Class Warfare Blog

June 17, 2012

Business is King! (Really)

I have been watching a Link TV presentation by journalist and author Chris Hedges who was making his point that in the contest between “the people” and “the corporations” for American Democracy, the business interests have, in essence, won. He gave as one example the State of West Virginia, a state wholly owned by coal interests. Coal mine owners have decided that digging tunnels to remove underground coal is way too much trouble, so they are just dynamiting the top 400 feet or so of Appalachian mountains so they can scoop up the coal in broad daylight. In so doing, they are violating Federal laws by the bushel, destroying whole river systems simply by bulldozing pulverized mountaintops into them, and destroying whole towns. So, where are the lawmakers during all of this? Paid or threatened to keep quiet. Where are the law enforcers? Paid or threatened to keep quiet. Where are the unions? Emasculated. Where are the liberal organizations who protest such things? Gone.

But what can one find in the common spaces in rural West Virginia? TVs playing Fox News and only Fox News as a public service (I can hear the drums from here.), residents with eyes glazed, and with no interest in taking on “the man.” In fact, West Virginia is a solid Republican state with millions voting against their own interests.

I would add to this dismal picture that for a Presidential contest we have in this corner President Obama, who killed Bin Laden, got us out of Iraq as promised, passed a Health Care for all law, etc., and in that corner we have an empty suit, Mitt Romney, who has already exclaimed that “He is not worried about the poor” and “He wasn’t running for President to raise taxes on millionaires” and Obamacare is anathema because it is almost identical to the plan he got passed in Massachusetts. And it is a dead heat between the two! Huh?

How is it that so many vote against their own interests? Mr. Hedges paints a picture of what he sees and it goes back nearly a century, to the re-election of President Woodrow Wilson. In his campaign of 1916, Wilson used the slogan: “He kept us out of war.” But in 1917, we were marching off to Europe to engage in WWI. What happened? The “standard” view was that the Germans were sinking U.S. ships willy-nilly and we had to put a stop to that. Hedges view was different. According to him, the collapse of the Eastern front due to the Russian Revolution meant that Germany could move as many as 100 divisions of troops to the western front, almost guaranteeing a win for Germany. But Wall Street had loaned England and France a great deal of money and if they were to lose the war, Wall Street wouldn’t be paid back. In addition, since Wilson had vehemently urged people to “stay neutral” and not get involved in the incessant wars of Europe (a common theme since the Revolution) he had a PR problem, but public relations hadn’t been invented yet. So, with the help of “propaganda” experts (modern propaganda methods hadn’t yet been invented but it was high time) Wilson got support for the war. Well, that, and a great deal of high-handedness. Wilson was staunchly pro-labor but all of a sudden if a union wasn’t pro war, they were on the outs. Similarly, all of the anti-war organizations (which tended to be liberal, socialist, or communist) were vigorously suppressed.

After the war (and Wall Street secured their promissory notes), the “Fear the Hun” campaign became the “Fear the Reds” campaign. Sure the Russians were establishing a democracy (government by the people) but it wasn’t a capitalist democracy, so it didn’t count (to the extent we invaded Soviet Russia in the early 1900’s, did you know). Anti-communist favor was fanned for decades and I can remember as a boy people using the phrase “He’s a communist” as a generic slur. Wilson’s propaganda experts ended up on Madison Avenue building the foundations for modern marketing and mass communications strategies.

After “Fear the Reds” came “Fear the Nazis” and “Fear the Chinese Reds” and “Fear the Domino Principle” and . . . and we have had an emotional context of constant fear ever since. And, how exactly does propaganda work? Through the manipulation of emotions, the most powerful being fear. With the collapse of the Soviet Union and China becoming our nation’s banker, “Fear the Communists” doesn’t quite hold water any more. Mitt Romney labeled Russia as our “greatest geo-political enemy” and almost got laughed out of the race.

So, what is the “fear train’s” next stop? Well, if you have been paying attention, since the 1980’s it has been “Fear the Liberal.” When President Obama was elected president, and even before, he was labeled a “dangerous liberal” and when that didn’t create enough fear he was labeled a “socialist.” (“Keep your government’s hands off my Medicare, you Socialist!”) Of course, President Obama isn’t any kind of socialist, he isn’t even any kind of liberal, but there are few alive today who would notice that.

In the early 20th Century, there were liberal groups in proliferation, even socialist and communist groups had power. Today, can you find any of these groups? The NAACP of Martin Luther King is today toothless. The unions have been defanged and defeated. And, if you look at history at all, all of the major democratizing aspects of American society were begun as popular movements: the Revolution itself, the Anti-slavery movement, the Suffrage movement, the Civil Rights movement, Social Security was begun due to a private movement, and on and on. And, the organizations responsible for such democratizing movements are going if not gone. They have succumbed to propaganda supported by big business until today all of our politicians owe their positions to corporate power, the Supreme Court has succumbed to corporate power, the news media have been corporatized, Wall Street is running itself, and the Citizens United Supreme Court decision has sealed the deal.

Business interest have won, at least for a long, long time.

Interestingly there was no mastermind behind this whole affair. It was done with money and memes. Corporations just followed their own interests and like a river being moved by dropping a few stones in a creek, diverting its path, so has this come into being. Now, of course, the dropped stones have been replaced by bulldozed mountaintops. More recently, since the 1970’s, things became a bit more organized with the financing of “conservative” think tanks which could organize the memes better, but it was all in all an uncoordinated effort.

Did it have to be this way? Absolutely not. Look to our northern neighbor. Canada, has universal health care. Why? Because its unions fought for it for everybody. Why did they do that? Because they weren’t under continuous attack and defending just themselves (Canada still has about 30+% union jobs as once we did). Canada’s recession was caused by our drop in demand, not because their financial system collapsed as did ours. Why? Canada didn’t succumb to Wall Street efforts to drop the firewall between public banks and private investment backs.

So, is there anything we can do? If history is any guide there is only one thing to do! And the only organization doing it all effectively is the Occupy Wall Street movement: protest, put electoral pressure on your representatives, and don’t listen to corporate propaganda, the most current form being “political ads.”

Protest or die poor! You can start by checking out the Link TV presentation by Chris Hedges and go from there.

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