Comments: A Suggestion

...someone killed...

...understands it... (?)

...to hear them.

...City would keep the Democrats

Posted by James Cape at March 24, 2010 10:26 PM

Grammatical fascism aside, I agree wholeheartedly, the news coming out of Virginia is absolutely nuts.

Posted by James Cape at March 24, 2010 10:30 PM

Grammatical fascism aside, I agree wholeheartedly that the news coming out of Virginia is absolutely nuts.

Posted by James Cape at March 24, 2010 10:30 PM

I feel like there should be more drastic options available then warning about what happened i 95, or 33, or 82, or 29. You can really pick any year - the message will be marginalized.

And yes, I agree, absolutely nuts.

Posted by John S. at March 24, 2010 11:16 PM

My suggestion is to make government responsive to the needs & desires of the people, rein in the financial industry, prosecute the criminals in high places, and do something to stimulate a catatonic economy that isn't Reaganesque trickle down. That would go a long way to defuse the inchoate anger simmering in America today.

What has Obama done since taking office besides fellate business interests and continue to whittle away at our liberties? HCR could have been an opportunity to do something constructive, but was instead sold to the highest bidder early in the process. The mandate, in particular, is a problem, at least the way it was enacted. Actually, that's wrong. It is more than a problem: it is an abomination. I'm about as far from the right-wing crazies as you can get, and I'm pissed about it.

I've believed for a while that violent unrest would be coming to America. It has started with the right-wing crazies, mainly because a (black) Democrat is in the white house, and the right are more prone to violence in the first place. However, I don't think it stops with the right, nor does it stay confined to the crazies.

We needed a giant in the White House to guide America through what's coming. We got Obama. After Obama will come worse. It is just starting to get interesting (in the Chinese curse sense of the word).

Posted by shargash at March 25, 2010 09:58 AM

Jon S.,
people's memories are short in part because of the deliberate awfulness of the popular/corporate media. Remember how Time ran Ann Coulter on the cover in April 2005, on the 10 year anniversary of the OKC bombing? You want a succinct and powerful symbol of the supposedly liberal media's complacency and enabling, look no further.

Posted by Jonathan Versen at March 25, 2010 10:13 AM

jon unfortunately you seem to ignore or minimize the role govt plant did in suggesting / leading towards most extreme ideas .
and this was not an isolated example of informant basically egging /leading . there is a whole track record .
badri

Posted by badri at March 25, 2010 10:41 AM

you seem to be ignoring the role of saddam v. bush round 1 in the "making of a monster."

maybe if the guvmint (esp. obama) didn't totally blow, there wouldn't be, uh, blowback.

it's not the rubes in the trailer parks, but the rubes at 16th & penn.

Posted by ananomyous at March 25, 2010 11:15 AM

I, too, would like to dismantle the military-industrial complex, and the military in general, but I think trying to prevent right-wing crazies from blowing shit up is a slightly more plausible short-term goal.

Posted by stras at March 25, 2010 12:40 PM

E-Mail, Letter and phone call campaign to remind the FBI and Homeland Security that in 2005, they were invading War protesters residences pre-emptively because they wer planning on demonstrating!

Posted by Hawk at March 25, 2010 12:55 PM

If you hope to sway the nutball pseudo-populist right then you need to steal their base. As long as we have a passive left that feels it's more important to attack the Tea Party movement than go after our common class enemies in the White House we'll have the problem of a growing fascist movement. The anger has to go somewhere.

Posted by Douglas Lain at March 25, 2010 03:21 PM

A few basic observations:

"Someone . . .needs to find a relative of someone killed in the Oklahoma City bombing"

--I recall some vicious attacks on the 9/11 widows for yapping with their big mouths because they thought they had lost more than the rest of Amerika.

"Shame the right" . . . Oh sure, no problem. It can be done, but not to avoid violence. It can only be done THROUGH violence, which makes it useless as a method of prevention. The Ok City bombing drove a lot of people away from the militia movement, which had been picking up steam because of the frenzy whipped up by the Gingrinch Crazies and the consequences of 12 years of Reagan/Bush policies. The bombing helped the GOP because those folks flirting with the militia movement were close to being off the two-party political reservation. They had to be shamed into turning back away from the fringe, which was not a new problem. The Strategy of Tension was an effort to deal with that in Europe, especially Italy, and turning people away from the fringe was also largely what COINTELPRO and some of the CIA anti-war operations like Operation Chaos (I know, I can't believe the name either) were about. Honest, gullible people don't like murderers even when they are pissed. If you want people to dislike something, just have a mass murderer support it. (Notice Osama just came to the aid of Khalid Sheikh Mohammad with a new tape from Wheverthehellheistan.)

