Timeline/Stages for Collapse of our Way of Life
Former CIA officer admits the MIC funds and creates its own enemies, without exception. We no longer know who is a friend and who is a foe:
"Our man in Kandahar" was featured in post #1121. A new expose in the Atlantic by an investigative journalist who went undercover in Afghanistan sheds more light on this dark figure the U.S. has been lauding and supporting.
The U.S. likes mass murderers because a) they have already proven that there is no ethical bottom to which they will not descend, in order to achieve whatever end is desired; and b) BECAUSE they have the regrettable "mass murder" incident(s) on their resume, they can be repudiated at will whenever that becomes politically expedient.
What’s one more?
Here in the United States we’re often brought up and told that we don’t have propaganda…. that we have a hard-charging investigative press, that we have this educated, skeptical, and even cynical citizenry, and that if there were powerful interests trying to manage and manipulate the public, they would be exposed. The reality actually is just the opposite. Academics like Alex Carey and others, who’ve spent their lifetime looking at how propaganda works, find that it’s actually in Western democracies and open societies where you need the most sophisticated sorts of propaganda. Since World War I, thanks to Ivy Lee and Edward Bernays, propaganda has become a business – the business of public relations. Or as one of the firms that has often represented dictators, the Burson-Marsteller firm, puts it, their business is ‘perception management’.
Thanks for the video, Mike. I think. Quite an eye opener. I went to the Metanoia site and watched their other movie "HR" which was also very good. I’d say it had a stronger message. All about how the govt, corporations and the elite have strived to control people through various means (all foul). See it here. I found it quite tough to watch what people do to each other.
Malcolm X once described the media as “the most powerful entity on earth… Because they control the minds of the masses.”
For those interested in questioning the way our world operates, the lying and deception of the mass media can be one of the most frustrating things to confront. But understanding why the media seems to always take the side of the rulers, and how this affects the rest of us, has been a fraught question.
The media is an institution of capitalist rule, despite all of the pretensions to a “free press” and “balance”. Those who own or control the media are clearly a part of the capitalist establishment.
Rupert Murdoch is the most obvious example – a right wing, neoliberal warrior – but Fairfax and his less rabid rivals elsewhere are no different when it comes to having a serious stake in the system.
The Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting website lists the interlocking directorates of the major US media outlets. The directors of NBC also hold directorships at Chase Manhattan, Dell computers, Sun Microsystems and Unilever. The Wall Street Journal/Dow Jones includes directors from Union Carbide, Shell and Texaco while CNN includes Citigroup and Dell.
This is just scratching the surface.
There are well-documented studies showing the British media working closely with MI5 and the US media working with the CIA. Carl Bernstein documents the close relationship of the CIA with Time Magazine, Newsweek, CBS, the New York Times, ABC and NBC.
The media itself is a business. Media corporations operate under the same laws as all corporations within the capitalist system. This is most clearly shown when management is in conflict with the unions. It was Murdoch’s smashing of the printing unions at Wapping in the late 1980s that paved the way for his virtual takeover of the British press.
This filters down to those who actually produce the news and the programs. As Noam Chomsky says, “conformity is the easy way, and the path to privilege and prestige; dissidence carries personal costs.”
Or you can take it from one for whom conformity has worked very well, Evan Thomas, former editor-at-large of Newsweek. After describing himself as of the “establishment persuasion” he writes, “By definition, establishments believe in propping up the existing order. Members of the ruling class have a vested interest in keeping things pretty much the way they are.”
The news that these people present reflects their interests. The Pew Research Centre’s analysis of the coverage of the “Great Recession” found that of articles about the economic crisis, government and businesses were the triggers for 53 per cent of stories, and “ordinary citizens and union workers” were the catalysts for only 2 per cent. This during a period in which millions were losing their jobs and their homes.
So while the media likes to give the appearance of debate and balance, the parameters are limited to discourse acceptable to the capitalist class.
There is no doubt that the media has a significant impact on public opinion. Just look at the refugee issue. The Scanlon Foundation Survey last year found that only 19 per cent of respondents believed the best policy for boat people was allowing them the right to apply for permanent residence (as opposed to turning the boats back, mandatory detention or temporary residence). But in the same survey two in three were positive to asylum seekers who had applied offshore.
The survey’s authors point to the role of the media in stoking the fears that are the basis of the antipathy towards boat people. Where in the mainstream media do you find the actual facts – that the number of boat people who come to Australia is tiny compared to other groups of refugees, that it is not illegal to seek asylum, that Australia doesn’t take its fair share of refugees? A number of surveys have shown that respondents are much more likely to be sympathetic to boat people after they have been told these basic truths.
