May 07, 2008

Choosing Sides (II): Killing Truth and Hope -- The Fatal Illusion of Opposition

Part I: "Why America May Go to Hell," and Feeling Young Again

Toward the beginning of "The Nightmare Made Real," I wrote:
You desperately need to understand this: the next President of the United States, no matter who it is, will enter office knowing that he or she can systematically and regularly authorize torture, order mass murder, direct the United States military to engage in one campaign of criminal conquest and genocide after another, oversee uncountable acts of inhumanity and barbarity -- and he or she will never be challenged or called to account in any manner whatsoever. It may have taken the Bush administration two terms to bring us to the point where such evils are committed and even boasted about in broad daylight, while almost no one even notices -- but this will be where the next President starts.

And for this monstrous, unforgivable fact, you can thank the Democrats and those who whore themselves for the Democrats' success in our disgustingly meaningless elections.
See the earlier post for a fuller argument on this subject.

A crucially related issue connects to the earlier post, and it deserves discussion separately. That issue is the following: there is nothing so dangerous as the illusion of opposition, when in fact no such opposition exists. Many of us have seen movies or read books which, in broad outline, tell the following story: a cruel villain inflicts terrible misery and suffering on innocent victims. A brave, fearless defender of the victims unexpectedly appears. The victims rally behind their defender, and they increasingly come to view him as their savior. The battle between the villain and his forces on one hand, and the victims and their defender on the other, rages fiercely. One side seems destined for victory, and then the other. It takes a very long time before victory is assured for either side; the toll of battle is awful for everyone. Finally, the villain defeats the victims and their brave defender, and the villain emerges as more powerful than he had ever been.

In the final scene, we learn the truth: the victims' defender had been working for the villain all the time. The defender had never been on the side of the victims: instead, at every critical juncture, he made sure to misdirect the victims' efforts just enough to make certain that the villain was never seriously threatened. The defender had to do this subtly; he had to lie on every matter of moment, and he had to do so repeatedly. He did all this expertly, and the victims never suspected his actual goal. The defender is handsomely rewarded for his work, for he delivered the victims into the villain's power, making certain that the victims would never again be a genuine threat. And the illusion is complete: even after they had lost and their lives had been destroyed forever, the victims never doubted their hero or the fact that he had fought for them so bravely.

In many essays, I have documented the inexorable development of the political system in the United States over more than a century: toward a corporatist-authoritarian state domestically, coupled with a militantly, violently interventionist foreign policy. (Once again, see these articles and the other essays they link for the details: "Blinded by the Story," "It's Called the Ruling Class Because It Rules," the "Dominion Over the World" series, and "Cui Bono? -- and Bush's Monstrous, Deadly Dare.") This system encompasses every area of our national life. It is reflected economically and politically through an inordinately complex series of interconnections between nominally private business enterprise and government (including government on every level: city, county, state and federal), and through endless, intentionally incomprehensible regulations (which are usually crafted by vested business interests themselves and serve to protect already entrenched powers and shut out new competitors, a process which became a significant national force during the Progressive era); it is reflected culturally in a strangling, exceedingly narrow range of permissible, "acceptable" thought.

The military-industrial complex -- or what is now often more accurately described as the military-industrial-congressional complex -- is the most significant component of these interrelationships, but there are many other parts. They encompass all major industries, and almost every minor one, as well as many of our educational and cultural institutions. There is no aspect of our national or personal lives that is not significantly overseen, regulated and, when necessary to protect those in power, punished by government.

This system as it exists today consists of innumerable interrelated, constantly moving parts. Countless agencies, commissions and bureaucrats act in concert and on their own to expand their power, and that of government generally. The system has a life of its own; it is its own reason for being. It sustains itself, and it seeks more and more territory for its dominance. The exercise of power and the acquisition of still more power are not directed at the improvement of the lives of "ordinary" Americans, whoever they may be; ordinary Americans are of no interest or concern to the ruling elites, except insofar as their labor and often their lives are necessary for the maintenance of the lives of immense comfort and privilege enjoyed by the powerful. Power is not the means to some other end, although that claim is a crucial element of the extraordinarily successful propaganda so willingly swallowed by the public. Power -- its exercise and maintenance, and the acquisition of still more power -- is the end.

