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.

Weekend Edition
July 20, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Paul Atwood
Peace or Armageddon: Take Your Pick
Paul Street
No Liberal Rallies Yet for the Children of Yemen
Nick Pemberton
The Bipartisan War on Central and South American Women
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Are You Putin Me On?
Andrew Levine
Sovereignty: What Is It Good For? 
Brian Cloughley
The Trump/NATO Debacle and the Profit Motive
David Rosen
Trump’s Supreme Pick Escalates America’s War on Sex 
Melvin Goodman
Montenegro and the “Manchurian Candidate”
Salvador Rangel
“These Are Not Our Kids”: The Racial Capitalism of Caging Children at the Border
Matthew Stevenson
Going Home Again to Trump’s America
Louis Proyect
Jeremy Corbyn, Bernie Sanders and the Dilemmas of the Left
Patrick Cockburn
Iraqi Protests: “Bad Government, Bad Roads, Bad Weather, Bad People”
Robert Fantina
Has It Really Come to This?
Russell Mokhiber
Kristin Lawless on the Corporate Takeover of the American Kitchen
John W. Whitehead
It’s All Fake: Reality TV That Masquerades as American Politics
Patrick Bobilin
In Your Period Piece, I Would be the Help
Ramzy Baroud
The Massacre of Inn Din: How Rohingya Are Lynched and Held Responsible
Robert Fisk
How Weapons Made in Bosnia Fueled Syria’s Bleak Civil War
Gary Leupp
Trump’s Helsinki Press Conference and Public Disgrace
Josh Hoxie
Our Missing $10 Trillion
Martha Rosenberg
Pharma “Screening” Is a Ploy to Seize More Patients
Basav Sen
Brett Kavanaugh Would be a Disaster for the Climate
David Lau
The Origins of Local AFT 4400: a Profile of Julie Olsen Edwards
Rohullah Naderi
The Elusive Pursuit of Peace by Afghanistan
Binoy Kampmark
Shaking Establishments: The Ocasio-Cortez Effect
John Laforge
18 Protesters Cut Into German Air Base to Protest US Nuclear Weapons Deployment
Christopher Brauchli
Trump and the Swedish Question
Chia-Chia Wang
Local Police Shouldn’t Collaborate With ICE
Paul Lyons
YouTube’s Content ID – A Case Study
Jill Richardson
Soon You Won’t be Able to Use Food Stamps at Farmers’ Markets, But That’s Not the Half of It
Kevin MacKay
Climate Change is Proving Worse Than We Imagined, So Why Aren’t We Confronting its Root Cause?
Thomas Knapp
Elections: More than Half of Americans Believe Fairy Tales are Real
Ralph Nader
Warner Slack—Doctor for the People Forever
Lee Ballinger
Soccer, Baseball and Immigration
Louis Yako
Celebrating the Wounds of Exile with Poetry
Ron Jacobs
Working Class Fiction—Not Just Surplus Value
Perry Hoberman
You Can’t Vote Out Fascism… You Have to Drive It From Power!
Robert Koehler
Guns and Racism, on the Rocks
Nyla Ali Khan
Kashmir: Implementation with Integrity and Will to Resolve
Justin Anderson
Elon Musk vs. the Media
Graham Peebles
A Time of Hope for Ethiopia
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Homophobia in the Service of Anti-Trumpism is Still Homophobic (Even When it’s the New York Times)
Martin Billheimer
Childhood, Ferocious Sleep
David Yearsley
The Glories of the Grammophone
Tom Clark
Gameplanning the Patriotic Retributive Attack on Montenegro
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail