EDITED AND HOSTED BY THE GREANVILLE POST
Veins have been opened on the American streets. So have eyes.
Somewhere in his almost mythical life of note-taking, masterpiece-making genius, Leonardo da Vinci made an offhand remark that, like so many others, contained a spark of insight. He said that there are three kinds of men: those who see, those who see when shown, and those who do not see. It seems to be this last kind that are least worthy, but most likely, to attain positions of power in our government. And those who, lacking legitimacy in power, will nevertheless be ousted from power only when more people see, or see when shown.
Underlying Causes & The Year of Protest
Before the uprising in late May, it wouldn't have been a stretch to refer to 2019 as the Year of Protest. Millions marched and voiced a sometimes-violent displeasure in Hong Kong*, China, India, Iraq, Lebanon, Iran, Catalonia, Britain, France, the U.S., Ecuador, Chile, Brazil, Bolivia, Honduras, and Haiti, among others. Times are hard for the working class. The brittle nerves of the Davos set are on edge.
After the 2008 mortgage meltdown, the United States Federal Reserve spent 29 trillion dollars propping up Wall Street banks that were effectively insolvent. A pittance was paid to Main Street, where 10 million homeowners foreclosed. Since then, financial leveraging in derivatives has exploded. The rampant securitization of bad debt has continued unchecked. While price-to-earnings ratios express the unproductive state of the Fortune 500, the multinationals depend more than ever on the largesse of the Fed, an open spigot of cheap money that is quickly repurposed into stock buybacks and high-return loans. This funnel of free cash was turned on the repo market at the end of 2019, a forbidding sign of renewed instability.
As the economy sputters, the population grows increasingly restive, having elected a vicious casino mogul to the presidency. His brief but ham-fisted attempts to foreclose imperial wars and penchant for mocking the mainstream media that rationalizes those wars for the public, has frightened the establishment elite, the infamous one percent. Something must be done before the global liberal world order loses all credibility, before the momentum of U.S. efforts at hegemony stall, before the economy implodes from the weight of its debt and its outsized risk, and before rebellion becomes the byword of the century.
The Covid19 pandemic provided the kind of crisis during which elite kingpins shore up their power. The entire population is driven into effective house arrest, called "shelter in place." The lockdown is economically devastating, throwing an unprecedented 40 million Americans into the unemployment queues, the machinery of which instantly falters when burdened with increased responsibility. The responses of the government mirror those of 2009: massive cash flows to Fortune 500s and stinting relief for Main Street.
Frustration builds, both with the mental health impact of the quarantine, the exasperating federal response, the specter of an onerous global health regime driven by Big Pharma and Big Philanthropy, and the deteriorating economic prospects of the population. Finally, two events supply the spark that generates an historic uprising: the on-camera murder of American George Floyd by suffocation, and the histrionic race-laced response of a white dog walker to a request from a black man to leash her pet. The delicate balance of vexation and toleration spills over into public protest, violence, and confrontation.
Protests swiftly emerge in 30 cities across the country, like a coordinated mass action surging up through the collective subconscious of the country. For the first time in recent memory, social media shows police in retreat. Precincts are attacked, set on fire, and burned down. Police flee the scene. Big box retail is looted and burned. Media outlets are attacked. Millions more march and sit, peacefully protesting the savagery of a flexing police state. This vocal but ignored majority is unuseful to the Trump administration because its behavior does not provide a pretext for harsh reprisals.
Corporate Media Misdirection
The media is ablaze with conspiracy and conjecture. Half-baked formulaic analyses. Liberals blame the riots on white supremacists. Conservatives blame antifa thugs. Quick to capitalize, Trump vows to declare antifa a terrorist organization, though it hasn’t any formal infrastructure. He is Bush declaring war on a tactic. Republicans decry the violence but promise violence in reply. The president croons, "When the looting starts, the shooting starts." The National Guard is summoned. The military is put on alert. The Insurrection Act is brandished.
The president’s reelection campaign then releases an ad claiming that Joe Biden destroyed “millions” of black American lives with the 1994 Omnibus Crime Bill, where the erstwhile Senator is seen declaring, with the brash arrogance that typified his Congressional tenure, “We do everything but hang people for jaywalking in this bill.” As the ad courses through the national consciousness, Biden lurks in his basement, a man overwhelmed by his historic moment.
Liberal media including CNN, MSNBC, and the Times seek to blame Russia for the protests. Former Obama official Susan Rice rehearses the wearisome trope that the protests are efforts to ‘divide’ the American public and “are straight out of the Russia playbook.” Another tone-deaf class-based insult from a millionaire white-collar bourgeoisie.
With media narratives collapsing, the feckless carnival of discredited politicians, for want of instruction, trot out the same bland bromides they’ve been rehearsing for decades, hoping to catch the wave of a movement for justice that has long left them behind.