The Republican and Democratic parties, as institutions of power in the United States, have both worked toward this end for many decades, as they both work for its continuation today. Yes, there are certain policy differences between the two parties; those differences can be of significance for specific individuals, as discussed in the second half of "Cui Bono?" But these are derivative, comparatively unimportant issues. As I wrote in that earlier essay:
I urge you to keep in mind the full meaning of the following from [Chris Floyd's] post: "even minute mitigations in the operation of vast power structures can translate into real benefits for many ordinary people, simply due to the scale on which such structures operate." If you choose to support one party over the other because of those "minute mitigations" that "can translate into real benefits for many ordinary people," that's fine -- but intellectual honesty ought to compel you to recognize the great danger you're courting. That danger lies in "the scale on which such structures operate." We are talking here about the massive power of government on a huge scale. A government that has the power to save you also has the power to kill you. When power is institutionalized on a gigantic scale of this kind, as it now has been in the United States, it is easy enough to flip the switch from a policy you abhor to one you approve, depending on who holds power at any given moment. But government is not run by some impartial, unbiased, God-like and fictitious force: it is run by individual human beings. One person may flip the switch in a way you think is wonderful; the next person in control may flip it back again, and slaughter another million people.

You may think that this system is not going to change in the foreseeable future or in your lifetime, so it is better to have at least semi-decent human beings in charge of it. In some circumstances and with regard to certain issues, I might even agree with you. But be clear about the nature of the system you are thereby supporting: one of immense power, that can cut down any one of us if even a single individual in a critical position decides to do so. And given the issues on which the two parties agree at present, I see nothing to recommend the Democrats over the Republicans. They both stand for endless war and global interventionism; they both stand for authoritarianism on the domestic front.... For me, all other issues recede into insignificance. If you make a different decision, at least be honest about the nature of your choice. That's all I ask.
Given this system and its nature and complexity, it is only ignorance, a failure to understand history, politics, economics and culture, and/or repeated, habitual dishonesty and manipulation that can permit anyone to believe that a single individual could reverse these developments over more than a century, or alter them in any significant manner whatsoever. You may wish to engage in magical thinking -- as even liberals and progressives like to do these days, when they repeat with straight faces that Barack Obama's goal is "changing the very nature of politics" -- but deluding yourself that miracles will happen will not alter the nature or direction of our political system. Liberals and progressives correctly and severely criticize the Republicans for believing in such miracles with regard to Iraq, yet when it comes to their chosen savior on the domestic front, they themselves now sound like the worst kind of fundamentalist. Their capacity for critical thinking and analysis has vanished entirely, and they are capable of believing anything. Such people are exceptionally dangerous, especially to all the rest of us; I will be exploring some of the more particular dangers involved later in this series.

Even if we assume that Obama genuinely wishes to alter our political system, the critical point is unchanged: one individual cannot do it. It is folly to believe otherwise. More bluntly: it is deeply, profoundly stupid. And the truth is very different from this idiotic fantasy: Obama is the perfect embodiment of the system as it now exists. He will challenge it on no issue of importance. To the contrary, he will advance the goals of the ruling class and ensure that the powerful are fully protected. He will lie to you about all of this, as he already has on numerous occasions -- but as I have noted, many Americans, including many liberals and progressives, are enthusiastically willing to believe anything.

I have written about Obama's full embrace of American exceptionalism in several essays: among others, see "Songs of Death," "Obama's Whitewash," and "Messiahs Just Aren't What They Used to Be." On that subject and on these general themes, I draw your attention to two new articles.

Margaret Kimberley writes about, "The End of Truth":
Black people are and always have been the largest group of truth tellers in the United States. Our history proves that the country's most beloved mythologies are shams. Our every day lives tell us that racism persists, and that our political leaders lie constantly. We were always very difficult to fool, that is until Barack Obama ran for president.

