December 21, 2015
Crisis: Political Villainy, Many Lies, Police State, "Socialism"
Sections                                                                                          crisis index                                                                                                                                                            


This is a Nederlog of Monday, December 21, 2015.

This is a crisis blog. There are 4 items with 4 dotted links: Item 1 is about an article by Chris Hedges, who expounds on the villainy of American politics; item 2 is about an article by Jim Hightower I only partially agree with; item 3 is about how the US may be changing into a police state; and item 4 is about socialism or "socialism", for once again it is discussed but not defined.

1. The Creeping Villainy of American Politics

The first item is by Chris Hedges on Truthdig:

  • The Creeping Villainy of American Politics

This starts as follows:
The threefold rise in hate crimes against Muslims since the Paris and San Bernardino attacks and the acceptance of hate speech as a legitimate form of political discourse signal the morbidity of our civil society. The body politic is coughing up blood. The daily amplification of this hate speech by a commercial media whose sole concern is ratings and advertising dollars rather than serving as a bulwark to protect society presages a descent into the protofascist nightmare of racism, indiscriminate violence against the marginalized, and a blind celebration of American chauvinism, militarism and bigotry.
This seems mostly correct from my own point of view - yes, hate speech is popularized by the commercial media; yes, these media are moved mostly by ratings and advertising dollars; yes, this threatens something like fascism, authoritarianism, militarism and/or chauvinism - but it omits one or two items that seem to me equally relevant:

First, half of the Americans have an IQ that is at most 100, and second, most Americans are badly educated (for 60% believe in the truth of Noah's Ark story, in 2015).

Also, while I think almost nothing can be done about one's capacities, because one is born with them, I also think almost all education I know about is rotten, and that could have been avoided the last 50 years, at least in the USA and the rich West, but it wasn't. On the contary, nearly all education was a lot worse the last 50 years than before. [1]

Next, here are some of Chris Hedges' - dark - anticipations of things to come:
The mounting attacks on Muslims, which will become a contagion when there is another catastrophic terrorist attack, are only the beginning. There is a long list to be targeted, including undocumented workers, African-Americans, homosexuals, liberals, feminists, intellectuals and artists. We are entering a new dark age, an age of idiocy and blood. These hatreds, encoded in American DNA but understood as politically toxic by the liberal wing of the capitalist class, have been embraced by an enraged and disenfranchised white underclass. Our failure to curb this hate speech will haunt us. Once a civil society tolerates the intolerant, as Karl Popper wrote, “the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them.”
Quite possibly so - but the reasons the "white underclass" adopts these myths are basically three: It is very badly educated; much of it is intellectually quite stupid, simply in the sense of knowing very little, and having no ideas of science, ethics, or rationality; and it is also systematically lied to and misled by the mass media.

Also this large class of the relatively uneducated and the relatively stupid has always been there. The reason it gets these days more attention in the press (which is itself not a part of the white underclass) than it got previously is - it seems to me - that the press has turned ideological and conservative, for the most part, which happened, in part at least, because the papers lost a lot of money and power to the computer. [2]

Here is a sketch of Hedges how hate grows or may grow:
The anti-Muslim virus begins slowly. Step by step the hate talk moves from insults, stereotyping and untruths to incendiary calls for vigilantes to attack women wearing the hijab, men wearing kufis, mosques, Islamic centers and schools, and Muslim-owned businesses. It makes sense to many in the white underclass —especially because they have been sold out by the liberals who preach tolerance—that the violent purging of a demonized group from U.S. society can cure the society’s malaise and restore safety and American “greatness.” But soon all marginalized groups will be at risk. Such a process is what happened in the Weimar Republic. It is what happened in Yugoslavia. It is what happened in Israel.
I take this seriously in part because Chris Hedges has been a reporter in crisis zones like Yugoslavia and several Arabic countries. Then again, I also think that the mere idea that
"the violent purging of a demonized group from U.S. society can cure the society’s malaise and restore safety and American “greatness.”"
is so stupid, so uncivil and so illegal that it must be rejected out of hand by anyone who is neither stupid nor uncivilized (though indeed this also may seem to be a bit doubtful [3]).

Then again, I mostly agree with Chris Hedges that we live in dire and interesting times, with very many quite credible threats to civilization, freedom and equal rights for all, instead of rights just for the rich. It may be I am a little less pessimistic than he is, but then again I haven't spent 20 years reporting from war zones were most of society had collapsed.

There is considerably more in the article that I leave to your interests. I liked it, but it is not optimistic.

