Robert Stein 1924-2014

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Tuesday, October 08, 2013

The Shutdown's Stockholm Syndrome

In 1973, employees held hostage for six days in a Swedish bank vault refused police help and emerged to defend their captors. Such bonding between captives and their takers became known as the Stockholm Syndrome, and there as signs that Americans are succumbing to it now.

A new CNN poll shows 63 percent angry at Republicans for the government shutdown, but 57 percent are also angry with Democrats and 53 percent with President Obama as well.

Is insanity contagious or is there another explanation? In the 24/7 news cycle, a simple truth is not enough for the voracious media maw: The fact that Tea Party fanatics in the House, spurred on by Ted Cruz, are holding the nation hostage to their irrational rage is just not enough to feed the beast.

In a welter of truths, half-truths and lies being spread as the shutdown clock clicks on, all kinds of rationalizations take root about the motives of the captors and their cause. In this steamy atmosphere of tracking their tactics, the simple truth is easily lost.

It doesn’t help that the President has stepped back, allowing hoof-in-mouth HarryReid to do the talking. Railing at House conservatives as “anarchists” with a “Banana Republican mindset,” the Senate Majority Leader betrays his early days as a boxer not gifted at gab. Trotted out for TV cameras, he comes off less as a pitiful prisoner of the shutdown than someone you would cheerfully pay ransom to shut up.

When Barack Obama went to Oslo in 2009 to accept his Nobel Peace Prize, could he possibly have imagined that four years later his presidency would be defined by an irrational syndrome named for neighboring Stockholm?

If this doesn’t end soon, we’ll all be rattling our chains, ready for the loony bin.


(O)CT(O)PUS said...

Carl Bernstein Slams Media Coverage of the Shutdown:

Longtime journalist Carl Bernstein on Tuesday called on the press to abandon the false equivalence that's colored much of the coverage of the government shutdown …

"This is about the Republican Party and what it's going to be," Bernstein said. "Is it going to conduct a fact-based, philosophical argument in our political system or is it going to be nihilistic, hateful, asymmetrical in terms of facts and the truth part of the party, as in Joe McCarthy?"

"It's about truth. It's about fact. It's about a wing in [the GOP] that has no interest in truth or governing or fact and it's bringing the country down," he continued.

(O)CT(O)PUS said...

Everyone knows that in a hostage situation, the reckless and amoral actor has the negotiating upper hand over the cautious and responsible actor because the latter is actually concerned about the life of the hostage, while the former does not care” (Mike Lofgren).

Indeed, I am livid over hostage taking, over secession by legislative insurrection, and the sabotage of our democracy. I also believe Obama should be given credit for at least caring about the life of the hostage by trying to avoid a disastrous debt default.

Other quick thoughts: The GOP knows that changing demographics no longer favor their long-term election prospects, and their actions smack of desperation in the face of a power shift.

Historically, the GOP has tended to be monolithic and unified, whereas the progressive side has lost far too many battles and elections due to fragmentation and staying away from the polls. Instead of hand wringing, we should call our representatives, write letters, put up a unified front, and take this fight to the streets if necessary.