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Chronicling the collapse of a failed society
One of the most interesting aspects of the emergence of WikiLeaks as a global phenomenon is the unexpected range of responses that it has provoked. The very nature of the WikiLeaks agenda is not necessarily one which readily adheres to traditional left or right wing ideology, so predicting any given person’s reaction has proven remarkably challenging. Take, for instance, the revelation that Vladamir Putin has openly expressed solidarity with Julian Assange and the WikiLeaks movement, implying that the leaks have been beneficial for democracy:
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has led growing support from some world leaders for the beleaguered WikiLeaks founder, describing his detention in Britain as “undemocratic”….
Putin railed against the detention of the 39-year-old Assange, the Australian founder of the website which has been releasing thousands of secret US diplomatic cables as well as Pentagon communiques.
“Why was Mr. Assange hidden in jail? Is that democracy? As we say in the village: the pot is calling the kettle black,” Putin said.
“I want to send the ball back to our American colleagues,” Putin added.
Putin is not someone who is renowned for his embrace of democratic principles, so his vocal support for WikiLeaks is initially somewhat worrisome. Particularly when we consider that Christopher Hitchens, a highly intelligent and generally ethical individual, has spoken out against the actions of Assange and WikiLeaks:
Ignoring the most pertinent issues of the day, Yahoo! News and the AP continue to distort reality in favor of promoting the fictional corporatist narrative. Witness today’s headlines:
As I’ve noted previously, the format of the headlines is such that most people accept the authoritativeness of the source implicitly. While the majority ordinary Americans complain incessantly of inherent media bias, most people fail to perceive the subtle coercive effects embedded in the very stories selected for coverage, as well as the cleverly scripted language employed in ever mainstream media news story. The corporate agenda is stealthily advanced through an almost imperceptible framing of carefully selected stories, utilizing pseudo-professional language and intentionally inaccurate phrases which distort any given issues and steers the national dialogue into a predesignated, rightward leaning conduit.
So let us dissect this latest monstrosity of “professional” journalism, beginning with the headline: “WH warns tax defeat could trigger new recession.” The greatest deception here is the implication that the recession has somehow ended, and we now stand in danger of entering a new one. It is hard to understand how anyone could believe the recession has ended, given that the unemployment rate is still hovering near 10%, hundreds of thousands of families have had their homes repossessed, and millions remain dependent on welfare. The recession has not ended for ordinary Americans, but perhaps the AP is referencing the fact that corporate America has recorded its highest profits ever.
Senator Bernie Sanders on the Federal Reserve’s secret Wall Street bailout:
After years of stonewalling by the Fed, the American people are finally learning the incredible and jaw-dropping details of the Fed’s multi-trillion-dollar bailout of Wall Street and corporate America….
What have we learned so far from the disclosure of more than 21,000 transactions? We have learned that the $700 billion Wall Street bailout signed into law by President George W. Bush turned out to be pocket change compared to the trillions and trillions of dollars in near-zero interest loans and other financial arrangements the Federal Reserve doled out to every major financial institution in this country. Among those are Goldman Sachs, which received nearly $600 billion; Morgan Stanley, which received nearly $2 trillion; Citigroup, which received $1.8 trillion; Bear Stearns, which received nearly $1 trillion, and Merrill Lynch, which received some $1.5 trillion in short term loans from the Fed.
We also learned that the Fed’s multi-trillion bailout was not limited to Wall Street and big banks, but that some of the largest corporations in this country also received a very substantial bailout. Among those are General Electric, McDonald’s, Caterpillar, Harley Davidson, Toyota and Verizon.
Perhaps most surprising is the huge sum that went to bail out foreign private banks and corporations including two European megabanks – Deutsche Bank and Credit Suisse – which were the largest beneficiaries of the Fed’s purchase of mortgage-backed securities.
