Recently Hillary Rodham Clinton appeared on the The Daily Show with Jon Stewart to sell her new book. Watching politicians hock their products on TV is not my idea of a good time, but this particular appearance was so revealing on so many levels, I think it’s worthy of some review and explication.
From here on in, Hillary shall be referred to as “The HRC,” because she has made herself into oh so much more than a demure upper-class first name. She is an administrator of empire, one of The Power Elite, and she deserves a moniker befitting that role.
The first segment of the show was essentially a comedy bit, a send up of the will-she-or-won’t-she-run game the corporate media constantly play ad nauseam, ad absurdum, ad infinitum, but it really just served to continue the whole time-wasting, mind-numbing enterprise. Stewart could have had a number of justifications for using the majority of the first segment for this joke: He was buttering her up, making her comfortable before lowering the boom, he’s just a comedian doing his job on a comedy show, he’s actually parodying the press spending so much time on the question by spending too much time on the question, etc. The list could run on for a long time. Suffice it to say, Stewart has been consistently politically ignorant, naïve, and has lobbed innumerable softballs at politicians for years, so this wasn’t shocking behavior, but to give credit where credit is due, he eventually managed to ask some substantive questions (though most of them were not aired. They only appeared on the the web extras).
After the first bit, he called out The HRC right away for “pivoting” to an income inequality talking point while she was answering a question about her recent “dead broke” comment. He said it to prove she was running, but he still pointed it out. In her attempt to show her sincerity, she continued the inequality discussion, to which Stewart asked this reasonable question: “So, in your mind then, are you suggesting that that [a chance to succeed] no longer exists for people, or that there is something abjectly wrong with government – or the system – that we need to reform?”
She answers, “Both…and that we have to change our political and economic system to make that a reality again.” It’s significant that she admits it outright and admits our so-called representatives essentially only represent “special interests” and the people they deem to be their constituents, even if those constituents are not their actual voters… This is of course taking a page from Elizabeth Warren, and even the tea party, hell, let’s throw in John Edwards for that matter. I’ll leave it to you to decide who sees inequality as a great talking point and who would (and could) do anything about the actual problem. You have to go back quite a ways to find people who actually did something. You can go back to the progressives who fought the robber barons if you want (but The HRC sure isn’t).
If we take The HRC at face value here, her words sounds good, right? Facing the problem, saying we need change – oh wait a minute, actually, that’s beginning to sound familiar…I seem to remember someone saying something about change…and hope…but it’s still significant that an administrator of empire is admitting the level we have reached, especially in the context of running for president of the u.s. of a. It is establishing an official baseline of sorts that only someone with her power has the ability to do, and that baseline is: we are a nation corrupt to its core.
The HRC goes on to give a few details of our increasing inequality and Stewart asks a heartfelt but misguided question that is based in right-wing “small government” talking points that have been around for decades: “Has the bureaucracy of government become unmanageable to the point where it’s no longer able to effectively raise the opportunities for the people that it is trying to do so?”
Well, he appears to have had a little trouble formulating the question, but we know what he means. The thing is, it’s still a right-wing talking point that contains the old magic technique of misdirection: blame government bureaucracy. The inefficient bureaucracy is responsible for all of your problems. Don’t worry so much about corporations and big money, the free market will sort all of that out. Pay no attention to the fact that the takeover of much of the government by corporations has been undermining government programs, institutions and regulatory agencies for decades.
In a less confused, more honest world, Stewart’s question would have been, do you think the corporate neoliberal takeover of our country and government can be challenged and reversed? How? And why should we let you, a paid-off lackey of those very corporations and full-fledged executive administrator of empire, say one word to us about it? Oh, and by the way, why did you vote to authorize the invasion of Iraq?
That is what toeing the party line looks like – and it wasn’t even her party. (Originally that is, because almost everyone in both parties voted to invade.)
Yes, I know, wishful thinking. You will never hear those questions asked to The HRC. You might hear something about the Iraq vote and invasion, but that is way down the u.s. memory hole and most people don’t even know what neoliberal means. Tellingly, it is a term rarely heard in mainstream media and I would be surprised if Stewart has ever uttered it. And, yes, his audience would be shocked, because up until very recently, neither Stewart nor the news clowns (thank Philip K. Dick for coining that phrase – in 1966!) ever confronted The HRC directly with the fact that she has been running from mega corp. to mega corp., collecting money like the most expensive, busiest call girl of all time. Just one example amongst many : $400,000 in one week at goldman sachs for two separate speaking gigs – to say nothing of the university money she’s been getting, which is fraught with problems all it’s own:
He could have pressed on any of these major conflicts of interest, but no, he went the other way and offered the supposition that all of these attacks would fade away if she weren’t running for president. That was just a freebie I guess.
