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The Iron Law of Oligarchy

Version 1.1 (June 12, 2017)

News Elite [Dominance] Theory And the Revolt of the Elite Recommended Books Recommended Links Two Party System as polyarchy Audacioues Oligarchy and Loss of Trust Neoliberal "New Class" as variant of Soviet Nomenklatura
Inverted Totalitarism Neoliberalism as a New Form of Corporatism The Pareto Law Corporatism Neo-fascism Bureaucracy Bureaucracy as a Political Coalition
New American Caste System  American Exceptionalism Amorality of neoliberal elite The Deep State Ayn Rand and Objectivism Cult Pluralism as a myth What's the Matter with Kansas
Neoliberal Brainwashing: Journalism in the Service of the Powerful Few The Guardian Slips Beyond the Reach of Embarrassment The importance of controlling the narrative  Patterns of Propaganda US and British media are servants of security apparatus   National Security State / Surveillance State Big Uncle is Watching You
Wrecking Crew: Notes on Republican Economic Policy Libertarian Philosophy   In Goldman Sachs we trust: classic example of regulatory capture by financial system hackers Groupthink Skeptic Quotations Humor Etc

Introduction

The Iron law of oligarchy is a political theory, first developed by the German sociologist Robert Michels in his book 1915 Political Parties. The book is now freely available as copyright expired,  and well worth reading:

Robert Michels was a Professor of Political Economy and Statistics, University of Basle. He was an anarcho-syndicalist at the time he formulated the Law. He later became an important ideologue of Mussolini's fascist regime in Italy. Drawing on his own disillusioning as a member and supporter of a social democratic party in early 20th century Germany, Michels described an interesting dynamics pf organizations such as political parties toward crystallization its own "nomenklatura"  unaccountable to rank-and-file members elite - or as he called them -- an oligarchy.  Those processes inevitably start  even the most democratically-oriented organizations and they eventually  become divided into an elite (or more correctly a set of elites, or oligarchs, with their own set of distinctive and private interests in the organization) and the rank and file members, whose labor and resources are exploited by the elites. The first condition precipitating the drift to such an oligarchical system is, ironically, success in recruiting new members to the organization’s cause. As organizations grow, the ability of members to participate equally in organizational decisions decline, both because it is hard to find a place and time for all members to assemble and because decision-making is significantly slowed - not infrequently to a standstill - as the number of decision-makers increases. The usual response is to such problems is creation of "leadership"  -- delegation of responsibility to a relatively small subset of members for formulating and recommending lines of action.

Although members may attempt to maintain democratic control, a number of forces weaken any attempts for such control. For example,  effective administration requires both hard-to-gain, specialized knowledge of these aspects of the organization (Michels referred to this as “administrative secrets”), as well as scarce organizing talents, such as the ability to manage interpersonal relations and to conduct logistical planning. This limits the ability of rank-and-file members to challenge leaders’ recommendations or decisions, and to replace them; so power gradually concentrated at the top. Moreover, once elected leaders are likely to acquire vested interests in maintaining their positions within the organization, especially when the complexity leads to the creation of full-time administrative positions.

In this case holding the office becomes the way of making living, , makes it likely that the leaders recognize their common interests in maintaining their positions within the organization, and develop a sense of solidarity with one another (becoming, in Marxist terminology, something like a privileged class, local aristocracy). As such, they are inclined to act cohesively in fending off criticisms and warding off displacement efforts by the membership. If serious challenges are not readily suppressed, the leaders may resort to cooptation of individual rank-and-file members, thus effectively hobbling lower-level resistance. Because their continued position also depends on the survival of the organizations, leaders of initially radical organizations tend to adopt more conservative, conciliatory positions in order to minimize chances of suppression of the organization by the state (digitalcommons.ilr.cornell.edu (

In other words growth of complexity of organization alone tend to lead to crystallization of oligarchy with this it. The simplest formulation of the 'Iron Law of Oligarchy': "Who says organization, says oligarchy."  The inevitability of oligarchy in party life, and as to the difficulties which the growth of this oligarchy imposes upon the realization of democracy, have been strikingly confirmed since the publication of the book.  So now the "iron law of oligarchy" is as close to a social law as one can get. 

In essence, Iron law of oligarchy postulate that any complex organization self-generate its own elite, an oligarchy that has a disproportional influence on the decisions made in the organization. Such an elite is pretty autonomous from "rank-and-file" members and is little affected by elections. As such Iron law of oligarchy stands in stark opposition to pluralism and suggests that "participatory democracy" is a utopian ideal and that democracy is always limited to very narrow strata of existing oligarchy (top 0.01% in the USA). It also stands in opposition to state autonomy theory.

At ta very basic level strength (both physical and the character), intellect and cunning are three qualities which typically set leaders apart from the masses of the led. Authority -- the right to lead -- is always gained through some type of intraparty/intragroup competition that implicitly or explicitly tests these qualities. In small groups in the past (and in high school even today) its can be even an actual fight. The desire to dominate, and the expectation of the rewards that accompany domination, presumably are what motivate individuals to enter this competition and fight to win.

Competition for preeminence is characteristic of human societies. It is related to the concept of alpha male in primates. The possession of some characteristic highly valued by the community, can, with some luck, elevate an individual to the elite status. That means that elites are those individual that have the most of the qualities we would like to have ourselves. Artistic elites, thus, are those possessing the greatest artistic gifts and skills, and political elites are those who are able to discern political trends better then other and as a result accumulate by various means most political power. This is essentially Gaetano Mosca's definition of the elite -- a minority set off from the masses by the possession of some prized quality

Although leadership by elites and the moral justification for it no doubt predated written human history, the philosophical origins of the Western tradition of elitism lies with the Greeks, ironically also the authors of democracy. For example, Plato put forth an unabashed apology for political rule by intellectual elites.

Speaking still of elites in general, rather than political elites specifically, we can detect three main characteristics of elites: exclusivity, superiority, and domination.

The larger argument that Keller is making is that there is a ruling class, at least in industrial societies, but it is not homogenous like Marxists assume.  Industrial societies are so differentiated, and there are so many areas of human activity, that no one particular social group can dominate every aspect. so elite exist is certain "pockets", which might overlap. There is also hierarchy within the elites with the political and financial elites (aka financial oligarchy) being at the top of the pecking order.  Life has become highly compartmentalized in modern societies, and as a result there are several "strategically placed" elites that dominate different areas of life in modern societies and delegate their members into upper level of elite hierarchy. .

A political elite, then, is a group that dominates the political life of a society (and that means the society as a whole), is superior in political skills (keeping in mind that the types of skills valuable for politics vary and can include duplicity and murderousness as well as rhetorical skill and persuasiveness), and insulated from everyday contact with the larger society. A considerable literature exists around the problem of defining the boundaries of the political elite, drawing the line between the elite and the non-elite, and distinguishing among elites and leaders.5

Need for organization

As michels noted

" ...Be the claims economic or be they political, organization appears the only means for the creation of a collective will. Organization, based as it is upon the principle of least effort, that is to say, upon the greatest possible economy of energy, is the weapon of the weak in their struggle with the strong.

The chances of success in any struggle will depend upon the degree to which this struggle is carried out upon a basis of solidarity between individuals whose interests are identical. In objecting, therefore, to the theories of the individualist anarchists that nothing could please the employers better than the dispersion and disaggregation of the forces of the workers, the socialists, the most fanatical of all 'the partisans of the idea of organization, enunciate an argument which harmonizes well with the results of scientific study of the nature of parties.'

Iron law of oligarchy as a powerful argument against possibility of  "permanent stability"  in human societies

"Iron law of oligarchy" represents a powerful argument against possibility of  "permanent stability"  in human societies. As Minsky told us "stability is destabilizing". As elite that got power degrades, newcomers want to displace it and such "regime change" often possible only by violent means. That's why the institutionalized mechanisms for "rotation of elite" are so important. 

Every solidly constructed organization, whether it be a democratic state, a political party, or a league of proletarians for the resistance of economic oppression, presents a soil eminently favorable for the differentiation of organs and of functions. The more extended and the more ramified the official apparatus of the organization, the greater the number of its members, the fuller its treasury, and the more widely circulated its press, the less efficient becomes the direct control exercised by the rank and file, and the more is this control replaced by the increasing
power of committees.

Into all parties there insinuates itself that indirect electoral system which in public life the democratic parties fight against with all possible vigour. Yet in party life the influence of this system must be more disastrous than in the far more extensive life of the state. Even in the party congresses, which represent the party-life seven times sifted, we find that it becomes more and more general to refer all important questions to committees which debate in camera.

At the same time any revolution, at the end, is just a change on the top layer of elite. Which means that they seldom achieve stated goals, especially if such goals include equality and social justice. The fundamental distinction between the elite and rank-and-file members is always preserved and, paradoxically, often enhanced.  As Michels noted in his book Political Parties

...society cannot exist without a …dominant… or… political class, and that the ruling class, while its elements are subject to frequent partial renewal, nevertheless constitutes the only factor of sufficiently durable efficacy in the history of human development. [T]he government, or, … the state, cannot be anything other than the organization of a minority. It is the aim of this minority to impose upon the rest of society a “legal order” which is the outcome of the exigencies of dominion and of the exploitation of the mass …

Even when the discontent of the masses culminates in a successful attempt to deprive the bourgeoisie of power, this is … effected only in appearance; always and necessarily there springs from the masses a new organized minority which raises itself to the rank of a governing class…” (pp. 353-354).

Elite is an organized minority which always outmaneuver and outsmart the rank-and-file members

The key here is that elite (oligarchy) on any complex organization always holds the lion share of  political power and that this power is independent of any democratic elections or revolutions:

The practical ideal of democracy consists in the self-government of the masses in conformity with the decisions of popular assemblies. But while this system limits the extension of the principle of delegation, it fails to provide any guarantee against the formation of an oligarchical camarilla. Undoubtedly it deprives the natural leaders of their quality as functionaries, for this quality is transferred to the people themselves. The crowd, however, is always subject to suggestion, being readily influenced by the eloquence of great popular orators ; moreover, direct government by the people, admitting of no serious discussions or thoughtful deliberations, greatly facilitates coups de main of all kinds by men who are exceptionally bold, energetic, and adroit;

It is easier to dominate a large crowd than a small audience. The adhesion of the crowd is tumultuous, summary, and unconditional. Once the suggestions have taken effect, the crowd does
not readily tolerate contradiction from a small minority, and still less from isolated individuals. A great multitude assembled within a small area is unquestionably more accessible to panic

... ... ...

The sovereign masses are altogether incapable of undertaking the most necessary resolutions. The impotence of direct democracy, like the power of indirect democracy, is a direct outcome
of the influence of number. In a polemic against Proudhon (1849), Louis Blanc asks whether it is possible for thirty-four millions of human beings (the population of France at that time) to carry on their affairs without accepting what the pettiest man of business finds necessary, the intermediation of representatives.

... ... ...

Organization implies the tendency to oligarchy. In every organization, whether it be a political party, a professional union, or any other association of the kind, the aristocratic tendency manifests itself very clearly. The mechanism of the organization, while conferring a solidity of structure, induces serious changes in the organized mass, completely inverting the respective position of the leaders and the led. As a result of organization, every party or professional union becomes divided into a minority of directors and a majority of directed.

...It has been remarked that in the lower stages of civilization tyranny is dominant. Democracy cannot come into existence until there is attained a subsequent and more highly developed stage of social life. Freedoms and privileges, and among these latter the privilege of taking part in the direction of public a change in the relationship between the leaders and the mass. For the comradely leadership of local committees with all its undeniable defects there is substituted the professional leadership of the trade-union officials.

Initiative and capacity for decision thus become what may be called a professional speciality, whilst for the rank and file is left the passive virtue of discipline. There can be no doubt that this seamy side of officialism involves serious dangers for the party. The latest innovation in this direction, in the German social democratic party, is the appointment of salaried secretaries to the local branches. Unless the rank and file of the party keep very much on the alert, unless they are careful that these secretaries shall be restricted to purely executive functions, the secretaries will come to be regarded as the natural and sole depositaries of all power of initiative, and  as the exclusive leaders of local party life.

In the socialist party, however, by the nature of things, by the very character of the political struggle, narrower limits are imposed upon bureaucracy than in the case of the tradeunions. In these latter, the technical specialization of the wage-struggle (the need, for example, for the drafting of complicated sliding scales and  the like) often leads the chiefs to deny that the mass of organized workers can possess "a general view of the economic life of the country as a whole," and to deny, therefore, their capacity of judgment in such matters.

The most typical outcome of this conception is afforded by the argument  with which the leaders are accustomed to forbid all theoretical criticism of the prospects and possibilities of practical trade-unionism, asserting that such criticism involves a danger for the spirit of organization. This reasoning starts from the assumption that the workers can be won for organization  and can be induced to remain faithful to their trade-unions only by a blind and artless belief in the saving efficacy of the trade-union struggle ' ' (Rosa Luxemburg, Massenstreih, Partei u. GewerTcschaften, Erdmann Dubber,  Hamburg, 1906, p. 61).

Elite is an organized minority which always outmaneuver and outsmart the rank-and-file of the particular organization ("unorganized majority").

 Elite is an organized minority which always outmaneuver and outsmart the rank-and-file of the particular organization ("unorganized majority").

It is important to understand that there is a hierarchy within the elites too: it is composed of the "the top guns"  and the sub-elites.

Robert Michels observations were based on the fact that the socialist parties of Europe, despite their democratic ideology and provisions for mass participation, were completely and irrevocably dominated by their leaders (often with the elements of the "cult of personality"), just as the traditional conservative parties. Generalizing this phenomena he stated that all forms of organization, regardless of how democratic or autocratic they may be at the start, will eventually and inevitably evolve into oligarchies.

It is indisputable that the oligarchical and bureaucratic tendency of party organization is a matter of technical and practical necessity. It is the inevitable product of the very principle of organization.

For technical and administrative reasons, no less than for tactical reasons, a strong organization needs an equally strong leadership.

... ... ...

To represent, in this sense, comes to mean that the purely individual desire masquerades and is accepted as the will of the mass. In certain isolated cases, where the questions involved are extremely simple, and where the delegated authority is of brief duration, representation is possible. But permanent representation will always be tantamount to the exercise of dominion by the representatives over the represented.

... ... ....

Louis XIV understood the art of government as have few princes either before or since, and this was the case above all in the first half of his reign, when his spirit was still young and fresh. In
his memoirs of the year 1666, he lays down for every branch of the administration, and more especially for the conduct of military affairs, the following essential rules: "que les resolu-
tions doivent etre promptes, la discipline exact, les commandements absolus, I'obeissance ponctuelle."^ The essentials thus enumerated by Lous (promptness of decision, unity of
command, and strictness of discipline) are equally applicable, mutaiis mutandis, to the various aggregates of modern political life, for these are in a perpetual condition of latent warfare.

The modern party is a fighting organization in the political sense of the term, and must as such conform to the laws of tactics. Now the first article of these laws is facility of mobilization. Ferdinand Lassalle, the founder of a revolutionary labour party, recognized this long ago, contending that the dictatorship which existed in fact in the society over which he presided was as thoroughly justified in theory as it was indispensable in practice. The rank and file, he said, must follow their chief blindly, and the whole organization must be like a hammer in the hands of its president.

... ... ...

In the daily struggle, nothing but a certain degree of csesarism will ensure the rapid transmission and the precise execution of orders. The Dutch socialist. Van Kol, frankly declares that true democracy cannot be installed until the fight is over.

The elite can be quite hostile to the society (or organization) at large and behave more like an occupation force

The elite actually can be quite hostile to the society (or organization) at large and behave more like an occupation force then the  "best representatives".  This detachment of elite from the interests of underling organization or society and the immanent tendency to pursue their own, narrowly understood political and economic interests is the major source of instability in the society.  

Prominent examples here are Bolsheviks, national socialists as well as neoliberal elite, especially neocons  policies of which are beneficial to military industrial complex and multinationals...

The elite actually can be quite hostile to the society (or organization) at large and behave more like an occupation force then the "best representatives". This detachment of elite from the interests of underling organization or society and  the immanent tendency to pursue their own, narrowly understood political and economic interests is the major source of instability in the society.

This gap between policies of the elite and desire of "masses" is not always negarive like in case of, say, US neocons. It can be positive and the changes hatched by  elite improve the life of "masses", while initially thosees "masses" oppose them.

In turn, common people, "masses" should not be idealized iether. They often do not understand and recent the ideas of the leaders, even if at the end they are the beneficiary of their implementation:

 Most people are altogether devoid of understanding of the actions and reactions between that organism we call the state and their private interests, their prosperity, and their life. As de Tocqueville expresses it, they regard it as far more important to consider "s'il faut faire passer un chemin au bout de leur domaine"^ than to interest themselves in the general work of public administration. The majority is content, with Stirner, to call out to the state, "Get away from between me and the sun!"

Stirner makes fun of all those who, in accordance vsdth the views of Kant, preach it to humanity as a  ' sacred duty ' ' to take an interest in public affairs. ' ' Let those persons who have a personal interest in political changes concern themselves with these. Neither now nor at any future time will 'sacred duty' lead people to trouble themselves about the
 

Key Findings

By studying the political parties of his time Michels came to the conclusion that the problem is connected with the very nature of organizations. Development of the modern democracy allowed the formation of organization like political parties. Paradoxically, any such organization, when growing in complexity, gradually become  less and less democratic. And this process is immanent, objective and does not depend  of quality of leaders or nature of the organization. Michels outlines several important factors which serve as a foundation of the "Iron Law of Oligarchy":

In other words rule by an elite (aka "oligarchy") is inevitable within any large organization because the set of  objectively existing  "tactical and technical necessities" immanent to complex organizations.  Moreover, intellectuals within such political organizations tend to become oligarchs. The history of the USSR is a very  sobering example of this trend. Michels particularly addressed the interaction of this law with the idea of  democracy and found the latter illusionary. He stated:

"It is organization which gives birth to the dominion of the elected over the electors, of the mandataries over the mandators, of the delegates over the delegators. Who says organization, says oligarchy".

He went on to state that "Historical evolution mocks all the prophylactic measures that have been adopted for the prevention of oligarchy."

The organizational characteristics that promote oligarchy are reinforced by certain characteristics of both leaders and members of organizations. People achieve leadership positions precisely because they have political talent; they are adept at getting their way and persuading others of the correctness of their views.

Once they hold high office, their power and prestige is further increased and "lock-in" quickly happens.  Leaders have access to, and control over, information and facilities that are not available to the rank-and-file. They control the information that flows down the channels of communication. Leaders are also strongly motivated to persuade the organization of the rightness of their views, and they use all of their skills, power and authority to do so.[3]

By design of any complex organization as a hierarchical structure, rank and file are less informed than their "superiors." Finally, from birth, people are taught to obey those in positions of authority. Therefore the rank and file tend to look to leaders for policy directives and are generally prepared to allow leaders to exercise their judgment on most matters even to detriment of their own interests.

Leaders also control and have the ability to apply very powerful negative and positive sanctions to promote the behavior of rank-and-file members that they desire. Classic example is patriotic fervor during wars even if the was in clearly has offensive nor defensive character like it was with the Iraq was. 

The leaders have the power to control communication,  grant or deny raises, assign workloads, fire, demote and — that most gratifying of all sanctions — the power to promote. There is now  doubt that they tend to promote junior officials who share their opinions and can be counted on being loyal, with the result that the oligarchy becomes more and more entrenched and self-perpetuating. Therefore the very nature of large-scale organization makes oligarchy within these organizations inevitable. Bureaucracy, by design, promotes the centralization of power and concentration it at the very top of the organization.

Democratic Parties typically are not that democratic

While the US democratic Party now is glaring example of this, this is is not a new phenomenon. As Robert Michels observed (p 50)

In the life of modern democratic parties we may observe signs of similar indifference. It is only a minority which participates in party decisions, and sometimes that minority is ludicrously
small. The most important resolutions taken by the most democratic of all parties, the socialist party, always emanate from a handful of the members. It is true that the renouncement of
the exercise of democratic rights is voluntary; except in those cases, which are common enough, where the active participation of the organized mass in party life is prevented by geographical or topographical conditions.

Speaking generally, it is the urban part of the organization which decides everything; the duties of the members living in country districts and in remote provincial towns are greatly restricted ; they are expected to pay their subscriptions and to vote during elections in favour of the candidates selected by the organization of the great town.

There is here at work the influence of tactical considerations as well as that of local conditions. The preponderance of the townsmen over the scattered country members corresponds to the necessity of promptness in decision and speed in action to which allusion was made in an earlier chapter.

... ... ...

It may be added that the regular attendants at public meetings and committees are by no means always proletarians — especially where the smaller centres are concerned. When his work is finished, the proletarian can think only of rest, and of getting to bed in good time. His place at meetings is taken by petty bourgeois, by those who come to sell newspapers and picture-postcards, by clerks, by young intellectuals who have not yet got a position in their own circle, people who are all glad to hear themselves spoken of as authentic proletarians and to be glorified as the class of the future.*

The same thing happens in party life as happens in the state. In both, the demand for monetary supplies is upon a coercive foundation, but the electoral system has no established sanction. An electoral right exists, but no electoral duty. Until this duty is superimposed upon the right, it appears probable that a small minority only will continue to avail itself of the right which the majority voluntarily renounces, and that the minority will always dictate laws for the indifferent and apathetic mass.

New view on the modern history

From this point of view the XXth century revolutions in Russia and China, it was not "workers and peasants" revolutions as Marxists try to present. They were coups d'état of a narrow circle of intellectuals representing interests of middle class and organized as a radical political party with the explicit goal to depose existing elite and became a new elite themselves:

In Coup d'État: A Practical Handbook, military historian Edward Luttwak states that "[a] coup consists of the infiltration of a small, but critical, segment of the state apparatus, which is then used to displace the government from its control of the remainder."

Those revolutions gave the birth of the world first totalitarian regimes which raised the level of detachment and hostility of the elite to the rank-and-file members of society to a new historical level (now dutifully reproduced by the US neoliberal elite)

Similarly the disintegration of the USSR was not so much due to the growth of democratic tendencies of the population. Even such factors as  inefficiency of the socialist mode of production and internet revolution that made state control of information more difficult were not decisive.  All those factors were present, but the key factor was that the growth of globalism increased neoliberal tendencies of the USSR elite (including first of all KGB elite, which produced several high raking defectors to the USA including at least one general).

The latter decided to privatize the country and join the club or Western elites in short and swift neoliberal Coup d'état, essentially a color revolution.  This integration of the new xUSSR elite with Western Elites did happened, but on West (aka vassal) terms, as nobody eliminated hierarchy with in the global elite. So this romance, which flourished during Yeltsin years (which were years of economic rape of Russia by he West and local, most Jewish oligarchs) partially came to and end with the election of President Putin. Some "neoliberal oligarchs", who resisted the change ended in exile, and one even managed to get into jail.  

In general any successful national-liberation and socialist movement which run under populist and democratic slogans in reality tend to have the same "elite displacement" property, when old elite is replaced by a new one. Which can be more cruel toward population then the previous one. 

In this sense Machiavelli idea that there is nothing more dangerous then to institute a social change has new, pretty  menacing meaning.  Please look at EuroMaidan at the most recent example of the elite change and what it brought to rank-and-file Ukrainians. 

Democracy as a utopian ideal

The Iron law of oligarchy is generally recognized to be one of the most devastating propositions in all social science as it undermines a cornerstone both liberal-democratic and Marxist theories -- the viability of democracy as direct rule of people.

The Iron law of oligarchy also suggests that competition for power in "Western democracies" is far from "perfect" and is limited to competition with the elite (approximately top 0.01% of the population). Institutions which provide for minority rights, checks and balances are just sweet political coatings over bitter socio-economic pills. 

They also server as pressure valves for channeling discontent into more palatable forms, but are little more then that.  Looks like Marxists were right that without greater economic equality democracy is completely impossible. But, at the same time,  they were wrong that pretty economically egalitarian society is viable as self-generation of elites in any society can't be stopped.

In the USSR oligarchy (aka nomenklatura)   self-emerged and ruled for all the short USSR history. It is well described in Michael Voslensky book  Nomenklatura The Soviet Ruling Class . Actually Politburo of CPSU became a gravitational center of new oligarchy. In comparison with the USSR with its rigid one-party system, the USA employ more sophisticated system  of two party rule, which actually proved to be less brutal, but, at the same time, more efficient in sustaining of the rule of oligarchy (Two Party System as Polyarchy)

Indirectly the "iron rule of oligarchy" also badly reflects on the US foreign policy, making "promotion of democracy" to look like a smoke screen behind which naked economic and imperial interests hide. For example, the recent Hillary Clinton stance of Libya and Syria looks like hypocritical nonsense that masks geopolitical and economic energy security considerations. It is just a  "regime change" in which a different, more friendly to US interests part of national oligarchy comes to power.  

The Iron Law of Oligarchy also makes clear that the current ruling regime in the USA has very little to do with the democracy and a lot with the defense of the interests of top one (or more correctly 0.01%) of population.  

Still, improvement in socio-economic welfare matters as it does increase economic sovereignty of individuals and limit the number of degrees of freedom that oligarchy enjoys. The poorer (and less economically secure) are the people the easier they are manipulated. So egalitarian ideal still has distinct democratic value. 

The official goal of democracy of eliminating elite rule is impossible, and any "democracy" is always just a façade legitimizing the rule of a particular elite.

According to the "iron law," democracy and large-scale organizations are incompatible. Democracy is a utopian ideal. The official goal of democracy of eliminating elite rule is impossible, and any "democracy" is always just a façade legitimizing the rule of a particular elite.

Iron law of oligarchy and the stratification of society

The degree of inequality in a given asset (e. g., income) depends, of course, on its dispersion or concentration of wealth across the individuals in the population Although many scholars seek to characterize the overall level of societal inequality with a single parameter, such attempts will obviously be compromised insofar as some types of assets are distributed more equally than others.

This complexity clearly arises in the case of modern stratification systems, for instance, the recent emergence of "social rights" suggests that civil goods are now more equally dispersed across all citizens, whereas economic and political goods continue to be disproportionately controlled by a relatively small elite -- financial oligarchy.

In nearly all models of advanced industrial society, education is the principal mechanism by which individuals are sorted into such classes; in a way educational institutions serve to "license" human capital (if we use this neoliberal term) and convert it to cultural currency.

Emergence of global elite, financial oligarchy

One of the most recent social phenomenon is the emergence of global elite. It is represented by-and-large by parts of nations financial oligarchy with some additions of employees of international organization (World Bank, IMF, etc), high-tech companies and transnational corporations.  Here the iron law of oligarchy which previously was limited to state borders started to operate on new transnational level with the  self-organizing Politburo world (with membership concentrated on top echelons of elites of  G7 countries) and vassals, subservient elites which in effect are not so different from a regular party members on the international scheme.  In other words some parts of the elite and first of all financial oligarchy concentrated at the West converted themselves into super elite.

Financial oligarchy proved to be different from other types of oligarchy: from the very beginning it is transnational and as such is inclined to the betray the interests of home country population.  Also unlike other parts of oligarchy in the particular county, financial elite it is more parasitic and exists mainly as additional tax layer for the population. Despite the claims made by paid cheerleaders of megabanks, too big to fail banks extract huge taxpayer subsidies. This capture of the countries by a parasitic transnational financial elite is a new development and it changes the applicability of the law of oligarchy in a very unexpected way: the emerging clique of super-rich financial moguls are practically becoming their own nation, buying houses and keeping assets outside their country of primary residence. Whether they maintain primary residences in New York or Hong Kong, Moscow or Mumbai, today’s this transnational oligarchy is increasingly looks like a virtual "super nation".  Those “Supercitizens” are by-and-large above law unless the crime is committed against another supercitizen.

Also within a single country we are now seeing  not a single economy, but rather two fundamentally different and separate types of economy. This growing gap between the rich and non-rich has been evident for years. In a 2005 report to investors, for instance, three analysts at Citigroup advised that “the World is dividing into two blocs—the Plutonomy and the rest”:

In a plutonomy there is no such animal as “the U.S. consumer” or “the UK consumer”, or indeed the “Russian consumer”. There are rich consumers, few in number, but disproportionate in the gigantic slice of income and consumption they take. There are the rest, the “non-rich”, the multitudinous many, but only accounting for surprisingly small bites of the national pie.

Unlike previous oligarchies, members of the global elite generally stick to a globalist perspective and do not contribute to the economic growth of their home countries. They are becoming a transnational community of peers who have more in common with one another than with their countrymen. Ordinary people find themselves living in a globalized plutocracy, in which the superrich display acute indifference to the interest of "natives", and openly pursue narrow self-interest with callous indifference to anyone outside their own rarefied economic kingdom.

Financial elite of international financial organization such as IMF and World Bank is an interesting special case: 

"Christine Lagarde, the IMF boss who caused international outrage after she suggested in an interview with the Guardian on Friday that beleaguered Greeks might do well to pay their taxes, pays no taxes, it has emerged.

As an official of an international institution, her salary of $467,940 (£298,675) a year plus $83,760 additional allowance a year is not subject to any taxes.

The former French finance minister took over as managing director of the IMF last year when she succeeded her disgraced compatriot Dominique Strauss-Kahn, who was forced to resign after he faced charges – later dropped – of sexually attacking a New York hotel maid.

Lagarde, 56, receives a pay and benefits package worth more than American president Barack Obama earns from the United States government, and he pays taxes on it.

The same applies to nearly all United Nations employees – article 34 of the Vienna convention on diplomatic relations of 1961, which has been signed by 187 states, declares: "A diplomatic agent shall be exempt from all dues and taxes, personal or real, national, regional or municipal."

According to Lagarde's contract she is also entitled to a pay rise on 1 July every year during her five-year contract.

Base salaries range from $46,000 to $80,521. Senior salaries range between $95,394 and $123,033 but these are topped up with adjustments for the cost of living in different countries. A UN worker based in Geneva, for example, will see their base salary increased by 106%, in Bonn by 50.6%, Paris 62% and Peshawar 38.6%. Even in Juba, the capital of South Sudan, one of the poorest areas of the world, a UN employee's salary will be increased by 53.2%.

Other benefits include rent subsidies, dependency allowances for spouses and children, education grants for school-age children and travel and shipping expenses, as well as subsidized medical insurance.

For many years critics have complained that IMF, World Bank, and United Nations employees are able to live large at international taxpayers' expense.

During the 1944 economic conference at Bretton Woods, where the IMF was created, American and British politicians disagreed over salaries for the bureaucrats. British delegates, including the economist John Maynard Keynes, considered the American proposals for salaries to be "monstrous", but lost the argument.

Officials from the various organizations have long maintained that the high salaries are a way of attracting talent from the private sector. In fact, most senior employees are recruited from government posts."

As Jesse wrote in his blog Jesse's Café Américain

Politicians from both sides of the aisle will swear pious oaths to protect and foster the well being of the middle class. They will say that their policies and proposals are all designed for its betterment. And yet the state of the middle class continues to dwindle into despair and disrepair. Why is this?

It is not because of the predominance of a right or left ideology, of taxation and deficits and austerity. It is not because of the re-emergence of a perversion of the gospel, in the predestination of prosperity. We have seen all this before. It is not because in our comfort we have lost the sense of the imperative of common cause.

It is because of the overwhelming corruption of power, and of the cynical amorality of thoroughly modern political managers who worship power and personal wealth as ends unto themselves. They distract the people with artificially divisive social issues and crises, while robbing them blind.

It is driven by the allure of the cartels, monopolies, and monied interests, and their corrupt political bargains. It is a child of the subornation of perjury on a massive scale. It is the unscrupulous servility to power of those who have sworn to uphold and protect the law. What is truth? Whatever suits us, whatever we say it is, by whoever has the power and the craft to define 'we.' It is not the triumph of evil so much as the absence of any sense of the good, of honor, honesty, and of simple common decency.

And it is marked by the daily subverting of the law as a matter of convenience and comfort to the insatiable few, and the cravenness of their enablers, driven by personal ambition, ignorance, and fear. It is the will to power, the elevation of the ascendant self and the system that supports it, above all else. Greed is good. Whatever works. And the enemy is all that is not the self, which is the other.

And where there is nothing sacred, the people perish.

Dr. Nikolai Bezroukov


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Old News ;-)

[Oct 17, 2017] The Victory of Perception Management by Robert Parry

Highly recommended!
Notable quotes:
"... Thus, you have the current hysteria over Russia's supposed "aggression" in Ukraine when the crisis was actually provoked by the West, including by U.S. neocons who helped create today's humanitarian crisis in eastern Ukraine that they now cynically blame on Russian President Vladimir Putin. ..."
"... But these were largely ad hoc efforts. A more comprehensive "public diplomacy" operation took shape beginning in 1982 when Raymond, a 30-year veteran of CIA clandestine services, was transferred to the NSC. ..."
"... A slight, soft-spoken New Yorker who reminded some of a character from a John le Carré spy novel, Raymond was an intelligence officer who "easily fades into the woodwork," according to one acquaintance. But Raymond would become the sparkplug for this high-powered propaganda network, according to a draft chapter of the Iran-Contra report. ..."
"... But things were about to change. In a Jan. 13, 1983, memo, NSC Advisor Clark foresaw the need for non-governmental money to advance this cause. "We will develop a scenario for obtaining private funding," Clark wrote. (Just five days later, President Reagan personally welcomed media magnate Rupert Murdoch into the Oval Office for a private meeting, according to records on file at the Reagan library.) ..."
"... As administration officials reached out to wealthy supporters, lines against domestic propaganda soon were crossed as the operation took aim not only at foreign audiences but at U.S. public opinion, the press and congressional Democrats who opposed funding the Nicaraguan Contras. ..."
"... At the time, the Contras were earning a gruesome reputation as human rights violators and terrorists. To change this negative perception of the Contras as well as of the U.S.-backed regimes in El Salvador and Guatemala, the Reagan administration created a full-blown, clandestine propaganda network. ..."
"... Lost History ..."
"... My American Journey ..."
"... Secrecy & Privilege ..."
"... Rupert Murdoch's media empire is bigger than ever, but his neocon messaging barely stands out as distinctive, given how the neocons also have gained control of the editorial and foreign-reporting sections of the Washington Post, the New York Times and virtually every other major news outlet. For instance, the demonizing of Russian President Putin is now so total that no honest person could look at those articles and see anything approaching objective or evenhanded journalism. Yet, no one loses a job over this lack of professionalism. ..."
"... America's Stolen Narrative, ..."
"... America's Stolen Narrative ..."
"... Reagan actually has two sides as he was portrayed on SNL, the nice grandfatherly side, and the mafia boss warmonger side. He managed to use the media to display his nice side. ..."
"... Studies estimate that between 100K and 150K Nam vets have committed suicide since the war. There are many reasons why but I suspect a goodly number did so when they couldn't handle the knowledge of how they had been used. I'm careful about who in my "peers" I enlighten. ..."
"... It's painful to watch any western MSM. It's all through our sports and entertainment programming to the point of madness. The wreckage caused by our "leaders" across the earth's face, in our name, IS evil. ..."
"... Studies estimate that between 100K and 150K Nam vets have committed suicide since the war. There are many reasons why but I suspect a goodly number did so when they couldn't handle the knowledge of how they had been used. I'm careful about who in my "peers" I enlighten. ..."
"... Always follow the money. ..."
Dec 28, 2014 | consortiumnews.com

Special Report: In the 1980s, the Reagan administration pioneered "perception management" to get the American people to "kick the Vietnam Syndrome" and accept more U.S. interventionism, but that propaganda structure continues to this day getting the public to buy into endless war, writes Robert Parry.

To understand how the American people find themselves trapped in today's Orwellian dystopia of endless warfare against an ever-shifting collection of "evil" enemies, you have to think back to the Vietnam War and the shock to the ruling elite caused by an unprecedented popular uprising against that war.

While on the surface Official Washington pretended that the mass protests didn't change policy, a panicky reality existed behind the scenes, a recognition that a major investment in domestic propaganda would be needed to ensure that future imperial adventures would have the public's eager support or at least its confused acquiescence.

President Ronald Reagan meeting with media magnate Rupert Murdoch in the Oval Office on Jan. 18, 1983, with Charles Wick, director of the U.S. Information Agency, in the background. (Photo credit: Reagan presidential library)

This commitment to what the insiders called "perception management" began in earnest with the Reagan administration in the 1980s but it would come to be the accepted practice of all subsequent administrations, including the present one of President Barack Obama.

In that sense, propaganda in pursuit of foreign policy goals would trump the democratic ideal of an informed electorate. The point would be not to honestly inform the American people about events around the world but to manage their perceptions by ramping up fear in some cases and defusing outrage in others depending on the U.S. government's needs.

Thus, you have the current hysteria over Russia's supposed "aggression" in Ukraine when the crisis was actually provoked by the West, including by U.S. neocons who helped create today's humanitarian crisis in eastern Ukraine that they now cynically blame on Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Yet, many of these same U.S. foreign policy operatives outraged over Russia's limited intervention to protect ethnic Russians in eastern Ukraine are demanding that President Obama launch an air war against the Syrian military as a "humanitarian" intervention there.

In other words, if the Russians act to shield ethnic Russians on their border who are being bombarded by a coup regime in Kiev that was installed with U.S. support, the Russians are the villains blamed for the thousands of civilian deaths, even though the vast majority of the casualties have been inflicted by the Kiev regime from indiscriminate bombing and from dispatching neo-Nazi militias to do the street fighting.

In Ukraine, the exigent circumstances don't matter, including the violent overthrow of the constitutionally elected president last February. It's all about white hats for the current Kiev regime and black hats for the ethnic Russians and especially for Putin.

But an entirely different set of standards has applied to Syria where a U.S.-backed rebellion, which included violent Sunni jihadists from the start, wore the white hats and the relatively secular Syrian government, which has responded with excessive violence of its own, wears the black hats. But a problem to that neat dichotomy arose when one of the major Sunni rebel forces, the Islamic State, started seizing Iraqi territory and beheading Westerners.

Faced with those grisly scenes, President Obama authorized bombing the Islamic State forces in both Iraq and Syria, but neocons and other U.S. hardliners have been hectoring Obama to go after their preferred target, Syria's President Bashar al-Assad, despite the risk that destroying the Syrian military could open the gates of Damascus to the Islamic State or al-Qaeda's Nusra Front.

Lost on the Dark Side

You might think that the American public would begin to rebel against these messy entangling alliances with the 1984 -like demonizing of one new "enemy" after another. Not only have these endless wars drained trillions of dollars from the U.S. taxpayers, they have led to the deaths of thousands of U.S. troops and to the tarnishing of America's image from the attendant evils of war, including a lengthy detour into the "dark side" of torture, assassinations and "collateral" killings of children and other innocents.

But that is where the history of "perception management" comes in, the need to keep the American people compliant and confused. In the 1980s, the Reagan administration was determined to "kick the Vietnam Syndrome," the revulsion that many Americans felt for warfare after all those years in the blood-soaked jungles of Vietnam and all the lies that clumsily justified the war.

So, the challenge for the U.S. government became: how to present the actions of "enemies" always in the darkest light while bathing the behavior of the U.S. "side" in a rosy glow. You also had to stage this propaganda theater in an ostensibly "free country" with a supposedly "independent press."

From documents declassified or leaked over the past several decades, including an unpublished draft chapter of the congressional Iran-Contra investigation, we now know a great deal about how this remarkable project was undertaken and who the key players were.

Perhaps not surprisingly much of the initiative came from the Central Intelligence Agency, which housed the expertise for manipulating target populations through propaganda and disinformation. The only difference this time would be that the American people would be the target population.

For this project, Ronald Reagan's CIA Director William J. Casey sent his top propaganda specialist Walter Raymond Jr. to the National Security Council staff to manage the inter-agency task forces that would brainstorm and coordinate this "public diplomacy" strategy.

Many of the old intelligence operatives, including Casey and Raymond, are now dead, but other influential Washington figures who were deeply involved by these strategies remain, such as neocon stalwart Robert Kagan, whose first major job in Washington was as chief of Reagan's State Department Office of Public Diplomacy for Latin America.

Now a fellow at the Brookings Institution and a columnist at the Washington Post, Kagan remains an expert in presenting foreign policy initiatives within the "good guy/bad guy" frames that he learned in the 1980s. He is also the husband of Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland, who oversaw the overthrow of Ukraine's elected President Viktor Yanukovych last February amid a very effective U.S. propaganda strategy.

During the Reagan years, Kagan worked closely on propaganda schemes with Elliott Abrams, then the Assistant Secretary of State for Latin America. After getting convicted and then pardoned in the Iran-Contra scandal, Abrams reemerged on President George W. Bush's National Security Council handling Middle East issues, including the Iraq War, and later "global democracy strategy." Abrams is now a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.

These and other neocons were among the most diligent students learning the art of "perception management" from the likes of Raymond and Casey, but those propaganda skills have spread much more widely as "public diplomacy" and "information warfare" have now become an integral part of every U.S. foreign policy initiative.

A Propaganda Bureaucracy

Declassified documents now reveal how extensive Reagan's propaganda project became with inter-agency task forces assigned to develop "themes" that would push American "hot buttons." Scores of documents came out during the Iran-Contra scandal in 1987 and hundreds more are now available at the Reagan presidential library in Simi Valley, California.

What the documents reveal is that at the start of the Reagan administration, CIA Director Casey faced a daunting challenge in trying to rally public opinion behind aggressive U.S. interventions, especially in Central America. Bitter memories of the Vietnam War were still fresh and many Americans were horrified at the brutality of right-wing regimes in Guatemala and El Salvador, where Salvadoran soldiers raped and murdered four American churchwomen in December 1980.

The new leftist Sandinista government in Nicaragua also was not viewed with much alarm. After all, Nicaragua was an impoverished country of only about three million people who had just cast off the brutal dictatorship of Anastasio Somoza.

So, Reagan's initial strategy of bolstering the Salvadoran and Guatemalan armies required defusing the negative publicity about them and somehow rallying the American people into supporting a covert CIA intervention inside Nicaragua via a counterrevolutionary force known as the Contras led by Somoza's ex-National Guard officers.

Reagan's task was made tougher by the fact that the Cold War's anti-communist arguments had so recently been discredited in Vietnam. As deputy assistant secretary to the Air Force, J. Michael Kelly, put it, "the most critical special operations mission we have is to persuade the American people that the communists are out to get us."

At the same time, the White House worked to weed out American reporters who uncovered facts that undercut the desired public images. As part of that effort, the administration attacked New York Times correspondent Raymond Bonner for disclosing the Salvadoran regime's massacre of about 800 men, women and children in the village of El Mozote in northeast El Salvador in December 1981. Accuracy in Media and conservative news organizations, such as The Wall Street Journal's editorial page, joined in pummeling Bonner, who was soon ousted from his job.

But these were largely ad hoc efforts. A more comprehensive "public diplomacy" operation took shape beginning in 1982 when Raymond, a 30-year veteran of CIA clandestine services, was transferred to the NSC.

A slight, soft-spoken New Yorker who reminded some of a character from a John le Carré spy novel, Raymond was an intelligence officer who "easily fades into the woodwork," according to one acquaintance. But Raymond would become the sparkplug for this high-powered propaganda network, according to a draft chapter of the Iran-Contra report.

Though the draft chapter didn't use Raymond's name in its opening pages, apparently because some of the information came from classified depositions, Raymond's name was used later in the chapter and the earlier citations matched Raymond's known role. According to the draft report, the CIA officer who was recruited for the NSC job had served as Director of the Covert Action Staff at the CIA from 1978 to 1982 and was a "specialist in propaganda and disinformation."

"The CIA official [Raymond] discussed the transfer with [CIA Director] Casey and NSC Advisor William Clark that he be assigned to the NSC as [Donald] Gregg's successor [as coordinator of intelligence operations in June 1982] and received approval for his involvement in setting up the public diplomacy program along with his intelligence responsibilities," the chapter said.

"In the early part of 1983, documents obtained by the Select [Iran-Contra] Committees indicate that the Director of the Intelligence Staff of the NSC [Raymond] successfully recommended the establishment of an inter-governmental network to promote and manage a public diplomacy plan designed to create support for Reagan Administration policies at home and abroad."

During his Iran-Contra deposition, Raymond explained the need for this propaganda structure, saying: "We were not configured effectively to deal with the war of ideas."

One reason for this shortcoming was that federal law forbade taxpayers' money from being spent on domestic propaganda or grassroots lobbying to pressure congressional representatives. Of course, every president and his team had vast resources to make their case in public, but by tradition and law, they were restricted to speeches, testimony and one-on-one persuasion of lawmakers.

But things were about to change. In a Jan. 13, 1983, memo, NSC Advisor Clark foresaw the need for non-governmental money to advance this cause. "We will develop a scenario for obtaining private funding," Clark wrote. (Just five days later, President Reagan personally welcomed media magnate Rupert Murdoch into the Oval Office for a private meeting, according to records on file at the Reagan library.)

As administration officials reached out to wealthy supporters, lines against domestic propaganda soon were crossed as the operation took aim not only at foreign audiences but at U.S. public opinion, the press and congressional Democrats who opposed funding the Nicaraguan Contras.

At the time, the Contras were earning a gruesome reputation as human rights violators and terrorists. To change this negative perception of the Contras as well as of the U.S.-backed regimes in El Salvador and Guatemala, the Reagan administration created a full-blown, clandestine propaganda network.

In January 1983, President Reagan took the first formal step to create this unprecedented peacetime propaganda bureaucracy by signing National Security Decision Directive 77, entitled "Management of Public Diplomacy Relative to National Security." Reagan deemed it "necessary to strengthen the organization, planning and coordination of the various aspects of public diplomacy of the United States Government."

Reagan ordered the creation of a special planning group within the National Security Council to direct these "public diplomacy" campaigns. The planning group would be headed by the CIA's Walter Raymond Jr. and one of its principal arms would be a new Office of Public Diplomacy for Latin America, housed at the State Department but under the control of the NSC.

CIA Taint

Worried about the legal prohibition barring the CIA from engaging in domestic propaganda, Raymond formally resigned from the CIA in April 1983, so, he said, "there would be no question whatsoever of any contamination of this." But Raymond continued to act toward the U.S. public much like a CIA officer would in directing a propaganda operation in a hostile foreign country.

Raymond fretted, too, about the legality of Casey's ongoing involvement. Raymond confided in one memo that it was important "to get [Casey] out of the loop," but Casey never backed off and Raymond continued to send progress reports to his old boss well into 1986. It was "the kind of thing which [Casey] had a broad catholic interest in," Raymond shrugged during his Iran-Contra deposition. He then offered the excuse that Casey undertook this apparently illegal interference in domestic politics "not so much in his CIA hat, but in his adviser to the president hat."

As a result of Reagan's decision directive, "an elaborate system of inter-agency committees was eventually formed and charged with the task of working closely with private groups and individuals involved in fundraising, lobbying campaigns and propagandistic activities aimed at influencing public opinion and governmental action," the draft Iran-Contra chapter said. "This effort resulted in the creation of the Office of Public Diplomacy for Latin America and the Caribbean in the Department of State (S/LPD), headed by Otto Reich," a right-wing Cuban exile from Miami.

Though Secretary of State George Shultz wanted the office under his control, President Reagan insisted that Reich "report directly to the NSC," where Raymond oversaw the operations as a special assistant to the President and the NSC's director of international communications, the chapter said.

"Reich relied heavily on Raymond to secure personnel transfers from other government agencies to beef up the limited resources made available to S/LPD by the Department of State," the chapter said. "Personnel made available to the new office included intelligence specialists from the U.S. Air Force and the U.S. Army. On one occasion, five intelligence experts from the Army's 4th Psychological Operations Group at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, were assigned to work with Reich's fast-growing operation."

A "public diplomacy strategy paper," dated May 5, 1983, summed up the administration's problem. "As far as our Central American policy is concerned, the press perceives that: the USG [U.S. government] is placing too much emphasis on a military solution, as well as being allied with inept, right-wing governments and groups. The focus on Nicaragua [is] on the alleged U.S.-backed 'covert' war against the Sandinistas. Moreover, the opposition is widely perceived as being led by former Somozistas."

The administration's difficulty with most of these press perceptions was that they were correct. But the strategy paper recommended ways to influence various groups of Americans to "correct" the impressions anyway, removing what another planning document called "perceptional obstacles."

"Themes will obviously have to be tailored to the target audience," the strategy paper said.

Casey's Hand

As the Reagan administration struggled to manage public perceptions, CIA Director Casey kept his personal hand in the effort. On one muggy day in August 1983, Casey convened a meeting of Reagan administration officials and five leading ad executives at the Old Executive Office Building next to the White House to come up with ideas for selling Reagan's Central American policies to the American people.

Earlier that day, a national security aide had warmed the P.R. men to their task with dire predictions that leftist governments would send waves of refugees into the United States and cynically flood America with drugs. The P.R. executives jotted down some thoughts over lunch and then pitched their ideas to the CIA director in the afternoon as he sat hunched behind a desk taking notes.

"Casey was kind of spearheading a recommendation" for better public relations for Reagan's Central America policies, recalled William I. Greener Jr., one of the ad men. Two top proposals arising from the meeting were for a high-powered communications operation inside the White House and private money for an outreach program to build support for U.S. intervention.

The results from the discussions were summed up in an Aug. 9, 1983, memo written by Raymond who described Casey's participation in the meeting to brainstorm how "to sell a 'new product' Central America by generating interest across-the-spectrum."

In the memo to then-U.S. Information Agency director Charles Wick, Raymond also noted that "via Murdock [sic] may be able to draw down added funds" to support pro-Reagan initiatives. Raymond's reference to Rupert Murdoch possibly drawing down "added funds" suggests that the right-wing media mogul had been recruited to be part of the covert propaganda operation. During this period, Wick arranged at least two face-to-face meetings between Murdoch and Reagan.

In line with the clandestine nature of the operation, Raymond also suggested routing the "funding via Freedom House or some other structure that has credibility in the political center." (Freedom House would later emerge as a principal beneficiary of funding from the National Endowment for Democracy, which was also created under the umbrella of Raymond's operation.)

As the Reagan administration pushed the envelope on domestic propaganda, Raymond continued to worry about Casey's involvement. In an Aug. 29, 1983, memo, Raymond recounted a call from Casey pushing his P.R. ideas. Alarmed at a CIA director participating so brazenly in domestic propaganda, Raymond wrote that "I philosophized a bit with Bill Casey (in an effort to get him out of the loop)" but with little success.

Meanwhile, Reich's Office of Public Diplomacy for Latin America (S/LPD) proved extremely effective in selecting "hot buttons" that would anger Americans about the Sandinistas. He also browbeat news correspondents who produced stories that conflicted with the administration's "themes." Reich's basic M.O. was to dispatch his propaganda teams to lobby news executives to remove or punish out-of-step reporters with a disturbing degree of success. Reich once bragged that his office "did not give the critics of the policy any quarter in the debate."

Another part of the office's job was to plant "white propaganda" in the news media through op-eds secretly financed by the government. In one memo, Jonathan Miller, a senior public diplomacy official, informed White House aide Patrick Buchanan about success placing an anti-Sandinista piece in The Wall Street Journal's friendly pages. "Officially, this office had no role in its preparation," Miller wrote.

Other times, the administration put out "black propaganda," outright falsehoods. In 1983, one such theme was designed to anger American Jews by portraying the Sandinistas as anti-Semitic because much of Nicaragua's small Jewish community fled after the revolution in 1979.

However, the U.S. embassy in Managua investigated the charges and "found no verifiable ground on which to accuse the GRN [the Sandinista government] of anti-Semitism," according to a July 28, 1983, cable. But the administration kept the cable secret and pushed the "hot button" anyway.

Black Hats/White Hats

Repeatedly, Raymond lectured his subordinates on the chief goal of the operation: "in the specific case of Nica[ragua], concentrate on gluing black hats on the Sandinistas and white hats on UNO [the Contras' United Nicaraguan Opposition]." So Reagan's speechwriters dutifully penned descriptions of Sandinista-ruled Nicaragua as a "totalitarian dungeon" and the Contras as the "moral equivalent of the Founding Fathers."

As one NSC official told me, the campaign was modeled after CIA covert operations abroad where a political goal is more important than the truth. "They were trying to manipulate [U.S.] public opinion using the tools of Walt Raymond's trade craft which he learned from his career in the CIA covert operation shop," the official admitted.

Another administration official gave a similar description to The Miami Herald's Alfonso Chardy. "If you look at it as a whole, the Office of Public Diplomacy was carrying out a huge psychological operation, the kind the military conduct to influence the population in denied or enemy territory," that official explained. [For more details, see Parry's Lost History .]

Another important figure in the pro-Contra propaganda was NSC staffer Oliver North, who spent a great deal of his time on the Nicaraguan public diplomacy operation even though he is better known for arranging secret arms shipments to the Contras and to Iran's radical Islamic government, leading to the Iran-Contra scandal.

The draft Iran-Contra chapter depicted a Byzantine network of contract and private operatives who handled details of the domestic propaganda while concealing the hand of the White House and the CIA. "Richard R. Miller, former head of public affairs at AID, and Francis D. Gomez, former public affairs specialist at the State Department and USIA, were hired by S/LPD through sole-source, no-bid contracts to carry out a variety of activities on behalf of the Reagan administration policies in Central America," the chapter said.

"Supported by the State Department and White House, Miller and Gomez became the outside managers of [North operative] Spitz Channel's fundraising and lobbying activities. They also served as the managers of Central American political figures, defectors, Nicaraguan opposition leaders and Sandinista atrocity victims who were made available to the press, the Congress and private groups, to tell the story of the Contra cause."

Miller and Gomez facilitated transfers of money to Swiss and offshore banks at North's direction, as they "became the key link between the State Department and the Reagan White House with the private groups and individuals engaged in a myriad of endeavors aimed at influencing the Congress, the media and public opinion," the chapter said.

The Iran-Contra draft chapter also cited a March 10, 1985, memo from North describing his assistance to CIA Director Casey in timing disclosures of pro-Contra news "aimed at securing Congressional approval for renewed support to the Nicaraguan Resistance Forces."

The chapter added: "Casey's involvement in the public diplomacy effort apparently continued throughout the period under investigation by the Committees," including a 1985 role in pressuring Congress to renew Contra aid and a 1986 hand in further shielding the Office of Public Diplomacy for Latin America from the oversight of Secretary Shultz.

