“If there is one group that deserves our deepest contempt it is the liberal elites, those who posture as the moral arbiters of society while abandoning every value they purportedly hold the moment they become inconvenient.”Chris Hedges: American Requiem
This picture is but a drop in the ocean of corporate consolidation. When you read about an increase of M&A (mergers and acquisitions) it is usually an indication that rich people (using the corporations they own and the politicians they buy) have just stolen a great deal of money from you, legally (because the rich/corporations write the laws) and/or illegally (because they break the laws they don’t write). The past decade or so has been (yet another) one of these times.
The consolidation of money/power has surpassed that of the Gilded Age. Inequality has never been greater in human history. The rich have so much money they literally don’t know what to do with it. When you see things like stock buy-backs, art and property selling for record amounts, billions “invested” in silicon valley vaporware and apps that “innovate “by essentially enslaving working people, you see this in action.
The tendency to monopoly power is built into capitalism. Some apologists for capitalism will say that is why we need good regulation, but another tendency built into the logic of capitalism is profit at any (so-called “external”) cost. That means there will be a constant effort to destroy regulatory bodies or “capture” them. The u.s. government is now one big object lesson in that process. Because the rich/corporations make the laws, control money and the state, they also make “policy” or “laws” that funnel more to the top – and that means they are making us poorer and more vulnerable. International trade agreements work exactly the same way. Capitalism, in the form of corporate control, does the job of crafting regulatory bodies and agreements that make corporations richer and poison, immiserate, and kill the rest of us.
Another easily seen part of the corporate capture of government involves the rich buying politicians. They always came cheap and because of the just explicated processes, there are no constraints on campaign contributions either. Oh, and corporations have more rights than people – and corporations are legally people. But one of the most popular legal bribes comes in the form of the paid speech. Not coincidentally, it’s usually the first thing a president or any high government official does as soon as they leave office. They can’t wait to get to the payoff trough. Often it’s a speech to goldman sachs or an oil company, but only the high profile politicians get the $200,000/speech payoffs. The rest can usually be purchased with petty cash. Of course, a million here and million there is petty cash to corporations.
All of this contributes to the further consolidation of capital (which obviously increases inequality) and has led us to multiple crises coming together at once – and the creation of new crises as well. Voting will not get us out of it. Liberal tinkering around the edges will not save us. Getting radical (changing the system at the root) is the only way forward. We will have to do it by organizing ourselves, unifying, and creating another system that is not based on the exploitation of the earth and everything living on it. Socialism or barbarism was once offered as a pithy way to describe the choice. We can argue about what to label a new way of living and structuring life on planet earth, but it can’t be the neoliberal corporate capitalist system we have now, and we all have to be involved in organizing ourselves and unifying to become a force powerful enough to challenge the capitalists ruining the chance for continued human life on this planet.
Whatever group or organization you join (or start), work to make it as (small d) democratic as possible and work toward making connections with other groups. When groups can come together and unify internationally, we will have the beginning of a chance to challenge the power of the capitalist class. It sounds fantastical and crazy – and as things exist today, it seems impossible – but it is the only way to get off the path that leads directly to mass extinction. The choice seemed obvious when it was phrased as socialism or barbarism. That was another time. And because “we” chose barbarism (and capitalists made war against socialism), now the choice is socialism or the extinction of the human species. Again, if you don’t like the word socialism, call it something else, or think of something else. The point is that we all have to act, together, as one. We start by joining with others to help struggling people. Not as a charity, but in solidarity. That is the way forward. As you help others – with others – you will help yourself, in ways you can’t even imagine. If it is done in an organized, unified way – with a plan, strategies, and goals – it can change the course of the world.
In the past few years, capitalists (corporations, the filthy rich, finance, insurance, oil, big pharma, big ag, and war mongers, to name a few) have significantly stepped-up their buying of governments worldwide. They have been busy putting the money they’ve stolen from us to use, purchasing politicians and imposing neoliberal policies on us all.
At the core of those policies is privatization. Privatization involves transferring the ownership of public wealth from the people to private for-profit corporations. That, along with the 2007-08 crisis, has resulted in a massive transfer and consolidation of wealth that literally kills, criminalizes, impoverishes, and controls, whilst making the rich, much, much richer.
Another tenet of neoliberal ideology (or tactic if you prefer) is the imposition of austerity. Essentially, austerity takes away critical resources from citizens – especially the most vulnerable. This goes hand in hand with a perennial corporate favorite: deregulation. Deregulation weakens regulatory agencies and gets rid of laws that protect citizens by either weakening them or replacing them wholesale.
