Forty-eight years ago, on May 4, 1970, as a member of SDS (Students for a Democratic Society), I was front and center being fired on by my fellow Americans in the Ohio National Guard at Kent State University, as we peacefully protested President Nixon’s expansion of the cancerously unpopular Vietnam War into Cambodia without an act of Congress. I was lucky and dodged the bullet, both literally and figuratively, but four students were killed, and nine more were seriously wounded by the armed, mostly teenaged, National Guard troops. Two of the four students killed, Alison Krause and Jeffery Miller, were close acquaintances of mine. Less than a year earlier, as an Admissions/Curriculum counselor to incoming students, I had admitted them to the Honors College program.
May 4 changed my life, and I truly believe Devo would not exist without that horror. It made me realize that all the Quasar color TVs, Swanson TV dinners, Corvettes, and sofa beds in the world didn’t mean we were actually making progress. It meant the future could be not only as barbaric as the past, but that it most likely would be. The dystopian novels 1984, Animal Farm, and Brave New World suddenly seemed less like cautionary tales about the encroaching fusion of technological advances with the centralized, authoritarian power of the state, and more like subversive road maps to condition the intelligentsia for what was to come.
As I started working with my Kent State poet friend, Bob Lewis, a philosophy emerged, fueled by the revelations that linear progress in a consumer society was a lie. Things were not getting better. There were no flying cars and domed cities, as promised in Popular Science; rather, there was a dumbing down of the population engineered by right-wing politicians, televangelists, and Madison Avenue. I called what we saw “De-evolution,” based upon the tendency toward entropy across all human endeavors. Borrowing the tactics of the Mad Men-era of our childhood, we shortened the name of the idea to the marketing-friendly “Devo.” We were not left-wing politicos. We were more informed by Jungian principles of duality in human nature, and we realized human flaws spread out across the political spectrum. Hence: “We’re All Devo,” an idea from which we did not exempt ourselves.
Then, and in the decades to follow, we witnessed an America where the capacity for critical thought and reasoning were eroding fast. People mindlessly repeating slogans from political propaganda and ad campaigns: “America, Love It or leave It”; “Don’t Ask Why, Drink Bud Dry”; “You’ve Come A Long Way, Baby”; even risk-free, feel-good slogans like “Give Peace a Chance.” Here was an emerging Corporate Feudal State. You were either inside the draw bridge at night, or outside with the gnashing of teeth.
Rebellion appeared hopelessly obsolete. If the message wasn’t sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll, there could be hell to pay. More and more, it seemed like the only real threat to consumer society at our disposal was meaning: turning sloganeering on its head for sarcastic or subversive means, and making people notice that they were being moved and manipulated by marketing, not by well-meaning friends disguised as mom-and-pop. And so creative subversion seemed the only viable course of action. We mixed our outrage with equal parts satire and dark humor. What else could a poor boy do?
Prior to the resignation of the nefarious Richard M. Nixon, I partnered with a new collaborator, Mark Mothersbaugh, and with his musical prowess we found the sonic alchemy for the Devo aesthetic. We formed a band of brothers around the philosophy of Devolution, only to be proven all too right.
Presently, the fabric that holds a society together has shredded in the wind. Everyone has their own facts, their own private Idaho stored in their expensive cellular phones. The earbuds are in, the feedback loops are locked, and the Frappuccino’s are flowing freely. Social media provides the highway straight back to Plato’s Allegory of the Cave. The restless natives react to digital shadows on the wall, reduced to fear, hate, and superstition. There are climate change deniers, and there are even more who think that the climate is being maliciously manipulated by corporate conglomerates owned by the Central Bank to achieve global control of resources and wealth. If only that James Bond-style fantasy were true, I would be much more excited about the future, which I fear is more of a slow-death conspiracy of dunces like in Mike Judge’s movie, Idiocracy, the movie Devo should have made.
We are drowning in a devolved, WWF Smackdown-style world, with warring, huckster TV pundits from “The Left” and “The Right” distracting the clueless TV viewership while our vile, venal Mobster-in-Chief (who makes Idiocracy’s Macho Camacho look fit for office) and his corrupt minions rob the nation’s coffers in a shamelessly cruel, Grab-‘Em-By-The-Pussy Kleptocracy. They reflect the prevailing mentality of the electorate. It’s as if Christopher Nolan wrote the script for America, where Trump is the Joker handing out Cabinet positions to The Suicide Squad: Hey, Betsy! You hate public education? How’d you like to run the Department of Education? Scott, you don’t give a shit about poisoning the environment for your kids and grandkids, right? Here’s your new office, Pal. Don’t forget that soundproof phone booth!
The rise of authoritarian leadership around the globe, fed by ill-informed populism, is well-documented at this point. And with it, we see the ugly specter of increased racism and anti-Semitism. It’s open season on those who gladly vote against their own self-interests. The exponential increase in suffering for more and more of the population is heartbreaking to see. “Freedom of choice is what you got / Freedom from choice is what you want,” those Devo clowns said in 1980.
So, let us not talk falsely now; the hour is getting late. Perhaps the reason Devo was even nominated after 15 years of eligibility is because Western society seems locked in a death wish. Devo doesn’t skew so outside the box anymore. Maybe people are a bit nostalgic for our DIY originality and substance. We were the canaries in the coalmine warning our fans and foes of things to come in the guise of the Court Jester, examples of conformity in extremis in order to warn against conformity. We were certainly not the one-hit wonders the dismissive rock press likes to say we were. We have always been the Rodney Dangerfields of Rock ‘N’ Roll. We were polarizing because we did not “play ball” with the sex, drugs, rock ‘n’ roll messaging dictum.
But today Devo is merely the house band on the Titanic. With three generations of fans, 10 studio albums, five live albums, scores of singles, scores of music videos (a format which we pioneered), and eight world tours committed to history since our 1978 debut record, Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo, we’ve all too chillingly stood the test of time. 2020 will be the 40th anniversary of our Freedom of Choice record. Don’t be surprised to see us on tour then in our iconic, red Energy Domes, careening toward the latest Presidential election/selection. Speaking truth to power is a never-ending battle. In the best-case scenario, we avoid sinking into the abyss and, as a society, scratch ourselves back to square one.