Partnering with the Devil 

The second item is by Jim Hightower on Common Dreams:
  • Partnering with the Devil

This starts as follows

As a raker of muck, it’s my job to root out the nefarious doings and innate immorality of the corporate creature.

But these days I’m being rendered obsolete by how ordinary corporate nefariousness has become. The wrongdoings of major corporations, and even entire industries, are now so commonplace that one hardly has to root them out at all. Their corruption is constantly oozing to the surface of today’s fetid corporate swamp on its own.

What’s happened is that a profiteering imperative has taken hold of the executive suites. Not content with merely making a profit, CEOs are out to make a killing — no matter what it costs the rest of us.

This has turned them into rank thieves — who are richly rewarded for exploiting America’s workforce, plundering the environment, and corrupting our government. Top executives have seen that they’ll pay no personal price for rapacious behavior, since the corrupted political and judicial systems show no serious interest in prosecuting perpetrators who get caught.

I am not a muckraker but I do not think "muckraking" is "obsolete". Also, I do not think that

"The wrongdoings of major corporations, and even entire industries, are now so commonplace that one hardly has to root them out at all."

For while I agree that many major corporations - banks, pharmacy, to name two examples - have turned into "rank thieves", this is hardly ever mentioned in the main media, which indeed are quite as corrupt as many of the major corporations.

So this makes muckraking quite necessary: There are rather objective standards of truth and honesty in reporting politics and in politics that have to be honored, also if - especially if - most of the press have lost sight of these standards, or deny their applicability.

Then again, I agree with Hightower on his ending:

An ethos of “anything goes” now rules the top floor of suites of most major corporations. Blatant lies, PR cover-ups, and a culture of total impunity are now central to the corporate business model. They don’t care if they get caught. Profit has taken ethics prisoner, and corporate elites now call the devil “partner.”

But again this does not say to me that one should not try to expose the "Blatant lies, PR cover-ups, and a culture of total impunity" that now are the corporate norms, or that one should agree to the sick notions of profit that rule everything.

3. The Logic of the Police State

The third item is by Matthew Harwood on Tomdispatch:
  • The Logic of the Police State
This is from the introduction to the article by Tom Engelhardt:
In these years, the militarization of the police has taken place amid a striking upsurge of protest over police brutality, abuses, and in particular the endless killing of young black men, as well as a parallel growth in both the powers of and the protections afforded to police officers. As TomDispatch regular Matthew Harwood, who has been covering the militarization of the police for this site, reports today, all of this could easily add up to the building blocks for a developing police-state frame of mind.
Yes, indeed. But the "police-state frame of mind" has not been blocked. On the contrary:
If you’ve been listening to various police agencies and their supporters, then you know what the future holds: anarchy is coming -- and it’s all the fault of activists.
Well... anarchy may be coming, but it is not the fault of the activists. As Harwood explains, what is really happening is this:
In the simplest terms, there is no war on the police. Violent attacks against police officers remain at historic lows, even though approximately 1,000 people have been killed by the police this year nationwide.
This means, especially in view of the fact of how very few police officers have been prosecuted for these killings, that there is something like a war of the US police on the American population, or at least on its black part.

As Harwood explains (and as you get in considerable more detail in the article):

Indeed, a closer look at law enforcement arguments against commonsense reforms like independently investigating police violence, demilitarizing police forces, or ending “for-profit policing” reveals a striking disregard for concerns of just about any sort when it comes to brutality and abuse. What this “debate” has revealed, in fact, is a mainstream policing mindset ready to manufacture fear without evidence and promote the belief that American civil rights and liberties are actually an impediment to public safety. In the end, such law enforcement arguments subvert the very idea that the police are there to serve the community and should be under civilian control.

And that, when you come right down to it, is the logic of the police state.
Yes and no, it seems to me: Yes, in so far as the police itself is concerned (check out “for-profit policing” in case you doubt this), but not quite in so far as the state is concerned, for a real police state is a police state all the way, from the government down to the police.

But I agree it is frightening. Finally, there is also this:
In May, the Obama administration suggested modest changes to the Pentagon’s 1033 program, which, since 1990, has been redistributing weaponry and equipment to police departments nationwide -- urban, suburban, and rural -- in the name of fighting the war on drugs and protecting Americans from terrorism.  

Even the idea that the police shouldn’t sport the look of an occupying army in local communities has, however, been met with fierce resistance.
I agree that the Pentagon's program was and is quite insane, or so it seems to me, but then again the Pentagon belongs to the military much rather than the civilian branch, and the police should belong to the civilian branch.

