Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Big Brother vs. American politics: the truth hurts

I was watching a Frontline episode the other day (Gunned Down: The Power of the NRA) when I was struck by how much the politics of Congress resembles the politics of Big Brother (a very guilty pleasure of yours truly). Here's what I came up with.

Big Brother:
A reality/competition TV show wherein a group of "HouseGuests" are isolated in a house under constant surveillance by cameras and microphones. The goal of this competition is to win the grand prize of $500,000. Each HouseGuest tries to compete for Head of Household, which grants them immunity for the week and the power to choose who is in danger of being "evicted" from the house and thereby losing the game. However, the HoH must also work with the rest of the HouseGuests to vote out the target he or she has chosen, so the power of HoH is somewhat limited. HouseGuests are also not allowed to be HoH two weeks in a row.

This show is also a kind of social experiment, as a "diverse" group of Americans with differing backgrounds and beliefs are forced to live together, confronting their differences and finding similarities in order to work together to further their own position in the game. The actual demography of the group is fairly typical, however, with bikini-wearing, thin, attractive white women and young white men making up the majority of the population.

Add two more (thin attractive bikini-wearing) white women and a white man and this is the cast for the season.
There's also a "swimsuit" photo available for all cast members...seriously.

A portion of the American government wherein a group of "Representatives" and "Senators" are isolated in Washington, DC under constant surveillance by the media. The goal of each member is to win re-election, thereby securing an annual salary of (at least) $174,000, as well as a lifelong pension for which they are eligible after 5 years of service. Many of these members of Congress tries to compete for the office of President of the United States, which grants them immunity from and the power to choose the direction of the country. However, the President must also work with Congress to pass the laws he or she wants, so the power of the Presidency is somewhat limited. The President is also not allowed more than two terms in office.

This group of elected officials with differing beliefs, who "represent" the populations they serve, are forced to confront their differences and find similarities in order to work together to pass laws governing the country, while also jockeying for the most airtime on the TV network of their choice, collecting money from lobbyists, and furthering their own position in the existing power structure. The actual demography of the group is overwhelmingly white and male; 74% of the Senate is white men, and 60% of the House is white men, compared to 31% white men in America overall. Additionally, 50.8% of congressmen and congresswomen are worth over $1,000,000, compared to all of America, where the median net worth is $44,900. The average age is 57 in the House and 61 in the Senate; the average age in all of America is 36.8 years old. (In fact, Sen. Lindsay Graham and Sen. John McCain have both admitted to never sending an email. Interesting.)

Damn, that's a lot of white dudes.

So it seems to me that Congress is just one big game of Big Brother, except the difference is that when Congress competes for power and money, it's the nation and its people who lose.

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