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Day of Wrath

Photograph Source nrkbeta • CC BY-SA 2.0

“In all times some must be rich, some poore, some highe and eminent in power and dignitie; others mean in subjeccion.”

– John Winthrop, Governor of Massachusetts Bay Colony (A Model of Christian Charity, 1630)

“I think I can see the whole destiny of America contained in the first Puritan who landed on those shores.”

– Alexis de Tocqueville (Democracy in America) 1830.

“Today utopia is maligned because no one really wants to see its realization.”

– Max Horkheimer (The Authoritarian State, 1940)

I continue to see this repackaged antisemitism appearing everywhere, but perhaps most disturbingly on the left. And it seems tied into a growing cultic response regards the multiple environmental crises. And thirdly, I see the retreat, from so many on the left, to a tacit or even overt endorsement of Democratic Party candidates or office holders. Often from people who claimed they were done with the Democrats, wanted to see them destroyed, etc. But are now describing the new “socialist” (sic) dems as, well… socialist. Suddenly, Tulsi or Omar or AOC are treated with comfortable amnesia. It is more proof, if any were needed, that marketing and advertising works.

There is no hope in anyone who cannot unequivocally reject all US actions against Venezuela. Unequivocally means stopping the liberal slandering of Maduro. He is the elected president. He represents Venezuela. He has also presided during a time of near constant pressure from U.S. funded and backed fascist opposition. Not to even mention sanctions. All the “mistakes” liberals claim Maduro has made were reactions to either covert attempts at destabilization, or outright assaults on his life. The U.S. has been attacking Venezuela for 18 years, and for the entirety of Maduro’s presidency. But still, there is a constant liberal commentary about his “mistakes”, how he has created chaos and poverty. This is another example of that casual unconscious racism for which the American bourgeoisie is so famous.

It is time to demand this faux left stop the revanchist position of white saviour — of knowing what decisions to make. I cannot find words for how sick I am of the condescending and subtle but indelible racism of white American liberals. No more perfect stage for this subject position can be found than Maduro and the Bolivarian revolution. And for the record none of the Democrats listed above passed the Venezuela test.

So why do so many on the left flock to these manufactured sheepdogs of the DNC? AOC and Omar and Bernie have all called Maduro a dictator, and all mediated their anti intervention remarks (some retracting them) with calls for “empowering” the Venezuelan people (because, I guess, voting in free elections is not empowering). All endorse the idea that the U.S. in its strategies for Venezuela, have only good intentions. In fact both Omar and AOC have smeared all official US enemies, from Maduro to Assad to Iran. They are imperialists who have no problem with the slaughter of the global south. They are unambiguously pro Imperialist.

Glen Ford wrote recently:

“White evangelicals — once and still the greatest source of anti-Semitism in the U.S. – are paradoxically the firmest supporters of Warrior Israel and its Bible-mandated role in ushering in the coming “tribulation” and Christ’s defeat of evil. Accordingly, 53 percent of evangelical Christians supported President Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital , while 63 percent of the general U.S. public opposed to the move. Rev. William Alberts, the “Counterpunch Minister,” writes that 87 percent of U.S. white evangelicals rallied to George Bush’s Iraq war because their spiritual leaders thought the invasion “would create exciting new prospects for proselytizing Muslims.” Rev. Albert calls this “Biblically legitimized imperialism,” but white Americans don’t require divine sanction to find excuses for killing non-whites. It’s how the West was won, and how the U.S. became a superpower.

Racialized imperialism is embedded in the white American worldview, including most whites that call themselves “progressives” – which is why so many of them support U.S. “humanitarian” military intervention in places like Libya and Syria, and now Venezuela. Humanitarian interventionists share with George Bush and Donald Trump the belief that the U.S. has the right – no, the responsibility – to use its superpowers to “protect” other peoples from their own governments.”

