The Universal Notebook: Baaaaaaaa, baaaaaaaa

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Back in junior high I read a book that helped shape my thinking about America: William J. Lederer’s “A Nation of Sheep” (1961).

Lederer, who with co-author Eugene Burdick had had a national bestseller in 1958 with “The Ugly American,” warned that government and the media manipulate public opinion by controlling what an ignorant, gullible and complacent American people know. In particular, Lederer wrote about the foreign policy snow job that would get America into the quagmire of the Vietnam War.

The quotation, “A nation of sheep will beget a government of wolves,” is usually attributed to newsman Edward R. Murrow. But I see now that the true source is likely French philosopher Bertrand de Jouvenel. It is impossible to know anything for certain these days.

Here, however, are a couple of things that Edward R. Murrow apparently did say. “A great many people think they are thinking when they are really rearranging their prejudices,” and “Our major obligation is not to mistake slogans for solutions.”

Sounds to me like a perfect parsing of the Trump campaign: appeal to people’s prejudices with a simplistic slogan, “Make America Great Again.”

The prejudices Trump plays on are based in white America’s fear of immigrants and poverty. A nation of sheep can easily be persuaded that Mexicans, Muslims, poor people and Black Lives Matter protestors are responsible for everything that is wrong in their lives when, in fact, Corporate America and its minions in Congress and the courts are largely to blame for their ills.

There is a line in “The Big Short” – the terrific movie based on Michael Lewis’ terrific book about how toxic mortgage-backed securities made a few people rich, a lot of people poor, and plunged the nation into recession – that distills the essence of the today’s Republican Party and how a fear-mongering charlatan like Trump became its nominee.

“I have a feeling,” says Mark Baum (the character based on money manager Steve Eisman and played by actor Steve Carell), “in a few years people are going to be doing what they always do when the economy tanks. They will be blaming immigrants and poor people.”

Wall Street investment firms, mortgage companies and big banks, unleashed like the hounds of hell by a Republican administration that failed to adequately regulate the financial industry, nearly destroyed the U.S. economy with their greed and left millions of Americans without homes or jobs or savings. But somehow it’s immigrants and welfare cheats that a nation of sheep blame for their woes.

Raise the minimum wage by a few bucks and you will destroy the economy and put people out of work. But let corporate CEOs and speculative investors make exorbitant salaries and obscene profits and, well, that’s just the free market.

Come on, America, don’t be such darn suckers. Don’t fall for the Big Right Lie.

The media, of course, is complicit in making Trump a viable candidate, because he speaks in soundbites and headlines. Lederer made me aware of this aiding and abetting of the powerful by the press in a chapter in “A Nation of Sheep” entitled “Government by Publicity.”

“Although he is dead now – and almost forgotten,” Lederer wrote, “Senator Joseph McCarthy was a master of manipulating public opinion to gain his own end – which was personal power. He effectively used headlines to frighten people, to strangle the effectiveness of officials, and to eliminate anyone who impeded his obsessions.”

Sound like anyone we know?

CNN is just as guilty as Fox News in this regard, but to anyone who believes a single word Trump shill Sean Hannity says, all I can say is “Baaaaa.”

Trump is busy these days walking back from the precipice of his extremism, trying to appeal to a few reasonable people beyond his rabid core supporters. He won’t succeed. His ideas are bogus. You can’t stop immigrants by building a wall. You can’t deport 11 million people. And you can’t Make America Great Again by appealing to its basest instincts.

Wolves like Trump and Gov. Paul LePage succeed by preying on the weak. In LePage’s case, this means pandering to prejudices against people who receive state aid and food stamps, transgender youth, drug addicts, asylum seekers, immigrants and the mentally ill.

In the way Trump has used race and nationalism to ride to the top of the GOP dog pile we are seeing just how easy it is for frightened sheep to be led astray. People who think of themselves as decent, hard-working Americans appear willing to follow their leader over a cliff and into the abyss of history.

Well, with apologies to FDR, a president who empowered the poor, all we have to fear is Trump himself.

Freelance journalist Edgar Allen Beem lives in Brunswick. The Universal Notebook is his personal, weekly look at the world around him.