On with the show!
More talk from The HRC. Truth mixed with obfuscation with a soupcon of weirdness. And here we see an interesting shift from HRC politician to HRC corporate CEO in a frankly weird context. She starts talking about how the Executive branch “…has not kept up with the times. We don’t have the kind of agility, flexibility, and technology…”
Wha? There is clearly agenda and ideology here without any explanation (and smart phones helping to spread “democracy and american values” ain’t it), but I will leave that aside.
Then, a quick statement, “So, we have a crisis in our democracy.” If anyone has been paying attention, this is not exactly a small statement. Take a moment. Think about it. Consider… Welcome to the new normal…
And then this gem: “…I learned how important it is we function in the united states because people look to us.”
Really?!? Is that what you learned? We should function? I mean, what can you say to that..?
Stewart then begins to talk about technology democratizing power and the HRC agrees.
Really? You mean in the same time that corporate power raped the american people (and the world for that matter), was rewarded for it, got richer and consolidated that wealth while people got poorer and lost opportunities – and the cost of living got higher? No, apparently that’s not what he was talking about. The more he goes on, the more he seems to be just talking about terrorists using technology. So he muddled his point and it wasn’t a good one to begin with.
Ok. It doesn’t look good for Stewart, he fumbled the ball again, but then, a recovery – from way out of left field:
“We are a large imperial power…what is our foreign policy anymore?”
Imagine that being said by any mainstream talk show host or news clown ten years ago. It’s funny, watch The HRC nod and nod and nod as he vaguely talks about terrorists somewhere out there, until he says, “Imperial power.” That stops the head nod right away. Classic TV folks.
The HRC leaps over the imperial power topic like a world-class athlete and picks up Stewart’s nonsense about power coming from below and how “we can’t practice diplomacy and define our foreign policy as leaders talking to leaders anymore because that’s not the way the world works.” Wha-wa? (That’s a double-take.) For brevity’s sake, I will leave that alone as well.
Now, get ready. For no immediately discernible reason, The HRC starts walking us right toward the curtain: (I just realized she makes reference to “pulling the curtain back” in the beginning of the interview, but I don’t think this was the curtain she was talking about.)
She says, people all over the world – especially young people – don’t know the history of ‘merica’s greatness or our sacrifices or our values. She gives examples: we won WWII, liberated Europe and Asia, fought Nazis and won the cold war. Well, yes and no. Some of these facts are a little more complicated when the full history is examined (hint: they wouldn’t have been possible without the soviet union and they might have been nipped in the bud much earlier if we weren’t bent on world domination), but we keep moving, further, toward the curtain…
The HRC is quickly morphing into something resembling a PR executive pitching a campaign to revive a former industrial mega corporation who shit on its employees, poisoned the environment, and then shifted most of its work off-shore, leaving horror and desperation in it’s wake:
“We have not been telling our story very well. We do have a great story. We are not perfect, by any means, but we have a great story, about human freedom, human rights, human opportunity and let’s get back to telling it – to ourselves first and foremost – and believing it about ourselves and then taking that around the world. That’s what we should be standing for.”
So, the sum of her acknowledgment that we have been a vicious force for death and destruction from the moment the first white man stepped onto these shores? “Look, we are not perfect, by any means.” You say that’s an unfair characterization? Ok, let’s move on and see exactly what she was referring to.
Jon then actually hits her with good stuff, outlining our hypocrisy and using our treatment of democratically elected hamas as an example. (Odd, this is somehow missing from the video now. Maybe it’s just technical difficulties.) This question is actually worthy of a good journalist. Of course, she gives a standard answer filled with foreign policy phrases about “american interests” and “security.” Not only that, but she mentions we deal with “unsavory characters” and maybe occasionally support “autocratic” leaders too long. Hey, nobody’s perfect, right? If you are unclear about what american interests are, I highly recommend doing a bit of research. (Hint: american interests don’t usually have much to do with most actual americans.)
The HRC then tries to use Egypt as an example. She’s off to a good start with the story about the election of the MB, saying we supported the process even though we weren’t thrilled with the MB. Then, it’s, “We were blamed by everybody,” you can’t please everyone, etc…and of course, she avoids acknowledging the u.s. supported the military coup by not intervening and continuing military aid. So before she even utters the word military, she says, then they [the MB] get “overturned,” but, they wanted to help us broker a cease-fire, so that helps us with other interests…so essentially, overall, in the big picture, we stand for the right things, our values are strong, but oftentimes we have to add-in and balance our security and keep in mind what we really stand for, etc., etc., blah, blah, blah…In other words, pure bullshit all around.
