A Game As Old As Wealth

This post originated at Imagine Democracy. If you follow all the links, it pieces together.

Over at sister-site Government Cheese, a discussion of capitalism, propaganda and how a few wealthy people keep things under control

Capitalism literally means that the people with wealth make the investment decisions for society & get the return on investment, and the broad public don’t.

All the rest is just propaganda. Capitalism has nothing to do with “markets” or “freedom” or any of the rest.

It’s really so simple. It’s how a few people maintain control of society for their own benefit and it’s been this way for thousands of year, under different labels. It’s what a monarchy is. The King and his buddies control the wealth. “WE should have this and you should not and here’s why.”

It’s why the United States was such a breakthrough. WE THE PEOPLE will decide what’s best for us, not you. Government of, by and for THE PEOPLE. Not the elites, the wealthy, the aristocrats, the priesthood, the monarchy, the warlord, whatever label put on the ruling wealthy. A country run for the benefit of the people in the country. Whatever label we put on that – democracy, socialism, whatever.

That’s all. All the rest is just propaganda.

Read Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address in the context of the monarchies of Europe just salivating waiting for “the Union” – the experiment in democracy – fail so they can get the world back where they want it.

Capitalism Parts 1 and 2

This post first appeared at Government Cheese – Chronicling the collapse of democracy.

Capitalism: Maintain a “reserve army of the unemployed” to keep wages low. Keep public services (the things government does to make people’s lives better) and taxes at the top down and keep the people from organizing (democracy) to protect themselves.

Capitalism part 2: As life gets worse, bathe the masses in propaganda and point them at “the other” for blame.

Austerity breeds fascism.

Mirror Propaganda

Since forever I’ve had a category at Seeing the Forest named “The STF Rule.” “When right-wingers are accusing others of something it is usually a cover for something THEY are doing.” Republicans do what they accuse.

I just learned the name for this is “Mirror Propaganda.”

From the UK’S Open Democracy, ‘Anti-trans activists are using ‘mirror propaganda’. Here’s how to spot it‘,

There is a name for this mechanism of power: ‘mirror propaganda’. Mirror propaganda means doing to your enemies what you are falsely accusing them of doing to you.

[…]

The invention of mirror propaganda has been attributed to Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels, and so far the earliest identified deployments of it are by Goebbels and Himmler in 1940s Germany, targeting Jewish people.

More recently, Alison Des Forges and Jean-Pierre Cretien identified mirror propaganda as a significant factor in the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, when hundreds of thousands of Tutsi men, women and children were killed.

Susan Benesch, director of the Dangerous Speech Project at Harvard University, has also identified mirror propaganda as one of the main techniques for inciting genocide.

Googling around, I see it’s also called “Accusation in a mirror.”

Citing Wikipedia is bad, but there’s this.

Check Yourself For Confirmation Bias

I think we should all be aware that confirmation bias is a real thing.

The US has done terrible things. Bush’s invasion of Iraq was illegal aggressive warfare, with its “run up” of propaganda lies to justify what Bush did. Vietnam, wow … CIA overthrowing elected governments and installing horrific, murderous dictatorships.

And what we did with Russia after the Soviet Union fell led to Putin and the oligarchs running things.

So a lot of us trained ourselves to see through the propaganda lies that come from the DC/military/corporate-rule crowd. There really is no reason to trust anything they say

Now, remember when Russia had troops massed on Ukraine’s border, and many of us saw the US warnings about an impending invasion as the US engaging in another drumbeat for war? A lot of people were talking about this almost as if the US had troops there and was lying about it. Meanwhile Russia was assisting this view by saying they were only conducting exercises and would be pulling back soon, the US was lying to stir things up, etc, etc.

It turned out that was all wrong. Russia really was massing troops for an invasion of Ukraine.

So Be Careful

So let’s be careful and try to apply logic to what we’re seeing instead of looking for things that confirm our own US-centric view of the world. Past performance is not an indicator of future returns. Those were not US troops on Ukraine’s border and the warnings about impending invasion were correct, not US military/industrial propaganda this time. (For once.) This time it wasn’t about US politics or actions at all, even though we are so used to seeing things that way.

For all the past bad acts by Western countries, is it logical to think of NATO as “aggressive” or “expanding” when the countries joining are all applying to join? Is it logical to think of NATO as “threatening” Russia? NATO has not invaded any of these countries to force them in. It is an organization that exists for the member countries to protect each other from aggression by other countries.

And we all know that the West is not going to invade Russia. So where is the logic of thinking of NATO as threatening, or encircling, or expanding? Those are propaganda words, intending to evoke images in the brain instead of logic. Encircling? I mean, look at a map of Russia! Again, no one is going to be sending tanks into Russia. Get real.

Many of the countries -IN- NATO have done terrible things. NATO itself, as an organization, has not. Meanwhile today’s Russia is the kind of country we all despise and fear the US is becoming – a fascist, white nationalist kleptocracy subjecting its people to constant Fox-News-like nonsense distracting the public from reality and justifying how the few at the top are siphoning off all the wealth. Russia has been invading, bombing countries, Syria, Chechnya, Georgia, attacking civilians and destroying their cities. Not NATO.

I’m saying we should look at every situation fresh, and apply logic and reason. Fighting past battles can make us blind to what is happening.

Especially as US/Wall Street domination of the world recedes.

Hypnotizing Us Into The Biggest Slumber Mankind Has Ever Seen

“We live in a kingdom of bullshit.”

Is the climate crisis real? Is Covid real? Is Trump’s coup attempt real? Is inequality real?

Does anyone care about and of these?

Frm Mr. Robot:

Mr. Robot | Christian Slater) "REALITY" Speech Scene (S01E10) from MAKING THE CUT on Vimeo.

Is any of it real? I mean, look at this. Look at it! A world built on fantasy. Synthetic emotions in the form of pills. Psychological warfare in the form of advertising. Mind-altering chemicals in the form of… food! Brainwashing seminars in the form of media. Controlled isolated bubbles in the form of social networks.

Real? You want to talk about reality? We haven’t lived in anything remotely close to it since the turn of the century. We turned it off, took out the batteries, snacked on a bag of GMOs while we tossed the remnants in the ever-expanding Dumpster of the human condition. We live in branded houses trademarked by corporations built on bipolar numbers jumping up and down on digital displays, hypnotizing us into the biggest slumber mankind has ever seen.

You have to dig pretty deep, kiddo, before you can find anything real. We live in a kingdom of bullshit. A kingdom you’ve lived in for far too long. So don’t tell me about not being real. I’m no less real than the fucking beef patty in your Big Mac.

Democrats PLEASE Sell The Soup

New poll: The public overwhelmingly supports Democratic POLICIES, and at the same time Republicans have the biggest lead in the “generic ballot” EVER.

How can that be?

For a while I had a software “evangelist” job where I would go out to small startup companies full of engineers that were developing software products for an operating system, and try to help them become real companies. These “companies” were small groups of programmers who had come up with a product. I’d explain the need for investment capital, a good Board, etc…

But mostly I had to explain marketing.

Engineers always believed that if they made a great product they would do really well. People will flock to their product because it was better. They never, ever understood that people wouldn’t do that. I had to introduce them to the idea that they are not their customers. That the ways people get information are not the ways THEY got information. This was almost impossible to get across to people who in their own lives researched everything about technology and understood what they wanted and how to find it…

One of my formative moments was when I was visiting a software store to see how things were going. I say a guy pick up two competing software products, weighing them in his left and right hands. He bought the heavier one.

Dems really have to learn that the public doesn’t hear a list of product features, they hear the benefits. Sell the soup (h/t Anat), not the ingredients. AND SELL THE SOUP don’t just think people will hear about your soup because it tastes better. And seeing something about it in the NY Times does not mean people in Oklahoma are hearing about it.

