Thursday, July 10, 2008

What's Really Going On

Bewildering, innit?

A Congress that is utterly immune to persuasion by DFH's like us, but ever yielding to the Powers and to the Interests and to the Busheviks. A presidency that has been successfully and almost completely transformed into a Sovereign Autocracy, accountable to no one, not even to the Divine. Courts that persnicket on minutae, when they bother with anything. Or order vast upsets in procedures, orders that are then subverted or ignored. And -- of course -- appoint their favorites to office.

Worst of all, we have two candidates for the (Imperial) Presidency who seem to be vague at best when not openly hostile to the whole idea of a self-governing constitutional republic such as the one Americans used to take some pride in.

Our Constitution has become an option; a rough guide you might say. Law is for the Little People, and even then only selectively, based primarily on race and gender. Government continues consolidating its independence from The People, offering whatever blandishments are necessary during Election Season, then promptly ignoring them when push and shove meet.

So what's really going on? Why can't we get through to these people we put in office. Why do so many Dems turn into Blue Dogs once elected? Why are the Republicans able to control the Congress almost effortlessly under putative Democratic leadership? And why is a gravely unstable president given everything he wants and then some by a supposed opposition party?

What the hell is really going on?

Part of the answer may be found in a BBC series by Adam Curtis called "The Century of the Self" which ran a while back (2002). The proposition is that our Sham Democracy is actually a "managed democracy" in which mass psychology is used (and abused) by political, economic and social interests, using theories and techniques pioneered during WWI and afterwards by Sigmund Freud, his nephew Edward Bernays, and others, to create and maintain a society of consumers rather than citizens and to prevent -- so far as possible -- the outbreak of nationalist/populist risings in the English-speaking countries and the world (to the extent the "world" is recognized by English-speaking countries.)

Here's the first episode of four:

Links to further episodes:

Part II

Part III

Part IV

While I think some of it is superficial and even silly, there are some fundamental truths in Curtis's hypothesis that we overlook at our peril.

  • The Western Elites were horrified by the carnage of WWI and they were terrified by the overthrow of Tsarist Russia and the advent of the Soviet Union -- an advent which led to seventy years of "Communist Threat" to their pelth and status.

  • An "answer" to this threat was found in the psychological theories of Sigmund Freud and the marketing theories of Edward Bernays. Instead of "citizens" the Western ideal would be to turn the masses into "consumers" and to direct and control their darker impulses and desires, as well as their "democracies", through marketing.

  • The Fascists and Nazis took this basic premise way over the edge, controlling the masses almost completely through brutality, through promises of a brighter and greater future, fulfilling demands for order, for honor (patriotism), for consumer items, and by scapegoating specific minorities for all the troubles the masses had had to endure. The Fascists and Nazis used the same ideas of the Western Elites, but used them to further populist and nationalist interests. This was a threat to English-speaking countries, and there was a second phase of the War to End All Wars as a consequence. The Fascists and Nazis were crushed or absorbed; the Communists, however, made massive headway.

  • As a result, the West turned to "directed democracy" and spreading consumerism throughout the world as a means to co-opt the desires of the masses for control of their own futures and a better life, which they often believed were more likely through Communism than through the agency of Capitalist Democracy.

  • Even though the Soviet Union has been vanquished and the "Red" Chinese have become perhaps the greatest capitalists in the world, our elites still operate on the theories of Freud and Bernays, on the principles of consumerism as opposed to citizenship, and on the premise that "directed democracy" is best.

  • This is a major reason why We, the People are not able to get through to our elected elites, and why, in some measure, they have withdrawn behind the Palace Gates to twitter among themselves about how our future should be managed. It's one reason why Obama has seemed to do such a turn about since securing enough Democratic delegates to be nominated. It's one reason why electing more Democrats means electing more Blue Dogs, not "progressives", whether you think you're electing Blue Dogs or not.

    We can do a long dissertation on why Progressivism has been marginalized, and why Progressives are ignored (except for their financial contributions to candidates), but the key is to understand what our elected officials themselves think they are doing, and why they think it is best to do that.

    This series, "The Century of the Self", helps that understanding in ways that our ruling classes may not even comprehend themselves.


    1. Chomsky has talked quite a bit about the conception that the elites have of democracy. See, for example, Two Kinds of Democracy part 1/3. It's not as far-fetched as you might think, and it goes back way further than 1918. In fact, US involvement in WWI was due precisely to a managed media propaganda campaign designed to stir up war hysteria.

    2. ing,

      True enough. Chomsky's points are well made and germane. However, I've never really taken to Chomsky (unlike some of my comrades) in part because he reminds me too much of a particularly obnoxious Government professor I had in college, who knew everything and yet could never get himself to actually do anything. His wisdom, let us say, was his straighjacket.

      Although I think some of Curtis's notions are silly, I like his approach. It's obvious that he has derived some or a lot of his point of view from Chomsky (eg: "Engineering Consent" v "Manufacturing Consent") but his linkage of the elite (and Progressive) propaganda efforts at managing the masses to the Freuds and Bernays is putting names and faces to phenomena that Chomsky tends to generalize.

      Nice to "see" you again. Hope all is well.

    3. I will admit to not having taken the time to investigate Curtis, so I see that I misunderstood your comments regarding superficiality and silliness; it did seem a bit odd that you would suggest that these notions are superficial and silly, all things considered.

      Things are well. I'm working on grassroots political efforts here in eastern Contra Costa County, trying to fight the evil empire that is the City of Pittsburg (not to mention the County). I live in an unincorporated community just west of Pittsburg called Bay Point, which Pittsburg is working hard on taking over piece by piece (much to the displeasure of many of its residents).