Is there any question that De-evolution is real?
Devo founder Gerald Casale is a director, and songwriter based in Los Angeles. Vote for Devo in the Rock Hall’s Fan Vote here.
Things are getting stranger and stranger. If you would have told someone ten years ago that Dennis Rodman would one day be helping to negotiate peace between North Korea and President Donald Trump, they would have assumed you were describing some weird movie cooked up in the mind of Mike Judge or the South Park guys. But in this timeline it’s an actual news story.
Everything about the last few years has been weird. The mass media’s behavior has been weird, Russiagate was weird, Ukrainegate is weird, a former presidential candidate accusing a current presidential candidate of working for the Kremlin was weird, people constantly accusing strangers on the internet of being Russian agents is weird, factions of the US government constantly leaking information against other factions of the US government is weird, the DNC getting caught rigging their primary was weird, Hillary Clinton losing the election was weird, the Skripal poisoning was weird, US government officials openly tweeting about their Venezuela coup is weird, the breakdown of the entire mainstream Syria narrative is weird, Assange’s arrest was weird, the campaign to censor the internet is weird, and this is just stuff off the top of my head from the areas I’ve been looking at in my own narrow spectrum of focus. Anyone else could list dozens of other weird new developments from their own slice of the information pie.
I often hear people in my line of work saying “Man, we’re going to look back on all this crazy shit and think about how absolutely weird it was!”
No we won’t. Because it’s only going to get weirder.
It’s only going to get weirder, because that’s what it looks like when old patterns start to fall away.
The human mind is conditioned to look for patterns in order to establish a baseline of normal expectations upon which to plan out future actions. This perceptual framework exists to give us safety and security, so disruptions in the patterns upon which it is based often feel weird, threatening, and scary. They make us feel insecure, because our cognitive tool for staying in control of our wellbeing has a glitch in it.
When you’re talking about a species that has been consistently patterned towards its own destruction, though, a disruption of patterns is a good thing. Our ecocidal, warmongering tendencies have brought us to a point that now has us staring down the barrel of our own extinction, and that is where we are surely headed if we continue patterning along the behavioral trajectory that we have been on. Only a drastic change of patterns can change that trajectory. And we are seeing a change of patterns.
Sure it’s sloppy as hell. Pattern disruption always is. Show me someone who recovered from a severe addiction to hard drugs who enjoyed a smooth, easy transition into sobriety with no major changes in their life besides the absence of substance abuse. Show me someone who left an abusive long term relationship whose life wasn’t drastically upended by it. People see safety in patterns, even unhealthy patterns, and they build their own patterns on the patterns of those in their lives. When any of those patterns disappear for anyone involved, it can feel unsafe for many people around them.
When patterns first start vanishing, it can look like things are getting worse. Because a disappeared pattern is an absence of something and not a thing in itself, people don’t see it, because the human mind is naturally drawn toward things and not the absence of things. So their attention will be drawn toward whatever things start to happen in the absence of the old pattern, which won’t necessarily be a pleasant or attractive thing, and they’ll say “Oh no! Things are getting worse now!” No they’re not. An unhealthy pattern disappeared, and in its absence something unappealing fell into place for a bit. But the absence of the old unhealthy pattern is a good thing, and in the long run will lead to good results, in the same way that leaving an abusive marriage may lead to financial hardship and stress in the short term but will lead to thriving in the long term.
I have become convinced in my personal life that humans are far more capable of breaking patterns than they realize. There’s an intelligence running things below the loud thinky noises of our inner narrative generators which most of us aren’t aware of, but which I’m convinced is disappearing old behavior patterns in our species, both collectively and individually.
We’re all mentally aware that things need to change away from the patterns we’ve been collectively engaged in, but we’ve been unable to bring about those changes in patterning because our efforts to do so arise from the same conditioning patterns that got us into this mess in the first place. Our patterns have led us to violent revolutions, but those just lead to governments which end up perpetuating the same old patterns we were trying to end. Our patterns have led to nonviolent political movements, but those end up being co-opted and their energy fed into the same collective patterning. Despite being told in movement after movement that the real enemy is the King or the Emperor or the aristocracy or the Jews or the Communists, over and over again the real enemy behind the curtain has ended up being our own conditioned tendency to keep repeating the same collective behavior patterns.
That’s what seems to be evaporating. Not because anyone came up with the Ultimate Political Ideology in their thinky brains, not because some clever revolutionary came up with the Ultimate Plan for Toppling the Status Quo, not because some adept killers killed those in power and replaced them with themselves, but because this mysterious guiding intelligence running the scenes far below the level of verbal thought has been disappearing our patterns in a way we don’t notice because we’re not conditioned to notice absences.
The observation of the obvious fact that humankind is deeply conditioned is what has led to philosophical debates throughout the ages of the existence of free will. How can a species so beholden to its preconditioned patterning have freedom of choice in its actions? In my experience the answer is that there is something at play within each of us which provides the potential to discard old patternings. We don’t have any free will as to how a given conditioned behavior pattern will play out as long as we’re still holding them, but there is something in all of us which is capable of opening the door to relinquishing a mental habit altogether. This is the only extent to which free will may be said to exist.
Sometimes I wonder if the world as we knew it really did end in December 2012 as so many mystics, psychics and psychonauts predicted. Not in a nuclear holocaust or giant meteor obviously, but in the beginning of an unravelling of the glue that holds human behavior patterns in place. There certainly hasn’t been a normal US presidential election since that date, and there doesn’t seem to be one on the horizon in the foreseeable future. Things have been getting stranger and stranger ever since, and this trend appears to be accelerating rather than slowing down.
Things are weird, and they’re only going to keep getting weirder. Buckle up, buttercup.
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Will the American People Rise Against Adam Shit, the Bitch Pelosi, and the Nadler Turd and Save their Country from Ruin, or will the American People Submit to The Rule By Lies? What Confidence Can We Have in the American People?
Many people regard Matt Taibbi as a leftist as he writes for the sometimes foolish Rolling Stone magazine. I regard Taibbi as a vicious truth-teller, who, leftwing or not, has integrity and intelligence far above the Identity Politics American left who are not even worth wiping your ass with.
