the citizen has become a pawn in a high-stakes game of political maneuvering that has morphed from the competitiveness and rhetorical give-and-take of 40-plus years ago, to something more closely resembling combat, with countless new and old deceptive strategies continually being auditioned and evaluated for their mass appeal. Elections 1952 and 2012 are rather like the difference between the classic 1980s video game, “Pac-Man,” and later concoctions such as “Grand Theft Auto.” The old classic was challenging entertainment; the new renditions incorporate intimidation and are wholly calculated to make the players (as well as any onlookers) uncomfortable.
Pick any issue of political significance—education, for example—and you will find yourself awash in a high-stress, depersonalized battle. But it will be one that you, the ordinary “player,” have virtually no chance of influencing one way or the other.
Meanwhile, the ever-expanding civil-service “machine” churns out a familiar hodgepodge of rules, regulations and controls, zealously guarding old turf, while greedily appending new offices, bureaus and directorates.
Consequently, today’s political contests bear no resemblance to the post World Wars I and II eras. Rather, there exists a calculated effort, by all sorts of demagogues, to sow dissention—to alienate, demoralize and, if possible, neutralize entire potential pools of voters, with all the negative energy such a scheme entails: coercion, ostracism, intimidation, loss of status or job, and outright censorship. In this scenario, the agenda becomes all-important; the individual recedes into expendability.
This book was initially conceived as a response to readers’ requests for help in communicating effectively with local, state and federal representatives on complex issues. Concerns like national health care, the budget, energy policy, educational standards, foreign wars and job creation all have many aspects. Unfortunately, they are awash in the nuanced language of attorneys, politicians and special interests. This makes it not only difficult for the layperson to comprehend the subject at hand, but to link it to other, tangential topics that necessarily affect discussion.
Efforts to contact representatives for a one-on-one conversation are roundly discouraged, save for exceptionally wealthy individuals—and then only because such persons might be cajoled into donating tens of thousands of dollars. Anyone not belonging to that category can expect to encounter a phalanx of screening mechanisms—receptionists, “executive” assistants, aides, and “contact me” forms on websites that require some 30-minutes’ worth of menu options and mandatory inputs aimed more at identifying new campaign contributors than ascertaining constituent viewpoints. The “comments” box is calculated to discourage the addition of explanatory remarks and, in any case, the message is reviewed by someone other than the intended recipient, and only rarely is it passed along.
Today’s political leaders are quite satisfied with this process. They are not keen on engaging in a logic-laden exchange of ideas with those they pretend to serve—that is to say, average voters. While their minions tweet, dig up dirt on opponents for ad campaigns and help political marketing firms set up irritating robo-calls, legislators themselves are busy consulting with their speechwriters and practicing brief position statements that will sound good on the stump and in televised pseudo-debates. Such debates are typically moderated by TV commentators or newscasters—most of whom are more concerned with their own celebrity than eliciting the views of office-seekers.
Recognition of this sad state of affairs led to a re-examination of this book’s purpose. In struggling to simplify concerns such as health care options, foreign policy, environmentalism and education, so that typical taxpayers could communicate knowledgeably with elected representatives and local authorities, it became increasingly apparent that the voting public is being “played.”
From Agenda Games, expected release: August 2012
April 11, 2012 on CBS‘ “60 Minutes”: “Is Sugar Toxic?” In the segment, Dr. Sanjay Gupta interviewed Dr. Robert Lustig, a pediatric endocrinologist, who insists that once the fat was taken out, most foods tasted so bad that “the food industry replaced it with sugar.”
Mr. Bacon offered three fairly on-target predictions, not so much about the harmful effects of sugar—which he took with a grain of, um, salt. (After all, school children’s breakfast diets from the early 1900s through the 1950s were the equivalent of Frosted Flakes. Or, if mom was a stickler for complete breakfasts, she might have presented her loved ones with cholesterol-laden eggs, sausage or bacon, grits, hash brown potatoes, and maybe a stack of pancakes drowned in syrup. But guess what? Her children not only thrived, but were more polite in class, didn’t swing from the lampposts, or need to be constantly reminded to concentrate and pay attention. That only started happening in the post-war years—the Boomer generation.)
Whether the government chooses to fixate on sugar, trans-fats, obesity, substance-abuse, contraceptives, health -insurance mandates, Medicare, mental-health screening, the mom-packed lunch sack, or outright denial of treatment, we see the same agenda game at work: health in the service of bigger, more intrusive, government.