November 29, 2003
Why I Hate Time
Every once in a while a Time magazine seduces me into picking it up and learning all over again why I loathe it so much. I would never buy a Time magazine, but somehow they seem to slither their way up to me and put themselves in my reach anyway, in spite of my distaste for them. Time gives away free subscriptions through various promotional devices, and I have in the past fallen for the deception that I was getting something for nothing. Then gradually I realized that Time doesn’t care about the money it makes from you buying it. The magazine is not the product. You are. Time is selling "consumers" to its advertisers. The purpose of Time magazine is not to entertain you, or inform you, it’s to indoctrinate you.
They will give you the copy. They get it into your hands any way they can. If it’s not through a free subscription, it’s on an airline, or in a doctor’s waiting room. They get them out there anyway they can. The money they make is from their advertisers not their readers. The higher the circulation rate, the more they can sell advertising for.
Beyond the individual products that are being pushed on you through its pages, it is also selling you a world view that supports all the products together, the culture of consumerism, and the corporate empire of the world. So everything you read in Time -- what you consider the editorial content, but which is really only the gray matter between the ads – is designed to reinforce the underlying values of that cultural system.
I have been brought to nausea by the magazine enough times to know better than to think it is going to one day give me something of real value when I open it. But sometimes I am nevertheless seduced to pick it up. Today I saw one on the back of a toilet and I picked it up. The cover story was "Where the Jobs Are". I thought, how bad can they screw that up? A little service journalism, maybe they have had some low-level editor scan some employment statistics and sum them up in a table that may give me a hint where I may look for employment if I find myself on the street without a job, which is a daily threat in Bush’s America.
So I pick it up and start leafing through it. I come to an article, one of the editorial pieces they mount on the page in Time’s most regal way, indicating that it’s an essay, an opinion piece, a think piece. Involuntarily my eye begins to scan the words and I find myself reading the first paragraph.
The title is "It’s Time for Extreme Peacekeeping." That sounds pretty good. The author is Joe Klein, a name I vaguely recall as having disgusted me in the past, but I am willing to give it another look. It begins, “On the day before the 2000 presidential election George W. Bush launched a final attack on Al Gore. ‘I’m worried about an opponent who uses nation building and the military in the same sentence,’ he said. This was, you may recall, a signature Bush theme. Nation building was for wussy foreign-policy sociologists; the military’s job was to 'fight and win' wars. How ironic that the good news from Iraq the Bush Administration has been touting is almost entirely due to the excellent nation-building efforts of the U.S. military.”
I see this and I am drawn in. Here someone is calling George on one of his many campaign deceptions. With this writer recalling the pre-election Bush and perhaps drawing attention to how he misrepresented himself during the campaign, I am seduced. I move on to paragraph two.
There the article changes tone, reverses itself, and goes into its genuflecting tone, demonstrating how you The Reader are supposed to think. Paragraph Two begins, “In fairness to the President, everything – especially the role of the military – changed after Sept. 11, 2001. We may now be at the beginning of a protracted global contest against Islamic radicalism, a conflict that will require more subtlety and sophistication than the planning for the occupation of Iraq.” Then it goes on to draw parallels with John F. Kennedy, a favorite trick of the Bush propagandists, and by then I am sick to my stomach.
In two paragraphs this hideous article has shown me everything I detest about Time -- and AOL and Fox and all the crappy corporate media. Its art is to draw you in by suggesting a legitimate complaint about the Bush fascists -- in this case it's about how Bush tells appealing lies and then does whatever he wanted to do in the first place even though it completely contradicts the lies he used to win you over -- it leads you to the edge of it, then it dashes the idea and rushes to the idea it wants you to think, an idea which conforms to what the corporate state wants you to believe so you won’t cause trouble and get out of line.
It raises an outrage that is boiling over in the culture, threatening to disrupt things, then destroys it. It zeros in on problem areas revealed by polling and market research to attract those who may be thinking about those problems, then uses a logical device designed to cause you to abandon the complaint, or the suspicion, and to go back to a state of quiet obedience and belief in Our Leader.
It deceives you into thinking it is really going to examine the argument. But after raising the idea, it quickly transmutes it into an idea that is acceptable to the corporate value system. And if you aren’t very careful and disciplined in thinking, you may be driven along with it to the conclusion it wants you to draw.