A Raymond-authored memo to Casey in August 1986 described the shift of the S/LPD office where Robert Kagan had replaced Reich to the control of the Bureau of Inter-American Affairs, which was headed by Assistant Secretary of State Elliott Abrams, who had tapped Kagan for the public diplomacy job.

Even after the Iran-Contra scandal unraveled in 1986-87 and Casey died of brain cancer on May 6, 1987, the Republicans fought to keep secret the remarkable story of the public diplomacy apparatus. As part of a deal to get three moderate Republican senators to join Democrats in signing the Iran-Contra majority report, Democratic leaders agreed to drop the draft chapter detailing the CIA's domestic propaganda role (although a few references were included in the executive summary). But other Republicans, including Rep. Dick Cheney, still issued a minority report defending broad presidential powers in foreign affairs.

Thus, the American people were spared the chapter's troubling conclusion: that a secret propaganda apparatus had existed, run by "one of the CIA's most senior specialists, sent to the NSC by Bill Casey, to create and coordinate an inter-agency public-diplomacy mechanism [which] did what a covert CIA operation in a foreign country might do. [It] attempted to manipulate the media, the Congress and public opinion to support the Reagan administration's policies."

Kicking the Vietnam Syndrome

The ultimate success of Reagan's propaganda strategy was affirmed during the tenure of his successor, George H.W. Bush, when Bush ordered a 100-hour ground war on Feb. 23, 1991, to oust Iraqi troops from Kuwait, which had been invaded the previous August.

Though Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein had long been signaling a readiness to withdraw and Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev had negotiated a withdrawal arrangement that even had the blessings of top U.S. commanders in the field President Bush insisted on pressing ahead with the ground attack.

Bush's chief reason was that he and his Defense Secretary Dick Cheney saw the assault against Iraq's already decimated forces as an easy victory, one that would demonstrate America's new military capacity for high-tech warfare and would cap the process begun a decade earlier to erase the Vietnam Syndrome from the minds of average Americans.

Those strategic aspects of Bush's grand plan for a "new world order" began to emerge after the U.S.-led coalition started pummeling Iraq with air strikes in mid-January 1991. The bombings inflicted severe damage on Iraq's military and civilian infrastructure and slaughtered a large number of non-combatants, including the incineration of some 400 women and children in a Baghdad bomb shelter on Feb. 13. [For details, see Consortiumnews.com's " Recalling the Slaughter of Innocents ."]

The air war's damage was so severe that some world leaders looked for a way to end the carnage and arrange Iraq's departure from Kuwait. Even senior U.S. military field commanders, such as Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf, looked favorably on proposals for sparing lives.

But Bush was fixated on a ground war. Though secret from the American people at that time, Bush had long determined that a peaceful Iraqi withdrawal from Kuwait would not be allowed. Indeed, Bush was privately fearful that the Iraqis might capitulate before the United States could attack.

At the time, conservative columnists Rowland Evans and Robert Novak were among the few outsiders who described Bush's obsession with exorcising the Vietnam Syndrome. On Feb. 25, 1991, they wrote that the Gorbachev initiative brokering Iraq's surrender of Kuwait "stirred fears" among Bush's advisers that the Vietnam Syndrome might survive the Gulf War.

"There was considerable relief, therefore, when the President made clear he was having nothing to do with the deal that would enable Saddam Hussein to bring his troops out of Kuwait with flags flying," Evans and Novak wrote. "Fear of a peace deal at the Bush White House had less to do with oil, Israel or Iraqi expansionism than with the bitter legacy of a lost war. 'This is the chance to get rid of the Vietnam Syndrome,' one senior aide told us."

In the 1999 book, Shadow , author Bob Woodward confirmed that Bush was adamant about fighting a war, even as the White House pretended it would be satisfied with an unconditional Iraqi withdrawal. "We have to have a war," Bush told his inner circle of Secretary of State James Baker, national security adviser Brent Scowcroft and Gen. Colin Powell, according to Woodward.

"Scowcroft was aware that this understanding could never be stated publicly or be permitted to leak out. An American president who declared the necessity of war would probably be thrown out of office. Americans were peacemakers, not warmongers," Woodward wrote.

The Ground War

However, the "fear of a peace deal" resurfaced in the wake of the U.S.-led bombing campaign. Soviet diplomats met with Iraqi leaders who let it be known that they were prepared to withdraw their troops from Kuwait unconditionally.

Learning of Gorbachev's proposed settlement, Schwarzkopf also saw little reason for U.S. soldiers to die if the Iraqis were prepared to withdraw and leave their heavy weapons behind. There was also the prospect of chemical warfare that the Iraqis might use against advancing American troops. Schwarzkopf saw the possibility of heavy U.S. casualties.

But Gorbachev's plan was running into trouble with President Bush and his political subordinates who wanted a ground war to crown the U.S. victory. Schwarzkopf reached out to Gen. Powell, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to make the case for peace with the President.

On Feb. 21, 1991, the two generals hammered out a cease-fire proposal for presentation to the NSC. The peace deal would give Iraqi forces one week to march out of Kuwait while leaving their armor and heavy equipment behind. Schwarzkopf thought he had Powell's commitment to pitch the plan at the White House.

But Powell found himself caught in the middle. He wanted to please Bush while still representing the concerns of the field commanders. When Powell arrived at the White House late on the evening of Feb. 21, he found Bush angry about the Soviet peace initiative. Still, according to Woodward's Shadow , Powell reiterated that he and Schwarzkopf "would rather see the Iraqis walk out than be driven out."

In My American Journey , Powell expressed sympathy for Bush's predicament. "The President's problem was how to say no to Gorbachev without appearing to throw away a chance for peace," Powell wrote. "I could hear the President's growing distress in his voice. 'I don't want to take this deal,' he said. 'But I don't want to stiff Gorbachev, not after he's come this far with us. We've got to find a way out'."

Powell sought Bush's attention. "I raised a finger," Powell wrote. "The President turned to me. 'Got something, Colin?'," Bush asked. But Powell did not outline Schwarzkopf's one-week cease-fire plan. Instead, Powell offered a different idea intended to make the ground offensive inevitable.

"We don't stiff Gorbachev," Powell explained. "Let's put a deadline on Gorby's proposal. We say, great idea, as long as they're completely on their way out by, say, noon Saturday," Feb. 23, less than two days away.

Powell understood that the two-day deadline would not give the Iraqis enough time to act, especially with their command-and-control systems severely damaged by the air war. The plan was a public-relations strategy to guarantee that the White House got its ground war. "If, as I suspect, they don't move, then the flogging begins," Powell told a gratified president.

The next day, at 10:30 a.m., a Friday, Bush announced his ultimatum. There would be a Saturday noon deadline for the Iraqi withdrawal, as Powell had recommended. Schwarzkopf and his field commanders in Saudi Arabia watched Bush on television and immediately grasped its meaning.

"We all knew by then which it would be," Schwarzkopf wrote. "We were marching toward a Sunday morning attack."

When the Iraqis predictably missed the deadline, American and allied forces launched the ground offensive at 0400 on Feb. 24, Persian Gulf time.

Though Iraqi forces were soon in full retreat, the allies pursued and slaughtered tens of thousands of Iraqi soldiers in the 100-hour war. U.S. casualties were light, 147 killed in combat and another 236 killed in accidents or from other causes. "Small losses as military statistics go," wrote Powell, "but a tragedy for each family."

On Feb. 28, the day the war ended, Bush celebrated the victory. "By God, we've kicked the Vietnam Syndrome once and for all," the President exulted, speaking to a group at the White House. [For more details, see Robert Parry's Secrecy & Privilege .]

So as not to put a damper on the post-war happy feelings, the U.S. news media decided not to show many of the grisliest photos, such as charred Iraqi soldiers ghoulishly still seated in their burned-out trucks where they had been incinerated while trying to flee. By that point, U.S. journalists knew it wasn't smart for their careers to present a reality that didn't make the war look good.

Enduring Legacy

Though Reagan's creation of a domestic propaganda bureaucracy began more than three decades ago and Bush's vanquishing of the Vietnam Syndrome was more than two decades ago the legacy of those actions continue to reverberate today in how the perceptions of the American people are now routinely managed. That was true during last decade's Iraq War and this decade's conflicts in Libya, Syria and Ukraine as well as the economic sanctions against Iran and Russia.

Indeed, while the older generation that pioneered these domestic propaganda techniques has passed from the scene, many of their protégés are still around along with some of the same organizations. The National Endowment for Democracy, which was formed in 1983 at the urging of CIA Director Casey and under the supervision of Walter Raymond's NSC operation, is still run by the same neocon, Carl Gershman, and has an even bigger budget, now exceeding $100 million a year.

Gershman and his NED played important behind-the-scenes roles in instigating the Ukraine crisis by financing activists, journalists and other operatives who supported the coup against elected President Yanukovych. The NED-backed Freedom House also beat the propaganda drums. [See Consortiumnews.com's " A Shadow Foreign Policy. "]

Two other Reagan-era veterans, Elliott Abrams and Robert Kagan, have both provided important intellectual support for continuing U.S. interventionism around the world. Earlier this year, Kagan's article for The New Republic, entitled " Superpowers Don't Get to Retire ," touched such a raw nerve with President Obama that he hosted Kagan at a White House lunch and crafted the presidential commencement speech at West Point to deflect some of Kagan's criticism of Obama's hesitancy to use military force.

A New York Times article about Kagan's influence over Obama reported that Kagan's wife, Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland, apparently had a hand in crafting the attack on her ostensible boss, President Obama.

According to the Times article, the husband-and-wife team share both a common world view and professional ambitions, Nuland editing Kagan's articles and Kagan "not permitted to use any official information he overhears or picks up around the house" a suggestion that Kagan's thinking at least may be informed by foreign policy secrets passed on by his wife.

Though Nuland wouldn't comment specifically on Kagan's attack on President Obama, she indicated that she holds similar views. "But suffice to say," Nuland said, "that nothing goes out of the house that I don't think is worthy of his talents. Let's put it that way."

Misguided Media

In the three decades since Reagan's propaganda machine was launched, the American press corps also has fallen more and more into line with an aggressive U.S. government's foreign policy strategies. Those of us in the mainstream media who resisted the propaganda pressures mostly saw our careers suffer while those who played along moved steadily up the ranks into positions of more money and more status.

Even after the Iraq War debacle when nearly the entire mainstream media went with the pro-invasion flow, there was almost no accountability for that historic journalistic failure. Indeed, the neocon influence at major newspapers, such as the Washington Post and the New York Times, only has solidified since.

Today's coverage of the Syrian civil war or the Ukraine crisis is so firmly in line with the State Department's propaganda "themes" that it would put smiles on the faces of William Casey and Walter Raymond if they were around today to see how seamlessly the "perception management" now works. There's no need any more to send out "public diplomacy" teams to bully editors and news executives. Everyone is already onboard.

Rupert Murdoch's media empire is bigger than ever, but his neocon messaging barely stands out as distinctive, given how the neocons also have gained control of the editorial and foreign-reporting sections of the Washington Post, the New York Times and virtually every other major news outlet. For instance, the demonizing of Russian President Putin is now so total that no honest person could look at those articles and see anything approaching objective or evenhanded journalism. Yet, no one loses a job over this lack of professionalism.

The Reagan administration's dreams of harnessing private foundations and non-governmental organizations have also come true. The Orwellian circle has been completed with many American "anti-war" groups advocating for "humanitarian" wars in Syria and other countries targeted by U.S. propaganda. [See Consortiumnews.com's " Selling 'Peace Groups' on US-Led Wars. "]

Much as Reagan's "public diplomacy" apparatus once sent around "defectors" to lambaste Nicaragua's Sandinistas by citing hyped-up human rights violations now the work is done by NGOs with barely perceptible threads back to the U.S. government. Just as Freedom House had "credibility" in the 1980s because of its earlier reputation as a human rights group, now other groups carrying the "human rights" tag, such as Human Rights Watch, are in the forefront of urging U.S. military interventions based on murky or propagandistic claims. [See Consortiumnews.com's " The Collapsing Syria-Sarin Case. "]

At this advanced stage of America's quiet surrender to "perception management," it is even hard to envision how one could retrace the many steps that would lead back to the concept of a democratic Republic based on an informed electorate. Many on the American Right remain entranced by the old propaganda theme about the "liberal media" and still embrace Reagan as their beloved icon. Meanwhile, many liberals can't break away from their own wistful trust in the New York Times and their empty hope that the media really is "liberal."

To confront the hard truth is not easy. Indeed, in this case, it can cause despair because there are so few voices to trust and they are easily drowned out by floods of disinformation that can come from any angle right, left or center. Yet, for the American democratic Republic to reset its goal toward an informed electorate, there is no option other than to build institutions that are determinedly committed to the truth.

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his latest book, America's Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com ). You also can order Robert Parry's trilogy on the Bush Family and its connections to various right-wing operatives for only $34. The trilogy includes America's Stolen Narrative . For details on this offer, click here .

LIANE CASTEN , December 28, 2014 at 1:21 pm

Terrific analysis. Am working on my own book on Vietnam (under contract.) Would love to use this piece liberally–of course with serious attribution. Do I have your permission?. Liane

W. R. Knight , December 28, 2014 at 1:51 pm

Bear in mind that during WWII, Reagan was nothing more than an itinerant movie actor who played war heros but never participated in the war itself. The movies he played in weren't much more than unabashed propaganda.

It is obscene that we allow the most vociferous warmongers to avoid any personal risk in the wars they promote; and it is depressing to see the public persuaded by the propaganda to sacrifice their money and children for the benefit of the warmongers.

Man on the street , December 29, 2014 at 2:49 pm

Reagan actually has two sides as he was portrayed on SNL, the nice grandfatherly side, and the mafia boss warmonger side. He managed to use the media to display his nice side.

Carroll Price , December 31, 2014 at 11:49 am

It takes both. All really successful presidents have a nice grandfatherly side and a mafia boss side that's displayed to the public as the need arises. Why? Because the American people admire the mafia war monger trait as much, if not more, than the grandfatherly trait. FDR and Reagan were both successful presidents because they had great skill in displaying whichever side fitted occasion, while Jimmy Carter, who was not blessed with a mafia/war monger side was a complete failure.

Joe Tedesky , December 28, 2014 at 2:07 pm

When ever this subject comes up, of how the right wing in American politics controls the narrative, I think of the 'Powell Memo'. In 1971 Lewis Powell wrote a secretive memo descripting how the conservatives must take hold of the American media. Powell would become a Supreme Court justice. If you Google his 'Powell Memo' you will read how Justice Powell laid out a very specific plan on how to do this. Powell wrote this before becoming a sitting Supreme Court Justice. His instructions were so good that many believe this document he wrote, was his stairway to heaven.

I cannot help but reflect on how the Warren Report was a great way for the Dark State to see how well they could pull the wool over America's eyes. Even though many did not buy the official one gunman claim, what else was there to counter this official report. So, it's business as usual, and for the average US citizen there isn't much else left to do.

I value this site. Although, there are way to many Americans not getting the news this site has to offer. Instead our society strolls along catching the sound bites, and listening to agenda driven pundits to become the most ill informed populace in human history.

Everythings Jake , December 28, 2014 at 3:54 pm

Another stellar moment of "integrity" in Colin Powell's long and ignominious career.

JWalters , December 28, 2014 at 5:43 pm

" given how the neocons also have gained control of the editorial and foreign-reporting sections of the Washington Post, the New York Times and virtually every other major news outlet."

And how do the neocons, working from niches out of the limelight, have the power to do all this? In a political system dominated by money, from where comes their money? Who coordinates their game plan? Who has an interest in promoting needless wars?
http://warprofiteerstory.blogspot.com

Mark , December 29, 2014 at 8:35 am

A tour de force outstanding work; essential reading, imo. It draws together in detail the mind-management of aggressive imperial adventures from Vietnam, through Central America and Iraq up to Ukraine and Syria today. Thank you Robert Parry.

Perhaps, as a further signal of the 'same ole same ole', you might even have thrown in somewhere the epithet 'jihadi contras' to describe extremist militias used (recruited, funded, trained, armed and directed) by the US (and allies) in the Syrian nightmare (and Libyan); where the secular and tolerant Assad government is – painfully for perception managers – still supported by the vast majority of Syrians, however topsy-turvy the mainextreme narrative is.

Thomas Seifert , December 29, 2014 at 9:12 am

A question from Germany: We observe a very similar process over here – the mainstream media closest following (and inciting!) the official NATO-propaganda in the case of Ukraine. This happens even stubbornly against the bitter protests from greater parts of their own readers.

But: HOW does this happen? What are precisely the mechanisms to unite the media and the journalists behind a special doctrine? On other themes there is still a pluralism of opinions – but in the case of "national interests"/foreign policy there is a kind of frightening standardization. Why this difference?

And why this against an obvious resistance from large parts of their readers and from experts (e.g. the last three German chancellors – Schmidt, Kohl and Schroeder – have admonished the NATO for better considering the Russian security interests). I don't want to believe in simple conspiracy theories

onno , December 29, 2014 at 9:23 am

Another great article by Consortiumnews proving the manipulation of people by the Western Media. It's amazing and scary to realize that people's minds are influenced by government propaganda. It reminds me of the German occupation during WW II and the lies broadcasted by US financed Radio Free Europe during the Cold War and apparently still happening in Azerbaijan.

This is psychological warfare at its best and used at the hands of the White House and Washington's Congress. What a shame for a so-called democratic nation, when are the American people waking up?

John , December 29, 2014 at 12:57 pm

Excellent piece indeed. The collusion of mass media and officials installed by the same economic powers completes the totalitarian mechanism which has displaced democracy.

Suggest clarifying use of the name Raymond, at first apparently Raymond Bonner also called Bonner, then a (different?) Raymond with the CIA referred to only by surname(?) as Raymond, then a Walter Raymond jr.

Studies estimate that between 100K and 150K Nam vets have committed suicide since the war. There are many reasons why but I suspect a goodly number did so when they couldn't handle the knowledge of how they had been used. I'm careful about who in my "peers" I enlighten.

Paul , December 29, 2014 at 3:39 pm

The positive side of democracy in America is exemplified precisely by journalism such as this. How sad that it is almost completely overshadowed by the cynical imperial 'democracy' that Parry's essay describes.

Your description of how the first Iraq War was pursued despite easily available options to avoid the carnage are hair-raising and infuriating. Almost as infuriating as the internal propaganda efforts of the U.S. government. I hope this essay is widely read.

To me, the positive side of democracy in America is exemplified precisely by journalism such as this. How sad that it is almost completely overshadowed by the cynical imperial 'democracy' that Parry's essay describes.

Barbc , December 29, 2014 at 7:32 pm

This past year I have learned from a number of Vietnam veterans that Reagan is not as well liked as has had been implied.
A most of the dislike is how he did not follow throw with bringing home the POWs left behind in Vietnam.

Steve Pahs , December 29, 2014 at 10:47 pm

Mr. Parry,

I follow your writing and have passed it along at times to the misinformed in my life. I appreciate such as your MH17 work early on when Putin and Russia were immediately blamed.

I am a Nam grunt vet from 66′-67′ who is the not so proud recipient of the Purple Heart. My physical wounds affect me to this day as I approach the age of 68. My mental wounds are not from my combat experience so much as they are from the eventual feeling of being used and betrayed. Adversity does not build character, it reveals it. I'm good with mine. The mental wounds evolved over time as I educated myself about how such an awful thing as that war could happen and engulf me in it at 19.

Three months in a military hospital makes one think about what had just transpired. It was the start of a journey that will continue till my last breath. I've crossed that threshold where most of my family and friends are looking through a keyhole offered up by our "leaders" while I am in the room dealing with the evil. Even those who understand what I present will sometimes tell me that "you are right, but it's too late in my life to accept it". That was said by a former Marine pilot.

It's painful to watch any western MSM. It's all through our sports and entertainment programming to the point of madness. The wreckage caused by our "leaders" across the earth's face, in our name, IS evil. I stopped taking the local paper a couple of years ago after they no longer would print my letters and columns. Twenty years ago it all made me quite angry. It's sadness I feel now for those who refuse to "see". Many vets don't know the source of their anger and the VA gladly numbs them with drugs. Not I.

Studies estimate that between 100K and 150K Nam vets have committed suicide since the war. There are many reasons why but I suspect a goodly number did so when they couldn't handle the knowledge of how they had been used. I'm careful about who in my "peers" I enlighten.

Mark Twain (SLC) said some profound things. One of my favorites is "It is easier to fool people than to convince them that they have been fooled".
Always follow the money.

Thanks for what you do. It does make a difference.
Steve Pahs

MarkinPNW , December 30, 2014 at 1:43 am

This "Perception Management" is nothing knew. The argument has been made persuasively that the attack on Pearl Harbor actually resulted from a deliberate and successful campaign by FDR to change or "manage" the mass opinions or "Perceptions" of the US electorate from strongly pro-peace and anti-war (what could be called a "Great War syndrome" from the stupid and useless devastation of WW1) to all out pro-war for US involvement in WW2, by provoking the Japanese and refusing all peace negotiations with the Japanese who desperately were trying to avoid war.

In reference to "Orwellian Dystopia", Orwell's novels "Animal Farm" and "1984" were based in large part on Orwell's experience in the Spanish Civil War and WW2, respectively.

Generalfeldmarschall von Hindenburg , December 30, 2014 at 12:01 pm

Until the U.S. gets its butt seriously whipped again, as in Vietnam, the ever escalating strategy of tension against all countries who exhibit less than total and unconditional obedience to Washington will continue. Victoria Nuland is nothing more than a modern version of Cecil Rhodes; the ever probing tentacle of a voracious empire. In fact, It's really the same one.

hp , December 30, 2014 at 3:52 pm

The ripened fruit of the pervert Freud's pervert nephew Edward Bernays. (how the usurping usurers roll)

Jacob , December 31, 2014 at 11:51 pm

"In the 1980s, the Reagan administration pioneered 'perception management' to get the American people to 'kick the Vietnam Syndrome' and accept more U.S. interventionism, . . ."

The management of public perception within the U.S. regarding its imperialistic/colonial ambitions goes back much further than the 1980s. The Committee on Public Information, also known as "the Creel Commission," was the likely model Reagan wanted to imitate. The purpose of the CPI was to convince the American public, which was mostly anti-war, to support America's entry into the European war, also known as WWI. The CPI was in official operation from 1917 to 1919 during the Woodrow Wilson administration. But the paradigm for the use of mass propaganda to alter public perceptions is the Congregatio de propaganda fide (The Office for the Propagation of the Faith), a 1622 Vatican invention to undermine the spread of Protestantism by managing public perceptions on religious and spiritual matters.

[Oct 16, 2017] C Wright Mills called the US state a plutocracy all fifty years ago

Notable quotes:
"... Indeed; smart, intelligent, "clever" folks in no way confers any degree of civility on their "vested" interests. Manipulation and control are suitably useful tools for their purposes. ..."
"... The media is not a major player in running the country, contrary to what much of the right has been brainwashed to believe. It's a tool of the elite. A hammer is also a very useful tool but it doesn't do much to determine what the carpenter builds. ..."
"... We convinced ourselves that our form of oligarchy was somehow "better" than other forms, when in fact, the end game was always the same..concentrating the power in as few hands as possible. Denial was the name of the game here in the US. ..."
"... They learned their lessons well after the 60's, the last time the people really raised up against the machine, so they have given us all the; junk food at a low cost, all the TV and mindless sexually charged entertainment, all the "debt wealth", a simple minded, unread, semi-literate, beer swilling fool could ever ask for. And we all gladly gobble it up and follow the crowd, for who wants to be on the outside looking in... ..."
"... There is always a ruling elite because power is the wellspring of all human actions. There is also a certain moral consciousness that many people argue is innate in human nature, and that consciousness is fairness. The fairness instinct survives where ordinary human sympathy may fail. Based upon this basic morality of fairness those of us who are willing to take risks in the interest of fairness need to prune and tend the ruling elites as soon as possible. We proles need to act together. ..."
"... Waiting for the oligarchy to rot from within isn't what i would call a viable plan. Not when there is a far better and far more sure way to get the job done. Start with capping wealth accumulation. ..."
"... With all the upheaval in today's politics, it's hard not to think that this moment is one in which the future of the political system might be more up for grabs than it has been in generations. ..."
"... Dominance of oligarchic political power, through neoliberalism, over the last four decades has effectively put such policies out of bounds. ..."
"... The last one I recall was an article by Kenan Malik on identity politics . For what exists in this country, the UK, I have previously used the term "oligarchy by profession" ... meaning a pool of the usually upper half of the middle class, or a group in whom that group is disproportionally represented, who not only likely have a select education but who go on to become part of certain professions - accountants, lawyers, journalists, bankers, doctors etc. ... and of course, politicians tend to be drawn from these. ..."
"... Apparently we're so distracted that we're also all genuinely shocked that Hollywood is rife with pedophilia and extreme sexual harassment as though it's some revelation that we didn't know already, but that's another conversation. ..."
"... If we're all so distracted then it's not difficult for our political 'representatives' -- I use that word very tentatively because they barely ever do -- to subject themselves to the oligarchs for a few scraps more than we have ourselves. ..."
"... Limiting govt still leaves economic power and the tendency towards monopoly untouched. ..."
"... Culture is the key, much more than any genetic impulse, which is practically meaningless and so explains nothing. ..."
"... As wealth defense is so important to oligarchs, there is a constant pressure to cheat and break the law. One solution therefore is to apply the law but also to construct legislation with specific principles in mind. If the point of tax legislation is to contribute your share towards the general good then those who avoid and evade tax would be guilty of a technical breach but also a breach of the principle. ..."
"... However our laws are skewed to allowing the wealthy to defend their wealth and so a party of the people is always needed. Always. ..."
Oct 16, 2017 | discussion.theguardian.com

cognitivedissonance1 , 15 Oct 2017 13:25

Nothing new here, C Wright Mills, the US state as a plutocracy , government by the few , said it all fifty years ago , especially the economic oligarchs

http://www2.ucsc.edu/whorulesamerica/theory/mills_critique.html

http://plutocratsandplutocracy.blogspot.co.uk/2016/05/the-power-elite.html

imipak -> NoBets , 15 Oct 2017 13:21
I would again point to Plato. Those whose affluence exceeds the critical threshold stagnate. They have no need to work, no need to hold anything as valuable, they contribute nothing and take everything.

What is the point in being so rich? There's nothing you can gain from it, other than bank account pinball.

The purpose of being rich is to enable you. It is the only purpose. Once you are fully enabled, money has no value.

Those who are poor can't afford the tools to work well, the education/training needed, anything by which they could better themselves and be upwardly mobile.

There are some who are poor by choice. Voluntary hermits are common enough. They're not included in here because they're self-sufficient and have the tools they need so fall out of scope.

The middle band, where prone work the best, function the best, are mentally and physically the best, is very very big. Nothing stops you cramming society into there because they've plenty of room to stretch out.

But people always want to improve. No big. Make tax follow a curve, so that you always improve but the game gets harder not easier. Would you play a computer game where level 100 was easier than level 1? No, you'd find it boring. As long as it's a single curve, nobody gets penalized.

You now get to play forever, level billion is better than level million is better than level thousand, but it's asymptotic so infinite improvement never breaks outside the bounds.

"Asymptotic" is a word that meets your objection AND my rebuttal. You do not have to have either a constant, infinity or hard ceilings. Leave straight lines to geometers and enter the world of inflection points.

Viddyvideo , 15 Oct 2017 13:19
Elites exist the world over -- East, West, North and South. Question is how do we create a world where power is shared -- Plato and his Guardians perhaps or are we doomed to be ruled by elites until the end of time?
handygranny -> R Zwarich , 15 Oct 2017 13:14
Indeed; smart, intelligent, "clever" folks in no way confers any degree of civility on their "vested" interests. Manipulation and control are suitably useful tools for their purposes.
memo10 -> ashleyhk , 15 Oct 2017 13:11

Yet most of the media is resolutely "liberal" or leftist How do you explain that?

The media is not a major player in running the country, contrary to what much of the right has been brainwashed to believe. It's a tool of the elite. A hammer is also a very useful tool but it doesn't do much to determine what the carpenter builds.

RecantedYank -> mjmizera , 15 Oct 2017 13:09
Rapid is still quite right... We convinced ourselves that our form of oligarchy was somehow "better" than other forms, when in fact, the end game was always the same..concentrating the power in as few hands as possible. Denial was the name of the game here in the US.
CommanderMaxil -> Elgrecoandros , 15 Oct 2017 13:08
jessthecrip's comment was clearly not calling for JRM to be imprisoned or in any way punished for his views , but for his votes . Specifically his votes in the House of commons to support benefit cuts for disability claimants. Admittedly that a pretty extreme position from my point of view, but nonetheless you are misrepresentating what was said, whether deliberately or because you genuinely have not understood only you can know
Spudnik2 -> Gunsarecivilrights , 15 Oct 2017 13:05
More people should simply look up from time to time and quit living in fantasy books. The whole and real truth is not written in a book its all around you if you are willing to except what you see.
vinny59er , 15 Oct 2017 13:04
Form a government in same way we select juries. No entrenchment of the same old guard, no lobbyists,no elite, no vested interests.Just people like you,and you.People like your children.People like your parents.People like your neighbors
mjmizera -> RecantedYank , 15 Oct 2017 13:03
The industrial-military complex of the 50-70s didn't just disappear, but morphed into today's structures.
mjmizera -> voogdy , 15 Oct 2017 13:00
Not anymore, as conspiracy nuts are now serving their new masters, the altRight. They joined the enemy.
theseligsussex -> Sailor25 , 15 Oct 2017 12:59
Not really driven by the oligarch, more looted. And there's normally 1 greedy bugger, Sulla or Pompey, who has to have it all and upsets the apple cart, and then you get Augustus.
mjmizera -> ashleyhk , 15 Oct 2017 12:58
There is never the right far enough that one can't be to the left of.
mjmizera -> RecantedYank , 15 Oct 2017 12:55
All the good/bad labels lose their meaning without a qualifier - for whom.
winemaster2 , 15 Oct 2017 12:54
The US and it being a democracy, the word that is no where mentioned in the Constitution is one big hoax and the perpetuation of the same, where the missed people in this country are further conned by the elite and the rich. Then on top of it all we f or sure not practice what we preach. To that end our political system with two senators from each of 50 states m irrespective to the population is lot to be desired in terms of any real democratic process, let alone equality in representation. To add insult to injury, the US House of Representatives where Congressional Districts are gerrymandered just about every two years, is even worst. Just as the US Congress in which over 90% of the people have no confidence.
sejong -> ashleyhk , 15 Oct 2017 12:50
Yet most of the media is resolutely "liberal" or leftist How do you explain that?

Liberal MSM has been emasculated. It doesn't know it's dead. It doesn't move any needles. It just brays on in ineffective anti-Trump outrage and one identity politics issue after another.

Rightwing media is king in USA.

makingalist , 15 Oct 2017 12:47
One way they get away with it is by having their own separate education system. It's high time private schools were closed down.
handygranny -> ID3924525 , 15 Oct 2017 12:47
Who was it again who said he loves the undereducated and uninformed during the campaign season of 2016?
laerteg -> ValuedCustomer , 15 Oct 2017 12:44
Yes- the demonization of liberalism on the right and the turning away from liberalism on the left *has* paved the way for oligarchy.

Divide and conquer, as usual, is working.

Shrimpandgrits -> imperium3 , 15 Oct 2017 12:44
Slavery -- chattel slavery -- was an element.

Socialist, mass slavery was not.

Leon Sphinx , 15 Oct 2017 12:41
The House of Lords in the U.K. and the Senate in the US were originally there to prevent poor people - always the majority - from voting to take away wealth and lands from the rich. Basically, if such a vote was cast, the HoL and Senate - filled with the elites of society - had the power to block it.
ashleyhk , 15 Oct 2017 12:41
This is a fascinating dissection of how the "leftist/liberal" media was completely disrupted by Trump. It is a long read and quite difficult (so not likely to appeal to most of the knee-jerk commentators) but, whatever your politics it is well worth a look
https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2017/10/what-facebook-did/542502 /
Laurence Bury , 15 Oct 2017 12:41
The human (and probably animal) world is made up of oligarchies that deal with each other. History has shown that only lone soldiers can upset established orders: Alexander, Napoleon, Lenin, Castro and Bin Laden come to mind.
laerteg -> Hibernica , 15 Oct 2017 12:40
I agree with the article's premise. We have allowed the oligarchs to consolidate power.

Why? Because Americans revere wealth and power. We have bought into the capitalist model hook, line, and sinker. We willingly elect candidates and sign on to policies that allow oligarchs to consolidate their power, increase their wealth and income inequality, pomote greed and selfishness, and undermine democracy - the power of the people.

We have been busy electing agents of oligarchy to Congress since 1980. Buying ino the "small government" con, the "taxes are theft" con, "the business is overregulated" con, the "corporations are the job creators" con and its twin the "government never created jobs" con, the anti-union con, etc, etc, etc.

Our political system would be a lot more representative of the people if the people would get off their butts and start participating in it. Our electoral ststem is open to anyone who wants to participate.

But who and how many participate any more?

When the people create a vacuum with their apathy and cynicism, the oligarchs fill it with their greed.

Oligarchs will always be attracted to power, no matter what system is in place. What's needed to minimize their ability to entrench themselves is vigilance in defending our institutions against corruption.

And vigilance is something that the American people seem to have less and less of every day.

Matt Quinn , 15 Oct 2017 12:40
Maximise aggregate happiness as John Nash suggested. Cooperation beats competition in almost every sphere. Uniting the 99% will happen after the 1% have brought civilisation to a standstill and a billion people starve.
vinny59er , 15 Oct 2017 12:38
The biggest impediment to true and real democracy is the existence of political parties.
RapidSloth -> RecantedYank , 15 Oct 2017 12:27
Denial is a powerful mental mechanism, that and also people tend to associate oligarchy with brutal, straight forwards autocratic rule.
US has a very sophisticated socio-political system that has isolated the elite and the common man through many filters rather than one solid brick wall - so people dont see it. This paired with large enough populations who are cretinous enough to actually vote for somebody like Trump or give a second term to the likes of G.W Bush makes fooling extremely easy.

There is also the tendency of treating laws like dogma and the constitution like the bible. A stark example of it is how they boast about freedom of speech. Everybody is keen to point out that one can publicly criticize politicians without fear of prosecution but nobody seems to notice how useless that speech is and how effectively the political elite shelters itself from negative opinion and is able to proceed against the public will. I find it quite fascinating.

RecantedYank , 15 Oct 2017 12:20
ALL oligarchies are bad...they just function from a different starting point.
In the US, we have an oligarchy based on wealth,who then uses their money to buy the political animals.
In Communist countries, you had a political oligarchy, who used their political powers to corner the wealth.
And in religious oligarchies you have a few selected "high priests" using religious fervor/special communication lines with whatever deity, to capture both wealth and politics.

None of these are preferable over the other as they all concentrate power into the hands of the few (1-2%), against the interests of the many.

virgenskamikazes , 15 Oct 2017 12:20
The fact is Western Democracy (democratic capitalism) is not and was never a true democracy.

Historians from at least 300 years from now, when studying our historical time, will state our system was capitalism, whose political system was plutocracy -- the rule of the capitalist class from behind the curtains, through puppet governors.

Sure, the same historians will, through archaeological evidence, state, correctly, that we called and considered ourselves to live in a democracy. But they will also find evidence that this claim was always contested by contemporaries. Emperor Augustus restored the façade of the Republic and called himself princeps instead of king, and, officially, Rome was still a Republic until the time of Marcus Aurelius to Diocletian (maybe the first emperor to openly consider himself a monarch) -- it doesn't fool today's historians, and it seems it didn't fool the Roman people also.

sejong , 15 Oct 2017 12:15
Oligarchy in USA is secure. For a generation, it has leveraged rightwing media to get unquestioning support from white America based on aggrieved truculence toward the liberal, the brown, and the black. And that was pre-Trump.

Now Trump rampages against the very symbol of the grievance: Obama.

It's midnight in the world's leading third world country

voogdy , 15 Oct 2017 12:10
Anyone who's been accusing united states of being an oligarchy so far was branded as a conspiracy nut. So does this article rehabilitates them and confirms their assertions?
j. von Hettlingen , 15 Oct 2017 12:07
In ancient Greece: "While the ruling class must remain united for an oligarchy to remain in power, the people must also be divided so they cannot overthrow their oppressors." Today the oligarchs aren't always united, because they see each other as rivals. But they have nothing against dividing and weakening the people in order to prevent them from rising up to "their oppressors."
Mass indoctrination is the answer. Oligarchs around the world seek to build up a media empire to brainwash a gullible public and sow discord in the society. The most notorious members of a civil oligarchy in the West are Silvio Berlusconi and Rupert Murdoch. Like oligarchs in ancient Greece, their modern counterparts need democratic support to legitimise their goals. And they support candidates in elections who will do their bidding once in office.
Oligarchy and plutocracy will continue to rule America, because the worship of money is a popular faith. As long as an individual is well off, he/she sees little incentive to help improve social equality. A revolution will only be possible if a critical mass is behind it.
PeterlooSunset -> maddiemot , 15 Oct 2017 12:06
The current US education system was put in place by the oligarch foundations of the Rockefellers, Carnegies and Guggenheims . It exists to keep the majority of the citizenry misinformed, thus docile workers and passive consumers.
ID3924525 -> 37Dionysos , 15 Oct 2017 12:05
Sounds about right - a least some, a very small minority, realise they're being suckered - the overwhelming majority die pig ignorant, whether they believe they've made it or live in a trailer park.
lasos2222 , 15 Oct 2017 12:03
it's very rare that an article in the Guardian doesn't have an obvious agenda. Simple click bait stuff. This article is different, and worthwhile reading. Excellent.
RecantedYank , 15 Oct 2017 12:02
I am only surprised that anyone would still be in the dark about whether or not the US is an oligarchy. It's been obvious now for at least the past three-four decades.
RapidSloth , 15 Oct 2017 12:01
If the general public opposes rule-by-economic-elites, yep sure... too elections held in the last two decades contradict that statement.
37Dionysos -> OldTrombone , 15 Oct 2017 12:01
Yep---for where very few have very much and most have nothing, you have a pressure-cooker. The property-police must indeed grow in number and brutality.
37Dionysos -> ID3924525 , 15 Oct 2017 11:58
And the other half of it is what Ben Franklin warned about, "the corruption of the people." The gangsters really sense and know how to play people against themselves---arousing appetites, appealing to short-term pleasure, to short-term feel-good thinking and acts, and to greed and lust for seemingly easy power. When you realize you're had, it's too late: "In every transaction, there's a sucker. If you're wondering who that is, it's you."
Feindbild -> PSmd , 15 Oct 2017 11:55
Yep sure. The 'big white kid' pritecting the brown kid does tend to be working class or middle class Jewish, and indeed, more likely to be socialist than liberal (in my experience).

I wouldn't limit credit for this kind of thing to any particular ethnicity. But I will say that most major successful reform 'crusades' of modern Western history were inspired by Christian ideals, and often led by Christian clergy, including the anti-slavery Abolition movement in 19th-century America, the Civil Rights movement in the 1950s and '60s, and the anti-Communist revolutions in 1980's Eastern Central Europe. Even in the anti-Apartheid movement, the churches played a leading role, personified, of course, by Bishop Tutu.

MTorrespico -> OldTrombone , 15 Oct 2017 11:52
Correct, because that would be too easy . . . for 'Muricans, because Other people might benefit, and because it is too, too logical a solution for the Turd World USA.
37Dionysos , 15 Oct 2017 11:51
In the Oxford English Dictionary you find that "profit" and "advantage" are close cousins etymologically. Makes sense, since "profit" (the word for value you did not put into an exchange) creates "advantage"---and then you use advantages to give even less and take even more profit. Round and round she goes, and there's no bottom. "Advantage" of course is also inherently relative to somebody else's "DIS-advantage": hence our planet full of "disadvantaged" working people.
OldTrombone -> rg12345 , 15 Oct 2017 11:50
No, I think the Democrats are the ones most successful at diverting the people from their own power in favor of the banks. The Republicans are far less successful by their own control, instead benefitting only from luck such as Wasserman-Schultz denying Elizabeth Warren from her rightful place in the Oval Office. Sanders was the consolation candidate for Warren voters. Warren would have beaten Trump 50-nil.
MTorrespico -> Nash25 , 15 Oct 2017 11:50
Correct. Two equal evils from the same nest-egg, a political party with two right-wings. At the least, the public know why the First Nazi of Great America has an aura of flies.
name1 -> Skip Breitmeyer , 15 Oct 2017 11:46
Divisions or hijacking? I suspect the latter.
PeterlooSunset , 15 Oct 2017 11:39

a colleague of mine asked if America was really at risk of becoming an oligarchy. Our political system, he said, is a democracy. If the people don't want to be run by wealthy elites, we can just vote them out.

Thanks for the cracking joke. That was hilariously funny.

teamofrivals , 15 Oct 2017 11:38
There's a term on everything and a rhythm to all things and its an impertinence to think that any political system lasts forever for our security.
brianBT , 15 Oct 2017 11:34
full and transparent disclosure of all finical and gift transactions between elected official and anyone not in govt.. this include "payments" to family, friends their charities.. etc.. if you cant see the lie no one fight to have the laws and rules changed... additionally lobbyist must no longer be allowed to have the type of closed door access to our leaders.. all these conversations must be moderated or flat out banned and a new form of communication is developed.... put it this way I have never been able to get a meeting with my leading politician yet big business can at almost any time.. I'm glad this issues is being more openly discussed.. we need more of the same
ID3924525 -> ID3924525 , 15 Oct 2017 11:32
Karl Marx, in The Communist Manifesto , indentified this in his concept, "False Consciousness", and Orwell, taking Stalinism to exemplify it, points to the same in Animal Farm , though I bet they weren't the first, and hope they won't be the last.
OldTrombone , 15 Oct 2017 11:31
Machiavelli was right, when you need political favors to get to the top, then you will always owe the favor-givers when you get there. Machiavelli also said this:

Sortition works!

When the most powerful person has literally zero interest in the outcome, they will defer to moral utilitarianism every time. Ask Canada's John Ralton Saul "The Unconcious Civilization" and Australia's Ricky Muir from the Motoring Enthusiasts Party [seriously] who scuppered Aussie right-wingers from bringing US-style education-loans to rent-seek our economy to death.

laerteg , 15 Oct 2017 11:29
The problem is that today's so-called "populists" have been so propagandized into despising the liberalism that could fight the oligarchs, and buying into the very policies and philosophies that allow the oligarchs to consolidate their power (endless tax cuts, undermined government, deregulation, big money in politics, destruction of unions, etc, etc.) that they play right into their hands.

They've mistaken a demagogue for a man of the people and continue to cheer on the dismantling of the checks on oligarchy that our system provides.

This country is in a world of hurt and those who should be exercizing their democratic power to diminish the power of the oligarchs are busy dismantling it, thanks to decades of right wing media propaganda.

All I see is more oligarchy, more autoctacy, and less power to the people. We just keep sticking it to ourselves.

Elgrecoandros -> jessthecrip , 15 Oct 2017 11:28
I literally copy pasted the comments in order, how have I twisted anything?

The person complained about some reaction to Rees-Mogg for having different political views being over the top and you promptly justified their claim.

OldTrombone , 15 Oct 2017 11:25
Capitalist oligarchies = bad, right?

So... communism, then, right?

It's time for SORTITION

When anyone could instantly become president, then everyone has to be educated as much as possible. Right? Hey classical policy scholars, sortition worked in Ancient Greece too! As well as everywhere else ever since. Ever heard of court juries?

ID3924525 , 15 Oct 2017 11:22
Divide and rule - the oldest trick in the book, and incredibly easy, as long as people are kept ignorant by propaganda (currently known as The Media) and education.
rg12345 -> Rainborough , 15 Oct 2017 11:21
Many (most?) Of us do understand it, that's why we're opposed to Citizens United, whereas the Republicans are for it.
Nash25 , 15 Oct 2017 11:20
Hillary Clinton lost because the working class (correctly) perceived her to be a supporter of oligarchy in the USA. Her ties to Wall Street, corporate power, and the upper class were too obvious.

Yes, Trump fooled many voters into believing that he was populist, but their perception of Clinton was still accurate.

If the Democratic party leaders had chosen Sanders as their candidate, they would have won the election. But the "Democratic" party leaders (ironically) feared what he offered: real democracy.

jessthecrip -> Elgrecoandros , 15 Oct 2017 11:19
You are an expert twister and no mistake. I can only salute you
SoxMcCarthy -> TragicomedyBeholder , 15 Oct 2017 11:18
"The Bad Hayek emerged when he aimed to convert a wider public. Then, as often happens, he tended to overreach, and to suggest more than he had legitimately argued. The Road to Serfdom was a popular success but was not a good book. Leaving aside the irrelevant extremes, or even including them, it would be perverse to read the history, as of 1944 or as of now, as suggesting that the standard regulatory interventions in the economy have any inherent tendency to snowball into "serfdom." The correlations often run the other way. Sixty-five years later, Hayek's implicit prediction is a failure, rather like Marx's forecast of the coming "immiserization of the working class.""
fivefeetfour , 15 Oct 2017 11:18
Lenin has written that politics is a concentrated economy more than a century ago.
rg12345 -> OldTrombone , 15 Oct 2017 11:16
Do you think Democrats are the only ones trying to consolidate wealth and power? You must have missed the part about keeping people divided.
Lafcadio1944 , 15 Oct 2017 11:15
This of course is a simplified version and can't really touch on everything, however he glaringly leaves out the deliberate human suffering results from the oligarchy protecting its wealth and aggressively taking over ever more markets. Yes, of course, what today is called "alignment of interests" among the oligarchy is necessary but that alone is not enough they mus also be ruthless beyond that of others. Nothing stands in the way of profits nothing stands in the way of ever greater control. The oligarchy has decided that nature itself is just another obstacle profit making - there is no room for empathy in the world of the oligarchy poverty suffering from curable disease mutilation from bombs are acceptable external consequences to their obsessive accumulation of wealth.

The real reason the oligarchy wins is because they are willing to be ruthless in the extreme and society rewards ruthlessness and ridicules the empathetic.

Elgrecoandros -> jessthecrip , 15 Oct 2017 11:14
"Perhaps the OP was proposing prison for JRM for expressing a viewpoint..."

Nobody was proposing that, it was hyperbole from rjm2017.

Well it was hyperbole until your comment calling on punishment for those with different political views.

R Zwarich -> Kay Nixon , 15 Oct 2017 11:14
This may be true, they often seem so blinded by their raw greed that their powers of reason become dysfunctional. I don't think, however, that the stupid things they do to slake their greed means that they are stupid. When the chips are down, they are capable of bringing their considerable powers of reason to bear.

However stupid or smart they might be, we surely must realize that they have been at least smart enough to gain total ownership and control of all our mass media. They use this tool, the most powerful tool of social control that has ever existed, with consummate skill in pursuit of their agenda(s).

If you look at the overall content of our mass media, you can see an impressive level of 'mind' at work, 'behind the curtain'. This 'mind' is constantly manipulating our consciousness, using very highly sophisticated, highly skilled techniques.Their understanding of human psychology, and their ability to manipulate us using our most basic appetites and desires, is characterized by true genius, even ig that genius is diabolical in its designs.

'They' choose what movies get made. Which TV shows are produced. Which songs get airplay. Which social and political issues are sensationalized and which are buried.

Most of the citizens of our ostensible 'democracy' have been 'trained', just as any animals are trained to any behavior, to be 'consumers' rather than 'citizens'. We are well trained by an omnipresent mass media that assaults us constantly. In any direction that we turn our gaze, or our attention, 'they' are there, to direct our thoughts as they think serves their purposes.

I sure wouldn't sell these people's intelligence short. They may often do stupid things to serve their greed, but they did not acquire the power that they have through any lack of intelligence.

fragglerokk , 15 Oct 2017 11:13
what everyone seems to forget is that whilst ancient Greece was the cradle of democracy it was not only a slave state (whose slaves had no rights to vote) but that only an elite minority were eligible to vote themselves - power very much rested with the vested interests of the few.

I agree that societies are a reflection of the 'will' of the people these days, even if that will is ill informed, reactionary or, as seems to be the case, largely uninterested in voting. You get the governments you deserve and people in the West have become lazy, permanently distracted, often ignorant and usually in the grip of one addiction or another, thus allowing 'democracy' to be subverted. The media have had their role in this by allowing themselves to be manipulated and owned by vested interests, rarely reporting the truth and doing as they are told by various govt offices and departments. Uninformed people make poor decisions.

OldTrombone , 15 Oct 2017 11:13
What the Black Lives Matter movement is telling us is that the Oligarch's enforce their rules of 'law' precisely at the barrels of guns, and by the words of one man after one man, each with a uniform on and a camera off.
TheResult -> J.K. Stevens , 15 Oct 2017 11:13
National Anthems only make sense in context of International Games
Where 2 anthems are played out of respect for each other
Elgrecoandros -> Elgrecoandros , 15 Oct 2017 11:11
Further, you stated above that you were "...responding to a poster who called for imprisonment for those concerned", when in fact the quote shows they were complaining about people calling for imprisonment, not calling for it.

That shows you are twisting what was said, it is incredibly disingenuous of you.

Skip Breitmeyer -> sparkle5nov , 15 Oct 2017 11:09
It's the divisions of the left that allow Tory and Republican minority rule to prevail. In the US the divide is quite bitter between Hillary and Bernie wings of the Dems- at the moment I don't really see where reconciliation can emerge. And of course in Great Britain you actually have two major parties competing rather self-destructively for the available votes on the left. (As well as the mighty Greens...). Divided and conquered, indeed. And such a bloody cliche!
OldTrombone , 15 Oct 2017 11:06

Democracy is vulnerable to oligarchy because democrats focus so much on guaranteeing political equality that they overlook the indirect threat that emerges from economic inequality

And yet Marx doesn't rate a single mention in the entire article...

jessthecrip -> Elgrecoandros , 15 Oct 2017 11:06
No, even though you've quoted me you have misunderstood what was perfectly plain. I stated 'like everyone else who voted to cut even more from disabled people's benefits'. Perhaps the OP was proposing prison for JRM for expressing a viewpoint, but that was not and is not where I'm coming from.
OldTrombone , 15 Oct 2017 11:05

At its core, oligarchy involves concentrating economic power and using it for political purposes.

Here is the exact reason why the Democratic Party is lost now. The Clintons, Wasserman-Schultz, and their new Goldman Sachs alumni hero in New Jersey, and now Kamala Harris seeking the same money from the same bankers.

And who did Hillary blame? Bernie, of course.

PSmd -> Dark Angel , 15 Oct 2017 11:02
It's sort of worked against the right though. Take a look at the last election. Yes, the Tories got most votes, but they've pretty much lost all ethnic minorities, including asian professionals, hindus and sikhs. Why is this, especially when Labour moved to left and are now more socialist than left liberal?

Purely because the right has been subsumed by angry grievance mentality, or aggreived entitlement. The internet is awash by people who hate assertive blacks and asians, Dianne Abbott received half of all abuse of female MPs. And so.. the Labour pick up votes that Tories had gained under Cameron. If you are a prosperous hindu dentist or stockbroker, sure you might have shrugged off your parents labour voting tendencies and might be Tory. But also, you might be seeing this sort of stuff, the bile on the internet, the resentment expressed behind internet anonymity. And you might be thinking that deep down underneath that expensive suit of yours, you are your father and mother, a tentative, slightly frightened, cheaply dressed immigrant who has arrived as an outsider and are visibly aware that half the population likes you, but the other half doesn't.
And so you vote Labour.

Divisiveness actually divides the core group you are aiming to win. If you do white chauvinism, well, you end up unite everyone who is not white. Black, brown, yellow, all huddle together scared, back under the labour fold. And you end up dividing the whites into the patriotic and the 'self hating libtard'.

Elgrecoandros -> jessthecrip , 15 Oct 2017 11:01
The sequence of comments was...

Rjm2017

"Just read the language of many in here...apparent JRM should be banished and locked away. You don't need to look to far to find odeous beliefs."

Your reply to that:

"Not locked away. Prison is expensive for the taxpayer. Assets sequestered for the good of the commons and put to work cleaning - streets, hospitals, care homes - on workfare. Like everyone else who voted to cut even more from disabled people's benefits, causing what the UN has described as a 'catastrophe' for disabled people in this country"

My reply to you:

"You are advocating confiscation of private property and forced physical labour for people who hold different political views to you. Is Stalin a hero of yours?"


Yours is a call to punish people for holding different political views to you.

Yours is an extremist position and, like all extremists, you think it is justified.

barciad -> FrankLittle , 15 Oct 2017 10:57

e.g. Park Chung-hee sent thousands of homeless people to camps where they were used as slave labour, many were were tortured and executed.


Like I said, benignish. He took a third world basket case (which is what South Korea was up until his seizure of power) and set it on the way to becoming a first world economy.
Skip Breitmeyer -> BayardDC , 15 Oct 2017 10:56
One of the most interesting mini-discourses I've read anywhere. I would only add that the 'mob' currently in charge of the polity of the House is actually a minority that has gamed the system.
AladdinStardust -> Gunsarecivilrights , 15 Oct 2017 10:56
which is exactly what the author did when her ill health meant that she no longer had medical insurance. Ain't life a bitch?
OldTrombone , 15 Oct 2017 10:55

They also tried to keep ordinary people dependent on individual oligarchs for their economic survival, similar to how mob bosses in the movies have paternalistic relationships in their neighborhoods

Like Wine-stine? (Wine-stain?)

Rainborough , 15 Oct 2017 10:55
"Democracy is vulnerable to oligarchy because democrats focus so much on guaranteeing political equality that they overlook the indirect threat that emerges from economic inequality."

No democrat with two working brain cells to rub together could honestly suppose that great concentrations of wealth, which necessarily confer political power on the wealthy class, can fail to undermine democracy. A capitalist democracy is an oxymoron and a delusion.

ChesBay -> maddiemot , 15 Oct 2017 10:52
They admire the rich, and the lifestyles of the rich, although it is out of their reach.
They do not admire the wise, and the experienced.
They don't know who are their state and federal representatives.
They don't know the reason for the Civil War.
They don't know much about our history, our constitution, or anything about civics.
They don't know much about world history.
They don't read much, and are suspicious of education, and the properly educated.
They are easy marks for lies, and negative influence, because they never question.
They refuse to address, or even admit, their own irrational prejudices.
They don't vote, but they do plenty of complaining, and like to blame others for the problems of our nation.
AveAtqueCave , 15 Oct 2017 10:51
Good luck with that.
FrankLittle -> barciad , 15 Oct 2017 10:45
I do not think that benign or even benign(ish) suits the majority of the above e.g. Park Chung-hee sent thousands of homeless people to camps where they were used as slave labour, many were were tortured and executed.