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  • Charles Martel

    I suspect you didn’t see Dinesh D’Souza’s “Hillary’s America”. There are lists and videos easily available on the Clinton scandals. Here just one: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kypl1MYuKDY

    • EABeem

      I would think you’d be embarrassed to cite D’Souza, a disgraced college president ousted for extramarital affairs and convicted of making fraudulent campaign contributions. His Hillary flick is as big a hack job as his Obama film. He carries zero credibility.

      • Charles Martel

        Oh, please! You think you’re some kind of cerebral political thinker but, in essence, you’re a loser with a communist agenda.

        • EABeem

          I am just saying that I am surprised when people rely on sources with no credibility. And my agenda may be communitarian but it is not communist.

          • Chew H Bird

            I believe that the majority of media sources today are biased, whether they be left or right, or even those purporting to simply “report”. It takes money to provide news and any organization beholden to the number of clicks, or advertisements, in some way must protect its own economic interest.

            If my assumption is true, then most sources used to substantiate an issue can easily be mislead a person wishing to use them as a basis for their opinion. None of us are immune and the simple choice of words used by a reporting entity can change an opinion just by a matter of word choice by the author.

          • EABeem

            Fair enough. I was just trying to make the point that it makes no sense to present expert testimony for your point of view from people who are known to be biased and, in D’Souza’s case, dishonest. Nothing D’Souza says, writes, films or does will influence anyone other than those who share is biases. There may be reasons to have reservations about Hillary, but D’Souza’s hatchet job is irrelevant.

          • poppypapa

            “There MAY be?”

          • EABeem

            Big of me, hunh? At least she isn’t the total flying fraud that Trump the Dumpster is. She’s well qualified. He’s unqualified.

          • poppypapa

            Everything you say and write is “big of you” in your opinion.

            The fact that you don’t understand the editorial/stylistic difference between everyone else THINKING they are a ‘nice person’ and your compulsion to publicly state over and over that you are in fact a nice person demonstrates the depths of your neuroses. Or worse.

          • EABeem

            How about you ask my neighbors what they think of me and I ask your neighbors what they think of you?

          • poppypapa

            What is it with your obsession? Is your life nothing but a constant pursuit of “likes?” Do you require daily doses of “we love you Eddie, oh yes we do?” Do you spend your spare time cleaning your mirrors so you can see your image better?

            Or do you simply sit and fixate on the Forecaster’s head shot of you? The self-love it embodies is a total giveaway.

            Your childish need to demonstrate that yours is bigger than mine (figuratively speaking) is really becoming.

            Sure; knock yourself out with my neighbors.

            As to yours, I could care less what they think. I don’t formulate my opinion of someone else based on surveys or polls.

          • EABeem

            My obsession? I’m not the one writing in anonymously week after to week to say the same thing over and over again. You and JJ are the ones who are obsessed.

          • poppypapa

            That’s it? That’s the best you’ve got?

            That’s both barrels?

          • EABeem

            I was just making a simple point that you and JJ and a handful of the other usual suspects are obviously and embarrassingly obsessed with my columns. You tell me what’s wrong with me every week, but you keep reading anyway. Can’t get enough. Lap it right up. Fall for it week in and week out. But then, of course, you’re the guy who enjoys banging his head against a wall. You get up Monday morning and can’t wait to see what outrageous thing I have written so you can sharpen your wit and get to work trolling away. It’s as though responding to me anonymously justifies your existence. Well, be my guest, Poppycock, justify.

          • JohnQCitizen

            I repeat, you probably have not seen the movie. Edgar, I watch all sides, MSNBC, cnn, fox, abc. NBC, cbs, etc. you need to enlighten yourself and see both sides. From your commentary, you only watch and hear and read what supports your side! Sorry my friend you may go to the grave as an angry white guy!

          • Charles Martel

            D’Souza was made an example of by NerO because of the contents of his first movie. Pointing out his alleged extra marital affairs is not a good idea especially when discussing the Clintons.

            Illegal contributions is a poor defense considering the Clinton Foundation.