4. How Could Socialism Be Boring? It's a System Run By and For People 

The fourth and last item today is by Mark Karlin on Truthout:

  • How Could Socialism Be Boring? It's a System Run By and For People

To start with, the title is confused if it isn't bullshit: All human systems are run by humans, most of whom say they are doing it for humans - and so fascism, crime, degeneracy and the inquisition can't be "boring" either. Besides, who cares if some stupid or prejudiced people think "socialism" is "boring"?

Here is Danny Katch, who says he is a socialist, and wrote a book about it:

Danny Katch: I meant the subtitle to be both humorous and earnest - like the rest of the book. Presenting a "brief guide to human liberation" is ... ambitious, to put it mildly. But it's important to bring back words like "liberation" that have faded from our vocabulary. As our energies have shifted almost entirely to defensive struggles to preserve our rights and standard of living, our expectations about the possibility of a fundamentally better world have been relentlessly lowered.

I am sorry, but Katch is not speaking for me with his "our": My desires for a better world indeed have been more or less the same the last 45 years (!) - in which I have also known that they were the desires of a small and intelligent minority rather than of any majority, and therefore were and are quite unlikely to be practised while I live.

But this doesn't mean they are unreasonable, even though they are unpopular.

Next, there is this passage that relates to various meanings of the word "socialism", which was not defined by Katz in any clear way (which is a considerable problem):

Bernie's socialism is based on the model of Scandinavian social welfare states. I'm thrilled that Sanders is using the platform of the presidential election to educate millions of Americans about their universal health care and paid family leave policies - those are exactly some of the higher expectations that we need!
Beyond that, the difference between "Scandinavian socialism" and the Marxist vision that I put forward isn't that the former is more "democratic" but actually that it is less so. Power and wealth is still concentrated among Scandinavian elites - they have just been forced to hoard less of it than their counterparts here in the US.
The first part refers to Bernie Sanders concept of "socialism", that in my European eyes (1) looks a lot more like what I call "social democracy" and (2) does not promise nor rely on a violent social revolution to realize its aims: if a social revolution is necessary, it can be organized by way of democratic voting.

Besides, I definitely know that I do not want "socialism" in the classical sense, where the rich are expropriated and all their property becomes the property of "the state" or "the people", and I don't want it simply because property of the state or the people means property of the very small class that are in power.

Indeed, for me that never was "socialism" in a sense I agree to; it clearly was undemocratic and dictatorial (in the Soviet Union and its allied "socialist states", and in China and North-Korea); and it was based on the power of the very few who headed the local communist party, and in fact commanded all.

But then this last rejected conception of socialism - and see my "On Socialism" - seems to be the preferred notion of Danny Katch, who surely is historically wrong that his version of "socialism" is "more "democratic"", and is right about the partial taming of capitalism that gave rise to "Scandinavian socialism" - which is much better styled "capitalism-with-a-human-face".

Also, if I have to choose from these three: (1) rightwing profit oriented capitalism -without-a-human-face; (2) capitalism-with-a-human-face (falsely called "socialism") as exists in Scandinavia; and (3) state socialism in the Soviet or Chinese tradition, I choose the second alternative, and I also believe this is historically the one with the best evidence that the majority of the population will be well treated.

[1] I am 65 and got the highest official diploma (the M.A.) with the highest marks, besides an equally good B.A. in another subject, while all the studying I did was done while I and the woman I lived with were ill.

I really know what I am talking about, and one of my problems is that most journalists are younger than I am and do not know anymore about the relatively good education I got, as the last one of 100 years of decent education (from 1865-1965) in the country in which I was born, and besides nearly all journalists are less well educated and know less than I do.

So I merely repeat what I found the last 50 years: A widespread and successful attack on any education that maintained intellectual standards from both the right (that doesn't like highly educated persons with non-right ideas) and the left (that insists that all are equal, and desires to see all treated equally, also if this means handing out M.A. degrees to people with an IQ of 100).

[2] This also means that many papers could be bought cheaply by a few rich tycoons, who then also changed much of the staffs of the papers.

In any case, it seems that the classical notion that there is not much of a real democracy without a real free press is correct - which means that real democracy is dying or dead.

[3] Namely because the left - part of it - has similar ideas: "If only we could kill - "expropriate" - the rich, we could start the project of real democracy, real socialism, real equality" etc."

The problem with this is rather similar to the rightist notions Chris Hedges discusses: it appeals to standards of violence and of rightness that are pretty extreme and pretty partial.

       home - index - summaries - mail