FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Cutting the Cords of Empire: the Spectacle of US Elections

“The more powerful the class, the more it claims not to exist.”

-Guy Debord, The Society of the Spectacle

It’s almost time for our quadrennial political distraction, masquerading as the US presidential election. As opposed to previous elections, this one feels quite different. Even with Obama/Romney in 2012, important, basic economic issues were discussed, health care reform was questioned, and foreign policy was given its due.

However, this time, the spectacle of the personalities seems to dominate the conversation: Mrs. Clinton is somehow on a feminist crusade, an inspiration for women everywhere. Going unmentioned are her irredeemable backers, such as the genocidal Henry Kissinger and Madeline Albright. As for Trump, his version of America is as naïve, narrow-minded, and delusional as a Leave It to Beaver episode, or a Captain America comic book. In the background, the monstrosity of global capitalism goes unquestioned, and the cries from victims of US institutional racism and structural violence go unheard.

Global warming, broad economic policy, and nuanced foreign policy are simply too much to ask of these candidates. Their stupidity knows no end; their corruption and depravity know no bounds, and many of both of their planetaryvisionssupporters, as well as media, political, and corporate backers and sycophants can be considered “deplorable”. Many supporters of the two-party system do not bother to think about the damage either potential president would do to people outside the US. Many backers of Trump and Clinton have little to no basic knowledge of world cultures and history.

What are the cords that connect us to these “leaders”, to our American Empire? They are the same ones that the Industrial Revolution, the basis of our civilization, has implanted in each of us since birth, as Alvin Toffler explains in The Third Wave. As our social world became modeled on the factory floors developed in the 18th and 19th centuries, a set of unspoken principles were ironed out, and transferred to the political, social, and economic realms. (1)  As we shall see, these principles spread unchecked, and have infiltrated political discourse and social hierarchies. Toffler identifies these implicit rules as:

1) Standardization: Industry, production, and factory life revolved around endless loops and inputs of metals, fabrics, coal, oil, and specialized parts for trains, cars, etc. The simplification and standard mechanical parts used were mirrored and reflected in the culture at large: eventually, markets, the media, radio and TV, and even great art and literature succumbed to commoditization and homogenization. We now have mass marketing, public relations, and “electioneering”, where our duopoly controls all branches of government.

2) Specialization: With the explosion in the fields of science and engineering, specialized techniques were taught to develop, invent, and maintain mechanical and electric equipment. Yet again, this philosophy infected the general society:  only bureaucrats are able to work in the halls of power, only industrial experts are able to administer federal agencies, creating the disgraceful revolving door phenomena in Washington.

3) Synchronization: As more people flocked into cities with gleaming promises of steady, factory jobs, time and punctuality became of prime importance. Punching timecards and meeting quotas were necessary: there was no room for leeway, as assembly lines demanded strict timelines. The time demands of labor leaked into white-collar work as well: in banking and finance, railroads, time zones, and office jobs, advanced scheduling became the norm. Eventually, synchronization of the political system gained traction, and the imperial system came to resemble a deathly machine, marching in time to bloody footsteps: military, immoral diplomacy and ideology, and industry worked together to lord over Latin America with the Monroe Doctrine, annihilate Native Americans using Manifest Destiny, even as today, the excuse of the “War on Terror” is used to exterminate entire populations in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, and elsewhere.

4) Concentration: Think of the vast oil and coal stored underground for millions of years, only to be strip-mined, taken up by rigs, and transported by rail and tanker into vast refineries: concentration of energy. Further, every class of people became absorbed and intensified in the industrial system: workers into factories, children into schools, mentally ill into institutions, finance concentrated into New York, London, and Paris. Mega-mergers of corporations: today, it is the Apple, Google, Shell, and BP’s of the world who have coffers of blood money held tidily in banks throughout the world. Further, the concentration of technocrats who we supposedly need to run our societies: in the West, the military-industrialists, just as the Soviets were once told the nomenklatura were necessary.

5) Maximization: Firms were encouraged to grow as large as possible, and expand into as many fields as possible. Companies in Japan in the mid-twentieth century would actually have workers sing of the glory and greatness of their employer. Today, 62 people have the same wealth as half the world’s population. This is concentration and maximizing at its most obscene. Of course, you won’t hear Clinton, Trump, or anyone in Washington talking about this. Maximizing GDP, corporate profits, fossil fuel use, and flexing imperial muscle is what the Feds does best.

6) Centralization: Connected to the first five rules of empire stated above, centralizing power, wealth, and using knowledge for private gain is required to uphold the industrial state. Taxation, subsidies for industry, political debates via the sham Committee on Presidential Debates, the backroom shenanigans of the DNC and RNC, and cloak and dagger lobbying and bribery now dominate our system of government. Further, the Leviathan of state sanctioned violence now lords over the world from the Pentagon and NATO, and the centralization of information runs through fiber-optic cables straight to the infernal, yet temperature-controlled offices of the CIA and NSA.

The elections have adopted all the patterns of the industrial, imperial state: we have standardized TV, scripted questions, airbrushed candidates, and childlike debates. We’ve seen specialized tactics of gerrymandering, vote-rigging, PR bullshit, and strategists whose careers accomplish nothing for the public good. We all know of the synchronization of Wall Street, defense and oil companies. The concentration of power in the hands of the few hardly needs mention: here’s the study by Princeton and Northwestern professors who conclude that the US is an oligarchy, not a democracy. We’ve witnessed the maximization of endless primaries, debates, press conferences, and town-hall meetings ad infinitum. The centralization of political ideology (triangulation in Clintonite terms, Machiavellian to a rational person) and the limitations of discourse that our candidates display are all too clear.

