A Terrible Blogger is Born!

May 6, 2009

The shell game of democracy or, now the glove is off the other fist

All these men who work the land
should evaluate themselves and make a stand.
Can’t they see beyond the rhetoric?
The lies and promises that don’t mean shit?
And all the men who learned to hate them?

They keep themselves hidden away.
They keep themselves upon the hill.
Afraid of the day they’ll have to pay
for all the crimes upon their head
and all the men who learned to hate them.

The Minutemen, “Themselves”

Do you oppose the Federal Reserve? Support states rights? Hate the income tax? Support the right to bear arms? Know the Constitution better than our rulers? You are a likely suspect of a hate crime. You are in the same class as violent racists and terrorists.
Anthony Gregory

Okay, so this post has been knocking around my brain for about a month now, so it’s not quite so timely, but I’ve gotta get it off my chest. Around the time of the Tea Parties I noticed something deeply troubling. Of course their was the usual right-wing craziness about it all. The consensus among the libertarian sources I respect most was that they were hypocritical, muddled, and possibly staged by dark forces of the neocon Right like Fox News so on. For excellent critiques of the Tea Parties see here, here , and here. But what was perhaps worse than the Tea Parties were the liberal response to them.

Actually, I’d better go even further back to when the AIG bonuses were the big story. One day I watched both The Daily Show and The Colbert Report (and really, where better to gauge mainstream liberal opinion?). Each had a story about the popular reaction to the bonuses which featured jokes depicting angry mobs with pitchforks and so on. Now, I’m pretty sure both Stewart and Colbert were opposed to the bailouts and taxpayer-funding of executive bonuses. But god forbid the dirty rabble or the conservatives in Congress which represent them get upset about it! Around the same time I was listening to a commentary on The Economist podcast which was critical of the bonuses but disturbed about the rising tide of populism, which could be bad for Business as Usual in America. So apparently the practices of State Capitalism are bad, but populism of any kind is far worse. The plebeians simply must not be allowed to directly express their resentment about how they are used by the system: that’s the job of the Patrician Liberals to do for them! Of course, the problem with this “populism” is that the people were not upset about the Government robbing them per se, only that their money must go to corporate executives. “Hey, I don’t mind you sticking me up, but does that guy really have to hold the bag?”

Democracy, it would appear, is going along with whatever plan the bureaucrats and plutocrats have decided upon together. Which brings us to this clip from The Daily Show back in April.

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart M – Th 11p / 10c
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Daily Show
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Now, of course the Right is deeply hypocritical for calling Obama a fascist when they have for eight straight years supported a more lawless government than we have ever had. But does that necessarily mean that the tyranny they are now complaining of is entirely a chimera? After all, the respected civil-libertarian Salon.com blogger Glenn Greenwald has been documenting how many of Obama’s policies are actually worse than the ones liberals complained of under Bush, particularly his invocation of State Secrets to throw cases against the government out of court. And that list of actions Bush took to expand government power- deficit spending, expansion of entitlement programs, federal control over schools, foreign invasions under democratic and humanitarian rubrics (yes, I know that the “liberation of Iraq” is total bullshit, but many on the Right seem to genuinely believe it, and the same critiques can be and have been leveled against Clinton’s foreign adventures): are these not all traditionally on the liberal agenda? And if conservatives are hypocrites for embracing them when their guy does it, what does that make you for rejecting them when a conservative does? As for the mandatory service programs that the Minnesota senator warns about, I seem to recall a cover story (I’ve been trying to find it, but I can remember whether it was Time or Newsweek) from last year where every single candidate for president (not Ron Paul of course, but I think this was before the Paul phenomena really took off), Democrat or Republican, supported the idea of something similar to that. The Franklin D. Roosevelt wing of the Democrats and the Theodore Roosevelt wing of the Republicans all love this sort of kinder gentler Prussianism. So while it’s fairly typical of the Right-wing lunatic fringe to present such plans as if they were a fait accompli of which they have somehow obtained secret knowledge, it’s clearly not outside the realm of possibility. And as for the “re-education” quip, well, we already have places “where young people go to get trained in a philosophy that the government puts forward”: they’re called public school, and not only are they designed to inculcate patriotic government-worship, but what actual learning goes on them is so abysmally inadequate that they are the very reason “he’d have to educate them first”.