Biden issues one threadbare platitude after another. His vague summons are incoherent. His abject calls for action are met with derision. The cultural and class-based fissures in the country are laid bare. Amy Klobuchar, who refrained from prosecuting any of the corrupt police under her watch in Minnesota, announces that the arrest of Derek Chauvin(ist), who murdered Floyd, is the "first step towards justice."
Could these careerist millionaires be any more tone deaf? Could Klobuchar not see that we no longer believe in the euphemism called "the justice system," or that a killer’s arrest by an institution built on racism, shaped by class, and beholden to elitism, instills no confidence? Has Biden not recognized there is no legitimacy in a party that cheated its best representative of the people out of a nomination, twice, in order to salvage the wishes of its donor class? Has neither seen that there is no legitimacy in a government that commits war crimes abroad, and barbarism at home?
They know better. They most likely understand, for instance, that the national security state has long since taken the upper hand in the steady state's power-sharing arrangements, despite the legislative, judicial, and executive bluster. But to bear witness to this reality would be to concede their own lawless grip on power. Whether the population fully sees the extent of their government’s betrayal is debatable. But they certainly see the racist oppression. The people are restive, unruly, exhausted, and increasingly dismissive of even the most jingoistic refrains from leaders like Barack Obama or Bill Clinton, let alone the callous malice of men like Bush or Trump. And so they rebel, peacefully, but angrily. Then, sometimes on their own, sometimes thanks to agents provocateurs, they burn, taunt, and riot. But they also chant, pray, march, cry, scream, and die, as the staggering weight of the state descends upon them.
And yet what options do Americans, or westerners in general, have aside from rebellion? As the activist Larken Rose has usefully observed, “The truth is, one who seeks to achieve freedom by petitioning those in power to give it to him has already failed, regardless of the response. To beg for the blessing of ‘authority’ is to accept that the choice is the master’s alone to make, which means that the person is already, by definition, a slave.”
This was the fatal blunder, the bungled gaffe of Bernie Sanders. To continually petition an openly criminal power system to grant one’s requests. Which by definition were designed to dismantle the very systemic power it petitioned. It is this fundamental naivete, and most likely a deliberate ignorance, that plagues all liberals, even those as forward-thinking as Sanders. To say, “I didn’t know,” is plausible deniability. One can then feasible keep one’s integrity intact. At least in the public eye, if not in one’s soul. Now, in the street, we are witnessing an underclass flexing its shoulders, attempting to shake off the manacles of that system. Yet this class, proletarian, bruised, abused, resigned, unrepentant, faithless, sullen, and irate, petitions no one. It is imposing itself in unpredictable ways on its immediate environment, an expression of fury regardless of its outcome. With such a diffuse target, lives of its own are inevitably wrecked, even as it hits more intentional targets--police precincts, corporate retail chains, global banks, and corporate media.
The responses from the Hill are feckless. The media report the killings in disembodied terms. He died in police custody. She lost her life while under arrest. Agency is removed from the perpetrator. It is foisted upon the fatality. Affixed to the casualty. A grammarian sleight of hand. An artful dodge. Meanwhile, precincts burn. Cop cars are vandalized. Store owners kicked in the teeth. Kids maced. Women shoved down. Journalists shot with rubber bullets. Homeowners pelted on their stoops. Windows smashed. Some by infiltrators. Some by blacks. Some by whites. Some by blacks paid by whites. Curfews are imposed on cities already in lockdown. The chaos never gets completely unwound. It is like the fog of war: an enigma of cross-purposes.
Both serve the same ends with discrepant narratives. The blacks rise against multi-generational racist and class oppression. Whites hijack the protest. Liberals piggyback and make it about Trump and foreign interference. Conservatives make it about antifa and terrorism. Infiltrators jump in and make it about rioting. Liberals have been selling white supremacy for four years. Conservatives have been selling radical socialist infiltration. Both camps stoke fear. The Goering gambit never fails. Make them afraid. Tell them they are under attack from some terrible foreign enemy. Communism. Terrorism. Chinese plagues. Populations tend to submit when there’s a rabid threat shaking the gates of our liberal Arcadia.
It is misdirection. Take legitimate anger and redirect it toward easy targets: socialists who want to take your money; suicidal jihadists who want to blow you up; pathogens that want to asphyxiate your loved ones; inscrutable foreigners who want to destroy your freedoms; white supremacists that want to exterminate all other ethnicities. Find a small but fearful threat and magnify it until the entire populace is quivering with fear. Whatever you do, do not reveal the real problem, which is the class war of elitism against populism. The plutocrats are winning. They own the state, the media, and the police. Their credo is simple: use what works. Occupy correctly identified the problem. Which is why they were swiftly, violently, and brutally extinguished as a movement.
