MASSACHUSETTS (Elizabeth R. Anderson) May 29, 2001 - While I agree with James Higdon that the coup was made possible by the corporatization of the mainstream media, (in the same way Sesame Street is made possible by a grant from the So-and-so Foundation), I disagree with his proposal that this makes the coup just another bunny to chase.
The coup is not a bunny.
The coup is a big stinking pile of elephant dung.
Bear with me, this metaphor is not just an excuse for scatological humor at the expense of the Republican Party. Rather, it reflects the fact that the coup provided us with egregious and incontrovertible evidence that the mainstream media are, at the very least, shirking their duties. It isn't a bunny, but the event that spurs many of us to take a closer look at the bunny keepers, and those calling the bunny chase.
Let's say the perpetrators of the coup are, collectively, an elephant. Their actions, from the ChoicePoint removal of voters from voter rolls to the stopping of hand counts, amount to a rampage by an escaped elephant in a zoo. (The zoo is our democracy and election system, if you're keeping track.) This elephant crushed fences, trampled vegetation, obliterated masonry, and left a big ole elephant turd by the stately fountain near the north fence. It was neither subtle nor politic, and should have caused mass outrage. Preventing this were the media, the zookeepers, who have steadfastly denied that any such rampage had taken place. Or claimed that we can't know it was an elephant who made the mess, despite the, er, distinctive nature of elephant droppings.
We, the non-mainstream-media ordinary citizens, are the people of the city where this zoo is. Some of us, hearing rumors that the elephant had gone berserk, found other sources who had seen the damage; we found out what was really going on. We've tried to tell other people about the mad elephant's night of destruction, but many people believed the statements
of the zookeepers, because they are servants of the public, and why would they lie? Some people are busy, and aren't interested in a trip to the zoo, or don't have the resources to find an accurate report. Still others view us with suspicion because we were never the biggest fans of elephants anyway. That's not the point, we say, even elephant lovers can't approve of one running amok. They say, you're just mad that the zookeepers did a five year study of the mating habits of a male burro. Who cares if the burro wasn't monogamous, we fume, his eye for the mares never hurt anyone! And he never left a big stinking pile of shit by the fountain! Elephant shit doesn't smell, they sniff.
Still with me?
Mind you, we zoo junkies aren't the only ones who knew about the destruction. Zookeepers from abroad heard of the incident, and came to see for themselves. Ay, they said, that's a big stinking pile of elephant crap right there. They went home and told their countrypersons about it, who believed that the elephant would be forced to leave the zoo in disgrace. But since the local townspeople are kept in the dark by the zookeepers, that isn't about to happen.
This all leads the aware citizen to question: what the hell's in it for the zookeepers? Why do they nonchalantly push leaves towards the dung to cover it, or enthuse about the purported non-insanity of the elephant? Don't they care that this destruction has gone on? Don't they care that it could happen again?
The likely answer is that some of the zookeepers might care individually, but collectively most of them have other concerns that take precedence. The zookeepers are employees of the Board of Directors of the zoo, who subtly and not-so-subtly guide what they can say. They can criticize the elephant, but the rampage itself is off limits, either to investigate or to talk about. If they won't be guided, they aren't promoted; in some cases, they are even fired. Some of them are as much in the dark about the event as the general public, and some prefer to be so. The Directors, meanwhile, are most concerned with money, and they know that elephants are a big draw in terms of sponsorship and zoo attendance, more so than even the most popular burros. Some of them are staunch elephant supporters, who despise the burros. Furthermore, they fear that an admission of the damage done, of the continuing presence of this dangerous but lucrative animal, could cause people to start questioning the actions of the zookeepers and the very nature and structure of the zoo. Knowing their actions would not hold up under scrutiny, they bluster loudly that all is well.
Of course, this conceit falls apart if taken too far. For one thing, if Democrats were burros and Republicans were elephants, ordinary people would also be either burros or elephants, or other assorted animals, (methinks some of the media might be howler monkeys), who could join the zoo. For another, democracy is not a place, and a desecration of it is not as malodorous or immediately apparent as elephant dung. Obviously, too, a critical injury to our democracy is more important than corruption at a local zoo. And yet, many people treat democracy as a place to be visited every two or four years, if they have time, if there's anything good to see there. As time, weather, and covert clean-up operations remove the evidence, it's not always easy to convince people to care. Too many people don't even know that we let the zookeepers, and the elephant, get away with mayhem.
But those of us who do know what happened, now know better than to trust either the elephant or the zookeepers.
© Elizabeth R. Albertson