Tilting at Russian Windmills

US_of_Russia_6-3-2017
A protester at the “March for Truth” rally on June 3, in Washington, D.C. Many of the marchers’ posters featured the Communist insignia.

Over four months into Donald Trump’s presidency, the anti-Trump resistance is in danger of becoming completely sidelined by “Russiagate,” James Comey’s rock star Senate Intelligence hearing, and anything else related to this 21st century resurgence of the Cold War. Russiagate, the (fake) news story that just won’t die, has sucked up all the oxygen in the room.

Yet, liberals have made the unsubstantiated claims—being promoted by the same “deep state” intelligence agencies that brought us the lies that launched the Iraq War—a centerpiece of the anti-Trump resistance.

Close to 1,000 protesters converged on Washington, D.C. and other major cities throughout the country on June 3 in the “March for Truth” rally—an event that, at times, appeared more like a left-wing version of a Tea Party demonstration. Many of the protesters’ signs featured the Communist hammer-and-sickle insignia with pictures of Trump. (These folks are apparently unaware that Russia joined the capitalist “free-market” decades ago.)

“Are you a Communist?” reporter, Max Blumenthal asks a smug-looking young man holding one such Communist-mocking sign, in a sardonic segment for The Real News Network.

“No!” the protester answers emphatically. “I’m not!”

“You’re not for full Communism?” Blumenthal asks.

“No, not at all. This [the poster] is more ironic than anything.”

… “So, Trump is a Communist then, is what you are saying?” Blumenthal deadpans.

“Yes,” the protester answers. “Exactly.”

As an actual Communist I must say I take great offense to the notion that Trump is anything remotely resembling a Communist—even if it the assertion is meant as an “ironic” joke.

Beyond the Red Scare redux, the clip highlights the fact that it is not just conservatives that fall for so-called “fake news.” Liberals and progressives are just as susceptible to state propaganda when it reaffirms what they already believe. The right has its “Benghazi,” and unceasing doubts as to Barack Obama’s citizenship; the left now has its “Russiagate.”

Blumenthal, speaking to Real News’s Arron Matte in a follow-up interview, said of the rally:

It was made up of mostly older liberals, the kind of people who watch ‘Rachel Maddow.’ … Most of her [show’s] content is dedicated to Russia and her ratings are through the roof. And these are the same kind of people that I would meet at anti-war rallies over ten years ago. The same kind of people that would go out and protest climate change and the denial of it. The same kind of people who would show up at Black Lives Matter rallies. And their energy is being channeled into a militaristic, neoconservative narrative…

Of course, it is not just Rachel Maddow and her MSNBC co-anchors that have stoked the flames of the Russiagate conspiracy theory. The Democratic Party has likewise embraced the narrative, seemingly all too happy to find someone—anyone!—to blame for Hillary Clinton’s stunning electoral loss last November other than herself.

Indeed, to date the Democrats’ rogues gallery of scapegoats includes Comey, Jill Stein, Bernie Sanders, Sanders’ supporters (a.k.a. “Bernie Bros”), sexism, internalized misogyny, Vladimir Putin, WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, Susan Sarandon, millennials, “fake news,” Facebook, the media (despite the fact that the majority of corporate newspapers endorsed Clinton), and of course, the ignorant, racist, sexist, “deplorable” American voters, themselves. Now we can add Russian hackers to that list, as well.

Clinton herself has singled out Russia as the reason for her loss.

“I take responsibility for every decision I made,” the former secretary of state said during an interview at this year’s Code Conference, on May 31, “but that’s not why I lost. So I think it’s important that we learn the real lessons from this last campaign…”

But it is not at all clear that Clinton, the DNC, and the Democratic Party have learned anything—never mind the “real lessons”—from the 2016 election. In fact they seem either completely unwilling or incapable—take your pick—of engaging in the critical self-reflection necessary to avoid being relegated to the dustbin of political history.