Taibbi’s truthful account below tells you that the Democrats are incapable of speaking any truth, and so is the whore American media that services the Democrats and the Deep State. The Democrats are serial liars. They are destroying the fragile political stability of the United States. A country–whose unity has been destroyed by Identity Politics, whose middle class jobs have been offshored to Asia by corrupt American corporations kowtowing to corrupt Wall Street, a country whose media on which the Founding Fathers relied to protect American liberty from a rapacious State is the complete and total whore of the oligarchs who control the explanations and the agendas–is no longer a country, no longer a people. Overrun by immigration, America is a Tower of Babel.
In American politics, the oligarchs are accustomed to deciding with their campaign contributions who are the candidates for President, Senate, and House for both Republicans and Democrats. That way they stay in control regardless of which party wins the elections. Trump is an exception to this. Trump is the product of a people’s revolt. It caught the oligarchs off guard. They thought Hillary had it all wrapped up. They are determined to get Trump out because they are fearful of having an outsider in the White House for 8 years.
If the American people allow this, they are destroying themselves. If they believe any of the Democrat-military/security-presstitute propaganda, they are self-destructing.
The question of our time is: Do the American people have enough intelligence to survive?
The Democrats, military/security complex, and presstitutes are betting “No.”
Dear American, if you are so stupid, so indoctrinated and brainwashed that you with your insouciance give yourself over to be made into a total unknowing slave, that is the fate you deserve.
The ‘Whistleblower’ Probably Isn’t
By Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone
09 October 19
It’s an insult to real whistleblowers to use the term with the Ukrainegate protagonist
Start with the initial headline, in the story the Washington Post “broke” on September 18th:
TRUMP’S COMMUNICATIONS WITH FOREIGN LEADER ARE PART OF WHISTLEBLOWER COMPLAINT THAT SPURRED STANDOFF BETWEEN SPY CHIEF AND CONGRESS, FORMER OFFICIALS SAY
The unnamed person at the center of this story sure didn’t sound like a whistleblower. Our intelligence community wouldn’t wipe its ass with a real whistleblower.
Americans who’ve blown the whistle over serious offenses by the federal government either spend the rest of their lives overseas, like Edward Snowden, end up in jail, like Chelsea Manning, get arrested and ruined financially, like former NSA official Thomas Drake, have their homes raided by FBI like disabled NSA vet William Binney, or get charged with espionage like ex-CIA exposer-of-torture John Kiriakou. It’s an insult to all of these people, and the suffering they’ve weathered, to frame the ballcarrier in the Beltway’s latest partisan power contest as a whistleblower.
Drake, who was the first to expose the NSA’s secret surveillance program, seems to have fared better than most. He ended up working in an Apple Store, where he ran into Eric Holder, who was shopping for an iPhone.
I’ve met a lot of whistleblowers, in both the public and private sector. Many end up broke, living in hotels, defamed, (often) divorced, and lucky if they have any kind of job. One I knew got turned down for a waitressing job because her previous employer wouldn’t vouch for her. She had little kids.
The common thread in whistleblower stories is loneliness. Typically the employer has direct control over their ability to pursue another job in their profession. Many end up reviled as traitors, thieves, and liars. They often discover after going public that their loved ones have a limited appetite for sharing the ignominy. In virtually all cases, they end up having to start over, both personally and professionally.
With that in mind, let’s look at what we know about the first “whistleblower” in Ukrainegate:
•He or she is a “CIA officer detailed to the White House”;
•The account is at best partially based upon the CIA officer’s own experience, made up substantially by information from “more than a half dozen U.S. officials” and the “private accounts” of “my colleagues”;
•“He or she” was instantly celebrated as a whistleblower by news networks and major newspapers.
That last detail caught the eye of Kiriakou, a former CIA Counterterrorism official who blew the whistle on the agency’s torture program.
“It took me and my lawyers a full year to get [the media] to stop calling me ‘CIA Leaker John Kirakou,” he says. “That’s how long it took for me to be called a whistleblower.”
Kirakou’s crime was talking to ABC News and the New York Times about the CIA’s torture program. For talking to American journalists about the CIA, our federal government charged Kiriakou with espionage. That absurd count was ultimately dropped, but he still did 23 months at FCI Loretto in Western Pennsylvania.
When Kiriakou first saw the “whistleblower complaint,” his immediate reaction was to wonder what kind of “CIA officer” the person in question was. “If you spend a career in the CIA, you see all kinds of subterfuge and lies and crime,” he says. “This person went through a whole career and this is the thing he objects to?”
It’s fair to wonder if this is a one-person effort. Even former CIA official Robert Baer, no friend of Trump, said as much in an early confab on CNN with Brooke Baldwin:
BAER: That’s what I find remarkable, is that this whistleblower knew about that, this attempt to cover up. This is a couple of people. It isn’t just one.
BALDWIN: And on the people point, if the allegation is true, Bob, what does it say that White House officials, lawyers, wanted to cover it up?
BAER: You know, my guess, it’s a palace coup against Trump. And who knows what else they know at this point.
That sounds about right. Actual whistleblowers are alone. The Ukraine complaint seems to be the work of a group of people, supported by significant institutional power, not only in the intelligence community, but in the Democratic Party and the commercial press.
In this century we’ve lived through a president lying to get us into a war (that caused hundreds of thousands of deaths and the loss of trillions in public treasure), the deployment of a vast illegal surveillance program, a drone assassination campaign, rendition, torture, extralegal detention, and other offenses, many of them mass human rights violations.
We had whistleblowers telling us about nearly all of these things. When they came forward, they desperately needed society’s help. They didn’t get it. Our government didn’t just tweet threats at them, but proceeded straight to punishment.
Bill Binney, who lost both his legs to diabetes, was dragged out of his shower by FBI agents. Jeffrey Sterling, like Kiriakou, was charged with espionage for talking to a reporter. After conviction, he asked to be imprisoned near his wife in St. Louis. They sent him to Colorado for two years. Others tried to talk to congress or their Inspectors General, only to find out their communications had been captured and cc’ed to the very agency chiefs they wanted to complain about (including former CIA chief and current MSNBC contributor John Brennan).