These are the iron chains holding us down, shackling us in Plato’s cave: our candidates are figureheads, shadows on the wall; they are puppets of the super-elite. The central position they carve out in the mainstream is really a pit, an abyss: one that we all find ourselves in, as we continue to vote for those who don’t fight for our interests.

The two best options for this election seem to be: voting for Jill Stein, or boycotting the election, as Joel Hirschhorn advocates. As for our obscene election cycles, I believe Zach de la Rocha summed them up best:

 “A spectacle monopolized
The camera’s eyes on choice disguised
Was it cast for the mass who burn and toil?
Or for vultures who thirst for blood and oil?”

William Hawes is a writer specializing in politics and environmental issues. His articles have appeared online at Global Research, Counterpunch, Dissident Voice, The World Financial Review, Gods & Radicals, and Countercurrents. He is author of the e-book Planetary Vision: Essays on Freedom and EmpireYou can reach him at wilhawes@gmail.com

Notes:

1.) Alvin Toffler. The Third Wave. Bantam, 1980. p. 46-60.

More articles by:

William Hawes is a writer specializing in politics and environmental issues. He is author of the ebook Planetary Vision: Essays on Freedom and Empire. His articles have appeared online at CounterPunch, Global Research, Countercurrents(.org), Gods & Radicals, Dissident Voice, The Ecologist, and many more. You can email him at wilhawes@gmail.com. Visit his website williamhawes.wordpress.com.

December 12, 2018
Arshad Khan
War, Anniversaries and Lessons Never Learned
Paul Street
Blacking Out the Yellow Vests on Cable News: Corporate Media Doing its Job
Kenneth Surin
The Brexit Shambles Rambles On
David Schultz
Stacking the Deck Against Democracy in Wisconsin
Steve Early
The Housing Affordability Crisis and What Millennials Can do About It
George Ochenski
Collaboration Failure: Trump Trashes Sage Grouse Protections
Rob Seimetz
Bringing a Life Into a Dying World: A Letter From a Father to His Unborn Son
Michael Howard
PETA and the ‘S’-Word
John Kendall Hawkins
Good Panopt, Bad Panopt: Does It Make A Difference?
Kim C. Domenico
Redeeming Utopia: a Meditation On An Essay by Ursula LeGuin
Binoy Kampmark
Exhuming Franco: Spain’s Immemorial Divisions
ADRIAN KUZMINSKI
Democratizing Money
Laura Finley
Congress Must Reauthorize VAWA
December 11, 2018
Eric Draitser
AFRICOM: A Neocolonial Occupation Force?
Sheldon Richman
War Over Ukraine?
Louis Proyect
Why World War II, Not the New Deal, Ended the Great Depression
Howard Lisnoff
Police Violence and Mass Policing in the U.S.
Mark Ashwill
A “Patriotic” Education Study Abroad Program in Viet Nam: God Bless America, Right or Wrong!
Laura Flanders
HUD Official to Move into Public Housing?
Nino Pagliccia
Resistance is Not Terrorism
Matthew Johnson
See No Evil, See No Good: The Truth Is Not Black and White
Maria Paez Victor
How Reuters Slandered Venezuela’s Social Benefits Card
December 10, 2018
Jacques R. Pauwels
Foreign Interventions in Revolutionary Russia
Richard Klin
The Disasters of War
Katie Fite
Rebranding Bundy
Gary Olson
A Few Thoughts on Politics and Personal Identity
Patrick Cockburn
Brexit Britain’s Crisis of Self-Confidence Will Only End in Tears and Rising Nationalism
Andrew Moss
Undocumented Citizen
Dean Baker
Trump and China: Going With Patent Holders Against Workers
Lawrence Wittner
Reviving the Nuclear Disarmament Movement: a Practical Proposal
Dan Siegel
Thoughts on the 2018 Elections and Beyond
Thomas Knapp
Election 2020: I Can Smell the Dumpster Fires Already
Weekend Edition
December 07, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Steve Hendricks
What If We Just Buy Off Big Fossil Fuel? A Novel Plan to Mitigate the Climate Calamity
Jeffrey St. Clair
Cancer as Weapon: Poppy Bush’s Radioactive War on Iraq
Paul Street
The McCain and Bush Death Tours: Establishment Rituals in How to be a Proper Ruler
Jason Hirthler
Laws of the Jungle: The Free Market and the Continuity of Change
Ajamu Baraka
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights at 70: Time to De-Colonize Human Rights!
Andrew Levine
Thoughts on Strategy for a Left Opposition
Jennifer Matsui
Dead of Night Redux: A Zombie Rises, A Spook Falls
Rob Urie
Degrowth: Toward a Green Revolution
Binoy Kampmark
The Bomb that Did Not Detonate: Julian Assange, Manafort and The Guardian
Robert Hunziker
The Deathly Insect Dilemma
Robert Fisk
Spare Me the American Tears for the Murder of Jamal Khashoggi
Joseph Natoli
Tribal Justice
Ron Jacobs
Getting Pushed Off the Capitalist Cliff
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail