Jon Stewart asks Hillary how to fix america. Her answer might surprise you. [from the archives 2014]

Originally posted 7/30/2014

The show is linked here. You can watch and read the “play-by-play” below.

Part I

Part II

Part III

Part IV

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 cringe-worthy comedy bit, a send up of the will-she-or-won’t-she-run game the corporate media constantly play Ad infinitum, Ad absurdum, Ad nauseam, 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. For example: he was buttering her up, making her comfortable before lowering the boom, or, he’s just a comedian doing his job on a comedy show and 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 supposed to be answering a question about her recent “dead broke” comment. First she tried to diminish the lie, and then tried to change the subject, essentially saying she cares about kids not believing in the american dream anymore. You know, the dream she has significantly helped to crush through the neoliberalism she and bill embraced and implemented. Admittedly, Jon scores a point here by using the will-she-or-won’t-she-run shtick to point out her slick attempt to not answer his question was truly presidential. She doubles down to make sure she doesn’t have to be confronted with her lie about formerly being dead broke by continuing with 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. Do I think any of the aforementioned people would actually do anything? Hell no. 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 rich and powerful have purchased most of our politicians, and politicians like her have gotten rich unleashing class war against us and the rest of the world.

The HRC goes on to give a few details of our increasing inequality and Stewart asks a heartfelt but misguided question that is based on 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. The irony (or one of many ironies) is that the entire political spectrum has shifted so much to the right – a shift that The HRC and slick willie played a huge role in – that a “moderate” talk show host can ask a right-wing talking point question to a far right-wing Democrat. And this is what most people call “The left.” Time to laugh, but only to keep from crying…

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 totally complicit 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?

Click here to see The HRC vote to invade 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 its own:

Click here for story about The HRC and her speaking fees

He could have pursued any of these major “conflicts of interest,” otherwise known as pay-offs, 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. Unfortunately, his supposition is probably true, but here it just serves as a neat way to ignore her numerous crimes against humanity and let her move on without being confronted. So, that was just a freebie I guess.

On with the show!

More talk from The HRC. A bit of truth mixed with obfuscation, with a soupcon of weirdness. And here we see an interesting shift (not much of a shift needed of course) from HRC the politician to HRC the 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 we will have to leave that aside for brevity’s sake.

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 that 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? Well, the least you can say is that it shows where her priorities are – and you ain’t even on the list buddy, unless you happen to be a dictator to support, or a fracking oil executive, or a for-profit prison, bank, or hedge fund owner, etc…

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 was increased? 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?”

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 and comes up with another doozy: “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.) Again, for brevity’s sake, unfortunately we will have to 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 this was obviously not the curtain she meant to pull back.)

She says, people all over the world – especially young people – don’t know the history of ‘murca’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 its 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.”

APPLAUSE BREAK

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 america’s hypocrisy and using “our” treatment of democratically elected hamas as an example. 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.” 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.) Not only that, but she mentions we deal with “unsavory characters” and maybe occasionally support “autocratic” leaders too long. Hey, nobody’s perfect, right? You gotta admit, it’s a great story…
She really likes our story. Don’t worry, we’re getting closer to the big reveal.

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,” (because she can’t officially acknowledge it was a “coup”) but, they wanted to help us broker a cease-fire, so that helps us with other interests (hmmm…what “interests” could those be…) 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 acknowledging that she just used okaying a military coup and supporting another dictatorship as an example of how we stay true to our “values.” What a great way to show what we really stand for…

Instead he comes up with another decent, 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. She doesn’t answer it, but it clearly makes her think of something, something that she has obviously put a lot of thought into, something that she actually sees as an answer to all of the problems we face as a nation. 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 probably where the web only version starts, i.e., most people didn’t see this next part.

And now, we get down to the real nitty gritty. Though she alluded to it before, now 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) cold war 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: Russian media 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, you know, a consensus in our own country, about who we are, what we stand for – hopefully a bi-partisan consensus, like it used to be in foreign policy – 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, over and over, to ourselves and others – and we have to “start believing it.” Just like old times. Don’t you get nostalgic over the Red Scare, nuclear brinkmanship, and McCarthyism too? C’mon people, where’s your can-do attitude? Where’s your patriotism?

The HRC’s short survey of american history continues: After the spread of feel good (Lou Reed?!?) ‘murcan culture all over the globe (which the CIA played a large role in and 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 when the Soviet Union collapsed and the wall fell, we took our eye off the ball and stopped 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. Of course. This should be as obvious as being punched in the face multiple times, but the audience is eating it up. Or they’re eating up the idea of The HRC talking and saying american things that sound like something positive. Whatever is going on in their liberal brains, they’re eating it up. After this smorgasbord of lies and delusion and cynicism and sheer banality of evil, our delicate sensibilities should not be offended by yet another euphemism.

