Bill Moyers interviewed Marty Kaplan who heads the Norman Lear Center at the University of Southern California on how the choice of media stories helps keep Americans politically somnambulant. While the role of propaganda and the shaping of mass culture clearly plays a big factor in Americans’ learned helplessness, it’s important also to recognize that there are other factors at play.
The first obstacle is that mass protests don’t have strong roots here. They are the province of the disenfranchised and/or the young, and the current generation of young has been bred to be conformist (a generation plus of overly attentive parenting being the norm) plus the one-two punch of a lousy job market plus debt slavery (even the kids who have gumption know how much an arrest will hurt their job prospects). But the second is the way Americans have had the right to assembly neutralized. Look at the way peaceful protestors are routinely roughed up and jailed. And large scale demonstrations are simply stymied. More than a decade ago, on the eve of the Gulf War (and in freezing weather) hundreds of thousands attempted to join protests in NYC at UN Plaza. But the police had cordoned off Manhattan at Second Avenue and used men, dogs, and horses to shunt demonstrators up to Harlem. So the crowd that actually was able to get to the official location was deceptively small-looking, suiting the official narrative that not many people in the US were opposed to an invasion.