Then Stewart puts forth the notion which really lights my fuckin’ fuse and causes me to wax apoplectic. To wit: in a democracy, losing your liberties and being mulcted to fund projects of which you morally disapprove is not tyranny, it’s just “losing”, so shut up and take it. Well, do you think Stewart will have the consistency and conviction to tell that to the opponents of California’s Proposition 8? To ask the question is to answer it. The fact is that now the liberals get to be the ones to say “love it or leave it”, and they’re glorying in the fact. This is revenge, mutherfuckas! The central question in politics, according to Lenin, was “Who, Whom?”, or who does what to whom. It certainly seems to be the main concern of two-party democracy. If the other guy wins, just bide your time and prepare to give some back: that’s freedom! (Will Grigg has an excellent article on this aspect on the conservative side called “Limbaugh Leninism“.) But what if your point of view isn’t represented by either party? Blank Out, as Ayn Rand used to say. Even Bush’s whole slate of abuses of the constitution Stewart refuses to call tyranny. “That’s not tyranny, it’s democracy.” I can’t help but notice, John that you include the invasion of Iraq on the list, and while I’m sure you mean that it wasn’t tyranny for U.S. citizens, you might want to think about whether the Iraqi’s find it to be tyranny or democracy. They didn’t get a chance to vote on it, after all. But then, neither did we. I picture U.S. helicopters dropping flyers on Basra and Fallujah saying “This is not tyranny, it is democracy- John Stewart”. Get the point? Well, what do you expect from the guy who made a bold stand by calling Harry Truman a war criminal and then apologized and took it all back.

And then the Tea Parties happened, and it was suddenly 1996 all over again. Which brings us to this asshole.

First of all Bill, the Right is far more dangerous in power, you idiot! Would you rather have Hitler in power, or out of it? Stalin in power, or out of it? I understand the point you’re trying to make is that it is losing power that stirs up the resentment and hate which makes the Right dangerous, but that only reinforces my point about why it is so bad to make politics a matter of “who/whom”. And second, no it was not “this kind of talk that made Tim McVeigh blow up that building”. For years after 9/11 Bill Maher had been saying on his show that if we were to make any kind of monument commemorating the tragedy, we ought to have a “why they hate us” wing, because it is important to understand this in order to know how to deal with- and more importantly, how not to deal with- the Muslim world and thus prevent future attacks. But apparently Maher shows no such concerns or curiosity about Clinton’s 9/11, the Oklahoma City bombing, and our own homegrown Bin Laden, Timothy McVeigh. Otherwise he would know that McVeigh first became embittered with his government by serving as a soldier in the first Gulf War (which also led to American bases in Saudi Arabia, and thus Bin Laden’s declaration of jihad against the U.S.), and then became convinced by the incidents at Ruby Ridge and Waco in the early 1990’s that the American Government was at war with it’s own people. Following the example of Truman, he decided that in such a state of war, collateral damage and innocent casualties were inevitable. McVeigh’s own psychiatrist, John Smith, stated that “I have always said to myself that if there had not been a Waco, there would not have been an Oklahoma City”. Understanding this is just as imperative as understanding the years of foreign intervention that led to Bin Laden and 9/11, and it does not in any way indicate an excuse for mass murder. But someone (a liberal, no less) who has taken it upon himself to understand McVeigh is Gore Vidal, whose short 2002 book Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace: How We Got to Be So Hated (there it is, Bill, read it and weep) I have just finished. The liberal Democrat is inclined to dismiss Waco out of hand, just as the conservative Republican is wont to plug his ears at to the attempt to explain anything which might show 9/11 as something other than the inscrutable and sudden act of Evil Personified. Both do so at our national peril. Vidal writes,

. . . the truth-seeker should concentrate on the various elements that led up to the federal massacre at Waco on the ground that whatever the Federal government does it does in the name of all of us. What McVeigh did he did on his own reasons well worth understanding since he appears to represent, in many ways, millions of heartland Americans.