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. After the war, he thought propaganda might have a slightly 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. And if somehow a crime is found out and/or offense is committed, don’t worry, there is a PR agency out there that has a very expensive apology for that.

Of course, the cynics (or realists, depending on your perspective) amongst you say, what else is new? Well, aside from the increasing degree of corruption, wealth consolidation, and the inequality and increased oppression they breed, 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 – hopefully not Ad infinitum, but, at this point, it sure feels like it.

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. In that exchange, 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?

The thank you, the handshake, the audience cheers.

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[from the archives] Jon Stewart asks Hillary how to fix america. Her answer might surprise you.

Originally posted 7/30/2014

The show is linked here. You can watch and read the “play-by-play” below.

Part I

Part II

Part III

Part IV

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 cringe-worthy comedy bit, a send up of the will-she-or-won’t-she-run game the corporate media constantly play Ad infinitum, Ad absurdum, Ad nauseam, 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. For example: he was buttering her up, making her comfortable before lowering the boom, or, he’s just a comedian doing his job on a comedy show and 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 supposed to be answering a question about her recent “dead broke” comment. First she tried to diminish the lie, and then tried to change the subject, essentially saying she cares about kids not believing in the american dream anymore. You know, the dream she has significantly helped to crush through the neoliberalism she and bill embraced and implemented. Admittedly, Jon scores a point here by using the will-she-or-won’t-she-run shtick to point out her slick attempt to not answer his question was truly presidential. She doubles down to make sure she doesn’t have to be confronted with her lie about formerly being dead broke by continuing with 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. Do I think any of the aforementioned people would actually do anything? Hell no. 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 rich and powerful have purchased most of our politicians, and politicians like her have gotten rich unleashing class war against us and the rest of the world.

The HRC goes on to give a few details of our increasing inequality and Stewart asks a heartfelt but misguided question that is based on 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. The irony (or one of many ironies) is that the entire political spectrum has shifted so much to the right – a shift that The HRC and slick willie played a huge role in – that a “moderate” talk show host can ask a right-wing talking point question to a far right-wing Democrat. And this is what most people call “The left.” Time to laugh, but only to keep from crying…

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 totally complicit 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?

Click here to see The HRC vote to invade 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 its own:

Click here for story about The HRC and her speaking fees

He could have pursued any of these major “conflicts of interest,” otherwise known as pay-offs, 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. Unfortunately, his supposition is probably true, but here it just serves as a neat way to ignore her numerous crimes against humanity and let her move on without being confronted. So, that was just a freebie I guess.

On with the show!

More talk from The HRC. A bit of truth mixed with obfuscation, with a soupcon of weirdness. And here we see an interesting shift (not much of a shift needed of course) from HRC the politician to HRC the 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 we will have to leave that aside for brevity’s sake.

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 that 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? Well, the least you can say is that it shows where her priorities are – and you ain’t even on the list buddy, unless you happen to be a dictator to support, or a fracking oil executive, or a for-profit prison, bank, or hedge fund owner, etc…

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 was increased? 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?”

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 and comes up with another doozy: “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.) Again, for brevity’s sake, unfortunately we will have to 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 this was obviously not the curtain she meant to pull back.)

She says, people all over the world – especially young people – don’t know the history of ‘murca’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 its 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.”

APPLAUSE BREAK

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 america’s hypocrisy and using “our” treatment of democratically elected hamas as an example. 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.” 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.) Not only that, but she mentions we deal with “unsavory characters” and maybe occasionally support “autocratic” leaders too long. Hey, nobody’s perfect, right? You gotta admit, it’s a great story…
She really likes our story. Don’t worry, we’re getting closer to the big reveal.

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,” (because she can’t officially acknowledge it was a “coup”) but, they wanted to help us broker a cease-fire, so that helps us with other interests (hmmm…what “interests” could those be…) 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 acknowledging that she just used okaying a military coup and supporting another dictatorship as an example of how we stay true to our “values.” What a great way to show what we really stand for…

Instead he comes up with another decent, 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. She doesn’t answer it, but it clearly makes her think of something, something that she has obviously put a lot of thought into, something that she actually sees as an answer to all of the problems we face as a nation. 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 probably where the web only version starts, i.e., most people didn’t see this next part.

And now, we get down to the real nitty gritty. Though she alluded to it before, now 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) cold war 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: Russian media 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, you know, a consensus in our own country, about who we are, what we stand for – hopefully a bi-partisan consensus, like it used to be in foreign policy – 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, over and over, to ourselves and others – and we have to “start believing it.” Just like old times. Don’t you get nostalgic over the Red Scare, nuclear brinkmanship, and McCarthyism too? C’mon people, where’s your can-do attitude? Where’s your patriotism?

The HRC’s short survey of american history continues: After the spread of feel good (Lou Reed?!?) ‘murcan culture all over the globe (which the CIA played a large role in and 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 when the Soviet Union collapsed and the wall fell, we took our eye off the ball and stopped 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. Of course. This should be as obvious as being punched in the face multiple times, but the audience is eating it up. Or they’re eating up the idea of The HRC talking and saying american things that sound like something positive. Whatever is going on in their liberal brains, they’re eating it up. After this smorgasbord of lies and delusion and cynicism and sheer banality of evil, our delicate sensibilities should not be offended by yet another euphemism.

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. After the war, he thought propaganda might have a slightly 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. And if somehow a crime is found out and/or offense is committed, don’t worry, there is a PR agency out there that has a very expensive apology for that.

Of course, the cynics (or realists, depending on your perspective) amongst you say, what else is new? Well, aside from the increasing degree of corruption, wealth consolidation, and the inequality and increased oppression they breed, 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 – hopefully not Ad infinitum, but, at this point, it sure feels like it.

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. In that exchange, 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?

The thank you, the handshake, the audience cheers.

Q&A Session with Arundhati Roy at SOAS

Disappearing World Forum Q&A Session with Arundhati Roy, held at the Brunei Gallery, SOAS, 2013

One could write a never-ending book about all that is contained in and around this event so it will be difficult to write anything short here. I could say something romantic about ugliness and beauty, about the drama of our existence, of exploiter and the exploited, of greed and resistance to that greed. Or about the possibility that we humans are flawed in our very DNA and evolution and may never be capable of collective peace and goodwill to all. I could say history is never in the past. I could say ideology is profound, especially when it has almost unlimited power driving it into plastic labile minds. I could say capitalism is a fundamental threat to the survival of almost all living things – especially humans. I could say corporate neoliberal rule is designed to exacerbate the logic of capitalism which is ceaseless accumulation and the commodification of all things. Or I could focus on the institution and histories and ideologies and power relations that brought those specific questioners there at that particular time. Or I could focus on Arundhati and all she is representing and all the superlatives that would flow from there. All of the strength, intelligence, elegance, beauty, all of the eloquence, patience, and fortitude. Or I could point out her seeming prescience about our current state of affairs, which was actually a clear-eyed left analysis that has been on the right (correct) side of history for generations, along with common sense ideas like fairness, justice, right and wrong…and feelings, like passion and empathy. Well, the never-ending book won’t start now, so here ends this bit of thought and feeling, digitized, and published for those few who will come across it.

Yanis Varoufakis: Is Capitalism Devouring Democracy? [Video] w/commentary

At this point the choice for liberals is clear, but it’s clear the liberals asking the questions still don’t get it – or they do get it, but are so steeped in the venality of capitalism and neoliberalism they are confused. Yanis is frequently called a radical and liberals have consistently dismissed him as unrealistic, though it’s clear they are willing to listen more now than they have been in the past. If liberals still think Yanis is a radical they are sadly mistaken. He is offering the moderate way forward. I don’t know how big his organization is at the moment and it’s yet to be seen if it will gain enough traction to become viable in Europe, but if self-proclaimed liberals can’t get behind someone like him…well, I’ll leave it to you to complete the thought.

The minuscule level of left gains since 2008 have not moved the needle much – and “The Resistance” is a sad joke. The next manufactured crisis the financial “industry” will bring down on us will make people more extreme in every direction. The currently comfortable might then wonder why they didn’t try to do more when they had a chance – or more likely, they will do what they have been doing: the ol’ see no evil routine and/or keep head in sand/up ass and/or continue to support the right wing (and yes, that means most Dems, or whatever party you want to substitute in your country). Simply pressing a button or filling out a form every two or so years has never been and will never be enough.