But this influence is not absolute. Here we must disagree with Malcolm X and the many others on the left who see the media as an all-powerful monolith that has succeeded in duping the masses.
First, to a certain extent the media must reflect the concerns of their main groups of consumers. To pump out pure ruling-class propaganda would diminish their standing amongst its consumers.
For example, the red-top tabloid The Daily Mirror in Britain, in competition with Murdoch’s Sun, ran a serious campaign against the Iraq war, which included hiring anti-war journalist John Pilger and producing thousands of placards for the large February 2003 demonstrations.
But even without these occasional wanderings onto the wrong side of the track, there has always been a healthy attitude of cynicism towards the media. The idea that “ordinary people”, especially tabloid readers, are morons who accept anything they read is an elitist myth peddled by those who think their education inoculates them from indoctrination but who often have the worst variety of it.
The Essential Report’s regular surveys of public opinion are cause for some optimism. First, the media rated lower than banks as trustworthy institutions. Of the respondents, 69 per cent disagreed with the statement that “the media usually reports all sides of a story”.
And for all those who think that Herald Sun/Telegraph readers are just dupes, their readers are actually much more likely to say that they don’t trust the paper. The poll was based on readers of particular newspapers: 23 per cent of Age readers and 20 per cent of SMH readers had “a lot of trust”, while the figures for both theTelegraph and the Herald Sun were only 7 per cent!
What this reflects is that people read and engage in the media in a way that is far more complex then is usually assumed. The idea that the media is just a “hypodermic needle” pumping misinformation into willing and empty heads is rubbish.
People filter the messages coming from the media in light of their own experiences, their own situations and those of others around them.
When the Tories got elected in the UK, their drastic austerity measures at first had majority support – no doubt partly because of the media line that everybody needed to tighten their belts. But as the union opposition has picked up and the reality of the crisis and the cuts has started to bite, this is turning around. Now we have a situation where millions are going out on strike against the cuts.
And this is one reason why mass action and class struggle are so important. It is the self-activity of the mass of ordinary people that will give us confidence in our own opinions and interests. If there is no struggle, there is no challenge to the media’s lies and distortions, no alternative to the world-view of highly paid, well-connected editors and producers.
Intelligent and realistic protestor speaking about the increasing number of malcontents in America:
You’ve got to admit, these activists have balls.
Raling against Big Government is only catching half the story…
Corporate WatchOriginally published:
This section of the Corporate Rule website will examine the processes whereby corporations exert influence over government through a series of case studies. The resources section provides a list of films and writing on the topic, as well as links to sources of information and relevant campaigning groups
Corporate power over government in ‘liberal democracy’ conjures up images of cash stuffed envelopes being passed in secrecy, of nepotism, ‘sleaze’ and corruption. Instances where corporate power becomes too apparent to the public are portrayed in media and government discourse as aberrations within a state where parliament works for its voters, not for its own power interests. Politicians and civil servants under the influence of corporations are caricatured as greedy fat cats, bad apples in an otherwise untarnished barrel.
Very often stories like that of Neil Hamilton, the Corporate Affairs minister in the Thatcher government in the UK, who accepted cash for asking questions in parliament on behalf of Muhammed Al Fayed, the owner of Harrods, or of the Nixon administration’s sponsorship by ITT in the US in the late early 1970s, give the impression that corporations only exert power over right wing governments. The exposing of Shell’s infiltration of the Nigerian government and subversion of its legal system might lead one to believe that complete corporate penetration of government is a phenomena confined to the global South. In fact these incidents only show the visible extremes of corporate power over government.
In truth these seedy images of corruption are a smokescreen impeding a true understanding of the relationship between corporations and governments. Corporations and politicians may not always have the same interests but the task of governments is always the same; to moderate an environment where the rich can continue to profit and the powerful can remain so. Corporate power over liberal democracy is global and ubiquitous. Indeed it could be argued that the two now function entirely symbiotically; with global capital feeding the advance of a globally avaricious neo-liberal imperialism facilitating the unmitigated dominance of corporations. Even the term ‘revolving door’ between corporations and government presumes that there is a door at all.
An Equal Balance?
In ‘representative democracy’ the government’s stated role is to mediate between the interests of different groups within society. Business, in theory, represents only one of these interests. The government often claims to have taken into account the interests of other groups in society by including pressure groups, Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) or trade unions in consultations. The public’s opinion is divined through opinion polls, surveys or focus groups and these supposedly representative views are said to be taken into account. However, governmental decisions can be consistently seen to benefit businesses rather than the public. This introduction will examine some of the processes by which corporate interests are elevated above all other concerns
The ‘lobbying’ element of policy making, that which is supposed to give a voice to the interests of members of the public, is dominated by corporations who exert enormous influence over government by employing private lobbyists. Corporate offices in Westminster or Washington act as industrial embassies, putting forward the interests of their company, their needs in terms of markets, legislation or political advocacy. In the UK lobbying, or ‘Public Affairs’, has developed into a professional industry worth £1.9 billion and employing 14 000 people. In 2010 the UK government rejected calls for a statutory register of lobbyists.
