SNAFU 2012


Each year seems to go quicker than the last. This phenomenon is partially related to the shrinking proportion of my life each year represents. It is is also due to the ever-increasing volume of events that seem to occur every annum and our expanding awareness of them. The latter is because of media over-saturation, more than any other reason. Anyhow, here we are again; year’s end and time to think about how things stand from.

Of course, for US residents the election was one of the bigger events. The never-ending mainstream media coverage of the candidates and their campaigns ranged from the ridiculous to the idiotic. The ultra-right wing elements of the US polity were given much more airplay than their numbers merit. One assumes this is because of the noise they make, but more importantly because of the media they own and control. Foremost among that media, of course, is FoxNews. Although their viewership rarely changes, the fact that it is steady and makes a lot of money for Rupert Murdoch and his minions creates a scenario where other corporate media tends to imitate FoxNews’ shallow approach, unbalanced coverage, and its catering to the most racist and sexist elements of the US population.

It’s not that NBC, CBS, ABC, etc. are proto-fascist like FoxNews. However, the ultra-right politics of Fox have pulled every other news corporation to the right as they compete for what seems to be a sure profit margin. This reasoning does not excuse the general tendency of corporate news to support the state and the corporations it serves; nor does it ignore the fact that the owners of most major news agencies and broadcasters are closely connected to the ownership of the defense industry, big Pharma, the financial industry and other segments of corporate America.

Back to the election. It ended the way I figured it would. Mitt Romney never really had a chance, despite what the media wanted the public to believe. His aloofness, religion, and overall lack of understanding of how life is for most voters guaranteed that the only way he was going to win on November 6th was if the GOP stole the election. They may have considered this, but the numbers made it impossible to carry out. Barack Obama has yet to genuinely uphold the expectations of most people who voted for him. How he acts during the ongoing debate over Social Security, Medicare and other social programs will reveal whether he ever will uphold those expectations. If I were a betting man, my money would not be on him doing so.

When it comes to other aspects of sitting in the imperial office however, Mr. Obama will do what all too many of his supporters want him to do. He will continue sending armed drones to kill brown skinned men and women, whether those murdered are actually the intended targets or merely their family and friends. This element of Obama’s policy was a selling point of his campaign. Except for those that identify as antiwar for pacifist or anti-imperialist reasons, most US residents seem to have very few problems with this approach to maintaining the Empire. As long as few or no Americans die, war is okay. Richard Nixon understood this in 1970 (after the hubbub surrounding his invasion of Cambodia died down.) Bill Clinton finessed this approach with his cruise missile attacks and the 1999 bombing of Yugoslavia. Obama’s drones, after all is considered, are really nothing more than sophisticated cruise missiles. One of the challenges for what remains of the antiwar movement is how to get people to care that this heartless murder continues, bankrupting not only any moral cache they believe the US still has, but also the nation’s economic future.

Let me step away from the most immediate concerns of the American people and look across the oceans. Israel continues its transition to an ever more militarist and authoritarian state whose policies draw the condemnation of more and more governments, NGOs, international bodies and individuals around the world. Yet, there is no indication of any moves away from the ongoing murder, persecution, torture and basic denial of human rights to the Palestinians. The refusal of Washington to challenge Tel Aviv in any meaningful way provides Netanyahu and most other Israeli politicians with all of the justification they need. Whether or not Washington’s failure will end up with US and Israeli forces engaged in battle with Iran in 2013 remains a genuine concern.

This brings the conversation around to Syria. What began as a protest against the brutal excesses of the Assad regime broadened into a movement against the effects of neoliberalism in that country. Like every state capitalist economy, the onslaught of neoliberal capitalism created a situation where the ruling clique grew rich by selling off state-owned properties while the rest of the nation suffered from the ending of subsidies and other forms of economic aid. When the aforementioned protests were met with brutal repression, the protesters turned to guns. This encouraged other groups with their own motives–religious, economic and political–to pick up arms and enjoin the battle. In addition, outside agencies, including the monarchies of Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, various salafist and other fundamentalist political Islamists, and NATO governments, are all fighting for whatever remains after Assad is finally unseated. There does not seem to be a good ending to the tragedy that Syria has become, unless your name happens to be Hecate.

The year ended in the United States (more or less) with another massacre of innocents at school. The usual responses occurred. Tears of all kinds, genuine and crocodile. Demands that all guns be banned opposed by calls for more guns to be put in the hands of most Americans (except for those named or looking like Trayvon Martin, of course). It seems that the white nation built on blood has yet to get its fill, even when it is their children whose blood is being shed.

The tea party is not over. I am not optimistic how it will end.

The struggle continues.

Ron Jacobs is the author of The Way the Wind Blew: a History of the Weather Underground and Short Order Frame Up. Jacobs’ essay on Big Bill Broonzy is featured in CounterPunch’s collection on music, art and sex, Serpents in the Garden. His collection of essays and other musings titled Tripping Through the American Night is now available and his new novel is The Co-Conspirator’s Tale. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, published by AK Press.  He can be reached at: ronj1955@gmail.com.

Ron Jacobs is the author of Daydream Sunset: Sixties Counterculture in the Seventies published by CounterPunch Books. He lives in Vermont. He can be reached at: ronj1955@gmail.com.

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