The current “scandal” is a caricature version of such episodes. Imagine the mania on the airwaves if Donald Trump were to have his Justice Department arrest the “whistleblower” and charge him with 35 years of offenses, as Thomas Drake faced. Trump incidentally still might try something like this. It’s what any autocrat of the Mobute Sese Seko/Enver Hoxha school would do, for starters, to mutinying intelligence officials within his own government.
Trump almost certainly is not going to do that, however, as the man is too dumb to realize he’s the titular commander of an executive branch that has been jailing people for talking too much for over a decade. On the off chance that he does try it, don’t hold your breath waiting for news networks to tell you he’s just following an established pattern.
I have a lot of qualms about impeachment/“Ukrainegate,” beginning with this headline premise of the lone, conscience-stricken defender of democracy arrayed against the mighty Trump. I don’t see it. Donald Trump is a jackass who got elected basically by accident, campaigning against a political establishment too blind to its own unpopularity to see what was coming.
In 2016 we saw a pair of electoral revolts, one on the right and one on the left, against the cratering popularity of our political elite. The rightist populist revolt succeeded, the Sanders movement did not. Ukrainegate to me looks like a continuation of Russiagate, which was a reaction of that defeated political elite to the rightists. I don’t feel solidarity with either group.
The argument that’s supposed to be galvanizing everyone right now is the idea that we need to “stand up and be counted,” because failing to rally to the cause is effectively advocacy for Trump. This line of thinking is based on the presumption that Trump is clearly worse than the people opposing him.
That might prove to be true, but if we’re talking about the treatment of whistleblowers, Trump has a long way to go before he approaches the brutal record of the CIA, the NSA, the FBI, as well as the cheerleading Washington political establishment. Forgetting this is likely just the first in what will prove to be many deceptions about a hardcore insider political battle whose subtext is a lot more shadowy and ambiguous than news audiences are being led to believe.
“Trickle-down” economics began as a joke. Seriously.
If there’s one person most often associated with the origins of of trickle-down economics, it’s President Ronald Reagan. Few people know, however, that the phrase was actually coined by American humorist Will Rogers, who mocked President Herbert Hoover’s Depression-era recovery efforts, saying that “money was all appropriated for the top in the hopes it would trickle down to the needy.”
Rogers’ joke became economic dogma within two generations, thanks in large part to Reagan. At the center of Reagan’s economic doctrine was the idea that economic gains primarily benefiting the wealthy—investors, businesses, entrepreneurs, and the like—will “trickle-down” to poorer members of society, creating new opportunities for the economically disadvantaged to attain a better standard of living. Prosperity for the rich leads to prosperity for all, the logic goes, so let’s hurry up with those tax cuts already. The legacy of Reaganomics continues to shape modern debates over macroeconomic policy in the United States, from the Bush tax cuts of the mid-2000s to the deficit hawks waging war over the federal budget in Congress.
Now, nearly 80 years later, Rogers’ quip is getting the punchline it deserves: A devastating new report from the International Monetary Fund has declared the idea of “trickle-down” economics to be as much a joke as he’d imagined.
The IMF report, authored by five economists, presents a scathing rejection of the trickle-down approach, arguing that the monetary philosophy has been used as a justification for growing income inequality over the past several decades. “Income distribution matters for growth,” they write. “Specifically, if the income share of the top 20 percent increases, then GDP growth actually declined over the medium term, suggesting that the benefits do not trickle down.”
This should shock no one: Observers of income inequality over the past five years (especially those fond of Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century) will recognize this trend from economic data going back to the end of World War II. Consider this much-cited chart by Pavlina R. Tcherneva, of the Levy Economics Institute, tracking the distribution of income gains during periods of economic expansion:
According to Tcherneva’s analysis, the balance in the distribution is flipped from the majority of the nation to the top 10 percent during the Reagan and Bush administrations, a rapid acceleration of a gradual trend. Income inequality was already growing in the U.S., but the advent of Reaganomics kicked the trend into overdrive.
Or consider this chart from the Economic Policy Institute, which shows that, in general, the top one percent of society derives an increasing portion of income gains from existing capital and wealth:
One last chart, this one from the Economist, based on data from Emmanuel Saez of the University of California-Berkeley and Gabriel Zucman of the London School of Economics, shows how wealth has become increasingly concentrated in the hands of the super-rich:
According to the IMF, countries looking to boost economic growth should concentrate their efforts on the lower segments of society rather than bolstering so-called “job creators” with tax breaks. The study results suggest that raising incomes for the poor and middle class yields measurable improvements to the national economy: Increasing the income share to the bottom 20 percent of citizens by a mere one percent results in a 0.38 percentage point jump in GDP growth. By contrast, increasing the income share of the top 20 percent of citizens yields a decline in GDP growth by 0.08 percentage points.
It’s not just the IMF making the case against trickle-down economics: As Quartz notes, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development recently published a strong case for fighting income inequality, asserting that economic growth “is most damaged by the effects of inequality on the bottom 40% of incomes,” Quartz’s Gabriel Fisher writes.
The message of the IMF report is clear: Income and wealth inequality isn’t a class problem, but a national issue. “Widening income inequality is the defining challenge of our time,” the authors of the report write. “The poor and the middle class matter the most for growth via a number of interrelated economic, social, and political channels.” While disciples of Reaganomics may be clenching their fists, Will Rogers is probably laughing from the grave.
Warning of the “divide between those whose thirst for control deludes them into thinking they are destined to rule over others, and those people and nations who want only to rule themselves” – and implying the US falls into the latter category – Trump proceeded to boast about how the US is the most powerful nation in the world, and said, “hopefully we will never have to use this power.”
One can only wonder what countries like Libya, Syria, Afghanistan, Yemen and Iraq – plus the countries the US has “merely” sanctioned instead of bombing – would have to say about this magnanimous American restraint. Repeatedly lambasting Iran for its “menacing behavior” later in his speech, Trump seemed to have forgotten that he’d opened his own remarks by menacing the entire General Assembly with the world’s “most powerful military,” now “rebuilt” with $2.5 trillion in taxpayer dollars.
“One of the greatest threats facing peaceful nations today,” said the Commander-in-Chief of a military whose forces occupied 70 percent of the world’s countries in 2016, “is the repressive regime in Iran.” Iran’s citizens deserve a government that doesn’t “steal their money to fund and massacre abroad and at home,” declared the leader of a country where more than half of federal discretionary spending goes to fund the government’s military adventures.
