The Rise of the Alt-Center

Photo by ResistFromDay1 | CC BY 2.0

In this day and age, ‘dissent’ means little more than feeding mostly vetted, crowd-pleasing opinions into some online algorithm that will yield better results for a pharmaceutical giant or a law enforcement agency. We can say all kinds of shit to a highly selective, built-in audience of multiple selves, and feel good about exercising our right to free speech – in the meantime forgetting that all this ‘activism’ is just more content to be harvested like organs for marketing and surveillance purposes.

As data donors, we entrust ourselves to a system that crunches us into numbers and demographics based on whatever self-serving agenda needs a conflated mathematical formulae to increase the bottom line of a corporation and/or the governments they run.

We can wage a “resistance” against the monster we have inadvertently, but predictably created, having empowered right wing populism as a means to further disenfranchise the left, which had already abandoned its economic platform to focus on ‘identity’ and sexuality. How long can you insist that a fashion faux pas is on par with The Killing Fields in terms of “appropriation” before your irrelevance becomes well-deserved fodder for the sub-Reddit community? And who would have guessed that prioritizing correct pronouns over actual policy to address a widening and worsening income gap would cause the most struggling and despairing segment of the voting bloc to throw their lot in with the now Cheeto-Bag-in-Chief as payback for NAFTA and Lena Dunham?

You could make the argument that the left’s capitulation to identity politics would be enough to convince the powers that be that they have eliminated the risk of stirring up the sort of social unrest that demands a radical overhauling of wealth distribution instead of cosmetic adjustments to speech. But why settle for an effective neutering of ‘left’ opposition when you can take a chainsaw to the whole damn dog?

For the same reason acquiring the lion’s share of the world’s wealth isn’t quite the same as ‘having it all’.  A mindset that could be best summed up as “My yacht is only 500 meters longer than an aircraft carrier because some fucking kid in Detroit still has the luxury of eating lead and ketchup for breakfast”.  Rather than tolerate pesky, profit-reducing labor unions, universal healthcare, public education and environmental regulations, why not just replace them all with angry men yelling at their TV sets? And equally angry women yelling at skinny models? As a strategy, it seemed to work until, well, . . . Donald Trump.

Scientifically speaking, an exploding, loose cannon ball of earwax as leader of the ‘Free World’ is what happens when you successfully kill off a vital organism – “good”  bacteria, if you will, in order to allow another one to thrive and multiply without impediment.  Either by accident or design, we are helpless against the ruling class as as our resistance to these ultimately host-killing predators have been eroded by the absence of a political organism that could create the necessary bulwarks against their expanding and unchecked powers.

Having purged the elements necessary for a diverse and evenly keeled political eco-system that provides the checks and balances necessary to maintain an actual democracy, we are left with a walled-in sectarian ‘Free Trade’ zone where the rights of pipelines and bathroom stalls are vigorously upheld and protected under a ‘No Smoking’ sign.

The deliberate and ongoing political engineering necessary to give multinationals their global stranglehold was introduced with predictable blowback-inducing results in much of the Middle East when left wing politicians and parties were dissolved at the behest of the US, and dissenters were driven into mosques, creating the present political vacuum that gives people in Muslim-majority countries the ‘choice’ between a corrupt neoliberal order enforced by a US installed dictator or a motley band of head choppers with a more proactive approach to capitalism.

People in South and Central America have been similarly forced to cede their sovereignty in exchange for not finding themselves at the mercy of armed drug dealers on the same payroll as their IS counterparts in Syria and Iraq.

It was only a matter of time before our overlords would apply the same divide-and-conquer strategies at home, where the so-called Red/Blue state divide discourages solidarity between unemployed autoworkers in the Michigan, and the equally redundant factory and farm workers south of the Rust Belt. This division is demarcated along ‘color lines’, even though both demographics are collateral damage left in the wake of deregulation, privatization and the ruinous trade deals that successive war party administrations have implemented to increase the bottom line of their donors.

Our own elite-ascribed ‘tribal’ affiliations result in an endless televised tug-of-war that pits “rednecks” against “thugs” and “snowflakes” against everything that isn’t organic, fair trade or LGBT-friendly for the short-term gains that meaningless victories engender when “clapping back” on Twitter represents the pinnacle of dialectical achievement.

The same strategies used to forestall Arab unity and Pan-Africanism are behind our own failing, upended political system, where both ‘left’ and ‘right’ issue meaningless, social-based ‘fatwas’ against, say, same-sex marriage and gluten as their corrupt leaders run victory laps around the boardrooms of Goldman Sachs.  And why shouldn’t they rejoice at their success in synthesizing globalization with a growing strain of a parasitic brain wasting disease to replace a system whose regulatory ‘glitches’ slowed down its cancerous growth.  Enter a murderous ‘healthcare’ bill to hasten the incremental death of surplus labor so that our smart phones can communicate with our lampshades in the worker-less, post-Trump utopia ahead.

In the meantime, it’s hardly surprising that a ‘super bug’ would emerge after three decades of the political and social engineering necessary to transform left opposition to war into a Red-baiting faction of warmongers.

What else could explain the liberal establishment agitating on behalf of the FBI and the CIA, citing “grave concerns” about national security based on Israeli espionage?  Notice how no one is asking why this particular foreign government is so closely embedded into the American state security apparatus, despite its refusal to curb its illegal settlement expansion in the occupied territories. Or why Joe Liebermann, the Apartheid regime’s biggest booster, is being considered to head the FBI, with the same bipartisan support his Israeli benefactors receive from both  Republicans and Democrats – most notably the “socialist” Bernie Sanders – to excuse Israel from adhering to international law.

American liberals are upset, it seems, over their “loose-lipped” president inadvertently cockblocking an Israeli strike on Iran by sharing gathered intelligence about impending terrorist attacks with a G8 member state.  Russia’s concern for its own security is just more evidence of the cunning Putin’s dark designs on the Oval Office where by sleight-of-hand, a leaking bag of Cheetos has replaced the US presidency.

You couldn’t make this shit up if you were gacked on ‘Krokodil’ laced with bath salts and asked to explain current events to a flock of invisible, face eating seagulls shooting out of the moon.  Welcome to the Meth Lab Matrix, where the Deep State cooks up the establishment-serving narratives necessary to enlist bipartisan public support for the coup that will rid the White House of its problematic resident, and replace his itchy Twitter finger with one more calmly poised over the nuclear codes.

You could say that the outcome of this symbiotic relationship between outrage producing organisms has resulted in the present political vacuum where liberals revive discredited cold war tropes to uphold their half of the war machine, while ‘conservatives’ genuflect at the feet of the entity who threatens to bring it all crashing down. In the absence of a left opposition, we are stuck with an ‘Alt-Center’, where social justice warriors, goaded on by the state propaganda organ known as ‘Comedy Central’, lob cruise missiles both figuratively and literally at domestic and overseas targets they deem not in line with the objectives of a sensitivity-training seminar.  In the meantime, their Republican cohorts get down to the actual work of dismantling the last remaining obstacles to their planetary host-devouring objectives.  

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Jennifer Matsui is a writer living in Tokyo and a columnist for the print edition of CounterPunch magazine.

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