7.05.2016 In Depth Look


A melange of material that both point out some of the most pertinent ideas about current depredations of empire and illustrate specific past practices trump election politicsof imperial venality and terror, in the lead an essay from Rolling Stone that decries the attacks on democracy that are more and more popular among elite ideologues as the horrors of neoliberal hegemony cause populist assaults on the powers that be, a la Donald Trump or Brexit, an initial sally that fits seamlessly with such other general assessments as an analysis from High Existence about the vicious ubiquity of propaganda that promotes plunder and privation; or such as a report  from The Atlantic that comments on the extensive distrust for authoritative institutions that is now prevalent, especially among poor or otherwise disenfranchised portions of the populace; or such as a briefing  in Twenty-First Century Wire on how gaming and game theorylanguage and ideology serve up a constant diet of corruption and distortion; or such as an interview  from TruthOut that features Noam Chomsky on the ties between globalization and its attendant inequality, on the one hand, and omnipresent political alienation, on the other hand–all of which serve as general statements about the sorts of murder and mayhem that Waking Times describes as commonplace in contemporary drug-war police states and that Atavist recounts  as a historical fact of protofascist CIA collusion with actual assassination of innocent citizens who happen to have backed an elected official such as Salvador Allende, which was the fate four decades ago of Orlando Ortelier in the District of Columbia itself: “The ‘too much democracy’ train rolls on.  Last week’s Brexit vote prompted pundits and social media mavens to wonder aloud if allowing dumb people to vote is a good thing. …(One such derider of the ‘common herd) spends many thousands of words arguing for the reinvigoration of political machines, as a means of keeping the ape-citizen further from power.

(This)audacious piece, much like (another)’s clarion call for a less-democratic future in New York magazine (‘Democracies end when they are too democratic’), is not merely a warning about the threat posed to civilization by demagogues like Donald Trump.  It’s a sweeping argument against a whole host of democratic initiatives, from increased transparency to reducing money in politics to the phasing out of bagmen and ward-heelers at the local level.  These things have all destabilized America, (according to these erstwhile pundits).

(The first of these apologists for plunder) even chokes multiple times on the word ‘corruption,’ seeming reluctant to even mention the concept without shrouding it in flurries of caveats.  When he talks about the ‘ever-present potential for corruption’ that political middlemen pose, he’s quick to note the converse also applies (emphasis mine): ‘Overreacting to the threat of corruption… is just as harmful.   Political contributions, for example, look unseemly, but they play a vital role as political bonding agents.’  The basic thrust is that shadowy back-room mechanisms, which (he) absurdly describes as being relics of a lost era, have a positive role and must be brought back.

(Blaming gerrymandering for making almost all Congressional Districts ‘safe’ and thus an opportunity for ‘extremist’ primaries), (h)e leans more toward blaming the decision to allow direct-voting primary processes in the first place.  His piece longs for a time when party insiders were free to pick candidates without interference.  He gushes, for instance, over a passage in a biography of George H.W. Bush that describes how his daddy, Prescott Bush, got into politics: ‘Samuel F. Pryor, a top Pan Am executive and a mover in Connecticut politics, called Prescott to ask whether Bush might like to run for Congress.  ‘If you would,’ Pryor said, ‘I think we can assure you that you’ll be the nominee.”  Commenting on this, (this revanchist) writes, with undisguised sadness: ‘Today, party insiders can still jawbone a little bit, but, as the 2016 presidential race has made all too clear, there is startlingly little they can do to influence the nominating process.’