Our commitment to truthfulness has been tested and found to be severely lacking, all in the name of seeing a black president. Obama's campaign has been filled with a laundry list of lies. Obama burst onto the national scene after his speech at 2004 Democratic convention. In that speech he famously said that "There is no black America." His statements during his presidential campaign have since gone from bad to worse.

First there was no black America, bad enough, then he acknowledged our existence but claimed we have no problems because "we are 90% of the way towards equality." Then there was double talking, slippery, plausibly deniable praise of Ronald Reagan. Then the unambiguous praise "my foreign policy will be in some ways like Ronald Reagan's."


Now Barack Obama will be the object of unconditional love from black America. His pledge to leave Iraq is full of loopholes, and will not result in an end to the occupation. His language is less bellicose than Hillary Clinton "we'll obliterate them" on Iran, but he has said that "all options are on the table." If those options include killing thousands of people, what will black America say? Will we play our traditional role of speaking truth to the powerful or will we excuse mass murder because the head murderer looks like us?

The omens don't look good. While Wright is generally supported, black opinion makers have urged him to shut up because they fear that the truth will damage Obama's chance to win.


It will be a sad day when black people stop telling the truth, all in an effort to elevate one ambitious man to his dream job. If Obama's support in the black community is any indication, most black people will end their historic progressive politics and applaud this country's criminal activity just because the head criminal looks like them.
You should read Kimberley's column in its entirety.

You should also read a two-part article by Pam Martens: Part I, and Part II. Please note that this is no kind of "hit job," for Martens tells us at the very end of the second part:
I personally admire Senator Obama. I want to believe Senator Obama is not a party to the scheme. But corporate interests have had plenty of time to do their vetting. Democracy demands no less of we, the people.
Martens' argument is a complex, detailed one, and I recommend setting some time aside so that you can more fully appreciate it. Here are just a few highlights. From Part I, "Obama's Money Cartel":
Wall Street, known variously as a barren wasteland for diversity or the last plantation in America, has defied courts and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) for decades in its failure to hire blacks as stockbrokers. Now it's marshalling its money machine to elect a black man to the highest office in the land. Why isn't the press curious about this?


The first clue to an entrenched white male bastion seeking a black male occupant in the oval office (having placed only five blacks in the U.S. Senate in the last two centuries) appeared in February on a chart at the Center for Responsive Politics website. It was a list of the 20 top contributors to the Barack Obama campaign, and it looked like one of those comprehension tests where you match up things that go together and eliminate those that don't. Of the 20 top contributors, I eliminated six that didn't compute. I was now looking at a sight only slightly less frightening to democracy than a Diebold voting machine. It was a Wall Street cartel of financial firms, their registered lobbyists, and go-to law firms that have a death grip on our federal government.

Why is the "yes, we can" candidate in bed with this cartel? How can "we", the people, make change if Obama's money backers block our ability to be heard?

Seven of the Obama campaign's top 14 donors consisted of officers and employees of the same Wall Street firms charged time and again with looting the public and newly implicated in originating and/or bundling fraudulently made mortgages.


The Center for Responsive Politics website allows one to pull up the filings made by lobbyists, registering under the Lobbying Disclosure Act of 1995 with the clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives and secretary of the U.S. Senate. These top five contributors to the Obama campaign have filed as registered lobbyists: Sidley Austin LLP; Skadden, Arps, et al; Jenner & Block; Kirkland & Ellis; Wilmerhale, aka Wilmer Cutler Pickering.

Is it possible that Senator Obama does not know that corporate law firms are also frequently registered lobbyists? Or is he making a distinction that because these funds are coming from the employees of these firms, he's not really taking money directly from registered lobbyists? That thesis seems disingenuous when many of these individual donors own these law firms as equity partners or shareholders and share in the profits generated from lobbying.

Far from keeping his distance from lobbyists, Senator Obama and his campaign seems to be brainstorming with them.


So, how should we react when we learn that the top contributors to the Obama campaign are the very Wall Street firms whose shady mortgage lenders buried the elderly and the poor and minority under predatory loans? How should we react when we learn that on the big donor list is Citigroup, whose former employee at CitiFinancial testified to the Federal Trade Commission that it was was standard practice to target people based on race and educational level, with the sales force winning bonuses called "Rocopoly Money" (like a sick board game), after "blitz" nights of soliciting loans by phone? How should we react when we learn that these very same firms, arm in arm with their corporate lawyers and registered lobbyists, have weakened our ability to fight back with the class-action vehicle?

Should there be any doubt left as to who owns our government? The very same cast of characters making the Obama hit parade of campaign loot are the clever creators of the industry solutions to the wave of foreclosures gripping this nation's poor and middle class, effectively putting the solution in the hands of the robbers. The names of these programs (that have failed to make a dent in the problem) have the same vacuous ring: Hope Now; Project Lifeline.
From Part II, "The Obama Bubble Agenda":
The Obama phenomenon has been likened to that of cults, celebrity groupies and Messiah worshipers. But what we're actually witnessing is ObamaMania (as in tulip mania), the third and final bubble orchestrated and financed by the wonderful Wall Street folks who brought us the first two: the Nasdaq/tech bubble and a subprime-mortgage-in-every-pot bubble.

To understand why Wall Street desperately needs this final bubble, we need to first review how the first two bubbles were orchestrated and why.


That brings us to today's bubble. We are being asked to accept on its face the notion that after more than two centuries of entrenched racism in this country, which saw only five black members of the U.S. Senate, it's all being eradicated with some rousing stump speeches.

We are asked to believe that those kindly white executives at all the biggest Wall Street firms, which rank in the top 20 donors to the Obama presidential campaign, after failing to achieve more than 3.5 per cent black stockbrokers over 30 years, now want a black populist president because they crave a level playing field for the American people.

The number one industry supporting the Obama presidential bid, by the start of February, -- the crucial time in primary season -- according to the widely respected, nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, was "lawyers/law firms" (most on Wall Street's payroll), giving a total of $11,246,596.


Senator Obama's premise and credibility of not taking money from federal lobbyists hangs on a carefully crafted distinction: he is taking money, lots of it, from owners and employees of firms registered as federal lobbyists but not the actual individual lobbyists.

But is that dealing honestly with the American people?


Those critical thinkers over at the Black Agenda Report for the Journal of African American Political Thought and Action have zeroed in on the making of the Obama bubble:
"The 2008 Obama presidential run may be the most slickly orchestrated marketing machine in memory. That's not a good thing. Marketing is not even distantly related to democracy or civic empowerment. Marketing is about creating emotional, even irrational bonds between your product and your target audience."
And slick it is. According to the Obama campaign's financial filings with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) and aggregated at the Center for Responsive Politics, the Obama campaign has spent over $52 million on media, strategy consultants, image building, marketing research and telemarketing.


The Wall Street plan for the Obama-bubble presidency is that of the cleanup crew for the housing bubble: sweep all the corruption and losses, would-be indictments, perp walks and prosecutions under the rug and get on with an unprecedented taxpayer bailout of Wall Street. (The corporate law firms have piled on to funding the plan because most were up to their eyeballs in writing prospectuses or providing legal opinions for what has turned out to be bogus AAA securities. Lawsuits naming the Wall Street firms will, no doubt, shortly begin adding the law firms that rendered the legal guidance to issue the securities.) Who better to sell this agenda to the millions of duped mortgage holders and foreclosed homeowners in minority communities across America than our first, beloved, black president of hope and change?

Why do Wall Street and the corporate law firms think they will find a President Obama to be accommodating? As the Black Agenda Report notes, "Evidently, the giant insurance companies, the airlines, oil companies, Wall Street, military contractors and others had closely examined and vetted Barack Obama and found him pleasing."
Yet this is the man who is "changing the very nature of politics."

Far too many Americans will believe anything, regardless of its absurdity, if it accords with their preexisting illusions and their preferred view of themselves. We exist on lies, lies and more lies.

The killing of truth and hope continues unimpeded.