless of how detrimental they are to our environment or to our own well being."
How to break out of this web of illusion? The solution, which terrifies the corporatists, is independent citizen expression! But….it assumes the citizen himself is well-informed, and armed to the teeth with bona fide knowledge (not false knowledge) – whether of history, science, economics, or whatever, and also endowed with formidable critical thinking skills. Otherwise, the citizen’s independent expression is really just an extension of corporate propaganda and false consciousness with the effect to reduce us to the level of dependency of children.
Blogging is the ultimate citizen individual expression, which has as its prime objective to break free of the corporate media matrix and lies. But again, the blog that aspires to this objective must reflect and embody not just opinions – but opinions predicated on facts- supported by critical thinking and reasoning, analysis.
But what about all those with less than stellar writing skills, or who simply don't have the patience to blog - which, after all, requires some background research for each topic and dedication? Then, there is always the promise of a temporary real time spectacle, especially one which puts the media on its heels, as well as authority figures for the modern Neoliberal corporatocracy.
Thus, the escape of Matt and Sweat signaled for these less skilled folks a "breakout" from the norm in which their lives experienced a "collateral breakout" from the usual 24/7 media PR themes that instill false consciousness. And indeed, the media's coverage of the 21 day chase showed just how many times they screwed up in one detail or other or how their accounts varied. They simply couldn't keep track of the unfolding story and often, contradiction was the rule. Were the killers in this cabin? NO - in the other 200 yards distant! Were shots fired here? No way over there! Was one of them wounded? Yes, Matt was maybe on the foot....or maybe it was a mosquito bite that became infected. At times it became amusing to behold that neither Linzie Janis or Stephanie Gosk could seem to relate the same account, the same night.
So the explanation for the cheerleading is more down to earth than fantasizing about a vicarious escape from a job serving as a "prison". It is more about an actual escape from false consciousness. After all, the pair had succeeded in their breakout by literally digging through hundreds of feet of steam pipes and underground utility lines to reach a street and a manhole cover by which to claim freedom. There was no confection or manipulation of reality in this narrative - which also explained why the media (experts at canned PR) couldn't keep up with the facts.
Hence, for the duration of this epic, viewers - many of them -also attained a measure of escape from false consciousness, given the real life spectacle playing out before their very eyes in real time. Hell, it was better than watching 'Big Brother'!
The sad thing about all this? It shouldn't take a real life escape of killers or a natural catastrophe to enable Americans to escape from the media-sown false consciousness. People ought to be able to do it on their own, using their own critical thinking and energy.
The problem is that, as Hedges points out, most choose not to. After Matt was killed and Sweat captured yesterday the residents of the area breathed a collective sigh of relief. As one put it: "Now we can get our lives back to normal". Or, maybe false consciousness?