The Political Center Is Not Where It Seems

Eric Ward • Aug 14, 2008

I have an addiction and I’m going to tell you what it is.

I’m addicted to CNN (Cable News Network). I love CNN and watch it constantly. Something has always fascinated me about 24-hour news coverage. When CNN started its second news channel nearly a decade ago I was elated because I could flip between channels with my remote control and really get continuous news, but I digress. When CNN first started they marketed the channel to news junkies like me by focusing on the “sports minute,” the “weather minute, and my personal favorite the “fashion minute.”

The “fashion minute” would cover fashion shows from all around the world. I had a love and hate relationship with the “fashion minute.” I would love to sit in front of the television watching all of the latest fashions coming down the runway and say to myself, “I hate that, no one is ever going to wear that.”

I mean come on. No one wears 23 inch heels, gold embroidered into their clothing and hats that are 70 feet in diameter. Well at least not anyone I know. I suspect that if you have ever seen fashions shows on television that you probably agree with me. I would proudly announce to my long suffering roommates that fashion designs were “too out there!” and “too extreme!”

However, as I continued my love and hate relationship with CNN’s “fashion minute” I began to notice something incredible happening. The fashions I saw coming down the runway were influencing the styles of clothes being sold in clothing stores each season.

Of course the clothes being sold were not as extreme as the designs coming down the runway but the influence was definitely there. I remember watching 70s fashions appearing on the runways in the late 80s and telling my friends that “the fashion industry has gone way too far this time, I mean the 70s were enough for everyone!” Of course by the time the mid-90s came around 70s clothing designs were back in full force including the bell bottom. The best rated comedy on television was That 70s Show. Even Wal-Mart couldn’t help but join the chorus by running commercials with a big yellow smiley face slashing prices.

In the same way that the fashion industry seeks to affect what I can buy next season at Target, the white nationalists movement seeks to expend the level of bigotry acceptable in mainstream society. Like the fashion industry, they have been just as successful. Don’t believe me? The Minutemen were not the first group to patrol the southern border of the United States harassing immigrants and seeking media attention. White supremacist leader David Duke was and he did it back in the 80s. The only difference was that in the 1980s the public was outraged. In the new millennium we accept it as part of the mainstream debate on immigration. The difference between Lou Dobbs and David Duke? CNN would never give David Duke his own nightly show.

Back in high school my political science teacher taught us that American politics swung on the pendulum, sometimes swinging to the right, sometimes swinging to the left, but always balancing in the center. I think it was something that political scientists told kids so they’d sleep better at night knowing all was well with the country. However, lately I’ve been waking up in the middle of the night with a sneaky suspicion that, while indeed the pendulum is swinging, the white nationalist movement is moving the fulcrum upon which the pendulum sits. And none of us are the wiser.

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