The reason Campbell’s dominates supermarket soup shelves is because Campbell’s PAYS stores to put more of their product in front of the customer.

Democrats have for DECADES refused to invest in communication. (Remember the whole thing around creating Air America?) “Conservatives” have put literally billions into communication since the 70’s. They have developed a huge propaganda apparatus. Part of that has been the research, training and hiring that now means the public hears almost no Democratic-supporting voices ANYWHERE.

The Hawley Nonsense “Porn” Interview – A Master Class In Propaganda

You probably think I’m going to mock this. Nope.

Watch this interview. It is a master class in propaganda. What he says was obviously (to me) written in one of their well-funded think tanks. He has obviously rehearsed this. Those of us who mock it just don’t get what the real message is and how effective it is.

As I keep saying, the current Republican fascist appeal all goes back to “NAFTA” – which is the brand name for the neoliberal austerity attack on the middle class, pushed by Wall Street, by all Republicans, and bought into by the “corporate Dems.” (See below)

How can you make these claims?, Hawley is asked. Answer: “If you look at the policy of deindustrialization…

The Virus That Carries the DNA Therapy

The porn nonsense is like the virus that carries the DNA therapy. The virus isn’t the point, the embedded DNA is. The virus is used to move around the body, targeting the right cells, leaving behind the intended therapy.

The “porn” part will be repeated widely because of the outrageous nonsense, but… Then there is this nugget (and a few others like it): “The [Democrat] policy of deindustrialization.” It is slipped in there, as if it is something we all know and agree with. The Dem policy is why you are all suffering, out of work, etc.

The nugget – the real message here – is the things slipped in as taken for granted now that they have your attention.

The REAL message in this is: “Democrats did this to you. We (the fascists) are here to make it all better.”

See the longer interview here: https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=583015609418505

It All Comes Back To NAFTA

“NAFTA” is a brand name for all the neoliberal policies that wiped out the factory towns and turned blue collar workers against Democrats.

The Clinton admin went all-in to get NAFTA passed. The televised 1993 “debate” between Al Gore and Ross Perot over NAFTA is worth revisiting. “Giant sucking sound” of jobs leaving the country – and that’s what happened. (The damage was really more from China entering the WTO, but “NAFTA” is the brand name for all of it.) The “benefits” of free trade were all directed up to a top few. People were threatened with, “Do you want YOUR job moved to China, too? No? Then shut up and take the pay cut.”

And everyone in the Midwest and other “post-industrial” areas that were wiped out understand this.

Obama understood, too. In 2008 he campaigned in the Midwest as the candidate who is going to do something about NAFTA and all the shit that is happening to you.

Blue-collar workers voted for Obama because he campaigned on fixing NAFTA, but then he didn’t. During the campaign there was a scandal that Obama had reassured Canadian leaders that he didn’t mean it. Then, immediately after taking office he went back on renegotiating NAFTA,

The administration has no present plans to reopen negotiations on the North American Free Trade Agreement to add labor and environmental protections, as President Obama vowed to do during his campaign, the top trade official said on Monday.

Then came full-on neoliberalism. Dems did not even bring the promised Employee Free Choice Act, which would have made it easier to organize unions in the workplace, up for a vote. Wall Street was bailed out and instead of removing (and prosecuting) the executives whose fraud caused the financial crisis the bailout funds were used to give bonuses to those executives. Austerity was imposed. The “recoverey” left millions behind, especially in the “deindustrialized” regions.

Then the Obama/Wall Street years clinched the wipeout of the middle class. For millions upon millions things didn’t get better, they got worse. People don’t forget things like that.

So Trump campaigned on getting rid of NAFTA, etc. Add in the right’s propaganda infrastructure )”Republicans are the party of the working class”) and here we are.