No doubt Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, and every last member of his swamp monster administration should be impeached. While the allegations that Russian hackers covertly influenced the outcome of the 2016 presidential election remain quite dubious, there is little doubt Trump is guilty of obstructing justice in his firing of Comey as director of the FBI.

But, barring some major revelation in the Russigate investigation, I fear pinning our hopes on shaky state propaganda is a fatal mistake for the left. Indeed, it is a surefire way to ensure Trump is re-elected in 2020.

And, even if the Democrats do regain control of Congress in the 2018 midterm election, it is not at all clear, based on the party’s track record, that they actually would take steps to impeach Trump. Leftists need only recall that Democrats ran on similar empty promises back in 2006. Then, like today, a thoroughly unpopular and discredited president—George W. Bush—occupied the White House, along with a Republican-majority in Congress.

But, no sooner did the Democrats re-take control of Congress in the sweeping 2006 midterm election—based on campaign promises to impeach Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney for numerous impeachable offenses, and to end the unpopular and illegal Iraq War—than House Speaker Nancy Pelosi promptly declared impeachment “off the table,” calling it a “distraction.”

And on the Iraq War, the Dems did a complete 180, voting for additional war-funding bills (‘cause “The Troops!”), rather than just cutting off the war’s funding in Congress, and bringing American service members home.

In other words, we have seen this movie before.

The Democrats’ entire “opposition” strategy against Trump is, as Socialist Worker’s Lance Selfa puts it in this month’s issue, “Keep Calm and Prepare Campaign Attack Ads.” It is for good reason that the Democrats were once referred to as “history’s second most enthusiastic capitalist party.” The left cannot afford to simply subsume itself into the graveyard of grassroots movements that is the Democratic Party.

Moreover, it is not enough for the left to merely be anti-Trump. We must dismantle the entire racist, misogynist, Islamophobic capitalist system that spawned Trump in the first place. In doing so, we must also put forth a compelling socialist alternative for organizing society—one rooted in Marxism that can speak to working-class Americans’ economic grievances, as well as their aspirations for social justice and equality.

This includes reaching out to working-class Trump supporters, as well. I still believe it is possible to win many of them over to socialist ideas, though it will take time, patience, and lengthy, comradely debates. We cannot simply write them all off as irredeemable racists, sexists, and “deplorables,” as so many liberals seem all too willing to do.

And lecturing members of the working class about their “white privilege” is unlikely to alter their already negative opinions of elite, college-educated, liberal know-it-alls. This is especially true when these folks are, as socialist commentator, Paul Street observes, “barely making it in shitty jobs that don’t match the ever rising costs of health care, housing, food, clothing and more.”

For a model of how to appeal to working-class voters’ material interests, look no further than Great Britain, where England’s Jeremy Corbyn (basically the UK’s version of Bernie Sanders, but with an anti-war platform), just defied all expectations, helping the Labour Party secure an historic upset in the recent snap election. Corbyn, like Sanders in the states, attracted droves of enthusiastic working-class supporters—especially young people—with his unapologetically democratic socialist campaign of taxing the rich, paying workers a living wage, nationalizing public industries, and ending the UK’s pernicious austerity programs.

Corbyn’s recent success proves there is a growing hunger among working-class people throughout the Western world for socialism. But we will not tap into that audience by following the Democrats down the new age Red Scare rabbit-hole that is “Russiagate.” Comey, the FBI, the “deep state” intelligence agencies, Clinton… none of them are on the side of working-class Americans. Only the working class, through the time-honored tradition of class-struggle, can bring about its own emancipation.

“Millions of Americans have mobilized to stop Trump and his agenda,” Selfa writes, “–from the largest day of demonstrations in U.S. history on inauguration weekend, to the town hall protests against Republican plans to take away their health insurance. For those people, ‘Wait ’till 2018′ is already too late.”

Editor’s note: Red Flag does not support or endorse any WordPress-sponsored advertisements that may appear on readers’ screens. This is another reason why workers, including writers, need to own the means of production–or in this case, the Internet.