When confronted with any of this, the first thing I always hear from liberals is, “well what can I do?” You know what I never hear them say? “Instead of binge-watching tv and letting corporate news wash over me every night, I took a day to research who was already organizing and doing something and then I went out and met people and actually tried to do something.” Never hear that. I’m not saying that will change our current trajectory, because a lot of those people thought they were doing something by knitting pussy hats, but I am saying being a liberal was never a good thing and in the last forty years those liberals who thought voting was the be all and end all of politics, voted for right-wing neoliberals over and over. They voted for the lesser of two evils and eventually got the current u.s. president, or macron, or may or erdogan, or take your pick…

It’s too late to say time to wake up. That time has passed. Organize locally, find left organizations that are national and international, and if they aren’t, make them international. And don’t stop until it’s world-wide. A perfect test case would be teachers. You may have noticed teachers organized to strike in some of the poorest states in the u.s. They realized they could do something and then they realized they could talk to other teachers in other states. They called for a reduction in their health insurance costs, they called for raises for all state employees and for the major corporations sucking the wealth from their states to actually pay taxes.  The next step, though literally no one is saying this, is to talk to teachers in other countries. Form organizations and then join up with other organizations to form something massive and worldwide. Think about how many teachers there are in the world, think about how many nurses there are… If unions were democratic and had the ideals of the I.W.W., they’d be doing the same, or better yet, they’d be welcoming groups with open arms of solidarity and sharing resources. (To be fair, some are more democratic than others and some are doing better work than others, but no big union is working for real internationalism). If you’re in a union, democratize it, and then make it international.

Well, I could go on, but I don’t have the time or energy. About three to ten people will read this. It’s more venting than anything else, though it is not satisfying in any way, shape, or form. I’m writing this as a poor person in the richest country that ever existed in the history of the world. You know, the country where about half the people are poor and a paycheck away from the street – if they even have a paycheck. The one where millions have no health care, and the ones who do find out it’s inadequate when they actually need it because there is a massive corporation between them and well, living. The one where mass shootings happen every week. The one with a record number of people in prison. The country who went from a deporter-in-chief sending people to die in countries the u.s. helped turn into corrupt regimes with gangs and putting women and children into for-profit detention camps, to an avowed racist deporting people and putting them into for-profit detention camps – or let’s just be honest and call them what they are: prisons. Of course this is the land of for-profit prisons. What do you need for more profits? You guessed it, more prisoners… The land of poisoned earth, air, and water. The land of mass surveillance, mass homelessness, mass killings. The one bombing the world into oblivion, selling the most weapons of any country. Selling them to the dictators it props up and attempting to overthrow democratically elected politicians it calls dictators. The one at endless war in multiple countries. The one with the homeless drug addicted veterans with PTSD it denies services to. The one where people who literally want to kill regulatory agencies are in charge of them. The one with the militarized police who harass and kill with impunity and think they are an occupying force in their own country. The one whose federal courts are packed with hanging judges and where the supreme court rules corporations are people and reverses voting rights for people of color. The one with hungry kids, the one with all the wannabe fascists (sometimes on the street and often in churches and government). The one whose corporations don’t pay taxes while grinding austerity and privatization is loosed on everyday people by the politicians the corporations purchase. The one with the most effective propaganda since the third reich. The one with current and former students carrying almost 1.5 trillion dollars in student loans – that the government is making money on. The country where people who should be building a future are forced to spend 50-80% of their income on rent – if they have a place to rent, Again, if they even have income… Ok, time to stop, because this list could fill many volumes.

The u.s. didn’t invent death and destruction and making war on it’s own people, but it has exported its capitalist, neoliberal version of these things all over the world. That alone gives the people of the world a shared struggle, if they choose to come together and fight this insanity. Yanis is proposing and trying to work for a way forward. Is it “the” way? Impossible to say, but I can say that it is moderate. Increasingly, our collective options for change are being narrowed and will, more and more, be determined by extreme situations created by extreme people with extreme ideas. The only way forward is collective action on a worldwide scale. Liberals are afraid of radical change, so they turn away from the left, but guess what we’ve been living through instead? What liberals have, let’s be generous and say unwittingly, helped to bring about? Right wing extremism. Ironically, for liberals to get the peace and equality they say they want and believe in, they will have to become radicals. Radical change, just means change at the root.  Fundamental, systemic change, not tweaking a totally corrupt system around the edges while more and more people suffer every day. Yanis is proposing to start with moderate change that will stabilize global capitalism so we can then calmly implement some kind of collective ownership. Again, I won’t go into the arguments for and against, I am simply saying this seems like radicalism to liberals, but the political spectrum has been dragged to the right by right-wing extremists for forty years, which means liberals are on the right, fascists are to their right, and Yanis is simply proposing moderate old school social democratic changes. If you aren’t choosing to support that and you’re not doing anything that could be called organizing the left, you are choosing the right-wing extremism that is the status quo.