(To take control again, he recommends) solutions … to force candidates to get permission slips to go on the electoral field trip: ‘There are all kinds of ways the parties could move insiders back to the center of the nomination process.  If they wanted to, they could require would-be candidates to get petition signatures from elected officials and county party chairs…’ (This reactionary who calls himself ‘liberal’) compares ‘outsiders’ and ‘amateurs’ to viruses that get into the body, and describes the institutions that failed to prevent the likes of Trump from being nominated as being like the national immune system.  Revolt against party insiders is therefore comparable to ‘abusing and attacking your own immune system.’  This lurid metaphor is going to be compelling to a lot of people when Donald Trump is still moving in the direction of the nuclear football.   But these ‘too much democracy’ critics all leave out a key part of the story: It’s all bull.”—Rolling Stone

Alan Reid
Alan Reid

“(In the view of thinker and media analyst Noam Chomsky, propaganda is key to modern politics; it makes class warfare seem like something else).  The first successful propaganda campaign carried out by a modern government took place under the Woodrow Wilson Administration.  Wilson was elected President in 1916, during the middle of World War I.  The population at the time was predominantly pacifist and saw no reason to get caught up in a European war.  But the government wanted involvement and needed the consent of the American people.

How did the Wilson Administration (transform a desire for and inclination to peace into bloodthirsty war fever)? Well, it’s far less sophisticated than one might think: propaganda is just strategic storytelling – drama – and these are the three acts from which the play proceeds:rect3336 space
1. Terrify the population by fabricating and spreading narratives which frame the enemy as mad brutes who feast on flesh and liberty.rect3336 space
2. Hammer the point to the home front by including women and children getting massacred, and circulate shocking stories that are too offensive not to share.rect3336 space
3. In the midst of the ensuing hysteria, remind people about the army and how you – yes you – can help to eradicate the world’s cancerous threats.rect3336 space
Stir this propaganda concoction for about six months and you have yourself a nation ready to wage war.

One might think that the target audience for state propaganda is the uneducated, the naive.  Not so.  The educated members of society are typically the most influential, making them ideal disseminators of ideas.  Chomsky says that the targeting of educated citizens in propaganda campaigns ‘was a lesson learned by Hitler and many others, and it has been pursued to this day.’  Walter Lippmann, who was the dean of American journalists and a major theorist of liberal democracy, was involved in the Creel Commission and similar campaigns which followed.  Lippmann thought that the use of propaganda techniques to influence the public was not merely acceptable, but necessary.

(Lippmann’s approach depended on a view of society as a dual body; on the one hand, we have ‘The Bewildered Herd). These consist of everyone who is not part of the specialized class.  The bewildered herd are the spectators.  They may moan about the state of things a little, but their power to make a significant change is limited.  The bewildered herd believes they live inside (an actual democracy).  (On the other hand, a “Specialized Class”) are the people who analyze, execute, make decisions, and run things in the political, economic, and ideological systems.  The specialized class make up a small percentage of the population, and their biggest objective is to tame the bewildered herd by enforcing (the pretense of democracy that efficient propaganda creates).

(Of course, the Specialized Class rationalize their wisdom and imprimatur; the key issue is how they gain their sinecures.  This is only possible if they serve real power, the owners of big business, big media, big finance, men like Rupert Murdoch, whose ‘stable’ of toadies includes British Prime Minister David Cameron, individuals whose whole lives prepare them to bow down to the likes of Murdoch, a dynamic that is possible to demonstrate by simply looking at the schoolmates of a functionary such as Cameron).rect3336 space
The Mail Online tracked down Cameron’s schoolmates to see what they all now do for a living.  We’ll focus on the ten students in Cameron’s row.  Compare their jobs to those who went to your school:

  1. Campbell Clarke: a hugely successful financier, he’s the founder and managing director of Astir Capital, a company that’s raised $1 billion of capital for hedge funds and business development projects.rect3336 space
  2. Tom Goff: leading figure in British horse racing, and Chairman of Blandford Bloodstock in Newmarket, which he co-founded.rect3336 space
  3. Simon Andrea: leading international TV producer, he was most recently executive vice president at Fox TV in America (owned by Murdoch), in charge of its reality show division.rect3336 space
  4. James Learmond: a millionaire who founded the health food and juice bar chain Crussh.rect3336 space
  5. David Cameron: British prime minister since 2010.rect3336 space
  6. Roland Watson: political editor of The Times (owned by Murdoch).rect3336 space
  7. Ed Clarke: founder/director of Infracapital, a Project & Infrastructure Finance business that’s part of the global finance giant M&G.rect3336 space
  8. Charles Todhunter: venture capitalist.rect3336 space
  9. Crispin Gibbs: owner of the luxury Black Marlin scuba dive centre and holiday resort on Kadirir Island.rect3336 space
  10. Peter Davis: conductor and Director of the Westminster Chamber Orchestra and the National Preparatory School Orchestra.