Socialism, Trump said, wheeling out his favorite ideological punching bag, is not about a better standard of living for the poor – it’s about “power for the ruling class.” He reiterated his vow that America would never be a socialist country, even as a growing number of Americans are at least curious about how socialism might favorably compare to the current system in the US, where income equality is at an all-time high and the richest three men have more money than half the country combined. Socialism, Trump lamented, was the only thing stopping Venezuela from receiving the “vast quantities of humanitarian aid” the US had in store for it – if only it would “restore democracy” and embrace an unelected, US-backed leader from Venezuela’s own ruling class.
Iran will become “a cautionary tale of what happens when a ruling class abandons its people and embarks on a quest for personal power and riches,” Trump warned, seemingly blind to how applicable his words were to his own country. The American ruling class’s abandonment of its people has been a running theme in the last two election cycles – it’s arguably what put Trump in power, and some of his Democratic opponents are betting on it to secure their own victories in 2020.
“The US does not seek conflict with any other nation,” Trump declared, after bashing the countries the US uses all its financial and military clout to undermine. The message was heard loud and clear: uphold your country’s sovereignty, unless it conflicts with our interests.
“The entire thrust of the new corporate and billionaire backed projects on climate action are there to preserve a hierarchical status quo. It is to rescue Capitalism itself. And the implications of much of it are near genocidal.”
SEPTEMBER 20, 2019
“Not only are we not going to have wars between major powers in this era of fascist upsurge (of course, as will be discussed, we shall have other wars), but, by the same token, this fascist upsurge will not burn out through any cataclysmic war. What we are likely to see is a lingering fascism of less murderous intensity, which, when in power, does not necessarily do away with all the forms of bourgeois democracy, does not necessarily physically annihilate the opposition, and may even allow itself to get voted out of power occasionally. But since its successor government, as long as it remains within the confines of the neoliberal strategy, will also be incapable of alleviating the crisis, the fascist elements are likely to return to power as well. And whether the fascist elements are in or out of power, they will remain a potent force working toward the fascification of the society and the polity, even while promoting corporate interests within a regime of globalization of finance, and hence permanently maintaining the “partnership between big business and fascist upstarts.”
– Utsa Patnaik and Prabhat Patnaik (Monthly Review, July 1st, 2019)
“The poor shall inherit the earth or there will be no earth left to inherit.”
– John Bellemy Foster (Monthly Review, 2019)
“The people want wholesome dread. They want to fear something. They want someone to frighten them and make them shudderingly submissive.”
– Ernst Rohm (Hitler’s chief of the SA)
There seems to be two branches of what I see as a drive toward global domination, global hegemony, by the ruling class. One is the Trump phenomenon and the narratives and political actions that accompany his presidency (often in the background). Second is the new ruling corporate control of environmentalism.
I quote Cory Morningstar a lot and that is with good reason. Its nearly impossible to pull quotes from her work because there are too many choices. Read the entirety of it.
There is a lot to read and it might be useful to start at the end, with the most recent material, and work backwards. But I will return to this. The linkage between Trump’s cartoon presidency and the corporate takeover of environmentalism is anchored in recognizing the magic thinking involved, but more, to stop and recognize that the manufacturing of narratives here is really about a manufacturing of obedience to authority. Especially in our post modern (sic) epoch, *institutional authority*. And to see that Trump is only carrying out policy sanctioned and supported by the ruling class (and perfectly amenable to the DNC). Now one need look no further than Hollywood to see the outlines of narrative change. The rehabilitation of fascism is everywhere. In everything. The normalizing of fascist style helps normalize and make coherent the presidency of Don Trump.
Much has been written about the CIA and Department of Defense infiltration of Hollywood. There are numerous obvious storytelling staples; the problems in any global situation are the result of a few bad apples or rogue agents. It is never that the institution is corrupt or intentionally causing death and suffering.
“The content of film and television is directly, regularly, and secretly determined by the US government, led by the CIA and Pentagon. More visible since the 1980s is what we identify as a distinct genre: ‘national security cinema’—namely, those films that follow self-serving official histories and exalt in the righteousness of US foreign policy. ( ) National security entertainment promotes violent, self-regarding, American-centric solutions to international problems based on twisted readings of history. However, even those products that don’t meet such a lamentable yardstick are still to some degree designed to recruit personnel and, in doing so, must adhere to the desired self-image of the national security state. ”
– Matthew Alford, Tom Secker (National Security Cinema – Government Control in Hollywood)
There is a constant pro war slant to nearly all films that even indirectly touch on U.S. politics and/or the government. The first given is that war is inevitable and when involving the U.S. military it is a necessary and beneficent activity. There is a tacit and often openly direct support and praise of mass surveillance — even on ordinary citizens or citizens of friendly nations. The world is depicted as if threat existed on every corner and such trifles as torture or political manipulations are both routine and absolutely crucial to keep you, the viewer, safe. The message is always that new dangers are unprecedented and unique. Civil liberties are treated with the same contempt Obama showed for them. The exaggeration of threat, in fact, runs through nearly everything in mass media. There is also an exaggeration of the abilities of the surveillance industry (one aspect of the new magical thinking).
But the really pernicious aspect of government influence in media comes in more subtle forms. The most prominent of which is the normalizing of not just illegal military or CIA activity, but the normalizing of and encouragement to fawn before authority, to trust said authority, and to feel OK about one’s own attraction to those knee high Nazi jack boots, or the shiny nickel plated Sig Sauer 9mm the hero is fondling. So routine is the seduction of the audience with technologies of violence that it passes without comment. Directors and DPs automatically default to having the camera caress the gun, tank, rifle, or uniform. This extends to domestic U.S. police forces, too. It is allowable to show sadistic cops on occasion because sadism itself is acceptable, and even sort of sexy. It is allowable to show the U.S. interfering in the political elections of foreign sovereign states because any nation not the United States (and U.K.) will benefit from said interference. And here another branch of this propaganda should be noted ( which will segue nicely back to Trump and environmentalism) and that is white supremacism. The single constant in narratives from Hollywood is that of American exceptionalism. And really, the examples are just too numerous to list. The ideological footprint of ruling class values is indelible and unchanging. Wealth is a virtue and the rich are responsible, and when they are not they are punished by others in the 1%. Just like the new corporate environmentalism, the message is, let the ruling class decide.
The values of the ruling classes in the U.S. and U.K. are always evident if one only looks. (So much has changed since those emigre German Jewish directors fled to Hollywood in the 40s). And of course lip service is, to a degree, paid to fairness and equality, but never to any idea of economic equality or social influence. That is the province of the very rich and aristocratic. Which is why I find it so curious that many of the left (pseudo or soft left) don’t even blink when those with honorifics before their name, with royal titles, issue proclamations about climate change or overpopulation or new Green corporate solutions. These are always white people, mind you. I mean African Kings don’t count. Tribal elders don’t count. The British aristocracy are very big on preserving their privileges at game preserves and France remains a colonial administrator in its former African holdings (see Uranium mining). But more than that, of course, the ruling class is the face of the new environmentalism. Unless its an Asperger’s fifteen year old who increasingly (and painfully) appears in distress and cognitive confusion. This is not an attack on Greta, that attack is being carried out by the white billionaire faces of western capital. But I will be accused of attacking her, and that in itself is an aspect of how the new propaganda works.
Which reminds me, where are all the black (African or otherwise) climate experts? The only one, really, is Warren Washington. The new Green feels very white. Facing monumental problems of pollution, both on land and perhaps especially in oceans, people have retreated to very non political positions that are either a kind of Hollywood disaster apocalypse fantasy, or new age smart phone Gaia anthropomorphism. I wrote before about the demand that everyone submit to the consensus- – meaning not that the earth is getting warmer or even why, but the moral hand wringing and outrage at those not submitting. The demand is that one join in the outrage and alarmism. The very term *denialism* suggests the typical bourgeois response to anything disruptive of their privilege. The constant outpouring of articles, in mainstream glossy magazines (and their cyber equivalents) and news outlets are always framed a certain way. A recent social media post by Keith Harmon Snow on a lay out in National Geographic laid it out this way..
“With help from National Geographic and Proctor and Gamble (P&G), you can save the world. ACTIVATE. Be a good Global Citizen.
This is corporate greenwashing and corporate capitalism steering or creating “social justice” movements that will serve capitalism, while expropriating true social justice and true social justice movements, and thereby diffusing and destroying any valid legitimate meaningful POTENTIAL social movements. P&G is a nasty chemical/pharmaceutical/medical industrial giant responsible for Toxic carcinogenic products, price-fixing, palm oil monoculture plantations, child slavery, media propaganda, testing on animals, false advertising and massive pollution and other forms of destruction of the environment. Did you know that P&G produced the first home radio and TV serials, and because P&G was known for manufacturing detergents, these became known as “Soap operas”?
This is racist white supremacist whitewashing. Using images of smiling indigenous people, in full (airbrushed) color, in their natural or unnatural environments, for malicious propaganda purposes. Propaganda = perception management. National Geographic is a racist corporate platform that cannot ever be trusted. (Pretty pictures, though; though generally and almost always decontextualized).”
The entire thrust of the new corporate and billionaire backed projects on climate action are there to preserve a hierarchical status quo. It is to rescue Capitalism itself. And the implications of much of it are near genocidal. I think it is not an accident that the grave problems of industrial pollution (just think the waste sites for cyber technology) are relatively forgotten in these narratives from the ruling class. Those waste sites are in the poorest countries on earth, they are not outside Bethesda,Maryland or in Connecticut. And these new marketing campaigns, employing massive guilt inducing techniques of persuasion, have created a fairly safe and morally superior niche psychic space for the haute bourgeoisie to look down on the problems that their class created and attribute them to either the poor, or just the anodyne *everyone*.
The term 6th Mass Extinction gets a lot of usage. Its a marketers dream, actually. In fact the first time I heard that term I thought, wow, that is gonna have traction. If you just said oh, we’re all going to die off in a half century you would not garner this kind of following. But give it a kind of pseudo brand, specify it, make it special — not just extinction, but SIXTH mass extinction….and the white boogie class will fall over themselves salivating. Its pure seduction. Its like a kind of generalized identification with something bigger than you. Even though its also a sort of pessimism selfie. It sounds smarty pants to say, too. Oh we’re in the SIXTH mass extinction don’t you know.
There is almost no dialogue about this stuff. There are proclamations. Public life is carried out by proclamation and twitter. Meanwhile the U.S. election season has arrived. And never before, perhaps, has the Democratic Party put on such a pathetic show. Joe Biden can barely speak. Its senile gibberish half the time. The other front runner — and clearly now the candidate of western capital, is Elizabeth Warren. Im wondering how those rimless spectacles will play west of the Rockies. Not well …which is fine because the Democrats don’t want to win this one. This is Trump time. For only a man mentored at the feet of Roy Cohn could so effortlessly usher in the theatrical presentation of full blown fascism to America. Trump normalizes old school fascism. Everything can be blamed on Trump. And that is what the ruling class wants, you see. If Biden has an embolism and Warren turns out to be just too bookish (appearing) then there is always the black cop, Kamala Harris (whose future is likely as a federal DA) or Bernie. Except Bernie doesn’t want the nomination. That’s not his gig. The loud mouthed and utterly opportunistic shill will be what he always was, a ballot bag man for the more telegenic DNC candidates of choice. There is also the potential for a late comer to the DRC party. Too early for AOC (who may be, actually, too dumb for national electoral politics. And that bar has been set very low. Think Dan Quayle) and Chelsea (Clinton not Manning, although…), but its not impossible to think someone out there might provide better optics than Biden or Warren.
