FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Wholesale Crimes

Photo Source Owen Byrne | CC BY 2.0

In their 1979 book The Washington Connection and Third World Fascism, Noam Chomsky and the late Edward S. Herman drew a distinction between retail and wholesale acts of terrorism. Retail acts were those carried out by individuals or small groups; wholesale, those committed by vast national military forces.

Tom Engelhardt, in a recent column explaining the deeply criminal thrust of the Trump legacy, recalls to our attention a term coined in 2013 by journalist Nick Turse: terracide, meaning the total destruction of the earth-system — next to which the common crimes committed by isolated individuals pale in magnitude.

The distinction here is one of scale and not of principle, as in the classic juxtaposition of robbing a bank (“retail”) versus owning one and fleecing the entire public (“wholesale”). This point is easy enough for anyone to see, but, sadly, it has not become a matter of common awareness.

Why is it so difficult for people to perceive the criminality of the dominant priorities? This is where the political culture – aka the politics of mass deception – comes into play.

The political culture is many-faced, depending on which part of the public is being addressed. Above all, the political culture is shaped not only by those most fervently committed to a particular agenda, but also by all those who serve the central actors as buffers or enablers.

Typically, the buffers or enablers try to project a certain distance between themselves and the main actors. This was exemplified in the anonymous New York Times column of Sept. 5, whose author denounced Trump while embracing the Trump agenda.

Such dissociation, however, is fraudulent. The fit between Trump’s persona and his government’s agenda is not accidental. The agenda cannot be rationally defended. It rests on lies – most conspicuously, about the climate crisis – and therefore requires shameless hacks to defend it.

Not all of them are exactly like Trump, of course, but Trump got to play the flagship role because of the media’s wall-to-wall coverage of him throughout the run-up to the 2016 election.

Another type of enabler is the evasive lawyer, whom we now see in the person of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. Where Trump peddles the dominant agenda with bombast (sometimes embarrassing to his staff-enablers), Kavanaugh and his strategists rely on stealth, specifically, concealing the legal trickery in which he took part in advancing the anti-popular agenda (e.g., on reproductive rights) of the Bush administration (see William Rivers Pitt’s incisive analysis). Behind Kavanaugh’s evasiveness lies an unambiguous commitment to corporate interests over citizen rights, as illustrated in his contention that Net Neutrality violates the free-speech rights of corporations.

A less direct but no less vital set of enablers is Trump’s “loyal opposition”: the top Democrats and the corporate media, who in this context act very much as a unit. Basically, they have legitimized Trump by failing to offer policies in the interest of the majority and then by attacking both his election and his administration on false grounds – focusing disproportional attention on alleged Russian influences and not giving the electorate the understanding and the organizational tools that they would need in order to effectively advance an alternative agenda.

The Democrats out of power get to play the role of “good guys,” but their unwillingness to advocate and work toward ambitious policy changes means that when they return to office, they will succeed only in driving a still passive citizenry back into the arms of the Republicans.

This dynamic is particularly upsetting when we consider how little time remains to halt the course toward environmental catastrophe – the terracide that Engelhardt speaks of. It’s a matter of urgency to get rid of profit-driven economic decisions and replace them with a structure in which decisions are grounded in the real interests of the natural world and of human society as a whole. Until such a structure is attained, the currently dominant forces will only tighten their grip even further, thereby accelerating the drive to destruction.

Victor Wallis is the author of Red-Green Revolution: The Politics and Technology of Ecosocialism (Toronto and Chicago: Political Animal Press, 2018).