The all-out assault on the UK by neoliberal corporate power has been extreme. It has killed thousands and impoverished many more. It is remaking the entire society before people’s eyes. It is difficult to overstate the rapidity and viciousness with which this is taking place. And if you are an average citizen outside of the British Isles, you probably have no idea it’s happening at all.
Mark McGowan, AKA The artist taxi driver, AKA Chunky Mark, is a working class bloke in London. He has been watching it all happen with shock, horror, and disbelief and is just trying to make sense of it all. He shoots videos in his cab before he starts work in the morning and posts them on youtube. Over the years, he has also managed to interview people from almost every walk of life. This movie is a collection of those commentaries and interviews.
From what I’ve been able to glean, Mark is a concerned citizen, father, artist, activist – and has a pretty good sense of humor to boot. He’s smart, sincere, frightened, concerned, and wants justice. What comes through again and again is his empathy, his humanity. He wonders aloud what many of us think every day: why are the people in power so sadistic and why aren’t the rest of us doing something about it? He screams and rants and rages quite loudly, and a bit more than occasionally. I’ll leave out any discussion of how much might be performance because I think it is his genuine immediate reaction to what is happening – and because I think it’s appropriate. It seems a much more human response than what I see from most people. He may or may not realize it, but his pauses and sighs have an even bigger impact than the yelling. But I digress…
Though you may not be familiar with UK politics, much of what Mark is covering should sound very familiar. It should be obvious by now that this corporate neoliberal agenda is not unique to the UK. In fact, neoliberalism as we know it was born in the u.s.a. (at the University of Chicago to be exact). While the u.s. doesn’t have an NHS to dismantle, it’s healthcare was given over to corporations long ago. Schools are another matter. The neoliberals have been busy here demonizing teachers, attacking unions, and attempting to privatize public schools. State pensions (which most americans don’t even possess) have been raided (through fees, budget cuts, legislation, and fraud) and everyone who has a pension is funding speculation. That money is at risk of being lost. (For those of you reading this in the future: Yes, the derivatives your pension fund helped inflate into a massive toxic bubble that burst are the reason they’re giving for cutting your pension.) The corporate neoliberal model is being imposed all over the world: India, Turkey, Brazil – most of Europe…the list is long. Just look for bought-off politicians selling off the state to corporate “interests” and media imitating the u.s. and the picture should become very clear.
Of course this film and Mark’s youtube videos aren’t the be all end all source for information, but I like Mark’s DIY spirit, his frustration, his sense of urgency, his passion and humanity. Things sorely lacking from most people I see.
Caveats: For those with delicate sensibilities, there is a lot of swearing in this film. If you’re still living in another century it may be time to travel to the present. As I said in the beginning, Mark is just a guy trying to understand what’s going on. I think he has done a damn good job of zeroing in on root causes, but – as with most people – he is just as susceptible as the next guy to occasionally trodding down the wrong path. For example, Alex Jones makes a very brief appearance in the cab. He is an american “shock jock” who mixes wacky conspiracy theories with facts and dangerous ideas; so, in the end, it’s best to dismiss him totally. There are so many people with sane analyses, there is really no reason to pay him any attention except as comic relief.
Max Keiser also makes an appearance. While Max does offer some good analysis of financial criminal behavior, he is a capitalist and he shares the libertarian utopian idea that if we only had “true free markets” we could have good capitalism (but in the meantime, he is a regular old capitalist). If one knows enough to see through that and can suss out the useful bits of his analysis, have at it – but really, there are hundreds of other more reputable sources out there who aren’t selling their own bitcoins, etc…
So, with those caveats, watch the film to be entertained, see a slice of life, and hopefully get a sense of what’s happening, because whether you know it or not, some version of everything detailed in it is probably happening where you live.
I think the question of whether the establishment media is racist is directly tied to whether “the country” is racist. If it was explored deeply enough, it would illuminate quite a few fundamental truths of this big confused country. There are so many aspects to these topics, that many books could be (and have been) written about them, so it will be difficult to limit this discussion to a few tweets. Maybe I’ll write on it for a bit, extract some tweets, and then give you a link to it.
Racism has been a significant element in american media from the beginning. From omission to gross caricatures, from mischaracterization to enforcing and re-enforcing stereotypes, to outright lies. When you include the entertainment industry, the racism goes off the charts. Donald Bogle is a great source for this. In news media, the list is just as long and damaging. There are endless historical examples of papers actively promoting slavery, and when they couldn’t promote slavery, they promoted racism. Yes, even in the north. When they couldn’t actively promote racism, they became more subtle, but the effects were often the same. For an indication of how far the media had come by 1967, I would cite the Kerner Report. By ’68 I would just cite reality. For a more contemporary view, just look at what the establishment media tried to do to Ferguson. It was so bad, so quickly, that the protesters stopped talking to CNN. Of course, they didn’t really ever want to talk to Fox, for obvious reasons, and the other major sources didn’t come out looking much better. And that was just the protest. The way the media reported on Mike Brown (and every other victim of police violence) was sickening and reprehensible, and yes, racist. Could I open up a paper or roll you a clip of that very kind of reporting this year? Of course.
You say most reporters aren’t racist, but somehow, when they’re reporting for the establishment media it often comes out racist. In Ferguson, Don Lemon would be a perfect example of how this happens. Another aspect of racism is that, more often than not, no reporting gets done when there is not a crisis or some event that could be presented as something a white audience could perceive as negative. When is black and brown life acknowledged at all when it’s not sports, entertainment, or a so-called riot? Omission of black and brown life in general may actually be the starkest comment on the racism of this country and its media. And why am I using these terms? Because black, brown, white, red, etc., are how this country has divided people, and it is how a racist system encourages and forces us to identify. Racism is the air we breathe.
Does all of this have to be “fed inorganically by media elites”? Of course not. I think Herman and Chomsky’s “Manufacturing Consent” explains perfectly how this happens as a function of propaganda. You could say racism is part of the propaganda and/or that racism in the media functions in the same way propaganda does. That would be another discussion, but certainly germane to this one.
“Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media (1988), by Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky, proposes that the mass communication media of the U.S. “are effective and powerful ideological institutions that carry out a system-supportive propaganda function, by reliance on market forces, internalized assumptions, and self-censorship, and without overt coercion”, by means of the propaganda model of communication. The title of the book, Manufacturing Consent, derives from the phrase “the manufacture of consent,” employed in the book Public Opinion (1922), by Walter Lippmann…”
As I generally agree with this analysis (the analysis is the book), I wholeheartedly disagree with your statement that, “Overall, in fact, I think media elites are a force for pluralism, which is why they are so resented and blamed by the right.”
I think the right (a designation I will comment on shortly) came up with “the liberal media” as a propaganda tool and many people who identify as right-wing believed it much more than than the cynical creators of the phrase. I think it worked better than they ever could have imagined. It is a smoke-screen – or maybe more accurately, smoke and mirrors. That is, it is the perfect tool of misdirection while performing your magic trick of moving everything to the right. You create an enemy while you actually benefit from that enemy. In other words, it keeps the discourse within certain bounds and forces people to the right – and forces people who identify as liberal into a defensive posture.
So, getting to that rightward turn brings us to your obama point. The election of obama was extraordinary by every measure. I believe obama was elected in a time of crisis, and that crisis occurred after america had been collectively traumatized by bush the second and his goons. While a record number of voters turned out the first time for obama, only about half of the people eligible to vote do so at any given time – and actually fewer most of the time. Not only are many people of color disenfranchised, but the majority of all people who could vote in this country choose not to. This leads to another discussion, so I will try not to digress too much. That being said, I don’t discount that obama is perceived as black and was elected twice. He is white. Well, he is just as much white as he is black – but we call him black because, as I said above, racism is the air we breathe. It goes back to the “blood quantum” and “one drop” rule, methods of determining the “race” of an individual, which of course had legal and social consequences.
To digress a bit more, I have personal experience of obama’s hometown and school. His school is a training ground not only for the professional class, but for the elite. What it means to be black in Hawaii is quite different than the mainland. He learned what he could in Chicago, but, well, I won’t continue. Suffice it to say, he is not now, nor has he ever been, connected to the black working class. He went from elite K-12 to elite universities, and then to elite office. Everything I just stated shows personally and in his policies – or lack thereof…
Aside from the positive symbolism (which I don’t discount), he has, on balance, been an extremely right-wing president. He has extended and doubled-down on many bush era policies, He is drilling everywhere and building new nuclear weapons to the tune of tens of billions of dollars, he oversees a drone program and has expanded (with the help of hillary) war to many countries. Obamacare is actually romneycare (a “health” program developed by right-wing think tanks) and it’s true effectiveness has yet to be proven (no cap on rates, tens of millions still uninsured, often unaffordable even with subsidies, many cases of insufficient coverage). Race to the top was an unmitigated disaster and he supports onerous testing, common core, and charter schools, which is de facto privatization. He has deported and imprisoned more undocumented refugees than any other president, and he has prosecuted more journalists and whistle-blowers than any other president. Ever. As you know, it has had a chilling effect on journalism overall. I won’t even get into how black people have fared under his watch, but I will say, they haven’t recovered the wealth that was stolen from them in the manufactured crisis – but the banks that stole it are fatter than ever. Coincidentally, they lost a lot of voting rights too, but I can’t blame him personally for that because it was a supreme court ruling. Really though, the cherry on top, the thing that trumps, if you will, everything, and reveals his true allegiances (the ones that will make him a very rich man), is that he is a passionate supporter and promoter of the TPP. The TPP has been described as NAFTA on steroids. I don’t think that goes far enough, because that corporate crafted series of international laws will actually chip away at nation state’s ability to stay sovereign entities. In very clear ways, it empowers corporations to rule the world and to use the coffers of states and taxpayer money to enrich themselves.
