The Big Focus Group
by Rip Rense
Feb. 19, 2003
Focus groups, eh?
Demeaning the protestors as "focus groups." Hmm. . .pretty good, Mr. President.
Who came up with that one, Karl Rove? Sure to play well with the Limbaugh/O'Reilly/Savage
audience, and loathers of the corporatocracy. (Yes, I just made that word up.) Funny
thing is---you are the corporatocracy, Mr. President, but that's beside the
Focus groups. . .Twelve million people take to
the streets to denounce a war that is not yet happening---imagine that!---and you, Mr. P.,
liken it to "focus groups." Nothing condescending about that! Nothing remotely.
(SEE THE BIG FOCUS GROUP HERE. )
Focus groups, I believe, tend
to be little klatches of ineffectual corporate martinets who get together and make lots of
ineffectual little corporate chatter in order that their bosses can make lots of
ineffectual little corporate decisions.
I think that twelve million angry people
in every civilized country in the world---and some not so civilized---taking to the
streets to protest a war is a bit different, Mr. P.
(Although they certainly were focused!)
Of course, you also said the protesters do not
believe Saddam Hussein is a threat. This is your little ruse. It's a question of degree,
as you well know. The protesters---this one included---think your policies are a greater
threat to world peace than Saddam, Mr. P. The protesters---this one included---believe you
are embarked on a quasi-religious hegemonic effort to push the rest of the world around,
and tell it what to do.
After all, isn't that what Global
Pax Americana calls for? Breaking treaties, greasing the way for corporate
profiteering, threatening "rogue nations" with nuclear missiles, breaking old
alliances, sneering at the United Nations. Heck, as Condoleezza Rice said shortly after
you took office, Mr. P., the United States can't go around apologizing for itself any
(After your term in office is up, I wonder if
the USofA will be able to do enough apologizing.)
You see, Mr. P., the protesters were not
just disagreeing with you on the degree of threat posed by Saddam. They were really
railing against all of your policies---all your secret executive orders to eliminate
environmental laws, all the terrifying nuclear saber-rattling and efforts to build
"usable" nuclear weapons, all the lies about how this coming war is to liberate
the Iraqi people, how it has nothing to do with oil, how Saddam and Osama are golfing
partners. . .
Naturally, you said over and over that
you "respectfully" disagree with the protesters, but I don't think you were
really being respectful. I think if you had any respect for them at all, you would
not make snide "focus group" remarks, and tell lies about how the protesters
don't consider Saddam a threat.
I don't find that respectful, but I can't blame
you, Mr. P., as the protesters don't respect you, either.
It occurs to me, though, that you might be
missing the whole point about the focus group idea. What was it you said? That you can't
base government policy on focus groups? (Yes, I got your not-so-sly dig at the
focus-group-happy Clinton administration.) Well, let's examine this. . .
Corporations often base their
policies on focus group discussions, right? And lots and lots of people, including that
heroic journalist Bill Moyers, have remarked how you run your government very much like a
corporation---keeping a tight reign on employees and information, playing fast-and-loose
with figures, running up Alice-in-Wonderland deficits. . .
On top of that, you and your family are corporate
folk from way back, having headed various enormous oil and energy enterprises through
the years. Same for Dick Cheney. Same for, well, a whole bunch of people in your
administration. . .
All corporate folk!
So how do modern corporate folk make decisions?
(All together now. . .)
Right, Mr. P., so why not take a
hint from the biggest focus group ever assembled, roughly twelve million strong,
stretching from Melbourne to Knoxville, from London to Hong Kong.
It strongly recommends against your policies.
Of course, you say you're a "leader,"
as you said all through your campaign, over and over and over again, like a wind-up toy.
And that "leaders" make the hard decisions in favor of the national security. In
other words, you don't need a focus group, because you're a "leader." (Well, you
were a cheerleader once, I'll grant you that. Rah.)
By my definition of leader, though, you should
be uniting the world against terrorism, instead of dividing it over terrorism. You should
be uniting the country and the world in support of protecting the environment, instead of
dividing it over promotion of corporate profit at the expense of the environment. Most of
all, you should be inspiring comfort and bravery among your people, if not all peoples,
instead of relentlessly rasping the rhetoric of fear, fear, fear. Really, that
duct tape and three-day food supply was, well, Bush League stuff. You just scared the
bejeezus out of everyone, Mr. P., whatever a "bejeezus" is.
I mean, a friend wrote to me
that her son kept tearfully asking if Osama was going to kill his mommy and daddy, and why
you couldn't do anything about it. Oh, check that---I think the kid was asking if Saddam
was going to kill mommy and daddy. Forgive me, but it's hard to keep straight which is the
bigger boogieman, Mr. P.; which is your favorite terrorist flavor of the month.
I guess I thought that was just terrible. That
a little kid was exhorting his mother to get some duct tape because you, a leader, could
not inspire some comfort in the population.
But then, I don't think that's your goal. I
think you are deliberately whipping up lots of fear and paranoia in order to get the
country behind stealing Iraq. And then, perhaps, as undersecetary of state John Bolton
just said, moving on to Syria, Iran, and North Korea, rolling out the big American
Destructo Machine for good old red-white-and-blue ideals. Or at least, what you would like
to pass off as red-white-and-blue ideals. You know, like secret arrests and arbitrarily
stripping citizenship, as you are proposing in Patriot Act II.
So you go on ahead and trivialize
the Big Focus Group all you like. That's your prerogative, as long as you hold
office---which, unless you declare martial law and suspend the Constitution, won't be past
At least that's what the Big Focus Group tells me.
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