            Perhaps the major difference between socialism and communism is that the latter system unjustly imprisons or murders its citizens. And, we’re all familiar with the Clintons’ political track record.

      • JohnQCitizen

        Edgar,
        I’ll bet you did not see the movie!

        • EABeem

          You bet your bippy I didn’t. neither did anyone else. Why would they. It’s the worst movie on the history of the world. This just in from Wiki.

          “Hillary’s America: The Secret History of the Democratic Party has been panned by critics. On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 4%, based on 24 reviews, with an average rating of 1.5/10.[19] On Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating, the film has a score of 2 out of 100, based on 17 critics, indicating “overwhelming dislike”.[20] The film has the second all-time lowest score in the site’s history.[21]”

          • JohnQCitizen

            Rotten Tomatoes??? Metacritic??? Left leaning critics I suppose. I found the movie informative and riveting! Edgar, you should view both sides to issues, especially since you are writing an opinion article. You don’t know what you are missing.

  • Jimmy_John67

    Here is a novel idea. Perhaps politicians on both sides can stop demonizing and stereotyping entire groups of people altogether for political gain! Rich/poor, black/white, gay/straight, none of the people in these groups have a single story or set of life experiences that enable them to be lumped together and spoken for by a politician or anyone else. Unfortunately you will never hear this idea from Ed Beem as it doesn’t fit his agenda of promoting hate and intolerance.

    • EABeem

      My agenda is to promote Hillary Clinton. It’s Donald Trump who has demonized entire groups of people — Muslims, Mexicans, immigrants — and embraced hate groups.

      • Chew H Bird

        You are entitled to your agenda. For me, Trump is downright crazy and Ms. Clinton endangered national security when she was Secretary of State so all I want is to see Ms. Stein and Mr.Johnson on the debate stage so we can reduce our national media from determining our Presidential elections.

        • EABeem

          Sounds as though Trump has his mancrush Putin working on rigging the election for him. The Hillary email controversy is much ado about nothing. Other Secretaries of State did it. Bush and Cheney used their own servers almost exclusively. The State Dept. server was compromised, but hers wasn’t. She is the most qualified person to run in years.

          • Chew H Bird

            Your information obviously comes from media sources… The server issue has been scrubbed by the political machine and media to the point where any public information is meaningless.

          • EABeem

            You’re possibly right. The fact remains, however, that the GOP has been trying to pin something on Hillary for decades and has never managed to make anything stick. I now discount ANY charges against her as trumped up. She’s a tough bird. She will make an excellent president.

          • JohnQCitizen

            Hogwash! This Russian connection that you “progressives” point out is based in no facts whatsoever! And Hillary is not qualified to be our “commander in chief”. Can’t wait until Donald is our president and see how nasty MoonBeem can turn himself into!

      • Jimmy_John67

        You claim your agenda is to promote Clinton but yet you never write columns outlining the positive things you see in her as a presidential candidate. Instead you simply generalize those who oppose her in a negative light by calling them sheep, angry ignorant white men and worst of all women who aren’t capable of making decisions for themselves. It’s frankly ugly and pathetic and meant only to divide not support your candidate of choice. Face it your tactics to influence others are no different then Trump’s.

        • EABeem

          May 26, 2014

          Remember back in 1998, when then-first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton alleged that there was a “vast right-wing conspiracy” behind all the attacks on her husband?

          Whitewater, Travelgate, Filegate, Paula Jones, Gennifer Flowers, Monica Lewinsky – heck the dirt bags of the right even charged that the Clintons had killed White House attorney Vince Foster and made it look like a suicide.

          Bill Clinton spent his entire presidency fighting off spurious attacks from the right. He was even impeached. But, as it turned out, Clinton was also the best president we had had in a generation, presiding over eight years of peace and prosperity before Bush the Younger fell asleep at the switch and delivered us eight years of war and recession.

          Some might have thought Hillary was just being a little thin-skinned and paranoid when she told Matt Lauer on the “Today” show that “the great story here for anybody willing to find it and write about it and explain it is this vast right-wing conspiracy that has been conspiring against my husband since the day he announced for president.”