Eton is no ordinary school; it’s a golden ticket into the specialized class.  But maybe Cameron’s year was just an anomaly – an unusually successful bunch.  That’s reasonable idea to entertain, until you become aware of this fact: Eton College, a regular-sized school which educates about 1,300 pupils, has produced nineteen prime ministers since it opened.”—High Existence

CC BY-NC-ND by J.Salmoral

“(W)hen it comes to treatment of serious subjects like economy and politics, the words in use are being reduced to a surprisingly few, even so that purported media analysis or commentary comes to resemble a mantra or nursery rhyme.  Furthermore, it is notable that this ‘linguistic drain’ occurs precisely at the moment when ‘serious’ matters come into focus, and in spite of all loftiness of speakers – our designated hierophants of media oracles – we are bombarded with rather frivolous terminology; namely, … political agents .. called players playing zero-sum games… . Why (does) the philosophy professor speak about (the) strategy of Nietzsche’s arguments?  What exactly does it mean to have cultural strategy?  On what grounds (does) the literally critic assume that James Joyce employed narrativestrategy?  Why are all those serious things spoken about as if they were some kind of game?rect3336 space
On the face of it, the answer is surprisingly easy to deduce.  The game or game-play jargon originates in global epistemic dominance of thought models derived from mathematical game theory.  It’s various abstract and complex forms (so called ‘models’ or ‘modules’), as well as their global appliance on all aspects of life, to a significant extent build the spiritual framework of our time, although they are rarely discussed outside of academia.  However, game theory is not merely a mathematician’s plaything.  If we bear in mind that global world stage – with all those global players – is at the same time the home of myriads of people who are well aware that they are being played, but have no idea of true nature of those playing them – then it is clear that fundamentals of game theory should be put to critical scrutiny.

(Since ‘game theory is a metaphysical teaching, i.e., it’s ambition is to encompass everything’), there is a one special rule to every game of metaphysics, namely this: when abstract and esoteric professional language of science is put aside, the game is potentially understandable to all parties, those who are playing and those who are being played.  It is an unspoken rule, an ancient assumption of all world-view con-games: in order for half-truth to hold sway over everybody, it must speak in common language. …(In this vein), (g)ame theory is an explanatory model of decision making.  It defines it’s subject as rational activity whose purpose is an increase in well-being of the deliberating individual or collective. Any behaviour seemingly pursuing different purpose is only a roundabout way to achieve it more rationally, or it is simply ‘irrational.’  Tertium non datur.  Obviously, we are dealing with, broadly speaking, ‘liberal’ definition of human being, although it is in fact the legacy of Ancient Greek Sophists.

rect3336 space
Bearing in mind that individual is always in the midst of other individuals and that in order to achieve it’s goals it must collaborate or come into conflict with them, the society has to be rationally modeled in order to minimize the conflict.  Old bogeyman of political philosophy, Thomas Hobbes, thought that such a thing is possible only by absolute sovereignty of the State, because he was convinced that all those self-centred atoms are more prone to play some iteration of Total War series (rather) than that of Sims.
Proponents of game theory try to evade this fairly consistent inference or use it to prove something else: atomized individuals do not strive towards all-out conflict but towards equilibrium.  The term denotes the state of conflict turned latent, in the sense of permanent threat or warning, but ceased to be destructive; it is, in a word, a rational conflict, a war that grew cold.  Namely, rational behavior is primarily strategic, i.e. it endeavours to accomplish it’s end despite possible resistance by anticipating the strategies of that resistance.  The healthy society is the one in which unavoidable conflicts are being canalized in relative harmony, regulated by the rules of the game, because the players realized that relative equality is more expedient than playing ‘all or nothing’ game.  Hence, the game theory has a notable militaristic nature, affirmed by it’s history: it flourished inside the military think tanks during the first years of the Cold war, only to be later unleashed on civil societies throughout the West.”—21stCenturyWirerect3336 space