Anyway, we can try all we want to be responsible, but if I am right that we have some organized demons on the loose in our society, I don't think they'll listen to pleas for responsibility. Other factors will determine what happens.

As for preventing Dems from using terrorist events to extinguish civil liberties, most Dems have never cared much about that anyway. The GOP is really full of the crazies who are eager to kill and torture swarthy people without a trial, but that's just the same nasty disposition that has existed since the Pilgrims arrived and started branding slaves and killing Indians. The Dems simply haven't got the energy or will to resist such efforts very ardently. If anyone wants to read a great book about that phenomenon in a different culture that was once governed by the rule of law, civility, and a much healthier view of social democracy than we have, read Sebastian Haffner's outstanding memoir and extended essay, Defying Hitler.

So don't count on sanity being preserved by the Center. The Center is preserved from without, and once external forces quit sustaining it, it will collapse like a pup tent in a storm.

Posted by N E at March 25, 2010 05:08 PM

NE is very observant.

i, for one, think all the talk about "violent unrest" coming from the tea party right is a little overblown. yes, a random crazy or two will most likely do something drastic and destructive. and yes, it will be possible to argue, after the fact, that the rhetoric of elected republicans was to blame.

but as far as bombings are concerned, there are, as you well know, ACTUAL bombings that are actually being carried out as we speak. we drop them and set them off in places far, far away from the idiocy of "tea parties".

to the extent that we can affect change, we should concentrate our efforts on stopping the bombings that are currently being committed by our own elected government. preventing the bombings that MAY occur, if the rhetoric of the political minority gets further out of hand, is a distant second in my view.

Posted by utica at March 26, 2010 01:52 AM

in case you hadn't noticed, the howard beales running around the capitol spew violence, cruelty, hatred practically every time they open their mouths. "all options are on the table...smoke 'em out of their caves," etc., etc. our national polity revels in violence, torture & kidnapping, illegal wars are openly celebrated. outright theft is sold as a "bailout," or "healthcare reform." every utterance out of obama's mouth (or hilary's or boehner's or whoever) is utterly cynical & mendacious.

yet the impotent rage of the teabaggers scares you?

is it their rage, or that maybe they didn't brush their teeth before spewing it?

Posted by anonymous at March 26, 2010 06:33 AM

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Posted by RichardJosefa32 at March 26, 2010 07:05 AM

I think this reporting of violence is a complete set-up.

With 20% unemployment and the bank bailouts, the anger must be huge.

I think the press is deliberately suggesting that there was little anger against government or against every single leader within society prior to Health Care being legislated.

With 50% of the population being for health care, the press knows that whatever actions or fears that they stoke will be accepted by at least half of the population.

The anger is not about health care, but rather against the "System" itself.

And, the press is simply attempting to explain it all away under the guise of health care reform.

The press has been getting a zillion e-mails threatening violence against the system each day for the past 5 years and today they are pretending that it is something new or recent.

Calm

Posted by Calm at March 26, 2010 07:38 AM

NE: am I right in assuming you believe the oklohoma city bombings were an inside job? really?

Posted by Jenny at March 27, 2010 02:44 AM

jenny

Inside job is a little bumperstickerish for me, but I assume there were some CIA and possibly other intelligence agency personnel who were NOT very surprised by the explosion at the Murrah building. But alas, I don't "know" anything, and it's not really much of a question for belief.

Posted by N E at March 27, 2010 04:04 PM

One of the deeper problems here is that while the teabaggers want to kick the liberals out of government, the liberals sorta want to marginalize the teabaggers as well. That's an impasse that requires political leadership to reconcile. We're now seeing some folks on the right attempt to quash the burgeoning violence, but it may be too little too late. I mean, this stuff is deep, existing at a level of social and individual identity, and in my view has nothing to do with CIA shenanigans or conspiratorial Shadow governments.

But to answer Jon's query about how to proactively stop the violence, I don't know. Baggers embody a developing rage, a genie that can't be put back in the bottle. Some of the rage is legitimate, and in that sense, I think trying to bottle it back up would be counterproductive (at least in the short term). I think they feel, rather than rationally understand, that the America they believed in simply doesn't exist anymore. And since their lizard brains can't accept or admit the real causes of why this is, they grope around for convenient targets: liberals, minorities, godlessness, government. At bottom, tho, I think they feel entitled to a better/different life than they're currently living, a way of life they believe has been taken from them. Clearer thinking people will observe that the good old days the baggers are so enamored of benefited white male property holders to the detriment of everybody else. The Baggers, however, more-or-less agree with this. And since their conviction is based on a core value they hold dear, it requires no justification, clarification or apology. For them, it's tribal fundamentalism all the way down. I don't see this going well.