If you like this essay feel free to share it widely (Facebook, Twitter, all that stuff…). Adam Marletta can be reached at adamd.marletta@gmail.com.

Thanks for reading!

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Manufacturing Consent

propaganda

The Trump White House ratcheted up its escalating war on journalists on Wednesday, when the president’s chief strategist, Stephen Bannon, in a rare moment of actually speaking to the press, repeatedly called the news media the “opposition party.”

“The media should be embarrassed and humiliated and keep its mouth shut and just listen for a while,” Bannon, the former owner of the white supremacist trash news-site, Breitbart News, told the New York Times.

Bannon added,

“I want you to quote this: The media here is the opposition party. They don’t understand this country. They still do not understand why Donald Trump is the president of the United States.”

“You’re the opposition party,” Bannon repeated to the Times’ reporter. “Not the Democratic Party. You’re the opposition party. The media’s the opposition party.”

Well, he is correct on one count, at least: The Democratic Party is not the opposition party. Not at all.

Trump’s self-declared “running war” with the U.S. news media was a hallmark of his presidential campaign. In the recent squabble over the size of his pitifully under-attended inauguration ceremony, Trump called journalists, “among the most dishonest human beings on earth.”

During a Jan. 11 press conference at Trump Tower in New York, Trump refused to take a question from CNN’s senior White House correspondent, Jim Acosta, flippantly telling him, “Not you. Your organization is terrible.”

The then-president-elect proceeded to blast CNN as “fake news,” and called BuzzFeed a “failing pile of garbage.”

Now, as president, Trump and his administration are continuing to push an authoritarian, anti-fact agenda by not only remaining openly hostile toward the media and reporters, but by constantly insisting the news they disseminate is not factual, but is rather, “fake news.”

The irony of a millionaire celebrity like Trump (who received hundreds of hours of free media coverage on the campaign trail, which arguably contributed to his winning the election) biting the veritable hand that feeds him aside, distrust of the “elite” news media is a major common trait among Trump’s supporters.

And, frankly, I can’t say that I blame them for distrusting the media.

While the notion that the corporate media maintain an overwhelmingly “liberal” bias is patently absurd (and has been widely debunked by numerous analyses), there is, nonetheless, good reason to be skeptical of the major media outlets, including the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Wall Street Journal.

These are the same institutions that uncritically accepted the Bush administration’s lies justifying the Iraq war. They failed to foresee the 2008 housing crisis and the subsequent Great Recession, despite warnings from prominent economists. They unanimously championed the $700 billion taxpayer bailout of the “too big to fail” Wall Street banks that gambled with customers’ money and sent the global economy into a tailspin.

And now they are passively echoing the CIA’s completely unverified claims that Russia covertly influenced the outcome of the 2016 presidential election, thus raising the specter of a new Cold War between the world’s two largest nuclear powers.

With a track record like this, who wouldn’t distrust the media?

“What is typically presented as news analysis,” Amy Goodman writes in the introduction to her 2009 essay compilation, Breaking the Sound Barrier, “is, for the most part, a small circle of pundits who know so little about so much, explaining the world to us and getting it so wrong. While they may appear to differ, they are quibbling over how quickly the bombs should be dropped, not asking whether they should be dropped at all.”

And the problem is not limited to Fox News —though they are a big part of it. “Liberal” outlets like MSNBC, the New York Times, and NPR do just as much lying, spinning, and obfuscating as the unapologetically corporate networks. (Right-wing billionaire, David Koch, even sits on the board of NPR.)

In an actual democracy, the media act as a vital check on corporate and governmental abuses of power. The press serves as a vigilant “watchdog,” entrusted to alert readers to government malfeasance, and to speak truth to power. The role of the press, in the words of Edward R. Murrow, is to “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.”

But we do not live in a true democracy. We live under capitalism. Though widely viewed as synonymous, the two systems are, in fact, highly incompatible.

News under capitalism is little more than a commodity. Nike sells sneakers. Starbucks sells coffee. The Wall Street Journal sells “news.”

Six corporations own and control 90 percent of the print and television media Americans get their news from. As such, the major media outlets do more to obsequiously kowtow to the ruling power elites and parrot their lies, than to challenge them. They are more lap-dogs than watchdogs.

(Still think the media are “liberal”? Try comparing the size of the “Business” section in your local daily newspaper, to the size of the “Labor” section. Oh wait … There is no “Labor” section!)

And the rise of celebrity journalists like Anderson Cooper (average earnings: $11 million), Rachel Maddow ($7 million), Bill O’ Reilly ($17 million), Megyn Kelly ($6 million), and Katie Couric ($10 million) has only further removed the news-reporting profession from the concerns of working class people.

These pseudo-journalists place a premium on maintaining their access to officials in power. But that access only comes to reporters who are obedient, non-confrontational, and generally tow the corporate-party line.

“US establishment journalism is anything but an outsider force,” writes Glenn Greenwald in his book, No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA, and the U.S. Surveillance State.

It is wholly integrated into the nation’s dominant political power. Culturally, emotionally, and socioeconomically, they are one and the same. Rich, famous, insider journalists do not want to subvert the status quo that so lavishly rewards them. Like all courtiers, they are eager to defend the system that vests them with their privileges and contemptuous of anyone who challenges that system.

This cozy relationship between the press and the state was perfectly encapsulated during the 2007 Radio-Television Correspondents’ Association Dinner, when then-White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove launched into a seemingly impromptu rap (dubbing himself, “MC Rove”), while Meet the Press host, David Gregory, danced awkwardly behind him.

It is a painful, eye-rolling sight, to be certain. But it is one that proves it is not merely Hollywood–the right’s second-favorite political punching-bag–that is “out of touch” with working class Americans.

Indeed, it is for good reason that investigative reporters like Goodman and Seymour Hersh are not invited to the annual White House Correspondents’ Dinner. True journalists are hated and despised by the bourgeois power elite.

While Bannon likely intended his “opposition party” label as an insult, it is actually an accurate description of what, ideally, journalism should be.

All of this is to acknowledge that just as the working class in this country has no real political party, it also has no media that accurately speaks to working people’s daily lived experience. The corporate owned and controlled media serve to reinforce society’s ruling ideas–which, as Marx and Engels understood, are the “ideas of the ruling class.”

For this reason, socialists have a long tradition of writing, printing, and circulating their own newspapers, produced by and for the working class. These papers–like the International Socialist Organization’s monthly publication, Socialist Worker–aim to both spread socialist ideas, and empower readers with local and national news of the latest strikes, protests, walk-outs, and anti-war rallies.

These explicitly left-wing newspapers are in keeping with Jello Biafra’s mantra, “Don’t hate the media. Become the media.”

Finally, it is important to note that Trump’s “running war” with the media is, in fact, nothing new. It started under Barack Obama.

While Obama never explicitly targeted the entire media industry as Trump has, he did wage a vicious war on investigative journalists and whistleblowers. Obama prosecuted more whistleblowers under the Espionage Act (the same law socialist leader, Eugene Debs, was imprisoned under, in 1918) than all previous administrations combined.

I realize liberals do not like to hear these inconvenient truths about their Nobel Peace Prize-winning president’s legacy. But it is crucial we understand that the policies Trump is already pursuing have not materialized in a vacuum. The neoliberal policies presented by the “lesser evil” Democrats inevitably pave the way for the “greater evil” of President Trump and the radical right.

“Journalism is printing what someone else does not want printed,” George Orwell wrote. “Everything else is public relations.”

 

Editor’s note: Red Flag does not support or endorse any WordPress-sponsored advertisements that may appear on readers’ screens. This is another reason why workers, including writers, need to own the means of production–or in this case, the Internet.