Bulletin N° 601
Subject: ON DIRT, RAW MATERIAL, AND ‘THE RIGHT STUFF’.
“… for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.”
-- Genesis 3:19
“It compels all nations, on pain of extinction,
to adopt the bourgeois mode of production;
it compels them to introduce what it calls
civilization into their midst, i.e., to become
bourgeois themselves. In one word,
it creates a world after its own image.”
-- K. Marx, The Communist Manifesto
“In advanced countries, practice inspires theory;
in the others theory inspires practice.”
--B. Russell, History of Western Philosophy
Dear Colleagues and Friends of CEIMSA,
I came across Daniel Lerner’s book, The Passing of Traditional Society (1958), via a critical reference made by Christopher Simpson in his book, Science of Coercion, Communication Research & Psychological Warfare 1945-1960 (1994). Simpson identified Daniel Lerner as a major contributor to the US Army Psychological Warfare Division after WW II. “Lerner either wrote, edited or contributed to virtually every major collection of essays on psychological warfare published from 1945 to 1980.”(p.130)
Daniel Lerner's 1958 book The Passing of Traditional Society was central in shaping Cold
War–era ideas about the use of mass media and culture to promote social and
economic progress in postcolonial nations. Based on a study of the
effectiveness of propaganda in the Middle East, Lerner’s book claimed that
exposure to American media messages could motivate “traditional” people in the
postcolonial nations to become “modern” by cultivating empathy for American
ideas, goods, and ways of life.
[The] Passing of Traditional Society –a book which today is widely recognized as the foundation of the development theory school of communication studies—is usually remembered as a politically neutral scientific enterprise. In reality, Lerner’s work was conceived and carried out for the specific purpose of advancing U.S. propaganda programs in the Middle East. (p.10)
The problematic that Daniel Lerner established at the start of his influential study would serve over the next several decades as a framework for developing questions in ways that could justify social control from above. Democracy, as a political form of self-determination, lies outside the scope of this “scientific” study. Instead, Lerner warns in the Preface to the 1964 paperback edition of his book:
Hast makes waste; risks have turned to losses. The “want: get ratio” has been upset –since people have learned to want for more than they can get. As a result, the “revolution of rising expectations” we celebrated fifteen years ago has, in many places, become a “revolution of rising frustrations.” Modernization, it now appears, is harder than one supposed. Why is this so? Two difficulties are paramount.(p.vii)
Lerner then goes on to describe what he calls a “technical difficulty,” by which he means the problem of raising incomes fast and high enough to enable people to both consume new products and to save, which “will then go into investment that raises production levels, which in turn will again raise both consumption and saving levels.” (p.vii) His second problem was that people did not behave “rationally,” or at least as these social scientists had predicted, for instead of limiting their family size so that each person could enjoy a larger share to consume with some money left over for savings (i.e. money available for investments), they produce a “population explosion,” and any gain in real income was “swallowed up by extra mouths to feed.” (p.vii) This second problem, “the people problem,” is the focus of his study: how to control human behavior?
Lerner’s “fascinating study of comparative culture” was a cold-war effort to predict and control social change through experiment and observation, in order to protect 'modern civilization' from the 'dark and ominous' masses. The proper role of mass communication in shaping mass emotions was seen as a essential part of social change, without which, it was believed, political chaos was sure to break out.
For the true Transitional is defined, dynamically, by what he wants to become. What differentiates him from his Traditional peers is a different latent structure of aptitudes and attitudes. The aptitude is empathy –he ‘sees’ things the others do not see, ‘lives’ in a world populated by imaginings alien to the constrictive world of the others. The attitude is desire –he wants really to see the things he has hitherto ‘seen’ only in his mind’s eye, really to live in the world he has ‘lived’ in only vicariously. These are the sources of his deviant ways. When many individuals show deviation in this direction, then a transition is under way in their society. In the next chapter [chapter 3 of Lerner’s book], we show empirically how this transition is at work in every Middle Eastern country, with results that spell the passing of traditional society from that area of the world.
Here we stress that the transition to participant society hinges upon the desire among individuals to participate. It grows as more and more individuals take leave of the constrictive traditional universe and nudge their psyche toward the expansive new land of heart’s desire. The great gap is passed when a person begins to ‘have opinions’ –particularly on matters which, according to his neighbors, ‘do not concern him.’ The emphatic skill which makes this possible is not highly valued in the traditional community. There people are taught to handle the ego with minimum awareness of alternatives to current practices –in the technical sense, compulsively. The Constrictive Self is the approved personal style. Self-manipulation, continuous rearrangement of the self-system to incorporate new experience, is regarded as unworthy of any person with ‘good character.’ (pp.72-73)
The Army Psychological Warfare Division served as ‘post-graduate’ study for many prominent sociologists and social psychologists. According to Christopher Simpson, social scientists such as Lerner “engaged one another in tacit alliances to promote their particular interpretations of society.”
Their wartime experiences contributed substantially to the construction of a remarkably tight circle of men and women who shared several important conceptions about mass communication research. They regarded mass communication as a tool for social management and as a weapon in social conflict, and they expressed common assumptions concerning the usefulness of quantitative research –particularly experimental and quasi-experimental effects research, opinion surveys, and quantitative content analysis—as a means of illuminating what communication ‘is’ and improving its application to social management. They also demonstrated common attitudes toward at least some of the ethical questions intrinsic to performing applied social research on behalf of a government. (Simpson, p.29)
Cultural imperialism, and more specifically the use of mass communication to manipulate individual behavior and to control populations, has been the province of sociology since before the First World War. [See CEIMSA Bulletin #325 for a discussion of “advertising, propaganda, and psychological warfare”; and Bulletin #586 “ON COGNITIVE ENGINEERING IN A PERIOD OF ECONOMIC INSTABILITY. Also, see Bulletin #428 “ON THE ILLICIT FUNCTION OF POLITICAL PROPAGANDA AND THE UNEQUAL DISTRIBUTION OF THE SPOILS OF WAR” for a discussion of Adam Curtis’s four-part BBC documentary film, The Century of the Self and the book, The Sources of Social Power (1986), by radical British sociologist Michael Mann.]
Lerner emphasizes in the introduction of his book that “[t]he emotional and political fluency of newly-liberated illiterates can be quite terrifying.” He then quotes a passage from Bertrand Russell's History of Western Philosophy (1945) to emphasize his point about the dangers involved in spreading new ideas.
. . . a philosophy, developed in a politically and economically advanced country, which is, in its birthplace, little more than a clarification and systemization of prevalent opinion, may become elsewhere a source of revolutionary ardour and, ultimately, of actual revolution. It is mainly through theorists that the maxims regulating the policy of advanced countries become known to less advanced countries. In the advanced countries, practice inspires theory; in the others theory inspires practice.”(p.10)
The instruments of propaganda and psychological warfare, which are embedded in the arsenals of the mass communication industry, serve as formal cause, the objective of which is to accommodate the prerequisites of consumer society. And to further borrow from the great philosopher Aristotle, we (our bodies and minds) remain the material cause, as a lump of clay sitting on a potter’s wheel, waiting for the efficient cause to assert itself and mold us according to the strictures of the final cause, which is to facilitate the current modality of capitalist expansion more deeply into our planet and into our souls -that is to say, into our entire life-support system.
The 10 items below offer CEIMSA readers a look at themselves as so much raw material, vulnerable to capitalist exploitation ('they' do it because they are able to), but also we are capable of self-determination, of seeing ourselves as defenders of our planet, at war with a corporate enemy (who is no longer able to mold us according to his desires). To some degree the choice is ours: either passive acceptance to be fashioned by the forces of Corporate Reason for exploitation by corporate interests; or collective resistance to this Despotism which will enable us to empathize with others who are also actively engaged in resistance, who are also working creatively to build more democratic communities for themselves and for those they love.
Item A., from Information Clearing House, is an article by David Weigel on the new job description of a US President, i.e. “wanted: serial killer with no feelings of remorse.” All of which raises the question, will Public Opinion offer the president redemption or condemn him to damnation?
Item B., from NYU Professor Bertell Ollman, is an article that first appeared in Rolling Stones magazine, “Marx was Right,” by Sean McElwee.
Item C. sent to us by NYU Professor Mark Crispin Miller, founder of News From Underground is a debate on the ‘democratic revolution’ in Ukraine between Princeton University Professor Stephen Cohen and University College London researcher Anton Shekhovtsov.
Item D. is an audio interview on Electronic Politics with us Fulbright Scholar, Dr. Nicolai Petro, who is currently working in Odessa. He speaks with George Kenney about the Greek-style austerity policies Western banks with to impose on Ukraine, in addition to the neo-liberalism run rampant with a desire to bait the Russian Bear.
Item E., from Counter Punch,is an article by Vincent Navarro on “ The Silences of Pope Francis.”
Item F., from Financial Times of London, is an article by Steve Johnson on the exodus of international capital investments from Israel.
Item G., from the New York Times, is an article by Paul Krugman on the “Paranoia of the Plutocrats.”
Item H., from Jim O’Brien of Historians Against War, is a series of recommended recent articles.
Item I., from Reader Supported News, is an article by Spencer Ackerman on the attempts of character assassins in the US Congress targeting Glen Greenwald.
Item J., from Truthdig, is an article by Chris Hedges on the military mind.
And finally we invite CEIMSA readers to view with us 3 reports on the production of serial killers: “Wars Without End, Made in the USA” :
Professor of American Studies
University of Grenoble-3
Director of Research
University of Paris-Nanterre
Center for the Advanced Study of American Institutions and Social Movements
The University of California-San Diego
From Information Clearing House :
Dates: 8 February 2014
Subject: Killing our own citizens ‘legally’.
A DOJ white paper explaining Obama's targeted killing program.
From Bertell Ollman :
Dates: 2 February 2014
Subject: Rolling Stone: Marx Was Right: Five Surprising Ways Karl Marx Predicted 2014
And who can doubt "Rolling Stone"? Thought it might prove a nice upper for your list.
Marx Was Right: Five Surprising Ways Karl Marx Predicted 2014
(From the iPhone 5S to corporate globalization, modern life is full
of evidence of Marx's foresight)
by Sean McElwee
There's a lot of talk of Karl Marx in the air these days – from Rush Limbaugh accusing <http://mediamatters.org/blog/2013/12/15/pope-francis-rebukes-marxist-attack-from-rush-l/197273> Pope Francis of promoting "pure Marxism" to a Washington Times writer claiming <http://communities.washingtontimes.com/neighborhood/judson-phillips-cold-hard-truth/2014/jan/1/new-york-city-comrade-mayor-sworn/> that New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is an "unrepentant Marxist." But few people actually understand Marx's trenchant critique of capitalism. Most people are vaguely aware of the radical economist's prediction that capitalism would inevitably be replaced by communism, but they often misunderstand why he believed this to be true. And while Marx was wrong about some things, his writings (many of which pre-date the American Civil War) accurately predicted several aspects of contemporary capitalism, from the Great Recession to the iPhone 5S in your pocket.
Here are five facts of life in 2014 that Marx's analysis of capitalism correctly predicted more than a century ago:
1. The Great Recession (Capitalism's Chaotic Nature)
The inherently chaotic, crisis-prone nature of capitalism was a key part of Marx's writings. He argued that the relentless drive for profits would lead companies to mechanize their workplaces, producing more and more goods while squeezing workers' wages until they could no longer purchase the products they created. Sure enough, modern historical events from the Great Depression to the dot-com bubble can be traced back to what Marx termed "fictitious capital" – financial instruments like stocks and credit-default swaps. We produce and produce until there is simply no one left to purchase our goods, no new markets, no new debts. The cycle is still playing out before our eyes: Broadly speaking, it's what made the housing market crash in 2008. Decades of deepening inequality reduced incomes, which led more and more Americans to take on debt. When there were no subprime borrows left to scheme, the whole façade fell apart, just as Marx knew it would.