Not sure how Carl Mannerheim gets to be on your list? He was appointed Military chief during the Finnish civil war and he was elected President of Finland

DammedOutraged , 15 Oct 2017 10:44
Oh you mean a bit like all those plebs going out and voting to wreck the EU oligarchy's vision as to whats best?
vastariner , 15 Oct 2017 10:44

At the same time, they sought to destroy monuments that were symbols of democratic success. Instead of public works projects, dedicated in the name of the people, they relied on what we can think of as philanthropy to sustain their power.


That was more because there was no income tax regime - something difficult to impose when there was no centralized collection from a single consistent professional government. So if the Athenian navy wanted a ship, it got a rich chap to pay for it. Rather than out of general taxation.

Athens got rich on levies it imposed on its allies by way of protection money, which eventually collapsed in acrimony, but that's a different story.

StephenR45 -> TheWindsOfWinter93 , 15 Oct 2017 10:43
You'll be first "over the top" then?
Alfandomega -> timiengels , 15 Oct 2017 10:41
Owen Jones ? ......a man of high minded principle and unblemished
virtue . Don't think he would object to a spot of terror........in defence
of his liberal principles , of course..
somebody_stopme , 15 Oct 2017 10:41
I guess we are seeing some of oligarchy break down. Many oligarchs support many socialist policies to avoid tension between classes. For eg: many rich support universal basic income and some even support single payer healthcare.
imperium3 -> Sailor25 , 15 Oct 2017 10:41

You make a good point but in my wide but less than comprehensive knowledge of rapid development often occurrs in periods of oligarchy.

All those mills that drove the industrial revolution, created by oligarchy.

All those armies and aqueducts that drove the Roman Empire, created by oligarchy.

All those libraries and universities that drove Greek learning, funded by the oligarchy.

The great library of Alexandria, oligarchy.

OK, I'll concede that. Which makes for an interesting perspective on things overall, actually. One can see the advantage of an oligarchy - wealth and power is concentrated in few enough hands to achieve great things, but not so few that, like in a monarchy or dictatorship, the leader must spend most time and effort on keeping their power. Whereas a more equal democracy lacks the capacity to make bold steps or drive through unpopular new ideas. But this also means the oligarchs have the power to grind down those underneath them, and therefore in order to enjoy the fruits of that development, the oligarchy needs to be destroyed.

In other words, oligarchies deliver growth, democracies deliver prosperity. I would certainly not like to live under an oligarchy (assuming I'm not an oligarch) but it would be beneficial for a country to have had one in the past.

Kay Nixon , 15 Oct 2017 10:40
I have come to the conclusion that the oligarchy which rules the world are complete imbeciles who haven't a clue that the whole Neoliberal system they built in the 1970's is collapsing and they are clueless on how to handle it. Just because they are wealthy and greedy doesn't mean they are intelligent.
J.K. Stevens -> TheResult , 15 Oct 2017 10:40
In order to prevent the protests from going out over the airwaves Fox (sports) in all their 'logic' started excluding broadcast of the Anthem. Early on I said I would not watch any of these sporting events with, as you say, these jingoistic displays going out and Fox has obliged me but I wont say thanks.
desertrat49 -> BayardDC , 15 Oct 2017 10:39
Yes....Nothing in current affairs would surprise the ancient political philosophers who were students of real human nature ...and real history!
yule620 , 15 Oct 2017 10:37
Understanding Greece is not something you associate comfort with.
desertrat49 -> DrPepperIsNotARealDr , 15 Oct 2017 10:36
It serves as a relieve valve...just as it did in Ancient Greece and Rome.
Obfusgator , 15 Oct 2017 10:36
It's very simple really. The law system makes a complete mockery of democracy and the judiciary is comprised of a bunch of laissez-faire twits.
desertrat49 -> TheResult , 15 Oct 2017 10:35
The last recourse of scoundrels is patriotism!...always been thus because it always works...see H.L. Mencken et. al. !
Postconventional -> SenseiTim , 15 Oct 2017 10:34
Britain isn't different. Oligarchy is built into our system of governance, e.g. royals and house of lords. We even have special oligarch schools where children are sent to be educated for leadership
desertrat49 -> zootsuitbeatnick , 15 Oct 2017 10:33
You do not think the pomp and circumstance of Oligarchs, Monarchs and Military Dictators is without purpose or effect, do you?
StephenR45 -> DolyGarcia , 15 Oct 2017 10:32
Ban Keeping up with the Kardashians.
Gunsarecivilrights -> ID059068 , 15 Oct 2017 10:31
Or in other words, "I can't take care of myself, so I demand the government take money from others and give it to me!"
maddiemot , 15 Oct 2017 10:31
"An informed citizenry is at the heart of a dynamic democracy." - Thomas Jefferson

We have Americans who don't know when the Civil War was fought, or even who won, but insist we must stand for the national anthem before a ballgame.
So much for 'the Land of the Free'.

EquilibriaJones -> Sailor25 , 15 Oct 2017 10:31
Saying life can only get better if we are all collectively greedy together is not a logical argument. Ask the polar bears.
StephenR45 -> davshev , 15 Oct 2017 10:30
It didn't start with Trump.
Gunsarecivilrights -> DirDigIns , 15 Oct 2017 10:30
More people need to read Atlas Shrugged.
desertrat49 -> MarmaladeMog , 15 Oct 2017 10:30
All of the wishful thinking is hugely naive.....they have not been studying the lessons of history.
J.K. Stevens -> OldTrombone , 15 Oct 2017 10:29
And in the older grades, they prescribe (hand out) adderall, CSN stimulants, like chiclets to help student study (cram) and with comprehensive test taking.

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/allen-frances/why-are-so-many-college-a_b_8331958.html

desertrat49 -> DolyGarcia , 15 Oct 2017 10:28
This is the rub.....and the mob does not value education while the rulers value propaganda. Notice the close association between Autocratic and Oligarchic systems and religion, historical mythology and hyper-patriotism!
EquilibriaJones -> Sailor25 , 15 Oct 2017 10:28
Or that's the evil of it. Economic inequality rises until people die. Like homeless on the streets, starving food banks, grenfell tower, waiting on hospital beds instead of famine and pitchfork wars.
The idea is to progress and solve problems before they escalate to pitchfork wars. Praising grotesque inequality is not part of the solution, it's the cause of the problems.
desertrat49 -> Crusty Crab , 15 Oct 2017 10:25
H. L. Mencken is a must read on this!
Alfandomega -> Peter Martin , 15 Oct 2017 10:24
Very remote possibility . I think you'll find their over inflated salaries
weigh more heavily in the balance than their " principles ".
SenseiTim , 15 Oct 2017 10:24
This article should be required reading for all Americans. I am posting a link to Twitter and Facebook to get as many Yank eyeballs on it as possible.
desertrat49 -> Langsdorff , 15 Oct 2017 10:24
What emerges from Plutocracy is Oligarchy...what emerges from Oligarchy is Autocracy. Autocracy is one form or another is the natural state of human society....all the others are ephemeral systems...or systems that disguise the actual Oligarchy or Autocracy!
davshev , 15 Oct 2017 10:23
The biggest contributor to America's plutocracy is our abysmally uninformed electorate.
HL Mencken knew this nearly a century ago when he said:
"As democracy is perfected, the office of president represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart's desire at last and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron."
desertrat49 , 15 Oct 2017 10:20
Just exactly when was it that "democracy defeated oligarchy in ancient Greece"?
What proportion of the population in Ancient Athens, for example, were actually citizens...and what proportion of those actually held the franchise?...I believe that you would find the numbers surprising!
Also ...when these (and other) writers speaks of Ancient Greece.....it is usually Athens that they are mythologizing....most the Ancient Greek world had little by way of representative government...let alone "Democracy"!
jessthecrip -> Elgrecoandros , 15 Oct 2017 10:18
No I wasn't. I already responded to you regarding this. To remind you, I said

when people in positions of power take £28 billion (at least) off one of the most powerless and already impoverished groups in our country (disabled people), resulting in hundreds of suicides, enormous suffering, worsened isolation, serious lack of care support, and thousands dying soon after being found 'fit to work' (a situation the UN has described as a 'catastrophe') then I think it perfectly reasonable to favour some punishment for those politicians who inflicted such suffering on their fellow citizens

I was not suggesting punishment for 'thought crime' or for expressing views, but for actions seriously damaging to our citizens.
OldTrombone , 15 Oct 2017 10:17
I have worked in several of the American rich's schools where they charge $30k per kid, families have 3-5 kids there, plus they donate another $30k per kid per year. These schools shame their $50k/year teachers into donating hundreds and thousands per year to their own schools in order to prompt further donations from parents, who expect the poor teachers to prove their fidelity to these rich kids by giving their own money to them. I have seen these schools' principals fire teachers who teach "how to change things". I have seen them promote teachers who teach absolutely nothing, because then the rich kids enjoy insulting and demeaning those teachers' weaknesses. I have heard rich $chool principals tell Harvard psychology lecturers that grade inflation is a marketplace necessity. I have seen rich principals tell school inspectors that the curriculum presented for verification is supplied by a currently-employed teacher (who was awfully bad at teaching) when in fact it was written and prepared by a teacher who had just been fired "for methodology problems"...

American rich schools are the sickest schools on earth, even sicker than British boarders, even sicker than other countries' orphanages.

davshev -> ID50611L , 15 Oct 2017 10:15
Yes, but we now have the consummate...emphasis on "con"...bullshit artist in the White House whose first order of business has been to discredit the media whenever it exposes him for what he truly is. Trump has thousands of people believing that any media story about him which is negative is "fake."
Sailor25 -> JosephCamilleri , 15 Oct 2017 10:14
Yes they did and in all those political systems there where rich bastards at the top making the decisions.

They may have been bastards but on balance they actually made some pretty good decisions.

RutherfordFHEA , 15 Oct 2017 10:13
In his book Culture Inc. , Herbert Schiller quoted a recent study on neoliberal deregulation in the US which began with the question:

"Is deregulation... a strategy on the part of corporations to re-appropriate the power lost to democratic reforms of the mid-20th century?"

Sailor25 -> Dan2017 , 15 Oct 2017 10:13
So you are in favour of populism?

I consider populism an important part of the process as it creates a balance for oligarchy.

I would consider that the greedy big picture thinking of oligarchy drives growth while the greedy small picture thinking of the plebs (of which I am one) tries to get that growth more equally distributed.

ID50611L -> debt2zero , 15 Oct 2017 10:12
Spot on
MoonMoth -> Tenthred , 15 Oct 2017 10:10
It is perhaps unlikely that a radical Athenian democrat from ancient Greece would recognise any current form of government as genuinely democratic.

The cleverest way to maintain a long term oligarchy in these enlightened times might be to have an elective one, only dressed up as something like say a 'parliamentary democracy'. Luckily no-one has come up with this idea yet.

Dark Angel , 15 Oct 2017 10:10
Exactly that is going on now - we have 'workers' and 'benefit scroungers', British against 'immigrants' who exactly are not immigrants as having legal rights to live in the UK (EU citizens), 'deserving' poor and 'undeserving' poor.
Divide and rule.
Without knowing the past, it is impossible to understand the true meaning of the present and the goals of the future.
It's so annoying that is has been so easy to manipulate with our society - Tories and UKIP say 'hate!' and people do as if they are trained animals - hate people on benefits, EU citizens, immigrants, asylum seekers, a conflict between Brexiters/Remainers...
Sailor25 -> Swoll Man , 15 Oct 2017 10:09
Laughing at the fact that you chose to write an insult rather than engage in debate.
barciad -> FrankLittle , 15 Oct 2017 10:08
Benign(ish) dictators of the 20th Century:-
Tito (Yugoslavia)
Carl Mannerheim (Finland)
Kemal Ataturk (Turkey)
Fidel Castro (Cuba)
Nasser (Egypt)
Park Chung-hee (South Korea)
Like I said, benign(ish). Each one the subject for a debate within themselves.
Sailor25 -> Boghaunter , 15 Oct 2017 10:07
There is always winners and losers but the worst loser in modern British society had a better standard of living than a winner of a century ago.

The key to human development is driving sustainable progress not worrying about who losses out today.

Of course there must be balance because morally we must consider who loses our today. The question is how much do we hamstring the children of tomorrow to help the losers of today.

Langsdorff , 15 Oct 2017 10:06
To war on the Oligarchs is to war on our own nature.
whitman100 , 15 Oct 2017 10:03
The super rich conservative oligarchy, currently running the UK, get away with it because enough of the British people vote against their own economic interest.

Parents, for example, effectively vote for the food to be taken from their children's mouths, converted to cash and given in tax cuts to the super rich conservative elite so they can send their children to £30k a year private schools.

Political economy and political science should be compulsory in primary and secondary school so that the ripping-off of the British people is made obvious through education and ended through democratic revolution.

GKB507 -> Giftshop , 15 Oct 2017 10:02
.. it's scary though.. automation will eliminate the economic support line for many, while companies like Google have eyes and ears in every household.
JamesKeye -> webapalooza , 15 Oct 2017 10:02
Definition of democracy: "a system of government by the whole population or all the eligible members of a state, typically through elected representatives." You are presenting an anti-Democratic party talking point, not an enlightened understanding of subtle political differences. Of course, the intention was a democracy in the USA, as compromised as it was and is. What we are not, and never have been, is an absolute direct democracy -- a form of governance appropriate only to small communities.
dcroteau -> Hibernica , 15 Oct 2017 10:01
Considering that "the people" are not that much more enlightened than they were in ancient Greece, yes it is the will of the people that allowed the US to become an oligarchy.

Considering the voting turnout around 56%, that means that 44% decided that they didn't care whether or not their leader would be a good or a bad one.

That's more than 1 in 3 people who couldn't care less about the outcome of the elections.

So political apathy is the will of the people.

KK47 , 15 Oct 2017 10:00
Oligarchs would fund the creation of a new building or the beautification of a public space.

When I read this I think: why am I reminded of the words 'gentrification' and 'privately-owned public spaces'?

https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2017/sep/26/its-really-shocking-uk-cities-refusing-to-reveal-extent-of-pseudo-public-space

Excerpt from the above link:
the spread of pseudo-public space in London – large squares, parks and thoroughfares that appear to be public but are actually owned and controlled by developers and their private backers

And I'm also reminded of Attlee's great words about the attitudes of oligarchs in general:

http://www.azquotes.com/quote/688837

Excerpt from the above link:
Charity is a cold grey loveless thing. If a rich man wants to help the poor, he should pay his taxes gladly, not dole out money at a whim. - Attlee

J.K. Stevens -> Peter Martin , 15 Oct 2017 10:00
I know that it's just geography but it appears that the 'left coast (west coast) teams (players))' are taking a leadership role in this struggle. Unlike other professional sports systems, the NFL players are at a disadvantage in terms of career length and working conditions (eg, head injuries). I believe they're going to need some outside help (in whatever form) to be successful which doesn't give me hope. There are a bunch of chicken s____ outfits and power players out there at present that, as an example, allowed (contributed) the Executive Branch takeover by a Russian backed interloper.
ID50611L -> Giftshop , 15 Oct 2017 09:58
agree 100%
Sailor25 -> imperium3 , 15 Oct 2017 09:58
You make a good point but in my wide but less than comprehensive knowledge of rapid development often occurrs in periods of oligarchy.

All those mills that drove the industrial revolution, created by oligarchy.

All those armies and aqueducts that drove the Roman Empire, created by oligarchy.

All those libraries and universities that drove Greek learning, funded by the oligarchy.

The great library of Alexandria, oligarchy.

I recognise that it takes a plebeian revolt now and again to get the wealth shared out fairly but the engine that drives the wealth so it can be shared often seem to be oligarchy.

sparkle5nov -> FE Lang , 15 Oct 2017 09:58
Agree! I've been saying for years; cheap fast food, cheap ale and cheap television have replaced religion as the opiate of the people.
ID50611L -> zootsuitbeatnick , 15 Oct 2017 09:57
Trump is using the toolbox created by the Bush & Obama administrations.
Crusty Crab , 15 Oct 2017 09:57
A free educated and honest press may be the answer to a true democracy ?
DolyGarcia -> Hector Hajnal , 15 Oct 2017 09:55
And how do you keep the people informed and educated when the oligarchs control the media?
ID50611L , 15 Oct 2017 09:54
how is it, then, that the wealthy control so much of government? ...consequence of a lap dog media who lick the ass rather than expose and speak the truth to power elites.
TheResult -> J.K. Stevens , 15 Oct 2017 09:53
Now is the right time to ban the National Anthem

Brainwashing jingoist nonsense is a bandwagon platform for wet farts

W.a. Thomaston , 15 Oct 2017 09:50
The captured author/minions have obviously not had full access to the reading room
*And the secret writings of
Part of a small cache of loose leaf scrolls smuggled out of Alexandria before the fire
Last entrusted to a small elite 13th century band of chainsaw wielding warrior...
Comedy writing nuns
Hector Hajnal , 15 Oct 2017 09:49
Is about education, oligarchy wins to ignorant people. In order to have a healthy democracy the people must be informed and educated other wise oligarchies groups will inundate everything with cheap adds, will manipulate and will win control, methinks
Id1649 -> Sailor25 , 15 Oct 2017 09:45
And all brought down when the elites forgot that they were only the top of a pyramid and that they ultimately relied on those below. We at the foot of the monolith can see that the oligarchs serve only themselves so no longer buy into their project. We see that it is one big club and we - unlike our political masters - ain't in it. So empires fall.
MarmaladeMog , 15 Oct 2017 09:45
Sitaraman's colleague sounds worryingly naive.
Sailor25 -> EquilibriaJones , 15 Oct 2017 09:44
True, perhaps that's the beauty of it.

The senators have to supply the bread and circuses the plebs want or out come the pitchforks.

webapalooza , 15 Oct 2017 09:44
The author demonstrates his ignorance of the American system of government. He uses the word "democracy" no less than 8 times, yet American is not a democracy and never has been a democracy. You will find no form of the word "democracy" in any of the founding documents. The Founding Fathers knew very well the dangers of democracies, and so they created the American government as a constitutional republic. Not once does the author mention that; I doubt he even knows what it means, let alone the difference.
NoBets -> imipak , 15 Oct 2017 09:43
If you're complaining because prices are (inevitably) regressive on the "poor" (however defined), what do you say to the obvious retort that this is indeed the main difference between being "poor", being comfortable, being affluent and being rich?

What is the point of working and earning if it isn't aimed at making oneself less "poor" or more affluent?

FrankieOwen -> TheResult , 15 Oct 2017 09:38
Dunno, doesnt appear that they do in the rough parts of Chicago.
furryandrew -> Commem , 15 Oct 2017 09:38
Or as Mayer Amschel Rothschild correctly summed up the situation in 1790 - "Let me issue and control a nation's money and I care not who writes the laws"

What this article fails to draw our attention to , and they never do, is that private banks CREATE 97% of our entire money supply (look up "fractional reserve banking"). Whilst that remains the case the "oligarchy" will always have firm control over the rest of us.

Peter Martin -> J.K. Stevens , 15 Oct 2017 09:36
Wonder what would happen if all players took a knee, if they all stood together then the owners would start to fret.
nhickman -> TheWindsOfWinter93 , 15 Oct 2017 09:32
There was a time when the deadliest military weapon was the longbow. It could only be handled by men who had been trained up since infancy.
It enabled the English to rout a numerically superior French force at Agincourt, 1415.
The notion that the early 15th century was a period of democratic government is an interesting reading of history.
zootsuitbeatnick , 15 Oct 2017 09:32
imo
In the US today, the oligarchy cannot win without an assist from a significant segment -- not necessarily a majority -- of the overall population.
9/11 taught us that many people are willing to give up freedoms for the myth of security.
The Trump presidency is teaching us that many people are willing to give up their voice -- democracy -- for the myth of returning to a perceived better way of life (group superiority over racial, gender, religious, etc equality) from some bygone era.
imo
Newmacfan , 15 Oct 2017 09:30
We are currently experiencing a destabalisation of our nation and fellow Western Nations by the dominant Western Nation to try to halt the failure of this vastly endebted bigger brother......how do we stop this?
J.K. Stevens , 15 Oct 2017 09:28
On this NFL Sunday it is not hard to imagine the secret meetings that owners and/or their representatives had to coalesce against Kaepernick's 'taking a knee' to stop this form of protest in its tracks as a oligarchical institution. On Tuesday, when Dallas Cowboys owner, Jerry Jones declared that any player taking a knee would not play today, the circle of the objective to chill dissent was complete.

And the plutocratic beat goes on.

TheLibrarianApe -> imperium3 , 15 Oct 2017 09:27
Top post.
DrPepperIsNotARealDr , 15 Oct 2017 09:26
Democracy was always like this. What is that famous quote, by Earl Grey or Sandwich or someone, in Parliament, about allowing peasants to have the vote? "I do this, not to weaken our power, but to preserve it"

Democracy in the UK and the US has always been a forum for the oligarchy to resolve their own disputes rather than rule for the people by the people. Brexit is an example, a referendum held essentially because of the split in conservative party.

FE Lang -> zippy200 , 15 Oct 2017 09:25
And conservatives are going to save us all from done minded feel good policies of the left, is that it?
Since the 80's American politics had swing do far to the right liberals are capitalists monied elites, but the right had an army of simple minded uneducated lemmings on thier side, people that will be against thier own personal interests because of 12th century religious horse spit or group think. Thier are more Right winners in State houses, leadership positions then ever before, they control the Congress, the courts, the Presidency and yet dolts like you still say the country is going in the wrong directions and listen to son misters tell you its the fault of the left. Somewhere in your reptilian brain you know this makes no sense, but you lack of depth, you inability to comprehend what you read or to shake free from the group think or right wing ideology will never let you understand that the bet people you vote in time after time are the very ones whom have sold your job to the Chinese, profited from your child's illnesses, war, chaos in some far off land.
Keeping voting Republicans, it's working out so well for you tailer, Nascar types...
BayardDC , 15 Oct 2017 09:21
The article obfuscates a distinction laid out by Aristotle, in The Politics: aristocracy - rule by the few, focused on the common good; and oligarchy - rule by the few (wealthy), focused on their selfish good. He argues that aristocracy, rule by the best, inevitably turns into oligarchy, rule by the wealthy. In Aristotle's three forms of government - rule by one, by few, by many - the three legitimate forms (monarchy, aristocracy, polity) degenerate into their evils twins (tyranny, oligarchy, democracy). For Aristotle, Democracy was not a legitimate form of government, but a corrupted form: mob rule, we might call it. The US Constitution deliberately set out to create a mixed form of government: monarchy (president); aristocracy (Senate and Supreme Court); polity (House of Reps.). From the beginning, Americans have focused on the potential for our "monarch" (president) to turn into a tyrant: Trump is the poster child for a single executive ruling on his own, selfish behalf. We have been less aware of the fact that the Senate has become a simple oligarchy, while the House has degenerated into a bastion of deputies chosen by what Aristotle would have called democracy, that is, a corrupted form of rule by the many. Aristotle's citizens - those who rule and are ruled in turn - can constitute about 10% of the population; in today's US that would mean 20+ million people actively and continuously involved in politics (i.e., not simply showing up every four years to mark a ballot). Millions of Americans have long done such things, and political life remains active at the local level in many areas. On the national level, the Tea Party has shown how this level of enhanced involvement can transform politics, and has further shown that a coherent, organized minority can demolish what we think of as democratic norms. They are about to elect a Senator in Alabama who has twice been removed as a judge on the state's Supreme Court (an elective body), for violations of judicial norms. Here in the US, all three forms of our original government - monarchy, aristocracy, polity - have degenerated into their evil twins. Yes, the wealthy 1% will always game the system in their favor, but until we restore each of the parts of our forma mixta, we can never reduce their advantages to a level consonant with a decent form of society. Under W Bush, the oligarchs got the tax rates (above all on capital gains) reduced to their 1929 levels. That legislation had a time limit, and Obama chose not to continue it: indeed, he raised capital gains rates a further 3.8% [making the rate 23.8% as against the 15% of Bush]. Now, the two greatest goals of the oligarchs are a return to the 15% rate and the abolition of the estate tax, so all of the fantastically rich Baby Boomers (say, Sec'y of Commerce Ross, net worth $2.5 billion) can leave their wealth unencumbered to their heirs, solidifying the oligarchy's control. The Tea Party, through all the yahoos now in the House, can focus on creationism, climate change denial, immigration, etc., while the oligarchs quietly change the tax system to perpetuate their dominance. Over here, we are already in fiscal year 2018 (started on Oct 1), so tax changes would really go into effect in 2019, that is, after the mid-term election. If Mnuchen and Co. get their changes to capital gains rates and other technical loopholes aimed at the 0.1% [sic], and eliminate the estate tax, we'll know that the oligarchs have eliminated any barriers to their collective dictatorship.
TheLibrarianApe -> Commem , 15 Oct 2017 09:20
This is a blindingly excellent article.

What's new is, like this article, we have the vocabulary to frame both the problem and the solution. Oligarchy is no longer inevitable and whilst the means of control are greater, the means for derogation are too and there are fewer oligarchs than plebs.

Its now easier to spot bad behaviour and harder to keep secrets. Oligarchs have to use force more often to hold into power and that tips their hand.

This article has left me (an avowed pessimist) feeling rather more optimistic.

BlueberryMuffin -> zippy200 , 15 Oct 2017 09:17
Liberalism is about freedom. Personal and economic. Not about "proletariat solidarity" and totalitarian Marxist regimes.
FE Lang -> GusDynamite , 15 Oct 2017 09:15
They learned their lessons well after the 60's, the last time the people really raised up against the machine, so they have given us all the; junk food at a low cost, all the TV and mindless sexually charged entertainment, all the "debt wealth", a simple minded, unread, semi-literate, beer swilling fool could ever ask for. And we all gladly gobble it up and follow the crowd, for who wants to be on the outside looking in...
Giftshop , 15 Oct 2017 09:12
There is always a ruling elite because power is the wellspring of all human actions. There is also a certain moral consciousness that many people argue is innate in human nature, and that consciousness is fairness. The fairness instinct survives where ordinary human sympathy may fail. Based upon this basic morality of fairness those of us who are willing to take risks in the interest of fairness need to prune and tend the ruling elites as soon as possible. We proles need to act together.

Democracy is not enough and besides democracy we also need reason, facts,and fighting spirit.

W.a. Thomaston -> awilson5280 , 15 Oct 2017 09:09
As the inventor of the "hydrodaktulopsychicharmonica" once said: " you have a Republic if you can keep it"
amwink -> awilson5280 , 15 Oct 2017 09:06
Sparta was more than just militarism, and slavery was also practised in Athens, as well as in Rome and quite much everywhere else in the ancient world.

Sparta did something that today's democracies have forgotten: it cared about protection of its citizens. That's the most elementary reason why a State exists, not to provide health or education.

Now, regarding a replacement, epistocracy has yet to be tried. And the same democracy, but with census suffrage, or via election of electors, who in turn elect the ones who will hold office, have worked quite well in many places, producing better politicians, less inclined to populism (take the Venetian Republic, for example).

logos00 -> apacheman , 15 Oct 2017 09:05

Waiting for the oligarchy to rot from within isn't what i would call a viable plan. Not when there is a far better and far more sure way to get the job done. Start with capping wealth accumulation.

One must have already broken, or at least sufficiently loosened, the oligarchic grip on politics to institute such a policy.

Here in the UK, things are the darkest they have been in my lifetime, including the Thatcher years, but we are in a moment of possibilities that can lead in opposite directions.

The author is surely right when he says

With all the upheaval in today's politics, it's hard not to think that this moment is one in which the future of the political system might be more up for grabs than it has been in generations.

Dominance of oligarchic political power, through neoliberalism, over the last four decades has effectively put such policies out of bounds.

We had a Labour government that won convincingly under Blair while declaring itself relaxed about the accumulation of great wealth.

richard160458 -> MattSpanner , 15 Oct 2017 09:05
And democracy failed after generations of poor decisions and war
richard160458 , 15 Oct 2017 09:02
Greece had a long period of decline at the hands of democracy. Plato wrote his Republic as a protest, and to put forward an alternative. Eventually the romans took control.

There are indeed parallels with today but given the external challenges I for one believe that western society will be overtaken by q new set of rules.

debt2zero , 15 Oct 2017 09:01
Very good, interesting article. You know, every now & then this paper, for all it's faults, serves up an article that is quite enlightened/ing.

The last one I recall was an article by Kenan Malik on identity politics . For what exists in this country, the UK, I have previously used the term "oligarchy by profession" ... meaning a pool of the usually upper half of the middle class, or a group in whom that group is disproportionally represented, who not only likely have a select education but who go on to become part of certain professions - accountants, lawyers, journalists, bankers, doctors etc. ... and of course, politicians tend to be drawn from these.

And revolving door arrangements is one of the ways this pool retains a certain cohesion, or as in the article "homogeneity in culture and values".

As for division, how many times have I read, "oh, we are so divided .. blah, blah", as though some journalists have an almost unconscious need to promote it.

Interesting article.

GusDynamite , 15 Oct 2017 09:00
Bit too late, really. Not to mention it's super easy to take what they want while we're all so distracted by arguing about who is the most racist misogynist, defending ourselves from the accusations or applauding comic book movies. Apparently we're so distracted that we're also all genuinely shocked that Hollywood is rife with pedophilia and extreme sexual harassment as though it's some revelation that we didn't know already, but that's another conversation.

If we're all so distracted then it's not difficult for our political 'representatives' -- I use that word very tentatively because they barely ever do -- to subject themselves to the oligarchs for a few scraps more than we have ourselves.

Maybe if we didn't bicker like kids we'd beat them.

PhilJoMar -> ConBrio , 15 Oct 2017 08:53
Either you've not read the article attentively enough or your bias is irremediable. Limiting govt still leaves economic power and the tendency towards monopoly untouched. The genetic impulse you mention is a spurious concept in itself. If there were such a genetic impulse we would not have seen such a change as the major advances of women in the last half century. Culture is the key, much more than any genetic impulse, which is practically meaningless and so explains nothing.

As wealth defense is so important to oligarchs, there is a constant pressure to cheat and break the law. One solution therefore is to apply the law but also to construct legislation with specific principles in mind. If the point of tax legislation is to contribute your share towards the general good then those who avoid and evade tax would be guilty of a technical breach but also a breach of the principle.

However our laws are skewed to allowing the wealthy to defend their wealth and so a party of the people is always needed. Always.

Lastly private schooling needs to be looked at. I mean FFS Eton has charitable status!

[Oct 16, 2017] The Guardian by Ganesh Sitaraman

Those who have economic power also have political power. Is this sop difficult to understand.
Notable quotes:
"... The system, in other words, can't really be "rigged" to work for the rich and powerful unless the people are at least willing to accept a government of the rich and powerful. If the general public opposes rule-by-economic-elites, how is it, then, that the wealthy control so much of government? ..."
"... To prevent this occurrence, ancient Greek elites developed institutions and practices to keep themselves united. Among other things, they passed sumptuary laws, preventing extravagant displays of their wealth that might spark jealously, and they used the secret ballot and consensus building practices to ensure that decisions didn't lead to greater conflict within their cadre. ..."
"... While the ruling class must remain united for an oligarchy to remain in power, the people must also be divided so they cannot overthrow their oppressors. Oligarchs in ancient Greece thus used a combination of coercion and co-optation to keep democracy at bay. They gave rewards to informants and found pliable citizens to take positions in the government. ..."
"... These collaborators legitimized the regime and gave oligarchs beachheads into the people. In addition, oligarchs controlled public spaces and livelihoods to prevent the people from organizing. They would expel people from town squares: a diffuse population in the countryside would be unable to protest and overthrow government as effectively as a concentrated group in the city. ..."
"... They also tried to keep ordinary people dependent on individual oligarchs for their economic survival, similar to how mob bosses in the movies have paternalistic relationships in their neighborhoods. Reading Simonton's account, it is hard not to think about how the fragmentation of our media platforms is a modern instantiation of dividing the public sphere, or how employees and workers are sometimes chilled from speaking out. ..."
"... Oligarchs would fund the creation of a new building or the beautification of a public space. The result: the people would appreciate elite spending on those projects and the upper class would get their names memorialized for all time. After all, who could be against oligarchs who show such generosity? ..."
"... To understand that, we can turn to an instant classic from a few years ago, Jeffrey Winters' Oligarchy. Winters argues that the key to oligarchy is that a set of elites have enough material resources to spend on securing their status and interests. He calls this "wealth defense," and divides it into two categories. "Property defense" involves protecting existing property – in the old days, this meant building castles and walls, today it involves the rule of law. "Income defense" is about protecting earnings; these days, that means advocating for low taxes. ..."
"... The challenge in seeing how oligarchy works, Winters says, is that we don't normally think about the realms of politics and economics as fused together. At its core, oligarchy involves concentrating economic power and using it for political purposes. Democracy is vulnerable to oligarchy because democrats focus so much on guaranteeing political equality that they overlook the indirect threat that emerges from economic inequality. ..."
"... Winters argues that there are four kinds of oligarchies, each of which pursues wealth defense through different institutions. These oligarchies are categorized based on whether the oligarchs rule is personal or collective, and whether the oligarchs use coercion. ..."
"... Simonton offers another solution. He argues that democracy defeated oligarchy in ancient Greece because of "oligarchic breakdown." Oligarchic institutions are subject to rot and collapse, as are any other kind of institution. As the oligarchs' solidarity and practices start to break down, there is an opportunity for democracy to bring government back to the people. ..."
"... Even with compulsory voting Australia still funnels votes to those we don't want to elect in the form of transferable 1st pass the post single member electorates. True democracy would grant proportional representation, and allow citizen initiated binding referenda. ..."
"... By these measures you could say America has been an oligarchy from its very conception. Look at the robber-barons of the 19th c. There are occasional "raisings of the veil" such as new deal or great society when the general public gets a fair go. The industrial boom of ww2 is what gave the working class a shot at living a decent life - and of course offshoring industry is precisely closing that door again. ..."
"... Tens of millions of Americans waited patiently for a Dem candidate to talk about our stacked decks, D.C. swamps, and broken systems -- instead, they gave us a Hillary coronation and expected us to embrace the pantsuit. ..."
"... After university econ training, and a long business career, I now consider education a terrible thing. Knowing what I know now about how our systems really work, when I observe our Congressional leaders looking into the camera with point-blank lies day in and day out, I feel they deserve execution; literally, I am feeling like heads should roll. ..."
"... In America, oligarchs win when Dems are center right (in practice, not rhetoric) and are sold out to the oligarchs. Case in point, HC. There is no counterbalance to those who are even further to the right. Oligarchs win without a legit 3rd party. ..."
"... Obama and the Dems lost 1,000 elected positions before Trump came along. It's because he sold out to the big banks. ..."
"... Small D Democrats. Not big D Democrats. The Clintons are clearly in the oligarch class, much like Trump. It is rather hilarious to hear Trump supporters talk about how he cares for the poor. ..."
"... Oligarchic institutions are subject to rot and collapse, as are any other kind of institution. As the oligarchs' solidarity and practices start to break down, there is an opportunity for democracy to bring government back to the people. In that moment, the people might unite for long enough that their protests lead to power. With all the upheaval in today's politics, it's hard not to think that this moment is one in which the future of the political system might be more up for grabs than it has been in generations. ..."
"... It never ceases to amaze me how Americans delude themselves into thinking that they live in a democracy. ..."
"... They don't come by it naturally. Their delusion is pushed along by very well oiled propaganda machines, probably mostly financed by the taxpayers themselves. ..."
"... Can't recommend Requiem For The American Dream highly enough, absolutely required viewing for anyone wishing to understand the mockery of democracy under which we live. ..."
Oct 15, 2017 | www.theguardian.com

A few years ago, as I was doing research for a book on how economic inequality threatens democracy, a colleague of mine asked if America was really at risk of becoming an oligarchy. Our political system, he said, is a democracy. If the people don't want to be run by wealthy elites, we can just vote them out.

The system, in other words, can't really be "rigged" to work for the rich and powerful unless the people are at least willing to accept a government of the rich and powerful. If the general public opposes rule-by-economic-elites, how is it, then, that the wealthy control so much of government?

The question was a good one, and while I had my own explanations, I didn't have a systematic answer. Luckily, two recent books do. Oligarchy works, in a word, because of institutions.

In his fascinating and insightful book Classical Greek Oligarchy, Matthew Simonton takes us back to the ancient world, where the term oligarchy was coined. One of the primary threats to oligarchy was that the oligarchs would become divided, and that one from their number would defect, take leadership of the people, and overthrow the oligarchy.

To prevent this occurrence, ancient Greek elites developed institutions and practices to keep themselves united. Among other things, they passed sumptuary laws, preventing extravagant displays of their wealth that might spark jealously, and they used the secret ballot and consensus building practices to ensure that decisions didn't lead to greater conflict within their cadre.

Appropriately for a scholar of the classics, Simonton focuses on these specific ancient practices in detail. But his key insight is that elites in power need solidarity if they are to stay in power. Unity might come from personal relationships, trust, voting practices, or – as is more likely in today's meritocratic era – homogeneity in culture and values from running in the same limited circles.

The ruling class must remain united for an oligarchy to remain in power

While the ruling class must remain united for an oligarchy to remain in power, the people must also be divided so they cannot overthrow their oppressors. Oligarchs in ancient Greece thus used a combination of coercion and co-optation to keep democracy at bay. They gave rewards to informants and found pliable citizens to take positions in the government.

These collaborators legitimized the regime and gave oligarchs beachheads into the people. In addition, oligarchs controlled public spaces and livelihoods to prevent the people from organizing. They would expel people from town squares: a diffuse population in the countryside would be unable to protest and overthrow government as effectively as a concentrated group in the city.

They also tried to keep ordinary people dependent on individual oligarchs for their economic survival, similar to how mob bosses in the movies have paternalistic relationships in their neighborhoods. Reading Simonton's account, it is hard not to think about how the fragmentation of our media platforms is a modern instantiation of dividing the public sphere, or how employees and workers are sometimes chilled from speaking out.

The most interesting discussion is how ancient oligarchs used information to preserve their regime. They combined secrecy in governance with selective messaging to targeted audiences, not unlike our modern spinmasters and communications consultants. They projected power through rituals and processions.

At the same time, they sought to destroy monuments that were symbols of democratic success. Instead of public works projects, dedicated in the name of the people, they relied on what we can think of as philanthropy to sustain their power. Oligarchs would fund the creation of a new building or the beautification of a public space. The result: the people would appreciate elite spending on those projects and the upper class would get their names memorialized for all time. After all, who could be against oligarchs who show such generosity?

An assistant professor of history at Arizona State University, Simonton draws heavily on insights from social science and applies them well to dissect ancient practices. But while he recognizes that ancient oligarchies were always drawn from the wealthy, a limitation of his work is that he focuses primarily on how oligarchs perpetuated their political power, not their economic power.

To understand that, we can turn to an instant classic from a few years ago, Jeffrey Winters' Oligarchy. Winters argues that the key to oligarchy is that a set of elites have enough material resources to spend on securing their status and interests. He calls this "wealth defense," and divides it into two categories. "Property defense" involves protecting existing property – in the old days, this meant building castles and walls, today it involves the rule of law. "Income defense" is about protecting earnings; these days, that means advocating for low taxes.

The challenge in seeing how oligarchy works, Winters says, is that we don't normally think about the realms of politics and economics as fused together. At its core, oligarchy involves concentrating economic power and using it for political purposes. Democracy is vulnerable to oligarchy because democrats focus so much on guaranteeing political equality that they overlook the indirect threat that emerges from economic inequality.

Winters argues that there are four kinds of oligarchies, each of which pursues wealth defense through different institutions. These oligarchies are categorized based on whether the oligarchs rule is personal or collective, and whether the oligarchs use coercion.

Warring oligarchies, like warlords, are personal and armed. Ruling oligarchies like the mafia are collective and armed. In the category of unarmed oligarchies, sultanistic oligarchies (like Suharto's Indonesia) are governed through personal connections. In civil oligarchies, governance is collective and enforced through laws, rather than by arms.

Democracy defeated oligarchy in ancient Greece because of 'oligarchic breakdown.'

With this typology behind him, Winters declares that America is already a civil oligarchy. To use the language of recent political campaigns, our oligarchs try to rig the system to defend their wealth. They focus on lowering taxes and on reducing regulations that protect workers and citizens from corporate wrongdoing.

They build a legal system that is skewed to work in their favor, so that their illegal behavior rarely gets punished. And they sustain all of this through a campaign finance and lobbying system that gives them undue influence over policy. In a civil oligarchy, these actions are sustained not at the barrel of the gun or by the word of one man, but through the rule of law.

If oligarchy works because its leaders institutionalize their power through law, media, and political rituals, what is to be done? How can democracy ever gain the upper hand? Winters notes that political power depends on economic power. This suggests that one solution is creating a more economically equal society.

The problem, of course, is that if the oligarchs are in charge, it isn't clear why they would pass policies that would reduce their wealth and make society more equal. As long as they can keep the people divided, they have little to fear from the occasional pitchfork or protest.

Indeed, some commentators have suggested that the economic equality of the late 20 th century was exceptional because two World Wars and a Great Depression largely wiped out the holdings of the extremely wealthy. On this story, there isn't much we can do without a major global catastrophe.

Simonton offers another solution. He argues that democracy defeated oligarchy in ancient Greece because of "oligarchic breakdown." Oligarchic institutions are subject to rot and collapse, as are any other kind of institution. As the oligarchs' solidarity and practices start to break down, there is an opportunity for democracy to bring government back to the people.

In that moment, the people might unite for long enough that their protests lead to power. With all the upheaval in today's politics, it's hard not to think that this moment is one in which the future of the political system might be more up for grabs than it has been in generations.

The question is whether democracy will emerge from oligarchic breakdown – or whether the oligarchs will just strengthen their grasp on the levers of government.

Ganesh Sitaraman is the author of The Crisis of the Middle-Class Constitution

curiouswes -> antdog , 16 Oct 2017 00:37

I think the USA is a republic and not a democracy. I also think the distinction isn't a subtle one. Many think we'd be better off as a democracy. I don't. In a democracy, the majority rules. That means when you are in the minority, you don't have a say. The electoral college prevents the larger states from squeezing out the smaller states. However some don't think that is necessarily a problem. Urban life is very different from rural life and we can't make all of the rules based on urban life.
hardmoney -> trundlesome1 , 16 Oct 2017 00:27
They're too busy being distracted with Bread and Circuses.
gregwani , 16 Oct 2017 00:24
Whilst the suggestion of "creating a more economically equal society" is obviously desirable, it's not exactly a practical recommendation against the context of the rest of the article.

Herein lies the key: "...they sustain all of this through a campaign finance and lobbying system that gives them undue influence over policy."

Possible solution? No vote; no donation.

Curtail corporate funding of political parties, Super PACs, Unions, etc. and have election campaigns financed from public funds ONLY. If you can't vote as an individual person/citizen, you can't contribute.

This would remove a big barrier to reform - lobbyists and political patronage - and ensure that elected leaders are unshackled, with the freedom to govern based on evidence-based policy and long-term planning rather than just rewarding the corporate elite who put them there.

BrunoForestier -> Hypatia415 , 16 Oct 2017 00:19
Even with compulsory voting Australia still funnels votes to those we don't want to elect in the form of transferable 1st pass the post single member electorates. True democracy would grant proportional representation, and allow citizen initiated binding referenda.
BrunoForestier -> FLanzy61 , 16 Oct 2017 00:12
White nationalism wasn't necessary when you were 90% of the population - it has only emerged with the mass immigration era, when socially engineered policies threaten to make you a minority in your own nation-state. (yes, I am aware that the indigenous population was here first and was disposessed - but America the nation state was clearly built predominantly on European settlement)

There used to be an effective form of identity politics - based on working class common interest - that brought a high standard of living to most people (even the oppressed Black minority). It is the splitting of that identity that has allowed the neoliberals to sideline class as a divider of common interest.

curiouswes -> nonsensefactory , 16 Oct 2017 00:07
regarding (1): not sure it is feasible and I don't think we should do it if it is. The market is a weird animal imho. Both the hedgers and the speculators can drive a market share price up or down and contrary to popular opinion, I don't believe the speculators are to blame when a company does well. A lot of people got financially devastated because they had holdings in Enron. I wouldn't want to punish those investors even further because they invested in a bad company.

regarding (2): I agree. The concept of globalism is a good concept. However the way it is being implemented isn't.

regarding (3): Again I agree. Most of the regular posters who agree with the media nonsense don't post on articles like this one because a paid troll sticks out like a sore thumb on articles like this.

BrunoForestier , 16 Oct 2017 00:00
By these measures you could say America has been an oligarchy from its very conception. Look at the robber-barons of the 19th c. There are occasional "raisings of the veil" such as new deal or great society when the general public gets a fair go. The industrial boom of ww2 is what gave the working class a shot at living a decent life - and of course offshoring industry is precisely closing that door again.
functor , 15 Oct 2017 23:56
I am not an expert on Greek history but wouldn't the example of Alcibiades suggest that when an oligarchy falls-- due to war and plague in the case of Athens -- dangerous demagogues who break away from the same oligarchy ride the "democratic" wave and cause even more misery like the idiotic invasion of Sicily? Weren't the democratic people-- the landless poor of Athens-- more inclined to war at that point than the oligarchs? In some sense aren't we seeing what happens when a member of the oligarchy breaks away in present day U.S-- Trump rode a populist wave that was very democratic and people powered-- and where has that got us? Sometimes true democracy can be a messy and frightening affair.

I offer no defense of oligarchies, but the older I get, the more I wonder whether democracy of the people, by the people, is really for ALL the people.

Take Brexit, Trump, or for a more remote example, the Fascist inspired Hindu right wingers in India. All of them are in many ways a truer representation of the voice of the people, but that voice is so ugly, so exclusionary, so narrow, that one might be forgiven to want the sedate stability of an oligarchy back.

Bewareofnazihippies -> ChesBay , 15 Oct 2017 23:55
I'm afraid I have to agree. When thinking on these issues, I have a recurring mental image, it's the crowd scene at Brian's window, in the greatest cinematic example of satire, Life of Brian.

Brian -"You are all individuals. You are all different! "

The crowd -"YES! WE ARE ALL INDIVIDUALS! WE ARE ALL DIFFERENT! "

Man -"I'm not"

The crowd -"Ssh! Ssh! "

antdog -> sejong , 15 Oct 2017 23:41
......ahhh, reclining in the facetious lounge; unfortunately, this amusement left us with a candidate ignoring the masses of the American population opening the door for Trump.

Tens of millions of Americans waited patiently for a Dem candidate to talk about our stacked decks, D.C. swamps, and broken systems -- instead, they gave us a Hillary coronation and expected us to embrace the pantsuit.

Meanwhile, tens of millions then voted for Trump, knowing point-blank he was lying; they happily voluntarily deceive themselves (current/active); how sad is this reality ?

mrkris -> TragicomedyBeholder , 15 Oct 2017 23:40
As someone already said, instead of treating poor people unequally well, why not treat rich people the same as everyone else- don't let them hide their money from the taxman, don't give the rich unfair breaks and handouts
curiouswes -> SoAmerican , 15 Oct 2017 23:40

Do you think that is going to inspire Americans to get out and vote?

When the choice for the most powerful office in the world comes down to a choice between Donald J Trump and Hillary R Clinton (who were friends before the election started), I tend to think that our problem is not due to voter apathy, but rather voter apathy is due to our problem.

Those who still participate, still think this is all about the left vs the right because they think they still have a choice. They do. they get to choose between neoliberalism and fascism.

Alex Cardosa -> koikoi , 15 Oct 2017 23:38
The way its always been done. At the end of a pike. The rest is just fantasy.
antdog -> boilingriver , 15 Oct 2017 23:31
After university econ training, and a long business career, I now consider education a terrible thing. Knowing what I know now about how our systems really work, when I observe our Congressional leaders looking into the camera with point-blank lies day in and day out, I feel they deserve execution; literally, I am feeling like heads should roll.

Our systems have been hijacked, and the interests of the masses of our populations are being completely ignored--what should be the penalty for selling out, via acute sophisticated engineering, the population of an entire nation ?

hardmoney -> boilingriver , 15 Oct 2017 23:30
"Start demanding some laws for them to follow that has some teeth when they lie to us."

Pretty difficult when the criminals are in charge of lawmaking.

hardmoney -> boilingriver , 15 Oct 2017 23:30
"Start demanding some laws for them to follow that has some teeth when they lie to us."

Pretty difficult when the criminals are in charge of lawmaking.

PGNEWC -> SoAmerican , 15 Oct 2017 23:30
I dont think its a belief in 2 parties but a belief in a type of fixed yin and yang that drives this

Opposites like Good v Evil , the Unknown Others (like Foreigners) v the known (your Family /Friends ) etc . We see things as Either/Or because it is the simplest way of making sense of our world. But the world is far more complex and nuanced than this and there are degrees of rightness and wrongness and we as you say take on board the whole rigid structure of one side or the other -- it plays right into the oligarchs hands

Bewareofnazihippies -> peter nelson , 15 Oct 2017 23:18
Your instant dismissal of zaarth's point of view is the essential problem of modern democracy - casual demeaning and disregarding attitude from the ruling elites towards an informed citizen expressing concerns of inequality and systemic concentration of political power to the oligarchs.

Typical.

There maybe no political will to address these issues, but there sure as hell is plenty of social will! As for your last sentence "- So redistributionist policies have no future. ", well, considering that we've had 40years of global wealth being redistributed to the 1%, it's about time it was spread around a bit more equitably, don't you think?

Be Gold , 15 Oct 2017 23:02
In America, oligarchs win when Dems are center right (in practice, not rhetoric) and are sold out to the oligarchs. Case in point, HC. There is no counterbalance to those who are even further to the right. Oligarchs win without a legit 3rd party.
koikoi , 15 Oct 2017 22:39
A article. A case in point - Iceland, where the elite owns the fishing fleet and controls the financial industry, whereas the majority of the population barely scrape by. People are furious but how do you overturn centuries of oligarch 'rule and law'?
vr13vr -> Dave514 , 15 Oct 2017 22:38
Disagree. "Why" is always a question. If you don't know and understand "why," the original intent of a law, you can't interpret and apply it properly. As a result, it gets perverted to the point that it does no longer make sense. We have plenty of examples in the US.

Without why you can't adapt to the changing environment either.

vr13vr -> Wolframite , 15 Oct 2017 22:35
But how successfully? And with how much resources, compared to various industrial and other deep pocket lobbies?
franklin100 -> kizbot , 15 Oct 2017 22:34
Yes, it's the same wherever people keep their mouth shut to keep their job. That's the corrosive effect of corruption.
hardmoney -> SoAmerican , 15 Oct 2017 22:31
Do you know how small the odds are to get a large group of people to rally (or vote) around a cause? This is why grassroots have a low success rate. The founding fathers certainly knew how small the odds are and gave the people a bone they naively believed to be useful and powerful; the right to vote. It is one of the biggest cons played on the people and has managed to keep the natives quiet and complacent, while the elite and powerful do their bidding.
franklin100 -> Nada89 , 15 Oct 2017 22:30
As the joke goes, I welcome our new oligarch overlord. Yes, most likely one fallen oligarch will be replaced by another.
kyoung21b -> helenus , 15 Oct 2017 22:09
The ones that rob you blind, wantonly if they're called republicans and apologetically if they're called democrats.
franklin100 -> Bewareofnazihippies , 15 Oct 2017 22:06
To get back to the argument about the oligarchs buying collaborators, everybody who keeps their mouth shut to keep their job falls into that category. So that's the majority in work.
boilingriver -> antdog , 15 Oct 2017 22:06
That's why i want to go after the politicians and bypass their evil, selfish, stupid pawns they are encouraging right now.

Start demanding some laws for them to follow that has some teeth when they lie to us.
They want to sanction Russia who was just repeating what republican/tea party had been saying.

antdog , 15 Oct 2017 21:58
"A loophole in American tax law permits companies with just 20 percent foreign ownership to reincorporate abroad, which means that if a big U.S. firm acquires a smaller company located in a tax haven, it can then "invert" – that is, become a subsidiary of its foreign-based affiliate – and kiss a huge share of its IRS obligations goodbye.........Over the next decade, corporate inversions could cost the U.S. Treasury nearly $20 billion" Rolling Stone

*******

They made this legal, folks, and it's just the tip of the iceburg. Meanwhile, not a peep (cricket, cricket, cricket.....)

sejong -> thenthelightningwill , 15 Oct 2017 21:56
As Putin said, when a spring is compressed all the way to its limit, it will snap back hard.

Trump caught that wave perfectly. Clinton was wading in the kiddie pool.

franklin100 -> MoonMoth , 15 Oct 2017 21:54
Corporate lobbyists have so much more wealth than the incomes of individual politicians, that is their political salary, that they are all bought not so much with brown envelopes but with jobs like Osborne's, a day's work a month for Blackrock for which he is paid £650k a year. It's so obviously not a payment for what will be done as for what has been done.
HistoryHacker , 15 Oct 2017 21:53
Thought provoking and excellent comments that should be read before opining. As for my opinion, it seems that communism was left out when it might just be the answer to a conundrum that seems unresolvable. Uniformity of wealth within reason (the rule of seven times) can be achieved and sustained. But that requires education which again, can be achieved and sustained. That is, if we don't blow ourselves to smithereens before we achieve such a heightened state which after all should be a...normal?!
thenthelightningwill -> sejong , 15 Oct 2017 21:51
Obama and the Dems lost 1,000 elected positions before Trump came along. It's because he sold out to the big banks. We don't need two Wall St. parties. Until the Dems learn to respect their voters and do things like support single payer, this is all we get.
sejong -> antdog , 15 Oct 2017 21:49
Debbie Wasserman's decide our candidates, thus, our elections.

You make a good point. DWS and HRC: it's all their fault that Trump is president.

antdog -> Will D , 15 Oct 2017 21:48
......whaaaa ? You mean to tell me coronation is not true democracy ?

I need to upchuck.

SoAmerican , 15 Oct 2017 21:47
The primary institution that drives oligarchy in the US is the "two party system". It is not enshrined in the Constitution. It is purely the working of the political class. The people need to quit believing that there can only be two parties.
antdog -> boilingriver , 15 Oct 2017 21:45
The spin and brainwash are now far, far more powerful than the 1960's.

How else do you explain tens of millions of formerly hardworking middle class, now on the outside looking in (with their adult children), continuing to wave the flag, with a large smile on their faces, all the way to the poorhouse day in and day out--and not even a peep?

SoAmerican -> zzoetrope , 15 Oct 2017 21:44
Honestly though, it becomes more undemocratic when people rag on it sy as you have done above. Do you think that is going to inspire Americans to get out and vote? What you don't understand, or maybe you do too well, is that the biggest threat to democracy in the US is apathy. When you present it as such a situation that there is no reprieve, then why should they vote?
Will D -> Andrew Stronto , 15 Oct 2017 21:35
As the article points out the oligarchs use selected messaging, which includes anti-left propaganda and misinformation. So the result is that any political movement that is left of centre (and the centre has shifted quite a lot to the right in the last few decades) is made to seem like hard-core socialism or even communism.

When you look at the policies from Bernie Sanders in the USA and Jeremy Corbyn in the UK, and see how they've been attacked by the right-wing media, but when you put them into the perspective of the policies of the 60' and 70's they aren't even particularly left-wing. Most would have been described as centrist policies.

The oligarchs have succeeded in moving the goal posts to the right and made centrist policies seem dangerously left-wing.

Will D -> Tom Wessel , 15 Oct 2017 21:27
They don't overlook it because they have been bought by it. Today's 'democrats' are complicit, and rely on it for their post-political income.
nonsensefactory , 15 Oct 2017 21:26
Modern oligarchs owe their political and economic power to a variety of structures and systems, such as:
(1) The limited-liability, shareholder-controlled corporation, designed to maximize profits for the shareholders while protecting them from the consequences of their actions (why can't one sue the shareholders of ExxonMobil for the actions of the company that they control?)

(2) The global neoliberal 'free-trade' unlimited-capital-flow system, which allows oligarchs to pit nation-states and workers against one another in a race to the bottom for the lowest wages and pollution and safety standards - a system promoted by both Democratic and Republican parties in the United States, which has boosted profits for oligarchs and destroyed the middle class.

(3) The monopolistic tightly-controlled corporate media system, which promotes the interests of the oligarchs who own and control it, setting the narrative played out across television, radio, print media and much of the Internet to the overall population in a remarkably coordinated fashion - such that most 'media' serves to distract or deceive the public, rather than to inform.

There are no doubt others - such as tax codes that allow the rich to accumulate vast wealth, while stripping wealth from poor people and the middle class - but those are among the most important factors.

SoAmerican -> Tom Wessel , 15 Oct 2017 21:23
Small D Democrats. Not big D Democrats. The Clintons are clearly in the oligarch class, much like Trump. It is rather hilarious to hear Trump supporters talk about how he cares for the poor.
boilingriver , 15 Oct 2017 21:19
Oligarchic institutions are subject to rot and collapse, as are any other kind of institution. As the oligarchs' solidarity and practices start to break down, there is an opportunity for democracy to bring government back to the people.

In that moment, the people might unite for long enough that their protests lead to power. With all the upheaval in today's politics, it's hard not to think that this moment is one in which the future of the political system might be more up for grabs than it has been in generations.

It always takes a revolution/ protest from the people to throw out the political corruption and then the rich just start again.
Until we get some laws that they have to follow and serious jail time when they do not, we will not have decent people to choose from. The reason we have such crappy choices is this is the only job in the world where you can lie and cheat to your boss (us) and face no serious consequences.

robinaldlowrise , 15 Oct 2017 21:02
It's difficult to see how Ancient Greece fits into either of those narratives if Aristotle's conclusions from his contemporary, careful, empirical (yes, really) investigations of the whole range of political variants present in Ancient Greece entered into their analyses. For a start, even in political units as small as a city-state, he rates democracy as a degenerate form of government (albeit the best of all three degenerate forms) that naturally tends towards oligarchy (another degenerate form), though – give or take some refinement of concepts involved – a proper mix of both results in the best form of "rule by the many", namely "polity", in an over-all ranking of forms of government by good or "correctness" that is topped by monarchy and tailed by tyranny.

Getting in to all this while not falling victim to the modern trigger word syndrome requires significantly greater subtlety of thought than seems to be deployed by either of the authors under consideration, though how much of their analyses has slipped by the author of this piece is unknowable on the basis of the evidence here available. Have any of the trio even considered a Ancient Ryanair trip to Ancient Greece for a third millennium looksee?

Andrew Stronto -> Hypatia415 , 15 Oct 2017 20:55
The oligarchs best work is done through divide and conquer and should they ultimately be truly threatened then they will prevail through an order out of chaos of their own creation. Most issues you mention like the widening gap between the rich and poor, climate change.. yada yada are engineered to fracture society to make us all easier to control. Oh and they love to stamp their handy work so keep an "eye" out for them !
Tom Wessel , 15 Oct 2017 20:53
" Democracy is vulnerable to oligarchy because democrats focus so much on guaranteeing political equality that they overlook the indirect threat that emerges from economic inequality . "

Hog wash! They know where the money is and they want it transferred into their pockets. And if some of that money trickles down to the less fortunate, they surely will take credit for it. The Clintons didn't become multi-millionaires by concentrating on inequality.

Roderick Llewellyn -> boilingriver , 15 Oct 2017 20:51
I suspect the article's Author, when he said "democrats" (notice lower case) was not referring to the political party the Democrats (upper case). He meant any who advocate for an increase in democracy. This presumably overlaps with the Democratic Party, but by no means is congruent to it.
Tom Wessel -> helenus , 15 Oct 2017 20:46
They are the ones that always have a smile on their faces and constantly give to charities from the monies they exploited from the ignorant masses. Then in retaliation, the masses put them on pedestals. It's a very simply routine. Wash, rinse and repeat.
boilingriver , 15 Oct 2017 20:43
Democracy is vulnerable to oligarchy because democrats focus so much on guaranteeing political equality that they overlook the indirect threat that emerges from economic inequality.

The Dem voters do not overlook that. To be fair the Dem politicians do look at economic policy. Affordable health care using the rich taxes, environment, clean drinking water and making CO responsible. Just look at what trump tea/party are dismantling. Dems are also for increasing min wage. They should do better, but they are not as worthless as republicans. The republicans work for the rich not us.

I find it strange that you never called out the republicans actions, just the Dems. The republicans are the ones putting in the policies/laws that are cementing the riches power and making our lives worse.

Hypatia415 , 15 Oct 2017 20:42
A very deep and timely article given that oligarchies threaten the very survival of our world. Think the widening gap between the rich and poor, climate change, environmental degradation, war and the mass movements of people fleeing all of the above.
Even with democracy and compulsory ballots in Australia voters still believe their best interests lie with the representatives of the oligarchs, the banks, financial services and transnational corporations.
Mercurey -> TragicomedyBeholder , 15 Oct 2017 20:41
Demonstrably not the case when one looks at successful periods of progressive policies such Butkers Education act. The idea that the fruits of life are distributed according to talent & effort is a grim joke that can be dismissed out of hand.

Social privilege repeats itself & counteracting that is a moral duty. As is exposing the myths that justify it.

RobertLlDavies -> peter nelson , 15 Oct 2017 20:29
You haven't got a clue. have you. I've spent years recruiting people into unions in small unorganised workplaces, where employers do their best to victimise anyone who tries to form a union. Many people are either afraid of joining a union - or they have no idea what unions do, except for the rubbish printed about in the anti-union papers (viz. most of them). I'm happy to say that, in the end, we succeed in enabling workers to get together in many workplaces to defend and improve their lot at work. I live in a traditional working class area, near many unionised and non-unionised workplaces. Whate about you? How many ordinary workers have you ever discussed these matters with? How many trades unionists?
stanphillips , 15 Oct 2017 20:28
Read the "Iron Heel" by Jack London" for a description of an extreme oligarchy set in the USA of the early twentieth century. The book is a narrative by the wife and partner of the main male character Ernest Everhard (interesting name I know). Some of Everhard's descriptions of what London saw as consolidation of the American oligarchs are succinct and chilling. If you haven't read it then it really demonstrates in a fictional sense how long the concept of modern oligarchies have been around:
http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/1164
hardmoney -> zzoetrope , 15 Oct 2017 20:19
"It never ceases to amaze me how Americans delude themselves into thinking that they live in a democracy."

They don't come by it naturally. Their delusion is pushed along by very well oiled propaganda machines, probably mostly financed by the taxpayers themselves.

zzoetrope , 15 Oct 2017 20:14

Our political system, he said, is a democracy. If the people don't want to be run by wealthy elites, we can just vote them out.

It never ceases to amaze me how Americans delude themselves into thinking that they live in a democracy. The US executive, arguable the most powerful collection of people in the world, is substantially un-elected. Only the President stands for election and he's not elected by the people but by an undemocratic electoral college; Hilary Clinton received the most votes and lost the election.

The rest of the Executive aren't elected, they're appointed and you can't "just vote them out".

Then there's Congress where electorates are so gerrymandered that in the vast majority of cases the results are foregone conclusions; national elections are decided in a few "swinging" seats. Congress is also corrupted by the dependence of the system on massive donations, by lobbyists, and vested interests.

Of the world's democracies, the Unites States must be one of the least democratic.

hardmoney , 15 Oct 2017 20:08
And the Oscar goes to America, land of the free and milk and honey; created, propagandized and brought to you by the Hollywood tv and film industry for the last 100 years.
skydolphinattakforce , 15 Oct 2017 20:05
in America the 2 partys pretty much control the election and they are both part of the oligarchy. so I don't think theres much hope for the U.S.
PennyCarter -> RBHoughton , 15 Oct 2017 20:02
I recently read an essay where the American political system is likened to a rodeo. The bull is the voting public being ridden by the oligarchs. If the oligarch falls off the bull the bull is distracted by the rodeo clown (the president) until he can get back on the bull.
Tom Wessel -> Manacatsaman , 15 Oct 2017 19:57
" I personally wonder,... just how much longer this level of stupidity will persist. "

Probably well into the disaster of global warming.

Tom Wessel -> peter nelson , 15 Oct 2017 19:53
" Who exactly are the oligarchs? Do you think that they know that they are oligarchs? "

I doubt a pervert or rapist looks at himself as such.

gerryinoz , 15 Oct 2017 19:52
Who are our oligarchs and who do they finance, lobby, influence and control in Canberra?
The law. The fucking law is mainly for the very wealthy or influential, not for grafters like me.
Still, all in all, in Oz we have a labor party that gave us decent wages, Medicare and super.I think our oligarchs are greedy bastards but not as severe as the American, Russian or Arab oligarchs. The French knew how to deal with theirs in the 18th century and a couple of ours could do with that treatment.
desertrat49 -> GimmeHendrix , 15 Oct 2017 19:51
As Socrates was forever doing...if we do not define our terms, we quickly end up in the weeds. Britain is King in Parliament (badly corrupted under Victoria!) and America is a Plutocratic Republic!...No Democracy intended...or delivered...but much mythologized none the less!
Tom Wessel -> aldebaranredstar , 15 Oct 2017 19:51
"kind of like taking a knee ...we shouldn't be pursuing niche interest anymore."

Police brutality is a "niche" Issue? I can see you haven't met a Brown Shirt you didn't like.

RBHoughton , 15 Oct 2017 19:51
The American people cannot vote out the oligarchs because they make the rules of the game and the electorate must comply. The author seems to suppose there is a democracy operating on this planet when the nearest we have approached that ideal is the supposedly representative democracies of numerous countries.

One of the features that reinforce the oligarchy in power in USA is the agenda of the nine Supreme Court judges who approved 'Citizens United' and assured the oligarchs that the man with the money would call the shots.

Another important point that does not surface in this article is the 600BC institution, jointly with democracy, of theatre. That allowed playwrights to present the naive electorate with plays enacting the hard choices that citizens would have to make now they were responsible for their own government. There is a group of greats scholars on the BBC's 2014 series "Guilty Pleasures" who discuss and approve this point.

JosephCamilleri -> Sailor25 , 15 Oct 2017 19:49
On balance over thousands of years some rich bastards made some good decisions? How scientific of you. Not so much a logical argument as a watery fart.
Bewareofnazihippies , 15 Oct 2017 19:48
Please Guardian, don't close this comments section too soon.
This topic truly goes to the heart of why so much of humanity's failings of governance and stewardship of the Earth is so malevolent.
The quality of the responses highlight that many readers recognize that this is THE issue that underlies so many of our existing problems.
Tom Wessel , 15 Oct 2017 19:48
" Ancient Greek elites developed institutions and practices to keep themselves united. "

Nothing couldn't be more relevant then the Guardian running Hillary Clinton articles. Saw at least 3 on the front page right now. Let's keep the elite neoliberals in power.

desertrat49 -> TallulahD , 15 Oct 2017 19:46
Like I said elsewhere, one has to first define citizenship and who has the franchise before one gets too carried away by talk of Democracy!
JosephCamilleri -> Amanzim , 15 Oct 2017 19:44
There are democracies and "democracies". India has a ruling class that rules for its class, so not really that democratic. India isn't USA, USA isn't Australia, Australian isn't Germany, Germany isn't the Netherlands. That's roughly the scale.
desertrat49 -> PennyCarter , 15 Oct 2017 19:44
One of the interesting conceits of American culture is the way that the mega rich envision themselves as simply middle class...one sees it all the time.
The short answer is that the politically aware Oligarchs know very well who they are....and the wannabes know who they are as well!
My favourite is still one of the Koch brothers saying that he had no problem with Oligarchy...so long as he got the government that he paid for! Beautiful!!
aldebaranredstar , 15 Oct 2017 19:40
More than oligarchs I see alliances built on niche interests, or interests that are particular to a group of people. these special interests are wedge issues for that group, kind of like taking a knee and how that affects the NFL and ripples through the whole culture. Too many niche interests are being pushed forward, and that's why there's no consensus or very little. That's why there is gridlock and stasis. we shouldn't be pursuing niche interest anymore. we need larger consensus agreements, things we can agree on in society as a whole, and we got to keep talking until we find that agreement. that's how I see it
sejong , 15 Oct 2017 19:33
A hundred years ago, as the West industrialized, oligarchs wielded power via the employment relationship. Beginning a generation ago with the transfer of manufacturing to China, the instrument of power shifted to media. Murdoch was one of the first to exploit this. And now we have Trump.
guest0987 -> Zaarth , 15 Oct 2017 19:28
Agree totally. Redistribution of wealth to keep a few from controlling everything is what we need. And this does have a future as moving to the left is the way for the US to go. The right has shown for at least the past 40 years to offer nothing.
Redredemptionist -> WhatTheTruth , 15 Oct 2017 19:22
Dear WT..., WT... do you mean by:

"the oligarchy of Socialism" ?
"giving people too many rights" ? and
"neutralises everything to a standstill" ?

Too many 'dog whistles' make a strong sound but no meaningful sense what so ever!

PennyCarter -> peter nelson , 15 Oct 2017 19:21
My guess is that oligarchs don't even think they are oligarchs. They probably think they are actually part of a meritocracy, having conflated the rigged political system with what they believe to be their superior abilities
Dave514 -> Dave514 , 15 Oct 2017 19:18
Sorry that was WSC.
JamesValencia -> Dave514 , 15 Oct 2017 19:17
The "?" was merely rhetorical, as is usually the case on t'interwebs :)
peter nelson -> MartinSilenus , 15 Oct 2017 19:14
The comments in this thread mostly seem to be by whinging old style Labour supporters, who can no longer hide the contempt that they have for ordinary people - your "apathetic proles".
Dave514 -> JamesValencia , 15 Oct 2017 19:14
"Parturient montes, nascetur ridiculus
mus." The original Latin quote used by WAX to accurately describe Attlee.
peter nelson -> 3melvinudall , 15 Oct 2017 19:12
Oh rubbish. People choose whether to join a union. It takes closed shop contracts to enforce union membership, and the fact that unions seldom form in right to work states prove that when given a choice most workers don't want to join a union.
peter nelson -> Timothy Everton , 15 Oct 2017 19:09
Nonsense. The American government was elected by the voters. Local and state government to draw the voting districts for US house races were elected by the voters. US Senate governor and presidential races cannot be gerrymandered. And Hillary Clinton WAY outspent Donald Trump.

Progressives need to stop whining and complaining about the Koch brothers and start putting together a slate of candidates and ideas that ordinary Americans want to vote for.

Sailor25 -> theseligsussex , 15 Oct 2017 19:06
Looted and raised off the back of slaves but in the process laying the foundation of western civilisation.

My point isn't that it's fair or right or good. My point is that the concentration of power and wealth in a small group of individuals often leads to incredible development that betters all of humanity down the line.

peter nelson -> Zaarth , 15 Oct 2017 19:06
Who cares what you support? There is no political will for such a thing and the general direction of democratically elected governments is toward the right not the left. So redistributionist policies have no future.
peter nelson -> Manacatsaman , 15 Oct 2017 19:04
Money IS speech. Surely if the founding fathers intended to protect any particular kind of speech, it must have been political speech. So if I want to use my money to promote a particular policy or political candidate then any attempt by the government to prevent that is obviously and clearly a violation of my right to political speech.
Bewareofnazihippies , 15 Oct 2017 19:01
One of the best articles I've read here. It's about time an article like this finally gets a hearing. I mostly read these kind of arguments and perspectives from the comments section. So well done.
JamesValencia -> rikmac78 , 15 Oct 2017 19:00
Well, given what I said above, one might expect me to agree, but I wouldn't: New Labour nevertheless did an enormous amound of good: A fairer britain, enormously improved public services, the business sector properly regulated. taxation improved.

The problem was Blair. The background was Labour, which kept on beavering away with Labour principles: "society first" in a word.

New Labour achieved a huge amount. A shame abour Blair. If John Smith hadn't dropped dead, it might be different. With emphasis on "might" - at least Smith, although also restructuring Labour towards the centre, wasn't so bent on reneging Labour core values.

Luckily the Labour party reneged little: Labour endures :)

nottrue , 15 Oct 2017 18:59
Very interesting. While it currently appears impossible to win back democracy there might be some hope. I sense that things might change soon. The debacle of the current electricity market in Australia and lack of action to mitigate climate change can be seen in the light of the Oligarchy's fear of losing their wealth base, which could end up in a rise of democracy.'
TallulahD , 15 Oct 2017 18:56
In Athens, enslavement for debt had been a fundamental law from the time of Draco in the 39th Olympiad in the 7th Century BC. However, in the sixth century BC, the lawgiver Solon ordained a radical new constitution: by cancelling all debts both public and private, he "liberated the people once and for all" thus paving the way for all citizens to be admitted into the Assembly: Aristotle, "The Athenian Constitution", Parts 6 and 43 (although the Athenian form of direct democracy was a limited concept by modern standards - to become a citizen one had to be an adult male, born of citizen parents).
Manacatsaman , 15 Oct 2017 18:38
Most people in the U.S. conflate democracy with capitalism; there's no comprehension of separateness of political and economic "systems". The prevailing idea is that "America is a nation of business" and in the 19th Century the Supreme Court declared corporations to be individual persons and most recently confirmed that "money is speech". So, the people who have the ability to vote out the oligarchy don't even know what one is, or why it's bad for them. Thus a lying, cheating, greedy "Billionaire" is seen by the middle and lower classes, or as I'm sure Trump refers to them behind closed doors, "my marks", as their savior. I personally wonder, as the Trump Administration works tirelessly to grind its base into the dirt, just how much longer this level of stupidity will persist.
SteveofCaley , 15 Oct 2017 18:38
The process of branding and advertising, a century old, places unmerited trust in non-human entities, corporations and institutions. Humans are slick and untrustworthy. We assume that Police Departments are always kind. If harm occurs, is it a rotten cop or rotten citizen? Pick one. Ask a disloyal NFL player. They hate the troops, peace, freedom and justice, right?
The modern oligarchy is to hide behind labels and brands. God so loved the world that he founded a privately-held nonprofit with tax advantages ...whatnow? Exxon owns your axxons, folks.
SocAlan , 15 Oct 2017 18:38

At the same time, they sought to destroy monuments that were symbols of democratic success.

Privatisation!

Sailor25 -> EquilibriaJones , 15 Oct 2017 18:35
People always die, the default position of humanity is grinding poverty.

What we should be looking at is why come civilisations escaped that. A modern Britain is less likely to die of poverty today than at any other time in history.

The concentration of wealth in small groups of individuals often provides the impetus for development. To much concentration of wealth means you end up with exploitation of the plebs the flip side leaves you with economic stagnation.

The key as in most things is getting the balance right.

SocAlan , 15 Oct 2017 18:32

They gave rewards to informants and found pliable citizens to take positions in the government.

Does this not remind one of the last Labour government?

Timothy Everton -> Dave514 , 15 Oct 2017 18:31
Do a bit of reading. I would suggest Nancy MacLean's "Democracy in Chains" for a start. It has a direct line to the big-money influence of the Koch family over the U.S. government. There are many others, of course.
Hector Hajnal -> DolyGarcia , 15 Oct 2017 18:30
ehmm well... thats something that must start within the family and the community, if family fails theres the community if community fails thats window open to attack. Even so I have been knew fellows and sisters that even in the must adverse circumstances manage to make themselves educated and with a good criteria vice versa with fellows from a good environment turn to be as... so is a matter of choose as well. The problem with that is that this are the times of internet instant gratification which create the perfect scenario to create a bunch of idiotics egocentric lunatics with not will nor performance at all just slaves to machines. So ehmmm we need some kind of a bomb which disables some of the technology, not all, just for a while and try to get some to nromal
Sailor25 -> imperium3 , 15 Oct 2017 18:29
I wouldn't like to live in an extreme oligarchy either but we must remember our present will be somebodies past.

Money we direct away from growth to support our current living standard makes the people of tommorow less wealthy.

As I posted earlier there needs to be balance but we shouldn't assume oligarchy is a bad thing in of itself.

Guangudo -> GimmeHendrix , 15 Oct 2017 18:28
I would say oligarchy or oligarchy, because "democracy" does not really exist, it never did. Nothing will change unless we do away with Darwinism.
Guangudo , 15 Oct 2017 18:15
"Democracy (Greek: δημοκρατία, dēmokratía literally "rule of the people"), in modern usage, is a system of government in which the citizens exercise power directly or elect representatives from among themselves to form a governing body, such as a parliament. Democracy is sometimes referred to as "rule of the majority".

Having this definition in mind I do find rather bizarre that everyone insists on calling such a system a "democracy" when it is a fact that women and slaves where not allowed to vote.

Nowadays is getting somehow worse, because manipulation and agnotology have upset everything. The systems control perfectly everything and this charade are done by a power in the shadow, and although most people ignore it, this Power is theocratic.

The fact that repeating a lie constantly does not make it an axiom ...

MartinSilenus -> sparx104 , 15 Oct 2017 18:12
1984 is my `favourite` book, the subtext is that there is in fact no hope from the proles, as Winston Smith comes to see. They are apathetic & any who might rouse them, are liquidated. They have the power to overthrow the party, but are mostly just ignored by it, & so just get on with their lives. The lesson is that power, without the will to use it, is meaningless: still true as it happens.
Dave514 -> 3melvinudall , 15 Oct 2017 18:07
My, my, you've got this all sorted out so we'll have a dictatorship that is able to abolish the Supreme Court and Congress. Wow!
rikmac78 -> JamesValencia , 15 Oct 2017 18:06
New Labour is simply a lighter shade of Tory power...
Pushk1n -> blogdubdrib , 15 Oct 2017 18:00
Francis Galton was a founder of the science of statistics and a bit of a snob.

Galton was a keen observer. In 1906, visiting a livestock fair, he stumbled upon an intriguing contest. An ox was on display, and the villagers were invited to guess the animal's weight after it was slaughtered and dressed. Nearly 800 participated, and Galton was able to study their individual entries after the event.

Galton stated that "the middlemost estimate expresses the vox populi, every other estimate being condemned as too low or too high by a majority of the voters",[45] and reported this value (the median, in terminology he himself had introduced, but chose not to use on this occasion) as 1,207 pounds. To his surprise, this was within 0.8% of the weight measured by the judges. Soon afterwards, in response to an enquiry, he reported[46] the mean of the guesses as 1,197 pounds, but did not comment on its improved accuracy. Recent archival research[47] has found some slips in transmitting Galton's calculations to the original article in Nature: the median was actually 1,208 pounds, and the dressed weight of the ox 1,197 pounds, so the mean estimate had zero error. James Surowiecki[48] uses this weight-judging competition as his opening example: had he known the true result, his conclusion on the wisdom of the crowd would no doubt have been more strongly expressed.

He thought the judges local yokels and was expecting to laugh instead he found that irrespective of perceived intelligence the mean of the wisdom of the crowd ( the 800 entering the competition for a prize) was surprisingly accurate.

There are more things in Heaven and Earth ....

Dave514 -> glenns , 15 Oct 2017 17:59
And you know this specifically how?
J4Zonian -> ashleyhk , 15 Oct 2017 17:58
US media hasn't been "leftist" ever. In the 1930s and a few other periods it's had significant minorities that were liberal or leftish, but otherwise, it's mostly right-of-center imperial support mechanism media; now and increasingly, it's extreme right wing (Fox, Murdoch (WSJ, National Geographic, etc.) Clear Channel and Sinclair dominating TV and radio with more than 1000 stations. Reporters are sometimes left-leaning but that has little or nothing to do with what's published. Hollywood tends to be liberal on social issues but rarely moves off the imperial support wagon except for occasional dips into history to communicate with platitudes. Any media that considers Obama and Clinton anything but right of center corporate duopolists is way over on the right wing; that includes everything 95% of people ever hear or see--all networks, cable, every daily newspaper... The Guardian a little bit, Pacifica radio's 5 stations, Mother Jones and sort of The Nation, Common Dreams and a few other sites, blogs etc.--that's the left in the US. Pitiful, especially considering that a large majority of people in the US favor very liberal positions on almost all issues except war, death penalty and imprisonment.
Dave514 -> JamesValencia , 15 Oct 2017 17:56
British Rail was even a greater disaster ushered in by Clement, the mountains laboured a d brought forth a mouse, Attlee
curiouswes -> RapidSloth , 15 Oct 2017 17:55
For me, things really took a decisive turn for the worst when Wilson was president. Before that, the defacto government wasn't codified. According to this wikipedia article the was a "growing concern" about the so called money trust.

The Pujo Committee was a United States congressional subcommittee in 1912–1913 that was formed to investigate the so-called "money trust", a community of Wall Street bankers and financiers that exerted powerful control over the nation's finances. After a resolution introduced by congressman Charles Lindbergh Sr. for a probe on Wall Street power, congressman Arsène Pujo of Louisiana was authorized to form a subcommittee of the House Committee on Banking and Currency.

from the article above:

In civil oligarchies, governance is collective and enforced through laws, rather than by arms.

Democracy defeated oligarchy in ancient Greece because of 'oligarchic breakdown.'
With this typology behind him, Winters declares that America is already a civil oligarchy.

I don't know much about economics, but from what I think I know, one can speed up or slow down the economy by increasing or decreasing the money supply respectively; and prior to Wilson's term, the government had that power. However after Wilson's term that power moved into the private sector because laws were passed. I see that as a huge problem and from what I can gather, so did Lindbergh:

The new law will create inflation whenever the trusts want inflation. From now on depressions will be scientifically created.

TWOBOBS , 15 Oct 2017 17:51
I think the citizenry is being screwed by the oligarchy on both the left and the right, which tend to merge into the same thing. Both are about power and control and have very little to do with democracy or individual liberties. Neither the capitalists nor the socialists care much about you. You are a means to an end. Both the right and the left seek to control speech and thought through the media and through institutions. Both the right and left want a disempowered, compliant population.
JamesValencia , 15 Oct 2017 17:48
There's lots to think about there. Thanks for a good article, more on democracy please ! It strikes me we're in a situation where we need to relearn what it is, exactly.

What struck me most was the oligarchy eroding symbols of democracy, and taking over the legal system of government, and I'd add, taking over the management of government through privatisation of government services: The civil service increasingly outsourced to the private sector, that is, the oligarchy.

This is what "the small state" political project, currently centre stage in the UK and the USA, is leading towards: governments run by the private sector.

And the response is always "it's cheaper and more efficient! And democracy is the representative - who cares if government departments are shut down and their services delivered by the private sector? It means less tax !"

And we end up with Network Rail, and the other scandals of privatised services in the UK, and to Labour's undying shame, much of this was ushered in by New Labour.

Pushk1n -> Light_and_Liberty , 15 Oct 2017 17:46
I think you need to read the article. Trump fits every definition of an Oligarch, his actions are exactly how Oligarchs survive, true he may not be the only one in the US.
Skullen -> deeaiden , 15 Oct 2017 17:42
You sound slightly like a psychopath yourself.
johnthebaptiste -> alloomis , 15 Oct 2017 17:38
or even dictatorshiip
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elective_dictatorship
MalicX -> Elgrecoandros , 15 Oct 2017 17:37
Jessthecrip seems to have been supporting punishment of some kind for people whose actions demonstrably cause actual, serious harm to real people. You seem to consider the actions which create such actual harm (including many deaths) to be a 'political opinion'. I think that's where the difference in attitude lies.
Shannon Renee Kayne-Amoureux , 15 Oct 2017 17:35
Bilderberg Group, et al.
Pushk1n -> GimmeHendrix , 15 Oct 2017 17:35
You Think, the people were well and truly lied to by rather rich and unscrupulous people who hope to benefit from the chaos as this article makes clear this is the way that Oligarchy works by manipulating and dividing the demos.
curiouswes -> hardmoney , 15 Oct 2017 17:31

The problem is and always has been, life is not black or white, but gray. One man's fact is another man's differing opinion.

True. However, a women has the right to abort a fetus. That is a fact. Now we can have an opinion that she has the right to kill her own fetus, but that wouldn't be a fact because technically we can't ascertain that the fetus is alive because it doesn't necessarily "stay" alive if we remove it from the mother (at least not in the first trimester). Therefore legalized abortion isn't legalized murder. However it is unconstitutional to take everybody's guns away. It really takes verbal gymnastics to try to make the constitution say anything different, so the proponents for gun control swear up and down that they aren't trying to take everybody's guns away. However when you ask what their objective is, they say they want to stop people from killing each other with guns. Without that measuring rod (the constitution), they don't take that tone. Instead they argue that people don't need guns. The same can be said for speech. Hate speech imho does more damage than the right to bear arms, but the 1st amendment gives those fools the right to behave the way the did in Charlottesville. Those who tried to silence them walked on the 1st amendment, again in the name of the greater good. As a black man, I'm not about to side with people who think we need to keep those statues up. I know exactly what those statues represent. However again the constitution is there protecting their right to voice an opinion to say what I vehemently oppose. I can disagree with them but I don't have the constitutional right to silence them. When people want to force others not to speak on college campuses, that isn't constitutional. It is authoritarian. Authoritarianism in the name of the greater good. some don't have a problem with that kind of authoritarianism, but when it comes from the orange one, that's authoritarianism that nobody needs because it's really hard to find his "greater good". His sense of greater good generally seems to benefit some, while marginalizing others. Personally I think his impeachment is now months overdue, but, as you say, that is just my opinion. I think firing Comey was an authoritarian move. I think when a head of state can neutralize his detractors, in theory we can't get rid of him for anything, because he can simply fire any perceived threat to his power. The fact that he is still in power is an outrage to me. But then again, I think it was an outrage that HRC was even running for president. They dumped Gary Hart, because he was having an extramarital affair, but for some reason, HRC was able to walk through "airport security" with all of her baggage. But, "no election rigging" from state side. It was all done by the Russian oligarchs according to our wonderful media. However this is a democracy because we had a choice between, "Lock her up" and "I cannot tell the truth"
Zaarth , 15 Oct 2017 17:22
This is why I support wealth redistribution through progressive taxation. It's not so much about achieving "income equality" as it is about preventing power being concentrated in the hands of a few. Extreme wealth is a public danger. Many would trample on our rights for their own profit, convenience, or pleasure, and most politicians are all too eager to let the super wealthy buy their place as public masters.
Gunsarecivilrights -> Spudnik2 , 15 Oct 2017 17:19
Voluntaryism is to be commended. Compelling people to be charitable with force is not.
Adkult -> Newmacfan , 15 Oct 2017 17:02
Yet you were complaining about regions wanting to separate before. The EU doesn't fund Spain's regional parties by the way, as much as you'd like them to.
Spudnik2 -> Gunsarecivilrights , 15 Oct 2017 17:01
I accept that so much of what I see demands action. The world needs more helping hands and kindness.

You can believe in what ever you like, but actions make all the difference. Donate something like canned food, or volunteer someplace and you can make a real difference in someones life ( more than any book or bible ever did ).

memo10 -> mjmizera , 15 Oct 2017 16:45

The industrial-military complex of the 50-70s didn't just disappear, but morphed into today's structures.

15 years in Iraq & Afghanistan says it never changed at all.

memo10 -> clshannon , 15 Oct 2017 16:42

Not true, the standards are high enough, it is the fact that kids from disfunctional families and poverty cannot reach them. So the teachers just pass them on to the next grade anyway. You end up with poorly educated adults who 'know' education is useless according to their experience raising children who continue the cycle.

The curriculum is demanding enough. They just don't demand anything relevant to people's lives. As long as everything stays irrelevant they can continue rewarding the people who play by the system's rules and punish those who find that stupid and frustrating.

Ponderbelle -> Gamba Puirida , 15 Oct 2017 16:40
Reich has a soul full of light and empathy. Once people are allowed to attain their basic needs, the rest is mostly fluff. Nature provides every resource needed to sustain a wholesome existence...not a cash register one to be found in the fields of plenty. Ancient greed has never been faced full-on by humanity. The required efforts to shelter, feed and clothe ourselves are too often run over roughshod due to the number one vice: Profits first and foremost, with the essentials for survival marked for the highest bid; callously termed 'what the market will bear'.

Democracy? Not in many decades. We are under the total rule of organized business; which applies to most developed nations. The virtues of sharing and goodwill would be one remedy to the basic economic inequalities.

However, in our current bailout experiment (and, not a few economists are status quo baloney feeders) the inertia is in a free wheeling philosophical advantage to the gods of the highest profit. You'll never see any sympathy cards slated for modern economists. A simple evident reality is that
our basic needs for survival are the same. Damned if we can manage to seriously address that fact first and create systems which have a clear vision for the betterment and uplift of all.

It will not be long before the loud financial bubble pop sounds off again - it will be called the inevitable market correction or due to aggressive over reach. Oligarchy will feign much needed financial aid required. We deserve much better. I predict eventually a r e v o l t from those who suffer the insanity of deprivation in a world of plenty. Certainly in the US our votes are mean less and less with the likes of Citizens United. Corporations may be legal entities but they are N O T citizens. All that exists, exists for all.

kyoung21b -> TragicomedyBeholder , 15 Oct 2017 16:39
Yes much more rational to treat everyone "equally" like providing huge subsidies to, e.g. big oil, big ag, and big pharma so they too can appear to be performing equally.
Obtrectator -> deeaiden , 15 Oct 2017 16:37
Unworldly middle-class theorists create revolutions but almost invariably cannot control them. They tear up the rule-sheets, failing to understand that that loosens or destroys the restraints on psychopaths of whatever background, who then proceed to hack their way to the top.
Thus Lenin facilitated Stalin; Sun Yat-sen ultimately resulted in Mao; Desmoulins and the Girondistes were devoured by the Jacobins and their Reign of Terror.
alloomis , 15 Oct 2017 16:31
"He argues that democracy defeated oligarchy in ancient Greece because of "oligarchic breakdown." Oligarchic institutions are subject to rot and collapse, as are any other kind of institution. " unfortunately, democracy did not defeat oligarchy in ancient greece, except briefly in athens and its dependencies. and the usa is no kind of democracy. voting for who will be your master is not democracy, it is elective aristocracy. and that is the political arm of the economic oligarchy called 'capitalism.'
Bochi -> threeoutside , 15 Oct 2017 16:28

Who, exactly, doesn't think of "the realms of politics and economics as fused together"?

It's been the basic assumption of UK politics from 1997 until 2015 (at least) that there is only one "common sense" economic model that works, and that is an extreme market-oriented form of neo-liberalism.

Most of the electorate in this country still buy into neo-liberalism's deceitful platitudes as if the argument was over 40 years ago and democracy consists of choosing a few people to manage it every five years.

3melvinudall , 15 Oct 2017 16:26
Oligarchs in the US have, for 40 years, taken the power from the people. They have accomplished it by destroying the labor unions and any hint of a labor movement. They have taken control of the media by buying it ( 80 or so owners of MSM to 5 or 6 owners now), they control the narrative. They control what we talk about. They control the politicians by "dark money". Outside money floods strategic states to influence elections down to school board levels. Money is donated to universities with conditions to control who is hired to run certain schools within the university ( the economics school at FSU, for example). Economic policies and tax codes have funneled growth income to the top 140 families in the US. Now we are witnessing the cumulative efforts of these oligarchs bear fruit. Unions are meaningless, growth income flows to the wealth class, we talk about God, guns and gays in every election cycle, efforts to do away with all social programs and rig the tax codes so the middle class pays more and the wealthy pay less. I would say the Oligarchs are in control and have won. They control the courts and all branches of government....what is left? Can democracy survive now that they control the ballot box and the elections? And they certainly can control enough minds to win an election...we witness that in 2016.
GimmeHendrix -> Arch Stanton , 15 Oct 2017 16:20
'And Trump being the worst type of oligarch may create 'oligarchic breakdown' and bring the whole corrupt shitheap called US democracy crashing down.'

Contradictions in terms. Its either a democracy or an oligarchy.

GimmeHendrix -> threeoutside , 15 Oct 2017 16:18
You suggest a determinism which is false. Brexit is a classic example where the political will of the masses acts contrary to the immediate interests of domestic capital.
GimmeHendrix , 15 Oct 2017 16:12
Well its just been confirmed. We live in an oligarchy. One where the notion of democracy acts as an ideological support.
curiouswes -> hardmoney , 15 Oct 2017 16:09
Likewise.

Similar to Dorothy and her ruby slippers in the Wizard of Oz; she had the power all along, but didn't know it.

Ahh, the Ruby slipper analogy! Well done! I missed it, obviously :-)

sparx104 , 15 Oct 2017 16:07
Someone else seems to have understood this some time ago. ..

"'If there is hope,' wrote Winston, 'it lies in the proles.' If there was hope, it MUST lie in the proles, because only there in those swarming disregarded masses, 85 per cent of the population of Oceania, could the force to destroy the Party ever be generated. The Party could not be overthrown from within'"

RapidSloth -> curiouswes , 15 Oct 2017 16:06

it does show when the government is exceeding it's authority

Except that when you look at how much power the constitution has given to the state in the past three decades the answer to the question of whenever or not US is an oligarchy is should be rather obvious....

hardmoney -> curiouswes , 15 Oct 2017 16:00
"...we need some way to separate fact from opinion."

The problem is and always has been, life is not black or white, but gray. One man's fact is another man's differing opinion.

fragglerokk , 15 Oct 2017 16:00
Can't recommend Requiem For The American Dream highly enough, absolutely required viewing for anyone wishing to understand the mockery of democracy under which we live.
fragglerokk -> Gamba Puirida , 15 Oct 2017 15:59
Requiem For The American Dream also ... any adult would be extremely enlightened by watching it.
curiouswes -> zippy200 , 15 Oct 2017 15:55

Trouble is liberals on the one hand bang on about proletariat solidarity, yet on the other, peddle identity politics and turn a blind eye at increasingly fragmented communities.

"The Jews, will not, replace us!" I'm so glad the "president" rebuked this blatant display of identity politics in Charlottesville.

Elgrecoandros -> CommanderMaxil , 15 Oct 2017 15:54
That is a semantic argument over whether or not his votes can be taken to represent his views. It is still calling for punishment of political opponents because they disagree with the political opinions of the poster.
GusDynamite -> Skip Breitmeyer , 15 Oct 2017 15:48
Look, I'm not fan of the left way of things but to claim they are entirely to blame is willfully ignorant of conservative and right wing failings. I can hardly expect either to see my point and accept that they're the problem, the best I can do is pause now and then I know that I am the problem as much as any and try to mind myself. If we all just took responsibility for ourselves left and right and anything in between would matter far less.
hardmoney -> curiouswes , 15 Oct 2017 15:40
Hi wes, hope you are doing well. Yes, the people DO have the power, but they either don't know how or choose not to use it. Similar to Dorothy and her ruby slippers in the Wizard of Oz; she had the power all along, but didn't know it.
curiouswes -> RapidSloth , 15 Oct 2017 15:31

There is also the tendency of treating laws like dogma and the constitution like the bible.

I wouldn't call the constitution a bible, but it does show when the government is exceeding it's authority. In times when some are actually concerned about whether or not the USA is a oligarchy, we need some way to separate fact from opinion.

ID7380890 , 15 Oct 2017 15:27
Spot on article. Lots of loopy comments. Personally I find the positions the Guardian takes to be those that further the interests of our ruling elite.
Where are the discussions about Trust Law which is nothing more than a huge tax avoiding scheme for the wealthy.

How about the control of the legal costs the high street solicitor can claim when he wins for the average person against the badly behaved housing associations and landlords, the insurers and employers. It has forced good solicitors out of these types of litigation. The result is occurrences like Grenfell Tower. The Guradian always goes on about Legal Aid. Solicitors don't need poverty rate legal aid. They need the corrupt, the greedy and incompetent to pay the same rates per hour for the small man's lawyers when they lose as they pay for their own lawyers. This funds all the work those small high street solicitors do in investigating cases that go nowhere, and enables them to provide free advice.
Or take the continuous false fears propaganda of those who wish to ignore the Leave vote. The majority voted for an end to cheap migrant labour driving down wages and living standards for the working population, for an end to an economy dominated by financial services and house price inflation.

AnonForNowThanks -> Light_and_Liberty , 15 Oct 2017 15:26
What "people?"

Racially polarized voting does not constitute a "people." It echoes a much earlier time, when there was a slave society on American land.

Roughly 1 in 4 active duty enlisted men and women in the US Army are black, compared with about 13.5% of the total population, hence 80%+ higher than their representation in the general population.

You don't see a problem here?

Dave514 -> AnonForNowThanks , 15 Oct 2017 15:25
Not o my the two major Vet Organization but a myriad of Vet support groups.
curiouswes -> hardmoney , 15 Oct 2017 15:24
Hi Money!

I think the people really do have the power. I think as long as we have the bill of rights, the power is still ours to retain or relinquish. Just because the scotus doesn't strike down unconstitutional laws like the patriot act, brady bill (gone at the moment but likely to come back), I don't think it means that we have no power. It is just that well informed people such as yourself have a difficult time informing those less informed because the media is engaged in a very effective endeavor to keep them misinformed. As you correctly pointed out in another post, people will believe anything. It is only those who really care enough to actually stop and think are what you are saying, only those will be informed despite the efforts of the media to keep them in the dark. If you can get enough people behind you, I think you could really change this. Me? I don't think the masses care enough. I think they are good people. It is just that they can't think ahead enough to see the crisis as it presents itself today. They don't feel the sense of urgency and as long as the media continues this game of deception, they will be more worried about the local football team they any existential threat until the media makes it out to be an existential threat.

thank you for all you do and have done!

Gamba Puirida , 15 Oct 2017 15:15
IMO, Robert Reich's movie - Inequality for all - should be played and discussed in every class around the age of 16 in western countries.
AnonForNowThanks -> Dave514 , 15 Oct 2017 15:14
Which brings to mind another question: who lobbies for the homeless veterans? The oligarchs depend on the armed forces for their vast wealth and position, then discard them.
SunwynRavenwood , 15 Oct 2017 15:13
Then, of course, there is the guillotine.
Arch Stanton -> newsfreak , 15 Oct 2017 15:13
As the News International scandal showed, the British justice system / rule of law is the finest legal system that money can buy.
Hornplayer -> vinny59er , 15 Oct 2017 15:09
Trump the Sequel you mean?
Dave514 -> Hornplayer , 15 Oct 2017 15:09
The major Vet organizations do so already in the US as for the homeless Churches and other charitable organizations.
deeaiden , 15 Oct 2017 15:06
Conveniently forgotten in all this is the fact that most of history's most horrendous dictators and political psychopaths came from the poor. Most, if not all, revolution political movements come from the upper middle class...people who have enough money to be comfortable and afford luxuries, but not enough that they are afraid of changing things to their financial and, possibly, social detriment. The only people who really want to defend and protect the status quo are the wealthy, for obvious reasons, and the poor, who do not want to change the system--which is all they know and perhaps all they understand--but only change their position in it. I meet a lot of people who are wealthy and well-educated--these
attributes are not necessarily reflective of each other--and a great many people who are poor. Trust me, you definitely do not want the latter group running things. "Street smarts" are great...on the street.
GagaInGreenacres -> unclestinky , 15 Oct 2017 15:01
And who would not tolerate unemployment. In Australia, Menzies almost lost the 1961 when unemployment nudged 3%!
newsfreak , 15 Oct 2017 14:59
Enlightening! The judiciary is the bastion of oligarchy and the media, for the most part, confuses and divides public opinion to ensure all remains under control -- of the oligarchs.
GagaInGreenacres -> imipak , 15 Oct 2017 14:52
The taxation curve is a very low order matter. The primary question is the difficulty of the first level, of getting a job where you feel you are making a valuable contribution, either because of the remuneration or because of the job satisfaction. We don't need the numbers in the masters accounts to achieve this, we can make our own numbers and give them to people who are willing to make a worthwhile contribution. Even if the masters slander them as "unworthy". Even if they are not really our sort of people.

The main use of taxation is to prevent masters from hiring their own private armies or worse still the national army.

threeoutside , 15 Oct 2017 14:52
Excuse me? Who, exactly, doesn't think of "the realms of politics and economics as fused together"? Anybody under the age of about 16, from what I can see. What a dumb statement. Interesting subject here, though.
Hornplayer -> gregwani , 15 Oct 2017 14:51
Aristotle went further. Those with money Pay to participate and the money is used to pay those that are too poor and otherwise would not participate. Now the question is how much needs to be paid? The Duke of Westminster and the like should probably cough up a good whack so that the homeless and families at the food bank can be paid to participate.
Arch Stanton , 15 Oct 2017 14:42
The United States of America is an oligarchy as shown in 2008 when the banks through their control of the Federal Reserve and numerous politicians stole billions from the public purse. Then, Obama's consistent failure to deal with the criminal acts of JP Morgan and other banks shows who is in running that country. C

Which of course is why the political mainstream has imploded and Trump was elected. If you know that the criminals in charge vote for the man they detest most even if he is an utterly preposterous showboating unprincipled liar.

And Trump being the worst type of oligarch may create 'oligarchic breakdown' and bring the whole corrupt shitheap called US democracy crashing down.

Brexit has split the oligarch's poodles in the U.K. Ie. Blairites & Osborne v Gove / Johnson / Tory head bangers and may consign the Conservative party to oblivion. This may lead to a genuinely left wing government that represents the many and not the few.

vr13vr -> Dave514 , 15 Oct 2017 14:40
One of the questions is why? The other is that even if it is in the constitution, does it mean it can never be changed? If the reality on the ground and social threats have changed over the last 200 years, so should the laws that protect us from those threats.
GagaInGreenacres -> whitman100 , 15 Oct 2017 14:39
Maybe, but remember that currently even a university education in economics leaves people thinking that taxes and borrowings "fund" government spending and that banks " lend on" deposits according to the "money multiplier".
Tim2006 -> Dave514 , 15 Oct 2017 14:38
Corruption is not. We are talking about legalized corruption ...
Ritula Fränkel -> Light_and_Liberty , 15 Oct 2017 14:37
What on Earth are you talking about?

Donald Trump is the oligarchy. His disruption at the feeding trough comes from his greed: instead of understanding that oligarchs maintain stability by sharing, he remains primarily concerned with distributing privileges to his closest circle.

Trump is not a radical anti-oligarch. He's just a simpleton oligarch who doesn't understand the rules.

Scot Fourowls , 15 Oct 2017 14:37
In response to the well-researched truth of this politically significant article, the propaganda reversal machine is in full force by the comments of upended sanity-and- unreality reverence toward the existentially ridiculous, dangerous and deceptive kleptocratic regime of 45; see, e.g., the comment of whatever or whoever is called in print "Light_and_Liberty."

Maybe I'm just noting the comnent activity of bots. Anybody who is a real person and would want to know the truth about 45's vile regime needs only to read every political article of the Guardian UK US edition today.

Enough said.

Evangelist9 , 15 Oct 2017 14:30
Democracy was not the norm the city states of ancient Hellas, but just one among a number of political systems. Whilst Athens had democracy in that all male citizens could vote and take part in the governing of the city (from the introduction of the system by Cleisthenes in 507 BC, and lasting for around 200 years), Sparta, for example, never had any form of democracy but two hereditary kings supported by a council of elders and the ephors. This system served the Spartans well because they were constantly on a war footing and their kings led their armies (hence the need for two kings, in case one was killed in battle, as happened with Leonidas).
Some city states had τύραννοι , or "tyrants", though it did not have its modern connotations of oppression and cruelty. It merely meant an absolute ruler, good or bad.
In ancient Athens, a citizen who chose not to vote was called an ιδιώτης, which gives us our modern word "idiot".

The ancient Greeks were innovators in politics (also. of course, a Greek word) - as in almost every other sphere of life - and would not have attached the modern value terms to them that we do today. They were the greatest experimenters in history and the debt we owe to them in the modern world is incalculable.

tjt77 -> winemaster2 , 15 Oct 2017 14:29
"the word that is no where mentioned in the Constitution is one big hoax and the perpetuation of the same," 'One nation under God' was not mentioned either.. but nothing is static and things tend to evolve or devolve..
There has been lot of chit chat about a 'Democratic Republic' in the 30+ yrs Ive resided in the USA... Seems to me that a more accurate description would be "Empire" given the big enforcement stick in over 5,000+ locations across the Globe added to the huge production of military weaponry that is sold to various despots every year. An Empire which, like all those before it, cannot sustain indefinitely.
GagaInGreenacres -> maddiemot , 15 Oct 2017 14:28
You know the masters are happy reading this sort of divisive posting. So the jocks hate the nerds, get over it. The jocks are the one's suffering the main burden of unemployment.
Light_and_Liberty , 15 Oct 2017 14:16
You got it totally backwards: can oligarchy survive in the face of democracy unchained.

The election of Donald Trump was a middle finger to the establishment ruling class (aka oligarchy) and the results are self evident. We have a Federal Bureau of Investigation investigating a phony dossier and calling it Russian Collusion. We have a special counsel looking for anything to indict him with vis-a-vis that phony dossier so as to remove him from office. We have the Republican party -- the president's own party -- intentionally doing nothing to forward the agenda of the people. We have embedded federal employees who are undermining the president's agenda. We have the media and Hollywood in full propaganda mode. We have Democrats aiding and abetting rioters and protesters and call it 'The Resistance'.

So, yes, it is interesting to see what happens when Democracy takes on Oligarchy and Oligarchy cannot accept the people's effrontery in voting for their own interests.

Dave514 -> gregwani , 15 Oct 2017 14:16
Lobbying is protected by the Constitution
GagaInGreenacres -> BayardDC , 15 Oct 2017 14:14
The taxation shenanigans only work as long as long as the economy is a zero sum or worse game. That is when austerity and targeted spending on "job creation" in the private sector means that money creation only happens for the wealthy. The first step in not taxing the stagnant wealth pools, but rather getting the fresh water of government spending heading onto the dried plains of the working class.

Remember the masters feel far more threatened that we do, they have never experienced an honest, respectful human relationship in there lives and have no sense of self reliance what so ever. Threatening taxation as a first step to reform, is certain to get maximum response even from the "liberal" majority of the masters.

Antoni Jaume -> ashleyhk , 15 Oct 2017 14:12
If you believe that, then I have a bridge in Brooklyn to sell, a very good bargain...
gregwani , 15 Oct 2017 14:10
Good article in the causes - thanks for your work - but whilst the suggestion of "creating a more economically equal society" is obviously desirable, it's not exactly a practical recommendation against the context of the rest of the article.

Herein lies the key: "...they sustain all of this through a campaign finance and lobbying system that gives them undue influence over policy."

So we need to specifically advocate for curtailing corporate funding of political parties, Super PACs, etc. and have election (& referendum) campaigns financed from public funds and heavily regulated private citizen donations. If you can't vote, you can't contribute. This would remove a massive barrier to widespread reform in the shape of lobbyists and political patronage whilst ensuring that elected leaders are unshackled, with the freedom to govern based on evidence-based policy and long-term planning rather than just rewarding the corporate elite who put them there.

Matt Simonton -> blogdubdrib , 15 Oct 2017 14:06
The book brackets a discussion of Sparta, which was an atypical oligarchy (although it regularly supported more conventional oligarchies militarily). The focus of the book is not on the Athenian oligarchies of the later fifth century, but on oligarchic rule as practiced in the wider Greek world (e.g. Corinth, the Boeotian koinon, Thasos, Chios, Ephesus). These regimes did not follow Sparta's austerity model, but neither did the Athenian oligarchies of 411 and 404. Kolkhis above is correct on Sparta that while there was a mirage of austerity around Sparta, over the course of the fifth and fourth centuries it gradually developed into a more conventional oligarchy of extreme wealth stratification. One need only turn to the reforms of Agis and Cleomenes in the third century to see how unequal it had become. Stephen Hodkinson has done excellent work on wealth inequality within Sparta.
SN1789 , 15 Oct 2017 14:04
"Unity might come from personal relationships, trust, voting practices, or – as is more likely in today's meritocratic era – homogeneity in culture and values from running in the same limited circles." All of these features of elite unity are under girded by shared economic interests vis-a-vis the masses.
clshannon -> pbalrick , 15 Oct 2017 14:04
Not true, the standards are high enough, it is the fact that kids from disfunctional families and poverty cannot reach them. So the teachers just pass them on to the next grade anyway. You end up with poorly educated adults who 'know' education is useless according to their experience raising children who continue the cycle.
aquagreen -> imperium3 , 15 Oct 2017 14:03

The spoils of the Roman and British Empires mostly went to enrich the oligarchs while the vast majority of the population laboured in poverty.

Oh please, don't spoil our nostalgic view with inconvenient facts.

Ritula Fränkel , 15 Oct 2017 14:03
Thank you - excellent article.

Since ownership conventionally involves the direct enactment of control and choice upon things (at least according to the ethicist Daniel Sperling), might it not be an idea to examine the conventions upon which property law is built in the West, since property law often is held as a model for all other types?

Sperling suggests that ownership is not absolute but instead is inferred out of a confluence of 'interests' that surround an object - I'd like to think that a cultural shift towards the recognition of the interests , rather than the ownerships , that guide policy-making could indeed challenge an oligarchy that views law-making essentially as the defence of property.

letsbeclearaboutthis -> vinny59er , 15 Oct 2017 14:00
People who have no effing idea of why they are there, nor what the intricacies of the process are.
Kolkhis -> blogdubdrib , 15 Oct 2017 13:58
Yet it did all go wrong in Sparta. This links to a splendid source on ancient Greece and Rome. http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.04.0009%3Achapter%3D6%3Asection%3D13

Even with a ban on money - or as you say a literally iron currency, still land accumulated into ever fewer hands. This particular link is short enough to quote in full.

Spartan women, like men, could own land privately. Ordinary coined money was deliberately banned to try to discourage the accumulation of material goods, but the ownership of land remained extremely important in Spartan society. More and more land came into the hands of women in later Spartan history because the male population declined through losses in war, especially during the Classical Age. Moreover, Spartan women with property enjoyed special status as a result of the Spartan law forbidding the division of the portion of land originally allotted to a family. This law meant that, in a family with more than one son, all the land went to the eldest son. Fathers with multiple sons therefore needed to seek out brides for their younger sons who had inherited land and property from their fathers because they had no brother surviving. Otherwise, younger sons, inheriting no land from their own family, might fall into dire poverty.

letsbeclearaboutthis -> MrMorningDew , 15 Oct 2017 13:57
What makes you think the idiosynchracies of democratic governance stop at the federal level?
letsbeclearaboutthis , 15 Oct 2017 13:55
You have neglected to point out how oligarchs manage to convince ordinary people that their best interests coincide. In the recent NZ election, the National party, representing farmers and businesspeople, used the prospect of a tax giveaway to convince people they would be better off under National. It worked because of the number of people who look no further than their own immediate interests when voting. Who's to blame for that?
Danexmachina , 15 Oct 2017 13:48
The rich get richer and the poor get poorer because we work for them and buy their stuff. Then someone remembers the other uses for pitchforks and torches....

The current delay is because nobody lives on the land except corporate farmers, so the masses no longer have territory to defend except in Faecesbook.

blogdubdrib , 15 Oct 2017 13:47
"while he recognizes that ancient oligarchies were always drawn from the wealthy, a limitation of his work is that he focuses primarily on how oligarchs perpetuated their political power, not their economic power."

I'm intrigued about how this might apply to Sparta which had legal limitations on wealth, an iron currency and a tightly knit ruling class which eschewed wealth in pursuit of solidarity and military discipline.

This article, which shows no interest in the historical specifics, fair enough seems to be thinking of the oligarchic counter-currents within Athenian democracy eg the coup of 411, Plato's Republic etc - both of which incidentally were influenced by admiration for Sparta's austere Lycurgan constitution which banned wealth. After all, if you have democracy you give stupid people a vote and this lead if you do not have checks and balances against cynical populists to terrible decisions like the Sicilian Expedition, the executions in the wake of Arginusae ... contributory factors in the unnecessary defeat of 404.

Likewise Brexit, Trump.

trp981 , 15 Oct 2017 13:46
"As of oligarchy so of tyranny, the end is wealth." -- Aristotle, Politics

"With this typology behind him, Winters declares that America is already a civil oligarchy. To use the language of recent political campaigns, our oligarchs try to rig the system to defend their wealth. They focus on lowering taxes and on reducing regulations that protect workers and citizens from corporate wrongdoing."

Although the neoliberal turn since the coming of the Reagan exacerbated the trend towards an oligarchic concentration of political/economic power, the seeds were planted from the very beginning. The Electoral College and the Three-Fifths Compromise in the US Constitution are both examples of democratic procedures designed to ensure the preservation of concentration of political power in the hands of economic oligarchs, and to act as barriers to the dispersal and democratization of political power. We have already seen the effect of this constitutional design twice in the new century in the disparity between the outcome of the Electoral College and the popular vote in 2000 and 2016.

"Simonton offers another solution. He argues that democracy defeated oligarchy in ancient Greece because of 'oligarchic breakdown.' Oligarchic institutions are subject to rot and collapse, as are any other kind of institution. As the oligarchs' solidarity and practices start to break down, there is an opportunity for democracy to bring government back to the people."

The dangers of the ever-increasing extreme inequality can also be viewed from the perspective of its impact on the stability of the social formation. A decrease in stability manifests itself through an increase in the brittleness of the socioeconomic system and a decrease in its ability to respond to unforeseen shocks in a versatile manner. Although fortunately the adverse impact of extreme inequality is at present only affecting the majority of the population in the US, the effects will also be felt by the oligarchs in the long run, unless they manage to build an earth orbiting Elysium before the arrival of the long run. The dangers of extreme inequality and the instability it can cause are explored by various scholars including Acemoglu and Turchin . The latter models social instability as a time-dependent variable, and tracks its evolution over time. In the language of mathematics, this is known as a dynamical system approach. The particular variable the evolution of which he tracks is what he calls the political stress indicator, which combines the effects of three other variables (mass mobilization, elite mobilization, and state fiscal distress) and their nonlinear interaction through time. The dynamical behavior of each of these factors measures the stability of the overall socioeconomic system, and acts as a warning signal when regions of criticality and instability are breached. The formation of oligarchic interests maps into a subset of the variable "elite mobilization" in Turchin's model. According to his analysis we are at present on the cusp of a critical socioeconomic instability. The increasing instability of the neoliberal order implies the shifting of the ground beneath it. The previous givenness of the passive citizenry is becoming less so, and critical junctures might approach fast and unforeseeably.

fritsd -> Fibonaccisequins , 15 Oct 2017 13:45
America: the best Democracy money can buy!
Gunsarecivilrights -> Spudnik2 , 15 Oct 2017 13:41
I accept that what I see is the abhorrent stupidity that is socialistic and collectivist thoughts perpetuated by the progressive sheep.
RobertsJimm , 15 Oct 2017 13:40
According to Bill Bonner, author of Bill Bonner's Daily Reckoning, the Deep State of unelected insiders, government cronies, generals and their industrial allies, assorted lobbyists and back scratchers are the force that runs the government. Elections are theater. And the current performance is a tragic-comedy
CinBrooklyn , 15 Oct 2017 13:38
The US is NOT a democracy. It is a Republic. Let's start from a correct premise. The opening of this article is political dross. Am I wasting my time if I read further? Come on, Guardian.
MrMorningDew , 15 Oct 2017 13:34
When your colleague says the US is a democracy, you should tell him that is not correct. Point out to him that the person who finishes second in the vote count of our citizens wins the presidency and that 12% of our population controls 50% of the votes in the Senate. Gerrymandering allows a minority of votes to control the House. There is nothing democratic about the Federal Government, you need to get down to the state level to find democracy.
hardmoney -> RapidSloth , 15 Oct 2017 13:33
"A stark example of it is how they boast about freedom of speech."

And as useless as protest. The people's power is a lie formulated and carried out in Oz.

MeRaffey , 15 Oct 2017 13:32
Time to get creative. We have become so predictable, the wealthy can keep way ahead of us.

Fanning the flames of our asinine CULTURE WARS on effing FACEBOOK, was all the Russians needed to do to drive our presidential in their direction. The little boys who run global-tech-empires were no match for the Russians. Even now, when Trump is running the planet via TWITTER, our little tech-boys can't figure out how they lost control of their own creations.

Asymmetric power might be the key. Right now, the wealthy own a piece of every country and everyone on earth. We have been reduced to the size of an ant and we need to start thinking, and acting like ants. Instead of feeding our money to the wealthy, we need to starve them out.

Create disruption. Stop doing anything you normally do.

For example, order take-out anywhere you please, but refuse to go inside restaurant chains of any kind - diners, fast-food joints or upscale joints anywhere. Enter locally owned businesses only.

Stop putting your money in banks, stocks, bonds and other capitalist owned systems. Remove cold, hard cash from the system by putting your money in a safe deposit box at your local bank. Force the wealthy out of the closet, to try and pass laws allowing them to open your safe deposit bank.

Stop giving your old clothes and stuff to Goodwill, the Salvation Army or thrift shops. Stop sorting your trash - plastic, glass, metal and put all of it in your trash. Create a mess so big, so fast and so pervasive it becomes a crisis - for the wealthy trash hauler kings and their politicians.

Stay off facebook for one month. The next month, back on facebook, and out of Twitter.

Sign up for an email account anywhere but google and then use it for all of your on-line shopping only.

Stop being so predictable by using the same corporate chain grocery store, gas station or clothes store. Take your business to new places, try new things, get out more, mix it up, mix and match, but stop being predictable.

Confuse and baffle. Sign on to new news sources. If you're a liberal, sign onto Brietbart. If you're a conservative, sign onto Center for Progress. Use your new email to sign up for alerts from a dozen different sources, including foreign ones.

Do not buy anything, but go on-line and shop for shit you hate. Shop until you see ads for everything you hate, from music, to books, clothes and household stuff popping up on your computer screen like crazy.

Lie like crazy. Go on comment boards and pretend you are an entirely different person. Pretend you are a Russian, Canadian, or German, a conservative, a liberal, a Trump hater, a Trump lover. Your task is to confuse by lying. If you are 65, post pictures of your new baby. If you are 20, post pictures of you in nursing home bed. Get creative. Have fun. Lie like crazy.

Confuse. Baffle. Lie. STOP being predictable.

[Oct 16, 2017] Governing is complicated as laws and policies affect a diverse spectrum of people and situations. The average person, in my experience, is not inclined to spend the time necessary to understand good laws/policy in a complex society. The one safety check on mob rule is that most people don't become politically active until their situation is relatively dire

Highly recommended!
Republic is the policies system where leaders are obliged to leave after their maximum allowed term in office or if they lose the election (as opposed to the monarchy). the question who really select the rulers remain open, and in most cases people are not gven the right to do so -- the elite preselect candidates for which common people can vote in general elections.
Democracy is more then that -- it is unrealistic, utopian dream of direct rule of people, without intermediation of the elite. As such it is mostly a propaganda trick. Still be can strive for more fair representation by the elite. The key question here are the mechanisms of the filtration and the rotation of the elite as well as providing a channel for people from lower strata to enter the elite. Right now universities are still serving as a path to upward mobility but this channel is more and more blocked.
For example the US Senate is an example of almost life appointment to political position. Putting the limit on the time one can a senator might improve the situation, but it created the problem of short-termism. But taking into account to what extent senators are controlled by MIC and various other powerful lobbies it might not matter much. "It has been studied, and the fact is that members of the American Senate spend about two-thirds of their time raising money."
The class who holds economic power always also hold political power.
Notable quotes:
"... Democracy is a compromise, but it is one that virtually no one argues against. At least leaders are obliged to leave periodically. Churchill had it right when called democracy the worst form of government except for all the others. ..."
"... So, no thanks, I prefer representative democracy where I leave governance to a representative who I can vote for or against. I don't want to ever be involved in politics and hence I don't want decision left to groups of "community activists" of which i suspect you'd be quite happy to be part of. ..."
"... Trump is no Caesar but a Cataline. Just a sad sideshow in the slow implosion of Pax Americana. ..."
"... I'm sorry, but this is just not possible, at least not without something close to a revolution. In every Western country we like to call a democracy, the truth is that they have only an elaborate stage set of democracy. I prefer the term "plutocrat" to "oligarch," but whatever word you choose to use, the facts of society are the same. ..."
"... Power, no matter how it is granted, is power. And money is power, serious power. We can see this in a thousand aspects of our societies from the long-term success of someone like Harvey Weinstein in business to the many powerful lobbies which determine the direction of national policy. ..."
"... In the United States, the last national election was between a multi-billionaire and the best financed candidate in history, a woman who burnt through somewhere between $1.2 billion and $1.8 billion to lose. ..."
"... It has been studied, and the fact is that members of the American Senate spend about two-thirds of their time raising money. The American House of Representatives actually has call rooms were Representatives spend time every week raising money. And when I say "raising money" I don't mean the contributions which come from the likes of you or me. I mean big money from big sources of money, the only ones who really count. ..."
"... Something is out of balance in Washington. Corporations now spend about $2.6 billion a year on reported lobbying expenditures -- more than the $2 billion we spend to fund the House ($1.18 billion) and Senate ($860 million). It's a gap that has been widening since corporate lobbying began to regularly exceed the combined House-Senate budget in the early 2000s. ..."
"... Today, the biggest companies have upwards of 100 lobbyists representing them, allowing them to be everywhere, all the time. For every dollar spent on lobbying by labor unions and public-interest groups together, large corporations and their associations now spend $34. Of the 100 organizations that spend the most on lobbying, 95 consistently represent business. ..."
"... Above analysis needs to be translated into common everyday analogies. Such as Governments are gangs selling crack and guns and form co-ops with other gangs to stop killing each other. Leaders are psychopaths who kill anyone who calls them a bitch. ..."
"... Revolutions usually occur because of economic difficulties. As long as life is relatively stable/acceptable, most people will not challenge the status quo. Their voting (if they vote at all) is reflexive/rote. ..."
"... People will only rise up if you take away the minimum level of life for too many people. Many people are happy with the minimum. The left are deluded in they think they can gather together a lot of political protests for a life above the minimum. Many people are happy if they are simply getting by. You only have a problem when too many people are not getting by. ..."
"... I don't like an oligarchy but I'm just not sure where this pushback will come from. Many people are destined to be the bottom of whatever system is in place. ..."
"... We're delivered the illusion of democracy but look how quickly trump has been owned and is now going OTT in doing the bidding of the elites. ..."
"... People that are poor and oppressed CAN'T complain. That is the whole point of living in a dictatorship. ..."
"... Last November, a decent sized percentage of the American electorate appears to have voted for a 'politician' who they perceived to be the outsider. Presumably, their view was that there was little to differentiate between traditional republicans and democrats. ..."
"... Thank you for a wonderful article. Does the assumption "Oligarchy bad- Democracy good" really stand up to scrutiny in all cases? Democracy has had its failures, and some benign dictators have done very well for their people. ..."
"... Words and Technologies lead to abuse by rouge states like USA NSA and UK GCHQ spying on all citizens, Bannon type nonsense like racism is populism, white supremacy is judeo-christan values and racist Corporations like Breitbart and Cambridge Analytica pushing racist platforms like Trump and Brexit. Same Hypocrites are outraged when Russia and Iran infiltrate them back. Drone tech preceded 911 and preceded Bush war in Iraq and Afghanistan, (but were used on the sly). Now illegal wars are conducted using drones illegally claiming there is no law for drone wars. Spy Agencies and Internet censors have Sundays off. ..."
"... Understanding the connection between wealth and power shouldn't be all that difficult. Really. More wealth = more political power, always has. Waiting for the oligarchy to rot from within isn't what i would call a viable plan. Not when there is a far better and far more sure way to get the job done. Start with capping wealth accumulation. No one has a right to unlimited wealth accumulation. Allowing it leads to oligarchies and the death of democracies, as this article points out. ..."
"... When George Bush Junior followed his father into the White House and became the President he demonstrated that political power remains in the hands of a few and the system is rigged. It doesn't require academics to write comparisons to Greek culture to tell us the dice is always loaded. ..."
"... The USA is clearly a warlord power in how it behaves around the world, and anyone that sees the power of the militarised police, from Kent state to Black Lives, should recognise aspects of the Mafia type power. ..."
"... The point is not that the laws are used by Oligarchs, but that the constitution and system of laws one has brings forth olicharchs. Europe has laws, but the countries there are largely social democracies rather than imperialist presidencies. ..."
"... One of the finest reviews written in decades about a topic of supreme importance. Police and military officials are the brute arms and legs of the oligarchic elites. The coming attack on North Korea and Iran is the elite capturing new markets for their banking industry and manufacturing. Goldman Sachs and the investment banks are chomping at the bit for entre into southwest and east Asia. ..."
"... The article assumes that oligarchy is inherently bad. Ancient Greece, Ancient Rome and Victorian England where all democratically sanctioned oligarchies. They where also the most successful cultures of their day. Perhaps a democratically sanctioned oligarchy is the most successful system of governance in large populations. ..."
"... Having been poor, I can't see the poor doing a better job of running the world. These articles never propose any workable solution to what we have now. Maybe the middle class could run things. Let's have a middle class revolution. That's more workable than 'power to the poor' which would end terribly. ..."
"... Their most effective power play is the perpetual game of economical musical chairs. The chairs are your living wage. Each round the masters take out their profit, removing one (or more) of the chairs from the next round. Now you have the choice of a death match with your neighbors for the remaining chairs or currying favour with the masters for the removed chair. ..."
"... Don't forget the role of the corporations and their associated 'think tanks'. In reality the USA is a corporatocracy as nicely pointed out by Bruce E. Levine in The Blog of the HUFFPOST in 2011. https://www.huffingtonpost.com/bruce-e-levine/the-myth-of-us-democracy-corporatocracy_b_836573.html ..."
"... "...in today's meritocratic era." This description is a myth put about by the oligarchs to justify their economic and political power. ..."
"... The UK had a brief glimpse of Democracy, sometime between the mid 1940's and the late 1970's. ..."
"... If you are thinking of the old Warsaw Pact countries, that was certainly an oligarchy based on party membership. ..."
"... Perhaps all political systems will tend towards oligarchy over time, as the people with the wherewithal learn how to make the system work for them and theirs. Anarchy cannot be the solution, but what is ...? ..."
"... So an oligarchy hiding behind a sham democracy is the best we can hope for? ..."
"... In a system where we economic power buys political power democracy will remain a myth or at best an illusion and as the author rightly points out a catastrophic event at the level of the depression or world war is needed to begin anew. I for one am not hoping for either ..."
"... So when the people take control and their populist leaders take charge and all their lots become better, don't they become the very oligarchs they despise? ..."
"... With this typology behind him, Winters declares that America is already a civil oligarchy. To use the language of recent political campaigns, our oligarchs try to rig the system to defend their wealth. They focus on lowering taxes and on reducing regulations that protect workers and citizens from corporate wrongdoing. ..."
"... Industrialization will prevent any meaningful revolution so without serious changes in who is winning elections for a sustained time oligarchy in the US is here to stay. Mechanized war means control of assets rather than numerical superiority is the key to conflict and despite the millions of rifles and assault weapons out there they wont do much against drone bombers and drone tanks. ..."
"... I was heartened by the idea that the oligarchy must necessarily rot from within as a result of its own cronyism. Much like the insider-dealing, back-stabbing, and incompetence of the present clique. ..."
"... 'The question is whether democracy will emerge from oligarchic breakdown – or whether the oligarchs will just strengthen their grasp on the levers of government.' - judging by evidence from time immemorial my money is definitely on the oligarchs. ..."
"... The combination of political and economic power is discussed in Plato's Republic. Either book 4 or 5. Whilst not a replacement for modern treatment, it is vital reading if you want to avoid the limitations of single perspectives. ..."
"... To understand the significance of psyops and infowar against the public, you should also look at Tacitus' book on Corrupt Eloquence. Again, not a replacement but a way of seeing the broader picture. ..."
"... The article starts with an assumption that is wrong. It seems to suggest that America can't become an oligarchy without the will of the people. That ignores the fact that America's electoral system attracts oligarchs or at least people who are happy to be puppets of oligarch to the top job. ..."
"... Surveillance, drones, a purchased media, a mercenary govt, an internet with too much democracy and thus too many hairsplitting doctrinal differences, and increasingly effective killing devices, means the international corporate oligarchs have been in control for some time and will be for awhile more ..."
Oct 16, 2017 | discussion.theguardian.com

FREDBUDTZ -> DocAdam , 15 Oct 2017 08:49

Yes, but the fundamental issue has always been, how do you chose the oligarch and how do you get rid of one who is clearly badly failing or abusing power?

Democracy is a compromise, but it is one that virtually no one argues against. At least leaders are obliged to leave periodically. Churchill had it right when called democracy the worst form of government except for all the others.

Oligarchy clearly serves some developing countries well, always assuming the oligarchs are people dedicated to doing their best for the country as a whole. And they do do that sometimes.

Yet, we have supported nonsense like killing a Gadaffi, who gave his people good government and peace, and pitching Libya into chaos.

All in the dishonest name of democracy from our dishonest "democratic" politicians.

Look at Israel, always slapping itself on the back as the Mideast's "only democracy," while it consorts happily with kings and tyrants in its neighborhood and continues to hold millions of people in occupation against their will.

DirDigIns -> jessthecrip , 15 Oct 2017 08:46

What's your definition then?

Representative democracy. Not democracy by the crowd. Not eternal referenda. Not local "community" groups holding a lot of power. This is simply the tyranny of small groups of ideological left and ring wing extremists who will sit for 4 hours on a wet Tuesday evening in some hall somewhere to get their way, knowing that most normal people have better things to do with their lives.

It is the way of socialist workers and the like at University with their endless union meetings and motions, hoping to sneak through some crap the "represents" the student body of thousands on the basis of less than 100 votes. When challenged as to legitimacy the response is always "no one is prevented from getting involved".

That I suspect is your type of democracy, as it certainly is Corbyn's.

So, no thanks, I prefer representative democracy where I leave governance to a representative who I can vote for or against. I don't want to ever be involved in politics and hence I don't want decision left to groups of "community activists" of which i suspect you'd be quite happy to be part of.

zippy200 , 15 Oct 2017 08:44
Marxism 101. Trouble is liberals on the one hand bang on about proletariat solidarity, yet on the other, peddle identity politics and turn a blind eye at increasingly fragmented communities. And when the modern oligarchs come out and play they scratch their heads and blame "the stupid".
DirDigIns -> ID059068 , 15 Oct 2017 08:40
Your comment is the equivalent of the reply one normally gets from lefties btl if you say you don't want to be paying more tax i.e. "go to Somalia".

The nuance that there may be something between high tax and low tax is lost on them.

In your case, the idea that having what Beveridge proposed originally as a "safety net" of state provision rather than a lifestyle choice of full coverage of everything is lost on you, hence you suggest the choice is a binary everything or nothing.

Yours is the ignorance of the socialist and yes, a lack of personal freedom in your thinking that I'd reject every time.

W.a. Thomaston , 15 Oct 2017 08:37
The first rule of oligarchic fight club: You do not talk about oligarchic fight club! Or apparently Republics? From the little golden book of how to overthrow oligarchs by overthrown oligarchs (*Minion Free Edition)
Amanzim -> JosephCamilleri , 15 Oct 2017 08:37
India has democracy, but it is suppressing Kashmiris who want to be independent. In the last decade more than 30000 people have been killed by Indian army. Why? Because they want freedom.
Koen Van Vugt -> aeris2001x2 , 15 Oct 2017 08:36
Trump is no Caesar but a Cataline. Just a sad sideshow in the slow implosion of Pax Americana.
awilson5280 -> amwink , 15 Oct 2017 08:36
Sparta used slave labor for its agricultural needs, freeing its people to train and form the backbone of its militaristic society.

I agree that the best system for managing human affairs remains an open question. Locke and Hobbes are not done debating, and Churchill's attribution that democracy is the worst system of governance aside from everything else we've tried bears consideration as well. (If you want to discard democracy, it only seems fair that you present a viable, well thought-out replacement.)

FREDBUDTZ , 15 Oct 2017 08:36
"How the oligarchy wins..." "... two recent books can teach us about defending democracy from oligarchs'

I'm sorry, but this is just not possible, at least not without something close to a revolution. In every Western country we like to call a democracy, the truth is that they have only an elaborate stage set of democracy. I prefer the term "plutocrat" to "oligarch," but whatever word you choose to use, the facts of society are the same.

Power, no matter how it is granted, is power. And money is power, serious power. We can see this in a thousand aspects of our societies from the long-term success of someone like Harvey Weinstein in business to the many powerful lobbies which determine the direction of national policy.

In the United States, the last national election was between a multi-billionaire and the best financed candidate in history, a woman who burnt through somewhere between $1.2 billion and $1.8 billion to lose.

It has been studied, and the fact is that members of the American Senate spend about two-thirds of their time raising money. The American House of Representatives actually has call rooms were Representatives spend time every week raising money. And when I say "raising money" I don't mean the contributions which come from the likes of you or me. I mean big money from big sources of money, the only ones who really count.

Look at a phenomenon like Macron in France. He came from nowhere and seems to have very limited talents, yet the plutocratic interests who backed him managed to grab the French Presidency. Former French President Sarkozy, a man who proved mostly ineffective, took huge sums from General Gaddafi to the richest woman in France, a woman rumored to not have been even fully competent at the time.

Not only are the contributors of big money - both individuals and lobby groups - at the center of Western politics, but our very institutions are constructed to accommodate leadership which does not reflect the views of a majority. This is done in many structural ways from district gerrymandering to the nature of the "first past the post" ballots we use.

Look at Britain's most utterly incompetent modern politician, David Cameron, the man who single-handedly created the entire Brexit mess plus engaged in a terrible lot of dishonest and brutal behavior in the Middle East. He was never popular and ruled with something over 35% of the vote. Britain's institutions accommodated that.

In Canada, Stephen Harper, the man most Canadians likely regard as the shabbiest ever to rule the country, managed to do terrible things with about 39% of the vote.

And everywhere, people don't vote for war, interests do, rich interests.

timiengels , 15 Oct 2017 08:34
We desperately need a revolution.....and to hang these oligarchs from the nearest yardarm or lamppost. Where is our Robspierre?
Boghaunter -> Sailor25 , 15 Oct 2017 08:34
Economist Ha Joon Chang wrote about the meteoric economic rise of South Korea. He talked about how governmental policy chose areas to heavily subsidize (like educating engineers) to stimulate growth. They were successful but Chang also talks about the "losers" left behind.

If we only look at economics and if we assume economic growth is always a positive with no downside (slums, environmental degradation, authoritarian oppression, rulers passing laws to protect their privilege, etc.), than your premise looks sound.

choowy , 15 Oct 2017 08:33
'...displays of wealth that might spark *envy'. Interesting article otherwise
ClaudiaRain01 -> Boghaunter , 15 Oct 2017 08:33
I think being dire is an important key. Maybe it is dire in Britain for many people now. It isn't here, in Australia, just yet although people are going backwards.

The other issue is a lack of political literacy. You have to convince people they need a revolution. Many people are poor because understanding things like politics and society is not their strong point.

You may have a large group of people who are prime to vote for socialism but you'd have to explain to them why and convince them not just take it as a given they will. You may have an overwhelming amount of people who would benefit from socialism and you could win the revolution then they'd do something dumb like vote for Trump or Pauline Hanson. It is not a given that having victorious numbers of struggling people means socialism will be voted for.

Fibonaccisequins , 15 Oct 2017 08:32
Something is out of balance in Washington. Corporations now spend about $2.6 billion a year on reported lobbying expenditures -- more than the $2 billion we spend to fund the House ($1.18 billion) and Senate ($860 million). It's a gap that has been widening since corporate lobbying began to regularly exceed the combined House-Senate budget in the early 2000s.

Today, the biggest companies have upwards of 100 lobbyists representing them, allowing them to be everywhere, all the time. For every dollar spent on lobbying by labor unions and public-interest groups together, large corporations and their associations now spend $34. Of the 100 organizations that spend the most on lobbying, 95 consistently represent business.

https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2015/04/how-corporate-lobbyists-conquered-american-democracy/390822/

TheResult , 15 Oct 2017 08:29
Above analysis needs to be translated into common everyday analogies. Such as Governments are gangs selling crack and guns and form co-ops with other gangs to stop killing each other. Leaders are psychopaths who kill anyone who calls them a bitch.
barciad -> TheWindsOfWinter93 , 15 Oct 2017 08:29
You say that, but wind the clock back 80 years and they were saying the same things about tanks and airplanes. Modern day, 'urbanised feudalism' with the petrol engine instead of horses. Otherwise known as Fascism. Didn't quite work out did it...
Elgrecoandros -> jessthecrip , 15 Oct 2017 08:29
I don't think Jeremy Corbyn should be punished for having different political opinions to me, nor do I want Jacob Rees-Mogg punished because his opinions differ from mine, whereas you were calling for the latter to be punished for his political views.

For most people the options for dealing with those of a different political opinion are not either 1) imprisonment or 2) confiscation of property/forced labour. Those are extremist positions.

Boghaunter -> ClaudiaRain01 , 15 Oct 2017 08:27
I find truth in your words. I used to understand the fear of "mob rule", which democracy seemed vulnerable to. Governing is complicated and, ideally, is broad-minded as laws and policies affect a diverse spectrum of people and situations. The average person, in my experience, is not inclined to spend the time necessary to understand good laws/policy in a complex society. The one safety check on mob rule is that most people don't become politically active until their situation is relatively dire.

Revolutions usually occur because of economic difficulties. As long as life is relatively stable/acceptable, most people will not challenge the status quo. Their voting (if they vote at all) is reflexive/rote.

Most of the time, democracies are fundamentally guided by people who have a deeper interest in governance. As long as the engaged populace takes reasonable account of society as a whole, there will be no upheavals. When the scales tip too far we get an "acting out" that is unrestrained and chaotic and understandable.

This is simplistic and not meant to be absolute. Just an observation.

ClaudiaRain01 -> imperium3 , 15 Oct 2017 08:25
People will only rise up if you take away the minimum level of life for too many people. Many people are happy with the minimum. The left are deluded in they think they can gather together a lot of political protests for a life above the minimum. Many people are happy if they are simply getting by. You only have a problem when too many people are not getting by.
ClaudiaRain01 -> JosephCamilleri , 15 Oct 2017 08:22
In Australia plenty of people choose to live off the minimum wage. Many choose not to work full time. The state picks up after them with health care and income top ups. They are highly unlikely to make an effort to overthrow the oligarchy or the plutocracy. Why bother when you can work 30 hours a week at an easy job and get along just fine in life.

I don't like an oligarchy but I'm just not sure where this pushback will come from. Many people are destined to be the bottom of whatever system is in place.

Fibonaccisequins , 15 Oct 2017 08:20
In the UK we have circa 1200 quangos controlling our lives, and look how the tories have recently abused select committee appointments. In the USA they have organisations such as the council on foreign relations which wields huge power across all areas of policy, combined with the intricacies of all the mechanisms it prevents democracy from taking shape. We're delivered the illusion of democracy but look how quickly trump has been owned and is now going OTT in doing the bidding of the elites.
amwink , 15 Oct 2017 08:19
By "Greece" I suspect this article means "Athens". Sparta had a different system and was not subjected to these issues. In fact, that system was superior in many ways, but apparently all has to be judged according to the rule that democracy would be the best.
MattSpanner , 15 Oct 2017 08:16
Classical Greece's economy ran on slave labour. Something Tories hanker after with austerity, zero-hours contracts and non-existent job security.
aeris2001x2 , 15 Oct 2017 08:16
Or one from the elite arises and takes power and skips democracy and devolves the US straight to tyranny, as also forewarned by the classics. Its a good job Trump never got in last year...oh fuck
JosephCamilleri -> TheWindsOfWinter93 , 15 Oct 2017 08:15
People that are poor and oppressed CAN'T complain. That is the whole point of living in a dictatorship. Should you be interested in the truth of what is happening in that empire, just navigate different news sites.

Authorities in Xinjiang Extend Uyghur Persecution to Region's Ethnic Kyrgyz (RFA)
Justice for Some, Notoriety for Others: Public Law Enforcement in China (DH)
Xinjiang Seethes Under Chinese Crackdown (NYT)
Clashes as Ethnic Evenk Herders Protest China's Grazing Ban in Inner Mongolia (RFA)
Chinese Dissident 'Utterly Destroyed' in Detention (FB)
China executed 2,400 people in 2013: report (AJ)
Chinese Dissident Calls on China to Stop Persecuting His Family (VOA)

SimonGKelly -> Churchman72 , 15 Oct 2017 08:12
China is indeed a good example.

What about the GOP and the Democratic parties as competing oligopolies? Last November, a decent sized percentage of the American electorate appears to have voted for a 'politician' who they perceived to be the outsider. Presumably, their view was that there was little to differentiate between traditional republicans and democrats.

Stateless1 , 15 Oct 2017 08:12
Gerrymandering helps get the result you want.
https://img.washingtonpost.com/pbox.php?url=http://img.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/files/2014/05/crimes-against-geography.png&w=1484&op=resize&opt=1&filter=antialias&t=20170517
shtove -> Slo27 , 15 Oct 2017 08:09
Once you use the concept of class you out yourself as the oligarch's willing executioner. There's no proof that democracy can't adapt and survive, yet a catastrophist will insist it's so.
imperium3 -> ClaudiaRain01 , 15 Oct 2017 08:08

They aspire to be like the top? No, they don't. No revolution is coming because plenty on the bottom are fine if they are just getting along in life. Aspiring to be like the top would involve too much hard work for many.

If you push the bottom too far you just end up with a correction at the next election, that's it.

And yet the Bourbons do not still rule France, neither the Romanovs nor the Bolsheviks rule Russia, and the once-mighty Habsburgs are a distant memory.

Of course, the reason our democracies are not supposed to go the same way is that the populace can change things themselves through elections rather than having to rise up and overthrow the whole system. But what happens when the electoral system fails? What happens if, no matter how the electorate votes, the political class thumbs its nose at them and carries on as usual?

To take the most obvious example of democratic failure - the US - where will the American electorate go after Trump? Can we seriously expect the same people who voted for him, and undoubtedly did not get what they wanted, to flock to support some business-as-usual Democrat or oily Republican?

ConBrio , 15 Oct 2017 08:07

Winters declares that America is already a civil oligarchy. To use the language of recent political campaigns, our oligarchs try to rig the system to defend their wealth. They focus on lowering taxes and on reducing regulations that protect workers and citizens from corporate wrongdoing.

If there's ever been a country not ruled by oligarchy I'd like to see it.

The United States vacillates between a sly oligarchy of the Left who use the dole as its virtue signaling to garner votes, and the Right whose use of government for self aggrandizement is more obvious.

Indeed, any notion that the genetic impulse to self aggrandizement will change is spurious.

As such, the only and imperfect defense, is to limit government power thus reducing the oligarchs' potential for self dealing and, more importantly, requiring frequent elections which although in the long run don't eliminate the problem, tend to engender compromise and periodic shifts in power from one faction to another.

James Madison's article No. 10 of The Federalist elucidates the principles. http://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/fed10.aspof

Churchman72 -> SimonGKelly , 15 Oct 2017 08:01
I think today's China is a good example of what a modern oligarchy looks like- a Party structure that provides privilege through membership, but no clearly definable ideology other than consolidating power and projecting it. It is ironic that a supposedly socialist country devotes so much energy into preventing labour from organising into unions and has such massive inequality.

Russia on the other hand is a sham democracy where the structure of democracy is in place, but thoroughly eviscerated so that it exists only to confer legitimacy on the oligarchy (with Putin and his inner circle at the core). If Putin was to die suddenly (or become incapacitated) there may be a real world example of oligarchical collapse as rival factions try to occupy the vacant centre of power. It could very well create a space in which genuine grassroots democracy could grow, but equally it could tear the country apart.

Neither country has a history of democracy, and the rule of law isn't anywhere near as strong as in liberal western democracies, and is easily subverted. Russia particularly has a culture of political coups, as the country relies on unequal power distribution to function, making separatist movements a very real threat.

JosephCamilleri -> TheWindsOfWinter93 , 15 Oct 2017 07:58
They are complaining, but you can't hear them, because they are oppressed and colonized and disenfranchised. In the country, in inner Mongolia, in Turkestan, and in Tibet, and when they want to claim their rights and their family gets persecuted for a few generations. And if anyone talks about it, the Communist party threatens to not trade with you.
imperium3 -> TheWindsOfWinter93 , 15 Oct 2017 07:58
Precisely. In a world where a handful of people could control a whole army, who's to stop that handful from assuming total control over the rest of us?

I'm not even sure there's much that can be done to stop it, since the nations that refuse to embrace new military technology tend to get defeated by other nations that have no such qualms.

EquilibriaJones -> Sailor25 , 15 Oct 2017 07:57
Successful until people start missing 3 meals. Then the pitchforks come out.
jessthecrip -> Elgrecoandros , 15 Oct 2017 07:57
I was responding to a poster who called for imprisonment for those concerned. Do you think imprisonment would be more democratic?
DocAdam , 15 Oct 2017 07:55
Thank you for a wonderful article. Does the assumption "Oligarchy bad- Democracy good" really stand up to scrutiny in all cases? Democracy has had its failures, and some benign dictators have done very well for their people.
ID059068 -> DirDigIns , 15 Oct 2017 07:54
I sincerely wish you to have the same freedom to 'live freely and succeed or fail due to their own personal talents' as my grandparents had in the 20s and 30s.

That is, the freedom to be unemployed without help for years (but with the freedom to grow what food they could in the back yard of a slum in an industrial city). The freedom to see some of their children die because there was no treatment if you were diabetic and poor. The freedom to send your 13 year old son to work with a broken foot (stamped on by one of the cart-horses he tended) because he was the only earner. The freedom to work hungry for two days until payday because bills had been paid (rent, coal) and there was no money... I could go on and on. I really hope you get to enjoy all this freedom. And please do emjoy it without a murmur of complaint because being helped by all your neighbours that make up 'the state' isn't freedom, is it?

JosephCamilleri -> ClaudiaRain01 , 15 Oct 2017 07:54
Who is 'we'? It depends where you were born.
JosephCamilleri -> Sailor25 , 15 Oct 2017 07:52
Both Greece and Rome went through quire a few multiple systems in multiple situations. It does not make sense to say they are singular political types at all.
Elgrecoandros -> jessthecrip , 15 Oct 2017 07:51
Considering that in another thread you called on forced labour and confiscation of private property for those you disagreed with politically, your version of 'proper democracy' would have been called 'τυραννία' by the Ancient Greeks.
ClaudiaRain01 -> Swoll Man , 15 Oct 2017 07:50
No, working with poor people convinced me socialism is no better. I'm not inclined to work hard and have to support people who choose to work part time and collect benefits part time as a lifestyle choice.
imperium3 -> Sailor25 , 15 Oct 2017 07:50
Successful for whom? All of those were extremely unequal societies. The spoils of the Roman and British Empires mostly went to enrich the oligarchs while the vast majority of the population laboured in poverty.

The majority was only able to prosper once the power of the oligarchs was broken, either from above (the early Roman emperors tore the old senatorial class to pieces) or from below (gradual democratic and labour reforms in Britain conceded for fear of a potential revolution).

TheWindsOfWinter93 -> GagaInGreenacres , 15 Oct 2017 07:45
That would work fine before the age of automation now where humans are taken out of the job scope entirely. Then it becomes a lot harder to justify on a philosophical, ethical and moral level the logic of giving money to people for doing nothing (because there's nothing left for them to do).

You're talking about a fundamental change in the mentality that we reap what we sow, that our efforts directly correspond to the rewards and resources we gain at the end of it. I don't think that's possible. Neither is it desirable.

unclestinky , 15 Oct 2017 07:44

two World Wars and a Great Depression largely wiped out the holdings of the extremely wealthy

There was also a couple of generations trained under arms and seasoned under fire. There was a mixing of classes unlike any other and enough people who would not put up with a return to the status quo.
TheWindsOfWinter93 -> twilightegal , 15 Oct 2017 07:43
A world war is entirely necessary. To assume that peace is inherently good for humanity as a whole in terms of population numbers, technological advancements, or political stability is ridiculous in my honest opinion. Peace represents stagnation. It relies too much on ever-convoluted webs of interdependence (like that Concert of Europe before WWI, once declared as peace for its time).

The American revolutionaries had it right when they said that the tree of liberty regularly requires the blood of tyrants and patriots to continue flourishing.

TheResult , 15 Oct 2017 07:41
Big Words usages up above

Words and Technologies lead to abuse by rouge states like USA NSA and UK GCHQ spying on all citizens, Bannon type nonsense like racism is populism, white supremacy is judeo-christan values and racist Corporations like Breitbart and Cambridge Analytica pushing racist platforms like Trump and Brexit. Same Hypocrites are outraged when Russia and Iran infiltrate them back. Drone tech preceded 911 and preceded Bush war in Iraq and Afghanistan, (but were used on the sly). Now illegal wars are conducted using drones illegally claiming there is no law for drone wars. Spy Agencies and Internet censors have Sundays off.

TheWindsOfWinter93 -> barciad , 15 Oct 2017 07:41
Interesting idea. So the core of a nation's military power decides what politics makes it up (dependent on who's got the most access to the power to kill). In that case the automation of war for drones and robots cannot be anything but bad news: they are the new cavalry, affordable only by the very rich and powerful and so awesome in destructive power at almost no human cost if they are destroyed that they would make the perfect enforcers for a strict feudal order.
apacheman , 15 Oct 2017 07:39
Understanding the connection between wealth and power shouldn't be all that difficult. Really. More wealth = more political power, always has. Waiting for the oligarchy to rot from within isn't what i would call a viable plan. Not when there is a far better and far more sure way to get the job done. Start with capping wealth accumulation. No one has a right to unlimited wealth accumulation. Allowing it leads to oligarchies and the death of democracies, as this article points out.

Set the cap at a reasonably high figure to reward hard work, innovation, etc. Somewhere around $5B should work. Why $5 billion? Because of the ~2K billionaires in the world, most, like 80-85% or so, have less than that amount, and it becomes a break point within the oligarchy, dividing their unity. Think of the egos involved: many of those with $1-5B would relish seeing the 200+ hyper rich brought within striking distance of equality on their level.

Second, agree with the politicians that taxpayers know best how to spend their money.

Change the budget process so that the politicians pass the budget, but the people decide whether or not to fund it. Establish dedicated tax payment centers so when tax time rolls around, the proposed budget is available for the citizenry to examine.

Then allow the taxpayer to fund those parts they agree are necessary and make sense, by establishing discrete step amounts scaled to the size of the tax bill, e.g., say your tax bill came to 1582 whatevers, dollars, pounds, etc. At that size your increment might be 25 or 50, let's say 50 for argument's sake.

That means our taxpayer could fund up to 31 different parts of the budget. To ensure that the money gets spread around, we can limit the number of allocations to any given part to 3 or 4, and close a choice when its budget request is met. Anything left over that doesn't meet the minimum step level would go into the general fund for the politicians to allocate, either topping off programs that didn't quite get their budget requests filled or funding something that didn't get sufficient funds from the public to be viable.

Now here's were you can get voluntary revenue enhancement: allow the taxpayer to top off the leftover amount for the privilege of allocating it themselves rather than surrendering it to politicians' control. That amount wouldn't be applied against future taxes, it is payment-for-privilege. In our example the taxpayer could add 18 to the leftover 32, a choice many would make.

Third, bring voting into the modern era: use those handy tax payment centers both to vote in local, state, and national elections (while changing the voting period from a day to a week) and to provide feedback to politicians. Whenever anything controversial comes up, like healthcare or bailouts or war, allow the citizenry to override their representative's choice of vote if a majority of voters choose to vote the other way on that particular matter.

Fourth, establish mental standards for running for political office. Test would-be candidates to determine whether or not they are sociopaths. I'd prefer to not allow such people to hold political offices or appointments, but would accept just identifying them so voters know what they will get.

Taken together, those steps would ensure that democracy is strong and safe from co-option by oligarchs, both directly and indirectly by providing a genuine incentive to pay attention to issues.

TheWindsOfWinter93 -> Slo27 , 15 Oct 2017 07:36
Indeed you're right. And to be fair, why should he? The world's spent long enough whining on about great powers like the US trying to foist their ideas of a better world by their own rules and standards on everyone else (democracy spreading anyone?), so if we are to truly put words to action then an isolationist US allowing for other powers to fill the vacuum and return the world to multipolarity cannot be seen as anything other than a good thing.
TheWindsOfWinter93 -> JosephCamilleri , 15 Oct 2017 07:34
That doesn't sound very much like China here which is used as an example of a dictatorship (more de-facto than de-jure since the Chinese president and premier only has the absolute writ of God for ten years).

Apart from those in Hong Kong, there really isn't much of anyone in China's domestic population complaining about being oppressed, unfree, colonised, or unable to become who they can be.

barciad -> N1LiberalElitist , 15 Oct 2017 07:31
It really some downs to how you define the term 'Liberal'. Socially Liberal? Economically Liberal? The latter being a modern euphemism for being about as reactionary as it gets.
philipl -> ValuedCustomer , 15 Oct 2017 07:28
But that is breaking down as middle class benefits (pensions etc.) begin to disappear. There is a growing awareness , I think, that inequality is becoming extreme between the very rich and everyone else. Good article, anyway.
JosephCamilleri -> TheWindsOfWinter93 , 15 Oct 2017 07:28
People in dictatorships are oppressed, unfree, colonised, and unable to become who they could be. Most people want to be more than just alive.
DirDigIns -> WhatTheTruth , 15 Oct 2017 07:27
I'd rather describe it as socialism giving everybody endless free stuff, hence we get more and more reliant on the state and those who wish to live freely and succeed or fail due to their own personal talents see the idea of personal responsibility denuded everywhere.

Socialists seem to think "freedom" is achieved by having the state always there in everything to back you up, to a lot of the rest of us that is most definitely not freedom at all.

mrpukpuk , 15 Oct 2017 07:26
We are all well divided. So the oligarchy is safe.
Russell Sanders , 15 Oct 2017 07:24
When George Bush Junior followed his father into the White House and became the President he demonstrated that political power remains in the hands of a few and the system is rigged. It doesn't require academics to write comparisons to Greek culture to tell us the dice is always loaded.
JosephCamilleri -> TheWindsOfWinter93 , 15 Oct 2017 07:23
That would depend on the quality and sophistication of the constitution. Social multi-party representative democracies with a house of review don't decay like executive presidencies do.
JosephCamilleri , 15 Oct 2017 07:19

"In civil oligarchies, governance is collective and enforced through laws, rather than by arms. Democracy defeated oligarchy in ancient Greece because of 'oligarchic breakdown.' With this typology behind him, Winters declares that America is already a civil oligarchy."

Two things.

1. The USA is clearly a warlord power in how it behaves around the world, and anyone that sees the power of the militarised police, from Kent state to Black Lives, should recognise aspects of the Mafia type power.

2. The point is not that the laws are used by Oligarchs, but that the constitution and system of laws one has brings forth olicharchs. Europe has laws, but the countries there are largely social democracies rather than imperialist presidencies.

Also, I don't think anyone interested in politics does not understand that material economical structure is the basis, and ideology is just the result or sales pitch.

Dan2017 -> Sailor25 , 15 Oct 2017 07:18
Unfortunately, your view is one that is becoming more prevalent, on the left and right. All about ensuring that the correct thinking people are not held back by the plebs. Ti that effect they accuse them of false consciousness by one half and being anti-business by the other.
FranklinDRoosevelt , 15 Oct 2017 07:17
One of the finest reviews written in decades about a topic of supreme importance. Police and military officials are the brute arms and legs of the oligarchic elites. The coming attack on North Korea and Iran is the elite capturing new markets for their banking industry and manufacturing. Goldman Sachs and the investment banks are chomping at the bit for entre into southwest and east Asia. Articles and reviews like this one is WHY I HAVE READ THE GUARDIAN FOR DECADES.
GagaInGreenacres -> TragicomedyBeholder , 15 Oct 2017 07:16
The government need not favour the down trodden, it need only offer a job at a living wage to anyone willing to contribute to their community. This would make us all equal enough.
Sailor25 , 15 Oct 2017 07:15
The article assumes that oligarchy is inherently bad. Ancient Greece, Ancient Rome and Victorian England where all democratically sanctioned oligarchies. They where also the most successful cultures of their day. Perhaps a democratically sanctioned oligarchy is the most successful system of governance in large populations.
ClaudiaRain01 -> TheWindsOfWinter93 , 15 Oct 2017 07:15
They aspire to be like the top? No, they don't. No revolution is coming because plenty on the bottom are fine if they are just getting along in life. Aspiring to be like the top would involve too much hard work for many.

If you push the bottom too far you just end up with a correction at the next election, that's it.

ClaudiaRain01 , 15 Oct 2017 07:13
Having been poor, I can't see the poor doing a better job of running the world. These articles never propose any workable solution to what we have now. Maybe the middle class could run things. Let's have a middle class revolution. That's more workable than 'power to the poor' which would end terribly.
qvideh -> YurekandTina Kulski , 15 Oct 2017 07:11
Plutocracy!
GagaInGreenacres , 15 Oct 2017 07:11
Their most effective power play is the perpetual game of economical musical chairs. The chairs are your living wage. Each round the masters take out their profit, removing one (or more) of the chairs from the next round. Now you have the choice of a death match with your neighbors for the remaining chairs or currying favour with the masters for the removed chair.

The masters need only cut out some unpopular group and tell some convenient story about how they brought it on themselves in order to get your support.

The only way for democracy to thrive is for the community to supply a new a chair for every one taken by the masters, as was done in the post war period up till the mid seventies. Since then it has been economic musical chairs with austerity, budget constraints and irreducible unemployment as far as they eye can see.

Slo27 -> Amanzim , 15 Oct 2017 07:09
Isolationist Trump still intends to rule the world, he just does not want to get involved in making it better.
Slo27 -> TheWindsOfWinter93 , 15 Oct 2017 07:07

don't they become the very oligarchs they despise?

In America, they actually chose an oligarch to battle the oligarch, and somehow that is not how it is panning out.
YurekandTina Kulski , 15 Oct 2017 07:06
Don't forget the role of the corporations and their associated 'think tanks'. In reality the USA is a corporatocracy as nicely pointed out by Bruce E. Levine in The Blog of the HUFFPOST in 2011. https://www.huffingtonpost.com/bruce-e-levine/the-myth-of-us-democracy-corporatocracy_b_836573.html
Redredemptionist , 15 Oct 2017 07:06
"...in today's meritocratic era." This description is a myth put about by the oligarchs to justify their economic and political power.
Slo27 , 15 Oct 2017 07:05
And yet, the American voters brought in Trump the oligarch, and tasked him with destroying the institutions that perpetuate oligarchy.

Democracy will be destroyed through utter stupidity of the lower classes. They can easily be egged to see an enemy in their fellow citizens and turn to oligarchs for protection. Specifically, in the US, the white majority wants Trump to prevent a transition into whites becoming the largest minority, instead of the majority. These are their expectations and they are prepared to tolerate any outrage as long as they think he is working towards that goal.

Gunsarecivilrights -> WhatTheTruth , 15 Oct 2017 07:05
Rights and socialism do not belong in the same sentence. Are you drunk?
barciad , 15 Oct 2017 07:03
The UK had a brief glimpse of Democracy, sometime between the mid 1940's and the late 1970's. I should also add that Aristotle included a third factor. The size and nature of ones armed forces:-
  1. If the core was cavalry, then it would be a feudal monarchy (Macedon, Persia)
  2. If it was elite heavy infantry, then it would be an oligarchy (Sparta, Rome)
  3. If it was through either mass light infantry or naval based, then it would be a Democracy (Athens)

Now consider the UK after 1945, you have a this huge 'citizen's army' that has been out in field (one way or another) for over half a decade. Add onto that the huge losses of wealth and (more importantly) the alliances that were forced upon us. There could be nothing but an effective mass popular Democracy in this country. And for the first time in its history.

But alas, the Oligarchs bided their time and when the first sign of crisis came along, the struck. The 1970's for fucks sake, which were nothing compared to the cataclysms between 1914-1914, that same said Oligarchs created. Yet you would not think it the way those people bang on about it. Thus now, we have the 2010's, a decade that we will be warning our children about.

With the subheading 'What happens when you forget the lessons of history'.

SimonGKelly -> WhatTheTruth , 15 Oct 2017 06:59
If you are thinking of the old Warsaw Pact countries, that was certainly an oligarchy based on party membership.

However, how far are we from that in a system which guarantees that only one of two parties will end up in power? A glance across the pond shows how that is simply another form of oligarchy generating a hereditary establishment. That was HC's biggest problem.

Perhaps all political systems will tend towards oligarchy over time, as the people with the wherewithal learn how to make the system work for them and theirs. Anarchy cannot be the solution, but what is ...?

Redredemptionist -> TragicomedyBeholder , 15 Oct 2017 06:54
So an oligarchy hiding behind a sham democracy is the best we can hope for?
TheWindsOfWinter93 -> Amanzim , 15 Oct 2017 06:53
Who cares about whether democracy or dictatorship is better. As long as the people get richer and safer and happier with their lot in life, that's all that matters. Humans don't nearly live long enough to care more than just staying alive and bettering our own lot in life.
twilightegal , 15 Oct 2017 06:51
In a system where we economic power buys political power democracy will remain a myth or at best an illusion and as the author rightly points out a catastrophic event at the level of the depression or world war is needed to begin anew. I for one am not hoping for either
NotSoLittleMouse , 15 Oct 2017 06:49
There is also an economic minimum the population needs to be at. Dividing the classes only goes so far.

There's an argument on the oligarch needing the masses to finance their wealth, especially through utilities and monopolies (privately run NHS by token choice of companies), but it almost like the oligarchs don't need the masses anymore and can defend their wealth via stock exchange and governmental debts.

I would say that the biggest reason for the success of the oligarchs is making security, defined and framed by them, more important for the mass than freedom.

TheWindsOfWinter93 , 15 Oct 2017 06:49
So when the people take control and their populist leaders take charge and all their lots become better, don't they become the very oligarchs they despise?

What seems to be missing is recognizing the fact that very often in human society those on the bottom aspire to be like the top, even if they disagree with their personalities they don't disagree with their idea of prosperity and power. So it's going to be endlessly cyclical. The people take power and become oligarchs in their own right. Then someone has to take over on the bottom and then it all starts again.

redleader , 15 Oct 2017 06:48

With this typology behind him, Winters declares that America is already a civil oligarchy. To use the language of recent political campaigns, our oligarchs try to rig the system to defend their wealth. They focus on lowering taxes and on reducing regulations that protect workers and citizens from corporate wrongdoing.

Aristotle would have argued that countries are oligarchies when they have oligarchical constitutions.

Amanzim , 15 Oct 2017 06:47
Democracy works much better when all have economic prosperity. It should also look after the minorities by giving them equal rights and opportunities. I see democracy in India and look up to how it has remained a free country. But there are more than 300 million people in India who are so poor that they cannot afford much in life, most of them live on roads. China on the other hand is a dictatorship, but has reduced poverty of more than 400 million people in the last few decades. Which path should others follow?

America under Trump is making the country isolationist. As Economist wrote so well: "The world does not want an isolationist United States or a dictatorship in China. Alas, it may get both."

Andy Roberts , 15 Oct 2017 06:43
Industrialization will prevent any meaningful revolution so without serious changes in who is winning elections for a sustained time oligarchy in the US is here to stay. Mechanized war means control of assets rather than numerical superiority is the key to conflict and despite the millions of rifles and assault weapons out there they wont do much against drone bombers and drone tanks.
kizbot , 15 Oct 2017 06:41
in Greece the oligarchs rule through corruption. Everyone is tainted so the system cannot be overthrown without going down with it.
mill1806 , 15 Oct 2017 06:40
I was heartened by the idea that the oligarchy must necessarily rot from within as a result of its own cronyism. Much like the insider-dealing, back-stabbing, and incompetence of the present clique.
Keith Fraser -> TragicomedyBeholder , 15 Oct 2017 06:37
Not all measures aimed at improving equality involve giving extra privileges to currently disadvantaged groups - one can remove privileges/other advantages from groups which are doing more than OK, like curtailing legal tax-dodges which are only of use/available to the very wealthy. One can also remove barriers which (deliberately or not) impact people unequally, such as voter-suppression tricks.

This set of images is a very simplistic but helpful way of explaining the difference between different ways to deal with inequality:

https://cdn-images-1.medium.com/max/1600/1*owl5RUCkVYPzZi9tuyC54Q.jpeg

N1LiberalElitist -> ValuedCustomer , 15 Oct 2017 06:37
If you think that's "contemporary bourgeois liberal strategy" then the oligarchs are winning. They've told you the woes of the world are all the fault of the liberal middle classes, and you've believed them.
abugaafar , 15 Oct 2017 06:35

The question is whether democracy will emerge from oligarchic breakdown

or demagoguery.

Nada89 , 15 Oct 2017 06:33
'The question is whether democracy will emerge from oligarchic breakdown – or whether the oligarchs will just strengthen their grasp on the levers of government.' - judging by evidence from time immemorial my money is definitely on the oligarchs.
jazzdrum , 15 Oct 2017 06:32
For me , this film says it all and clearly too. https://topdocumentaryfilms.com/everything-rich-man-trick /
imipak , 15 Oct 2017 06:30
The combination of political and economic power is discussed in Plato's Republic. Either book 4 or 5. Whilst not a replacement for modern treatment, it is vital reading if you want to avoid the limitations of single perspectives.

To understand the significance of psyops and infowar against the public, you should also look at Tacitus' book on Corrupt Eloquence. Again, not a replacement but a way of seeing the broader picture.

Remember, we wouldn't be in this mess if we had a clear picture, but we have a different perspective to these past writers. Philosophers and elephants. You've got to combine the visions and weight them correctly.

Hibernica , 15 Oct 2017 06:30
The article starts with an assumption that is wrong. It seems to suggest that America can't become an oligarchy without the will of the people. That ignores the fact that America's electoral system attracts oligarchs or at least people who are happy to be puppets of oligarch to the top job.

If Trump hadn't been elected Hillary Clinton would now be President. More intelligent certainly and less likely to destroy the country but still backed by countless very wealthy people who would have been expecting payback for their support.

So rather than ask how America can avoid becoming an oligarchy I'd be asking if there was ever a time when it wasn't an oligarchy.

ValuedCustomer -> ValuedCustomer , 15 Oct 2017 06:30
In fact the whole article is fantastic, I've been relying on instinct and Michels' (accurate but primitive) Iron Law of Oligarchy for this stuff.
WhatTheTruth , 15 Oct 2017 06:29
What about the oligarchy of Socialism where giving people too many rights neutralises everything to a standstill?
ValuedCustomer , 15 Oct 2017 06:25
While the ruling class must remain united for an oligarchy to remain in power, the people must also be divided so they cannot overthrow their oppressors. Oligarchs in ancient Greece thus used a combination of coercion and co-optation to keep democracy at bay. They gave rewards to informants and found pliable citizens to take positions in the government.

These collaborators legitimized the regime and gave oligarchs beachheads into the people. In addition, oligarchs controlled public spaces and livelihoods to prevent the people from organizing.

This is the clearest explanation of contemporary bourgeois liberal strategy I've ever seen.

Bravo!

SameTrip , 15 Oct 2017 06:23

The question is whether democracy will emerge from oligarchic breakdown – or whether the oligarchs will just strengthen their grasp on the levers of government.

Surveillance, drones, a purchased media, a mercenary govt, an internet with too much democracy and thus too many hairsplitting doctrinal differences, and increasingly effective killing devices, means the international corporate oligarchs have been in control for some time and will be for awhile more
Tenthred , 15 Oct 2017 06:23

democracy defeated oligarchy in ancient Greece because of "oligarchic breakdown."

Yes, but I'm not sure I see why that is to do with institutional decay - except if that means that the arrangements for bribing, threatening and manipulating the populace break down, in which case it just pushes the query back to why that should happen.

Which brings us to consent and to capacity. If the state has the capacity to ensure that citizens do OK then it will gain their consent. If not, not.

So far so simple for the ancient Greeks. Not so simple for us, now, because one of the institutional structures controlled by the oligarchy is the one that manufactures and maintains consent.

That's why, if we have arrived at oligarchy, we will not escape as simply as the city states of ancient Greece - and perhaps cannot escape it at all.

Bransby -> Commem , 15 Oct 2017 06:21
When I was an ancient Greek I was fantastic. Since the financial crisis and austerity cuts I've found it hard to be as great as before
jessthecrip -> jessthecrip , 15 Oct 2017 06:21
Ooops - 'sew disunity in the ruling class'
jessthecrip , 15 Oct 2017 06:20
So those of us who want proper democracy need to try and sew in the ruling class, just as they have long encouraged disunity amongst us plebs, is that it? Perhaps one advantage (of few that I can see) of brexit is it's exposing significant disunity in the Tory party.
Commem , 15 Oct 2017 06:19
Nothing new then. Who said " I don't care who makes the decisions as long as I write the Agenda and the Minutes. Information control is key. We live in a Alice in Wonderland world of spin.
ethelbrose , 15 Oct 2017 06:17
If only we could shut off roads in cities to traffic we could be so much more powerful as a mob...
TragicomedyBeholder , 15 Oct 2017 06:16
Very interesting and informative. However...

one solution is creating a more economically equal society

If one were to look at this equality problem rationally and logically, then any government policy aimed at making people equal would actually amount to government treating people very unequally.

Sort of like because people are unequal they should be treated unequally in order to make them equal. So in this sense the very idea of social justice is either irrational or else meaningless.

Differences in vocation, gifts, interests, locations and aspirations contribute to making people unequal. Socialism is a provenly unworkable myth.

[Oct 11, 2017] Russia witch hunt is a tactic used by the ruling elite, and in particular the Democratic Party, to avoid facing a very unpleasant reality: that their unpopularity is the outcome of their policies of deindustrialization and the assault against working class

Highly recommended!
Chris Hedges, who is doubtless a courageous journalist and an intelligent commentator, suggests that if we are to discuss the anti-Russia campaign realistically, as baseless in fact, and as contrived for an effect and to further/protect some particular interests, we can hardly avoid the question: Who or what interest is served by the anti-Russia campaign?
An interesting observation "The Democratic Party doesn't actually function as a political party. It's about perpetual mass mobilization and a hyperventilating public relations arm, all paid for by corporate donors. The base of the party has no real say in the leadership or the policies of the party, as Bernie Sanders and his followers found out."
The other relevant observation is that there is no American left. It was destroyed as a political movement. The USA is a right wing country.
Notable quotes:
"... This obsession with Russia is a tactic used by the ruling elite, and in particular the Democratic Party, to avoid facing a very unpleasant reality: that their unpopularity is the outcome of their policies of deindustrialization and the assault against working men and women and poor people of color. ..."
"... It is the result of the slashing of basic government services, including, of course, welfare, that Clinton gutted; deregulation, a decaying infrastructure, including public schools, and the de facto tax boycott by corporations. It is the result of the transformation of the country into an oligarchy. The nativist revolt on the right, and the aborted insurgency within the Democratic Party, makes sense when you see what they have done to the country. ..."
"... The Democratic Party, in particular, is driving this whole Russia witch-hunt. It cannot face its complicity in the destruction of our civil liberties -- and remember, Barack Obama's assault on civil liberties was worse than those carried out by George W. Bush -- and the destruction of our economy and our democratic institutions. ..."
"... Politicians like the Clintons, Pelosi and Schumer are creations of Wall Street. That is why they are so virulent about pushing back against the Sanders wing of the Democratic Party. ..."
"... The Democratic Party doesn't actually function as a political party. It's about perpetual mass mobilization and a hyperventilating public relations arm, all paid for by corporate donors. The base of the party has no real say in the leadership or the policies of the party, as Bernie Sanders and his followers found out. They are props in the sterile political theater. ..."
"... These party elites, consumed by greed, myopia and a deep cynicism, have a death grip on the political process. They're not going to let it go, even if it all implodes. ..."
"... The whole exercise was farcical. The White House would leak some bogus story to Judy Miller or Michael Gordon, and then go on the talk shows to say, 'as the Times reported .' It gave these lies the veneer of independence and reputable journalism. This was a massive institutional failing, and one the paper has never faced. ..."
"... The media's anti-Russia narrative has been embraced by large portions of what presents itself as the "left." ..."
"... Well, don't get me started on the American left. First of all, there is no American left -- not a left that has any kind of seriousness, that understands political or revolutionary theories, that's steeped in economic study, that understands how systems of power work, especially corporate and imperial power. The left is caught up in the same kind of cults of personality that plague the rest of society. It focuses on Trump, as if Trump is the central problem. Trump is a product, a symptom of a failed system and dysfunctional democracy, not the disease. ..."
"... For good measure, they purged the liberal class -- look at what they did to Henry Wallace -- so that Cold War "liberals" equated capitalism with democracy, and imperialism with freedom and liberty. I lived in Switzerland and France. There are still residues of a militant left in Europe, which gives Europeans something to build upon. But here we almost have to begin from scratch. ..."
"... The corporate elites we have to overthrow already hold power. And unless we build a broad, popular resistance movement, which takes a lot of patient organizing among working men and women, we are going to be steadily ground down. ..."
"... The corporate state has made it very hard to make a living if you hold fast to this radical critique. You will never get tenure. You probably won't get academic appointments. You won't win prizes. You won't get grants. ..."
"... The elite schools, and I have taught as a visiting professor at a few of them, such as Princeton and Columbia, replicate the structure and goals of corporations. If you want to even get through a doctoral committee, much less a tenure committee, you must play it really, really safe. You must not challenge the corporate-friendly stance that permeates the institution and is imposed through corporate donations and the dictates of wealthy alumni. Half of the members of most of these trustee boards should be in prison! ..."
"... Speculation in the 17th century in Britain was a crime. Speculators were hanged. And today they run the economy and the country. They have used the capturing of wealth to destroy the intellectual, cultural and artistic life in the country and snuff out our democracy. There is a word for these people: traitors. ..."
Oct 11, 2017 | www.unz.com

Originally from: The elites "have no credibility left" by Chris Hedges

But the whole idea that the Russians swung the election to Trump is absurd. It's really premised on the unproven claim that Russia gave the Podesta emails to WikiLeaks, and the release of these emails turned tens, or hundreds of thousands, of Clinton supporters towards Trump. This doesn't make any sense. Either that, or, according to the director of national intelligence, RT America, where I have a show, got everyone to vote for the Green Party.

This obsession with Russia is a tactic used by the ruling elite, and in particular the Democratic Party, to avoid facing a very unpleasant reality: that their unpopularity is the outcome of their policies of deindustrialization and the assault against working men and women and poor people of color. It is the result of disastrous trade agreements like NAFTA that abolished good-paying union jobs and shipped them to places like Mexico, where workers without benefits are paid $3.00 an hour. It is the result of the explosion of a system of mass incarceration, begun by Bill Clinton with the 1994 omnibus crime bill, and the tripling and quadrupling of prison sentences. It is the result of the slashing of basic government services, including, of course, welfare, that Clinton gutted; deregulation, a decaying infrastructure, including public schools, and the de facto tax boycott by corporations. It is the result of the transformation of the country into an oligarchy. The nativist revolt on the right, and the aborted insurgency within the Democratic Party, makes sense when you see what they have done to the country.

Police forces have been turned into quasi-military entities that terrorize marginal communities, where people have been stripped of all of their rights and can be shot with impunity; in fact over three are killed a day. The state shoots and locks up poor people of color as a form of social control. They are quite willing to employ the same form of social control on any other segment of the population that becomes restive.

The Democratic Party, in particular, is driving this whole Russia witch-hunt. It cannot face its complicity in the destruction of our civil liberties -- and remember, Barack Obama's assault on civil liberties was worse than those carried out by George W. Bush -- and the destruction of our economy and our democratic institutions.

Politicians like the Clintons, Pelosi and Schumer are creations of Wall Street. That is why they are so virulent about pushing back against the Sanders wing of the Democratic Party. Without Wall Street money, they would not hold political power. The Democratic Party doesn't actually function as a political party. It's about perpetual mass mobilization and a hyperventilating public relations arm, all paid for by corporate donors. The base of the party has no real say in the leadership or the policies of the party, as Bernie Sanders and his followers found out. They are props in the sterile political theater.

These party elites, consumed by greed, myopia and a deep cynicism, have a death grip on the political process. They're not going to let it go, even if it all implodes.

... ... ...

DN: Let's come back to this question of the Russian hacking news story. You raised the ability to generate a story, which has absolutely no factual foundation, nothing but assertions by various intelligence agencies, presented as an assessment that is beyond question. What is your evaluation of this?

CH: The commercial broadcast networks, and that includes CNN and MSNBC, are not in the business of journalism. They hardly do any. Their celebrity correspondents are courtiers to the elite. They speculate about and amplify court gossip, which is all the accusations about Russia, and they repeat what they are told to repeat. They sacrifice journalism and truth for ratings and profit. These cable news shows are one of many revenue streams in a corporate structure. They compete against other revenue streams. The head of CNN, Jeff Zucker, who helped create the fictional persona of Donald Trump on "Celebrity Apprentice," has turned politics on CNN into a 24-hour reality show. All nuance, ambiguity, meaning and depth, along with verifiable fact, are sacrificed for salacious entertainment. Lying, racism, bigotry and conspiracy theories are given platforms and considered newsworthy, often espoused by people whose sole quality is that they are unhinged. It is news as burlesque.

I was on the investigative team at the New York Times during the lead-up to the Iraq War. I was based in Paris and covered Al Qaeda in Europe and the Middle East. Lewis Scooter Libby, Dick Cheney, Richard Perle and maybe somebody in an intelligence agency, would confirm whatever story the administration was attempting to pitch. Journalistic rules at the Times say you can't go with a one-source story. But if you have three or four supposedly independent sources confirming the same narrative, then you can go with it, which is how they did it. The paper did not break any rules taught at Columbia journalism school, but everything they wrote was a lie.

The whole exercise was farcical. The White House would leak some bogus story to Judy Miller or Michael Gordon, and then go on the talk shows to say, 'as the Times reported .' It gave these lies the veneer of independence and reputable journalism. This was a massive institutional failing, and one the paper has never faced.

DN: The CIA pitches the story, and then the Times gets the verification from those who pitch it to them.

CH: It's not always pitched. And not much of this came from the CIA. The CIA wasn't buying the "weapons of mass destruction" hysteria.

DN: It goes the other way too?

CH: Sure. Because if you're trying to have access to a senior official, you'll constantly be putting in requests, and those officials will decide when they want to see you. And when they want to see you, it's usually because they have something to sell you.

DN: The media's anti-Russia narrative has been embraced by large portions of what presents itself as the "left."

CH: Well, don't get me started on the American left. First of all, there is no American left -- not a left that has any kind of seriousness, that understands political or revolutionary theories, that's steeped in economic study, that understands how systems of power work, especially corporate and imperial power. The left is caught up in the same kind of cults of personality that plague the rest of society. It focuses on Trump, as if Trump is the central problem. Trump is a product, a symptom of a failed system and dysfunctional democracy, not the disease.

If you attempt to debate most of those on the supposedly left, they reduce discussion to this cartoonish vision of politics.

The serious left in this country was decimated. It started with the suppression of radical movements under Woodrow Wilson, then the "Red Scares" in the 1920s, when they virtually destroyed our labor movement and our radical press, and then all of the purges in the 1950s. For good measure, they purged the liberal class -- look at what they did to Henry Wallace -- so that Cold War "liberals" equated capitalism with democracy, and imperialism with freedom and liberty. I lived in Switzerland and France. There are still residues of a militant left in Europe, which gives Europeans something to build upon. But here we almost have to begin from scratch.

I've battled continuously with Antifa and the Black Bloc. I think they're kind of poster children for what I would consider phenomenal political immaturity. Resistance is not a form of personal catharsis. We are not fighting the rise of fascism in the 1930s. The corporate elites we have to overthrow already hold power. And unless we build a broad, popular resistance movement, which takes a lot of patient organizing among working men and women, we are going to be steadily ground down.

So Trump's not the problem. But just that sentence alone is going to kill most discussions with people who consider themselves part of the left.

The corporate state has made it very hard to make a living if you hold fast to this radical critique. You will never get tenure. You probably won't get academic appointments. You won't win prizes. You won't get grants. The New York Times , if they review your book, will turn it over to a dutiful mandarin like George Packer to trash it -- as he did with my last book. The elite schools, and I have taught as a visiting professor at a few of them, such as Princeton and Columbia, replicate the structure and goals of corporations. If you want to even get through a doctoral committee, much less a tenure committee, you must play it really, really safe. You must not challenge the corporate-friendly stance that permeates the institution and is imposed through corporate donations and the dictates of wealthy alumni. Half of the members of most of these trustee boards should be in prison!

Speculation in the 17th century in Britain was a crime. Speculators were hanged. And today they run the economy and the country. They have used the capturing of wealth to destroy the intellectual, cultural and artistic life in the country and snuff out our democracy. There is a word for these people: traitors.

[Oct 08, 2017] The Dark History of Fear, Inc

Notable quotes:
"... None of this qualifies as your typical run-of-the-mill lunacy (scented candles cause cancer), over-the-top tripe (the recent solar eclipse marks the beginning of the apocalypse), or unbelievable baloney (that man-made pyramids have been discovered in Antarctica). Rather, the paranoid style is rooted in pernicious, but believable, political fears: that the nation is under threat from people or movements plotting to do it harm and is teetering, teetering, teetering on the edge of an abyss. The problem is not that this is patently false (The Germans! The Japanese! The Russians!), but that it's often exaggerated -- and, sometimes, purposely so. Then too, as Hofstadter implied, preying on these fears for political gain not only isn't new, it's tried, tested, and often successful. Scaring the dickens out of voters is as American as the 4th of July. ..."
"... The claims now are not only as breathless as anything the CIA said about East Germany in the 1980s, they're as suspect: Mexico is "on the verge of collapse" -- a claim made by White House Chief of Staff John Kelly -- that Russia is providing arms to the Taliban (retold by the recently retired commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, Gen. John W. Nicholson, Jr., and, just the other day by James Mattis), that the U.S. military will be "outranged and outgunned by many potential adversaries in the future" (noted by national security adviser H.R. McMaster prior to his service at the White House) and that, as Donald Trump himself said during his address to the United Nations, large parts of the world " are in conflict and some, in fact, are going to hell ." ..."
"... The problem with the claims is that those who are asked to dismiss them are required to defend the opposite -- that Mexico is economically healthy (it isn't, but it's hardly on the verge of collapse), that Russian weapons haven't shown up in Afghanistan (they have, though not simply in the hands of the Taliban), that Russia and China aren't developing new and more sophisticated weapons (they are, but so what?), or that it's ridiculous not to believe that "major portions of the world are in conflict" (that's always been true). The other problem with disproving the claims is that doing so contains a whiff of weakness, or naiveté: that the skeptic favors open borders, supports Afghan terrorism, doesn't support a strong military, or is hopelessly misinformed. In fact, however, each of these claims have been made before -- and refuted by expert testimony. ..."
"... The same holds true for each of the other claims. Following Gen. Nicholson's statement that Russia was providing arms to the Taliban, his claim was given short shrift by both the Defense Intelligence Agency and by Jens Stoltenberg, the General Secretary of NATO. Stoltenberg acknowledged that he'd seen the reports, adding that the only thing they lacked was proof. ..."
"... That Russia is an antagonist is now widely accepted, and it is trivially true that Moscow's nuclear arsenal (with or without the help of China) could lay waste to the U.S. But outgunning us? Russia spends a fraction of what the U.S. spends on its military establishment (some 14 percent of what we spend, in fact) and so must pick and choose what weapons it will develop. ..."
"... So, yes, we're in deep, deep trouble -- just as we were when witches danced in Ipswich, when Samuel Morse claimed we were being subverted by papists, when Joe McCarthy saw a communist under every State Department memo -- and when the Russians were producing missiles like sausages. ..."
Oct 08, 2017 | www.theamericanconservative.com

Back in 1835, Samuel F.B. Morse (who went on to invent the telegraph and the Morse Code), wrote a book about a plot to overthrow the American republic. The conspiracy, Morse wrote, was well-funded, highly secretive, and hatched in Vienna by members of the The St. Leopold Foundation, which had dispatched cells of Jesuit missionaries to the U.S. to forcibly convert the nation to Roman Catholicism. This was no small intrigue: The plot's leaders, as Morse meticulously catalogued, were Austrian diplomat Klemens von Metternich, Ferdinand V of Hungary, and (of course) Pope Gregory XVI. "It is high time that we awakened to the apprehension of danger," Morse wrote .

What is shocking about this nonsense is not that Morse actually believed it, but that millions of other Americans did too. Morse's book seeded the rise of the nativist "Know-Nothing" party , whose goal was to curb immigration, root out Catholicism, and return America to its protestant ideals. In essence, they were the America-firsters of the nineteenth century. The Know-Nothings swept into office in Chicago, were strong in Massachusetts and, in 1856, nominated a national ticket (Millard Fillmore and Andrew Donelson), for the presidency; they tallied nearly 900,000 votes, one-quarter of those cast. "I know nothing but my country, my whole country and nothing but my country," they chanted.

Historians have since excavated the Morse plot with relish, if only as a way to better understand a nation that, from time to time, enjoys being scared witless.

Before the Know-Nothings there were the Anti-Masons, a political movement that warned of a takeover by secretive apron-wearing do-gooders who met for god-knows-why. And before that Americans were warned about witches named Dorothy, Rebecca, Martha, and Rachel, dancing in New England's forests. Some 120 years after Morse, in 1964, historian Richard Hofstadter dubbed this "the paranoid style in American politics" -- a paradigm-shifting essay that catalogued a raft of intrigues peopled by witches, Illuminati, Masons, Jesuits, Mormons, Jewish bankers, Bilderbergers and, in Hofstadter's time, communist dupes doing Moscow's bidding. America's enemies might be unseen, but they were everywhere.

"In the end, the real mystery, for one who reads the primary works of paranoid scholarship," Hofstadter wrote, "is not how the United States has been brought to its present dangerous position but how it managed to survive at all."

None of this qualifies as your typical run-of-the-mill lunacy (scented candles cause cancer), over-the-top tripe (the recent solar eclipse marks the beginning of the apocalypse), or unbelievable baloney (that man-made pyramids have been discovered in Antarctica). Rather, the paranoid style is rooted in pernicious, but believable, political fears: that the nation is under threat from people or movements plotting to do it harm and is teetering, teetering, teetering on the edge of an abyss. The problem is not that this is patently false (The Germans! The Japanese! The Russians!), but that it's often exaggerated -- and, sometimes, purposely so. Then too, as Hofstadter implied, preying on these fears for political gain not only isn't new, it's tried, tested, and often successful. Scaring the dickens out of voters is as American as the 4th of July.

The historical "for instance" in this is well-documented: during the 1960 presidential campaign, John Kennedy insisted that the Soviet Union had outstripped the U.S. in ballistic missile production. There was a growing and dangerous "missile gap" Kennedy claimed, placing the nation in great peril. Dwight Eisenhower, he said, had been derelict in not acknowledging the threat. An independent study commission issued a report that confirmed the fear and Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev gave it credence: We are "turning out missiles like sausages," he claimed. As it turns out, Kennedy was right: there was a missile gap, but not in a way that he thought -- we had plenty, while they had none (a later CIA report speculated that, actually, they might have had three, maybe). Years later, Kennedy's claim looked downright foolish: the problem for the Russians wasn't that they couldn't make missiles (they eventually did, and plenty of them), but that they couldn't make sausages -- which cost them their empire. The same kinds of claims were retailed by U.S. intelligence services about Russia's allies: a 1987 CIA fact book said that East Germany's GDP per capita was higher than West Germany's, a claim so ludicrous that Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan dismissed it to a panel of CIA officers with a legendary quip: "I know a Berlin taxi driver who could have told you that wasn't true."

The claims now are not only as breathless as anything the CIA said about East Germany in the 1980s, they're as suspect: Mexico is "on the verge of collapse" -- a claim made by White House Chief of Staff John Kelly -- that Russia is providing arms to the Taliban (retold by the recently retired commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, Gen. John W. Nicholson, Jr., and, just the other day by James Mattis), that the U.S. military will be "outranged and outgunned by many potential adversaries in the future" (noted by national security adviser H.R. McMaster prior to his service at the White House) and that, as Donald Trump himself said during his address to the United Nations, large parts of the world " are in conflict and some, in fact, are going to hell ."

The problem with the claims is that those who are asked to dismiss them are required to defend the opposite -- that Mexico is economically healthy (it isn't, but it's hardly on the verge of collapse), that Russian weapons haven't shown up in Afghanistan (they have, though not simply in the hands of the Taliban), that Russia and China aren't developing new and more sophisticated weapons (they are, but so what?), or that it's ridiculous not to believe that "major portions of the world are in conflict" (that's always been true). The other problem with disproving the claims is that doing so contains a whiff of weakness, or naiveté: that the skeptic favors open borders, supports Afghan terrorism, doesn't support a strong military, or is hopelessly misinformed. In fact, however, each of these claims have been made before -- and refuted by expert testimony.

Gen. Barry McCaffrey said that Mexico was in a state of collapse back in 2009, a claim contradicted by then-Director of National Intelligence, Dennis Blair. More recently, and before the recent earthquake shook Mexico City, the collapsing Mexican government offered to help provide aid to Texans victimized by Hurricane Harvey. It's a wonder they would think of us as the walls were coming down around them. Then too, if Mexico is really on the verge of collapse, shouldn't the administration be doing something about it -- perhaps we should appeal to the international community to provide the Mexican government with low interest loans, or maybe we should deploy a U.S. aircraft carrier group to the Gulf of Mexico. Or perhaps, just perhaps, the claim is Morse-like: designed to frighten us, perhaps, into building a wall as a barrier to keep immigrants who are not pouring over the border from pouring over the border.

The same holds true for each of the other claims. Following Gen. Nicholson's statement that Russia was providing arms to the Taliban, his claim was given short shrift by both the Defense Intelligence Agency and by Jens Stoltenberg, the General Secretary of NATO. Stoltenberg acknowledged that he'd seen the reports, adding that the only thing they lacked was proof. But Stoltenberg went further, inviting Russia to be a part of the Afghanistan peace process -- a strange request to a nation that a top U.S. general claims is helping the enemy. Even so, the claim was repeated just this last week by Defense Secretary James Mattis, who added Iran to the growing list of Taliban allies. Of course, Nicholson and Mattis might be absolutely right, but they're saying so doesn't make it so. Then too (we shuffle our feet, look at our shoes, mumble to ourselves), the Taliban's best friend in Afghanistan isn't Russia or Iran, it's Pakistan -- our friend.

That Russia is an antagonist is now widely accepted, and it is trivially true that Moscow's nuclear arsenal (with or without the help of China) could lay waste to the U.S. But outgunning us? Russia spends a fraction of what the U.S. spends on its military establishment (some 14 percent of what we spend, in fact) and so must pick and choose what weapons it will develop. The result is that the Russian Federation continues technological advances in some weapons systems, but lacks significant technological depth elsewhere. During its 2015 May Day military parade, Russia showed off its new state-of-the-art T-14 main battle tank, complete with a new-fangled APS (active protection system) designed to defeat anti-armor weapons. Onlookers ogled the tank, oohing and ahhing at its shiny exterior, its impressive armament. But then, just as it was about to exit Red Square it broke down -- and had to be towed. Is Russia a threat? Sure, it's a threat. But Russia has many of the same problems now that it had at the end of the Cold War. It ranks 53rd in per capita GDP -- just behind Panama.

The world has problems, big problems but it is not going to hell. Here's what going to hell looks like. In the autumn of 1941, Europe was under the domination of a genocidal regime that had extended its murderous policies through all of Europe and whose armies were headed towards Moscow. In Asia, large swathes of China and all of Southeast Asia were occupied by Japanese militarists. The two, with Italy, had formed an axis and controlled significant portions of the globe. Their enemies were teetering on the edge of defeat. The world was going to hell, alright, but the U.S. had yet to get into the war.

But that's not the worst of it. During the early morning hours of September 26, 1983, Lt. Col. Stanislav Petrov was notified by his computer system that the U.S. had launched five intercontinental ballistic missiles at Russia. Petrov sat there for a moment, when he should have been on the telephone to his superiors. After several moments he concluded that the warning just didn't make sense. Why would the U.S. launch only five missiles at Russia, when everyone in the Soviet military supposed they would launch a barrage. "The siren howled, but I just sat there for a few seconds," he later told the BBC, "staring at the big, back-lit, red screen with the word 'launch' on it." Petrov ignored the warning -- and may well have prevented a nuclear holocaust.

So, yes, we're in deep, deep trouble -- just as we were when witches danced in Ipswich, when Samuel Morse claimed we were being subverted by papists, when Joe McCarthy saw a communist under every State Department memo -- and when the Russians were producing missiles like sausages.

Now, as then, we have two choices: we can either embrace our fears and shake in our boots, or we can tell the sky-is-falling crowd what Samuel F.B. Morse's friends told him all the way back in 1835.

Get a grip.

Mark Perry is a foreign policy analyst and the author of The Most Dangerous Man in America: The Making of Douglas MacArthur. His next book, The Pentagon's Wars, will be released in October. He tweets @markperrydc

[Oct 05, 2017] Opinion cultivation is a mass comms topic. You can look up the spiral of silence, which was theorized in the 1970s as self-censorship by people who hold minority opinions, or think they do.

Notable quotes:
"... TAC is an odd place, I post comments and for some reason every single comment I post on the U.S. state Dept. never gets published while every other comment I write does and I cannot fathom why. ..."
"... Many comment sections of political and "news" sites are tightly curated. They offer the illusion of open discussion but in fact limit the scope of what discussion points are allowed. ..."
"... From a PR/opinion cultivation perspective the goal is to keep those points or positions from appearing before other commenters and readers, thus validating their existence. Or such points or positions are allowed through on a very irregular or rare basis, which leaves the impression that they are extreme. ..."
"... Opinion cultivation is a mass comms topic. You can look up the "spiral of silence," which was theorized in the 1970s as self-censorship by people who hold minority opinions, or think they do. ..."
"... What we have today is the systematic creation of "spiral of silence" by the media that tout themselves as giving voice to opinions/positions/facts. They silence views at odds with the ones they want to sell, with the intention that their viewers/readers will self-censor. ..."
Oct 04, 2017 | www.unz.com

Olorin says: October 3, 2017 at 9:45 pm

@Chris Chuba

I'm sorry to hear that you were removed from TAC. I do not believe that you should tailor you writings to make them pro-Israeli / Jewish if that does not represent your views. If I find an article unappealing I just skip it, I don't want to see it censored and I don't assume bad intentions on people just because they pursue a theory I don't agree with. To judge if someone is out-of-bounds perhaps we should apply the 'Iran test', replace Israel/Jewish with Iran/Iranian and see if people would still take offense (being a bit facetious, nothing would be out-of-bounds).

TAC is an odd place, I post comments and for some reason every single comment I post on the U.S. state Dept. never gets published while every other comment I write does and I cannot fathom why.

The pattern goes like this.

  1. Larison writes how Tillerson is gutting the U.S. State Dept. budget and this is wrecking U.S. diplomacy.
  2. I post a comment asking why that's a bad thing because 60%+ of the budget goes for 'soft power', funding NGO's to influence and/or meddle in other countries. Lindsey Graham even said, 'that's our soft power'.

This is like Groundhog Day, I've tried posting several versions of this comment thinking that I inadvertently said something inflammatory. I've stopped commenting on any article having to do with this topic.

Maybe I'm wrong, I'm fallible but I don't see how my comment is out of bounds, I'm baffled.

TAC is an odd place, I post comments and for some reason every single comment I post on the U.S. state Dept. never gets published while every other comment I write does and I cannot fathom why.

Many comment sections of political and "news" sites are tightly curated. They offer the illusion of open discussion but in fact limit the scope of what discussion points are allowed.

From a PR/opinion cultivation perspective the goal is to keep those points or positions from appearing before other commenters and readers, thus validating their existence. Or such points or positions are allowed through on a very irregular or rare basis, which leaves the impression that they are extreme.

Opinion cultivation is a mass comms topic. You can look up the "spiral of silence," which was theorized in the 1970s as self-censorship by people who hold minority opinions, or think they do.

What we have today is the systematic creation of "spiral of silence" by the media that tout themselves as giving voice to opinions/positions/facts. They silence views at odds with the ones they want to sell, with the intention that their viewers/readers will self-censor.

This is related to the 1970s to 1980s field of "cultivation theory" out of the Annenberg School (Penn). In that case, Jewish scholars at a majority Jewish department commenting on disproportionately Jewish-run media networks/outlets and Jewish-created programming concluded that rank-and-file white Americans were stupid for thinking the world was mean and dangerous based on what they saw on television.

(The findings/research claim held that more hours of TV viewing led to people thinking crime rates were higher than they actually were. I don't call whether the converse was true, i.e., no TV viewing led to underestimate of crime rates, or what.)

There was some truth in the cultivation theory framing–George Gerbner left communist Hungary, IIRC–but the whole thing struck me overall as an effort to ridicule white men and women for a) trusting the media and b) perceiving that their culture was going shall we say down the tubes. The real data were the actual crime rates and why the MSM didn't report those, nor on the demographics of them.

In any case, the researchers were suffering from confirmation bias at least as strongly as their human subjects were, IMO.

[Oct 04, 2017] Trump, Syriza Brexit prove voting is only small part of the battle by Neil Clark

Highly recommended!
Inverted totalitarism is very far from democracy. It just pretends being democracy.
Notable quotes:
"... Trump won the election by attracting working-class 'rust belt' voters away from the Democrats and for offering the prospect of an end to a 'liberal interventionist' foreign policy. Yet just nine months into his Presidency the belief that Trump would mark a 'clean break' with what had gone before is in tatters. National conservative members of his team have been purged, while Trump has proved himself as much of a war hawk as his predecessors. Rather than 'draining the swamp,' The Donald has waded right into it. ..."
"... The events of 2017 plainly prove as I argued here that the US is a regime and not a genuine democracy, and that whoever gets to the White House - sooner or later - will be forced to toe the War Party/Wall Street/Deep State line, regardless of what they promise on the election trail. ..."
Oct 04, 2017 | www.rt.com

If voting changed anything, they'd abolish it. That might sound a bit glib but consider these recent events.

In January 2015, the Greek people, sick and tired of austerity and rapidly plummeting living standards, voted for Syriza, a radical anti-austerity party. The Coalition of the Left, which had only been formed eleven years earlier, won 36.3 percent of the vote and 149 out of the Hellenic Parliament's 300 seats. The Greek people had reasonable hopes their austerity nightmare would end. The victory of Syriza was hailed by progressives across Europe.

Pressure was applied on Greece by 'The Troika' to accept onerous terms for a new bailout. Syriza went to the people in June 2015 to ask them directly in a national referendum if they should accept the terms.

"On Sunday, we are not simply deciding to remain in Europe, we are deciding to live with dignity in Europe," Alexis Tsipras, the leader of Syriza, declared. The Greek people duly gave Tsipras the mandate he asked for, and rejected the bailout terms with 61.3 percent voting 'No.'

Yet, just over two weeks after the referendum, Syriza accepted a bailout package that contained larger cuts in pensions and higher tax increases than the one on offer earlier. The Greek people may as well have stayed at home on 27th June for all the difference their vote made.

Many supporters of Donald Trump in the US are no doubt thinking the same.

Trump won the election by attracting working-class 'rust belt' voters away from the Democrats and for offering the prospect of an end to a 'liberal interventionist' foreign policy. Yet just nine months into his Presidency the belief that Trump would mark a 'clean break' with what had gone before is in tatters. National conservative members of his team have been purged, while Trump has proved himself as much of a war hawk as his predecessors. Rather than 'draining the swamp,' The Donald has waded right into it.

The events of 2017 plainly prove as I argued here that the US is a regime and not a genuine democracy, and that whoever gets to the White House - sooner or later - will be forced to toe the War Party/Wall Street/Deep State line, regardless of what they promise on the election trail.

... ... ... ...

Neil Clark is a journalist, writer, broadcaster and blogger. He has written for many newspapers and magazines in the UK and other countries including The Guardian, Morning Star, Daily and Sunday Express, Mail on Sunday, Daily Mail, Daily Telegraph, New Statesman, The Spectator, The Week, and The American Conservative. He is a regular pundit on RT and has also appeared on BBC TV and radio, Sky News, Press TV and the Voice of Russia. He is the co-founder of the Campaign For Public Ownership @PublicOwnership. His award winning blog can be found at www.neilclark66.blogspot.com. He tweets on politics and world affairs @NeilClark66

[Oct 04, 2017] Living Under the French Hate Speech Laws by Lawrence G. Proulx

Notable quotes:
"... Lawrence G. Proulx is a retired copy editor who worked for more than 30 years at the Washington Times, Washington Post, International Herald Tribune and International New York Times. ..."
Oct 04, 2017 | www.unz.com

What infractions must a speaker or writer or editor or publisher avoid in order to stay within the law in France? Here are the basics, as discussed in the manual "Droits des journalistes et liberté d'expression" by Bernard Dapogny and Marion Dapogny:

False news, "made in bad faith, that disturbs the public order or is capable of disturbing it." Use of a false document in reporting. Attempt to harm the discipline or morale of the armed forces or to hinder a war effort. Defamation. Insult. [The distinction between this and the preceding is that defamation must assert something specific, whereas insult can be merely an offensive word.] Attempt to harm a person's honor or reputation. Defamation of or insult to the judiciary, the military services, various other public bodies including "junior high schools, high schools, universities, the Legion of Honor" as well as "local administrations, the police, hospitals, penitentiaries." Defamation of or insult to persons acting in a position of public authority, including "representatives and senators, ministers and Secretaries of State" as well as "police personnel, magistrates, teachers." Defamation or insult based on race, religion or belonging to an ethnic group or a nation. Defamation or insult based on sex, sexual orientation or handicap. Defamation of or insult to deceased persons, where the offense touches on the honor of the heirs or close survivors. Provocation to the commission of a crime which leads to the crime. Provocation to the commission of a crime which doesn't lead to the crime. Indirect provocation (apology), that is, stating that certain crimes were justified, including "war crimes, crimes against humanity or crimes in collaboration with the enemy." Provocation to hate, violence or discrimination, which could be based on a person's "origin, sex, family situation, state of pregnancy, physical appearance, family name, state of health, handicap, genetic characteristics, morals, sexual orientation, age, opinions, politics, labor union activity, belonging or not belonging, real or supposed to a particular ethnic group, nation, race or religion." Provocation to or apology for terrorism. Contesting "the existence of one or several crimes against humanity as defined by Article 6 of the charter of the International Military Tribunal [the Nuremberg Tribunal] annexed to the London Agreement of August 6, 1945, and which were committed by the members of an organization declared criminal in application of Article 9 of the said charter, by a person recognized as guilty of such crimes by a French jurisdiction or by an international one." Enacted in July 1990 and called the Gayssot Law. Offending the president of the Republic. [This law was repealed in 2013.]

Many of these laws are seldom invoked; others are used frequently. To put flesh on the matter, I offer you a list of cases from 2013 that I put together in 2014 for an article that never found a publisher. (Sorry, but the work of assembling it was too tedious for me to undertake it again, and I think the general impression given by more recent cases would not be different.) Although details of the offensive language are frequently omitted in the news reports from which this list is compiled, a quick look will give a sense of how routine the cases are.

One thing should be mentioned first. An anti-racism law passed in July 1972, commonly called the Pleven Law, strengthened the restrictions on speech and granted to private associations dedicated to fighting racism the right to participate in the prosecution of criminal cases and to claim damages as well. Amendments to the law empowered additional categories of associations, for example, associations working "to defend the moral interests and the honor of veterans and victims of war and of those who died for France" or "to defend the memory of slaves and the honor of their descendants." Such associations are frequently the first to blow the whistle on remarks they consider violative, and because they have the standing to file complaints even when no particular person is targeted by the contested remarks, their legal recognition is an important factor in the number of cases brought before the courts today.

2013 in Review

January

Marie-Josée Roig, the mayor of Avignon, files a complaint for public insults contained in a book purporting to be fiction ("Le Monarque, son fils, son fief") by Marie-Célie Guillaume in which a character who resembles Nicolas Sarkozy, the former president, demands a quick sexual "present" from a woman who resembles Roig.

Daniel Boyer, the mayor of Châteaubernard, files a complaint for public insults after a wave of graffiti attacking him and various acts of vandalism.

Frédéric Haziza, a Jewish journalist, files a complaint for public insult and public insult committed against a person because of his religion, after being attacked on the website of Alain Soral, a self-described anti-Zionist activist. Haziza had refused to invite Soral onto his show to discuss Soral's book "Comprendre l'empire" because of Soral's "clearly antisemitic" views.

March

A judge, Jean-Michel Gentil, files a complaint for contempt and insult against Henri Guaino, a deputy in Parliament, for having said that the judge "dishonored the [state] institutions and justice" after Sarkozy was interrogated on suspicion of abusing the weakness of a rich aged widow.

Bloc Identitaire, a nationalist group, announces its intention to file a complaint for public insult against Yann Galut, a deputy from the Cher department, for having called the members of the bloc "casseurs" (protesters who destroy property) in a Twitter message.

April

Rama Yade, a former secretary of state for human rights and for sports, is found guilty of defamation and insult for eight of twenty-eight contested statements posted on her blog about a political opponent, Manuel Aeschlimann, after she was challenged over her domicile status in the Hauts-de-Seine department.

May

Yvan Benedetti and Alexandre Gabriac, right-wing activists, file a complaint against Jean-François Carenco, the prefect of Lyon, and Albert Doutre, director of public security, for "hateful" public insults (such as "imbecilities" and "thugs") made during the containment of a nationalist youth protest in front of the Socialist Party local headquarters.

June

The city of Angers files suit against a shopkeeper for public insult in the form of signs he put up to protest a proposed tax on businesses that serve clients on the sidewalk, which followed among other things a police check of whether he was serving alcohol without the proper license.

Pierre Dubois, the mayor of Roubaix, and the Human Rights League file a complaint against an unnamed man who, during the course of a heated discussion at a public meeting, suggested that the Roma (Gypsies) be sent to Auschwitz.

July

Sylvie Goy-Chavent, a senator of the Ain department who prepared a report on the security of meat production in France, files a complaint against a website, Internet JSSNews.com, which describes itself as a webzine of Israeli opinion, for calling her such things as "bitch" and "little shit" and writing, among other things, "Goy, she wears her name well."

September

The Union of Jewish Students of France says it will file a complaint against the weekly magazine Valeurs Actuelles for provocation of racial or religious discrimination, hatred or violence. The group describes the cover of the magazine's Sept. 26 issue, which shows a white bust of a woman representing France wearing a black Islamic veil and bearing the title "Naturalized: The Invasion They're Hiding," as "racist" and "hateful." The magazine says in return that it will file a complaint against the group for calumnious denunciation, defamation and attack on freedom of expression.

The Foundation for the Memorial of the Black Slave Trade, along with the Federation of African Associations, the National Union of Overseas France, and other organizations and individual citizens file a complaint against Jean-Sebastien Vialatte, a deputy in Parliament, for public insult, defamation and incitement of racial hatred and racial discrimination, for his remarks after vandalism occurred during a celebration of the Paris Saint-Germain soccer team. He had sent a Twitter message in which he said sardonically that "the people who vandalize are surely descendants of slaves, they have excuses[.] #Taubira [the justice minister] will give them some compensation!"

October

The League for the Judicial Defense of Muslims files a complaint against the weekly newspaper Charlie Hebdo for its July 10 cover which had a cartoon captioned in large letters with "The Koran, it's shit; it doesn't stop bullets"; against the magazine Valeurs Actuelles for its Sept. 26 cover; against the website Riposte Laïque for various articles; and against Manuel Valls, the secretary of the interior, for provocation of discrimination and hate, for saying, "Within ten years we will show, we are in the process of showing, there is a will, that Islam is compatible [sic] with the Republic."

Bruno Gilles, a senator in the Union for a Popular Movement, files a complaint against a socialist, Patrick Mennucci, for "defamation and public insults." "He called me a racist and xenophobe," the senator said.

France-El Djazaïr, a Franco-Algerian friendship association, announces that it will file a complaint against a police officer in the city of Alès for "insults and incitement to xenophobic and Islamophobic hatred"; the officer had put on his Facebook profile page a photo-montage representing the Algerian flag over which was written "I hate Algeria," attached to an image of a man wiping his bottom with the flag.

Bachir Bouhmadou, adjunct general secretary of Citizen Resistance, and Ali Saab, president of the Association of Muslims of the Territory of Belfort, file a complaint against Christine Tasin, a militant with the group Republican Resistance, for videotaped comments opposing ritual Islamic butchery and criticizing Islam.

Abdellah Zekri, the president of the National Observatory Against Islamophobia, says he will file a complaint after his house was defaced with swastikas and graffiti saying "Islam Out" and "Heit [sic] Hitler."

The National Front says it will file a complaint against Christiane Taubira, the justice minister, for public insult for having described the party's way of thinking as "deadly and murderous" and summarizing it thus: "It's the blacks in the branches of the trees, the Arabs in the sea, the homosexuals in the Seine, the Jews in the oven and so forth."

November

A 65-year-old man is found guilty of insulting Claudine Ledoux, the mayor of Charleville-Mézières, on his website, l'Union-l'Ardennais, in a manner described by a regional newspaper as "menacing, racist and sexist," in relation to her being made a knight in the Legion of Honor; he is ordered to pay a fine of one thousand euros and damages for mental distress of the same amount to Ledoux.

The association SOS Racisme says it will file a complaint for incitation to racial hatred against Minute, a 16-page rightist weekly, for its cover with a photo of Justice Minister Christiane Taubira, who is a native of French Guiana, and for the title "Clever Like a Monkey, Taubira Finds the Banana Again," which combines two common French expressions; to have the banana (or the peach) means to be full of energy.

A player files a complaint for racial insult after a rough soccer game (three red cards) between the second-stringers of the Sablé and Lude clubs. A player explained: "This attacker called me a dirty white. I called him a dirty black."

The Movement Against Racism and for the Amity of Peoples files a complaint for provocation of racial hatred against Manuel Valls, minister of the interior, for comments about the Gypsies including, "The Gypsies should stay in Romania or return there." The case will be dismissed in December 2013.

Bob Dylan is put under formal investigation for insult and provocation of racial hatred after the Representative Council of the Croatian Community and Institutions of France files a complaint against both him and the magazine Rolling Stone, the French version of which republished an interview in which he said, "If you've got a slave master or the Klan in your blood, blacks can sense that. Just like Jews can sense Nazi blood and the Serbs can sense Croatian blood." The case will be dismissed in April 2014.

December

The comedian Nicolas Bedos testifies after being accused of complicity in making a public racial insult in an article in the magazine Marianne as well as on its website; among the phrases he used were "Negro bugger," "island indolence" and "lazy natives."

Gérard Huet, the mayor of Loudéac, is sued by the Human Rights League for comments about Gypsies he made at a meeting to discuss expenditures to renovate the area where the Gypsies were living. "They've stolen all our plumbing," he says, and he later objects to the comment of another member of the city council with, "You're defending thieves?" He sues the league in return for harassment.

The comedian Dieudonné files a defamation complaint after Alain Jakubowicz, the president of the International League Against Racism and Antisemitism, describes the "quenelle," a gesture used by the comedian and his fans, as "corresponding to an inverted Nazi salute signifying the sodomizing of the victims of the Holocaust." Dieudonné also says he will sue Le Monde, Le Figaro, BFMTV, France 2 and Manuel Valls, the interior minister.

The imam Hicham El Barkani files a complaint for insult after a protest described as islamophobic against the opening of a mosque in Papeete.

Historians on Trial

Some cases have greater import than those listed above, as when historians are attacked for their work.

The Columbia University historian Bernard Lewis gave an interview to Le Monde on November 16, 1993, in which he discussed the killings of Armenians by Turks during the First World War. In the course of it he said, "If one speaks of genocide, that implies that there was a deliberate policy, a decision, to systematically annihilate the Armenian nation. That is quite doubtful. Turkish documents prove a will of deportation, not of extermination." On January 1, 1994, in response to strong objections to his remarks, he published a further explanation of his position, again in Le Monde, ending with a repetition of his main point, that "no serious proof exists of a decision and a plan by the Ottoman government aiming at exterminating the Armenian nation." He was sued by the Forum of Armenian Associations of France and the International League Against Racism and Antisemitism on the claim that he had "gravely hurt the memory and respect of the survivors and of their families." The civil court of Paris ruled that Lewis had "failed to meet his duty of objectivity and prudence in expressing himself without nuance on so sensitive a subject" and ordered him to pay a franc each to the two associations as well as the cost of publishing the decision. Lewis was also the defendant in other civil cases and one criminal one on the same subject, all of which were dismissed.

In 2001, the French Parliament "publicly recognized the Armenian genocide of 1915," and in 2012 the Parliament passed a law instituting a punishment of imprisonment for one year and a fine of 45,000 euros of anyone who "contests or minimizes in an outrageous fashion" genocides recognized as such by French law, but the Constitutional Council ruled the latter law unconstitutional a month later. Both of the main candidates for president that year, Nicolas Sarkozy and François Hollande, soon announced that they would seek a new law to criminalize denial of the Armenian genocide, and in January 2017 a law took effect providing for a year of prison and a fine of 45,000 euros for those who denied, belittled or "banalized in an outrageous way" recognized genocides, crimes against humanity, and enslavement or exploitation of an enslaved person.

In 2001 Parliament also passed a law recognizing "that the trans-Atlantic trade in Negroes as well as the trade in the Indian Ocean on the one hand, and, on the other hand, the slavery perpetrated starting in the 15th Century, in the Americas and the Caribbean, in the Indian Ocean and in Europe against the Africans, Amerindians, Madagascans and Indians constitute a crime against humanity." Four years later this law was invoked against Olivier Pétré-Grenouilleau, a professor at the University of Southern Brittany. In the course of an interview given on June 12, 2005, in relation to his book "Les traites négrières" (The Negro Slave Trades), which had won many awards including the Senate History Book Prize, Pétré-Grenouilleau rejected a comparison of the slave trades to the Jewish Holocaust: "The slave trades are not genocides. The slave trade didn't have the goal of exterminating a people. The slave was a good that had a market value that one wanted to make work as much as possible." An association representing people of the Caribbean, French Guiana and Réunion filed a complaint against him for denying a crime against humanity and demanded that he be "suspended from his university functions for revisionism." In the vehement debate that ensued, Pétré-Grenouilleau was strongly supported by many prominent historians, and in February 2006, acknowledging this opposition, the association withdrew its complaint.

Shortly before the Pétré-Grenouilleau affair erupted, another "memorial" law had been passed, in January 2005, aimed generally at recognizing the suffering of those French citizens who had been repatriated from North Africa at the end of the Algerian War. This law had itself evoked controversy, by requiring that "school programs recognize in particular the positive role of the French presence overseas, notably in North Africa." A year later the law was emended and the "positive role" removed.

Real Prison Sentences

I know of only three writers who have recently been given sentences that were "fermes," as the French say, that is, that were not suspended as soon as pronounced. Vincent Reynouard is a Frenchman born in 1969 and trained as a chemical engineer who has argued that the Nazis had no plan to exterminate the Jews and that gas chambers were not used to kill people. Among the many videos he has placed on the Internet, there is one in which he expresses his admiration for Hitler; he says, "I think that Hitler was a man too good for the 20th Century, too honest, too straightforward." A month after being arrested in Belgium, Reynouard was extradited to France in August 2010 and served seven and a half months in prison for contesting a crime against humanity. He has continued to produce writings and Internet videos, and in February 2015 he was convicted of contestation of crimes against humanity and sentenced to two years in prison. In November 2016 he was given a five-months sentence for publishing two videos in which he stated that he would offer 5,000 euros to "anyone who can show me, in free, candid and courteous debate, that the homicidal Hitlerian gas chambers are not a myth of history." To avoid a return to prison, he is said to be living in England.

Hervé Ryssen, according to Wikipedia, has been sentenced several times for his writings about Jews on counts, among others, of racial insult, racial defamation, defamation against a group of persons because of their belonging to a certain race, and incitation to racial hatred; and Boris Le Lay, who is living in Japan, has been sentenced in absentia many times, most recently in July this year to serve 32 months in prison and to pay 31,500 euros to the groups representing the supposed victims, for his writings judged to constitute incitement to discrimination and to racial hatred and violence, and to contain public racial insults. Among the recent charges against Le Lay was one of making death threats against activists of the Human Rights League; I have not been able to determine if he was convicted of this; if he was, he appears in that instance to be an exception to the other cases discussed in this article, which involve no violence or threat thereof.

Politicians on Trial

Although many speech cases involve politicians, two in particular deserve mention because they arguably played a role in the presidential election of 2007.

The first round of the previous election, in 2002, had stunned the country as Jean-Marie Le Pen, the leader of the National Front, edged out Lionel Jospin, the Socialist candidate, for a place in the second round. Le Pen's share of the first-round vote was only 16.9 percent, but Jospin was handicapped by an abundance of rivals on the left who split the vote. Before the second round, a broad denunciatory publicity campaign to block Le Pen took place, and his opponent, Jacques Chirac, the incumbent, refused to debate him. Chirac was re-elected with 82 percent of the vote.

Before the next election, in 2007, both Le Pen and the party's second-ranking member, Bruno Gollnisch, would be defendants in high-profile cases over things they said.

On January 7, 2005, the rightist weekly Rivarol published an interview in which Le Pen said: "In France, at least, the German occupation wasn't particularly inhumane, even if there were slip-ups, inevitable in a country of 550,000 square kilometers." He also related a story about a German lieutenant, "crazy with pain" after an attack on a train in which many young soldiers died, who he said would have shot up a village had the Gestapo not intervened. Various groups filed complaints, and in March an investigation was formally opened. In February 2008 he was found guilty of complicity in the contestation of crimes against humanity and complicity in apology for war crimes. In January 2009 the appeals court in Paris confirmed the verdict on the first count but threw out the war-crimes verdict. In April 2011 the Court of Cassation overturned the crimes-against-humanity verdict, and remanded the matter to the appeals court, which again found him guilty in February 2012, a judgment confirmed by the Court of Cassation in June 2013. Le Pen was sentenced to three months in prison (suspended) and assessed a fine of 10,000 euros, and the editor of Rivarol and the interviewer were fined 5,000 euros and 2,000 euros respectively. Three of the complainant groups were awarded damages of 5,000 euros each, and Rivarol was ordered to pay for the publication of the decision in Le Figaro.

In the other case, Gollnisch, a professor of Japanese language and culture at the University of Lyon who at the time was director general of the National Front (before the ascension of Marine Le Pen), was charged with contestation of crimes against humanity for responses to a journalist's questions at a press conference in October 2004. No electronic recording was made, but he was quoted as saying: "There is no serious historian who accepts completely the conclusions of the Nuremberg Tribunal; I think that the discussion should remain free concerning the drama of the concentration camps. The number of deaths, the manner in which the people died -- historians have the right to discuss. I don't deny that there were homicidal gas chambers, but the discussion should remain free." In 2006, before the verdict was rendered, he was suspended from his university post for five years.

During the trial Gollnisch was questioned intensively for hours one day in November 2006 over his true beliefs on the matter, and the attorney examining him, Alain Jakubowicz, representing the International League Against Racism and Antisemitism, said he would withdraw from the case if Gollnisch would only admit "that the organized extermination of the Jews of Europe by the Nazi regime during the Second World War constitute an incontestable crime against humanity perpetrated notably by the use of gas chambers." According to Le Monde, Gollnisch appeared surprised and hesitated before giving an answer that might alienate the "hard fringe of his movement." Gollnisch replied, "Completely." Asked to repeat his answer, he said: "My answer is affirmative." He was convicted in January 2007, three months before the first round of the presidential election, and sentenced to serve three months in prison (suspended) and pay a fine of 5,000 euros. An appeals court in February 2008 confirmed the conviction and added fines totaling 39,000 euros to be paid to nine associations devoted to fighting racism or representing people deported from France during World War Two. But in June 2009 the Court of Cassation, judging that his contradictory remarks as presented to the court did not constitute contestation, overturned the verdict without possibility of retrial.

However these cases might be viewed in relation to freedom of speech, they also merit attention from a purely political point of view. In the 2002 election, Jean-Marie Le Pen scored an upset in the first round; in 2007, Nicolas Sarkozy won the presidency by, in the view of many commentators, "borrowing the discourse" and luring the voters of Le Pen's party. In between, both Le Pen and his righthand man were put on trial, to the accompaniment of much public commentary, on charges that suggested their approbation of Nazi atrocities. Under such circumstances, borrowing and luring may be much easier than would otherwise be the case.

Censored Books

In September 2013 the International League Against Racism and Antisemitism sought an injunction from a court in Bobigny to order the excision of passages from five books republished by Kontre Kulture, a publishing enterprise whose publication director is Alain Soral. David-Olivier Kaminski, an attorney for the league, described Soral as someone known as a "vector of hate" and characterized the re-editions as a "provocation, with the purpose of arousing tensions." The league also asked for 20,000 euros in damages for each of the five books.

In November the court ordered the withdrawal from sale of one of the books, "L'Anthologie des propos contre les juifs, le judaïsme et le sionisme" by Paul-Eric Blanrue, which had originally been published by another publisher in 2007, and the removal of certain passages from the four others, all of which were reprints of books published long ago: "La France juive" by Edouard Drumont, "Le salut par les juifs" by Léon Bloy, "Le juif international" by Henry Ford, et "La controverse de Sion" by Douglas Reed. The court judged that the works constituted "insult toward a group of persons because of their belonging to a specific religion," "negation of crimes against humanity," and "provocation of racial hatred." Kontre Kulture and Soral were also ordered to pay 8,000 euros each to the league as well as a part of its legal expenses. In December 2014 a court overturned the previous ruling on the "Anthologie" and it was again allowed to be sold.

The media reaction focused principally on the book by Léon Bloy. Bloy's great-grandchild, Alexis Galpérine, reminded readers in Le Figaro that Bloy was a "philosemite" and that "Le salut par les juifs" had been recommended as a "book against antisemitism" by Franz Kafka. Pierre Glaudes, a professor at the Sorbonne, wrote in the weekly magazine Le Nouvel Observateur: "This decision of justice arouses astonishment and disquiet by attacking a literary work that is 122 years old and has been republished several times without having attracted lightning strikes by justice. This condemnation sets a dangerous precedent. Why not censor 'The Merchant of Venice' by Shakespeare, 'Gobseck' by Balzac or 'Money' by Zola for their antisemitic statements?"

Stage Show Blocked

The case of the comedian Dieudonné M'bala M'bala merits notice particularly for the legal manner in which the performance of his show "The Wall" in Nantes was forbidden in January 2014.

Dieudonné, the son of a Cameroonian man and a French woman, performed for several years early in his career with a Jewish partner, and their sketches often made fun of racism. Eventually he came to hold Jews responsible in large part for the slave trade, he expressed resentment at the attention given to the Holocaust in comparison with that given to the slavery, and he came to regard Jews not as fellow victims of prejudice but instead as important members of a power structure in which people of the Third World and of Third World origin are kept down. His new acts were sharply criticized, and he responded with provocations such as including Robert Faurisson, notorious as a denier of the Holocaust and gas chambers, in his acts. Dieudonné was found guilty of racial insult or defamation on numerous occasions, for example, for saying that a television host financed the Israeli Army, "which doesn't hesitate to kill Palestinian children"; for characterizing Holocaust remembrance as "memorial pornography"; for stating that the directors of a pro-Israeli website were trying to paint him as an antisemite and "son of Hitler"; for describing the International League Against Racism and Antisemitism as one of the "mafia-like associations that organize censorship, that deny all concepts of racism except that concerning the Jews. In fact, they are nothing but Israeli agents."

Largely excluded from television and other standard venues, he has nonetheless maintained an enthusiastic and politically and racially mixed following through his stage shows and videos. In January 2014 his stage show "The Wall" was challenged by the government as a threat to public order and to the dignity of the human person. Its performance in Nantes was banned by the prefecture of the Loire-Atlantic region, which judged that it contained antisemitic remarks that would incite racial hatred and constitute an apology for discriminations, persecutions and exterminations perpetrated in the course of the Second World War. The ban was lifted on the day of the show by the region's administrative tribunal, which held that the show "could not be regarded as having as its essential purpose an affront at human dignity," but the tribunal's ruling was overturned and the ban reinstated later the same day by a judge of the Council of State, the highest court in the administrative-law system, after an urgent request by Interior Minister Manuel Valls.

Conclusion

French people in general seem content with the way free speech questions are handled. If in private they will occasionally murmur that "one can't say anything anymore," in public there is very little disagreement over the necessity of punishing infractions involving remarks characterized as racist or antisemitic or "negationist." Prominent cases, such as the many brought against Jean-Marie Le Pen, are approved, explicitly or implicitly, by the vast majority of commentators in the press and on the radio and television. Even publications that push the limits of public tolerance in other ways -- for example, with crude or even violently obscene and sacrilegious writings and cartoons -- do not defend the targets of anti-racism or anti-contestation laws on general free-speech grounds; quite the contrary.

There is no high-profile organization or figure that publicly espouses the famous words that Voltaire apparently never really said, "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it." Over all the attitude is closer to that attributed to the revolutionary Saint-Just, "No liberty for the enemies of liberty." The slogan of the International League Against Racism and Antisemitism, one of the organizations most active in denouncing speech offenders, is "Racism is not an opinion but a criminal offense." Even a group such as Reporters Without Borders, which works to further the freedom of the press throughout the world, generally makes no objection to the laws discussed above, although it did oppose the one criminalizing the denial of legally recognized genocides. In an interview, Antoine Héry, in charge of the group's activities in the European Union and the Balkans, explained to me: "I think that the problem in France is that there really are racist statements -- many. This climate exists; it isn't a phantasm. There is, from this point of view, a necessity to regulate a little the domain of speech, because there are abuses. I don't think that in the United States one finds this sort of mass behavior -- because it is massive, it isn't just one guy in his corner doing his thing."

There have been dissident voices on the subject of the criminalization of so-called negationism and other "memorial laws." One of the most prominent is a group called Liberté pour l'Histoire, which was formed in 2005 in response to what seemed about to become a wave of such laws. In a public appeal signed by nineteen historians in December of that year and later by hundreds more, it stated that "in a free state, it is not the business of the parliament nor of the judicial authority to define historical truth" and called for "the abrogation of these legislative measures unworthy of a democratic regime." But even this unambiguous stand is not so solid as it might appear. In 2010, at the International Congress of Historical Sciences in Amsterdam, the group's president, Pierre Nora, spoke of the Gayssot Law and stated: "It is now twenty years since the law was voted, and even if we continue to regret it intellectually speaking, the association Liberté pour l'Histoire does not campaign for its suppression and does not wish to challenge it for the simple reason that this legal and official challenge would only be seen in the public eye as authorizing and even encouraging the denial of the Jewish genocide." There could hardly be a better illustration of the French ambivalence on the matter than this.

This ambivalence derives from an evident fact: the characteristics of the system that make it vicious from a free-speech perspective -- the vagueness and elasticity of the definitions of the crimes, the politically selective application of the laws, the tendency of the trials to become examinations of the defendants' thoughts and beliefs rather than merely of their public statements -- are virtues for a system of political repression, and in France there is a general consensus that the "extreme right" needs to be kept down and that expressions of "racism" and "antisemitism" deserve to be squelched. While there are pockets of dissidence -- such as the websites Polémia and Boulevard Voltaire, the independent rightist station Radio Courtoisie and the Internet television channel TV Libertés -- the assumption remains widespread that anyone arguing that freedom should extend to such speech must have evil motives.

The legal procedures through which speech is restricted do sometimes come under criticism. For instance, the ban on Dieudonné's show "The Wall" was widely criticized because it imposed a prior restraint, seen as equivalent to censorship in a way that punishing the performer afterward would not be. Jack Lang, who was minister of culture in the Mitterrand administration, said that the Council of State had opened a Pandora's box of potential abuses; he objected as well to basing the decision on a vague principle of "human dignity" and pointed out that the risk to public order was not credible. Michel Tubiana, a former president of the Human Rights League, which also objected to the ban, told me in an interview that Dieudonné should have been allowed to do his show and then he could have been prosecuted in the normal way. On the league's website, one reads: "Clearly it is necessary to let nothing pass, to systematically bring prosecutions against the delinquent, to denounce systematically his crimes."

For the future, there is pressure to increase the surveillance, particularly of the Internet. At its annual dinners, which are grand affairs similar to those of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee in the United States, the Representative Council of Jewish Institutions of France presses the attending government officials hard for ever more stringent restrictions, especially on Internet communications. In March 2016, for example, its president, Roger Cukierman, urged that the state of emergency "should also apply to the Internet," and this year its new president, Francis Kalifat, called for "zero tolerance" for bloggers "of hateful content."

In the meantime, France, like the other countries of the European Union, is a party to the Council Framework Decision "on combating certain forms and expressions of racism and xenophobia by means of criminal law," adopted unanimously by the ministers in the Council of the European Union in November 2008. In a report in January 2014 on the implementation of this decision, the European Commission stated: "Member States must ensure that the following intentional conduct is punishable when directed against a group of persons or a member of such a group defined by reference to race, colour, religion, descent or national or ethnic origin:

publicly inciting to violence or hatred, including by public dissemination or distribution of tracts, pictures or other material; publicly condoning, denying or grossly trivialising crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes as defined in Articles 6, 7 and 8 of the Statute of the International Criminal Court; or the crimes defined in Article 6 of the Charter of the International Military Tribunal appended to the London Agreement of 8 August 1945, when the conduct is carried out in a manner likely to incite violence or hatred against such a group or one or more of its members."

And France does its part, by continuing to reinforce its laws. On August 5 of this year it made illegal any "nonpublic" insult or defamation (as, for example, made during a meeting in a company's offices) "made toward a person or group of persons because of their origin or belonging or not belonging, real or supposed, to an ethnic group, a nation, a putative race or a particular religion; [or] because of their sex, their sexual orientation or gender identity, or their handicap."

The law provides for fines of 1,500 euros initially and 3,000 euros for recidivists. It also gives a judge the option of augmenting the punishment with a compulsory course in citizenship.

Lawrence G. Proulx is a retired copy editor who worked for more than 30 years at the Washington Times, Washington Post, International Herald Tribune and International New York Times.

Diversity Heretic > , October 4, 2017 at 4:51 am GMT

"[Neo]Liberalism" is a religion. It defines orthodoxy and heresy and punishes the latter. It asserts the right to punish those who traduce its icons and who violate its taboos.

AKAHorace > , October 4, 2017 at 4:56 am GMT

Would it solve or worsen problems if they reintroduced dueling ?

Achmed E. Newman > , Website October 4, 2017 at 7:54 am GMT

From all this long history of curtailment and punishment of free speech of various sorts, it seems like the French never really had their hearts in it, whether they had their constitution of the 5th Republic with its weasel-out words "but shall be responsible for such abuses of this freedom as shall be defined by law." or even if they had had the same supposed "law of the land" as the US Constitution with its Amendment I.

Our Constitution was upheld pretty well for about 3/4 of the total time since it was written, but it takes the kind of people who care about basic principles. That would pretty much mean mostly descendants of the Founders with only such influx of newcomers that could be assimilated into the culture that values basic principles over political expediency. It goes without saying that women shouldn't have been allowed to vote here, but I said it just in case. In France, I think there weren't so many people that ever got the real idea of free speech and the quote that Voltaire didn't say.

Worse yet for France is the codifying of certain areas of knowledge, normally subject to debate, as "Government-Approved Non-arguable Truth" , which is what the legal maneuvers you write about amount to. Of course, the elites, along with the cucks of the land arrange these Truths to be based on any opposition to foreign immigrant invasion, defending of one's race, but opposition to the Government will always be number 1, as that locks it all in. It's a nice Catch-22 there – "YOUR government's speech policy clearly specifies what you can and can't talk about. The speech policy happens to be one of the things you can't talk about."

The Ministry of Truth is probably not even necessary anymore, as it seems like the unprincipled French have let the bulk of it be put in place already – maybe the Ministry of Truth is all part of "The Cloud". Instead of the answer to, or way out of, this 1984 society lying "with the proles", I'd say it's more up to the hackers now.

conatus > , October 4, 2017 at 9:30 am GMT

Definitional hypertrophy
"This ambivalence derives from an evident fact: the characteristics of the system that make it vicious from a free-speech perspective -- the vagueness and elasticity of the definitions of the crimes"
In an earlier piece Mr. Proulx wrote about 'defintional hypertrophy' which seems to characterize our Zeitgeist. A great great phrase which sums up the elasticized properties of the big three sins of our times, racism, sexism and homophobia.
Racism used to mean Birmingham Regulations regarding public facilities and separate but equal schools, now due to definitional hypertrophy it means 'noticing any racial characteristics' especially if you are white. Sexism used to mean, say banning women from non nurturing occupations and now it means saying "You look good!" to a woman in a absent minded fit of masculinity. Homophobia used to mean 'Hey keep it in the closet pal i don't want to think about what you do" and now homophobia means you must clap loudly and quickly at all homosexual activities or Homo Tinkerbell will die.
Over time these definitions have expanded as the Majority's freedoms have contracted.

Jason Liu > , October 4, 2017 at 10:37 am GMT

Free speech is an illusion, it seems. Most people want to shut their enemies up, and often succeed in doing so. Some countries are just more upfront about it.

Wizard of Oz > , October 4, 2017 at 11:52 am GMT

Is there not class distinction which helps fo understand what these laws are about. Any intelligènt edicated person ought to be verbally adroit enough to convey his meaning in an indirect way so as to avoid the thrust of the law. Thus, e.g.

I think we should discuss how we can combat the very commonly stated view that X and the alarming number of people who can see nothing wrong with it. It is not a matter so much as truth or falsehood but we need to ensure that children are indoctrinated from an early age so they will never even ask the disturbing queston "is this true?". By the time they have grown up to participate in the political life of the nation the whole question will have been swallowed by a memory hole and become a non issue. Much safer for the tranquillity of society than continued cantankerous debates erupting over the truth or falsity of something permanently consigned to be false.

IndieRafael > , October 4, 2017 at 2:48 pm GMT

Long but worth it. As author Proulx says, you can skip over sections in the middle and jump to his conclusion. This is one of the most thoroughly researched, best organized and most clearly written articles I've ever read on Unz.com. The internet needs more copy editors writing like this.

The article is really helpful in understanding the current situation in France.

The European context is mentioned at the end. It would be interesting to read a comparison of France and other European countries.

anonymous > , Disclaimer October 4, 2017 at 5:47 pm GMT

News censorship rises where news integrity falls. Eastern regimes know well harmful effects of censors and informants.

Mulegino1 > , October 4, 2017 at 6:15 pm GMT

In the land of "Liberte, Fraternite, et Egalite" there is from all appearances very little "liberte" and that little international clique of "freres" enjoys a lot more "egalite" than the rest.

Europeancivilwar.com > , Website October 4, 2017 at 6:29 pm GMT

I think the situation in Spain has shown just how little the EU pretenses of 'democracy' mean. Indeed, we all know the famous quote about what 'democracy' really means.

Regrettably though I think things will need to get much worse before they get better. I think the 'normal' people will need Muslims to make up at least 50% of the overall population before they realize just what a horrific future they are heading to..

[Oct 04, 2017] Islamic threat as subsititute for soviet threat that diassered

Oct 04, 2017 | www.unz.com


renfro > , October 4, 2017 at 4:33 am GMT

One of the first things I came across when trying to pinpoint when the Islamic threat was first being 'ginned up' in the US was this essay written in 1992. It is so accurate it could have been written yesterday. I think anyone could guess at which foreign country had the individuals and journalist and congressional clout in the US to create the idea of a 'Green Peril'.

https://www.cato.org/publications/policy-analysis/green-peril-creating-islamic-fundamentalist-threat

The "Green Peril": Creating the Islamic Fundamentalist Threat
By Leon T. Hadar
August 27, 1992

excerpts..

The Making of a "Peril"

The Islamic threat argument is becoming increasingly popular with some segments of the American foreign policy establishment. They are encouraged by foreign governments who, for reasons of self-interest, want to see Washington embroiled in the coming West vs. Islam confrontation. The result is the construction of the new peril, a process that does not reflect any grand conspiracy but that nevertheless has its own logic, rules and timetables.
Indeed, like the Red Menace of the Cold War era, the Green Peril is perceived as a cancer spreading around the globe,undermining the legitimacy of Western values and political systems. The cosmic importance of the confrontation would make it necessary for Washington to adopt a long term diplomatic and military strategy; to forge new and solid alliances; to prepare the American people for a never ending struggle that will test their resolve; and to develop new containment policies, new doctrines, and a new foreign policy elite with its "wise men" and "experts."

The creation of a peril usually starts with mysterious "sources" and unnamed officials who leak information, float trial balloons, and warn about the coming threat. Those sources reflect debates and discussions taking place within government. Their information is then augmented by colorful intelligence reports that finger exotic and conspiratorial terrorists and military advisers. Journalists then search for the named and other villains. The media end up finding corroboration from foreign sources who form an informal coalition with the sources in the U.S. government and help the press uncover further information substantiating the threat coming from the new bad guys.

In addition, think tanks studies and op-ed pieces add momentum to the official spin. Their publication is followed by congressional hearings, policy conferences, and public press briefings. A governmental policy debate ensues, producing studies, working papers, and eventually doctrines and policies that become part of the media's spin. The new villain is now ready to be integrated into the popular culture to help to mobilize public support for a new crusade. In the case of the Green Peril, that process has been under way for several months.

The Israeli government and its supporters in Washington are trying to play the Islamic card. The specter of Central Asian republics and Iran equipped with nuclear weapons helps Israel to reduce any potential international pressure on it to place its own nuclear capabilities and strategy on the negotiating table. More important, perhaps, the Green Peril could revive, in the long run, Israel's role as America's strategic asset, which was eroded as a result of the end of the Cold War
The operational message is that the United States "must refocus its policy on the basic problems facing the Islamic world rather than only the Arab-Israeli conflict."[23] Jerusalem's attempts to turn that conflict into a Jewish-Moslem confrontation and to place America on its side to help contain radical Moslem forces in the region may become a self-fulfilling prophecy. The result is likely to be strengthened anti-American feelings in the Middle East and anti-American terrorist acts, which, in turn, will invite a new round of American military intervention."

[Oct 04, 2017] Creating taboos is the slicing salami tactic

How marginalization of opposition works: Once the extreme positions on an issue (left of right) are rendered taboo and excluded, the next position in (which the lobbyists could not easily succeed in banning as "extreme" initially) becomes the new "extreme". As a bonus its advocates can be accused of being closet supporters of the banned position and as such ostracized.
Oct 04, 2017 | www.unz.com

Randal > ,

October 4, 2017 at 4:51 pm GMT

@Clay Bishop

I've been banned from the Antiwar comment section more than once for explicitly mentioning Jewish influence on foreign policy without masking it with terms like "Zionists," "Neocons," "Likudniks," or the "War Party."

As much as the older crowd on our political spectrum hate to admit it, Daily Stormer and Pol have actually opened up a space for a rational discussion of Jewish influence on politics. When you have anonymous accounts literally calling for all Jews to be gassed, a couple pundits talking soberly about Jewish influence seem fairly moderate by comparison.

And the readers of DS and Pol are definitely the younger generation who will make up the majority of the Right in the future. I envision a day in the near future when the mention of Israel elicits boos at the Republican National Convention.

As much as the older crowd on our political spectrum hate to admit it, Daily Stormer and Pol have actually opened up a space for a rational discussion of Jewish influence on politics. When you have anonymous accounts literally calling for all Jews to be gassed, a couple pundits talking soberly about Jewish influence seem fairly moderate by comparison.

This is of course exactly how banning opinions distorts debate and why identity lobbyists love to impose such taboos on discourse.

Once the extreme positions on an issue are rendered taboo and excluded, the next position in (which the lobbyists could not easily succeed in banning as "extreme" initially) becomes the apparent "extreme" and as a bonus its advocates can be accused of being closet supporters of the banned extreme. They then have to spend all their time and energy defending themselves against being harassed and trying to word their arguments carefully so they can't be accused of falling foul of the taboo (or as with some of the accusations against Giraldi's piece here – of not trying hard enough to avoid the supposed appearance of falling foul of it).

That's how proposals to limit mass immigration are labelled "race hatred" and banned in many forums, and how reasonable raising of an important issue such as in Giraldi's piece gets one smeared as an "antisemite" (or potentially prosecuted in the UK) and excluded from mainstream publications.

Rurik > , October 4, 2017 at 5:47 pm GMT

@Randal


As much as the older crowd on our political spectrum hate to admit it, Daily Stormer and Pol have actually opened up a space for a rational discussion of Jewish influence on politics. When you have anonymous accounts literally calling for all Jews to be gassed, a couple pundits talking soberly about Jewish influence seem fairly moderate by comparison.
This is of course exactly how banning opinions distorts debate and why identity lobbyists love to impose such taboos on discourse.

Once the extreme positions on an issue are rendered taboo and excluded, the next position in (which the lobbyists could not easily succeed in banning as "extreme" initially) becomes the apparent "extreme" and as a bonus its advocates can be accused of being closet supporters of the banned extreme. They then have to spend all their time and energy defending themselves against being harassed and trying to word their arguments carefully so they can't be accused of falling foul of the taboo (or as with some of the accusations against Giraldi's piece here - of not trying hard enough to avoid the supposed appearance of falling foul of it).

That's how proposals to limit mass immigration are labelled "race hatred" and banned in many forums, and how reasonable raising of an important issue such as in Giraldi's piece gets one smeared as an "antisemite" (or potentially prosecuted in the UK) and excluded from mainstream publications.

Once the extreme positions on an issue are rendered taboo and excluded, the next position in (which the lobbyists could not easily succeed in banning as "extreme" initially) becomes the apparent "extreme" and as a bonus its advocates can be accused of being closet supporters of the banned extreme.

I'm glad your insightful comment was recognized as such

Reminds me of how Marine Le Pen's father was marginalized as an 'anti-Semite' (for simply telling the obvious truth), and once he was effectively maligned, (they) set their sights on the moderate daughter, as being "far right", which simply means not as far left as (they) are.

today they call the AfD "far right", in order to marginalize their extremely reasonable and moderate positions – as advocating an invasion of Poland

and of course, were Mr. G to sob his contrition and re-write the article, (not likely ; ), they'd simply set their sights on the next target, having moved the goal posts and tilted the playing field always more and more in their favor.

[Oct 01, 2017] Neoliberalism Is a Political Project

Notable quotes:
"... I've always treated neoliberalism as a political project carried out by the corporate capitalist class as they felt intensely threatened both politically and economically towards the end of the 1960s into the 1970s. They desperately wanted to launch a political project that would curb the power of labor. ..."
"... In many respects the project was a counterrevolutionary project. It would nip in the bud what, at that time, were revolutionary movements in much of the developing world ..."
"... So in that situation there was, in effect, a global threat to the power of the corporate capitalist class and therefore the question was, What to do?. The ruling class wasn't omniscient but they recognized that there were a number of fronts on which they had to struggle: the ideological front, the political front, and above all they had to struggle to curb the power of labor by whatever means possible. Out of this there emerged a political project which I would call neoliberalism. ..."
"... The ideological front amounted to following the advice of a guy named Lewis Powell . He wrote a memo saying that things had gone too far, that capital needed a collective project. The memo helped mobilize the Chamber of Commerce and the Business Roundtable. ..."
"... Ideas were also important to the ideological front. The judgment at that time was that universities were impossible to organize because the student movement was too strong and the faculty too liberal-minded, so they set up all of these think tanks like the Manhattan Institute, the Heritage Foundation, the Ohlin Foundation. These think tanks brought in the ideas of Freidrich Hayek and Milton Friedman and supply-side economics. ..."
"... This process took a long time. I think now we've reached a point where you don't need something like the Heritage Foundation anymore. Universities have pretty much been taken over by the neoliberal projects surrounding them. ..."
"... With respect to labor, the challenge was to make domestic labor competitive with global labor. One way was to open up immigration. In the 1960s, for example, Germans were importing Turkish labor, the French Maghrebian labor, the British colonial labor. But this created a great deal of dissatisfaction and unrest. ..."
"... Instead they chose the other way -- to take capital to where the low-wage labor forces were. But for globalization to work you had to reduce tariffs and empower finance capital, because finance capital is the most mobile form of capital. So finance capital and things like floating currencies became critical to curbing labor. ..."
"... At the same time, ideological projects to privatize and deregulate created unemployment. So, unemployment at home and offshoring taking the jobs abroad, and a third component: technological change , deindustrialization through automation and robotization. That was the strategy to squash labor. ..."
"... It was an ideological assault but also an economic assault. To me this is what neoliberalism was about: it was that political project ..."
"... I think they just intuitively said, We gotta crush labor, how do we do it? And they found that there was a legitimizing theory out there, which would support that. ..."
Oct 01, 2017 | www.jacobinmag.com

I've always treated neoliberalism as a political project carried out by the corporate capitalist class as they felt intensely threatened both politically and economically towards the end of the 1960s into the 1970s. They desperately wanted to launch a political project that would curb the power of labor.

In many respects the project was a counterrevolutionary project. It would nip in the bud what, at that time, were revolutionary movements in much of the developing world -- Mozambique, Angola, China etc. -- but also a rising tide of communist influences in countries like Italy and France and, to a lesser degree, the threat of a revival of that in Spain.

Even in the United States, trade unions had produced a Democratic Congress that was quite radical in its intent. In the early 1970s they, along with other social movements, forced a slew of reforms and reformist initiatives which were anti-corporate: the Environmental Protection Agency , the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, consumer protections, and a whole set of things around empowering labor even more than it had been empowered before.

So in that situation there was, in effect, a global threat to the power of the corporate capitalist class and therefore the question was, What to do?. The ruling class wasn't omniscient but they recognized that there were a number of fronts on which they had to struggle: the ideological front, the political front, and above all they had to struggle to curb the power of labor by whatever means possible. Out of this there emerged a political project which I would call neoliberalism.

BSR Can you talk a bit about the ideological and political fronts and the attacks on labor? DH The ideological front amounted to following the advice of a guy named Lewis Powell . He wrote a memo saying that things had gone too far, that capital needed a collective project. The memo helped mobilize the Chamber of Commerce and the Business Roundtable.

Ideas were also important to the ideological front. The judgment at that time was that universities were impossible to organize because the student movement was too strong and the faculty too liberal-minded, so they set up all of these think tanks like the Manhattan Institute, the Heritage Foundation, the Ohlin Foundation. These think tanks brought in the ideas of Freidrich Hayek and Milton Friedman and supply-side economics.

The idea was to have these think tanks do serious research and some of them did -- for instance, the National Bureau of Economic Research was a privately funded institution that did extremely good and thorough research. This research would then be published independently and it would influence the press and bit by bit it would surround and infiltrate the universities.

This process took a long time. I think now we've reached a point where you don't need something like the Heritage Foundation anymore. Universities have pretty much been taken over by the neoliberal projects surrounding them.

With respect to labor, the challenge was to make domestic labor competitive with global labor. One way was to open up immigration. In the 1960s, for example, Germans were importing Turkish labor, the French Maghrebian labor, the British colonial labor. But this created a great deal of dissatisfaction and unrest.

Instead they chose the other way -- to take capital to where the low-wage labor forces were. But for globalization to work you had to reduce tariffs and empower finance capital, because finance capital is the most mobile form of capital. So finance capital and things like floating currencies became critical to curbing labor.

At the same time, ideological projects to privatize and deregulate created unemployment. So, unemployment at home and offshoring taking the jobs abroad, and a third component: technological change , deindustrialization through automation and robotization. That was the strategy to squash labor.

It was an ideological assault but also an economic assault. To me this is what neoliberalism was about: it was that political project, and I think the bourgeoisie or the corporate capitalist class put it into motion bit by bit.

I don't think they started out by reading Hayek or anything, I think they just intuitively said, We gotta crush labor, how do we do it? And they found that there was a legitimizing theory out there, which would support that.

[Sep 24, 2017] How Sony, Obama, Seth Rogen and the CIA Secretly Planned to Force Regime Change in North Korea by Tim Shorrock

Highly recommended!
Notable quotes:
"... The U.S., he warned in a recent speech on Capitol Hill that I attended, must deliver Kim a simple message: "We know the only thing you care about is your regime's survival. Either denuclearize or we will take actions politically to destabilize your regime." His talk was a basic primer for this "uprising" from within, which is exactly what the Bush administration sought in Iraq when it invaded in 2003. ..."
"... K-Pop, the South Korean musical genre that's popular around the world, could be another weapon: "It's acidic as far the regime is concerned." And commercials about South Korean life planted in DVDs smuggled into the North "would be terrible for Kim Jong-un." ..."
"... The purpose of the operation, he said, is to convince the people of the DPRK that their "paranoid" leader is not a "god," and to plant the idea that his country is unstable: "If that's in his mind, it will affect his behavior." In short, a psy-op. ..."
"... Why Bennett? His official biography states that he has worked for the Office of the Secretary of Defense, U.S. Forces in South Korea and Japan, the U.S. Pacific Command as well as the South Korean and Japanese militaries. According an email he wrote to Sony's Lynton in 2014, he got his start in Asia as a Mormon missionary to Japan and began working on Korea in 1989 "at the request of the Pentagon." By 2014, he said, he had made over 100 trips to South Korea to advise the U.S. Army and senior South Korean military personnel "on how to deter North Korea." Even though he has never been to the DPRK, he bases his knowledge of the country on his "extensive interviews with senior North Korean defectors." ..."
"... The film allegedly sparked North Korea to hack Sony and leak thousands of internal Sony emails. North Korea also warned the Obama administration not to allow the film to be released, branding it "an act of terrorism." So, when Bennett invited questions at his congressional briefing, I asked him: what was his involvement in The Interview , and did he think it was effective? ..."
"... As Americans come to grips with Trump's confrontational policies with North Korea, it's easy to forget that U.S. relations with North Korea reached a nadir under Barack Obama. Here's why: Bennett's regime change proposals were, and are, the culmination of policies hatched by Obama's left-liberal administration to weaken Kim's hold on power and hasten what they considered North Korea's inevitable collapse. Obviously they failed, yet elements of the plan still abound. ..."
"... To head off that development, in 1994 President Bill Clinton negotiated an agreement with North Korea's founding leader, Kim Il-sung, that sought to allay his government's fears by ending America's hostile policies. Under the "Agreed Framework," the DPRK shut down its one test reactor -- its only source for plutonium -- in return for U.S. shipments of oil for its power grid and two new light-water reactors to be built by an international consortium. Most importantly, both sides agreed to end mutual hostility by fully normalizing their economic and political relations. ..."
"... The agreement, which froze North Korea's nuclear program for 12 years, held for several years. But in 2002, the Bush administration accused the DPRK -- falsely it turned out -- of building a secret uranium program as a second route to a bomb and tore up the framework. In response, North Korea, which was by now led by Kim Jong-il, Kim Jong-un's father, restarted its nuclear program, and by 2006 had exploded its first nuclear device. ..."
"... Surprisingly, Bush reopened negotiations only three weeks later, and by 2007, under the rubric of the Six Party Talks, the DPRK agreed again to freeze its program. That accord was still pending when Obama was elected in 2009. He had run for president pledging to talk to Iran and North Korea, but quickly changed course on Korea. ..."
"... Obama and his top adviser on Asia, Jeff Bader, decided in 2009 to side with the new, conservative president of South Korea, Lee Myung Bak, who had campaigned against engagement and demanded stronger pressure tactics against the DPRK. Soon, the idea of direct talks and regular was abandoned. Officially, the doctrine for replacing direct engagement with pressure tactics was known as "strategic patience." Behind it was a mistaken assumption!the same one made by Bennett today!that North Korea was headed for collapse, making even the chance of an agreement a futile exercise. ..."
"... It's difficult to overstate how reactionary Obama's policies became. In contrast to Bush, and even Trump, Obama flatly rejected the idea of negotiating with the North without a prior commitment to denuclearization. He also expressed no interest in the DPRK's offer to sign a peace agreement. More disturbingly, he was the first president in history to refer to the Korean War, which has been universally recognized as a bloody stalemate, as a "victory." In doing so, Obama revived a right-wing trope that was first used in the 1950s and resurrected during the Bush years by David Frum and other neocons. So from the onset, Obama caused America's policy toward Korea to take a sharp right turn. ..."
"... But the U.S. government had no doubts at all. In January 2015, Obama called the DPRK's alleged hack an "act of war" and used it as an excuse to launch one of the most aggressive American actions on behalf of a private corporation in U.S. history. His executive order imposed sanctions against three North Korean agencies and nearly a dozen "critical North Korean operatives" in retaliation for the hack. The Treasury Department said the sanctions were in direct response to North Korea's "numerous provocations, particularly the recent cyber-attack targeting Sony Pictures Entertainment." The action marked a major escalation, returning "the U.S. to a posture of open hostility with its oldest remaining Cold War adversary," the Wall Street Journal noted . ..."
"... Shortly after these actions were taken, the New York Times published a revelation that raised serious questions about the hack, reporting that the NSA had broken into the DPRK's computer systems as early as 2010 and "penetrated directly into the North with the help of South Korea and other American allies." If that was true, the NSA might have watched the alleged hackers and allowed them to do their work. Here's what the Times concluded: ..."
"... Today, Kim Jong-un remains firmly in control of North Korea, and the Trump administration -- despite Trump's tweets on Sunday equating engagement with "appeasement " -- appears to be slowly moving toward negotiations of some kind with his government. Bruce Bennett continues to fantasize about bringing the leader down. Kim, he argued in a recent post , craves his weapons not for self-defense but because "nukes are one way to show his subjects he's a god." Kim is "a weak leader consumed by paranoia," he wrote in a separate piece. ..."
"... And on August 29, in a departing interview with Fox News, ousted White House adviser Sebastian Gorka let it slip that the cyber attacks on North Korea probably continue. "On the more covert side of things, you have seen a lot of missile tests fail," he said . "Most tests actually fail. Sometimes there may be reasons beyond just incompetence by North Korea." ..."
"... And there was an intriguing exchange recently between one of Obama's top national security officials and South Korea's new president, Moon Jae-in . On August 4, Moon spoke out against Korean right-wingers who send anti-DPRK propaganda over the border in large balloons!one of the tactics frequently suggested by Bennett and carried out by neocons Kirchick and Halvorssen. These actions, he warned , unnecessarily aggravate the North, and particularly during times of severe tension, "could prompt accidental clashes." ..."
"... That sparked an angry tweet from Samantha Power, the Obama administration's former U.N. ambassador and perhaps the most famous proponent of "humanitarian intervention" against enemy states like North Korea. "So mistaken," Power tweeted in response to Moon. "Information is what Kim Jong-un fears most. ..."
Sep 05, 2017 | www.alternet.org

Grayzone Project 294 COMMENTS

Over the past month, President Trump's incendiary threats to rain " fire and fury " on North Korea in response to its ballistic missile program set off a chain of military escalations that climaxed this week with Pyongyang's sixth test of a nuclear device , a hydrogen bomb three to five times more powerful than the American bombs that destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

As the crisis unfolded, the Rand Corporation, a military-intelligence think tank founded during the Cold War, relentlessly promoted the views of Bruce W. Bennett, a defense researcher it calls "one of the leading experts on the world's most reclusive country." Two or three times a day, Rand's media shop tweets out links to Bennett's writings on Kim Jong-un, the 33-year-old who rules the Democratic Peoples' Republic of Korea (DPRK), its formal and preferred name.

While Trump has vowed to use sanctions, war threats and diplomacy to stop Kim from developing a ballistic missile that could fire nuclear weapons at the United States!exactly what Kim claimed to do on Sunday!Bennett believes that the only target worth considering is North Korea's " Supreme Leader " himself.

Bennett's basic theme is that North Korea is teetering on collapse and internal unrest because the military and technocratic elite who run the country have given up on Kim and his dynastic family. It's a theory that's been around for decades , but has picked up steam in reaction to Kim's recent purges, including possibly his own brother and a string of high-level defections that includes Thae Yong-ho , the erudite former North Korea ambassador to London.

In glossy books and pamphlets ("Preparing North Korean Elites for Unification") and in appearances from CNN to Fox to Teen Vogue , Bennett lays out his plan for overthrowing the North Korean government by saturating the country with leaflets and propaganda and providing assurances to potential plotters in the North that they would have a place within a new, unified Korea!but only under South Korean and U.S. control.

The U.S., he warned in a recent speech on Capitol Hill that I attended, must deliver Kim a simple message: "We know the only thing you care about is your regime's survival. Either denuclearize or we will take actions politically to destabilize your regime." His talk was a basic primer for this "uprising" from within, which is exactly what the Bush administration sought in Iraq when it invaded in 2003.

The plan, Bennett said, might begin with the U.S. Air Force dropping leaflets on North Korean missile bases that invite North Korean soldiers to defect. "If there were one or two, that would be a political loss of face." K-Pop, the South Korean musical genre that's popular around the world, could be another weapon: "It's acidic as far the regime is concerned." And commercials about South Korean life planted in DVDs smuggled into the North "would be terrible for Kim Jong-un."

The purpose of the operation, he said, is to convince the people of the DPRK that their "paranoid" leader is not a "god," and to plant the idea that his country is unstable: "If that's in his mind, it will affect his behavior." In short, a psy-op.

As I listened to his spiel, I was reminded of Bennett's advisory role in the 2014 Seth Rogen comedy The Interview , about two Hollywood stoners hired by the CIA to kill Kim. It depicted, in graphic detail, Kim's head being blown apart by a guided missile fired by fed-up North Korean "elites" who had come over to the U.S. side after their conversations with the fake American journalists, played by Rogen and his sidekick James Franco.

The film was produced by Japan's Sony Pictures, but finalized only after receiving critical advice and assistance from the Obama State Department, the Rand Corporation, and according to a 2014 interview Rogen gave to the New York Times, the CIA. ("We made relationships with certain people who work in the government as consultants, who I'm convinced are in the CIA.") But it was all under the tutelage of Bruce Bennett, who was brought into the project by Sony Entertainment CEO Michael Lynton, a prominent member of Rand's board of directors and a close confidante of President Obama.

Why Bennett? His official biography states that he has worked for the Office of the Secretary of Defense, U.S. Forces in South Korea and Japan, the U.S. Pacific Command as well as the South Korean and Japanese militaries. According an email he wrote to Sony's Lynton in 2014, he got his start in Asia as a Mormon missionary to Japan and began working on Korea in 1989 "at the request of the Pentagon." By 2014, he said, he had made over 100 trips to South Korea to advise the U.S. Army and senior South Korean military personnel "on how to deter North Korea." Even though he has never been to the DPRK, he bases his knowledge of the country on his "extensive interviews with senior North Korean defectors."

The movie's plot closely follows Bennett's vision for regime change from within, and is illustrated in two key scenes.

"We're aware of a small faction in the existing leadership that already wants him gone," the CIA agent overseeing the assassination plot tells her American recruits early on. "They want change and they're too scared to act alone. And they need you two to go in there and remove Kim and embolden them to revolt." Later, "Sook," the sexy assistant to Kim who joins the regime change plot, pleads with Rogen: "How do you prove to the 24 million people of North Korea that their god is a murderer and a liar? The people need to be shown that he's not a god."

The film allegedly sparked North Korea to hack Sony and leak thousands of internal Sony emails. North Korea also warned the Obama administration not to allow the film to be released, branding it "an act of terrorism." So, when Bennett invited questions at his congressional briefing, I asked him: what was his involvement in The Interview , and did he think it was effective?

At first, Bennett was elusive, saying, "I did not work on the movie." When I reminded him that he had been listed as an adviser, he changed course. "I heard about it for the first time when I was sent a copy of the DVD by the president of Sony Pictures, who was asking, do we need to be worried about this?" he explained, inspiring a ripple of laughter throughout the room. Bennett continued: "So I had a tail-end role in trying to help them appreciate what they might be worried about."

But there's a lot more to the story. Now that Kim is dominating the news once again, it's time to revisit this film and how it became a weapon in the long-running American war against North Korea.

Obama's hard line on DPRK

As Americans come to grips with Trump's confrontational policies with North Korea, it's easy to forget that U.S. relations with North Korea reached a nadir under Barack Obama. Here's why: Bennett's regime change proposals were, and are, the culmination of policies hatched by Obama's left-liberal administration to weaken Kim's hold on power and hasten what they considered North Korea's inevitable collapse. Obviously they failed, yet elements of the plan still abound.

Let's start with some basic background. The hostile U.S. relationship with the DPRK dates back to the Korean War, when U.S. bombers turned the country into cinders in a destructive campaign of carpet-bombing that killed millions of people. In 1953, an armistice ended the fighting, leaving the country divided and in a perpetual state of war. A peace treaty was never signed. Sometime in the late 1980s, with the border still tense and the U.S. showing no signs of withdrawing its military forces from the South, the DPRK decided to embark on a nuclear program to defend itself from wars of regime change and guarantee its sovereignty.

To head off that development, in 1994 President Bill Clinton negotiated an agreement with North Korea's founding leader, Kim Il-sung, that sought to allay his government's fears by ending America's hostile policies. Under the "Agreed Framework," the DPRK shut down its one test reactor -- its only source for plutonium -- in return for U.S. shipments of oil for its power grid and two new light-water reactors to be built by an international consortium. Most importantly, both sides agreed to end mutual hostility by fully normalizing their economic and political relations.

The agreement, which froze North Korea's nuclear program for 12 years, held for several years. But in 2002, the Bush administration accused the DPRK -- falsely it turned out -- of building a secret uranium program as a second route to a bomb and tore up the framework. In response, North Korea, which was by now led by Kim Jong-il, Kim Jong-un's father, restarted its nuclear program, and by 2006 had exploded its first nuclear device.

Surprisingly, Bush reopened negotiations only three weeks later, and by 2007, under the rubric of the Six Party Talks, the DPRK agreed again to freeze its program. That accord was still pending when Obama was elected in 2009. He had run for president pledging to talk to Iran and North Korea, but quickly changed course on Korea.

According to Leon Sigal, a former State Department official who has met with North Korea many times in unofficial talks, Obama and his top adviser on Asia, Jeff Bader, decided in 2009 to side with the new, conservative president of South Korea, Lee Myung Bak, who had campaigned against engagement and demanded stronger pressure tactics against the DPRK. Soon, the idea of direct talks and regular was abandoned. Officially, the doctrine for replacing direct engagement with pressure tactics was known as "strategic patience." Behind it was a mistaken assumption!the same one made by Bennett today!that North Korea was headed for collapse, making even the chance of an agreement a futile exercise.

It's difficult to overstate how reactionary Obama's policies became. In contrast to Bush, and even Trump, Obama flatly rejected the idea of negotiating with the North without a prior commitment to denuclearization. He also expressed no interest in the DPRK's offer to sign a peace agreement. More disturbingly, he was the first president in history to refer to the Korean War, which has been universally recognized as a bloody stalemate, as a "victory." In doing so, Obama revived a right-wing trope that was first used in the 1950s and resurrected during the Bush years by David Frum and other neocons. So from the onset, Obama caused America's policy toward Korea to take a sharp right turn.

The tensions were exacerbated by the covert cyber war Obama launched against North Korea to damage and slow its missile program. During the Obama years, North Korea tested three more nuclear bombs, and despite the cyber war, rapidly expanded its missile abilities. As the situation deteriorated, Obama embarked on a series of military exercises with South Korea that increased in size and tempo over the course of his administration. They included unprecedented overflights by B-52 and stealth B1-B bombers as well as training in " decapitation strikes " designed to take out Kim and his leadership. All of this led straight to the crisis Trump inherited and has only made worse.

But while Trump critics rightly chafe over his reckless allusions to a nuclear attack on Korea, it's often forgotten that Obama himself made similar statements, couched in his trademark cool. "We could, obviously, destroy North Korea with our arsenals," Obama told CBS News in April 2016. A few months later, Daniel Russel, the president's senior diplomat on Asia who had earlier viewed The Interview at Sony's request, actually threatened North Korea's destruction. If Kim gets "an enhanced capacity to conduct a nuclear attack," Russel told defense reporters, he would "immediately die."

At the time, these threats hardly caused a ripple in the media, and sparked few complaints from the liberals who now criticize Trump for pushing the U.S. to war or the progressive reporters who criticized Bush for his invasion of Iraq.

Seth Rogen 'melted head' assassination scene

Although the idea for The Interview had been around for a while, the real inspiration, director Seth Rogen told the Los Angeles Times, was some "idle kidding around" he did with his friends after the assassination of Osama bin Laden in 2011. He and Sony were also encouraged by the wild success of the 2004 hit movie Team America , which ridiculed Kim Jong-il's big glasses and bouffant hair-do. But what sparked Sony's decision to go ahead with its $35 million investment was the crisis that shook the Korean Peninsula when the DPRK tested its third nuclear device in February 2013.

The nuclear test vaulted Kim Jong-un into the headlines for the first time, giving Sony the moment it had been seeking. In a "strategic marketing and research" paper later leaked by hackers, the studio told promoters to push the theme of "the dictator's bizarre behavior!he's a young, inexperienced guy with self-esteem and 'daddy' issues." The film used every racist image and trope that Rogen could dream up, from the sing-songy caricatures of Asian speech that were a film staple in the 1940s and '50s, to the concept that Koreans are either robotic slaves (like Kim's security guards) or sex-starved submissives who crave American men (like Sook, the "elite" aide to Kim who falls for the Rogen character).

In the end of the film, the Hollywood rebels triumph after badgering Kim with tough questions about his ability to feed his own people, an allusion to the terrible famine that occurred in the late-1990s. Kim goes crazy, forcing "a man once revered among mortals to cry and shit in his pants," the Rogen character explains. After the stoner character screams, "he's no god, he's a butthole," Kim is struck on his helicopter by the fatal missile shot by Sook's rebels, and his head explodes in a fireball. The rebels' job now "is to make sure power is transferred to the right hands," the Americans explain.

It was that ending that caused most of the controversy, both at the studio and when the film was later pre-screened to select officials of the Obama administration. When the first takes were shown in June 2014, some of Sony's Japanese executives were disturbed by both the violence and the racism. By this time, North Korea (which relentlessly monitors U.S. media) had got wind of the film and its theme of assassinating its head of state. So the studio asked Rogen to tone it down by removing one scene in which moviegoers watched Kim's face slowly melt and slide off his head. This sent Rogen on a tirade.

"We feel the story of censorship and trying to appease North Korea WILL in fact hurt the film critically, and thus financially," he wrote to Amy Pascal , Sony Pictures' top executive at the time. "The head melting shot described vividly in all these articles is universally received as awesome by the articles writing about them, and when these critics see a shot that is decidedly LESS awesome, regardless of what story we put out there, the truth will be apparent: it's a compromised product." (The head-melting scene was removed, but Rogen's Hollywood version of selective morality was revealing nonetheless).

By this point, North Korea's Ministry of Foreign Affairs was denouncing the film as tantamount to "an act of war," and threatening "a decisive and merciless countermeasure" if the Obama administration allowed it to be shown. That was apparently the result Rogen was looking for.

"There was a lot of high-fiving," he told the Los Angeles Times. Even if it caused a war?

"Hopefully," Rogen said, "people will say, 'You know what? It was worth it. It was a good movie!'"

It was then that Sony turned to the government for help, through Rand and its Korea expert, Bruce Bennett.

With top Obama contacts, Sony and Rand collaborate on coup narrative

The Rand Corporation first became famous in 1971, when Daniel Ellsberg, a Rand analyst, leaked the Pentagon Papers that exposed the secret history of the Vietnam War. The incredible tale of official lies that unfolded in pages of the New York Times and other papers helped end the war four years later and triggered the beginning of the end of Richard Nixon. After shaking off that incident, Rand emerged as one of the premiere research centers for the Pentagon and U.S. intelligence.

As a result of 9/11 and the U.S. invasion of Iraq, Rand returned full force to refining the practice of counterinsurgency , or COIN, the "soft power" side of empire-building that got its start in Vietnam and aims at winning "hearts and minds" of countries that the United States invades or subverts. Bennett's policy proposals to divide members of the North Korean "elite" from their government with offers of political support and financial assistance come right out of the COIN playbook .

The link between Rand and Sony was made shortly after the first public viewing of the film by Rand CEO Michael Rich, a lifelong employee of the think tank. Under his leadership, Rand developed close ties with U.S. intelligence. In November 2014, for example, Rich presided over a "rare dialogue" with the National Security Agency that took place at Sony's headquarters in Century City and included then NSA director Michael Rogers as well as Michael Leiter, the former director of the CIA's National Counterterrorism Center.

In June 2014, after the first clips of the movie where shown, Rich emailed Bennett, informing him he had recommended that Rand "trustee Michael Lynton, CEO of Sony Entertainment, get in touch with you for some quick assistance." Lynton, too, had high-level connections. As the hacked Sony emails collected by Wikileaks would later reveal , he had attended dinners at Martha's Vineyard with President Obama, and as a Rand board member, had contacts throughout government. From June on, Bennett, through Lynton, became a critical adviser to the film and acted as a liaison between the studio and the Obama administration.

The makers of The Interview were especially interested in advice on crafting the ending of the film. The scene of Kim's head exploding pleased Bennett, as he wrote in one of his emails. "I have been clear that the assassination of Kim Jong-Un is the most likely path to a collapse of the North Korean government," he wrote .

Bennett continued: 'Thus while toning down the ending may reduce the North Korean response, I believe that a story that talks about the removal of the Kim family regime and the creation of a new government by the North Korean people (well, at least the elites) will start some real thinking in South Korea and, I believe, in the North once the DVD leaks into the North (which it almost certainly will). So from a personal perspective, I would personally prefer to leave the ending alone."

Bennett firmly believed the film could spark the U.S.-led coup he had dreamed about for so long. "There are many ways that United States and even Sony Pictures could affect North Korean internal politics," he wrote on the Rand website. "Slipping DVDs of at least parts of The Interview into the North, including a narration describing what their 'god' Kim is really like is one way." (In fact, a version of this stunt was attempted right after the film came out by two of the more fanatical regime-changers in Washington, the neocon writer Jamie Kirchik and right-wing human rights hustler Thor Halvorssen .)

To make sure the film was on the right track, Sony arranged to show the ending to officials at the State Department. Lynton emailed Daniel Russel, who was the assistant Secretary of State for East Asia, that the studio was "concerned for the safety of Americans and American and North Korean relations." He and other U.S. officials gave their blessing to the film's violent ending. After word of Russel's involvement leaked out, the State Department denied any role, only to be contradicted by Russel himself. In a 2016 speech in Los Angeles, he said , "I'm the U.S. government official who told Sony there was no problem 'greenlighting' the movie The Interview ."