PS The Onion has more on this, demonstrating how the virus spreads, so it can implant the DNA. Also it’s hilarious: Josh Hawley Slams Video Games As Threat To American Masculinity After Bullshit Sniper Ends His ‘Battlefield’ Killstreak

Lies vs Democracy

This post first appeared at Imagine Democracy.

Well-funded lies are very effective.

The tobacco companies proved that with well-funded propaganda lies (a.k.a. “marketing”) you can get people to kill themselves while giving you their money.

The firearms industry proved that with well-funded propaganda lies you can convince people to allow kindergarteners to be killed while giving you their money.

Trump proved that well-funded propaganda lies (and media participation) he could convince people to kill democracy while giving him their money.

Now the oil&coal companies are proving that well-funded propaganda lies can get people to kill the planet while giving them their money.

Democracy doesn’t have an advertising agency to counter this stuff. This is why we need a Department of Democracy.

FDR And “Court Packing” – Just One More “Truth” That Isn’t True

A lot of things we “know” about history come from “one side.” For example, we “know” that “protectionism” caused the Great Depression. Except it didn’t.

Who benefits from convincing the public that protecting national interests is bad if it reduces corporate profits? There are so, so many “truths” like that.

Another “Truth”: Court Packing is Bad

Here’s another “truth.” FDR tried to “pack the Supreme Court” and it was very, very bad.

I thought I’d look up what the Supreme Court was actually doing that led to FDR trying to do something to balance the Court, and what happened when he finally did try. Go ahead and try to find answers (the actual truth) to that question. It’s hard to find.

Eventually, if you know the right search terms, you might come across this, at a site called fdr4freedoms. (I’ll be exploring that site further.)

From The New Deal and the Supreme Court,

In 1932 and 1936, Americans enthusiastically embraced FDR’s vision of a federal government ready to use its power to make real improvements in their lives. They voted for him overwhelmingly. With Democratic majorities (augmented by Republican progressives) dominating both houses of Congress, the legislature also resoundingly endorsed FDR’s program of bold experimentation.

… But opponents in business and elsewhere repeatedly sued to block the laws. As these challenges reached the high court in 1935, four justices, with the help of one or two swing votes, began striking down the new laws as unconstitutional.

Summary: FDR worked to save regular people from the suffering caused by the depression. The sensible things he wanted to do were very, very popular. But it threatened corporate profits. The Court struck down FDR’s attempts to use government to help and protect the public.

More specifically,

The court struck down laws securing a minimum wage, maximum work hours, and the right to unionize for workers. It rejected pension programs and child labor restrictions, price codes and farm subsidies.

… “The Constitution grants to Congress no power to regulate for the promotion of the general welfare,” as the majority proclaimed in a 1936 case striking down a minimum wage and other regulation in the coal industry.

The Court said the government has no power to protect the public from anything the rich and corporations do to them! It even ruled that states couldn’t set minimum wages by themselves!

What Happened When FDR Threatened To Add Justices?

FRD proposed a plan to reduce the Court’s workload (badly needed then and even more now) and balance the Court by appointing an additional Supreme Court justice for every sitting justice over the age of seventy.

Result: The Court began to rule for the public! The Court ruled in favor of state minimum wage laws. This was dubbed “the switch in time that saved nine.” Then the Court ruled in favor of the National Labor Relations Act, protecting striking workers. Next it upheld the Security Act’s retirement and unemployment benefits. And then one of the right-wing Justices announced his retirement.

After these reversals, interest in rebalancing and expanding the Court faded.

The “Court Packing” threat WORKED.

FDR proposed rebalancing the Court. Immediately the Court started ruling in the public’s favor. One of the right-wing Justices even retired.

It worked. Threatening to rebalance the court SUCCEEDED! So when you hear that Democrats shouldn’t try to balance the Court today because it was bad when FDR tried to “pack the court,” you’re hearing that because “one side’ has made it a “truth.”

It’s is time to rebalance the Court.