Posted by scudbucket at March 27, 2010 06:17 PM

"conspiratorial Shadow government"? That sounds like a bad movie to me.

As for intelligence agency crimes, which can euphemistically be called "shenanigans", they do exist, and in abundance. That's just the crimes that have been discovered and proved by scholars and credentialed researchers, not those that are suspected. You too can discover that for yourself if you are so inclined.

It is true that the bitterness of the teabaggers and the Right in general is backward looking toward a nostalgic past when men were men and white was right. That is typical of fascism, and beware the politics of resentment. The resentment and anger is definitely authentic, not manufactured. That being said, it can be manipulated, and the predominant expertise of the CIA is what is termed psychological warfare, which following the German military definition includes all non-traditional military operations, including propaganda and other uses of media, criminal or not. Anyone who thinks intel agencies shy away from crimes is mistaken. What they do not do is admit to crimes, and they do not consider honesty to be their function or duty, so lying doesn't trouble them even a little bit.

Whether any particular criminal event involves participation of state actors is an empirical question, not a matter of belief, and to know the answer to the empirical question one needs to know the facts. So it's a big and probably insurmountable problem that nearly all the information is typically classified and no real investigation ever exists. It's true that the crimes (not the government) are shadowy, but that's the routine and advisable way to commit crimes.

There is much to mistrust about the appearance of terrorism on a mass scale after the end of the Cold War, especially given the myriad connections of intel agencies (CIA, FBI, and Special Forces too) to many of the perpetrators, from their use in the Afghan war in the mid to late 80s through Kosovo and the Balkans in the 90s and continuing right up until the time of 9/11. What was up with McVeigh I can't say.

Posted by N E at March 27, 2010 11:40 PM

You people are just precious! I bet every one of you is either in college or a college grad too. All full of yourselves and absolutely sure of you intellectual and moral superiority.

Here's some advice. Get a new gimmick. Maybe even come up with an actual idea that's not warmed over New Deal gibberish or simply relying on the "you're a stupid racist nazi" meme. You're not fighting in the same echo chamber you were under Bush. Race baiting and pretending to be oh so concerned progs doesn't work when FOX is looping footage of "anti war" protestors carrying signs of Bush giving the Hitler salute with blood running out of his mouth, leftist nuts throwing sandbags off of bridges onto cars during the 2008 republican convention and a never ending stream of famous lefties like Moore and Mahr ect all spewing the most repugnant, violence laced bile.

Since the left no longer controls the flow of information all you end up doing is showing the world what fake hypocrites you are.

And BTW...59% want Obamacare repealed. And that's a CNN poll. You people better wise up and come out of your bubble if you want to be seen as credible. Sitting on a site talking amongst yourselves about how much everybody on the other side sucks is a losing strategy. Just ask Kieth Obermann.

Posted by R.Diddy at March 28, 2010 02:16 AM

You people are just precious! I bet every one of you is either in college or a college grad too. All full of yourselves and absolutely sure of you intellectual and moral superiority.

Here's some advice. Get a new gimmick. Maybe even come up with an actual idea that's not warmed over New Deal gibberish or simply relying on the "you're a stupid racist nazi" meme. You're not fighting in the same echo chamber you were under Bush. Race baiting and pretending to be oh so concerned progs doesn't work when FOX is looping footage of "anti war" protestors carrying signs of Bush giving the Hitler salute with blood running out of his mouth, leftist nuts throwing sandbags off of bridges onto cars during the 2008 republican convention and a never ending stream of famous lefties like Moore and Mahr ect all spewing the most repugnant, violence laced bile.

Since the left no longer controls the flow of information all you end up doing is showing the world what fake hypocrites you are.

And BTW...59% want Obamacare repealed. And that's a CNN poll. You people better wise up and come out of your bubble if you want to be seen as credible. Sitting on a site talking amongst yourselves about how much everybody on the other side sucks is a losing strategy. Just ask Kieth Obermann.

Posted by R.Diddy at March 28, 2010 02:16 AM

You people are just precious! I bet every one of you is either in college or a college grad too. All full of yourselves and absolutely sure of you intellectual and moral superiority.