After stating the argument against Bush’s absurd “nation building” in Iraq (a euphemism if there ever was one), in Paragraph Two it stops, turns around, and backtracks, takes you back to conformity to the conventions of obedience to corporate culture. It takes you from the independent idea, the position produced by critical thinking of the administration back to acquiescence. And it does it in many ways, on many layers of meaning.
The phrase “In fairness to the President” in itself packs a lot of baggage. “In fairness” sets up the assumption that what was stated in the first paragraph was not really fair. Calling Bush “the President” --and capitalizing it – also carries a lot of meaning. I agree with the capitalization of the title “president” when it is used as a proper name. It was the accepted usage until Nixon, who so disgraced the office that the custom dropped out of favor. Most publications stopped doing it around then. Today “the president” is usually lower case, as though it were referring to a type of person, or vocation, like “the dentist”. As a proper noun it is capitalized and used in place of the name of that person who holds that particular office. “The President” takes the place of “Mr. Lincoln”, for example.
I think “the President” is more accurate grammatically than “the president” when you mean to refer to a specific person using the title as a proper noun. But only if he is really the president. In the case of Bush, he’s a fraud who seized power by subverting the democratic process. So it’s inaccurate. And using the capitalized form, which is the exception these days, shows that you buy into the lie of Bush’s legitimacy, which I don’t. Here the writer has shown us a lot already about his own point of view.
Then he says that the world changed September 11, 2001. In some ways the world changed that day, in some it didn’t. But used in this way it is clear that the writer is buying into the Bush explanation for how the world changed that day, in such a way as to give Bush unchecked power. In the next sentence, Klein names it more specifically, saying “We may now be at the beginning of a protracted global contest against Islamic radicalism, a conflict that will require more subtlety and sophistication than the planning for the occupation of Iraq.” This is obviously the neo-con vision. This is what they want me to believe.
Who are “we” in this sentence? That is one presumption that always causes me to stop and ask, who are we talking about? If “we” are involved in a global war against a religious faction, does that mean “we” are going to go fight in wars? Or does that mean “you” or Bush and his cronies are going to sit back and live high on the hog while they send others off to die for their great cause?
I don’t accept Bush’s legitimacy as president, nor the legitimacy of his invasion of Iraq on false pretenses. I don’t accept his conclusions about 911, and furthermore don’t believe he has the right to draw any inferences about it since he has been the main obstacle to finding the truth about what happened that day.
I don’t believe that “we” are involved in a “protracted global contest against Islamic radicalism” and I don’t trust anyone who states it as an unquestionable axiom without even recognizing an obligation to establish to me why he thinks that is a believable proposition. In fact I believe that Bush and anyone else who tries to frame the current problems in that way is manipulating me and lying to me.
Time magazine doesn’t tell you anything about what is really happening. Its reason for existing is to obscure the truth about what is really happening.
The cover story on jobs – don’t expect it to really tell you anything about jobs that you don’t already know. There aren’t any jobs. People who are losing their jobs may be starting their own businesses, they may be going into healthcare, because there are never enough people in healthcare. It does not help you find areas where there are opportunities, except for the obvious. There will always be a need for nurses and doctors. It doesn't give away any secrets.
It blurs over the catastrophic economic conditions Bush’s policies have created, and reports it as if it is just a routine business cycle and everything will be back to normal pretty soon. Go back to sleep. Unfortunately the damage Bush and company are doing will not be reversed by the mere swing of a business cycle. This damage runs deep. Social Security and Medicare, for example, are almost on the trash heap already. Tough times are coming.
On the cover of the Dec. 1 issue of Time there is a picture of Bush with a black eye painted on one eye and a lipstick imprint on the other cheek. It says "Love Him! Hate Him! Why George Bush arouses such passion, and what it means for the country." Again they try to present it in conventional terms, as if it’s just a conventional Republicans-versus-Democrats good-natured competition in the traditional political game. But it’s not. What is going on is unprecedented, and what proceeds from it will be unprecedented.
The corporate powers that are represented by both Bush and Time magazine, want to dethrone constitutional democracy and install a corporate dictatorship. The battle that is raging is not just Republicans against Democrats within the traditional American political spectrum. It is a corporate state trying to usurp supreme power, as in a fascist state. It is a free society against totalitarian government, and Bush, for all his babbling about "democracy" is the major force in the world against it.
So for Time to report current events as "business as usual" is a deception, and on some level I think, a conscious, knowing deception. What is happening now is not conventional, not traditional American, and if Time succeeds in putting you to sleep, it will happen under your nose and you will not even know what hit you.
That’s why I hate Time.