“(Though obviously not the case), (g)lobalisation could be designed so that it’s beneficial to the general population, or it could be designed so that it functions along the lines of the international trade agreements, including the Uruguay Round, the WTO Agreement, NAFTA, the current Atlantic and Pacific agreements, which are all specifically designed as investor rights agreements, not even trade agreements.  Very high protection for major corporations, for big pharmaceuticals, media conglomerates, and so on, and very high barriers through intellectual property rights.  Devices that allow corporations, but of course not people, to sue governments action that might potentially harm their profits.  That is a particular form of globalisation designed in the interest of the designers.  The designers are concentrations of private power, linked closely to state power, so in that system they are consequences of globalisation.

(Historically), (t)he 1950-1960s had very high growth rates, no financial crises because of New Deal regulations that were still in place, and relatively egalitarian growth so every quintile grew roughly at the same level.   That is what is called the golden age.  It ended with the collapse of the post-War Bretton Woods system when the United States under Nixon blocked the convertibility of the dollar to gold which collapsed the international financial system which had all kinds of consequences.  One was a rapid increase in the flow of capital and a rapid increase in speculation rather than serious investment leading to the financialisation of the economy which has been a major phenomenon in recent years.  A lot of this had to do with the reduction of the rate of profit for manufacturing which convinced the owners of capital that it would be more profitable to shift towards financial manipulation than to actual production.rect3336 space
Along with this comes the options that were the extensions of a long process that goes way back to try to move production to places where wages are much lower, where you don’t need to worry about environmental standards.  It’s not that business began to try to reverse the policies.  They also wanted to reverse the policies (that took root in) the late 1930s.  By the late 1930s, the business community was appalled at the gains that were being made by working people and the general population.  You read the Business Press in the late ’30s and it talks about the threat of what they call the rising political power of the masses which is going to threaten the needs of American enterprise.rect3336 space
Businesses are always involved in a class war; sometimes they can do better and sometimes they can do worse but right after the Second World War, the major attack on labour and New Deal measures begun and took awhile to take off but with the breakdown of the international financial system in the early ’70s, opportunities arose and class warfare increased.  You can see that already in the late Carter years and it took off very strongly during the Reagan/Thatcher period where neoliberal policies were instituted and which had a devastating effect on the weaker societies, including the third world.  In the richer societies, the United States and Europe, it has the effect of imposing relative stagnation on the large majority of the population while for a tiny sector a huge increase in wealth, but these are just all aspects of a constant class war that is being carried out.  If there’s no reaction to it on the part of public organisations, then the class war succeeds.

Mural in Cherán. Made by the collective DEXPIERTE – Colombia, on the third anniversary of the communal government. Photograph DEXPIERTE collective- Colombia. Published with permission.
Mural in Cherán. Made by the collective DEXPIERTE – Colombia, on the third anniversary of the communal government. Photograph DEXPIERTE collective- Colombia. Published with permission.

Popular public organisations have been under attack and atomised, and the labour movement has been under severe attack.  One aspect of the concentration of private wealth is that it sets off a vicious cycle; private wealth concentrates and it carries with it political power.  That political power is used to introduce legislation which increase private wealth and so the cycle goes on.  It’s not a law of nature, or a law of economics; these are matters of relative power of various classes of people and the ongoing conflicts over the social and political nature of the system.  It right now happens to be a period of regression from the general viewpoint of the population.  It’s happened before and it’s been overcome.  You see it happening in many ways.  One aspect is the decline of democracy which is very visible both in the United States and in Europe and has led to the significant decline of the more-or-less centrist parties.  In the United States, the Democrats and the Republicans are both under severe attack from popular-based forces, such as Trump and Sanders.  People that have very much the same interests and concerns and if they could get together on those issues it would be a major popular force, and in Europe you see the same thing.”—TruthOut