Industry lobby groups form an invaluable tool in this process. For example the Confederation of Food and Drink Industries (CIAA), which includes Cadbury, Cargill, Coca-Cola, Danone, Nestle, Kraft etc has recently persuaded the European Union (EU) not to introduce ‘traffic light’ food labelling. These industry groups provide a false separation between the needs of corporations and the actions of government. Lobby groups often masquerade as independent watchdogs through the setting up of front groups, such as the European Policy Centre, a ‘thinktank’ which British American Tobacco used to lobby for less restriction on the tobacco industry. It is presented as legitimate and normal for governments to look after the interests of these groups, who are seen as ‘stakeholders’ and part of the ‘community’.
The distinction between a politician and a corporate lobbyist is becoming increasingly blurred. Politicians are in high demand for high level lobbying positions. During 2010 Patricia Hewitt, Stephen Byers and Geoff Hoon, then government ministers, all told undercover reporters that they would be happy to sit on corporate advisory boards or provide information for £3000 to £5000 a day. In the UK it is legal for serving MPs to be paid consultants to business interests.
Government ‘consultation’ processes are an opportunity for the state to legitimise policies that benefit corporations. Corporate employees and industry groups sit alongside politicians and representatives of NGOs or pressure groups For example the Department for Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and the British Retail Consortium worked with Oxfam on a consultation over the sale of goods from Israeli settlements during 2009 and NGOs like Safer World sit on the Department of Business, Innovation and Skill’s panel on arms exports. These parties are said to represent the ‘stakeholders’ and the consultation is passed off as positive and representative.
Lobbying sometimes presents itself in the giving of bribes. This is the corruption that state discourse tells us needs to be weeded out. However, in most circumstances bribes are not illegal or even controversial. Very often bribes are presented, not as greasy envelopes, but as donations that, supposedly, would be given regardless of corporate needs, as party political donations, philanthropy or even as legitimate business dealings.
Corporations also fund, part fund, or donate toward the costs of ‘public’ projects. One example is corporate funding of education through sponsoring facilities and research posts and through academy schools. Rather than empowering these projects through financial support, this practice gives corporations an inordinate amount of power in the direction and future provision of such services, allowing decisions regarding supposedly public projects to be made in the interests of private businesses.
Corporate political donations are presented as unconnected to their political or commercial interests. However, the truth is that donations are aimed at obtaining more access to politicians and parliament, securing government contracts or effecting changes in the law. For example ITT paid costs for the 1973 Republican Party conference in the US in order to avoid the breakup of the company in an anti-trust suit. In an unusually frank memo ITT’s chief lobbyist wrote of the donation “I am convinced that our noble commitment has gone a long way toward our negotiations on the mergers eventually coming out as Hal (Geneen, ITT’s CEO) wants them. Certainly the President (Nixon) has told Mitchell (the Attorney General) to see that things are worked out fairly… Please destroy this, huh?”. More recently Rupert Murdoch, CEO of News Corporation, has made huge donations to the US Republican party while launching an attack on the Obama administration through the Fox News Network.
Yet another type of acceptable, although deeply controversial, bribe, is the kickbacks gleaned from business deals. During the Thatcher years UK government employees, including the prime minister’s son, Mark Thatcher, received commissions from BAE Systems for facilitating the Al Yamamah arms deal, worth £30 billion, between BAE and Saudi Arabia. Again, these kickbacks are legal in the UK. BAE also extensively bribed the Saudi government.
Corporations and government hand in hand
Those who have power, of which politicians and corporate bosses are two examples, are a tight bunch. This doesn’t necessarily indicate a global conspiracy, more that the CEOs and the directors of companies have, very often, come from the same class background and have followed the same educational and professional trajectories as politicians. Those trajectories inexorably link them with the status quo and, as such, they have a shared interest. Elite ‘old boys’ networks give politicians and the business class access to networking events where the confluence of their shared interest can be discussed, refined and planned.
This closeness is often called ‘nepotism’ or ‘cronyism’ in the media. The mainstream media loves to expose examples of it. Again, showing up the supposed ‘bad apples’ in an attempt to cleanse the system. However, the fact remains that politicians and the business class represent the same interests, and are often the same people.
Politicians act as ambassadors for corporations in their foreign relations. For example, in 2010, George Osbourne, the UK Chancellor of the Exchequer, visited India and ‘launched’ new products for Standard Chartered and Vodafone. Osborne also tried to sort out an expensive dispute with the Indian income tax department on behalf of Vodafone, over its acquisition of Hutchison Whampoa. During 2010, Shimon Peres, the Israeli president, embarked on an official visit to South America with representatives of several military companies attempting to secure ‘defence’ and ‘security’ contracts.
Corporate penetration of government
Corporations maintain a constant presence inside government. Current, former and future directors of multinational corporations work for HM Civil Service, in government procurement roles and on obscure advisory committees as part of the civil service or appointed directly by ministers. These committees often play an advisory, rather than policy making role, but are an important channel to communicate corporate needs directly to the requisite parts of government.
Multinational corporations attempts to penetrate governments span continents. For instance Shell have an all-pervasive influence over the Nigerian government Leaked communications between Shell and the US embassy showed the company boasting that the company“had seconded employees to every relevant department” and so knew “everything that was being done in those ministries”.
Sometimes corporate presence in government takes the form of a ‘revolving door’ between government and industry. For instance Sir Robert Walmsley was Chief of Defence procurement from 1996 to 2003, after a career in the navy. After retiring from the Civil Service Walmsley quickly became Senior Advisor to Morgan Stanley, and a director of Cohort, Ultra Electronics, British Energy, EDO Corporation (now ITT), General Dynamics and Stratos Global Corporation.
Many of these companies had benefited from government military procurement under Walmsley, and one of them, General Dynamics (GD) had very recently secured prime contractor status, worth £1.7 billion, to supply the Bowman radio system to the Ministry of Defence (MOD).Walmsley was asked by the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments to delay taking up the post for a year to avoid the impression that he was being ‘rewarded’ by GD for his help procuring the contract (Perish the thought).
Vodafone has been involved in a long-running legal battle with HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC), which accused the company of breaking tax regulations when it used a Luxembourg company, Vodafone Investments Luxembourg (VIL), to dispose of its shares in Mannesman. The regulations seek to ensure that UK companies with subsidiaries in ‘tax havens’ pay at no less than the UK tax rate. Vodafone lost the legal case but the settlement given by HMRC was extremely advantageous, requiring Vodafone to pay only a fraction of the tax owed. The negotiations between Vodafone and HMRC’s legal team must have been aided considerably by the fact that Vodafone’s Head of Tax, John Connors, had worked for HMRC up until 2007. The wheels may well have been further greased by Sir Christopher Gent. He had been Vodafone’s CEO until his resignation in 2006 before taking up a position on both the ‘Tax Reform Commission’, convened by George Osborne, and the ‘Economic Recovery Committee’, a team formed to guide the Conservative Party’s policy through the financial crisis. Vodafone’s finance director, Andy Halford, who was directly involved in the negotiations with HMRC, is a member of George Osborne’s ‘Business Forum for Competitiveness and Tax.'
The corporate media exerts a special power over government. News corporations have the power to shape public opinion of politicians and government policy. As a result, the corporate media has unprecedented access to politicians and can strike deals with the government over policy in return for positive coverage. Rupert Murdoch, the CEO of News Corporation, the world’s largest media corporation, had access to private meetings with Tony Blair after his election in 1997. He also conducted several meetings with the current Tory government shortly after its election. There were no notes taken of these high-level meetings. Media corporations are able to trade political pledges from governments, and address their specific market needs (such as Rupert Murdoch’s quest to purchase all shares in BskyB). In return, they offer support in their publications or on their networks for political parties and policies.
One of the most insidious examples of the corporate media exercising its power to both benefit government, and its own relationship with the state system, is of course its reporting of ‘corruption’. High profile, glamourous exposes of governmental ‘sleaze’, which invariably focus on personalised, individual wrongdoing, often run for weeks, and become the cultural currency for public understanding and discussion of corporate influence over government. This blindsiding through sensationalism serves not only to give the impression that the government and corporations are actively fighting corruption, but draws all attention away from inquiry into how widespread this influence is or, indeed, any analysis asserting that profit driven corporate influence over government is in fact systemic.
Corporations, government and war
An example of corporate influence over government contributing to controversial government policy was the US/UK’s 2003 invasion of Iraq. The interests of private companies in the marketisation of Iraq’s oil were a significant factor in the decision to go to war. Several US politicians stood to personally gain from the invasion of Iraq, through their involvements with corporations who stood to gain contracts once the Iraqi market was prised open. For example, US Vice-President Dick Cheney was CEO of Halliburton until 2000. He was still being paid by the company in 2003, when it was awarded nearly a billion dollars-worth of contracts to work with US troops. British companies also stood to gain lucrative contracts in post-war Iraq.