2. The iPhone 5S (Imaginary Appetites)
Marx warned that capitalism's tendency to concentrate high value on essentially arbitrary products would, over time, lead to what he called "a contriving and ever-calculating subservience to inhuman, sophisticated, unnatural and imaginary appetites." It's a harsh but accurate way of describing contemporary America, where we enjoy incredible luxury and yet are driven by a constant need for more and more stuff to buy. Consider the iPhone 5S you may own. Is it really that much better than the iPhone 5 you had last year, or the iPhone 4S a year before that? Is it a real need, or an invented one? While Chinese families fall sick with cancer from our e-waste, <http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2013-01/osu-rnc012213.php> megacorporations are creating entire advertising campaigns <http://lazytechguys.com/news/virgin-mobile-wants-you-to-throw-away-your-phone-video/> around the idea that we should destroy perfectly good products <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mzjN9QDbUsg> for no reason. If Marx could see this kind of thing, he'd nod in recognition.
3. The IMF (The Globalization of Capitalism)
Marx's ideas about overproduction led him to predict what is now called globalization – the spread of capitalism across the planet in search of new markets. "The need of a constantly expanding market for its products chases the bourgeoisie over the entire surface of the globe," he wrote. "It must nestle everywhere, settle everywhere, establish connections everywhere." While this may seem like an obvious point now, Marx wrote those words in 1848, when globalization was over a century away. And he wasn't just right about what ended up happening in the late 20th century – he was right about why it happened: The relentless search for new markets and cheap labor, as well as the incessant demand for more natural resources, are beasts that demand constant feeding.
4. Walmart (Monopoly)
The classical theory of economics assumed that competition was natural and therefore self-sustaining. Marx, however, argued that market power would actually be centralized in large monopoly firms as businesses increasingly preyed upon each other. This might have struck his 19th-century readers as odd: As Richard Hofstadter writes, "Americans came to take it for granted that property would be widely diffused, that economic and political power would decentralized." It was only later, in the 20th century, that the trend Marx foresaw began to accelerate. Today, mom-and-pop shops have been replaced by monolithic big-box stores like Walmart, small community banks have been replaced by global banks like J.P. Morgan Chase and small famers have been replaced by the likes of Archer Daniels Midland. The tech world, too, is already becoming centralized, with big corporations sucking up start-ups as fast as they can. Politicians give lip service to what minimal small-business lobby remains and prosecute the most violent of antitrust abuses – but for the most part, we know big business is here to stay.
5. Low Wages, Big Profits (The Reserve Army of Industrial Labor)
Marx believed that wages would be held down by a "reserve army of labor," which he explained simply using classical economic techniques: Capitalists wish to pay as little as possible for labor, and this is easiest to do when there are too many workers floating around. Thus, after a recession, using a Marxist analysis, we would predict that high unemployment would keep wages stagnant as profits soared, because workers are too scared of unemployment to quit their terrible, exploitative jobs. And what do you know? No less an authority than the Wall Street Journal warns <http://blogs.wsj.com/economics/2010/05/08/number-of-the-week-294-million-in-industrial-reserve-army/http:/blogs.wsj.com/economics/2010/05/08/number-of-the-week-294-million-in-industrial-reserve-army/> , "Lately, the U.S. recovery has been displaying some Marxian traits. Corporate profits are on a tear, and rising productivity has allowed companies to grow without doing much to reduce the vast ranks of the unemployed." That's because workers are terrified to leave their jobs and therefore lack bargaining power. It's no surprise that the best time for equitable growth is during times <http://www.cepr.net/documents/Getting-Back-to-Full-Employment_20131118.pdf> of "full employment," when unemployment is low and workers can threaten to take another job.
Marx was wrong about many things. Most of his writing focuses on a critique of capitalism rather than a proposal of what to replace it with – which left it open to misinterpretation by madmen like Stalin in the 20th century. But his work still shapes our world in a positive way as well. When he argued for a progressive income tax in the Communist Manifesto, no country had one. Now, there is scarcely a country without a progressive income tax, and it's one small way that the U.S. tries to fight income inequality. Marx's moral critique of capitalism and his keen insights into its inner workings and historical context are still worth paying attention to. As Robert L. Heilbroner writes, "We turn to Marx, therefore, not because he is infallible, but because he is inescapable." Today, in a world of both unheard-of wealth and abject poverty, where the richest 85 people have more wealth <http://www.oxfam.org/sites/www.oxfam.org/files/bp-working-for-few-political-capture-economic-inequality-200114-en.pdf> than the poorest 3 billion, the famous cry, "Workers of the world unite; you have nothing to lose but your chains," has yet to lose its potency.
From Mark Crispin Miller :
Dates: 2 February 2014
Subject: Achtung! Those rebels in Ukraine aren't fighting for democracy...
Is Ukraine’s Opposition a Democratic Movement or a Force of Right-Wing Extremism?
Debate between :
Stephen Cohen , professor emeritus of Russian studies and politics at New York University and Princeton University. His most recent book, Soviet Fates and Lost Alternatives: From Stalinism to the New Cold War , is out in paperback.
Anton Shekhovtsov , Ukrainian citizen who just got back earlier this month from observing the protests in Kiev. He joins us from London, where he is a researcher at the University College London specializing in studying the far right.
Ukrainian anti-government protesters have rejected an amnesty bill aimed at ending the country’s political unrest, refusing to
vacate occupied government buildings and dismantle their street blockades in exchange for the release of jailed activists. The
demonstrations in the Ukraine are collectively referred to as "Euromaidan." They began in late November after President Viktor
Yanukovych reversed his decision to sign a long-awaited trade deal with the European Union to forge stronger ties with Russia
instead. While the Ukrainian opposition has been hailed in the West as a democratic, grassroots movement, we host a debate on
whether the rush to back opponents of Russian President Vladimir Putin obscures a more complex reality beneath the surface.
We are joined by two guests: Stephen Cohen, professor emeritus of Russian studies and politics at New York University and Princeton
University; and Anton Shekhovtsov, a Ukrainian citizen and University College London researcher who has just returned from observing
the protests in Kiev.
AMY GOODMAN : We turn now to Ukraine, where thousands of anti-government demonstrators have constructed what amounts to a self-sufficient protest city within the capital, Kiev. The standoff prompted the country’s prime minister to resign on Tuesday. Its parliament has agreed to repeal a round of laws that cracked down on dissent. On Wednesday, lawmakers offered an amnesty to protesters who have been arrested during the standoff, but only on the condition that activists vacate buildings they’ve occupied in Kiev and other parts of Ukraine. This is the speaker of the Parliament, Volodymyr Rybak.
VOLODYMYR RYBAK : [translated] Let me remind you that yesterday we have approved the bill number 4007 about the law of Ukraine that ceased to be in force. We have also agreed to discuss today the questions related to the "removal of the negative consequences and non-admission pursuit" and punishment of persons in relation to the events, which took place during peaceful rallies. So, I come up with a proposition to vote on legislation without discussion. I ask people’s deputies to vote.
AMY GOODMAN : The government’s amnesty offer was an attempt to get people to remove their barricades and tents from the main protest zone in Kiev. But so far, demonstrators have vowed to continue their occupation.
STEPAN : [translated] If the authorities had shown honesty, according to the mandate they were given, we would trust them. But now they have compromised the guarantees. We have no trust in these authorities. We have doubts in their honesty and decency, and that’s why it’s risky. So we are not leaving. That’s for sure.
VASIL : [translated] People came here so that all of them would be gone, so that the president would be gone and the government would be gone. We need full change. We cannot go on like this.
AMY GOODMAN : The demonstrations in Ukraine are collectively referred to as "Euromaidan." They began in late November after President Viktor Yanukovych reversed his decision to sign a long-awaited trade deal with the European Union in a move that favored stronger ties with Russia instead. The protests rapidly grew in size after a violent police crackdown. While nationalists led the demonstrations at first, others have since joined the movement. At least five protesters have been killed in clashes with police; hundreds have been injured. Police have also attacked dozens of journalists, destroyed their equipment. As tensions continued to increase on Wednesday, Ukraine’s first post-independence president, Leonid Kravchuk, emphasized the seriousness of the crisis.
From George Kenney :
Dates: 14 February 2014
Subject: Ukraine & Democracy?
The Europeans and the US would like to impose Greek-style austerity policies in Ukraine. It's neo-liberalism run rampant with a desire to bait the Russian thrown in. Dangerous stuff in an already fraught situation! Dr. Nicolai Petro, currently on a Fulbright grant in Odessa, says that given recent Ukrainian political upheavals a civil war is now not at all unthinkable. But Nicolai also points out that if the different sides in Ukraine believe enough in the same things they have realistic hopes for compromise. Sounds easier, maybe, than it is, especially given outside pressures... Not to put too abstract a spin on it the Ukrainian crisis makes me wonder, how important is faith?
As always, if you like the show please forward the link.
From Counter Punch :
Dates: 21 January 2014
Subject: The American Revolution revisited.
It is safe to assume that Pope Francis knows very well that the Catholic Church supported the military coup and dictatorship of General Franco in Spain. In this light, the recent service honoring the members of the Church who fell during the Spanish Civil War on the fascist side casts doubt on what motivated the silence of Bishop Bergolio (Pope Francis) during the Argentinian coup.
Church Complicity With the Horrors of Spain's Fascists
The Silences of Pope Francis
by Vincent Navarro
From Financial Times :
Dates: 2 February 2014
Subject: The American Revolution revisited.
Norway’s sovereign wealth fund joins exodus from Israel
by Steve Johnson
Norway’s $810bn Government Pension Fund Global, the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund, has been barred from investing in two Israeli companies due to their “serious violations” of individual rights.
The Norwegian finance ministry has blacklisted Africa Israel Investments and Danya Cebus, a listed subsidiary 82 per cent owned by AII, because of their alleged involvement in constructing settlements in East Jerusalem, which “must be regarded as illegal”.
High quality global journalism requires investment. Please share this article with others using the link below, do not cut & paste the article. See our Ts&Cs and Copyright Policy for more detail. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to buy additional rights. http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/53d00268-8a89-11e3-ba54-00144feab7de.html#ixzz2sAytf9tV
The Fourth Geneva Convention bars occupying powers from transferring part of their own civilian population into the territories they occupy.
The move comes amid a growing European boycott of Israeli companies with activities in the Palestinian territories.
In January PGGM, the Dutch pension fund, dumped its holdings in five banks allegedly involved in financing illegal settlements, while several other large investors are also reviewing their holdings.
Last week actress Scarlett Johansson severed her relationship with the Oxfam International charity after being criticised for promoting Sodastream, an Israeli home drinks carbonation company that has a factory in the Maale Adumim settlement near Jerusalem.
Both AII and Danya Cebus were originally blacklisted between August 2010 and August 2013 in relation to their settlement activity. According to Norway’s Council of Ethics, the ban was dropped after AII said neither it nor any of its subsidiaries was involved in or had plans to construct settlements in the West Bank. However the council said it had since received information that Danya Cebus was involved in such activity. Neither company could be reached for comment.
Shikun & Binui, an Israeli property group, was blacklisted on the same grounds in 2011.
The Norwegian finance ministry has also blocked the pension fund from investing in Sesa Sterlite, a newly formed India-focused subsidiary of London-listed mining company Vedanta.
Vedanta itself and two other subsidiaries have been blacklisted since 2007, when the ethics council said their operations in India carried “an unacceptable risk of severe environmental damage and systematic human rights violations”.