Here's some advice. Get a new gimmick. Maybe even come up with an actual idea that's not warmed over New Deal gibberish or simply relying on the "you're a stupid racist nazi" meme. You're not fighting in the same echo chamber you were under Bush. Race baiting and pretending to be oh so concerned progs doesn't work when FOX is looping footage of "anti war" protestors carrying signs of Bush giving the Hitler salute with blood running out of his mouth, leftist nuts throwing sandbags off of bridges onto cars during the 2008 republican convention and a never ending stream of famous lefties like Moore and Mahr ect all spewing the most repugnant, violence laced bile.

Since the left no longer controls the flow of information all you end up doing is showing the world what fake hypocrites you are.

And BTW...59% want Obamacare repealed. And that's a CNN poll. You people better wise up and come out of your bubble if you want to be seen as credible. Sitting on a site talking amongst yourselves about how much everybody on the other side sucks is a losing strategy. Just ask Kieth Obermann.

Posted by R.Diddy at March 28, 2010 02:17 AM

You people are just precious! I bet every one of you is either in college or a college grad too. All full of yourselves and absolutely sure of you intellectual and moral superiority.

Here's some advice. Get a new gimmick. Maybe even come up with an actual idea that's not warmed over New Deal gibberish or simply relying on the "you're a stupid racist nazi" meme. You're not fighting in the same echo chamber you were under Bush. Race baiting and pretending to be oh so concerned progs doesn't work when FOX is looping footage of "anti war" protestors carrying signs of Bush giving the Hitler salute with blood running out of his mouth, leftist nuts throwing sandbags off of bridges onto cars during the 2008 republican convention and a never ending stream of famous lefties like Moore and Mahr ect all spewing the most repugnant, violence laced bile.

Since the left no longer controls the flow of information all you end up doing is showing the world what fake hypocrites you are.

And BTW...59% want Obamacare repealed. And that's a CNN poll. You people better wise up and come out of your bubble if you want to be seen as credible. Sitting on a site talking amongst yourselves about how much everybody on the other side sucks is a losing strategy. Just ask Kieth Obermann.

Posted by R.Diddy at March 28, 2010 02:17 AM

>I bet every one of you is either in college or a college grad too.

Yeah, and read without moving your lips.

I had a second cousin who was killed in the OKC bombing, but there are two problems with your proposal, Jonathan.

1) I would never be allowed on any major news media outlet to say what I think about news media.

2) One cannot shame the right since they have no shame.

Posted by Paul Avery at March 28, 2010 06:37 AM

You're not fighting in the same echo chamber you were under Bush. Race baiting and pretending to be oh so concerned progs doesn't work when FOX is looping footage of "anti war" protestors carrying signs of Bush giving the Hitler salute with blood running out of his mouth, leftist nuts throwing sandbags off of bridges onto cars during the 2008 republican convention and a never ending stream of famous lefties like Moore and Mahr ect all spewing the most repugnant, violence laced bile.

Wow, I had no idea Craig Minnick read this site.

Posted by Jonathan Schwarz at March 28, 2010 08:50 AM

@ N E: The resentment and anger is definitely authentic, not manufactured. That being said, it can be manipulated,

What you said here is all I meant to say or imply. Certainly I wouldn't deny or denigrate the belief that the CIA (and other groups) influence public opinion through covert, sometimes very violent, action. My comment regarding the teabagers was limited to suggesting that the anger is very real, and is not the result of covert manipulation. That this sentiment of anger could be manipulated - and channeled into more violent actions, as you suggest - is of course possible. I just don't think that possibility - even if true - is all that interesting, or yields any special insight into what's actually occurring right now. I mean, the people who comprise the Teaparty have been talking about armed revolution for years. It's foundational to their way of thinking about politics and social life. So the suggestion that the violence we've been seeing is orchestrated/insitigated by the CIA (or whoever) seems to me be much less causally significant than the psychology/social identity/ambitions of the members of the group itself.

And re: you're general take on so=called conspiracy theories, I tend to agree with you about the factual details (ie., I agree that there is a legitimate case establishing government complicity of varying degrees in many of these events). I conclude from this, however, not that there is a Grand Government Plan to impose certain policy priorities on US citizens or the world, but rather that there are factions of amazing power within government who compete to achieve their preferred policy goals. Sometimes the policy goals of these competing groups more or less align (eg, US foreign policy during the Cold War), sometimes they don't (military invasion/occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan). The same is true of OK City, JFK, MLK, etc. insofar as there is evidence of government participation in those events.

So, my take on conspiracies in general differs from yours in this respect: It is one thing to persuasively argue that individuals employed by the US government were involved in 9/11; it's another thing to conclude from this that the US government (in its entirety!) permitted/orchestrated the 9/11 attacks. (I apologize in advance if this is a straw-man of your views.)

Posted by scudbucket at March 28, 2010 11:57 AM

Cohesion is what it is about.

We had a LIHOP OF MIHOP event on 9/11 -- and the purpoose of that was to bring about Cohesion and further cntrol. The 9/11 event effectively scared Congress and Senate into voting for the Patriot Act, and the two wars that are now so costly.

We now need Cohesion to keep the voters in place.
As surveys show that the Progressives and indies out number the 32% of all Americans who are Dems, and 28% of all Americans who are Republicans, the Progressives must be kept in line.

What better method of showing us Progresives that the only choices we have are:

1) to re-elect Corporate-Controlled Democrats

2) or else to elect zombie Nazi, Parkinson victims-in-wheelchair bashers, who may be killing babies in their free time?

I guess they (i.e. Powers that Be) are smart enough to figure this all out. It seems to be working. Hell five days ago, I hated the HC"R" efforts and the bill that was the result of those efforts.

And now I find myself supporting it, because if I don't, doesn't that mean some RW Tea Bagger will punch out a crippled person?

And this is after only one week!

Posted by Elise Mattu at March 28, 2010 03:58 PM

scudbucket

I assume not many people really thinks the US government does anything in its entirety, though right-wing conspiratorial thinking does seem to involve this sort of view of a Grand Plan or secret group of some kind, as in, going back some time, to the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. But that's not what anyone need think, or that I hypothesize goes on. People who aren't stupid don't typically write and distribute memos about state crimes, let alone widely distribute such memos. Nor do groups of intelligent people have meetings to discuss treasonous crimes. I mean, let's assume everyone has enough intelligence to consider the possibility that something might conceivably go wrong.

Covert operations are routinely handled through ordinary intel and military channels on a need-to-know basis. The full scope of a whole covert operation is not even known by the participants--that's how it works. If someone in a position of sufficient authority gives orders, they don't have to explain themselves except to their superiors, if any. The greater the authority, the greater the ability to issue the necessary orders. The whole point of having a "covert" operations capability is that such operations not be easily detected, including by foreign agents who may be within the government itself. So they are VERY covert, and ordinary citizens are never going to be able to know whether they are happening.

As for whether this hypothesis is interesting or "yields any special insight into what's happening right now," if it actually is happening right now, then revelation of that certainly would yield a whole lot of insight, and people would think it pretty darn interesting too, though fans of the military and foreign wars would be quite incensed by the suggestion that the whole dirty business might be generated by mass murder and fraud on the public. And in general those people would be incensed whether or not the charge is true, because people firmly committed to their political views do not distinguish ugly truths from ugly lies.

But of course the conclusion that it is happening right now is unproved. We don't know what all the evidence would show if it declassified and disclosed. Since that won't happen and we really aren't going to be allowed to know, maybe you're right that this path leads nowhere interesting.

The problem is, if people don't take the possibility more seriously and it is actually happening, it isn't going to stop. And the stakes are high. Historically, these are not isolated occurrences, even those that can be documented. If terrorist events are planned and executed to drive policy, in the way that military incidents so commonly used to be, that inevitably carries over into the manipulation of domestic politics, because if people think a war is justified and the nation is in danger, of course they support it. That's obviously a big tactic of whatever party takes the lead in a war.

So the upshot is that democracy itself is very directl undone by the existence of this possible/actual abuse of power. And that leaves us where? A nondemocratic government engaged in murderous imperial wars to sustain as long as possible a world order that itself ultimately will not be sustainable because it has as its foundation an economic system that requires exponential growth in a world of finite resources and other very real limits to growth. I don't know how long the long run is, but in the long run capitalism of the type that has appeared so far in history is going to crash onto some very big rocks.

That's not a good situation, becasue we live in a capitalist world. Historically, when world orders have abruptly collapsed, or been smashed on the rocks of reality, the period of transition has been pretty horrible. Vast increases in technology and interdependence strike me as likely to make the next period of transition potentially even worse, especially if they lead to war, because it would likely be a war that would make its predecesesors seem minor in comparison.

So really, making sure that terrorist attacks CANNOT be used as a pretext to sustain policies that would otherwise die of natural political causes is a much bigger question than just saving the lives of future victims of the phony terrorist incidents that otherwise will occur. The social, political, and economic forces that want to keep this whole system going as long as possible--right up until The Rapture or the messiah comes or whatever--those forces will drive us all off a cliff if they are not prevented from doing that, because they are blinded by ideology. And my sense is that they will do ANYTHING it takes along the way too.

Sorry to be so cheerful.

Posted by N E at March 28, 2010 04:23 PM

Elise Mattu

In terms of scaring Congress, don't forget those letters containing anthrax that were sent to the Hill. People often seem to forget those (like many other things).

One thing to remember is that the way the system works doesn't require outside manipulation. State crimes are something separate that happens. The Founding Fathers get most of the credit for designing a political system so impervious to democracy. It's just been tweeked to enhance that quality.

Posted by N E at March 28, 2010 07:55 PM

N E,
There was alot of good points in the above reply, and much that I agree with. But this passage caught my attention, so I thought I'd elaborate a bit on it:

But of course the conclusion that it is happening right now is unproved. We don't know what all the evidence would show if it declassified and disclosed. Since that won't happen and we really aren't going to be allowed to know, maybe you're right that this path leads nowhere interesting.

Here, I think, are four ways the hypothesis (of CIA involvement) leads to nowhere interesting. And I think this may apply pretty generally to a certain type of 'conspiracy theory'. (I use the scare quotes because I happen to believe many of them).

One is that to some extent, the answer to the question 'is the CIA pulling the levers of violence to further restrict Americans civil liberties?' is academic, since even if we could ever know, it would be long after the fact, and long after certain policy prerogatives are entrenched.

A second is that answering the question could be viewed as vitally important since it increases the body of historical knowledge, and those ignorant of history are doomed to repeat it. But as a commenter upthread mentioned, mass media does an excellent job of cleansing our collective memories of inconvenient facts. Hence, there is an unhealthy lack of skepticism or even awareness of the role played by the fbi/cia/etc in domestic affairs.

A third way, closer to what I mentioned earlier, is that even if it could be demonstrated (in real time) that the feds are orchestrating the violence (eg., to smear them, or to justify a crackdown on their groups, or to promote draconian restrictions of civil liberties), the people engaging in those activities wouldn't care. They have their ideology, their anger, their political goals, none of which could be challenged, at this point, by antagonistic government actions.

And one final, fourth way the hypothesis leads to nowhere, is that the hypothesized type of domestic covert illegal action is just part of the age old battle between centralized power and individual freedom, whether it's waged by the Pinkertons or the Feds. By saying that, I don't mean to trivialize or gloss-over the very real crimes committed. This war is persistent and ongoing, and progressives have amassed huge victories in the last hundred or so years by turning restrictions on the powerful into freedoms for the people. The other side (ie., the now less powerful) is probably quite pissed about this, constantly looking for ways to 'earn their justice'. Why should we ever think that they would quit the game and abide by the law, when the law (from their POV) is an arbitrary set of restrictions we have placed on them?

None if this should suggest, by the way, that I accept the view that 'conspiracy theories' (that is, covert illegal governmental actions of a certain type) are nonsense. I don't think they are. It's just that they are usually only interesting from an academic pov, that is, as an exercise in putting the pieces together for a better understanding of the world. So, eg., I don't think anything in the political world changes if it became known definitively that a CIA operative killed JFK. The role of the CIA wouldn't be restricted, Democracy wouldn't collapse. Nothing would change. That type of power is one of the obstacles progressives face when trying to influence policy: the unguarded guardians.

Posted by scudbucket at March 29, 2010 01:02 AM

scudbucket

That's all very intelligent, and you have articulated it quite well. I think those are the sorts of points Chomsky would raise if he were ever in a position to honestly explain his view that the whole thing is a dead end and, worse, a trap. (I just think Chomsky is in the position of not being able to explain his actual thinking without getting dragged down the road that he has decided to avoid, possibly all the way. So he gets in and out as fast as he can.)

But I think there are some serious problems that require that we find a way to deal with this problem, not just put it aside as intractable and continue efforts for political change as though our efforts won't be negated by state crimes carried out to justify and control policy. I could certainly accept overlooking the question of who killed JFK--hell, I did accept that, even if mostly because of substantial ignorance, for a long time. Unfortunately, the problem we now face is bigger than that. Let me take a shot at explaining why.

After the Cold War, the US was presented with unprecedented historic opportunities, and a competing significant problem. Capital could expand into Eastern Europe and even the many states of the former Soviet Union ("FSU"), but that would be an enormous and expensive undertaking, and the public considered the Cold War over and expected a peace dividend. Make no mistake, securing access to the energy resources of Central Asia and consolidating our strategic military position around both Russia and China was a first-order national security priority as well as a historic opportunity, even if our public isn't allowed to think so crassly.

The general view of the geopolitical thinkers who occupy the military, intelligence, and diplomatic world is unified on one point, whether they fall into the category of nationalistic ideologues akin to the neocons or realists with the flexibility of Kissinger or Powell, or are some combination of the two. (In truth, the differences between the two groups are overblown.) ALL of them think the public is incompetent to decide how to guide the nation's foreign policy and its national security. Which is to say, there would be universal agreement in those elite circles with Richard Nixon's quip that the ordinary American is like the child in the family. (Minorities and poor people would likely be ranked more like the family pet.)

There is also another change in the world related to the end of the Cold War that can't be ignored. Over the last few decades, the United States has taken the lead in creating a neoliberal world order dominated by finance, and the effects of that system are in all material respects decidedly unegalitarian. (See Kevin Phillips Wealth in America.) Simultaneously, we have created a political system that rests more and more on fundamental "nominal" equality of all citizens as a matter of law. Even the reactionaries on the Supreme Court now profess that we are color blind and gender blind and blind to all differences that would once have justified discrimination in voting or housing or a host of aspects of social life. That's all verboten now, yet ironically the poor have gotten substantially poorer despite all these new nominal rights.

The contradiction between nominal egalitarianism and growing economic and social inequality creates a conflict between theory and practice that naturally leads to retrenchment from expensive commitments, becasue poor people don't want to pay through the nose for a world order that has harmed them. Thus, increasing economic inequality feeds into public pressure for reduced military commitments.

The problem our strategic-thinking elite faces is that maintenance of the international order simultaneously requires a sustained, unwavering commitment to the empire and international economic order it supports. In the early 90s, not only was the opportunity to expand our military and intelligence activities too great to forego, a fundamental contradiction at the heart of our domestic political and economic system threatened to pull us back into isolationism. After all, in the absence of real national enemies--i. e., powerful nations that would be foolhardy enough to attack us--how could we justify actually increasing military spending after the end of the Cold War? The answer is that we couldn't. No wonder Gorbachev's efforts to end the cold war were initially met by such rousing opposition by the entire US national security elite!

Because of these developments, the whole international economic and political order is now as fundamentally unstable as it was when Trotsky astutely characterized fascism as the final stage of capitalism. (The teabaggers are making Trotsky look perceptive again.) For all I know, the whole free-market, free-trade system may not collapse for decades, but it will eventually collapse. It has to. It's not logically possible to simultaneously maintain a democratic political system based on universal political rights and an economic system that subjects most of the population to ever-increasing economic hardship while making a small minority fabulously rich. Over time, something has to give. That something is unlikely to be the wealth of the rich if they have anything to say about it. (If you think that combination is sustainable, just try to articulate how.)

I'm no clairvoyant, but I can recognize two trains headed for each other on the same track. And others with different goals can see it too. It really isn't hard to see, and the solution to the dilemma is pretty tried and true:

Scare the hell out of everyone and tell them the nation was attacked by a foreign threat. If you don't have a nation state to blame, some terrorists will do. With enough media effort, you'll get enough people behind you to stop the gradual slide toward public opposition to paying for the system.

But it won't work year after year with just smoke and mirrors and rhetoric--there have to be some sacrifices. Without some real tragedy, those who talk about the threat of terrorism too much sound like Chicken Little. That's obviously not effective. Besides, nothing like real tragedy stirs the heart and rallies the nation to patriotic commitments that cooler heads might question.

That's bad enough, but there is an even bigger problem: The system cannot be sustained forever by external terrorist threats. The ultimate day of reckoning is merely being postponed, and it may not be that far off. As Joseph Schumpeter said, capitalism is the process of creative destruction, and it seems to generate social change faster than ever these days. Economic change is inevitable and seems to get more and more rapid all the time. As a result, the balance of power in the world can shift faster than we would like.

If geopolitical thinkers understand anything, it's that change creates instability. Our military power will at some time become insufficient to prevent any challenges to it from arising anywhere (as our current defense policy requires). The instability could give rise to the war that no one professes to want and that everyone thinks somebody else caused, like World War One, just because all military men of all nations have to consider whether they could secure an advantage from striking first. It's typical for our generals and everyone else's to assume that the enemy is untrustworthy and even evil. Our commitments in Central Asia aren't just expensive and lethal, they pose greater dangers that aren't even considered let alone debated.