And these topics are linked. The new hard boiled antisemities, a sort of newish voice of no nonsense real politik, leaps headlong into the oldest most well worn antisemetic tropes available…those about global secret Jewish power, and media influence and Rothschild’s banks. I had an unfortunate experience with Mint Press, that retitled my article (The Anti Imperialism of Fools 0CounterPunch ) to “The United States Doesn’t Need Jewish Help to Wage War”. Now why would they do that? Ask yourself that. And I certainly never submitted the piece to them, nor did they ever ask permission to print it or use it. And the photo they used was of Netanyahu. The attempt was to invert the meaning of my article that was, in fact, on antisemitism.

And this is, in a sense, what the Evangelical is doing as well. They support and embrace Israel, while maintaining their steadfast antisemitism in all other respects. For Zionists are not quite “Jews” to them.

I was on a thread in which the mantra became “why cant we talk about the disproportionate amount of campaign contributions to the Democratic Party from JEWS? The power they wield in media and politics”. To point out by way of quick answer that none of the Joint Chiefs are Jewish, nor are any high ranking generals in any branch of the armed services, nor are the five richest families in the US. But this is rebutted with , well,  Zuckerberg and Page,… etc. What about Adelson and Soros? What does one say to this? 95% of concert violinists are Jewish, too. 74% of the NBA is black. So what? The fact that the US ruling class has identical interests with many zionists or even almost all zionists does not make a conspiracy of Jew power. One can hear in these new voices the echo of 1930s Berlin. Herr Rippontrop….we must have an adult conversation about the Jewish question.” “Yes, vee cannot run away from zer power in banking and zer cultural influence”. Today this is the voice of both the NASCAR white underclass and the voice, increasingly, of the (badly) educated white liberal — the one with mountains of student debt, few job prospects, and tons of resentment.

To be clear; and to rephrase the retitling of my earlier article, the US doesn’t need Zionists to make it go to war or invade or orchestrate coups. Its been doing that longer than Israel has been a country.

And to be clear, the attack on Venezuela is both Imperialist and racist. One cannot over estimate the importance of race in the opposition to Chavez and now Maduro from the US and from the fascist white South Americans that are behind Guaido (Lopez really).

Allow me to quote Glen Ford again…

The historical U.S. embrace of apartheid Israel is rooted in much more than “the Benjamins” wielded by Zionist lobbies. The two most lawless states on the planet revel in their shared roguishness, bound together by race-based colonial ideologies that sanction and celebrate their crimes against humanity. Were it not for the U.S. superpower, there would be no State of Israel, an outpost of Europe in Arabia that most white Americans perceive as inhabited by kindred souls surrounded by savages, like the settlers of American mythology. It is the United States’ “exceptional” duty to arm and protect the “chosen” people of Israel, whose expansionist imperatives are perceived as benign and defensive, mimicking American Manifest Destiny.

The Green New Deal is being embraced and applauded by many on the left, much as AOC herself, and Illhan Omar and Tulsi Gabbard are being embraced for saying a few tepid truths to power, or in the case of the GND, of rescuing capitalism. I mean this is a kind of Stockholm Syndrome variant. I remember you would see guys arrested for the first time (usually) and how they desperately wanted the arresting officer to *like* them. They wanted the system about to punish them, to *like* them. A small part of this was just the desire for some tiny affection while in a situation otherwise bereft of affection. But it was always more than that, too. It was the identification with aggression, with the aggressor, with power, and with violence. For this groveling before Police detectives or even uniform cops (and often later guards) took on a slight odor of eroticism, too. Of S&M (see Pier Paolo Pasolini and Jean Genet). It also tied in with the sedimented traces of Puritan purges and self accusations. Anyway…a bit of that is going on here. Gabbard says one thing about, oh, maybe we were helping ISIS. Like this is big news right? Well, for the oily and noxious Stephen Colbert I guess it was. But no matter the rest of Gabbard’s imperialist framing of recent history, she is applauded. Or Illhan Omar for saying stuff that everyone knows and says.. even while herself supporting the idea that the USA is a force for good in the world. There is a keen desire among even ardent leftists and critics of the U.S. to find an excuse to *like* the U.S. To like the system. To somehow be allowed to join in the festivities of the latest electoral pageant. And I do sympathize to a degree; it takes a toll to always be a minority voice of dissent. To always be a buzz kill. And deep down the thought of actual change is terrifying, and if a reason, however threadbare, is provided, that reason will be jumped on and praised. Illhan Omar is praised less for what she said, which was relatively minor (and walked back anyway) but because of who is criticizing her. Trump and Republicans criticize her, the neo-con Pro Zionists criticize her, ergo she must be this terrific agent of social change. I mean I’ve read several pieces talking about how scared the establishment Democrats are of the new “socialist” Democrats. Now it should be noted that Omar has waffled a good deal on the BDS issue, but regardless she has, it is true, been relentlessly attacked by the right (FOX news, the president, and a few conservative Democrats even). Attacked and smeared. Much as Maduro is smeared, come to think of it. Now what Omar has said has been said literally thousands of times. Norman Finklestein has said it more articulately and in more depth, and done it for years. But he’s not a politician. Still, note that nobody is enshrining him for courage and truth. Perhaps they should, but they are not. The point is that these are comments (those of Omar and AOC) that threaten little. They unleash a lot of airtime for reactionary pro Zionist politicians, and they keep the idea of Israel and its specialness front and center. And they make left leaning liberals, and sadly some actual hard core leftists, gush with new found and utterly irrational optimism. Omar has also voted along party lines in congress. (here is one example..thanks to Sam Husseini.)

