FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

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.

 

Mark Hand has reported on the energy industry for more than 25 years. He can be found on Twitter @MarkFHand.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
March 24, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Michael Hudson
Trump is Obama’s Legacy: Will this Break up the Democratic Party?
Eric Draitser
Donald Trump and the Triumph of White Identity Politics
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Nothing Was Delivered
Andrew Levine
Ryan’s Choice
Joshua Frank
Global Coal in Freefall, Tar Sands Development Drying Up (Bad News for Keystone XL)
Anthony DiMaggio
Ditching the “Deep State”: The Rise of a New Conspiracy Theory in American Politics
Rob Urie
Boris and Natasha Visit Fantasy Island
John Wight
London and the Dreary Ritual of Terrorist Attacks
Paul Buhle
The CIA and the Intellectuals…Again
David Rosen
Why Did Trump Target Transgender Youth?
Vijay Prashad
Inventing Enemies
Ben Debney
Outrage From the Imperial Playbook
M. Shadee Malaklou
An Open Letter to Duke University’s Class of 2007, About Your Open Letter to Stephen Miller
Michael J. Sainato
Bernie Sanders’ Economic Advisor Shreds Trumponomics
Lawrence Davidson
Moral Failure at the UN
Pete Dolack
World Bank Declares Itself Above the Law
Nicola Perugini - Neve Gordon
Israel’s Human Rights Spies
Patrick Cockburn
From Paris to London: Another City, Another Attack
Ralph Nader
Reason and Justice Address Realities
Ramzy Baroud
‘Decolonizing the Mind’: Using Hollywood Celebrities to Validate Islam
Colin Todhunter
Monsanto in India: The Sacred and the Profane
Louisa Willcox
Grizzlies Under the Endangered Species Act: How Have They Fared?
Norman Pollack
Militarization of American Fascism: Trump the Usurper
Pepe Escobar
North Korea: The Real Serious Options on the Table
Brian Cloughley
“These Things Are Done”: Eavesdropping on Trump
Sheldon Richman
You Can’t Blame Trump’s Military Budget on NATO
Carol Wolman
Trump vs the People: a Psychiatrist’s Analysis
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Marines to Kill Desert Tortoises
Stanley L. Cohen
The White House . . . Denial and Cover-ups
Farhang Jahanpour
America’s Woes, Europe’s Responsibilities
Joseph Natoli
March Madness Outside the Basketball Court
Bill Willers
Volunteerism; Charisma; the Ivy League Stranglehold: a Very Brief Trilogy
Bruce Mastron
Slaughtered Arabs Don’t Count
Ayesha Khan
The Headscarf is Not an Islamic Compulsion
Pauline Murphy
Unburied Truth: Exposing the Church’s Iron Chains on Ireland
Ron Jacobs
Music is Love, Music is Politics
Christopher Brauchli
Prisoners as Captive Customers
Robert Koehler
The Mosque That Disappeared
Franklin Lamb
Update from Madaya
Dan Bacher
Federal Scientists Find Delta Tunnels Plan Will Devastate Salmon
Barbara Nimri Aziz
The Gig Economy: Which Side Are You On?
Louis Proyect
What Caused the Holodomor?
Max Mastellone
Seeking Left Unity Through a Definition of Progressivism
Charles R. Larson
Review: David Bellos’s “Novel of the Century: the Extraordinary Adventure of Les Misérables”
David Yearsley
Ear of Darkness: the Soundtracks of Steve Bannon’s Films
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail