Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Keep CounterPunch ad free. Support our annual fund drive today!

The Tantrums of the American Ruling Class


Not too long ago, I predicted that if I live to the average American male lifespan of 76 — I’m 46 now — I’ll have outlived the United States as we know it.

At the time, I feared I was being over-optimistic, but lately I’m leaning the other way and thinking that my timetable may have been unduly timid. The United States may be something quickly receding in history’s rear view mirror by the time I start getting junk mail from AARP (“you’re 50 — join now!”).

The recent temper tantrums of the American political class and its toadies abroad bring to mind an old saying (incorrectly attributed to Gandhi) — “first they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win” — and the Kubler-Ross model of grief. Our would-be masters appear to have moved forward from “denial” to “anger” in a big way.

In England, Metropolitan Police thugs (in admitted connivance with their US counterparts) abducted David Michael Miranda and held him prisoner for nine hours, stealing several pieces of computer and communications gear. Miranda’s crime? He’s the husband of Glenn Greenwald, the Guardian journalist most responsible for bringing the disclosures of NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden forward for public scrutiny.

In the United States, US Army Colonel Denise Lind is, as I write this, “deliberating” over a sentence for American hero Bradley Manning, who likewise embarrassed the political class with exposure of their crimes and peccadilloes. The prosecution is asking for a sentence of 60 years or more. Given the complete illegality of the proceedings in nearly every respect, the proper question is how, and in what amount, to compensate Manning after releasing him and apologizing to him. But this isn’t about justice. It’s about revenge.

Ladar Levison, owner of secure email service Lavabit — which Snowden allegedly used when preparing to unload his trove of secrets — recently closed down the service rather than become entangled in the US government’s revenge operation versus Snowden. The government’s response? He’s now under threat of arrest … for going out of business! And he’s not the last to shut down rather than bend over.

These are just the latest incidents in a weeks-long run of American tantrum theater. I’ll be unsurprised if tomorrow we see US president Barack Obama throwing himself onto the Oval Office carpet, thrashing his arms and legs vigorously while holding his breath.

I’m not sure which fact Obama finds more upsetting: That his gang can’t keep secrets any more, or that the rest of us can. But in truth those two facts are the crux of the matter.

Knowledge being power, the continued existence of the state as we know it — centralized political authority with a monopoly on “legitimate” violence — requires maintenance of an illusion: That government can know everything it wants to know about us, and that we can know nothing that it doesn’t choose to tell us. A situation opposite, as it were, the current reality.

Thanks to heroes like Julian Assange, Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden, that illusion has been shattered over the last few years. As a result some states have fallen, more are failing, and all are besieged. We are on the cusp of the post-state era. Thus the anger among those whose lives and ambitions are bound up with a dying institution.

Thomas L. Knapp is Senior News Analyst at the Center for a Stateless Society (

Thomas L. Knapp is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism ( He lives and works in north central Florida.

More articles by:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine


October 25, 2016
Hiroyuki Hamada
Fear Laundering: an Elaborate Psychological Diversion and Bid for Power
Kathy Deacon
Plus ça Change: Regime Change 1917-1920
Priti Gulati Cox
President Obama: Before the Empire Falls, Free Leonard Peltier and Mumia Abu-Jamal
Robin Goodman
Appetite for Destruction: America’s War Against Itself
Richard Moser
On Power, Privilege, and Passage: a Letter to My Nephew
Rev. William Alberts
The Epicenter of the Moral Universe is Our Common Humanity, Not Religion
Dan Bacher
Inspector General says Reclamation wasted $32.2 million on Klamath irrigators
David Mattson
A Recipe for Killing: the “Trust Us” Argument of State Grizzly Bear Managers
Derek Royden
The Tragedy in Yemen
Ralph Nader
Breaking Through Power: It’s Easier Than We Think
Norman Pollack
Centrist Fascism: Lurching Forward
Guillermo R. Gil
Cell to Cell Communication: On How to Become Governor of Puerto Rico
Mateo Pimentel
You, Me, and the Trolley Make Three
David Swanson
Halloween Is Coming, Vladimir Putin Isn’t
Cathy Breen
“Today Is One of the Heaviest Days of My Life”
October 24, 2016
John Steppling
The Unwoke: Sleepwalking into the Nightmare
Oscar Ortega
Clinton’s Troubling Silence on the Dakota Access Pipeline
Patrick Cockburn
Aleppo vs. Mosul: Media Biases
John Grant
Humanizing Our Militarized Border
Franklin Lamb
US-led Sanctions Targeting Syria Risk Adjudication as War Crimes
Paul Bentley
There Must Be Some Way Out of Here: the Silence of Dylan
Norman Pollack
Militarism: The Elephant in the Room
Patrick Bosold
Dakota Access Oil Pipeline: Invite CEO to Lunch, Go to Jail
Paul Craig Roberts
Was Russia’s Hesitation in Syria a Strategic Mistake?
David Swanson
Of All the Opinions I’ve Heard on Syria
Weekend Edition
October 21, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Wight
Hillary Clinton and the Brutal Murder of Gaddafi
Diana Johnstone
Hillary Clinton’s Strategic Ambition in a Nutshell
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Trump’s Naked and Hillary’s Dead
John W. Whitehead
American Psycho: Sex, Lies and Politics Add Up to a Terrifying Election Season
Stephen Cooper
Hell on Earth in Alabama: Inside Holman Prison
Patrick Cockburn
13 Years of War: Mosul’s Frightening and Uncertain Future
Rob Urie
Name the Dangerous Candidate
Pepe Escobar
The Aleppo / Mosul Riddle
David Rosen
The War on Drugs is a Racket
Sami Siegelbaum
Once More, the Value of the Humanities
Cathy Breen
“Today Is One of the Heaviest Days of My Life”
Neve Gordon
Israel’s Boycott Hypocrisy
Mark Hand
Of Pipelines and Protest Pens: When the Press Loses Its Shield
Victor Wallis
On the Stealing of U.S. Elections
Brian Cloughley
Drumbeats of Anti-Russia Confrontation From Washington to London
Michael Hudson
The Return of the Repressed Critique of Rentiers: Veblen in the 21st century Rentier Capitalism
Howard Lisnoff
Still Licking Our Wounds and Hoping for Change
Brian Gruber
Iraq: There Is No State
Peter Lee
Trump: We Wish the Problem Was Fascism
Stanley L. Cohen
Equality and Justice for All, It Seems, But Palestinians