The pension fund has also been barred from investing in the sovereign bonds of North Korea, Syria and Iran, although none of these states currently issue government debt. It has, however been given the green light to invest in sovereign bonds issued by Myanmar.
From The New York Times:
Dates: 26 January 2014
Subject: The American Revolution revisited.
Paranoia of the Plutocrats
by Paul Krugman
Rising inequality has obvious economic costs: stagnant wages despite rising productivity, rising debt that makes us more vulnerable to financial crisis. It also has big social and human costs. There is, for example, strong evidence that high inequality leads to worse health and higher mortality.
But there’s more. Extreme inequality, it turns out, creates a class of people who are alarmingly detached from reality — and simultaneously gives these people great power.
The example many are buzzing about right now is the billionaire investor Tom Perkins, a founding member of the venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. In a letter to the editor of The Wall Street Journal, Mr. Perkins lamented public criticism of the “one percent” — and compared such criticism to Nazi attacks on the Jews, suggesting that we are on the road to another Kristallnacht.
You may say that this is just one crazy guy and wonder why The Journal would publish such a thing. But Mr. Perkins isn’t that much of an outlier. He isn’t even the first finance titan to compare advocates of progressive taxation to Nazis. Back in 2010 Stephen Schwarzman, the chairman and chief executive of the Blackstone Group, declared that proposals to eliminate tax loopholes for hedge fund and private-equity managers were “like when Hitler invaded Poland in 1939.”
And there are a number of other plutocrats who manage to keep Hitler out of their remarks but who nonetheless hold, and loudly express, political and economic views that combine paranoia and megalomania in equal measure.
I know that sounds strong. But look at all the speeches and opinion pieces by Wall Streeters accusing President Obama — who has never done anything more than say the obvious, that some bankers behaved badly — of demonizing and persecuting the rich. And look at how many of those making these accusations also made the ludicrously self-centered claim that their hurt feelings (as opposed to things like household debt and premature fiscal austerity) were the main thing holding the economy back.
Now, just to be clear, the very rich, and those on Wall Street in particular, are in fact doing worse under Mr. Obama than they would have if Mitt Romney had won in 2012. Between the partial rollback of the Bush tax cuts and the tax hike that partly pays for health reform, tax rates on the 1 percent have gone more or less back to pre-Reagan levels. Also, financial reformers have won some surprising victories over the past year, and this is bad news for wheeler-dealers whose wealth comes largely from exploiting weak regulation. So you can make the case that the 1 percent have lost some important policy battles.
But every group finds itself facing criticism, and ends up on the losing side of policy disputes, somewhere along the way; that’s democracy. The question is what happens next. Normal people take it in stride; even if they’re angry and bitter over political setbacks, they don’t cry persecution, compare their critics to Nazis and insist that the world revolves around their hurt feelings. But the rich are different from you and me.
And yes, that’s partly because they have more money, and the power that goes with it. They can and all too often do surround themselves with courtiers who tell them what they want to hear and never, ever, tell them they’re being foolish. They’re accustomed to being treated with deference, not just by the people they hire but by politicians who want their campaign contributions. And so they are shocked to discover that money can’t buy everything, can’t insulate them from all adversity.
I also suspect that today’s Masters of the Universe are insecure about the nature of their success. We’re not talking captains of industry here, men who make stuff. We are, instead, talking about wheeler-dealers, men who push money around and get rich by skimming some off the top as it sloshes by. They may boast that they are job creators, the people who make the economy work, but are they really adding value? Many of us doubt it — and so, I suspect, do some of the wealthy themselves, a form of self-doubt that causes them to lash out even more furiously at their critics.
Anyway, we’ve been here before. It’s impossible to read screeds like those of Mr. Perkins or Mr. Schwarzman without thinking of F.D.R.’s famous 1936 Madison Square Garden speech, in which he spoke of the hatred he faced from the forces of “organized money,” and declared, “I welcome their hatred.”