My Kanye “hot-take” – from four years ago…

I’m close to being done with most pop culture, but the reality is that it makes up a large part of culture these days, all over the world. So, anyone expecting to be heard in any way shape or form has a much better chance doing it using pop culture than almost any other subject. I’m also loathe to talk about DT for too many reasons to list. All of that being said, I remembered writing this comment about four years ago in response to this piece

https://lareviewofbooks.org/article/outer-space-something/

and thought it could add to the discussion – or more likely, be just another cry in the wilderness…Anyway, for the one person who may be interested, here is the comment:

Good piece Ismail. It sparks a lot of questions and associations. Makes me think of Kanye. He has been a great case study in the representation of the subject game. One could easily write a book on the contradictions, confusions, and historical events that led to “Yeezus,” as well as his recent series of appearances in the media making a case for why he should be a mogul, i.e., a capitalist. Aside from his admirable passion and talent, some of his ideas can be attributed to his lack of a deep analysis (which I think could be said of most americans) and his fundamental acceptance of the capitalist system. It’s more troubling if he is simply cynical and calculating, but that automatically brings up questions of what success means under capitalism and what is required to achieve it, to say nothing of his personal struggle. I don’t want to get locked down in a binary construction here or even a judgment, but “New Slaves” certainly points up many a contradiction and confusion, and though it may just be Hip Hop swagger, he makes himself pretty clear here:

You see there’s leaders and there’s followers
But I’d rather be a dick than a swallower

That may be the shortest distillation of the capitalist ethos there is – other than the golden rule: “he who has the gold, rules.” In any case, Kanye made clear in his I-wanna-be-a-mogul media barrage that his major frustration was with the gatekeepers of capital blocking his access to it; thereby, keeping him from being another steve jobs. He constantly couches his desire in terms that distract from the ugliness of capitalism roiling just below the surface. He speaks in corporate phrases about product and being a “creator,” and constantly of his love of design. Not coincidentally, in the past decade or so, design has been elevated and commodified in popular culture like never before. He presents his desire in his own particular bombastic, self-promoting brand of Hip Hop, boasting that usually ends in platitudes, but it cannot disguise the fact that he wants something more than simply to create and design, because he has more than enough money to start a little boutique any time he wants. And though he may just want to bring good affordable fashion to the masses, it cannot disguise the fact that the fashion world he wants to be a part of is a nexus of capitalism. It is based on the exploitation of “cheap” labor out of the consumer’s sight and the creation of both desire and self-hate in “the consumer,” otherwise known as “a person.” Capitalists he sees as role models like steven jobs also made their fortunes from little brown hands working in prison-like conditions, and that is more than germane here.

Along with saying we are all new slaves to consumerism and materialism, and rightly pointing out the New Jim Crow of the prison industrial complex, Kanye says he is just a rich slave now (I know…) because they (the big fashion houses) “let” him produce for them, but he is continually blocked by the big players in fashion (capitalists) from becoming one of them. The hegemony of the fashion industry (and tech, and spirits, and perfume, etc…) in popular culture is now intricately intertwined in Hip Hop (there were early associations as well, like “My adidas” but that looks quaint now). Not only does it present the problems sketched above, but it directly involves creating a need in black and brown kids that makes them feel like shopping (and owning) will accomplish something. Of course, billions of people of all colors are enmeshed and in the thrall of the fashion industry and consumerism, but the irony is especially strong when black and brown kids are constantly extolling the virtues and buying the products of modern day slave masters. And it is compounded many times over when someone like Kanye starts talking about new slaves and then starts a media campaign to be “let in” by vicious capitalists, so he can become an actual modern day slaver himself. In all of his appearances, he has never come close to acknowledging the logical end of winning his campaign to be “let in,” or the evils of the fashion industry, or the capitalists who fund and, needless to say, profit from it.

To broaden the critique, liberals and self-identified progressives who claim to champion equal rights and justice buy (literally and figuratively) into this system as well. Seemingly, without a second thought. No one ever calls martha stewart and ralph lauren and steve jobs and phil knight modern day slave masters, but I think it needs to be done and I think we all need to be involved in stopping it. Most americans now accept that most of what they buy is made by slave labor. In fact, it has been joked about by stewart, colbert, and every late night talk show host and comedian I can think of. It is a disgusting failure on every level that we can’t even respond with a boycott when de facto slaves are throwing themselves out of foxcon’s windows and buildings are collapsing on Bangladeshis. We are all implicated in capitalism and its crimes, and there is certainly no dyad – especially when there is no “outside” commodification.

Well, just a few quick thoughts. Thanks for the piece.

nb: capitalizations and lack thereof are intentional.