From Wal-Mart to Proudhon

by MARK HAND

A Wal-Mart advertisement caught my eye during the Washington Redskins game against the Jacksonville Jaguars two weekends ago. It was the Sunday before Veterans Day and the company thought it best to honor former military personnel who now work at its stores by buying ad time during NFL games. Faces of the soldiers appeared on the television screen, with a label of where the Pentagon had sent them. Vietnam. Persian Gulf. At the end of the spot, a young man appeared on the screen, affixed with the label, “War on Terrorism.”

The Wal-Mart employee’s designation as a veteran of the “War on Terrorism” made me laugh and cringe at the same time. Wal-Mart’s advertising department had concluded–without too much expensive market research, I hope–that the typical viewer of a U.S. football game had bought into the government and establishment media’s propaganda: America’s greatest heroes are those who have stepped on either a battlefield or a playing field, or ideally both.

The Sept. 11, 2001 attacks had spawned an environment where the United States could produce heroes from such an amorphous thing called a War on Terrorism and then parade them in advertisements for Wal-Mart, the biggest retailer in the world. The atypical aspect about the War on Terrorism, though, is that its most important battlefield is not overseas. The frontline is here at home where the federal government and its lieutenants at the state and local levels are using their taxpayer confiscations to whack us with new forms of restrictions on freedom.

In the War on Terrorism, the new hero is the well-read librarian who betrays the noble tradition of the profession by snitching to the government his suspicions about a patron who has been checking out books by Mikhail Bakunin and Emma Goldman. Or it’s the vigilant Transportation Security Administration screener who stops an airline passenger from getting to his gate on time because he’s carrying a copy of Edward Herman’s The Real Terror Network.

For Veteran’s Day 2003, Wal-Mart may choose to honor one of the Sam’s Club elite membership customers who also happens to work for John Poindexter’s Information Awareness Office at the Pentagon and who succeeded in uncovering the purchasing habits of a citizen who earlier in the year had used his AmEx card to order a thousand copies of the Quran through and had them FedExed to a mosque in Brixton.

Today’s War on Terrorism is really a battle to desensitize us against the true meaning of freedom. Because in a war, a nation-state demands that its subjects subjugate certain superficial rights, such as many of those legalized in the Bill of Rights to the U.S. Constitution, for the greater cause of fighting the “evil-doers.”

If we could have the good fortune of asking Noam Chomsky’s astute observer friend on Mars for his opinion on today’s War on Terrorism, we would probably get a better grasp on who deserves the greatest accolades. Chomsky’s Martian friend would probably argue that in the real war on terrorism the true heroes are those who are able to find peaceful but effective techniques to rein in the greatest producers of terror–the militaries and police agencies of the United States and the other dominant nation-states. Given that the Soviet Union fell more than a decade ago, the Martian also may wonder why U.S. confederates in cities such as London, Rome, Tokyo, Canberra and, yes, Moscow not only tolerate the American Empire but also provide materiel support for it.

Chomsky’s Martian friend probably would find even more heroic those who are seeking freedom against the murderous despots in all of the Middle East, much of Asia, Africa and Latin America. The Martian, I’m sure, already has noticed the unusual trend of Earth’s artificial nation-states placing the sanctity of their governing systems above the freedom of the people who live within their borders–borders that, in more cases than not, were drawn in the blood of the governed.

The Martian may even pull out his pocketbook of the writings of Pierre-Joseph Proudhon that he bought at a Wal-Mart during one of his visits with Chomsky in the Hub of the Universe and recite that not-famous-enough quotation that proves more timely to him today than at any other time he has been observing human life on Earth:

“To be governed is to be at every move, at every operation, at every transaction, noted, registered, enrolled, taxed, stamped, measured, numbered, assessed, licensed, authorized, admonished, forbidden, reformed, corrected, punished. It is, under pretext of public utility, and in the name of the general interest, to be placed under contribution, trained, ransomed, exploited, monopolized, extorted, squeezed, mystified, robbed; then, at the slightest resistance, the first word of complaint, to be repressed, fined, despised, harassed, tracked, abused, clubbed, choked, imprisoned, shot, machine-gunned, judged, condemned, deported, sacrificed, sold, betrayed; and, to crown all, mocked, ridiculed, outraged, dishonored. That is government; that is its justice; that is its morality.”

