Friday, July 13, 2012

Pretty Hate Machine (Full Version)

I hope I am not dating myself too badly by using this reference, but the other day I was thinking as I often do about the deplorable level of public discourse in America when a phrase suddenly flashed into my consciousness like a branding iron searing the hide of prized steer: Pretty Hate Machine. With all apologies to Trent Reznor for borrowing the title of his debut Nine Inch Nails album, it’s a pretty good metaphor for the ugly mood prevalent among the citizenry of an empire that has now begun its terminal decline.

The cause of this epiphany was the latest media attack against Sandra Fluke, the earnest young law student who had the temerity to appear before a Congress that is rapidly losing its sanity and speak a few truths about the importance of birth control to the health and well being of young women in our society. The controversy caused afterward when drug addled old cretin Rush Limbaugh repeatedly called Fluke a “slut” and a “prostitute” on the air had finally died down when Fox News host Monica Crowley stirred it up again by making a blatantly homophobic tweet joking about the innocuous announcement that Fluke had become engaged to be married.

There was a quaint time just a couple of decades ago when such hateful “humor” was confined the to the radio broadcasts of Limbaugh and a handful of other extreme right wing shouters. As Crowley’s attack on Fluke demonstrates, however, such venomous attacks have now become mainstream. Crowley knows well her troglodyte audience, and she recognized that insinuating Fluke is a lesbian would titillate them and enflame their hatred. For Crowley, the boost in ratings and audience popularity was worth far more than any momentary discomfort she may have felt when she subsequently had to issue her lame “apology” to Fluke.

Make no mistake—the ugliness of the vitriol directed at Fluke also carries with it a not-so-subtle message. Namely, if you are an average citizen who is thinking of standing up in a public forum to object to one of the many great injustices currently being perpetrated in this country, you should expect to be attacked by the army of denizens who make up the Pretty Hate Machine. They will relentlessly scrutinize every detail of your life that they can dig up. Anything that can be used to embarrass you in the media or serve as a distraction to help discredit your message will be amplified and magnified repeatedly until millions of your fellow citizens begin spitting in venomous anger at the very mention of your name. Their hatred toward you will burn white hot even though they have never met you nor know anything about you other than what their preferred demagogue tells them.

The attacks will not even stop upon your death, especially if those who run the machine consider your demise to be politically inexpedient to their agenda. Poor Trayvon Martin’s body had barely cooled off after George Zimmerman shot him before the Pretty Hate Machine was already gearing up the attacks as if he and not Zimmerman had been the one carrying the gun that fateful night. Thus a teenage kid walking alone bearing nothing more threatening to life and limb than a bottle of Snapple and a pack of Skittles was transformed for millions of fearful white Americans into a marauding thug and gangbanger who would no doubt have broken into every home in the neighborhood, raped all of the white women and stolen their jewelry and valuables had “heroic” George Zimmerman not stopped him with that bullet just in a nick of time.

The awful absurdity of this right wing media attack upon the victim reached a crescendo when sleazeball extraordinaire Geraldo Rivera basically insinuated that Martin was asking to be shot because he was wearing a hoodie, conveniently forgetting that there were photographs on the Internet of Rivera himself donning that very same article of clothing. Rivera, too, later said he was sorry for his remarks, but in this context the apology is all but irrelevant once the intended damage has been inflicted.

Truth be damned, the Pretty Hate Machine must be fed—and in the case of Trayvon Martin it has done its job very well. Enough of the public has been whipped into a froth at the very thought of Zimmerman even being arrested and forced to account for his crime that there is now no realistic chance that, for example, Florida’s insane “Stand Your Ground” gun law will ever be repealed. The attacks on the unfortunate Martin have worked so well in whipping up anger and hatred in a certain segment of the population that they even caused a Miami Fire Department official named Brian Beckmann to post the following message on his Facebook page:
“Listening to Prosecutor Corey blow herself and her staff for five minutes before pre-passing judgment on George Zimmerman. The state seeks reelection again, truth aside. I and my coworkers could rewrite the book on whether our urban youths are victims of racist profiling or products of their failed, shitbag, ignorant, pathetic, welfare dependent excuses for parents, but like Mrs. Corey, we speak only the truth. They’re just misunderstood little church going angels and the ghetto hoodie look doesn’t have anything to do with why people wonder if they’re about to get jacked by a thug.”
Keep in mind that in addition to the fact that neither of Martin’s parents have ever been on welfare, those ugly words were not written by some dropout loser Ku Klux Klan member living in a backwoods trailer, but by a member of middle class working in a profession which presumably brings him into daily contact with blacks and other minorities. The hatred whipped up by the Martin case also appears to have had a reverse effect, as evidenced by several racially charged attacks by blacks apparently motivated in part by all of the publicity.

Another example of just how ugly the national mood has become even when the Pretty Hate Machine is not deliberately inflaming passions came just last week during the Stanley Cup playoffs after the Washington Capitals defeated the Boston Bruins in dramatic fashion. What should have been a great sports story to help momentarily take people’s minds off of their problems was instead marred by the reaction of a large number of fans to the fact that the winning goal was scored by Joel Ward, one of the few black athletes playing in the National Hockey League. Ward’s winning shot set off of a flurry of racist Twitter messages among angry Bruins fans, including dozens that actually used the n-word to describe him. Reading through the collected list of racist tweets made my blood run cold, so virulent was the raw hatred on display. It was almost like being transported back in time to 1960s Alabama.

The underlying reason why the Pretty Hate Machine has become so powerful at this moment in our history, of course, is because of the dire financial distress being felt by so many people across the nation. Nearly four years after the crash, tens of millions continue to struggle with the after effects. Even if they still have their jobs, they have often seen their wages frozen and their benefits cut back. Many who were laid off have only managed to find lower paying positions, and employers have taken great advantage of the fear workers feel at the possibility of being the next one let go.

Additionally, millions lost their homes to foreclosure and millions more are underwater on their mortgages, and both groups are also being crushed by enormous credit card debts. Pensions are rapidly vanishing and college students are graduating into the worst job market since World War Two even as they bear the burden of huge student loan debts. Add it all up, and you have the perfect recipe for creating the kinds of stresses and insecurities that lead to so much hatred and bile being spewed forth in the public arena.

So where is this awful trend heading? Well, if you believe as I do that the financial crisis is only just beginning and will soon become a whole lot worse, then you recognize that we are getting uncomfortably close to the danger zone in which these building tensions are likely to erupt. The deteriorating economic conditions in America, made all the worse by the greed and avarice of the predatory elites who own and operate the Pretty Hate Machine, have become like a forest suffering from a prolonged summer drought—just waiting for the inevitable spark that will set off a massive conflagration.


  1. Thank you for this analysis. We may not be able to stop the hate machine, but knowing that it's there, and how it works will be important information to the millions of sensible and intelligent people who still play key roles on all levels of our society.

  2. Thanks for re-posting this boggling perspective. I read it when it first was posted, and I am even more impressed by your insight upon my second reading. Hold on to your hat!

  3. "They’re just misunderstood little church going angels and the ghetto hoodie look doesn’t have anything to do with why people wonder if they’re about to get jacked by a thug.”

    Yep, if I saw Mark Zuckerberg coming towards me in his signature hoodie... ;-)