How is any of that “incremental change in a centrist republic?” This is a neoliberal corporate oligarchy – the development of which is the “change that is provoking this reactionary anger.” Any anti-racist activism is also a response to this (and to historical racism, that is part and parcel of the present racism). Totally aside from their overt racism, the GOP began alienating their base long ago by going fully corporate to the full exclusion of all working people. As soon as it was clear they had completely turned their back on the majority of the american population, they began looking for even more extreme constituencies than, say, the evangelicals and other fundamentalists they first went to when their political future was in question. Ironically, they abandoned their old base by forwarding a bi-partisan turn toward neoliberal policies like NCLB, cutting benefits, escalation of the drug war, the creation of the prison industrial complex, and NAFTA – which did more to undermine their base (and the big D Democrats base for that matter) than anything before or since. I’m not even including the trillions spent on war and weapons that is also rubber-stamped by both parties. Of course, reagan and his thugs set much of this into motion before most of those horrors were perpetrated. The irony is that the base they alienated was ripe for tea party recruitment. The koch brothers and fox sponsored a lot of that organization, but the raw fear and rage was already there because of the GOP’s original betrayal. Of course, it’s hard to call it a betrayal because the GOP never cared much for the worker. The point is, the rise of DT is a direct consequence of that original and continuing betrayal. As I stated, this is largely the result of a bi-partisan embrace of the neoliberal project, which is an expression of the logic of capitalism: ceaseless accumulation and the commodification of all things. That project is right wing and by it’s very nature racist because it exacerbates capitalism and all of the tactics used by capitalists to plunder and accumulate more capital. Divide and conquer through creating and exploiting difference, prey on the poor and the weak (and now what’s left of the middle class). That is the logic that is motivating every branch of government (and many governments all over the world), to say nothing of the corporations who pay for them.
As I tried to emphasize, I think we have been dragged to the right through a bi-partisan neoliberal consensus that continues unabated today. Has there been some resistance? Not much, but I hope that resistance grows and makes connections world-wide, because neoliberalism is a world-wide project. India and UK are two of many examples. The neoliberal assault on the UK is profound and totally unreported by most media. There is also a strong argument to be made that the imposition of neoliberalism in the so-called middle east and all over Africa contributed to the unrest that sparked the arab spring.
To wrap this up, I don’t believe every american is racist. I don’t believe every person in the media is racist. I don’t believe every member of the elite is racist, but, we are surrounded by racism and it pervades all of our institutions. It is systemic. Do I think there has been progress from slavery to now? Of course. Do I think the relatively small gains made through civil rights movements have been undermined and contained from the beginning and significantly rolled back in the decades since – despite the election of obama? Hell yes. I tried to present some supporting arguments here, though, there are many, many, more.
In thoughtful discussion,
21st Century Poet
Click image above to go to site.
In the fall of 2006, Glen Ford, Bruce Dixon, Margaret Kimberley and Leutisha Stills of CBC Monitor left Black Commentator, which Ford had co-founded and edited since 2002, and launched Black Agenda Report.
Check it out. Well worth your while…
We are living in the middle of massive changes that will profoundly affect us all. One could look back through history and say, it was ever thus, but the world has never known concentrated power and control on this level and its consolidation continues every day. We now live in a world, as Oxfam recently described, where “[w]ealthy elites have co-opted political power to rig the rules of the economic game, undermining democracy and creating a world where the 85 richest people own the wealth of half of the world’s population.”
More often than not, those 85 people use the corporation as an entity to embody their wealth and power – and to make it grow. Growth has become the thing to strive for, it is the mantra of governments, the logic of capitalism, and by extension, the corporations who control the capital. Of course, we are not talking only about those 85 people. We are talking about the system of corporate capitalism we all live in. Increasingly, corporations are using the ideology of neoliberalism to operate in the world, to reshape it in their own image, to claim all rights and property for the corporation. Making private (for profit) everything belonging to the public (things we supposedly own in common) and taking all information we think should be private and putting it in the hands of corporations and the governments they control – in order to increase control and profit.