President Obama has not, unfortunately, done nearly as much as F.D.R. to earn the hatred of the undeserving rich. But he has done more than many progressives give him credit for — and like F.D.R., both he and progressives in general should welcome that hatred, because it’s a sign that they’re doing something right.
From Jim O’Brien :
Dates: 5 February 2014
Subject: Suggested Reading List from Historians Against the War.
members and friends of Historians Against the War,
Last week we sent a message from Van Gosse, on behalf of the HAW Steering
Committee. It passed along two conflicting views (one by Linda Gordon,
Alice Kessler-Harris, and Elaine Tyler May and one by Vijay Prashad)
concerning boycotts of Israeli institutions as a method of supporting
Palestinian rights. The message invited comments, including opinions about
whether HAW should take a position on the subject, and if so, what the
position should be. Comments are still solicited, either on the HAW
Blog<http://blog.historiansagainstwar.org>or on HAW's
Facebook page <https://www.facebook.com/groups/2216182861>. Both
sites provide the original message with the articles by Gordon et al. and
Links to Recent Articles of Interest :
*"We Need to End the Disastrous Failure of the War on Terror"
By *Nicolas J. S. Davies, *AlterNet.org, posted February 3
*Highlights the increase in terrorist incidents from 208 in 2003 to 5,000
or more every year since 2005*
*"The End of American Exceptionalism"
By *Peter Beinart, **National Journal, *posted February 3
*Argues that conservative policies, including overseas interventions, have
undermined the bundle of beliefs called American exceptionalism,*
*"AIPAC's Annus Horribilis?"
By *Jim Lobe, *LobeLog, posted January 31
*Primarily on the failure of the lobbying effort for a Congressional
resolution aimed at sabotaging negotiations with Iran over its nuclear
program. Calls and emails to Congressional offices ran heavily against the
*"The Two Faces of Empire: Melville Knew Them, We Still Live with Them"
By *Greg Grandin, *TomDispatch.com, posted January 26
*The author teaches history at New York University.*
*"The US Role in Iraq's Upsurge of Violence"
By *Stephen Zunes, **National Catholic Reporter, *posted January 25
*Traces the current conflicts largely to US policies during the occupation*
*"Almost Everything in 'Dr. Strangelove' Was True"
By *Eric Schlosser, **The New Yorker, *posted January 23
*January marked the fiftieth anniversary of the Kubrick film.*
*Thanks to a reader who wants to remain anonymous for suggesting one of the
articles included in the above list. Thanks also to Rosalyn Baxandall,
Steve Gosch, Mim Jackson, and Rusti Eisenberg for their helpful suggestions
for many of these lists. Suggestions can be sent to email@example.com
Note: You are receiving this email because you signed a Historians Against the War statement (see http://www.historiansagainstwar.org/) or asked to be including in HAW's informational mailings. If you no longer wish to receive these occasional messages about HAW's work, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org?subject=unsubscribe.
haw-info mailing list
From Reader Supported News :
Dates: 5 February 2014
Subject: Suggested Reading List from Historians Against the War.
Congressman Calls Greenwald a Thief, Greenwald Calls Him a Liar
by Spencer Ackerman
From Truth Dig :
Dates: 3 February 2014
Subject: The Menace of the Military Mind.
I had my first experience with the U.S. military when I was a young reporter covering the civil war in El Salvador. We journalists were briefed at the American Embassy each week by a U.S. Army colonel who at the time headed the military group of U.S. advisers to the Salvadoran army. The reality of the war, which lasted from 1979 to 1992, bore little resemblance to the description regurgitated each week for consumption by the press. But what was most evident was not the blatant misinformation—this particular colonel had apparently learned to dissemble to the public during his multiple tours in Vietnam—but the hatred of the press by this man and most other senior officers in the U.S. military. When first told that he would have to meet the press once a week, the colonel reportedly protested against having to waste his time with those “limp-dicked communists.”
The Menace of the Military Mind
by Chris Hedges