This was a bill that encouraged the Arab League to recognize Israel, as well as allowing for the targeting of the IAEA (on Israel’s behalf, really). The point being this is standard Democratic Party voting. And Omar and AOC are perfectly in line with that. They are Democrats first, not beacons of truth.

A small additional aside here…AOC’s chief of staff, Saikat Chakrabarti, likes to wear a t shirt emblazoned with the image of Nazi loving Subhas Chandra Bose, from the anti communist Congress Party of India. Bose was a contemporary of Gandhi. I’m not entirely sure what one does with such info, but file it under the rehabilitation of fascism.

Now, I even saw one article talking about how the establishment is scared of Bernie Sanders because he is too left.

Bernie Sanders? Come on, Bernie is the establishment. Omar and AOC are the establishment, too. They are products of a careful vetting and coaching system, the end result of a marketing campaign. They are products of the political machine. The Democrats needed a new brand, and AOC is it. And Bernie tags along, as he has done for thirty years. I mean my god the man called Chavez a “dead commie dictator”. Whoa, what a radical. The guy has been rewarded with seats on committees and my guess is he will get a chance to give a big speech at the next convention to introduce the candidate of choice (if I had to guess, I’d say Kamala Harris, but I’m probably premature in that). Or Ilhan Omar who one writer dubbed an avatar of truth. For what? For saying Israel was kinda, sorta, racist? That AIPAC was too pushy? I mean not stop the presses material. But the larger problem here is that everyone continues to talk about the Democratic party and this binary system of oppression. We are all, including myself right here, talking and writing about the same dulled bankrupt duopoly of war and corporate theft. The war party, branch one and branch two. And everyone is already caught up in the empty spectacle of American electoral theatre.

Meanwhile, across Europe, and in South America, and in India , there are rabidly right wing fascist and ultra nationalist parties growing in power and strength. But the liberal establishment would rather focus on Israel and the *Joooos*. And here we come to a curious psychological mechanism: something I want to call the Cult of Compassion. It applies to both the antisemitism that is growing and to the new Green agendas. Now to be clear, these things are not fictions or fabrications…I mean there IS an environmental crises (though the nature of this crises seems still rather opaque) and there is a vicious incremental genocide going on in Gaza. But one might wonder at why the populace of Yemen is so ignored. Why are the suffering people of Venezuela ignored or told to empower themselves with U.S.aid. Why are the people of Afghanistan ignored, ignored for over seventeen years of US occupation, or those of more than half the countries in Africa. No, the compassion for Palestinians is driven by the hatred of Israel. And Israel is worth hating. No doubt. But so is Saudi Arabia and so is the opposition in Venezuela, or the Nazis in power in Ukraine, or the Vatican. But there are few memes about the Vatican’s wealth — which is extensive I can assure you. The cultic expression of compassion is never about the ostensive object — whether that is the children during the recovered memories witchhunt, or the victims of sexual aggression in #metoo, nor is it the planet or Nature now in the majority of Green movements. It is a form of narcissistic subject creation. The desire for a cause. And in an age in which nobody bothers to read the fine print or research sources, the media with the most visibility controls the narrative.

