Mudcat Café message #1405433 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #62901   Message #1405433
Posted By: Amos
11-Feb-05 - 12:05 AM
Thread Name: BS: Popular Views of the Bush Administration
Subject: RE: BS: Popular Views of the Bush Administration


If the children are the future, we're screwed.

By Alexander Zaitchik


Last week was a busy one on the creeping-fascism index. So busy, in fact, that I finally accepted there is even such a thing as a creeping-fascism index.

Over the past few years, I've held fast to a belief that America is too sprawling, too diverse and too fundamentally committed to its Constitution to ever change its flag to red, white and black. Now I'm not so sure. It wasn't a delayed reaction to the Patriot Act, Guantanamo, Iraq or the confirmation of torture hombre Alberto Gonzalez that did it, but a modest blip on the post-9/11 radar: a poll finding that a third of high school students think the First Amendment "goes too far."

At least that's what they think of the First Amendment once it's explained to them. After interviewing 100,000 teens in the largest study of its kind, the John S. and James C. Knight Foundation reports fast shrinking respect for bedrock constitutional freedoms of speech, press and assembly. Among the findings widely commented on last week—but not widely enough—only 51 percent said newspapers should be allowed to publish content without state approval. Three-quarters actually thought flag burning was illegal—and didn't care—while almost one-fifth said Americans should not be allowed to express unpopular views.

News of the poll triggered a few easy comparisons to the fear-driven conformity of the early Cold War. But that analogy is wishful thinking. Even at its worst, the paranoid patriotism of the 1950s existed uneasily alongside a respect for and knowledge of American history and the Constitution. Even as critics were stripped of their passports and driven out of the academy and Hollywood, and even as the CIA subverted popularly elected governments abroad, in U.S. high schools one of the most frequently assigned books was Howard Fast's Citizen Tom Paine. However airbrushed that era's celebratory view of America's past, kids still had a sense of that past as something to honor, if only in theory. However dramatically the country deviated from its stated ideals, the baseline culture still instilled a reverence for the founding fathers and the Bill of Rights. Every teenager at least knew what those things were.

What we have now is the worst elements of the 1950s without the literacy and understanding of the American creed that made possible the corrective revolts of the 1960s. Last week's Knight poll is an ominous sign of more than just another paranoid burst of American politics, one that will flame out or be eclipsed by some inevitable Aquarian renewal. It is a glimpse into the brain of the first videogame generation to come of age during the war on terror. Post-9/11 political culture plus ADD equals those poll results. There is no good reason to expect the trend to reverse on its own.