Sanders has some obvious biases here, but he deserves credit for broaching the inexplicably taboo subject of criticizing the Federal Reserve. And the revelations that he has uncovered are absolutely appalling, but honestly, is anyone surprised by this? It should be readily apparent to anyone with eyes and a brain that our government was long ago transformed into a vehicle for protecting and expanding corporate wealth and power. Main Street is the recipient of endless platitudes and a paltry, ineffective stimulus package; Wall Street and the corporate elite receive virtually anything they desire. As John Dewey wisely stated, our government is merely the shadow cast by big business.
“Well, the Tea Party movement itself is maybe 15, 20 percent of the electorate. It’s relatively affluent, white, nativist. You know, it has rather traditional nativist streaks to it. But what is much more important, I think, is the—is its outrage. I mean, over half the population says they more or less support it or support its message. And what people are thinking is extremely interesting. I mean, overwhelmingly, polls reveal that people are extremely bitter, angry, hostile, opposed to everything.
The primary cause undoubtedly is the economic disaster. It’s not just a financial catastrophe, it’s an economic disaster. I mean, in manufacturing industry, for example, unemployment levels are at the level of the Great Depression. And unlike the Great Depression, those jobs are not coming back. U.S. owners and managers have long ago made the decision that they can make more profit with complicated financial deals than by production. …
It destroys the society here, but that’s not the concern of the ownership class and the managerial class. Their concern is profit. That’s what drives the economy. And the rest of it is a fallout. People are extremely bitter about it but don’t seem to understand it. So, the same people who are a majority, who say that Wall Street is to blame for the current crisis, are voting Republican. Both parties are deep in the pockets of Wall Street, but the Republicans much more so than the Democrats. And the same is true on issue after issue. So the antagonism to everyone is extremely high. Actually, antagonism—they don’t like—population doesn’t like Democrats, but they hate Republicans even more. They’re against big business. They’re against government. They’re against Congress. They’re against science.“
Chomsky’s analysis of the Tea Party is highly illuminating. The hardcore Teabaggers represent perhaps a fifth of the population, but a solid half seems to at least approve of their message. At its foundation, the Tea Party movement is nothing more than an abstract, objectless anger. People are bitterly enraged over the state of our society, but they are unable to articulate precisely what – or who – infuriates them.
As is typical with any political discourse in America, important issues are drowned out among the din of the ceaseless repetition of various right-wing mantras, which are remarkably limited in scope. It seems for the last thirty years – at least – the most often recurring salvo has been, “Tax cuts! Tax cuts! Kill government! Kill government!” Obviously, such simplistic demands fail to perceive the complex reality of modern society. The tax cuts they cry out for inevitably go towards the extremely wealthy, while reducing the size and scope of government generally means the cessation of services that offer the most help to ordinary Americans.
But the exchange is highly predictable. The economy is in decline, so the people demand tax cuts – “for the rich” goes without saying. Unemployment is skyrocketing, so the people demand tax cuts. The trade deficit is dangerously massive, so the people cry for tax cuts. An estimated 45 million Americans go without access to health care, so the people – well, you get the idea.
But in the midst of the deafening roar of the vociferous right-wing zombies (a minority, by all indications, but an exceedingly vocal minority), the most pertinent issues are wholly forgotten – at least within the carefully constricted world of the mainstream media. Read more of this post
I know I’m a couple of days late in commenting on this tasty morsel of a news item, but it certainly needs to be addressed:
“At a landmark NATO summit in Lisbon on Saturday, Western allies agreed to call an end to their troops’ combat mission in Afghanistan by 2014.
The 48 countries of the NATO-led force in Afghanistan struck a deal with Karzai to begin transferring parts of the battlefield to his control in early 2011 and move Western troops to a support role by 2014.
While all the allies agreed to set the target date to end their offensive operations in Afghanistan, the United States warned that hard fighting remained ahead and did not rule out combat continuing after 2014.”