MARK HAND is a diehard Redskins fan and editor of PressAction.com. He can be reached at mark@pressaction.com.

Like What You’ve Read? Support CounterPunch
Weekend Edition
July 31-33, 2015
Jeffrey St. Clair
Bernie and the Sandernistas: Into the Void
John Pilger
Julian Assange: the Untold Story of an Epic Struggle for Justice
Roberto J. González – David Price
Remaking the Human Terrain: The US Military’s Continuing Quest to Commandeer Culture
Lawrence Ware
Bernie Sanders’ Race Problem
Andrew Levine
The Logic of Illlogic: Narrow Self-Interest Keeps Israel’s “Existential Threats” Alive
ANDRE VLTCHEK
Kos, Bodrum, Desperate Refugees and a Dying Child
Paul Street
“That’s Politics”: the Sandernistas on the Master’s Schedule
Ted Rall
How the LAPD Conspired to Get Me Fired from the LA Times
Mike Whitney
Power-Mad Erdogan Launches War in Attempt to Become Turkey’s Supreme Leader
Ellen Brown
The Greek Coup: Liquidity as a Weapon of Coercion
Stephen Lendman
Russia Challenges America’s Orwellian NED
Will Parrish
The Politics of California’s Water System
John Wight
The Murder of Ali Saad Dawabsha, a Palestinian Infant Burned Alive by Israeli Terrorists
Jeffrey Blankfort
Leading Bibi’s Army in the War for Washington
Geoffrey McDonald
Obama’s Overtime Tweak: What is the Fair Price of a Missed Life?
Brian Cloughley
Hypocrisy, Obama-Style
Robert Fantina
Israeli Missteps Take a Toll
Pete Dolack
Speculators Circling Puerto Rico Latest Mode of Colonialism
Ron Jacobs
Spying on Black Writers: the FB Eye Blues
Paul Buhle
The Leftwing Seventies?
Binoy Kampmark
The TPP Trade Deal: of Sovereignty and Secrecy
David Swanson
Vietnam, Fifty Years After Defeating the US
Robert Hunziker
Human-Made Evolution
Shamus Cooke
Why Obama’s “Safe Zone” in Syria Will Inflame the War Zone
David Rosen
Hillary Clinton: Learn From Your Sisters
Sam Husseini
How #AllLivesMatter and #BlackLivesMatter Can Devalue Life
Shepherd Bliss
Why I Support Bernie Sanders for President
Louis Proyect
Manufacturing Denial
Howard Lisnoff
The Wrong Argument
Tracey Harris
Living Tiny: a Richer and More Sustainable Future
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
A Day of Tears: Report from the “sHell No!” Action in Portland
Tom Clifford
Guns of August: the Gulf War Revisited
Renee Lovelace
I Dream of Ghana
Colin Todhunter
GMOs: Where Does Science Begin and Lobbying End?
Ben Debney
Modern Newspeak Dictionary, pt. II
Christopher Brauchli
Guns Don’t Kill People, Immigrants Do and Other Congressional Words of Wisdom
S. Mubashir Noor
India’s UNSC Endgame
Ellen Taylor
The Voyage of the Golden Rule
Norman Ball
Ten Questions for Lee Drutman: Author of “The Business of America is Lobbying”
Franklin Lamb
Return to Ma’loula, Syria
Masturah Alatas
Six Critics in Search of an Author
Mark Hand
Cinéma Engagé: Filmmaker Chronicles Texas Fracking Wars
Mary Lou Singleton
Gender, Patriarchy, and All That Jazz
Patrick Hiller
The Icebreaker and #ShellNo: How Activists Determine the Course
Charles Larson
Tango Bends Its Gender: Carolina De Robertis’s “The Gods of Tango”