Ultimately, Scary Power is the ability to control the public narrative to frame messages: globalization benefits all; environmentalists created the energy shortage; fair trade is a wishful dream. The scary guys' control of the narrative also discourages action, isolates people from one another and turns them off to engagement in public life. It breeds cynicism, hopelessness and apathy.
These characteristics blend into various roles as SWGs form teams and alliances. Guys like Ronald Reagan carry the water for SWGs operating behind the scenes. George W. Bush, with his ah-shucks style, plays the enabler for friends such as Kenneth Lay, chairman of the Houston-based Enron Corporation, as they make their financial killings. Some are the hit men, a role that Vice President Dick Cheney plays to take the heat off his partner. Others, such as New Jersey Sen. Robert Torricelli, are just smart, aggressive bullies who steamroll the opposition through sheer ambition.
Here are the 13 Scariest White Guys wielding their bully power today, starting with the most obvious of them all ...
Bush-Cheney, Co-Presidents of the U.S.
It's impossible to separate these two SWGs. As the new joke goes, "Have you heard the one about the need to protect Bush? He's just a heartbeat away from the Presidency."
On the campaign trail a year ago, George W. Bush said, "As we use nature's gifts, we must do so wisely. Prosperity will mean little if we leave future generations a world of polluted air, toxic lakes and rivers, and vanished forests." Texas, meanwhile, had the most toxic air emissions and cancer-causing pollution in the country. Can anyone say doubletalk?
Bush's environmental pledges exemplify a tool used very often by SWGs, the Big Lie. A clever rhetorical device, the Big Lie operates on the principle that if you make knowingly false assertions with enough conviction, and repeat them constantly, those with their hands on the truth are put on the defensive. Regulations about carbon dioxide emissions, worker's protection laws, drilling for oil in Alaska, building roads in the national forest — these attacks on health and the environment all depend on Big Lies.
As Bush spouts doubletalk to the hoodwinked press, Cheney pulls the strings behind the scene. Cheney, who was paid $36-million by Halliburton oil company the last year he worked there, recently advocated building a new power plant every week for 20 years in order to meet our energy needs. "Conservation may be a sign of personal virtue," he said, "but not a sufficient basis for sound comprehensive energy policy." Yeah, tell that to the scientists from five national science labs whose three-year study concluded that a "government-led conservation program could cut growth in energy consumption in half, using proven technology already in place."
As columnist Robert Scheer writes, "Why beat around the Bush? Surrogate president Dick Cheney is behaving like an oil-guzzling, intellectually irresponsible, anti-environmental oaf. To ignore scientific achievement on energy conservation is to lie to the American people about the dimensions of the problem. This is not leadership, it is fear-mongering that withholds ... sound scientific information in order to justify eviscerating conservation policy."
As for Dubya, well, we underestimate him as a moron at our peril. As Mark Crispin Miller writes in his new book The Bush Dyslexicon (W.W. Norton 2001) "our president is not an imbecile, but an operator just as canny as he is hard-hearted. At the nasty kind of politics, he is extraordinarily shrewd."
Rupert Murdoch, Media Mogul
Choosing the scariest media mogul was not easy. But transplanted Aussie Rupert Murdoch, head of the global News Corporation, gets the nod. Murdoch's voracious empire-building, his right-wing agenda, and his use of his media properties to achieve political gain set him apart. His tabloids in London, New York and Australia have repeatedly supported or undermined candidates, and his conservative Fox News channel helped get Bush declared the winner on election night. Last year, News Corp. gave $800,000 to U.S. candidates, with 70 percent going to Republicans.
Already owner of the Fox Network, Murdoch now intends to gain control of U.S. satellite TV to implement his vision of interactive television as the ultimate buying environment. The goal: to replace the Internet with high-speed satellite access to Murdoch's "walled garden," where subscribers would be limited to what his content machine has to offer.