The U.S. has military bases in every country in Africa save one. It has ravaged the land and protected western mining rights. It has armed both sides in the countless small conflicts that are taking place even now across the continent. It has helped foment larger and vicious wars in which millions have died, maybe tens of millions. The U.S. has nine hundred bases globally and a military budget that has grown to something like 700 billion a year. All the so called new socialists are on board with this, too. They are giving cover to the forces of Imperialist plunder. When Mike Pompeo talks of taking on Nicaragua next and then Cuba, the voting record of Omar and Ocasio Cortez is helping him make that a reality. So why do experienced leftists call these imposters “socialist”? Where is the compassion for the people of Honduras, prey now to the brutal right wing regime that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton put in power? How many of AOC’s adoring fans even know the name Berta Cáceres? What of Haiti? Or North Korea or Iran, or Syria, or any of the other official targets of U.S. aggression? The Democratic Party is not being changed by these quislings. They are only the bright and shiny (and younger) version of Bernie Sanders. And if you really did care about the environment, you would start here, with the war machine.

Oh and then there is this (H/T @Club de Cordeliers and @Keatssycamore)…Omar fronting for rich white gentrifiers….

All this pantomime infighting between the Socialist Democrats and the pro Israel Democrats is only that. Pantomime, its political vaudeville. Nothing more. It provides cover for the supposed heroism of Omar and AOC.

But back to this question of antisemitism as it ties in with this new cultic passion for Green and Ecological awareness.

The imprint of Puritanism is strong even now, and the Evangelicals in government (about whom not nearly enough has been written or researched) have internalized far more of Jonathan Edwards and Cotton Mather and the Massachusetts Bay Colony, of John Winthrop and Roger Williams than they would admit or even know. But America overall has never lost the basic psychic architecture of the Puritan. Certainly not in relation to ideas of collective public behaviour and thinking.

“This philosophy of the national covenant was not only a logical deduction from the Covenant of Grace, but also the theme of the Old Testament: Jacob wrestles in solitude with J ehovah, but Israel make their cohesion visible in an external organization – a church, a corporation, a nation, even a plantation. In their corporate capacity, saints stand, as long as they hold together, in a relation to God separate from (although bound up with) their spiritual salvation. As a people they are chosen because by public act they have chosen God. The prerequisite is not, cannot be, a flawless sanctity of all citizens, but a deliberate dedication of the community to a communal decision, like a declaration of war.”

Perry Miller (The New England Mind: From Colony to Province)

Before the great Protestant migration to America the devout were scattered in small communities or cells, half in hiding, and mostly out of touch with one another. What America offered (and it could well have been anywhere, it just happened to be America) was the opportunity to be united in one collective body. And they did view it as a grand experiment. But the relevant aspect here is that the more their endeavours met with failure or at least less than success, the more self accusing the collective became. For it was “their” fault, not the fault of the experiment. As Perry Miller wrote…“the more these people accused themselves of having shirked their covenant, the more they asserted that they had not lost confidence.” Hence, far more than in England, public days of purgation (following experience of wrath, or catastrophe or misadventure) and humiliation were evidence of not just their confidence but their basic virtue and a realistic assessment of reality in this “new” England. But there occurred in 1692 a rather profound shift in theological interpretation for the Puritans. From that day forward “corruption” was seen as a visitation of wrath. Meaning that corruption was not a cause but the result of wrath — a sign of wrath and a punishment. It was a shift from the external to the internal. From material misfortunate and sin, to sinful thinking and spiritual self pollution. Moral deficiency eclipsed failures of fortune, or failures of planning. All became attributed to interior spiritual weakness.

Allow me a longer quote here from Miller….

“The subjective preempted the objective: a universal anxiety and insecurity had become no longer something which, being caused, could be allayed by appropriate action, but rather something so chronic that the society could do nothing except suffer-and perpetually condemn itself. In the thirty years after 1660, the conception of the relation of society to the divine was unwittingly (and unintentionally) transformed into a thesis which positively reversed primitive doctrine. The mental anguish of the second and third generations was intensified because, while recognizing that somehow they had declined, they had lost the measure by which to decipher exactly how much or why. And so the day of humiliation became, not a blood-letting and a cure, but an increase of appetite that grew by what it fed upon.”

Contemporary America retains the structure of Puritan logic, sans the belief in redemption. And today the new American puritan lies about it. The false optimism is a direct outgrowth of this universal anxiety and ambivalence. The sense of American decline and promises broken feeds the need for various ersatz days of purgation. For public ritual displays of self flagellation. This ritual scaffolding has merged with a Rene Girardian scapegoating mechanism. For today there is a projection outward of that sense of acute anxiety and standing in for the body politic are celebrities or even politicans. Guilt or innocence has little to do with it, actually. From Harvey Weinstein to Kevin Spacey, from Julian Assange to Jussie Smollet to Lori Loughlin — and the grand inquisitors like Robert Mueller and Jeff Sessions. I mean from whatever sewer Trump crawled from, he is the perfect symbol of our internal corruption visited upon the land by an angry god. And this addictive need for public gossip and infantile amusements can be read as moral deficiency due for cataloguing in some grand fast day sermon, a jeremiad. Public spectacles of humiliation are a staple of American life, and have been since the early 1600s.

I have said before, though, that one aspect of the seemingly endless popularity of the Zombie story in film and TV is based in a desire FOR apocalyptic end of time events. Somewhere buried within the bourgeois mind is a desire to wash it all away and start over. And with that comes, in standard Hollywood terms, a new frontiersman mentality — it is to do Manifest Destiny again, only better, and starring ME.

Maybe (and I say this with some seriousness) all of this has to do with several decades now of Hollywood television and the profound insistence on a suspension of disbelief. One is trained to accept and follow nearly any narrative, regardless how illogical or meandering. And it also reflects overall the decline of the individual. What Adorno called the “unrestrictedly adaptable” , the “subjectless subject”.

But to stay on message here, the culture overall is, it seems, returning to ever older and earlier forms of ritual and collective violence (the very oldest antisemitic tropes are in play again). I will link to an earlier piece I wrote on antisemitism and some of the history.

America never learned how to be a society. The U.S. has always been preparing to be a great nation without ever even becoming a nation at all. From Manifest Destiny to the Monroe Doctrine to Responsibility to Protect, the mission has been about ‘others’. The empty rituals of the spectacle today are by virtue of their emptiness, reactionary. Winthrop reassured the early Puritan congregation that the mean and low were never meant to rise to positions of prosperity and respect. God ordained a hierarchy of classes.

From Propaganda, in a piece on Noam Chomsky recently…

“The “Left” has taken quite a journey from the 1960s, the beginning of Chomsky’s career as a political commentator, to now. During that time, what people perceive as “the Left” transformed from something which was usually opposed to the status quo and genuinely radical into something more like what CIA official Cord Meyer called the “compatible left,” an agglomeration of “liberals and pseudo-intellectual status seekers who are easily influenced” by the elites that they purport to challenge, in the words of Doug Valentine. One of the primary purposes of “courting the compatible left,” according to Valentine, was to “court Socialists away from Communists” and into safe channels.”

The new antisemitism seems joined at the hip to the anti-communist left. What Doug Valentine called ‘The Compatible Left’. That relationship makes sense of course. Over at Truthdig, Chris Hedges wrote a piece titled “Israel’s Stranglehold on American Politics.” It is both antisemitic AND anticommunist. To Hedges, Israel controls U.S. foreign policy. Apparently Zionist slanders are very ‘communist-like’. I think he says ten or twelve times that the article is not antisemitic. But it is. Israel does not control the U.S. government. AIPAC is a U.S. organization in fact. That the U.S. is perfectly fine with Israeli war crimes in Gaza is not surprising. For one thing it helps normalize U.S. war crimes. It is never clear how Israel leverages the U.S., how exactly they are able to control America without whose support Israel cannot exist. Hypnosis? Blood sacrifice?

Horkheimer wrote in 1944..

“Fascism is the caricature of social revolution. . . . The monopolistic elimination of competition takes within the fascist states radically destructive forms only against the Jews, on the outside against colonial or national groups. Apart from that this trend is only a side effect of the new subordination of the masses into the machine of production. The unchecked brutality of the individual entrepreneur will be checked in the age of working contracts and social welfare and be replaced by more rational relations within society. To understand the rationality of this, to understand the irrationality of this rationality, is our most important task. On the solution of this task depends also a theory of current antisemitism to a very large extent.”

(Letter to Adorno, November 13, 1944)

The popularizing of anti communism today (see, oh, Jordan Peterson for example) and the rise of this revanchist antisemitism, runs alongside the rehabilitation of fascism one sees in media almost daily. They are tied together. In the same way one must see the links between U.S. racist police departments (fully militarized now, something that began in earnest under Obama) and the violence against the global south (see Venezuela, blackouts, and sanctions and sabotage of infrastructure). The fight for ecological well being begins with fighting these things, not supporting quisling Democrats. Rather than worrying about Israel being given money by US Zionists and Pro Zionist organizations, to then *control* America (sic), Hedges might better be concerned with what Leo Zhao (100 Years of Anti Communism) describes here…

“Much of this legacy of mind-boggling corporeal violence, and the just as brutal history of economic strangulation and political coercion, other than a few episodes too big to hide, is brushed aside and ignored in mainstream Western narratives { } Even more concealed, disguised, and obscured than the process of physical and material onslaught are the innumerable and never ending operations in the war for hearts and minds. Even more hidden from public view are the myriad of disinformation campaigns; the countless counterfeit radio-stations; the labyrinthine global media networks (such as the “Radio Free…” networks, with tentacles deep in every continent); the CIA and Pentagon deals with Hollywood studios; the hordes of “independent” think-tanks publishing blatant lies under the flags of “liberty” and “human rights”. All of this comprising an elaborate global propaganda structure, with mutual support between its various branches, quoting and verifying each other. The red-scare content generated, which pushes imperialist agendas, normalises bourgeois ideology, valorises capitalism, and vilifies socialism, then finds its way into text books, taught in academies largely purged of leftist professors save for some tokens.”

Israel is not “dragging” the U.S. war.

“Today I will once more be a prophet: if the international Jewish financiers in and outside Europe should succeed in plunging the nations once more into a world war, then the result will not be the Bolshivization of the earth, and thus the victory of Jewry, but the annihilation of the Jewish race in Europe.”

– Adolf Hitler (Speech to Reichstag, 30 January, 1939)

In other words, this is the epoch of immense and towering propaganda. And the first target of Western propaganda for over half a century has been communism. And today, the media outlets are in the hands of ever fewer people and organizations. An article here, from 2016 but only now translated, is worth reading if you wonder at all about this.

Antisemitism is tied directly to anticommunism. And left anticommunism is increasingly an acceptable position that is tied directly to normalizing and restoring the legitimacy of fascism.

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John Steppling is an original founding member of the Padua Hills Playwrights Festival, a two-time NEA recipient, Rockefeller Fellow in theatre, and PEN-West winner for playwriting. Plays produced in LA, NYC, SF, Louisville, and at universities across the US, as well in Warsaw, Lodz, Paris, London and Krakow. Taught screenwriting and curated the cinematheque for five years at the Polish National Film School in Lodz, Poland. A collection of plays, Sea of Cortez & Other Plays was published in 1999, and his book on aesthetics, Aesthetic Resistance and Dis-Interest was published by Mimesis International in 2016.

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