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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Ask Bobby #12
September 25, 2023

Dateline: Downtown

Dateline: Downtown
Dateline: Downtown

Ideology was, of course, the story of the 20th century. Nazism, Communism, and liberal democracy clashed for supremacy with the last proving itself to be, as Churchill had it, the worst system in the world but for all the others. Nazism killed tens of millions, Communism even more, and we die a little every working day of our lives.

So where to look for deliverance? Do we look to someone to explain the answers, to make sense of the world, to imbue us with “class consciousness” or “race consciousness” or “Christ-consciousness” or any of the other worldviews available in the marketplace of ideas? Who can deliver us from this basic uncertainty we feel in the face of the world, from our personal insecurities? Who can give us something to live for and believe in?

These are the questions of anyone who subscribes to any ideology. They fear and tremble before a universe that doesn’t make much sense, so they lean on God, or a system of thought that speaks to their questions. They see something that makes sense and offers answers.

It’s with this in mind that I watched a documentary entitled “Jonestown: Paradise Lost”. John Milton in his poem “Paradise Lost” of course intended through his work to “justify the ways of God to men,” precisely the aim Jim Jones had in founding the People’s Temple. His was a Socialist doctrine that preached interracial unity and acceptance, social service, and the establishment of a better world through acts of Christian mercy and charity. The religious attached themselves because it offered a way to implement the Kingdom of God on Earth. Members of the ’60s diaspora signed on because it jibed with their desire for cooperation and vision of a better world. One can say that the Jones cult was founded on naught but pristine intentions.

It ended in November 1978 with the deaths of 908 Temple members in their forest compound in Guyana. A third of those dead were children. A surviving ex-member who was interviewed in the documentary asserted perceptively that those people did not, as was reported, commit suicide. They were murdered. Jim Jones, their leader, killed them.

In 1917, a faith in many ways similar overtook Russia. Not God but the proletariat they believed in. Communism was to sweep over the world and institute a worldwide collective worker’s commonwealth where none would go needy. Seventy years and some one hundred million deaths later, that system built on dreams, fueled on blood, also failed. Communists still exist today, but if you ask them why the Soviet Union fell they will tell you anything but the obvious. They will tell you it didn’t fail, actually, and that “Communism isn’t dead. In the late 80s and early 90s, many countries that were socialist fell due to a combination of forces including capitalist economic pressure, popular unrest, mistakes and shortcomings”, as the website for the Communist Party of the USA offers. It fell, then, because of human error, not because Communism couldn’t meet the needs of the people or because it is an inherently authoritarian system given to brutality and systematic exploitation in a manner capitalism at its ugliest could never dream of. The Kronstadt sailors, the Hungarian revolutionists, Solidarnosc, those were all anomalies, the Communists will have you believe. They’ll tell you that Soviet Communism wasn’t “real” Communism, that if we give the dictatorship of the proletariat a second chance we’ll see that it works.

They’ll tell you the same thing Jim Jones would tell you if he were alive today. Don’t trust your answers, trust my answers. Adopt these premises and you’ll see that our viewpoint is the valid one. All of this is antithetical to that final most precious of human freedoms; the freedom to think as you will.

When you cede your decision-making power on one issue, more often then not you will again on many others. It’s human to seek power, and if someone gets in your head once, they want in the next time, and again after that, until you’re theirs. All argument, in a sense, is fascistic. It attempts to dissuade you from your independently arrived-at opinion and to adopt another, better one. Look: I’m doing it right now!

The Lyndon LaRouche movement, the Catholic Church, neo-Nazi skinheads, the Democratic and Republican parties and al-Qaeda themselves are all alike in this. They’re not interested in garnering your support on one issue and then leaving you be to decide the others on your own time. No. They want to impress their analysis on you, to get you to wear their worldview on your sleeve, to make you a true believer and recruit others. This is the wheel of history.

No one can decide for you. You can, of course, decide not to decide. Do as you will.

About the Contributor
Dan Roche served as opinions editor for The Mass Media the following years: 2006-2007; 2007-2008; 2008-2009