Tuesday, January 26, 2010

That Sound is Eisenhower Rolling Over In His Grave

Another interesting bit of collateral damage the recent SCOTUS decision allowing corporations to directly influence elections may only be immediately evident to those of us who live in the Washington Metropolitan Area. From my vantage point inside the Beltway, I see things that most Americans don't get to see.

By "things," I mean advertising. By advertising, I mean the aggressive but very localized ad campaigns run by defense contractors to influence the decisionmaking of military bureaucracy and your elected leaders.

I've blogged on this before. In no other city in the nation do you see advertisements touting the effectiveness of ships and tanks and weapons systems. Full page color ads in the Post and the Times. Tightly produced radio spots on the number-one rated station in the area. Posters with patriotic slogans, flags, eagles, and weapons systems festoon the walls in our Metro subway system, particularly at the Pentagon and Pentagon City stations.

These are not ads for you and me, because we don't tend to purchase fighter aircraft, no matter how much our 9 year old son might beg and plead. We don't buy military transports, or missile defense systems, or destroyers. But these products are all advertised inside the Beltway, by major corporations that produce systems that are only bought with our tax dollars. General Dynamics and Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman exist in their current form not to provide products for individual citizens, but for consumption by the federal government. Their considerable profits are dependent on the largesse of Washington.

Now, lets for a moment imagine that a United States senator feels that a particular weapons system...say, the engine for the Joint Strike Fighter that the military doesn't want but that we're making anyway...should be canceled. The corporations whose profits are dependent on We The People buying this weapon already have a substantial advertising budget. What do you suppose the odds are that when this senator comes up for re-election that instead of just ads inside the Beltway, we might now see some attack ads running in this senator's home state? Or some juicy gotcha clips that seem to imply that said senator has a prurient interest in livestock? Or worse yet, that they Don't Support Our Troops (tm)? The self-dealing manipulation of the electoral process by corporations who need compliant senators and representatives is now perfectly acceptable. It's always been there, of course. Money has been funneled to oppo researchers and into the coffers of political action committees. But now it can operate unfettered in the light of day.

Looks like the military-industrial complex is going to be adding a marketing department.

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