Our supposed ultra-left president, after sending an additional 30,000 troops to Afghanistan earlier this year, is now promising to continue this unwinnable war for at least another four years. And given the ruthless stranglehold that the corporate media has on our national dialogue, this promise of four more years of needless bloodshed is actually presented in a positive light. “Obama the leftist is ending the war!” is the obviously intended message. One wonders if the pledged withdrawal of combat troops will resemble the “end” of the Iraq War we observed earlier this year:
There’s an amusing – if tragic – anecdote circulating the blogosphere at the moment about one of the newly elected teabagger darlings inadvertently whining about the lack of a public option he had so fervently derided. Republican Andy Harris lamented the fact that he would be without health care for an astonishing 28 days; the exchange with his aids was quite telling as to the intellectual and moral bankruptcy of most teabaggers and other right-wingers:
“According to an unnamed congressional staffer quoted by [Glenn Thrush of Politico], [Andy] Harris stood up at the meeting “and asked the two ladies who were answering questions why it had to take so long, what he would do without 28 days of health care.”
“Harris then asked if he could purchase insurance from the government to cover the gap,” added the aide, who was struck by the similarity to Harris’s request and the public option he denounced as a gateway to socialized medicine.” [ h/t Mock, Paper, Scissors ]
So this teabagger – a physician, no less – who in public rabidly denounces universal health care or anything even resembling it, then turns around and hypocritically demands why a public option is not available for himself. One wonders if he is even aware of his loathesome intellectual dishonesty, or whether he simply believes he is entitled to something more than ordinary plebes because he is an elected official.
But the fact is, we find such ludicrous hypocrisy with virtually every right-winger we encounter. Read more of this post
Regular readers might have noticed that I’ve been particularly harsh towards Obama in the days since the 2010 midterm slaughter. My criticisms might seem unwarranted and counterproductive; after all, it’s a case of the left attacking the left, isn’t it? And even if Obama hasn’t fulfilled the dreams he inspired in millions of reasonable Americans during the 2008 campaign, he is surely an improvement over George W. Bush, right? So why devote so much time to criticizing one of our own, rather than fighting our true enemies: Republicans and teabaggers?
Not that this will come as a surprise to anyone who’s been paying attention, but the following quote from a recent Mother Jones article says a great deal about the state of democracy in America:
“The real story of the 2010 midterm elections wasn’t the tea party, but instead the rise of deep-pocketed, secretive outside groups that spent nearly $300 million to influence… [the] results.”
The teabaggers – excuse me, Tea Partiers – love to present themselves as being a massive, grassroots opposition movement that grew out of widespread discontent with Obama’s “liberal” agenda. Unfortunately for the teabaggers, the depth of their vast ignorance is amply demonstrated merely from this most basic of suppositions. The first issue has to do with their contention that Obama is a leftist at all. He isn’t. Obama is a centrist politician, and has been moving steadily towards the right ever since his inauguration. The second problem with the teabaggers’ assumption is that Americans do not, in general, agree with their ludicrous and – let’s be honest – idiotic political views. In reality, most Americans hold “liberal” values, as demonstrated in endless surveys and polls. The existence of a conservative majority is just one of many myths propagated by our corporate-controlled mainstream media: the narrative of a rightist population fits in well with the agenda of big business.
And finally, the teabaggers’ belief that they are a grassroots movement is demonstrably false, as the Mother Jones article mentioned above aptly proves. MJ notes that of the $300 million donated from “secret outsider groups,” rightist groups outspent leftist groups by a margin of 2 to 1. The rightist groups also had significantly higher success rates:
“The US Chamber of Commerce and the Karl Rove-launched Crossroads GPS led the way, with .800 and .700 averages, respectively, in making the most of their (mostly) attack dollars. The labor group SEIU, meanwhile, finished last, albeit in an incredibly GOP-friendly election year.”
So that is the state of politics in America today, courtesy of Citizens United. Multinational corporations can now, in essence, legally buy elections, and the ignorant masses can dress up in Halloween costumes while touting their support for puppets who then turn around and immediately commence dismantling the government so that their shadowy corporate masters can rape and pillage a little bit more. And the obedient sheep love it – they beg for more. “Please!” they cry, “Take away my Social Security! I don’t want health care! I love paying extortionate amounts for my crappy insurance coverage! Don’t raise the minimum wage, I like being poor! F*ck education – isn’t there a McDonald’s University anyway?”
And the corporate elite get richer, the poor and middle class struggle to survive, but the myth of the American dream lives on.