The debates themselves are so idiotic, so inane and nearly literally infantile, that it is hard to gain a clear picture of what the public thinks they are watching. But then the sub-literacy of America is stunning to behold. And perhaps the loss of even the most basic moral coherency among the bourgeoisie is resulting in the stultifying character of the Spectacle these days. The sordid and unsettling saga of cheerleader and killer (er…corpse abuser) Skyler Richardson is sort of the avatar for this era. A society that produces a Skyler Richardson …and one that cannot find the means to deal with her crimes…is a terribly sick place. But then this is also the era of drone assassination on order of the President (Obama) which took the life of a teenage citizen of the U.S. This is the era in which Julian Assange is driven toward complete physical and mental collapse by the state, for releasing the truth to the public while Mike Pompeo brags about lying. An era of wanton wholesale lying at the state level (think the former Yugoslavia, Rwanda, Syria, Venezuela, North Korea, Iran). Wholesale lying of a kind that the public is now utterly inured to –a lying that is expected and anticipated. A persistent assault of lies and distortions that have all but eroded the very idea of the truth. But then this an era in which transparent visible stupidity is more asset than detriment. And the problem is that crimes and viciousness of those in power …both in the U.K. and U.S. is just not answered. The Grenfell Tower fire is another avatar of class violence today. Boris Johnson (Kipling admirer and open OPEN overt racist) now is the head of state for Great Britain. But he is the shadow of Trump. A pale homunculus version of the Donald. And the hair. I mean, the hair?
But the vast militarism of the U.S. and its proxies is polluting enormous areas of earth, killing sea mammals and indoctrinating hundreds of thousands of ill educated poor kids to the joys of shooting Arab families, the pleasures of torture, and career building bullying seems to have exceeded all limits of rationality. A military system that teaches hate and racism and xenophobia. A system that tolerates (at the very least) rape. A military that gets something like 5 billion dollars a day to play with. And all those democrats on stage this week, ALL of them signed off on more militarism.
Someone said to me this week, when I mentioned Bernie’s attack on Maduro and Chavez, ‘well, he has to say that, he’s trying to win an election’. He *HAS* to say it. He is forced to lie. They have a gun to his dog’s head. Or, more likely, that bellowing fool probably believes it. Why does anyone like Bernie? Honestly, I get Liz Warren. The college educated white liberal finds their mirror ideal image in Warren. I get Biden even. He is familiar. And shit, Reagan was senile and barely able to actually speak in complete sentences and yet he was labeled ‘the great communicator’. So senility has its charms for America it seems. But Bernie is so nakedly disingenuous and mendacious. I don’t get it.
“Transformations in the economic base of the system and its accompanying class structures have changed the conditions for the exercise of power. Political domination is now expressed through a new-style “political class” and a media clergy, both dedicated exclusively to serving the abstract capitalism of generalized monopolies. The ideology of the “individual as king” and the illusions of the “movement” that wants to transform the world, even “change life”(!)—without posing the question of workers and peoples seizing power—only reinforce capital’s new methods of exercising power.”
– Samir Amin (Monthly Review, July 2019)
The above paragraph is a useful description of contemporary capitalism and a cogent comment on the various new green deals or extinction rebellions etc. And set against the surreal comedy of the U.S. election season, the new Corporate environmentalists are paving the way for normalizing a global state of emergency. If one thinks back just a bit, the Boston Marathon bombing was the front edge for testing how compliant the population might be when their city is being shut down. Totally compliant was the answer. And this is going to be the tactic. Declare a state of emergency that is for your own good.
“The sober images of Thunberg, as depicted and shared by the Climate Group, and the media at large, are very much intentional as outlined in the document “Leading the Public into Emergency Mode: A New Strategy for the Climate Movement“published by The Climate Mobilization:
‘The way we respond to threats — by entering emergency mode or by remaining in normal mode — is highly contagious. Imagine the fire alarm goes off in an office building. How seriously should you take it? How do you know if it is a drill or a real fire? Those questions will be predominantly answered by the actions and communications of the people around you, particularly people designated as leaders. If they are chatting and taking their time exiting the building, you will assume that this is a drill. If people are moving with haste, faces stern and focused, communicating with urgency and gravity, you will assume there is real danger and exit as quickly as possible.’”
– Cory Morningstar (ibid)
Just the title, We Mean Business. None of this, of course, has anything to do with saving life and protecting the planet. None has anything to do with a radical de-militarizing of the Imperialist states. Nobody is suggesting the rich change the way they live. You poor folks, well, yeah, you might have to change a little (and oh, live in a FEMA camp, but not forever….we don’t think). Allow me to just pick one bio here, from Morningstar’s work, to illustrate the fascistic ideology of those driving so much of this new marketed environmentalism. Executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) from 2010 to 2016, is the very privileged Christina Figueres, late of Georgetown and the London School of Economics , an anthropologist and economist who presided over the UN climate negotiations that culminated in the 2015 Paris Agreement.
“Although meticulous in detail, Figueres biography on her personal website neglects to disclose her royal connection to Costa Rica. On Figueres’ lengthy Wikipedia entry, it is disclosed, in a single sentence, that her father, José Figueres Ferrer, served as President of Costa Rica on three separate occasions. In August 1953, the Guatemalan Communist paper, Octubre, characterized the new president of Costa Rica, José “Don Pepe” Figueres, as an “unconditional servant of American imperialism” and the latest “United Fruit Company President.” Both pro-American and anti-communist, José Figueres supported the 1954 Guatemalan coup d’état overthrowing Jacobo Árbenz Guzmán, President of Guatemala from 1951 to 1954. [Further reading: Resistance and Accommodation: The United States and the Nationalism of José Figueres, 1953–1957.]
Figueres’ mother, Karen Olsen Beck, served as Costa Rican Ambassador to Israel in 1982 and was a member of the Costa Rica Legislative Assembly.
Figueres’ brother José María Figueres also served as President of Costa Rica from 1994 to 1998. In 2013, he co-founded the Global Ocean Commission, an initiative funded by the Pew Charitable Trust, the Adessium Foundation in the Netherlands, and U.S. philanthropic group Oceans 5. Former Greenpeace adviser Simon Reddy would serve as the commission’s executive secretary. [Source] María Figueres serves as chair to the Global Ocean Commission (since rebranded to Mission Ocean) with David Miliband (recently featured on the Global Optimism podcast series), and Trevor Manuel (one of South Africa’s longest serving Ministers of Finance, now Minister in the Presidency and head of the National Planning Commission). The original members of the Global Ocean Commission remain unchanged in 2019 with one member having deceased. Members include John Podesta (chair of the Center for American Progress and a former White House chief of staff and member of the ClimateWorks board of directors), Sri Mulyani Indrawati (managing director and chief operating officer of the World Bank Group), Pascal Lamy (former director-general of the World Trade Organisation) and other high profile individuals. María Figueres is also the co-founder of Ocean Unite. This is important, as the oceans are set to be privatized under the “New Deal For Nature” scheme.”