The only way to prevent this problem from potentially becoming an unprecedented tragedy is to make those progressive reforms that you referred to meaningful under our present social and political circumstances. That means we need something closer to real democracy in practice, which can't happen if the political process is effectively rigged. The state or those who want to control it can't be able to manipulate the political process by tampering with elections (see 2000 and 2004) or committing terrorist crimes that determine public opinion. Because if elements of the state can do that, they'll win whenever they think they really need to win. Not always, but when it counts. (The fact that the 2008 election wasn't rigged to put McCain in office doesn't mean those problems were solved.)

So all your points are great, but I think we'd better figure out a solution anyway. I don't know that I can suggest anything more than people accepting the possibility that this is happening and thinking through the implications. I just don't think the problem can be ducked even though the challenge of doing anything effective to deal with it is daunting.

Posted by N E at March 29, 2010 09:49 AM

N E,
That means we need something closer to real democracy in practice, which can't happen if the political process is effectively rigged.

Yes, the system is rigged to some extent: important elections in '00 and '04 were effectively stolen (as well as in '02); Scalia 'decided' without argument to give the Presidency to Bush ; the Senate seems to reduce the will of 300 million to the idiosyncratic whims of 5 or 8 individuals.

But it's good to remember that progressive victories materialized within a system of government designed to slow/stall real change. I mean, our form of government may be rigged (in some sense of that word) to mitigate against populism, but it's also true that it permits real populist changes to occur. Reps still require votes, and voting is a great antidote (perhaps the only sustainable antidote) to the corruption and abuses that restrict people's liberties.

Look at how far we've come from the Robber Baron era. Good arguments have prevailed at many levels of domestic society, supported by congress critters responsive to voter pressures, and those arguments have made their way into law. (Foreign policy is another matter, largely outside of electoral influences.)

I mean, yes, it's daunting, but what tools do we have at our disposal? Really, all we have to distinguish us from any other faction competing for policy space is the strength of our arguments. They will offer poor arguments, easily refuted, and then resort to lies, trickery, violence, etc. to achieve their policy goals. (Why are people so surprised when the self-interested lie, or commit violence, to get their way?? Participatory democracy is not a silver-bullet that somehow eliminates callus self-interest and duplicity from expressing itself, it merely mitigates against the expression of this type of behavior.) We resist, sometimes at great peril (Civil rights activists, for example), and bring the debate back to the principles at play. Down the road this may require great sacrifice for some, when the felt oppression is more than citizens can accept. Until then, our government may get much worse. But maybe not. It's the same as it ever was.

Posted by scudbucket at March 29, 2010 12:09 PM

scudbucket

I understand and in one sense agree with the "same as it ever was" sentiment, because the challenge of life, including political life, remains fundamentally the same. I know we aren't going to get perfection, and maybe not even anything remotely close. Something better is a good goal.

My point was that there are new social and political forces at work, because history has taken us to a new place, and those forces have to be opposed, just as different bad social forces had to be opposed in earlier periods of history. We are in the age of terrorism, but it isn't what it seems to be. It's beyond pretextual--it's fundamentally a fraud and a manipulation. The fraud part is nothing new--that's been there forever. What's new is that it takes the form of terrorism. And don't get me wrong, the weapons proliferation that accompanies the increasingly broad spread of technology is a real problem. It's just not the priamry problem actually being addressed by those who support war on terror.

My belabored general point was that specific problems have to be recognized and then addressed to be solved. State crimes strike me as a big part of the control of mass opinion, if only because nothing else is comparably effective. If no social countermeasures are taken, such crimes will continue, and they will also continue to be effective. That goes beyond what went on in Ohio, and it even goes beyond electronic voter fraud (how eager everyone is to believe that the exit polls really were so dramatically wrong in 2004). That this is possible almost guarantees that the political spectrum will say artificially far right of where it would be.

My take is that the choices open to me and others are: 1) behaving like an ostrich, which is always the mostcommon response; 2) accepting doom, potentially on a massive scale; or 3) trying to do something about this, however futile that may be. That's not a great set of options.

As you point out, others have faced rotten choices like this before. But specific new problems require new solutions and new awareness even if the overall problem is the same as it ever was. Specific abuses don't stop until someone stops them.

Posted by N E at March 29, 2010 02:46 PM

"Added bonus" is redundant. Just lookin' out for you.

Posted by NoOneYouKnow at March 29, 2010 02:46 PM

"Added bonus" is redundant. Just lookin' out for you.

Posted by NoOneYouKnow at March 29, 2010 02:47 PM