It is not within the scope of this post to analyze the political dynamics of Waco, Ruby Ridge, Oklahoma City, and their aftermath, nor the bipartisan police state, imperialism, and fascist economic system that I also believe is in the making in this country. But I think an honest appraisal of what lies behind the militia movement of the 90’s and the far more Tea Parties now will reveal, not a motiveless expression of “hate” (though there is inevitably some of that as well) but a class of “heartland Americans” who believe correctly that the government is exercising power against them and over them (not that they are the only group to experience this, of course- under the “who/whom” democratic shell game we all get our turn) and that they increasingly have no control (to use the language of the old New Left) over the decisions which affect their lives.

I cannot put it any clearer than Will Norman Grigg (who has documented the link between Obama’s “progressive” head of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano and the loathsome Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio- it seems that Obama is following the Clintonian tradition of playing the good cop by putting all the bad cops in your cabinet, such as Clinton’s Drug Czar Barry McCaffrey) has:

There is something of a dialectic at work in the consolidation of the Homeland Security apparatus. During the Clinton era, the embryonic Homeland Security Department focused most of its attention on “home-grown” extremists; this had the useful effect of provoking conservative concerns about due process, the Bill of Rights, and abuses of government power.

During Duhbya’s reign, the focus has been on the dreaded “other” — particularly Muslims and dusky-skinned immigrants from south of the border. This catalyzed resistance among left-leaning civil liberties groups, even as most of the conservative movement embraced many of the same measures they found intolerable under Clinton.

Now, in the name of bipartisanship and national unity under the rule of the Sainted One, even His Holiness Barack Obama, we’re likely to see a synthesis of the worst elements from both the Bush and Clinton eras.

By the way, the State of Missouri issued a report on how to spot subversive “militia members”, which includes such anti-American activites such as supporting a third party (endangers the bipartisan “who/whom” revolving door of oppression) and displaying a “Don’t Tread on Me” flag or sticker. Looks like I’m a terrorist! The report includes the obligatory pop-psychosocializing: “Academics contend that female and minority empowerment in the 1970’s and 1960’s caused a blow to white male’s sense of empowerment.” (It also weirdly blames Tom Clancy novels, which fetishize military technology and have CIA agent Jack Ryan as their hero. Very often dastardly Middle Easterners are their villains, as in the book but not the PC movie version of The Sum of All Fears, but in Patriot Games the bad guys are the IRA, a group widely admired by militia-types. Not that militarism and libertarian or populist sentiments can’t be combined- Robert Heinlen springs to mind- but I can’t picture Tim McVeigh as a Clancy fan.) To be sure American masculinity has suffered some displacement, but this neat explanation glosses over some of the deeper and more complex (not to mention justified) roots of the militia movement and other aspects of anti-government populism, and conveniently ignores the fact that “white male” still makes up a majority of the Power Elite in America, and the fact that many of us Don’t Tread on Me types are feminists and anti-racists (though admittedly not enough). Even McVeigh, it must be noted, was not a white supremacist. His concern was entirely about government power, just as Bin Laden, while undoubtedly a devout Muslim, is concerned primarily about American foreign policy rather than religion. White Supremacy and Islamofascism are mostly red herrings.

It was just pure insanity . . . From the standpoint of rational politics and organization we were out of our minds. On the other hand, as a response to what was going on in Vietnam, it was a response of total outrage. . . . At the time it didn’t seem like we were having any impact at all, and it was a gesture of total frustration, which was to go bananas, and as such was a very sane response. So even though it was totally crazy as a political act, history can’t, doesn’t, hasn’t condemned it.
-Cathy Wilkerson, former Weather Underground member

P.S.- If anyone is interested in understanding Waco, there are many books on the subject but to my mind you cannot do better than the documentary film Waco: the Rules of Engagement, which patiently and cogently lays out the case that the government’s law enforcement agencies were entirely responsible for the biggest civilian massacre since Wounded Knee. It’s available on Netflix, and you can read Roger Ebert’s positive review here.



  1. […] The Shell Game of Democracy by Ray Mangum […]

    Pingback by Attack the System » Blog Archive » Updated News Digest May 17, 2009 — May 16, 2009 @ 5:53 pm | Reply

  2. […] War for Perpetual Peace: How We Got To be So Hated by Gore Vidal- I touched on the book in this post back in May. In a saner world, Vidal would have a Nobel Peace Prize, and Barack Obama would be just […]

    Pingback by Another Year of Terrible Blogging « A Terrible Blogger is Born! — January 6, 2010 @ 2:08 am | Reply

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