          But 16 years later, we are all aware of the shadowy world of billionaire puppet-masters, online scandal-mongers and dirty-tricksters that plant bogus stories conjured up by right-wing “think tanks,” stories that get reported as fact by far-right bloggers and media, and if repeated enough Congress will decide that it must investigate, thus forcing the mainstream media to finally pay attention to what is ultimately nothing more than delusion and dung.

          As the presumptive Democratic front-runner, Hillary Clinton must know that she will not only have to re-fight the battles her husband won, but also defeat the conservative cuckoos who want to blame her for terrorist attacks on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi and the kidnapping of schoolgirls in Nigeria.

          Congress cuts funding for embassy defense and Hillary is to blame because the consulate in Benghazi gets overrun? And GOP conspiracy theorists seem to forget that 60 people died in 13 embassy attacks while Bush and Cheney were in charge, not to mention that 9/11 occurred on their watch.

          As if these spurious Benghazi charges aren’t bad enough, we now have the specter of Karl Rove, dubbed Turd Blossom by George W. Bush for his ability to flower in a pile of manure, out there stinking up the airways with the foul idea that Hillary is brain-damaged.

          Come to think of it though, why would a woman in her right mind want to run for president of the United States knowing the unending, unethical sleaze she will have to face? In the words of the late Vince Foster, “ruining people is considered sport” in our nation’s capital.

          My guess, however, is that Hillary can hold her own in the mudslinging inside the Beltway. She sure slapped Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., silly in the January 2013 Benghazi witch-hunt hearings.

          I voted for Hillary Clinton over Barack Obama in the Democratic primary in 2008. I will vote for her again in the 2016 Democratic primary and I will vote for her for president as well. I fully expect Hillary Clinton to be the next president of the United States.

          Not only is Hillary tougher than any of those wannabes on the right like Sen. Marco Rubio, Sen. Rand Paul and Sen. Ted Cruz, but having served as first lady, U.S. senator and secretary of state, she is better qualified to run this country than any man in either party. And she has the virtue of being a woman.

          I can already imagine the charges of sexism that will be leveled at me for that last point, but I stand by it. It’s time for the first female president of the United States. It’s time to make history again. It’s time to turn the White House men’s club into a coed institution. Hillary Rodham Clinton will make a great president. And it should be a hoot having Bill Clinton as first gentleman.

          • Jimmy_John67

            One example that is dated May 26, 2014. Enough said. Even in that column you can’t resist generalizing others as dirtbags. I could spend time posting all the negative attack articles you have written since then but you and I both know those would take up to much space and, unlike you, I am not into deleting my comments.

          • JohnQCitizen

            Eddie,
            You are now off my radar! First gentleman! Are you freaking kidding me?
            Pervert in residence is what the rest of us will call him!

        • EABeem

          •First ever student commencement speaker at Wellesley College.
          •President of the Wellesley Young Republicans
          •Intern at the House Republican Conference
          •Distinguished graduate of Yale Law School
          •Editorial board of the Yale Review of Law and Social Action
          •Appointed to Senator Walter Mondale’s Subcommittee on Migratory Labor.
          •Co-founded Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families
          •Staff attorney for Children’s Defense Fund
          •Faculty member in the School of Law at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville
          •Former Director of the Arkansas Legal Aid Clinic.
          •First female chair of the Legal Services Corporation
          •First female partner at Rose Law Firm.
          •Former civil litigation attorney.
          •Former Law Professor at the University of Arkansas School of Law.
          •twice listed by The National Law Journal as one of the hundred most influential lawyers in America
          •Former First Lady of Arkansas.
          •Arkansas Woman of the Year in 1983
          •Chair of the American Bar Association’s Commission on Women in the Profession
          •twice named by the National Law Journal as one of the 100 most influential lawyers in America
          •created Arkansas’s Home Instruction Program for Preschool Youth
          •led a task force that reformed Arkansas’s education system
          •Board of directors of Wal-Mart and several other corporations
          •Instrumental in passage of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program
          •Promoted nationwide immunization against childhood illnesses
          •Successfully sought to increase research funding for prostate cancer and childhood asthma at the National Institutes of Health
          •Worked to investigate reports of an illness that affected veterans of the Gulf War (now recognized as Gulf War Syndrome)
          •Helped create the Office on Violence Against Women at the Department of Justice
          •Initiated and shepherded the Adoption and Safe Families Act
          •First FLOTUS in US History to hold a postgraduate degree
          •Traveled to 79 countries during time as FLOTUS
          •Helped create Vital Voices, an international initiative to promote the participation of women in the political processes of their countries.
          •Served on five Senate committees:
          -Committee on Budget (2001–2002)
          -Committee on Armed Services (2003–2009)
          -Committee on Environment and Public Works (2001–2009)
          -Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (2001–2009)
          -Special Committee on Aging.
          •Member of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe
          •Instrumental in securing $21 billion in funding for the World Trade Center site’s redevelopment
          •Leading role in investigating the health issues faced by 9/11 first responders.
          •In the aftermath of September 11th, she worked closely with her senior Senate counterpart from New York, Sen. Charles Schumer, on securing $21.4 billion in funding for the World Trade Center redevelopment.
          • Middle East ceasefire. In November 2012, Secretary of State Clinton brokered a ceasefire deal between Israel and Hamas.
          •Introduced the Family Entertainment Protection Act, intended to protect children from inappropriate content found in video games.
          •First ex-FLOTUS in US History to be elected to the United States Senate (and re-elected)
          •Two-term New York Senator
          -(senate stats here: https://www.govtrack.us/…)
          -(voting record here: http://votesmart.org/…)
          •Former US Secretary of State
          •GRAMMY Award Winner
          •Author

          • Jimmy_John67

            Yawn. Call me when you actually write a column with this info rather then a comment which will be seen by probably 5 people. Until then you are no better then Trump.

          • JohnQCitizen

            19 eighty freaking 83… Are you kidding me Eddie…!!! Cut it out!!!

          • EABeem

            JJ wanted me to say something positive.

          • JohnQCitizen

            Haha…one for you Edgar! Don’t know why I still like you!

      • jack bauer

        This ignorant comment alone should disqualify Beem from receiving a place of prominence in Theforcaster.

    • EABeem

      Here’s what Diane Ravitch had to say about why she is voting for Hillary. I’m with her:

      I will vote for Hillary Clinton because I trust that she will have a steady hand on American foreign policy.

      I will vote for her because I trust that she will shape domestic policies to strengthen our economy and to increase equity.

      I will vote for her because I trust that she will reflect and think before making decisions and will not act or react impulsively.

      I will vote for her because I trust she will appoint Supreme Court justices who will make decisions that protect our rights and strengthen our democracy.

      I will vote for her because I trust that she will fight for a society that is more just for all.

      I will vote for her because she has experience, wisdom, and deep knowledge of our nation and the world.

      I will vote for Hillary Clinton because she is eminently qualified to be president of the United States

      • Jimmy_John67

        Put any of that in a column and cease your negative attack columns where you generalize, denigrate and attack large groups of people and I will give you kudos. Until then my original point stands. Your agenda is promoting hate and intolerance and you are no better then Trump. I know it and more importantly you know it.

        • EABeem

          Actually, I’m not a bad guy. Ask anyone who actually knows me. I bet you think you’re a nice guy, too. You are correct, however, that I spend a lot of time badmouthing self-serving pols like Trump and LePage.

          • Jimmy_John67

            If you bad mouthed just the pols I wouldn’t have an issue. They put themselves out there for public criticism when they decide to run for office. The issue is that you generalize and insult large portions of the population based on your own pre-conceptions and biases which are false 99% of the time. You engage in the exact behavior you criticize Trump and LePage for which, in all honesty, makes you look galactically stupid.

            P.S. Sorry but anyone who publicly calls millions of Americans dirtbags, stupid, racists, etc like you do is not a nice guy in the same way Trump is not a nice guy for the insulting and hurtful generalizations he makes.

          • EABeem

            And I guess that’s why you can’t get enough of my columns. The whole point is to give courage and moral support to those who share my views and tick off those who don’t. If what I wrote were not consequential you and Poppycock and all the usual suspects wouldn’t be all over it every week.

          • Jimmy_John67

            The difference is that I don’t go around saying how nice I am while I spit vile insults about milllions of people. I only address you, your approach and the incredible hypocrisy and stupidity that it produces. I don’t criticize your opinions because that is all they are and don’t concern me. In fact I agree with many of your opinions.

            I comment to show others that despite your claims of being a nice guy and champion of the downtrodden you are exactly the same as the people you profess to despise. You and people like you cater to the lowest common denominator with your goal not to uplift, educate, stimulate civil debate and promote compromise but to divide, insult, and close minds to anything and anyone that you don’t understand. You and Trump have different opinions but share the same approach of ignorance and hate. Your line above “The whole point is to give courage and moral support to those who share my views and tick off those who don’t.” is basically a summary of every Trump speech. It is far too late to change you but hopefully my comments help to show some of your readers that your path results in nothing but anger, rage and above all ignorance.

          • EABeem

            What readers say is that they love all the kooks who write in to complain about my columns.

          • Jimmy_John67

            Hey look at that one more way you are just like Trump. When you can’t refute something you both resort to fabrications and insults!

            By the way, is that really the best you could think up for a comeback? Might as well have just broken out the classic Seinfeld “the jerk store called and they’re out of you!” line. Stick to anger and ignorance Ed as wit clearly isn’t your strong suit.

          • EABeem

            All you do each week is insult me, so take a look in the mirror. It’s not my fault that millions of Americans (as in anyone who thinks Donald Trump is remotely qualified to be president) are ignorant and prejudiced. I’m just impolite enough to say so.

          • Jimmy_John67

            Another great retort! “I know you are but what am I?”. Such wry wit! No wonder all of your attempts at novels have been rejected.

            Also to clarify I have never once claimed to be a nice guy so I could care less if I insult you. If you want to be on par with Trump and his behavior that’s fine but at least own it. Stop pretending you are some nice guy who cares about others when in reality you are just an angry, old bully.

          • EABeem

            Just fighting fire with fire, JJ. My agenda is not hate, it is to counter the haters. A refusal to tolerate intolerance (LePage, Trump, etc) is not intolerance.

          • Jimmy_John67

            Fighting fire with fire just makes a bigger fire and in the end everything burns. Intolerance is best defeated by empathy and education not blame and anger. You should try that approach for a change.

          • EABeem

            Okay, thanks. I appreciate your concern.

          • jack bauer

            The impulse we have is to rid ourselves of haters like you.

          • jack bauer

            If Beem is only 50% like his hate-filled, biased columns then he is a truly horrible person.

    • jack bauer

      John67,
      You’re exactly right!

  • EABeem

    Where do they sell Troll-B-Gon?

  • Aliyah33

    Where do they sell Beem-B-Gone?

  • funfundvierzig

    Of course, Mr. Beem, a passionate Hillary Groupie, never says a single word about the corrupt Clinton political machine. Or his icon’s pandering to the CEOs of fraud-infested banks on Wall Street. The $225,000 45 minute speeches, whose transcripts are CENSORED by Mrs. Clinton, never to be seen by the great unwashed. The colossally corrupt Clinton Foundation for constructive money laundering and collecting bribes and pay-to-play. Or the ties of this pantsuited Presidential aspirant to the media industry and the rich litigation bar.

    And where has Hillary been the past two weeks? Hidden away in the Hamptons taking $millions from the 1% elite and assorted Hollywood trash!

    Funny thing how so many of these Hillary Huggers possess the sneering hubris of their idol, and dare say, the duplicity.

    Gotta laugh…funfun..

    • jack bauer

      And every reader knows that Beem will never mention Crooked Hillary’s lack of trustworthiness. I’ll seriously consider subscribing to Theforecaster once Beem is gone.

      • EABeem

        The Forecaster is free on the news stand and online.

  • jack bauer

    It’s so unlucky for me that I read Theforecaster during breakfast. When I inevitably come across Beem’s too lengthy column my stomach starts to churn. Ugh..