The invasion of Iraq was not the first war to be fought for corporate interests. Wars are, more often than not, fought for resources and corporations have an interest in controlling these resources. During the 70s a group of companies led by ITT and Anaconda Copper Mining Company attempted to steer US foreign policy toward the toppling of Salvador Allende, who was nationalising corporate assets in Chile. ITT suggested that the US should back a coup, which it later did,leading to decades of brutal dictatorship.
The interests of corporations, as well as spurring wars, also influence governments to maintain the status quo. The maintenance of the status quo often requires the subjugation of ordinary people in favour of militarism, dictators and juntas. For example, the Oslo ‘peace process’ between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) was a process designed to consolidate and institutionalise Israeli control over Palestine. Israeli companies working in the occupied territories were one of the first groups to be consulted. Israeli business interests benefit from the occupation of Palestine and lobby for the maintenance of Israeli militarism. This leads to a lack of political will to end the occupation, despite its disastrous effect on Israeli society.
Similarly, the shared interests of the US and the Saudi Arabian governments in maintaining the control of Saudi oil has led to militarism and repression. In order to control resources on behalf of US corporations, the US has supported the maintenance of the Saudi regime and the repression of the Saudi population. In order to protect their relationship with the US, the Saudi state has been forced to repress their own population ever more brutally. Saudi oil is controlled by Aramco, whose shareholders are the US’s largest oil corporations.
Nahh, I don’t think the public would have bought it. Are we that gluttonous and bereft of ethics and morality? Maybe so. Just remember to give a wink and a nod to the piles of dead bodies that were sacrificed for you to ‘fill up’ your tank.
"We now accept thousands of security cameras in public places, intrusive physical searches and expanding police powers as the new reality of American life. The privacy that once defined this nation is now viewed as a quaint, if not naive, concept. Police power works like the release of gas in a closed space: expand the space and the gas fills it. It is rare in history to see ground lost in civil liberties be regained through concessions of power by the government." – Jonathan Turley
… President Obama not only retained the controversial Bush policies, he expanded on them. The earliest, and most startling, move came quickly. Soon after his election, various military and political figures reported that Obama reportedly promised Bush officials in private that no one would be investigated or prosecuted for torture. In his first year, Obama made good on that promise, announcing that no CIA employee would be prosecuted for torture. Later, his administration refused to prosecute any of the Bush officials responsible for ordering or justifying the program and embraced the “just following orders” defense for other officials, the very defense rejected by the United States at the Nuremberg trials after World War II.
Obama failed to close Guantanamo Bay as promised. He continued warrantless surveillance and military tribunals that denied defendants basic rights. He asserted the right to kill U.S. citizens he views as terrorists. His administration has fought to block dozens of public-interest lawsuits challenging privacy violations and presidential abuses.
But perhaps the biggest blow to civil liberties is what he has done to the movement itself. It has quieted to a whisper, muted by the power of Obama’s personality and his symbolic importance as the first black president as well as the liberal who replaced Bush. Indeed, only a few days after he took office, the Nobel committee awarded him the Nobel Peace Prize without his having a single accomplishment to his credit beyond being elected. Many Democrats were, and remain, enraptured.
It’s almost a classic case of the Stockholm syndrome, in which a hostage bonds with his captor despite the obvious threat to his existence. Even though many Democrats admit in private that they are shocked by Obama’s position on civil liberties, they are incapable of opposing him. Some insist that they are simply motivated by realism: A Republican would be worse. However, realism alone cannot explain the utter absence of a push for an alternative Democratic candidate or organized opposition to Obama’s policies on civil liberties in Congress during his term. It looks more like a cult of personality. Obama’s policies have become secondary to his persona.
Ironically, had Obama been defeated in 2008, it is likely that an alliance for civil liberties might have coalesced and effectively fought the government’s burgeoning police powers. A Gallup poll released this week shows 49% of Americans, a record since the poll began asking this question in 2003, believe that “the federal government poses an immediate threat to individuals’ rights and freedoms.” Yet the Obama administration long ago made a cynical calculation that it already had such voters in the bag and tacked to the right on this issue to show Obama was not “soft” on terror. He assumed that, yet again, civil libertarians might grumble and gripe but, come election day, they would not dare stay home.
One of the hallmarks of a totalitarian society is the politicization of everything. In our case, inverted corporate totalitarianism morphs into a more overt corporate fascist totalitarianism. In order for the status quo to be maintained, this is what has been happening.