Jon lets all of that go without pressing her, but he comes up with another good, humane, more general question: “Can we expect other countries to view us with such nuance, when we so clearly don’t view them with nuance and that kind of understanding?”
The HRC perks up and says what a great question it was. I think this is where the broadcast portion of the show ends because he makes a joke and says something like, that’s all the time we have, but will you stick around and tell us how you would fix all this? This is where I think the web only version starts.
And now, we get down to the real nitty gritty. She walks us straight up to the curtain and rips the whole thing down. When faced with the question of how to “fix all of this,” her mind goes straight to (you didn’t guess it) propaganda:
The HRC: “We did a much better job telling people who we were back in the cold war. You know, it was a simpler job, to be fair. You know, we had the Soviet Union, we had the United States, we had a big information effort. We sent talent, we sent all kinds of poets and novelists and rock stars…american culture, american ideas, permeated the world. Well, fast forward. That ended and we kind of thought ok, fine, ‘end of history,’ ‘democracy won,’ you know that story, and in fact we withdrew from the information arena. And look at what happened initially with Ukraine: Russia was much more effective in sort of telling a story – that wasn’t true, but they kept repeating it over and over again. So I think we have to get back to a consensus in our own country about who we are, what we stand for, and then get out there and you know, tell that story.”
Even for the cynical among us, doesn’t that set off a few alarm bells? Let’s break this down a bit:
She actually waxes rhapsodic about the simpler times when propagandizing the world was easier and recommends we get back to platitudes about human rights and freedom. Big sellers, dontcha know… How? Well, we have to “start believing it” and then we have to take that story around the world. You know, like the old days. Just click our heels together three times. What’s a good example of what we have to do? You know, like Russia lying to its people and the world. They have been effective promulgators of lies. Just flog a pack of lies and stick to it, and repeat, repeat, repeat. We just have to keep repeating it – to ourselves and others. Over and over. Just like old times.
The HRC’s short survey of american history continues: after the spread of feel good (Lou Reed?!?) ‘merican culture all over the globe (that just happened to coincide with the u.s. becoming the biggest imperial power in world history) and the glory days of the easily propagandized cold war, we “fast forward to” what was widely touted as the triumph of American Capitalism. Essentially, she is saying that is the point we took our eye off the ball and slowed our massive propaganda machine – or as she puts it, “withdrew from the information arena.” That is euphemism, and that means it’s obscuring the truth. On purpose.
The irony is that “we” actually did no such thing. “Our” propaganda machine was retooled by Edward Bernays after the end of WWII and has been running 24/7 ever since. He thought propaganda had a negative connotation and renamed it Public Relations. He called his science of manipulating people, the “engineering of consent.”
Remarkable, non? The HRC ripped the curtain right down and behind it is just a corporate PR executive selling finely-honed and well-established bullshit manipulation techniques that “engineer consent” to the highest bidder. PR and old fashioned propaganda is now incorporated into the body of capitalism, and therefore, our life. PR is replacing policy or covering up laws made for the rich by the rich. It is the veil over this circus of entrenched venality and inequality we call a country. Of course, the cynics (or realists, depending on your perspective) amongst you say, what else is new? Well, aside from the increasing degree of the corruption and wealth consolidation, the new twist is that PR has gone beyond “spin,” it is part of the way “government” “works.” To people who know what’s going on, this is not news, but the remarkable thing in this instance is who just did the show and tell, and how – and to whom. Maybe she’s so used to giving speeches to goldman sachs, she just used the same one on the The Daily Show.
See how far this is from a New Deal? The new deal is this: corporations run the government and every aspect of our lives, bending the world back to feudalism, while politicians are now part of the PR machine to spread the lies that keep it all going – and then they swing through the revolving door to get rich – or richer – then back again, Ad nauseam, Ad absurdum.
Finally, Jon revisits the “Israeli-Palestinian Conflict.” The HRC mischaracterizes and lies about the entire situation. She gives context that actually gives no context at all and puts the onus completely and totally on hamas. Ridiculous. Laughable, if it weren’t so deadly serious. Jon comes out looking decent, for what it’s worth.
To end, let’s just meditate on the very end of the “interview” or “conversation,” where The HRC segues from lying about Israel’s attempt to extinguish the last vestiges of Palestinians from Palestine to a quick slick last pitch for her book. Jon Stewart: “You did not just do that!” Oh, she did. Yes she did. This is a country founded on violence, extremism, hustling, and hucksterism. How is that not a perfect ending?