One could point to the enclosure movement and police states of the past and continue to say, plus ca change, but differences of degree will eventually lead to a difference in kind. After all, we started as single-celled bits in the ocean. In other words, we are dealing with a whole new beast. And that beast is killing many of us. If it doesn’t kill us, it is shaping every aspect of our lives.
Many americans are still in denial about the forces at play and how to engage them. Many are too ignorant to be in denial, but there are also people who understand what the struggle means and that, if we do not fight, we will eventually lose our humanity, in every sense. There are a relative few who understand the stakes of this moment in history. Some are tempted to look to leaders of struggles in the past and have a kind of nostalgia. There is no time for nostalgia. In fact nostalgia is a dangerous feeling. It distorts the past and discounts the future. If we’re going to look backward, we have to do so with clear, un-obscured eyes.
When we see without the veil of nostalgia – or more importantly, propaganda – it becomes easier to see the true struggles many of our leaders were involved in. For example, MLK and Malcolm both made their share of mistakes, but by the end of their all too short lives, they had amassed a great deal of wisdom. It’s instructive to look at where they were in their development as intellectuals and activists when they were assassinated because they had both moved straight to the core of the struggle. Of course, it’s difficult to take such a wealth of experience and distill it into a sentence or two, but if you focus on the root of the struggle, it looks something like this:
Well-organized people of all colors, classes and religions, working together in love, world-wide, for vulnerable people, and against racism, capitalism, colonialism, and imperialism.
Those ideas are guiding principles. They aren’t a road map, but they definitely point the way. The thing is, we actually have to understand the way forward involves all of us working together in that direction. Black, white, rich, poor, gay, straight, and on and on. It seems such a simple point, but everyday realities and the power of the dominant corporate culture seem to obscure it and divide us and atomize us more and more. The dominant culture has had such a corrosive effect that saying we all need to work together sounds like a platitude or cliche, but that is what every great leader ends up saying – and more importantly struggled to do.
If we study the past and work together now, we don’t have to repeat the mistakes our leaders made when they were trying to find their way and we can learn from the wisdom they finally attained. They earned that wisdom through struggle – blood, sweat, and tears. Those guiding principles are their legacy. The struggle we face is bigger than any that has gone before. We would be foolish to ignore the wisdom they handed to us.
Chris Hedges and Bob Scheer discuss Scheer’s latest book “They Know Everything About You: How Data-Collecting Corporations and Snooping Government Agencies Are Destroying Democracy” and end up interrogating some of the fundamental assumptions underlying their respective political beliefs.
This last segment is unedited, but it’s interesting to see them working out the kinks. The Real News Network is truly a wealth of information. I encourage you to explore their site and learn about their future plans.
Almost every sentence should make you quake in fear. What can one say anymore…It’s pretty clear we the people have to stop these fuckers. Those words fall flat, don’t they? They sound ironic and trite. And they are just words, because the “I” has triumphed. The “we” seems to be a rapidly receding memory. The class war was waged and won, and now the victors are raping and pillaging the conquered, squeezing every last drop of blood. We are ignorant, overwhelmed, atomized, disconnected from history, we are scared, rushed, fatigued, numb, despondent, in denial – or worse, we are happy and comfortable and blissfully unaware.
More words floating in cyberspace…
This entire tableau is responsible for the stream of zombie, vampire, apocalypse, and dystopic images that now seem to make up a great deal of our “entertainment.”
We are projecting our lived and psychic experience
– and we are filling the world with them.
Ubiquitous and addictive,
they are creating a pathological feedback loop in our brains
and what’s left of our souls.
We are hypnotized by images of our own demise.
Twisted fantastic things from the unconscious,
realities preemptively pushed out of consciousness
bubbling up and pouring out in our creations.
We stare zombie-like
into the screens
as everything is stolen
and a kind of corporate feudalism is imposed on us
by the thieves
who are robbing us blind.
One idea that has become clearer and clearer to me over the years is that organizers need to organize themselves while they organize others. This piece is one (very small) indication that it may actually be happening. Eventually, it needs to happen on a grand scale, encompassing all organizations that work for human rights and justice (and I mean that in the broadest sense) as well individuals. As capitalism progresses and corporations increase their global control using the same neoliberal tactics everywhere, people around the world are experiencing the same kinds of oppression, oftentimes by the same corporations. The only true chance of challenging corporate power and reversing it is for people to organize world-wide. The organizing efforts detailed in this piece only hint at that, but it should be the goal and we should be developing visions of the future that offer a successful movement more than a kinder, gentler capitalism.
Warning: Turn your volume down. There will be screaming.