 

 

 

More articles by:

Victor Wallis’s book Socialist Practice: Histories and Theories has just been published by Palgrave Macmillan. He is also the author of Red-Green Revolution: The Politics and Technology of Ecosocialism (Political Animal Press, 2018) and Democracy Denied: Five Lectures on U.S. Politics (Africa World Press, 2019). www.victorwallis.com

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
Weekend Edition
March 27, 2020
Friday - Sunday
Rob Urie
Bailouts for the Rich, the Virus for the Rest of Us
Louis Proyect
Life and Death in the Epicenter
Paul Street
“I Will Not Kill My Mother for Your Stock Portfolio”
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: The Scum Also Rises
Pam Martens - Russ Martens
Stimulus Bill Allows Federal Reserve to Conduct Meetings in Secret; Gives Fed $454 Billion Slush Fund for Wall Street Bailouts
Jefferson Morley
Could the Death of the National Security State be a Silver Lining of COVID-19?
Kathleen Wallace
The End of the Parasite Paradigm
Ruth Hopkins
A Message For America from Brazil’s First Indigenous Congresswoman
Anthony DiMaggio
Misinformation and the Coronavirus: On the Dangers of Depoliticization and Social Media
Andrew Levine
Neither Biden Nor Trump: Imagine Cuomo
David Rosen
God’s Vengeance: the Christian Right and the Coronavirus
David Schultz
The Covid-19 Bailout: Another Failed Opportunity at Structural Change
Evaggelos Vallianatos
In the Grip of Disease
Edward Leer
Somebody Else’s World: An Interview with Kelly Reichardt
Robert Fisk
What Trump is Doing in the Middle East While You are Distracted by COVID-19
Daniel Warner
COVID-19: Health or Wealth?
Thomas Klikauer – Norman Simms
Corona in Germany: Hording and Authoritarianism
Ramzy Baroud
BJP and Israel: Hindu Nationalism is Ravaging India’s Democracy
Richard Moser
Russia-gate: the Dead But Undead
Ron Jacobs
Politics, Pandemics and Trumpism
Chris Gilbert
Letter From Catalonia: Alarming Measures
Richard Eskow
Seven Rules for the Boeing Bailout
Jonathan Carp
Coronavirus and the Collapse of Our Imaginations
Andrew Bacevich
The Coronavirus and the Real Threats to American Safety and Freedom
Peter Cohen
COVID-19, the Exponential Function and Human the Survival
César Chelala - Alberto Luis Zuppi
The Pope is Wrong on Argentina
James Preston Allen
Alexander Cockburn Meets Charles Bukowski at a Sushi Bar in San Pedro
Jérôme Duval
The Only Oxygen Cylinder Factory in Europe is Shut down and Macron Refuses to Nationalize It
Neve Gordon
Gaza Has Been Under Siege for Years. Covid-19 Could Be Catastrophic
Alvaro Huerta
To Survive the Coronavirus, Americans Should Learn From Mexicans
Prabir Purkayastha
Why the Coronavirus Pandemic Poses Fundamental Challenges to All Societies
Raouf Halaby
Fireside Chatterer Andrew Cuomo for President
Thomas Drake
The Sobering Realities of the American Dystopia
Negin Owliaei
Wash Your Hands…If You Have Water
Felice Pace
A New Threat to California’s Rivers:  Will the Rush to Develop Our Newest Water Source Destroy More Streams?
Ray Brescia
What 9/11 Can Teach Us About Responding to COVID-19
ADRIAN KUZMINSKI
The Covid-19 Opportunity
John Kendall Hawkins
An Age of Intoxication: Pick Your Poison
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
The Propaganda Virus: Is Anyone Immune?
Nicky Reid
Fear and Loathing in Coronaville Volume 1: Dispatches From a Terrified Heartland
Nolan Higdon – Mickey Huff
Don’t Just Blame Trump for the COVID-19 Crisis: the U.S. Has Been Becoming a Failed State for Some Time
Susan Block
Coronavirus Spring
David Yearsley
Lutz Alone
CounterPunch News Service
Letter from Truthdig’s Editor-in-Chief Robert Scheer to the Publisher Zuade Kaufman
CounterPunch News Service
Statement From Striking Truthdig Workers
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail