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Where do elite priorities lie? Follow the coverage.
“Q: Moving on, has the media changed landscape since you wrote ‘Manufacturing Consent’ in 1989? Is the media manufacturing consent now?
A: Well, we didn’t actually say that media is manufacturing consent; we said that -that is what they are trying to do. We discussed the nature of the media. There’s a separate question – to what extent is it effective? And that’s an interesting question, but we didn’t discuss it. They’re still doing it in the same way. In fact, dramatically. Take November 8, two things of critical significance happened on November 8. One of them was massively reported, the other, which was much more important, received no report – that was the Marrakesh Conference of two hundred countries that tried to implement the Paris programmes to try to save the human species from destruction. That’s a lot more important than what happened in the US election. And, in fact, it was undermined by the US election. What happened in Morocco is astounding if you look at it; one country was leading the way to try to save civilization from self-destruction. One country was way behind, trying to lead the way towards self-destruction, the first was China the second was the United States. That is a remarkable spectacle. Did you see a comment on it?
Class based analysis of the system is what is required in order to raise consciousness so the work can be done to change the ground rules that are making a hot mess of things .
“A now-retired colleague of Marxist persuasion once remarked on what he saw as a telling omission on the part of many academics who study inequality. He observed that while everyone agrees that racism and sexism are wrong and should be eradicated, few people make the same argument about class. “Why is it imperative to oppose racism and sexism,” he asked, “and not class?” Between us, it was mostly a rhetorical question. We knew that the answer had to do with academics’ class privilege and need to embrace an ideology of meritocracy to justify that privilege. To call class into question would be to question not just a system of inequality but our own deservingness.
While social scientists certainly haven’t ignored class, the attention we’ve paid to it usually takes one of two forms: using class as a variable to predict the attitudes or behaviors of individuals; or studying the lives of people in certain class categories (e.g., ethnographic studies of working-class communities). Such studies can be useful for showing how people experience and are affected by their class locations. What’s typically missing, however, is analysis of how the class system works—how it is used by those who control the means of production and administration—to generate and maintain the inequalities that shape people’s lives.
Part of the problem is that some of the conceptual language useful for unpacking these matters has been stigmatized. The language exists but using it carries a high risk of being dismissed as an ideologue. To speak of a growing gap between productivity and wages over the last thirty years is acceptable. To speak of wage stagnation as a partial result of declining union membership is okay. To speak of ever more wealth accruing to the richest 1% is now within respectable bounds. But to speak of an increasing rate of expropriation enabled by capitalist victories in the class struggle is to invite trouble. Or invisibility.
This is not just a matter of how class is talked about in academic circles. How we study, talk about, and write about class has wider consequences. Focusing solely on diversity, inclusion, privilege, and mobility means having little to contribute when it comes to challenging capitalist power, advancing working-class interests, or transforming capitalism as a whole. It means, in effect, accepting a soft ringside seat.”
by Michael Schwalbe (writing in Counterpunch).
Take a look at what’s going on, look at the article. Should we be worried? You tell me.
“Resisting the monopolies on left theory by Marxism and on democratic theory by liberalism, Wolin developed a distinctive—even distinctively American—analysis of the political present and of radical democratic possibilities. He was especially prescient in theorizing the heavy statism forging what we now call neoliberalism, and in revealing the novel fusions of economic with political power that he took to be poisoning democracy at its root.”
Wolin throughout his scholarship charted the devolution of American democracy and in his last book, “Democracy Incorporated,” details our peculiar form of corporate totalitarianism. “One cannot point to any national institution[s] that can accurately be described as democratic,” he writes in that book, “surely not in the highly managed, money-saturated elections, the lobby-infested Congress, the imperial presidency, the class-biased judicial and penal system, or, least of all, the media.”
Inverted totalitarianism is different from classical forms of totalitarianism. It does not find its expression in a demagogue or charismatic leader but in the faceless anonymity of the corporate state. Our inverted totalitarianism pays outward fealty to the facade of electoral politics, the Constitution, civil liberties, freedom of the press, the independence of the judiciary, and the iconography, traditions and language of American patriotism, but it has effectively seized all of the mechanisms of power to render the citizen impotent.
“Unlike the Nazis, who made life uncertain for the wealthy and privileged while providing social programs for the working class and poor, inverted totalitarianism exploits the poor, reducing or weakening health programs and social services, regimenting mass education for an insecure workforce threatened by the importation of low-wage workers,” Wolin writes. “Employment in a high-tech, volatile, and globalized economy is normally as precarious as during an old-fashioned depression. The result is that citizenship, or what remains of it, is practiced amidst a continuing state of worry. Hobbes had it right: when citizens are insecure and at the same time driven by competitive aspirations, they yearn for political stability rather than civic engagement, protection rather than political involvement.”
Inverted totalitarianism, Wolin said when we met at his home in Salem, Ore., in 2014 to film a nearly three-hour interview, constantly “projects power upwards.” It is “the antithesis of constitutional power.” It is designed to create instability to keep a citizenry off balance and passive.
He writes, “Downsizing, reorganization, bubbles bursting, unions busted, quickly outdated skills, and transfer of jobs abroad create not just fear but an economy of fear, a system of control whose power feeds on uncertainty, yet a system that, according to its analysts, is eminently rational.”
Inverted totalitarianism also “perpetuates politics all the time,” Wolin said when we spoke, “but a politics that is not political.” The endless and extravagant election cycles, he said, are an example of politics without politics.
“Instead of participating in power,” he writes, “the virtual citizen is invited to have ‘opinions’: measurable responses to questions predesigned to elicit them.”
Political campaigns rarely discuss substantive issues. They center on manufactured political personalities, empty rhetoric, sophisticated public relations, slick advertising, propaganda and the constant use of focus groups and opinion polls to loop back to voters what they want to hear. Money has effectively replaced the vote. Every current presidential candidate—including Bernie Sanders—understands, to use Wolin’s words, that “the subject of empire is taboo in electoral debates.” The citizen is irrelevant. He or she is nothing more than a spectator, allowed to vote and then forgotten once the carnival of elections ends and corporations and their lobbyists get back to the business of ruling.
“If the main purpose of elections is to serve up pliant legislators for lobbyists to shape, such a system deserves to be called ‘misrepresentative or clientry government,’ ” Wolin writes. “It is, at one and the same time, a powerful contributing factor to the depoliticization of the citizenry, as well as reason for characterizing the system as one of antidemocracy.”
The result, he writes, is that the public is “denied the use of state power.” Wolin deplores the trivialization of political discourse, a tactic used to leave the public fragmented, antagonistic and emotionally charged while leaving corporate power and empire unchallenged.
“Cultural wars might seem an indication of strong political involvements,” he writes. “Actually they are a substitute. The notoriety they receive from the media and from politicians eager to take firm stands on nonsubstantive issues serves to distract attention and contribute to a cant politics of the inconsequential.”
“The ruling groups can now operate on the assumption that they don’t need the traditional notion of something called a public in the broad sense of a coherent whole,” he said in our meeting. “They now have the tools to deal with the very disparities and differences that they have themselves helped to create. It’s a game in which you manage to undermine the cohesiveness that the public requires if they [the public] are to be politically effective. And at the same time, you create these different, distinct groups that inevitably find themselves in tension or at odds or in competition with other groups, so that it becomes more of a melee than it does become a way of fashioning majorities.”
Can we draw parallels between the political experience of Du Bois and our present time? The situation the Du Bois describes can easily be translated into a commentary of what is happening in 2016 – the message is clear – reputable people cannot abandon the political realm despite what the chattering classes say, as it each citizen’s duty to take part in the political process and attempt to make things better not only for themselves, but for the following generations.
Our democracy has been moving further and further away from the participatory citizen model that we like to claim we have. Interests that do not represent the common people strive to gerrymander our democracy to suit their narrow band of self-aggrandizing goals.
“Meantime, new thoughts came to the nation:the inevitable period of moral retrogression and political trickery that ever follows in the wake of war overtook us. So flagrant became the political scandals that reputable men began to leave politics alone, and politics consequently became disreputable. Men began to pride themselves on having nothing to do with their own government, and to agree tacitly with those who regarded public office as a private perquisite. In this state of mind it became easy to wink at the suppression of the Negro vote in the South, and to advise self-respecting Negroes to leave politics entirely alone. The decent and reputable citizens of the North who neglected their own civic duties grew hilarious over the exaggerated importance with which the Negro regarded the franchise.
Thus it easily happened that more and more the better class of Negroes followed the advice from abroad and the pressure from home, and took no further interest in politics, leaving to the careless and the venal of their race the exercise of their rights as voters. The black vote that still remained was not trained and educated, but further debauched by open and unblushing bribery, or force and fraud; until the Negro voter was thoroughly inoculated with the idea that politics was a method of private gain by disreputable means.
And finally, now, to-day, when we are awakening to the fact that the perpetuity of republican institutions on the continent depends on the purification of the ballot, the civic training of voters, and the raising of voting to the plane of solemn duty which a patriotic citizen neglects to his peril and to the peril of his children’s children, – in this day, when we are striving for a renaissance of civic virtue, what are we going to say to the black voter of the South? Are we gong to tell him still that politics is a disreputable and useless form of human activity? Are we going to induce the best class of Negroes to take less and less interest in government, and give up their right to take such an interest, without a protest? I am not saying a word against all legitimate efforts to purge the ballot of ignorance, pauperism, and crime. But few have pretended that the present movement for disfranchisement in the South is for such a purpose; it has been plainly and frankly declared in nearly every case that the object of the disfranchising laws is the elimination of the black man from politics.”
-W.E.B. Du Bois. The Souls of Black Folk p.105 – 106.