Covering the assault on journalists, the Times quotes a free speech activist who said, “Journalists are there as representatives of the public...” This falseness of this statement lays it plain. Media is supposed to represent the people but represents a fascist corporate plutocracy. Politicians are supposed to represent the people but represent a fascist corporate plutocracy. Police are supposed to protect the public but protect a fascist corporate plutocracy. American democracy is a cipher, replete with the trimmings of republicanism but empty at its core. As long as liberals have done well by the fascist corporate parasite devouring its insides, they were content to play along, mouthing mindless maxims of sympathy and solidarity. Civic celebrities all.
Now that the husk has collapsed in on itself, they call frightfully for a return to order, mourning the loss of control more than the loss of life. But their call comes too late. Their savior is a bewildered segregationist in cognitive decline. They snuffed out the last gasp of life in their party when they sidelined Sanders. In favor of a champion of incarceration with a CV of sexual predation. When parliamentary democracies fail, they do so because the liberal class dies. They abandon their duty to moderate the system, and then it is too late to repair the damage. Nor, sadly, do they even understand what they’ve done. And now that a pandemic and nationwide protests have happened on Trump’s watch, they will be even more convinced of their piety.
White Liberal Supremacy
Martin Luther King warned about the white liberal. He said the “great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not...the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate...who is more devoted to ‘order’ than justice.” He added that, “Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will.” This is the modern Democrat. Whites posing as liberals to get the black vote. That’s Biden. Rather than dismantle the system of oppression, he’ll shoot you in the leg rather than the heart, because the lesser harm is the better harm.
But the trick is tired. The underclass can no longer subsist on the crumbs of incrementalism. Blood boils when they hear that underlying message, communicated in so many euphemisms: Be patient, work within the system to achieve incremental change. Take a deep breath and settle your nerves. Change will happen, because we know the moral arc of the universe is long but bends toward justice, a quote we learned from a man who was slaughtered for asking for too much too soon.
When Cornel West called Obama Wall Street’s “black mascot,” he was echoing Malcolm X who said white liberals “endorse, sanction, and subsidize” black puppets to betray black causes. But now the population sees through the ruse, the artful con of running minority puppets and liberal poseurs to front for elite interests. Now we face an election between a hack who pretends to befriend the poor, and a narcissist who openly loathes them. Isn’t the former the greater threat? He’ll fool many, but not all. The latter will fool none but a few.
A Coming Color Revolution?
From a non-corporate point-of-view, the military-intelligence community has already attempted to compromise Trump’s electoral prospects through spying and kompromat. That failed. Then it attempted what had been trialed in Brazil, namely a constitutional coup, known by the euphemism, “impeachment”. That failed. Then it helped launch a global pandemic that would, it was thought, fatally compromise Trump’s re-election chances. That has largely failed. What’s left? There is one option.
The question that remains is whether the military-intelligence steady state will hijack the protests and turn them into a color revolution. Lots of media encouragement for the protests, which is unusual. We’ve seen infiltrators stimulating riots and looting. In this scenario, the goal would be to bait the president into a vicious crackdown. That would de-legitimize him. Then they’d remove him. He has no loyalty in the armed forces. The establishment doesn’t want another four years. Biden is a seriously flawed candidate. From the perspective of the neoliberal elite, if you want to avoid a second term, now is the time to move. Easier now than rigging the election later, given the involvement of Republicans. This is exactly how color revolutions go down. Look at Eastern Europe alone. Ukraine. Bulgaria. Yugoslavia. Romania. Georgia. Poland. Belarus. Kyrgyzstan. Usually the unrest is astroturfed, but this real unrest could be hijacked for that purpose. Half the work is already done. The head of state has been comprehensively demonized per the color revolution playbook. The military is in your pocket. The radical orgs have been penetrated. The media is stoking public fury. All the elements are in place. Washington has brought structural adjustment home. It has brought the police state home. Why not bring home the last fixture of the neoliberal world order: the postmodern coup.
Of course, color revolutions are not revolutionary in any democratic sense, and their most typical color is dark red. They don’t replace the class power structure. It isn’t democratization. It is a drastic means of securing what matters to elite capital: the expansion of markets, low social investment, low taxes, a docile and subservient population, control of foreign policy, valuable state-to-state relationships, favorable balances of power. It would be a momentous fraud. And it may not happen. The silent architects of policy may indeed wait for the ritual extravaganza of late fall, when the institutional pomp of democracy can be hailed for the masses. But it is a possibility, depending on how Trump reacts, and one that tells us something about the nature of the American project and the extremes toward which it has veered as American influence wanes. In that more do not fall into da Vinci’s first category of those who see, it would be a boon to the arbiters of political power if they could hustle our current carnival barker from the stage and replace him, even with an unpredictable geriatric with a penchant for wandering off camera. An avuncular chaperon for the mechanics of neoliberal policy. And most importantly, they hope, a man who would serve as a social narcotic and put an angry and agitated public back to sleep.
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