Cory Morningstar (ibid)
Again, anti communism, and all the usual fingerprints of U.S. imperial foreign policy. Its like six degrees of fascist separation. And yet I guarantee you will read her quotes in any number of articles on climate change and green new deals. For again, the template has always been, let the ruling class decide.
Figueres is also a “distinguished member” of Conservation International — along with chairman for Northrop Grumman, and Al Gore, and oh, a former Walmart chairman. Not to mention Figueres married Konrad Von Ritter of the World Bank. But yeah, I’m sure Greta knew all this when she accepted the invite.
Infantile and intoxicated with an almost masochistic love of authority. That is the average American today. The problem with the new (sic) environmentalism is that it is driven by western interests, and the narrative shaped by western interests. There is more than just a residual racism involved, it is there at the very most basic level. The narratives that are shaping today’s generation are largely the products of Langely and the DoD, and increasingly they feature a nostalgic rehabilitation of fascist style (at first) and now content. Fascism is becoming fashionable. Its cool. And the fascism of Trump is a bit like the McGuffin of this master narrative. Trump’s cartoon twitter fascism is decried while legitimate fascist principles are being more inextricably and quietly baked into daily life.
The U.S. Imperialist state knows a global crises is coming. And probably the most acute area will be water. When there is a clear unanimity among global capitalists, one should see this as a symptom — and distrust the narrative. Whatever the exact degree of environmental harm due specifically to climate change, there is the undeniable desperation among the ruling elite. And an undeniable crises of pollution. If royalty and billionaires are flocking to exploit the Greta phenomenon (and to help shape that narrative), one should be highly suspicious of the solutions and strategies being offered. The fact that militarism and the packaging industry are relatively ignored in the presentation of the new green movement suggests more suspicion. Instead of *everyone* not using straws or single use plastic bags, how about just stop producing them.
The ruling class today has doubled down on smearing communism and socialism. The manufacturing of new kitsch demonized bios of Mao or Ho Chi Minh or Thomas Sankara… or even the Black Panthers suggests fear. Substitute Ocasio-Cortez for real socialism, call Bernie a socialist, too, and then pretend much of the new faux left (infiltrated by crack pot LaRouche-ites and various forms of libertarianism) is oppositional and argue with it — the better to disappear real socialist literature (see Google and Facebook censorship). Praise the most innocuous apolitical philosophy (or just the Nazi metaphysics of Heidegger) of post structuralism while, again, disappearing the work of Marx or Lenin and discredit an Adorno or a Gramsci. Or, make sure such work is taken out of context. And in fine arts applaud identity based banality and then disappear the working class voice. And then keep prescribing mind numbing drugs. Reduce public education to simple training in compliance. And keep praising those in uniform. Always.
“Thus madness reappears in the very posture which pretends to fight it.”
– Guy Debord (Society of the Spectacle)
“Despite this opposition, neoliberal capitalism cannot ward off the challenge it is facing for long. It has no vision for reinventing itself. Interestingly, in the period after the First World War, when capitalism was on the verge of sinking into a crisis, the idea of state intervention as a way of its revival had already been mooted, though its coming into vogue only occurred at the end of the Second World War. Today, neoliberal capitalism does not even have an idea of how it can recover and revitalize itself. And weapons like domestic fascism in the third world and direct imperialist intervention cannot for long save it from the anger of the masses that is building up against it.”
– Utsa Patnaik and Prabhat Patnaik (ibid)
I keep reading about how unprecedented was Hurricane Dorian. Well, no. The legendary Galveston hurricane of 1900 remains the single greatest natural made tragedy in U.S. History. (and the second greatest was The Okeechobee Hurricane of 1928, and then Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Maria along with the The Chenière Caminada Hurricane of 1893). The environmental crises is real. The marketing of it is not necessary. Why then does it exist.
Once upon a time they wrote songs about human tragedies. Dylan might be the last songwriter to address tragedy.
As Sam Collins wrote on the youtube video of Sin Killer Griffin’s recording of Wasn’t it a Mighty Storm, a song about the Galveston tragedy..courtesy of John Lomax…
“there were many songs. But the one that has endured, deservingly, is called “Wasn’t That a Mighty Storm” – which, from what we know, began life as a spiritual in the black church.
At least the church seems to be the first place it surfaced into public view. Back in those days, almost every major public event inspired songs, which spread like text messages spread today, so the precise origin of songs is often hard to pin down.
But “Wasn’t That a Mighty Storm” fit perfectly into the black spiritual tradition – a tale of hardship and trouble and the sometimes inscrutable hand of God with which we troubled sinners in this hard mortal world simply had to live.
Part of it went like this:
Galveston had a seawall
To keep the water down,
But the high tide from the ocean
Washed water over the town.
Wasn’t that a mighty storm!
Oh, wasn’t that a mighty storm with water!
Wasn’t that a mighty storm
That blew all the people away!
Their trumpets gave them warning,
“You’d better leave this place.”
They never thought of leaving
Till death looked them in the face.
Death like a cruel master,
As the wind began to blow,
Rode out on a train of horses.
Death calls, you gotta go.
It was not a happy song. But then, it was not a happy event – and topical songs of the early 20th century thrived on unhappy events. There were literally hundreds of songs about the sinking of the Titanic, dozens about the killer Mississippi floods of 1927.
The song was apparently first recorded in 1934 by Library of Congress folk song collector John Lomax on a visit to Darrington State Farm, a prison in Sandy Point, Tex.
Lomax’s recording was by a preacher named Sin-Killer Griffin, with the prison inmates serving as his congregation.
Sin-Killer was a well-known preacher, with a mesmerizing delivery and full confidence in the name he had given himself. Death was a subject on which he preached frequently.
Relatively little is known about his life, which makes it all the more intriguing that back in 1889, in Denton, Tex., a “Sin-Killer Griffin” tried to organize black Americans to invade Africa.
There is some evidence this was the same Sin-Killer Griffin who resurfaced before John Lomax 45 years later, though we have no way of knowing for sure.”