Despite the official go-ahead, Sony agreed at first to only release The Interview on DVD. Then, when Sony temporarily pulled the film in December 2014, Obama became its champion, declaring that "we cannot have a society in which some dictator someplace can start imposing censorship here in the United States." That led to the remarkable sight of Hollywood actors and directors from the liberal left, led by the likes of George Clooney and Michael Moore, defending the film as an act of free speech and urging Americans to defy Kim's "censorship" and go see it in a theater.

By this time, Sony had been hacked by a group that called itself the " Guardians of Peace ." The FBI later claimed this group was secretly working for North Korea. The Obama administration agreed, and said its top intelligence officials had concluded that North Korea was "centrally involved." This finding was questioned by many cyber-security experts (especially Gregory Elich's critique in Counterpunch and Kim Zetter's analysis in Wired). They concluded that the FBI's "evidence" found in servers in Thailand, Singapore and elsewhere was thin and speculative, and found signs that the real hackers (who had an uncanny insider knowledge of Hollywood) could still be at large and might have been former Sony employees.

But the U.S. government had no doubts at all. In January 2015, Obama called the DPRK's alleged hack an "act of war" and used it as an excuse to launch one of the most aggressive American actions on behalf of a private corporation in U.S. history. His executive order imposed sanctions against three North Korean agencies and nearly a dozen "critical North Korean operatives" in retaliation for the hack. The Treasury Department said the sanctions were in direct response to North Korea's "numerous provocations, particularly the recent cyber-attack targeting Sony Pictures Entertainment." The action marked a major escalation, returning "the U.S. to a posture of open hostility with its oldest remaining Cold War adversary," the Wall Street Journal noted .

Shortly after these actions were taken, the New York Times published a revelation that raised serious questions about the hack, reporting that the NSA had broken into the DPRK's computer systems as early as 2010 and "penetrated directly into the North with the help of South Korea and other American allies." If that was true, the NSA might have watched the alleged hackers and allowed them to do their work. Here's what the Times concluded:

"The extensive American penetration of the North Korean system raises questions about why the United States was not able to alert Sony as the attacks took shape last fall, even though the North had warned, as early as June, that the release of the movie would be 'an act of war.'"

By this time, however, the film had done its damage by convincing Kim's government that the Obama administration did indeed want its destruction. More missile and nuclear tests followed, and by the end of the Obama administration relations were far worse than they were when Bush left office in 2009. In other words, the film had the opposite of its intended effect, prompting a clampdown by Kim and suppressing whatever internal dissent existed.

Today, Kim Jong-un remains firmly in control of North Korea, and the Trump administration -- despite Trump's tweets on Sunday equating engagement with "appeasement " -- appears to be slowly moving toward negotiations of some kind with his government. Bruce Bennett continues to fantasize about bringing the leader down. Kim, he argued in a recent post , craves his weapons not for self-defense but because "nukes are one way to show his subjects he's a god." Kim is "a weak leader consumed by paranoia," he wrote in a separate piece.

At the same time, there is abundant evidence that the combination regime-change/cyber war project adopted by the Obama administration is still in force. A few weeks ago, CIA Director Mike Pompeo told a crowd at the Aspen Forum that he's been ordered to find ways to "separate" Kim from his "missiles and nuclear weapons" -- a "strong hint," the New York Times reported , "that the United States was considering seeking a regime change in North Korea." And on August 29, in a departing interview with Fox News, ousted White House adviser Sebastian Gorka let it slip that the cyber attacks on North Korea probably continue. "On the more covert side of things, you have seen a lot of missile tests fail," he said . "Most tests actually fail. Sometimes there may be reasons beyond just incompetence by North Korea."

The Democrats haven't let up, either. Last month, Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal told NBC News that the Obama administration should have responded more aggressively to North Korea's alleged hack of Sony in 2014. And there was an intriguing exchange recently between one of Obama's top national security officials and South Korea's new president, Moon Jae-in . On August 4, Moon spoke out against Korean right-wingers who send anti-DPRK propaganda over the border in large balloons!one of the tactics frequently suggested by Bennett and carried out by neocons Kirchick and Halvorssen. These actions, he warned , unnecessarily aggravate the North, and particularly during times of severe tension, "could prompt accidental clashes."

That sparked an angry tweet from Samantha Power, the Obama administration's former U.N. ambassador and perhaps the most famous proponent of "humanitarian intervention" against enemy states like North Korea. "So mistaken," Power tweeted in response to Moon. "Information is what Kim Jong-un fears most."

[Sep 23, 2017] In simple terms, MSM owners decide that a particular topic is a taboo subject and filter everything related to it out

Sep 23, 2017 | www.unz.com
Miro23 > > , September 5, 2016 at 10:15 pm GMT

@Mr. Anon

"Only a child – or its intellectual equivalent, i.e., a low information infotainment consumer – could believe in the official version of 9/11."

That is clearly false, as plenty of people who are smart - smarter than you actually - do in fact believe just that.

Or maybe a lot of smart people pretend to believe the official 9/11 story because that's where their interest lies. MSM journalists know for sure that articles that deviate from the official line on 9/11 are career ending moves .

In simple terms, MSM owners have decided that 9/11 is a taboo subject (same as USS Liberty) and they decide what gets published.

[Sep 23, 2017] MSM journalists know for sure that articles that deviate from the official line are career ending moves .

Notable quotes:
"... In late July 2010, longtime Canadian journalist Eric Margolis was told his column would be dropped, and just a few weeks later he published a double-length piece expressing strong doubts about 9/11, the first time he'd articulated that position: ..."
"... In 2007, the parent company of The Chicago Tribune announced it had accepted a leveraged-buyout takeover bid by investor Sam Zell, who planned a massive wave cost-cutting layoffs, which eventually wrecked the company. In late 2007, the Chicago Tribune suddenly ran a very long piece regarding the Liberty Attack, about the only time I've ever seen it discussed in the MSM. ..."
www.unz.com

Ron Unz > , September 6, 2016 at 8:33 pm GMT

@Miro23

Or maybe a lot of smart people pretend to believe the official 9/11 story because that's where their interest lies. MSM journalists know for sure that articles that deviate from the official line on 9/11 are career ending moves .

In simple terms, MSM owners have decided that 9/11 is a taboo subject (same as USS Liberty) and they decide what gets published.

Well, I haven't read through all of this enormously long discussion-thread, but I happened to notice this particular comment. Not having been an MSM journalist myself, I can't say whether or not it's true, but a couple of interesting, possibly coincidental, examples come to mind

In late July 2010, longtime Canadian journalist Eric Margolis was told his column would be dropped, and just a few weeks later he published a double-length piece expressing strong doubts about 9/11, the first time he'd articulated that position:

http://www.unz.com/article/911-the-mother-of-all-coincidences/

In 2007, the parent company of The Chicago Tribune announced it had accepted a leveraged-buyout takeover bid by investor Sam Zell, who planned a massive wave cost-cutting layoffs, which eventually wrecked the company. In late 2007, the Chicago Tribune suddenly ran a very long piece regarding the Liberty Attack, about the only time I've ever seen it discussed in the MSM.

http://www.chicagotribune.com/chi-liberty_tuesoct02-story.html

[Sep 23, 2017] Marginalization of other opionins is important, so that those few who become aware of a conspiracy do not have enough social capital to muster any significant action against it

Notable quotes:
"... The history of the 20th and 21st centuries is largely what it is because of political conspiracies, wherein the state does one thing or another using covert methods and then sells the opposite story to the gullible public. It is basically a form of military deception by other means. ..."
"... There is no doubt that the public (the real enemy of the state) sure are gullible. ..."
"... a conspiracy, as Mr Unz indicates, is just a perjorative term used by the state to divert attention from what are otherwise normal covert operations. The real issue is that these events have had massive, gigantic global consequences but operate completely below the radar of the intellectual classes. ..."
"... This is an old clip showing admittance of the CIA that they use the mainstream media to manipulate the thoughts and ideas of American citizens in the USA. This has not changed obviously and is good to know happened in the past due to our reality today. http://youtu.be/5ED63A_hcd0 ..."
"... 9/23/1975 Tom Charles Huston Church Committee Testimony in full: https://www.c-span.org/video/?408953-1/tom-charles-huston-testimony-church-committee ..."
"... Secrecy is important to the extent that people would be in a position to thwart the conspiracy should they come to know about it. To minimize the need for secrecy, the conspirators might try to foster a general, childlike ignorance about public affairs, so that the public would not recognize a conspiracy even if it were being discussed openly. ..."
"... In this regard, the capture of major media (pace Mr. Unz) would be key to achieving this aim. Marginalization is another strategy, so that those few who become aware of a conspiracy do not have enough social capital to muster any significant action against it. ..."
"... "The creation of a peril usually starts with mysterious "sources" and unnamed officials who leak information, float trial balloons, and warn about the coming threat. Those sources reflect debates and discussions taking place within government. Their information is then augmented by colorful intelligence reports that finger exotic and conspiratorial terrorists and military advisers. Journalists then search for the named and other villains. The media end up finding corroboration from foreign sources who form an informal coalition with the sources in the U.S. government and help the press uncover further information substantiating the threat coming from the new bad guys. ..."
"... following the collapse of Soviets, they have been looking for an enemy that they were finding raising its heads in Algeria, Iran, Sudan, and even in Malayasia back in 1992. ..."
"... Conspiracy theory -- is absolutely commonplace but rendered a bogus term . It is common and practiced by the government all the time. It is used by people who have agenda and find resistance to agenda . The moment they use false narrative, weird scenario, create unknown fear and offer solution abusing the authorities, abusing the institutional but previous records and inserting propaganda preaching journalist ( CIA had more than 400 in 1975 per Bernstein) , they are engaging in conspiracy. ..."
Sep 23, 2017 | www.unz.com

Kirt > , September 5, 2016 at 4:26 am GMT

Conspiracy is simply a plan or agreement by more than one person to do something evil and then the pursuit of that plan. Secrecy may be needed for the success of a conspiracy, but it is not essential to the definition. Were it essential to the definition, you could never prove the existence of a conspiracy. Either secrecy would be maintained and there would be little or no evidence or secrecy would not be maintained and the plan would become known and by definition not be a conspiracy.

Langley > , September 23, 2017 at 2:16 am GMT

The phrase "conspiracy theory" seems to have existed before 1960.

https://books.google.com/ngrams/graph?content=conspiracy+theories&year_start=1800&year_end=2000&corpus=15&smoothing=3&share=&direct_url=t1%3B%2Cconspiracy%20theories%3B%2Cc0

However, the CIA may have stumbled across it and used it to their advantage.

Anon > , Disclaimer September 22, 2017 at 4:33 pm GMT

The history of the 20th and 21st centuries is largely what it is because of political conspiracies, wherein the state does one thing or another using covert methods and then sells the opposite story to the gullible public. It is basically a form of military deception by other means.

There is no doubt that the public (the real enemy of the state) sure are gullible. I think Mr Unz is trying to work out in his own mind why it is that the sell job always works and is so successful.

Consider the following false flag events:

These events are all clearly 'conspiracies', but a conspiracy, as Mr Unz indicates, is just a perjorative term used by the state to divert attention from what are otherwise normal covert operations. The real issue is that these events have had massive, gigantic global consequences but operate completely below the radar of the intellectual classes.

Agent76 > , December 26, 2016 at 3:46 pm GMT

(1975) CIA Admits Using News To Manipulate the USA

This is an old clip showing admittance of the CIA that they use the mainstream media to manipulate the thoughts and ideas of American citizens in the USA. This has not changed obviously and is good to know happened in the past due to our reality today. http://youtu.be/5ED63A_hcd0

9/23/1975 Tom Charles Huston Church Committee Testimony in full: https://www.c-span.org/video/?408953-1/tom-charles-huston-testimony-church-committee

Greg > , December 25, 2016 at 6:34 pm GMT

@Kirt

... ... ...

Secrecy is important to the extent that people would be in a position to thwart the conspiracy should they come to know about it. To minimize the need for secrecy, the conspirators might try to foster a general, childlike ignorance about public affairs, so that the public would not recognize a conspiracy even if it were being discussed openly.

In this regard, the capture of major media (pace Mr. Unz) would be key to achieving this aim. Marginalization is another strategy, so that those few who become aware of a conspiracy do not have enough social capital to muster any significant action against it. Believing that a conspiracy needs secrecy is the perhaps optimistic belief that neither dumbing down the general public nor marginalizing the watchdogs is sufficient: there's still a significant chance that public exposure could derail the conspirators.

KA > , September 12, 2016 at 2:58 pm GMT

@Boris

after my asking you what the strongest evidence available for the official story
As I've already shown, you asked me "what records?" The ticket is among the records that support the official story. It is sad that you keep lying about this. We both agree--and have from the beginning--that the ticket is necessary, but not sufficient. You keep pretending otherwise for some reason. Your behavior is downright weird.

"The creation of a peril usually starts with mysterious "sources" and unnamed officials who leak information, float trial balloons, and warn about the coming threat. Those sources reflect debates and discussions taking place within government. Their information is then augmented by colorful intelligence reports that finger exotic and conspiratorial terrorists and military advisers. Journalists then search for the named and other villains. The media end up finding corroboration from foreign sources who form an informal coalition with the sources in the U.S. government and help the press uncover further information substantiating the threat coming from the new bad guys.

A series of leaks, signals, and trial balloons is already beginning to shape U.S. agenda and policy. Congress is about to conduct several hearings on the global threat of Islamic fundamentalism.(14)

The Bush administration has been trying to devise policies and establish new alliances to counter Iranian influence: building up Islamic but secular and pro-Western Turkey as a countervailing force in Central Asia, expanding U.S. commitments to Saudi Arabia, warning Sudan that it faces grave consequences as a result of its policies, and even shoring up a socialist military dictatorship in Algeria.

http://www.cato.org/pubs/pas/pa-177

Printing a ticket and getting a Passport ,if all that you have, then you are in the right league . Join those in NYT, WaPo, Hoover Institue and speak to George Will, Jim Hoagland, because following the collapse of Soviets, they have been looking for an enemy that they were finding raising its heads in Algeria, Iran, Sudan, and even in Malayasia back in 1992.

Conspiracy theory -- is absolutely commonplace but rendered a bogus term . It is common and practiced by the government all the time. It is used by people who have agenda and find resistance to agenda . The moment they use false narrative, weird scenario, create unknown fear and offer solution abusing the authorities, abusing the institutional but previous records and inserting propaganda preaching journalist ( CIA had more than 400 in 1975 per Bernstein) , they are engaging in conspiracy. It follows a script. So it has a theory to follow . It is a conspiracy theory.

KA > , September 12, 2016 at 2:50 am GMT

The biggest hoax ever perpetrated is the gradual evolution of the alleged threat from Islam . Its a multilayered multi focal interconnected open production of a vast conspiracy – achieved without any shred of evidence or even plausible reason for the existence of any such threat .

This is a quote from an article published in 1992 and quotes 90 sources .

" In addition, think tanks studies and op-ed pieces add momentum to the official spin. Their publication is followed by congressional hearings, policy conferences, and public press briefings. A governmental policy debate ensues, producing studies, working papers, and eventually doctrines and policies that become part of the media's spin. The new villain is now ready to be integrated into the popular culture to help to mobilize public support for a new crusade. In the case of the Green Peril, that process has been under way for several months.(13)

THE GREEN PERIL
Creating the Islamic Fundamentalist Threat
Leon T Hadar ,a former bureau chief for Jerusalem Post.

http://www.cato.org/pubs/pas/pa-177.html

"WaPo, NYT, WSJ, Washington Times, ABC news and Economist all gathered the Islamic experts out of the same offices that used to house the Soviet experts, painted them green removed the red markings and asked them to follow the direction . ( Well I made this up But that's exactly what happened .)

[Sep 23, 2017] A conspiracy theory is a theory based on facts but without MSM backing. Theres no better recent example of this than when the DNC emails were released by wikileaks during their convention. The story put forth was that Russian hackers were responsible, and were trying to throw the election to their buddy Trump. The evidence for this? Zero. And yet it became a plausible explanation in the media, overnight.

Notable quotes:
"... So, a conspiracy theory is a theory without media backing. There's no better recent example of this than when the DNC emails were released by wikileaks during their convention. The story put forth was that Russian hackers were responsible, and were trying to throw the election to their buddy Trump. The evidence for this? Zero. And yet it became a plausible explanation in the media, overnight. ..."
"... People need to remember than by definition, the ratio of what you don't know to what you do know is infinity to one. Be more open minded. "They shall find it difficult, they who have taken authority as truth rather than truth for authority". ..."
www.unz.com
LondonBob > , September 6, 2016 at 5:39 pm GMT

@Paul Jolliffe Mr. Unz,

Here is a link to Carl Bernstein's definitive 1977 Rolling Stone article "CIA and the Media" in which he addresses - and confirms - your worst fears. You are very right, and no less a figure than Bernstein has said so for nearly four decades . . .

http://www.carlbernstein.com/magazine_cia_and_media.php No coincidence that all the CIA agents involved in the JFK assassination are known to be experts in 'black ops' and news media specialists. Jim Angleton, Cord Meyer, David Atlee Phillips and E. Howard Hunt, who confessed his involvement, all made their names in black propaganda or news management.

Abraham > , September 6, 2016 at 6:28 pm GMT

@Lot Given how easy it is to create a conspiracy theory, most of them will be crazy.

Another problem with elite conspiracies is that elites usually do not have to act in secret because they already are in control. For Kennedy, a centrist cold warrior, his views already reflected those of elites, maybe even more so than Johnson.

The other problem is that actual criminal conspiracies by elites quite often are discovered, such as Watergate and Iran Contra. Given how easy it is to create a conspiracy theory, most of them will be crazy.

A statement that appears straight out of the CIA's playbook.

Another problem with elite conspiracies is that elites usually do not have to act in secret because they already are in control.

Such control does not imply they have nothing to hide, particularly when exposure of the deed would have damaging repercussions for them.

For Kennedy, a centrist cold warrior, his views already reflected those of elites, maybe even more so than Johnson.

It didn't reflect that of Israel's elites. After JFK's assassination, American foreign policy vis a vis Israel was completely reversed under Johnson, who hung the crew of the USS Liberty out to dry.

The other problem is that actual criminal conspiracies by elites quite often are discovered, such as Watergate and Iran Contra.

How is this a problem?

WorkingClass > , September 6, 2016 at 9:12 pm GMT

The CIA is the presidents private secret army. Nothing it does is legal.

Ron Unz > , September 6, 2016 at 9:53 pm GMT

For those without convenient access to a copy of the deHaven-Smith book, I've discovered there are some lengthy extracts available on the web:

https://off-guardian.org/2016/09/04/are-you-a-mind-controlled-cia-stooge/

Boris > , September 6, 2016 at 10:48 pm GMT

@biz

He is really very good.

He has a book https://www.amazon.com/Guilt-Association-Deception-Self-Deceit-America/product-reviews/098213150X/ref=cm_cr_dp_see_all_btm?ie=UTF8&showViewpoints=1&sortBy=recent

anti_republocrat > , September 7, 2016 at 1:48 am GMT

@Chief Seattle So, a conspiracy theory is a theory without media backing. There's no better recent example of this than when the DNC emails were released by wikileaks during their convention. The story put forth was that Russian hackers were responsible, and were trying to throw the election to their buddy Trump. The evidence for this? Zero. And yet it became a plausible explanation in the media, overnight.

Maybe it's true, maybe not, but if the roles had been reversed, the media would be telling its proponents to take off their tin foil hats. Note also that the allegations immediately become "fact" because they were reported by someone else. As Business Insider reported, "Amid mounting evidence of Russia's involvement in the hack of the Democratic National Committee ," without any specificity whatsoever as to what that "mounting evidence" was (most likely multiple reports in other media) never mind that the article goes on to quote James Clapper, " we are not quite ready yet to make a call on attribution." WTF! Here, read it yourself: http://www.businessinsider.com/russia-dnc-hack-black-propaganda-2016-7

Totally mindless. So not only is Russia hacking, but we know it's intention is to influence US elections!!! And now their hacking voter DBs and will likely hack our vote tabulating machines. You can't make this s ** t up.

Nathan Hale > , September 7, 2016 at 4:12 am GMT

@Jason Liu

...In the corporate world, it often seems that upper management spends a bulk of their time conspiring against one another or entering into secret talks to sell the company to a rival, unbeknownst to the employees or shareholders.

NoseytheDuke > , September 7, 2016 at 4:32 am GMT

@Alfred1860 I find it quite amusing how, in an article supporting of the existence of conspiracy theories, so many comments consist of hurling insults at people making skeptical comments about what are obviously very sacred cows.

People need to remember than by definition, the ratio of what you don't know to what you do know is infinity to one. Be more open minded. "They shall find it difficult, they who have taken authority as truth rather than truth for authority".

Gerald Massey

Ed Rankin > , Website September 7, 2016 at 8:42 pm GMT

In Dispatch 1035-960 mailed to station chiefs on April 1, 1967, the CIA laid out a series of "talking points" in its memo addressing the "conspiracy theorists" who were questioning the Warren Commission's findings on the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. They include the following:

I have found numerous examples of these exact points being made in televised news segments, newspapers, magazines and even some academic articles and scholarly books.

Additionally, some of the most influential and frequently-cited authors who are the most critical of "conspiracy theorists", both academic and lay people, have very direct ties to government, foundations and other institutions of authority.

While we can't know if the CIA was primarily responsible for the creation of the pejorative, but what we do know from the Church Committee hearings, was that the Agency did have paid operatives working inside major media organizations as late as the 1970s. In fact, CNN anchor Anderson Cooper has acknowledged ties to the CIA.

With recent lifting of restrictions on the government's use of domestic propaganda with the Smith-Mundt Modernization Act of 2012, which passed as part of the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act, I think reasonable people would expect this type of pejorative construction to resume if in fact, it ever ceased.

Bill Jones > , September 7, 2016 at 9:47 pm GMT

A nice little piece on one of the players in the big conspiracy: https://www.corbettreport.com/911-suspects-philip-zelikow/

Marie > , September 8, 2016 at 4:01 am GMT

Literally every article I've ever read about conservatives and/or the conservative movement within the pages of the New Yorker – and I've read going back decades, unfortunately – has judiciously referenced 'The Paranoid Style in American Politics'.

I mean, EVERY SINGLE article regarding Republicans, conservatives and/or opposition to leftism has the Hofstadter quote somewhere – it must be a staple on the J-School syllabi.

It seems Prof. Hofstadter was something of an adherent to the Frankfurt School nonsense – Marxism-meets-dime-store-Freud being every New Yorker writer's stock in trade, of course

Hippopotamusdrome > , September 9, 2016 at 8:21 am GMT

@biz Actually, there is no symmetry in conspiracy theories as you imply.

The definition of a conspiracy theory is an explanation of events that traces them to a secret network, and when presented with contradictory evidence, simply enlarges the network of supposed conspirators rather than modifying the explanation.

... ... ...

[Sep 23, 2017] Although most Americans today reject the official (lone gunman) account of the Kennedy assassination, they also have doubts about conspiracy theories and those who believe them. This means the CIA program was successful, for its aim was not to sell the Warren Commission, but to sow uncertainty about the commission's critics. Today, people are not only uncertain, they have given up ever learning the truth

Sep 23, 2017 | www.unz.com

anon, Disclaimer September 6, 2016 at 2:10 am GMT

deHaven Smith is not that impressive on several counts.

one example: book opens:

"Although most Americans today reject the official (lone gunman) account of the Kennedy assassination, they also have doubts about conspiracy theories and those who believe them. This means the CIA program was successful, for its aim was not to sell the Warren Commission, but to sow uncertainty about the commission's critics. Today, people are not only uncertain, they have given up ever learning the truth. "

At least one high-profile person and an entire community that supports him does not have doubts, has not given up. Cyril Wecht blasted holes in Arlen Specter's "one bullet" theory in 1965. He's still at it. In 2013, the fiftieth anniversary of JFK's assassination,

"about 500 people gathered at Duquesne University for a JFK symposium sponsored by the university's Institute of Forensic Science and Law, which is named for Wecht. Appearances by Stone and a doctor who tended to Kennedy brought national attention.

People sneered when they mentioned Specter's name or the single-bullet theory.

Across the state, the Single Bullet exhibit opened on Oct. 21. It's the first exhibition in Philadelphia University's Arlen Specter Center for Public Policy. Willens, the former Kennedy aide, delivered a speech. The center's coordinator, Karen Albert, said he was looking forward to defending his conclusion on the 50th anniversary. " http://triblive.com/news/allegheny/5017529-74/wecht-commission-specter

Smith did not even mention Wecht or Specter and the single-bullet theory in his book. The omission is important insofar as its inclusion would have demonstrated that for many years the populace has been aware of the dishonesty of the US government and some have been raising their voices against and continue to do so.

That knowledge should give encouragement to activists such as those who demand accountability for Israel's attack on the USS Liberty and the deliberate killing of 34 US sailors and other personnel.

(Specter has been useful to the deep state in other ways: he protected Zalman Shapiro, former head of NUMEC, from prosecution for his part in smuggling uranium to Israel. http://israellobby.org/numec/ 0

[Sep 23, 2017] American Pravda How the CIA Invented "Conspiracy Theories" by Ron Unz

Notable quotes:
"... Even for most educated Americans, theorists such as Beard, Popper, and Strauss are probably no more than vague names mentioned in textbooks, and that was certainly true in my own case. But while the influence of Beard seems to have largely disappeared in elite circles, the same is hardly true of his rivals. Popper probably ranks as one of the founders of modern liberal thought, with an individual as politically influential as left-liberal financier George Soros claiming to be his intellectual disciple . Meanwhile, the neo-conservative thinkers who have totally dominated the Republican Party and the Conservative Movement for the last couple of decades often proudly trace their ideas back to Strauss. ..."
"... The best strategy is to foster implausible conspiracy theories to create a cloud of disinformation. This technique was used very effectively after 9/11, such that it's very hard to discuss a coverup without being labeled a truther. ..."
"... It should also be noted that Irving Kristol was sponsored by -- on the payroll of – the CIA while still in Britain. Kristol has acknowledged that CIA support got his movement off the ground. ..."
"... Stepping back from it all to get a long distance view one can see the patterns of deceit and manipulation all throughout American political life. It's not just incidental but rather is built in. ..."
Sep 05, 2016 | www.unz.com

A year or two ago, I saw the much-touted science fiction film Interstellar , and although the plot wasn't any good, one early scene was quite amusing. For various reasons, the American government of the future claimed that our Moon Landings of the late 1960s had been faked, a trick aimed at winning the Cold War by bankrupting Russia into fruitless space efforts of its own. This inversion of historical reality was accepted as true by nearly everyone, and those few people who claimed that Neil Armstrong had indeed set foot on the Moon were universally ridiculed as "crazy conspiracy theorists." This seems a realistic portrayal of human nature to me.

Obviously, a large fraction of everything described by our government leaders or presented in the pages of our most respectable newspapers!from the 9/11 attacks to the most insignificant local case of petty urban corruption!could objectively be categorized as a "conspiracy theory" but such words are never applied. Instead, use of that highly loaded phrase is reserved for those theories, whether plausible or fanciful, that do not possess the endorsement stamp of establishmentarian approval.

Put another way, there are good "conspiracy theories" and bad "conspiracy theories," with the former being the ones promoted by pundits on mainstream television shows and hence never described as such. I've sometimes joked with people that if ownership and control of our television stations and other major media outlets suddenly changed, the new information regime would require only a few weeks of concerted effort to totally invert all of our most famous "conspiracy theories" in the minds of the gullible American public. The notion that nineteen Arabs armed with box-cutters hijacked several jetliners, easily evaded our NORAD air defenses, and reduced several landmark buildings to rubble would soon be universally ridiculed as the most preposterous "conspiracy theory" ever to have gone straight from the comic books into the minds of the mentally ill, easily surpassing the absurd "lone gunman" theory of the JFK assassination.

Even without such changes in media control, huge shifts in American public beliefs have frequently occurred in the recent past, merely on the basis of implied association. In the initial weeks and months following the 2001 attacks, every American media organ was enlisted to denounce and vilify Osama Bin Laden, the purported Islamicist master-mind, as our greatest national enemy, with his bearded visage endlessly appearing on television and in print, soon becoming one of the most recognizable faces in the world. But as the Bush Administration and its key media allies prepared a war against Iraq, the images of the Burning Towers were instead regularly juxtaposed with mustachioed photos of dictator Saddam Hussein, Bin Laden's arch-enemy. As a consequence, by the time we attacked Iraq in 2003, polls revealed that some 70% of the American public believed that Saddam was personally involved in the destruction of our World Trade Center. By that date I don't doubt that many millions of patriotic but low-information Americans would have angrily denounced and vilified as a "crazy conspiracy theorist" anyone with the temerity to suggest that Saddam had not been behind 9/11, despite almost no one in authority having ever explicitly made such a fallacious claim.

one of our most prominent scholars and public intellectuals had been historian Charles Beard , whose influential writings had heavily focused on the harmful role of various elite conspiracies in shaping American policy for the benefit of the few at the expense of the many, with his examples ranging from the earliest history of the United States down to the nation's entry into WWI. Obviously, researchers never claimed that all major historical events had hidden causes, but it was widely accepted that some of them did, and attempting to investigate those possibilities was deemed a perfectly acceptable academic enterprise.

However, Beard was a strong opponent of American entry into the Second World War, and he was marginalized in the years that followed, even prior to his death in 1948. Many younger public intellectuals of a similar bent also suffered the same fate, or were even purged from respectability and denied any access to the mainstream media. At the same time, the totally contrary perspectives of two European political philosophers, Karl Popper and Leo Strauss , gradually gained ascendancy in American intellectual circles, and their ideas became dominant in public life.

Popper, the more widely influential, presented broad, largely theoretical objections to the very possibility of important conspiracies ever existing, suggesting that these would be implausibly difficult to implement given the fallibility of human agents; what might appear a conspiracy actually amounted to individual actors pursuing their narrow aims. Even more importantly, he regarded "conspiratorial beliefs" as an extremely dangerous social malady, a major contributing factor to the rise of Nazism and other deadly totalitarian ideologies. His own background as an individual of Jewish ancestry who had fled Austria in 1937 surely contributed to the depth of his feelings on these philosophical matters.

Meanwhile, Strauss, a founding figure in modern neo-conservative thought, was equally harsh in his attacks upon conspiracy analysis, but for polar-opposite reasons. In his mind, elite conspiracies were absolutely necessary and beneficial, a crucial social defense against anarchy or totalitarianism, but their effectiveness obviously depended upon keeping them hidden from the prying eyes of the ignorant masses. His main problem with "conspiracy theories" was not that they were always false, but they might often be true, and therefore their spread was potentially disruptive to the smooth functioning of society. So as a matter of self-defense, elites needed to actively suppress or otherwise undercut the unauthorized investigation of suspected conspiracies.

Even for most educated Americans, theorists such as Beard, Popper, and Strauss are probably no more than vague names mentioned in textbooks, and that was certainly true in my own case. But while the influence of Beard seems to have largely disappeared in elite circles, the same is hardly true of his rivals. Popper probably ranks as one of the founders of modern liberal thought, with an individual as politically influential as left-liberal financier George Soros claiming to be his intellectual disciple . Meanwhile, the neo-conservative thinkers who have totally dominated the Republican Party and the Conservative Movement for the last couple of decades often proudly trace their ideas back to Strauss.

So, through a mixture of Popperian and Straussian thinking, the traditional American tendency to regard elite conspiracies as a real but harmful aspect of our society was gradually stigmatized as either paranoid or politically dangerous, laying the conditions for its exclusion from respectable discourse.

Kirt > , September 5, 2016 at 4:26 am GMT

Conspiracy is simply a plan or agreement by more than one person to do something evil and then the pursuit of that plan. Secrecy may be needed for the success of a conspiracy, but it is not essential to the definition. Were it essential to the definition, you could never prove the existence of a conspiracy. Either secrecy would be maintained and there would be little or no evidence or secrecy would not be maintained and the plan would become known and by definition not be a conspiracy.

Pat Casey > , September 5, 2016 at 4:55 am GMT

"We'll know our disinformation program is complete when everything the American public believes is false."

–William Casey, CIA Director, from a first staff meeting in 1981

You can read the context of that quote according to the person who claims to be its original source here:

https://www.quora.com/Did-William-Casey-CIA-Director-really-say-Well-know-our-disinformation-program-is-complete-when-everything-the-American-public-believes-is-false

I think it's worth pointing out what I've never seen explained about that quote, a quote with as much currency in the conspiracy theory fever swamps as any single quote has ever had. The point of the disinformation campaign was not to manipulate the public but to manipulate the soviets. Because our CIA analysts spent so much time unriddling the soviet media, we figured their CIA analysts were doing the same thing with ours.

FKA Max > , September 5, 2016 at 4:56 am GMT

Mr. Unz,

this study/paper might by of interest to you: http://emilkirkegaard.dk/en/wp-content/uploads/CONSPIRE.doc

[MORE]

Note: This paper was published in Political Psychology 15: 733-744, 1994. This is the original typescript sent to the journal, it does not include any editorial changes that may have been made. The journal itself is not available online, to my knowledge.

Belief in Conspiracy Theories

Ted Goertzel1

Running Head: Belief in Conspiracy Theories.

KEY WORDS: conspiracy theories, anomia, trust

Table Three
Means Scores of Racial/Ethnic Groups on Attitude Scales
White[W] Hispanic[H] Black[B]
Scale
Belief in Conspiracies 2.5[W] 2.8[H] 3.3[B]
Anomia 3.4[W] 3.8[H] 4.1[B]
Trust 3.7[W] 3.3[H] 3.1[B]
Note: All scales varied from 1 to 5, with 3 as a neutral score.

One of the most interesting discussions of the paper:

It is puzzling that conspiratorial thinking has been overlooked in the extensive research on authoritarianism which has dominated quantitative work in political psychology since the 1950s. One possible explanation is that much of this work focuses on right-wing authoritarianism (Altmeyer, 1988), while conspiratorial thinking is characteristic of alienated thinkers on both the right and the left (Citrin, et al., 1975; Graumann, 1987; Berlet, 1992). Even more surprisingly, however, conspiratorial thinking has not been a focus of the efforts to measure "left-wing authoritarianism" (Stone, 1980; Eysenck, 1981; LeVasseur & Gold, 1993) or of research with the "dogmatism" concept (Rokeach, 1960) which was intended to overcome the ideological bias in authoritarianism measures.
On a more fundamental level, the difficulty with existing research traditions may be their focus on the content of beliefs rather than the res[p]ondent's cognitive processes or emotional makeup. As I have argued elsewhere (Goertzel, 1987), most studies of authoritarianism simply ask people what they believe and then assume that these beliefs must be based on underlying psychological processes which go unmeasured. Since these scales ask mostly about beliefs held by those on the right, it is not surprising that they find authoritarianism to be a right-wing phenomenon. Research with projective tests (Rothman and Lichter, 1982) and biographical materials (Goertzel, 1992), on the other hand, has confirmed that many aspects of authoritarian thinking can be found on both the left and the right.

Lot > , September 5, 2016 at 5:14 am GMT

Given how easy it is to create a conspiracy theory, most of them will be crazy.

Another problem with elite conspiracies is that elites usually do not have to act in secret because they already are in control. For Kennedy, a centrist cold warrior, his views already reflected those of elites, maybe even more so than Johnson.

The other problem is that actual criminal conspiracies by elites quite often are discovered, such as Watergate and Iran Contra.

Chief Seattle > , September 5, 2016 at 5:17 am GMT

So, a conspiracy theory is a theory without media backing. There's no better recent example of this than when the DNC emails were released by wikileaks during their convention. The story put forth was that Russian hackers were responsible, and were trying to throw the election to their buddy Trump. The evidence for this? Zero. And yet it became a plausible explanation in the media, overnight.

Maybe it's true, maybe not, but if the roles had been reversed, the media would be telling its proponents to take off their tin foil hats.

Miro23 > , September 5, 2016 at 5:20 am GMT

The British and Americans have been the victims of conspiracies (False Flag operations) for years.

For example:

The Irgun bombing of the King David Hotel (headquarters of the British Mandate Government of Palestine) in which Zionist activists dressed as Arabs placed milk churns filled with explosives against the main columns of the building killing 91 people and injuring 44. Israeli prime Minister Netanyahu, attended a celebration to commemorate the event.

Operation Susannah (Lavon Affair) where Israeli operatives impersonating Arabs bombed British and American cinemas, libraries and educational centers in Egypt to destabilize the country and keep British troops committed to the Middle East.

Or June 8, 1967, the Israeli attack on the USS Liberty with unmarked aircraft and torpedo boats. 34 men were killed and 171 wounded, with the attack in international waters following over nine hours of close surveillance. When the ship failed to sink, the Israeli government concocted an elaborate story to cover the crime. Original plan to blame the sinking with all lives lost on the Egyptians and draw the US into the war.

Or Israelis and U.S. Zionists appearing all over the most recent WTC 9/11 "Operation" with Israelis once again impersonating Arabs in a historic deception/terror action of a type that seems to carry a lot of kudos with old Israeli ex-terrorist Likudniks. Israeli agents were sent to film the historic day (as they later admitted on Israeli TV), with the celebrations including photos of themselves with a background of the burning towers where thousands of Americans were being incinerated.

Iraq was destroyed as a result of 9/11 but unfortunately for the conspirators, the momentum wasn't sufficient for a general war including Iran. Also the general war would have included the nuclear angle and justified the activation of a neo-con led Emergency Regime (dictatorship) in the US enforced with the newly printed Patriot Act and Homeland Security troops – or maybe that's just another Conspiracy Theory?

Emblematic > , September 5, 2016 at 7:17 am GMT

I get the sense Ron's building up to something. For those who haven't seen it, can I recommend Ryan Dawson's 'War by Deception':

polistra > , September 5, 2016 at 8:03 am GMT

Simplifying one "contradiction": Our elites have never been primarily anti-Russian or pro-Russian. Since 1946 our elites have been purely GLOBALIST, and their secondary feelings toward Russia strictly follow from this primary goal.

At first Russia was an obstacle to globalism, blocking much of the UN's efforts. Our elites were anti-Russian. After 1962 or so, Russia became the main driver of the UN, so our elites were pro-Russian. Since 1989, Russia has been the guiding star for ANTI-globalist forces, so our elites are FEROCIOUSLY anti-Russian.

smiddy > , September 5, 2016 at 8:13 am GMT

Mr. Unz's direct confrontation with this topic leads me to feel a sense of sentimentality or coming full circle as my "red-pilled" experience literally started with his The Myth of American Meritocracy a little over 2 years ago (I finally looked into the "white privilege" I was "highly exposed" to in college).

Long story short, I was a lazy liberal beforehand, now a highly motivated conservative; nothing helps one get their ish together better than understanding the trajectory at which our society is heading. The Myth of American Meritocracy singularly led me to have a more open mind in understanding how non-congruent the mainstream narrative can be with man's shared universal reality, and having spent way too much time in school learning research methodology, I finally applied it via whim thereafter to criminal statistics (but we know where this story ends), then WW2, the mainstream narrative of which I grew up worshiping

For someone who, when I was naive, hung on to every word one heard or read in the countless amount of hours I've spent in American history classes, for me to learn the hard way of Operation Keelhaul, the Haavara Agreement, the disease epidemic, the migrant crisis (before hand), the hand THE banksters probably played (in playing both sides), and so on, it becomes all too clear how amazingly systematically corrupt our academic system has become. Not once did I ever hear one smidgen about those extremely large plot points; they're so consistently implicitly left out of the script its terrifying.

Alternating to my freshman year of high school now, when I was still naive, I complained to our just hired 22 year old (conveniently) Jewish teacher (fresh out of the Ivy League but back to sacrifice where he had graduated high school, he had always reminded us) over having to read about the Little Rock 9 and Ann Frank for literally (in my case) the 4th time (each). Point is, even when I was entirely clueless, and had no defensive instinct at all, it still didn't feel healthy to read over and over again; I was emotionally exhausted already. I accepted their stories at face value, faced the guilt, and just wanted to move on, yet according to my teacher I "lacked empathy" (so if only we were taught about how the Irish were treated in the 17th we'd be fine). It really is this kind of dwelling on the past that has been institutionalized, and its borderline brain-washing, regardless of the said tragedy's validity.

There is one such particular event of WW2 that, once naive, I've personally cried over more than any other historical event easily (perhaps even more than anything subjectively experienced), much in thanks to programmed televising So what's so weird about all of this, is its like a meta-intellectual betrayal, but with all the emotional connotations of a woman who wronged you in all the worse ways (and she's inevitably waiting in seemingly every dark corner of history you delve into, thus the "endless rabbit hole" you fall through). And its this implicit brand of deceit that is patently feminine which can be inductively read from the MSM to "read the tea leaves"

I could go on and on but really I initially just wanted to thank you Mr. Unz, your publication, and your current and past writing staff. I don't even want to imagine a world where I had never stumbled upon your work!

JL > , September 5, 2016 at 10:40 am GMT

Perhaps the media tried too hard, were too eager to be complicit, and now they've completely lost the plot. The rise of Trump, in the face of a completely and uniformly hostile media, suggests that a large part of the American public, consciously or not, now completely rejects entire media narratives and assumes the exact opposite to be true. And they're panicking. Not knowing what to do, they double and triple down on the same fail that got them into this mess. Truly interesting times.

Thanks, Mr. Unz, for your "small webzine".

Gene Tuttle > , September 5, 2016 at 10:41 am GMT

I've often used the argument myself that conspiracies inevitably have short shelf lives in the US because it was so difficult for Americans to keep secrets. The article makes a useful point in suggesting that secret plots, even after being revealed, may nevertheless remain widely ignored. Ideology, group-think, pack journalism etc. are powerful forces, often subconsciously at work, preventing alternative theories from developing legs.

Though long an admirer of Karl Popper, I hadn't strongly associated him with attacks on conspiracy theories per se. As an American "outsider" living abroad most of my adult life, I've all too often encountered those who assumed my background alone explained an argument of mine that they didn't like. Popper had hit the nail on the head when he wrote about

"a widespread and dangerous fashion of our time of not taking arguments seriously, and at their face value, at least tentatively, but of seeing in them nothing but a way in which deeper irrational motives and tendencies express themselves." It was "the attitude of looking at once for the unconscious motives and determinants in the social habitat of the thinker, instead of first examining the validity of the argument itself."

The powerful nazi and communist ideologies of his day assumed that one's " blood " or " class " precluded "correct" thinking. Those politically incorrect challengers to their own totalitarian weltanschauung were (to put it mildly) persecuted as conspirators. No doubt, as Ron Unz notes, Popper's personal experience "contributed the depth of his feelings" ! I would say skepticism – about conspiracy claims.

But the author of the " Open Society " had an open mind and I suspect he'd find the thesis reasonable that real conspiracies can both be uncovered and largely ignored because so many simply opt to ignore them. In such cases, evidence and "not taking arguments seriously" often reflects "intellectual groupieism," emotions, professional insecurities as well as venal collective interests.

anonymous > , Disclaimer September 5, 2016 at 12:24 pm GMT

One conspiracy theory is that some of the wilder, more incredible notions of what may have taken place are deliberately circulated so as to muddy the waters and discredit those who question the party line. For example, outlandish claims by some that no planes were crashed on 9-11 but were really just holograms are seized upon by supposed debunkers as being representative of all skeptics, overshadowing the more reasonable types who question the narrative. This seems to be quite deliberate.

The mainstream American press is the freest in the world, we've been told endlessly, and at some point I realized that I was reading these accolades to itself in the very same press. Not the most objective source one comes to realize. Now on the internet it seems there are those who appear to fan out everywhere to influence the discussion, spread their slogans and shout down opposing ideas. Paid trolls and others?

Conspiracies exist. Consider the Gulf of Tonkin fabrication which certainly involved many actors and yet the general public was kept in the dark about the real facts. The results need not be rehashed yet again. There's a streak of denial in most people. They don't want to contemplate the idea that FDR may have deliberately allowed American servicemen to die at Pearl Harbor in order to get the war he wanted. Stepping back from it all to get a long distance view one can see the patterns of deceit and manipulation all throughout American political life. It's not just incidental but rather is built in.

Pat Casey > , September 5, 2016 at 12:44 pm GMT

@Emblematic I get the sense Ron's building up to something.

For those who haven't seen it, can I recommend Ryan Dawson's 'War by Deception':

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pK6VLFdWJ4I

I get the sense Ron's building up to something.

One can only hope. This time he mentioned 9/11! so that base is covered; no need to say more about that than that; besides I doubt even he could add to what has already been published and posted on this site re that Big Lie. I would like to see how he weighs all the evidence on RFK's assassination, what he would be willing to call what looks like nothing as much as what MK-Ultra was about.

Wizard of Oz > , September 5, 2016 at 12:44 pm GMT

@Miro23 The British and Americans have been the victims of conspiracies (False Flag operations) for years.

For example:

The Irgun bombing of the King David Hotel (headquarters of the British Mandate Government of Palestine) in which Zionist activists dressed as Arabs placed milk churns filled with explosives against the main columns of the building killing 91 people and injuring 44. Israeli prime Minister Netanyahu, attended a celebration to commemorate the event.

Operation Susannah (Lavon Affair) where Israeli operatives impersonating Arabs bombed British and American cinemas, libraries and educational centers in Egypt to destabilize the country and keep British troops committed to the Middle East.

Or June 8, 1967, the Israeli attack on the USS Liberty with unmarked aircraft and torpedo boats. 34 men were killed and 171 wounded, with the attack in international waters following over nine hours of close surveillance. When the ship failed to sink, the Israeli government concocted an elaborate story to cover the crime. Original plan to blame the sinking with all lives lost on the Egyptians and draw the US into the war.

Or Israelis and U.S. Zionists appearing all over the most recent WTC 9/11 "Operation" with Israelis once again impersonating Arabs in a historic deception/terror action of a type that seems to carry a lot of kudos with old Israeli ex-terrorist Likudniks. Israeli agents were sent to film the historic day (as they later admitted on Israeli TV), with the celebrations including photos of themselves with a background of the burning towers where thousands of Americans were being incinerated.

Iraq was destroyed as a result of 9/11 but unfortunately for the conspirators, the momentum wasn't sufficient for a general war including Iran. Also the general war would have included the nuclear angle and justified the activation of a neo-con led Emergency Regime (dictatorship) in the US enforced with the newly printed Patriot Act and Homeland Security troops - or maybe that's just another Conspiracy Theory? I accept that your explanation of the attack on USS Liberty is relatively plausible but another which runs it close is that Israel had to ensure that there was no proof left of the true order of events which were not in accordance with the Israeli official version. So I ask what are your sources?

Likewise, if you are saying that suicidal hijackers flew planes into buildings on 9/11 but that it was organised by Mossad or other Israelis your story needs a lot of filling out and evidence to be credible. Or are you merely saying the Israelis knew what was going to
happen and let it go ahead because it could be turned to their advantage?

SolontoCroesus > , September 5, 2016 at 1:24 pm GMT

@anonymous One conspiracy theory is that some of the wilder, more incredible notions of what may have taken place are deliberately circulated so as to muddy the waters and discredit those who question the party line. For example, outlandish claims by some that no planes were crashed on 9-11 but were really just holograms are seized upon by supposed debunkers as being representative of all skeptics, overshadowing the more reasonable types who question the narrative. This seems to be quite deliberate.
The mainstream American press is the freest in the world, we've been told endlessly, and at some point I realized that I was reading these accolades to itself in the very same press. Not the most objective source one comes to realize. Now on the internet it seems there are those who appear to fan out everywhere to influence the discussion, spread their slogans and shout down opposing ideas. Paid trolls and others?
Conspiracies exist. Consider the Gulf of Tonkin fabrication which certainly involved many actors and yet the general public was kept in the dark about the real facts. The results need not be rehashed yet again. There's a streak of denial in most people. They don't want to contemplate the idea that FDR may have deliberately allowed American servicemen to die at Pearl Harbor in order to get the war he wanted. Stepping back from it all to get a long distance view one can see the patterns of deceit and manipulation all throughout American political life. It's not just incidental but rather is built in.

Stepping back from it all to get a long distance view one can see the patterns of deceit and manipulation all throughout American political life. It's not just incidental but rather is built in.

Is this built-in deceit and manipulation unique to American life, or ! beyond the usual understandings about human nature ! is the systematic or institutionalized "deceit and manipulation" present in all cultures? in western cultures? in some but not all cultures? If the lattermost, in which cultures is "deceit and manipulation" less systematic and institutionalized?

Was "deceit and manipulation" institutionalized into American life from the beginning ! by the Founders, or did USA deviate from its intended path at some point? If so, at what point? How did it happen?

Is there the possibility of redemption?

Wizard of Oz > , September 5, 2016 at 2:03 pm GMT

@SolontoCroesus


Stepping back from it all to get a long distance view one can see the patterns of deceit and manipulation all throughout American political life. It's not just incidental but rather is built in.
Is this built-in deceit and manipulation unique to American life, or -- beyond the usual understandings about human nature -- is the systematic or institutionalized "deceit and manipulation" present in all cultures? in western cultures? in some but not all cultures? If the lattermost, in which cultures is "deceit and manipulation" less systematic and institutionalized?

Was "deceit and manipulation" institutionalized into American life from the beginning -- by the Founders, or did USA deviate from its intended path at some point? If so, at what point? How did it happen?

Is there the possibility of redemption? It would be worth considering the different contributions to truth telling and also honest scepticism of the Puritan and other Protestant culture, and of the Enlightenment for a start. Some subjects were difficult – like whether there is a God for all Christians and of course the one that must have addled many brains: slavery.

godfree roberts > , September 5, 2016 at 2:18 pm GMT

Agreed. This is an exemplary piece of scholarship and also an enthralling re-telling of our recent past. Highly recommended.

Decius > , September 5, 2016 at 2:22 pm GMT

Your characterization of Strauss on conspiracy has almost no basis in anything Strauss actually wrote. I would bet that you are presenting a dumbed -down and inaccurate version of Shadia Drury's books on Strauss, which are themselves abysmally inaccurate and libelous about Strauss.

The only place Strauss discusses conspiracy thematically that I can recall–and I have read all his books several times, and still read them; have/do you?–is on Thoughts on Machiavelli . Strauss does so, first and foremost, because conspiracy is a major theme of Machiavelli's and the subject of the two longest chapters of his two most important books ( Prince 19 and Discourses III 6). Strauss further develops the idea that modern philosophy begins as a conspiracy between Machiavelli and (some of) his readers. Strauss simply never said anything like this:

Meanwhile, Strauss, a founding figure in modern neo-conservative thought, was equally harsh in his attacks upon conspiracy analysis, but for polar-opposite reasons. In his mind, elite conspiracies were absolutely necessary and beneficial, a crucial social defense against anarchy or totalitarianism, but their effectiveness obviously depended upon keeping them hidden from the prying eyes of the ignorant masses. His main problem with "conspiracy theories" was not that they were always false, but they might often be true, and therefore their spread was potentially disruptive to the smooth functioning of society. So as a matter of self-defense, elites needed to actively suppress or otherwise undercut the unauthorized investigation of suspected conspiracies.

As for his relationship with neoconservatism, you also overstate that considerably. Yes, there are many neoconservative Straussians. But there are also Straussian paleos, tradcons, liberatarians, liberals, and moderates. There are many who are apolitical and interested only in abstract philosophy. There are Straussian religious conservatives, agnostics and atheists. Christians, Jews and Muslim. Catholic, Protestants and Mormons. The neocons just get all the attention–owing again, in part to Drury and in part to one terrible 2003 article by James Atlas, which no one these days has read, but quickly became THE account of neocon Straussians controlling the Bush administration, which everyone today believes without having read, or even being aware of (have/are you?).

If "neocon" has any meaning, it means, first, a former intellectual liberal who has drifted right. Second, a domestic policy scholar who focuses on data-driven social science. And third, a foreign policy hawk.

None of these really apply to Strauss, who spent his who career studying political philosophy, with an intense focus on the Greeks. He voted Dem in every election in which he could vote, until his last, 1972, when he voted for Nixon out of Cold War concerns. You might say that makes him a "hawk" but he never wrote any essays saying so. He simply told a few people privately that McGovern was too naïve about the Soviets. You might also say that is evidence that he "drifted right" but he didn't think so. He apparently considered himself a Cold War liberal until his death. As for data-driven social science, he famously attacked it in of the very few of his writings that ever got any attention in mainstream political science ("An Epilogue").

You may well be right about the CIA's role in popularizing the phrase "conspiracy theory." But Leo Strauss had nothing to do with it. Or, if he did, he hid his role exceptionally well, because there is no evidence of such in his writings.

Connecticut Famer > , September 5, 2016 at 2:28 pm GMT

@Gene Tuttle I've often used the argument myself that conspiracies inevitably have short shelf lives in the US because it was so difficult for Americans to keep secrets. The article makes a useful point in suggesting that secret plots, even after being revealed, may nevertheless remain widely ignored. Ideology, group-think, pack journalism etc. are powerful forces, often subconsciously at work, preventing alternative theories from developing legs.

Though long an admirer of Karl Popper, I hadn't strongly associated him with attacks on conspiracy theories per se. As an American "outsider" living abroad most of my adult life, I've all too often encountered those who assumed my background alone explained an argument of mine that they didn't like. Popper had hit the nail on the head when he wrote about

"a widespread and dangerous fashion of our time...of not taking arguments seriously, and at their face value, at least tentatively, but of seeing in them nothing but a way in which deeper irrational motives and tendencies express themselves." It was "the attitude of looking at once for the unconscious motives and determinants in the social habitat of the thinker, instead of first examining the validity of the argument itself."
The powerful nazi and communist ideologies of his day assumed that one's " blood " or " class " precluded "correct" thinking. Those politically incorrect challengers to their own totalitarian weltanschauung were (to put it mildly) persecuted as conspirators. No doubt, as Ron Unz notes, Popper's personal experience "contributed the depth of his feelings" -- I would say skepticism – about conspiracy claims.

But the author of the " Open Society " had an open mind and I suspect he'd find the thesis reasonable that real conspiracies can both be uncovered and largely ignored because so many simply opt to ignore them. In such cases, evidence and "not taking arguments seriously" often reflects "intellectual groupieism," emotions, professional insecurities as well as venal collective interests. "But the author of the "Open Society" had an open mind and I suspect he'd find the thesis reasonable that real conspiracies can both be uncovered and largely ignored because so many simply opt to ignore them. In such cases, evidence and "not taking arguments seriously" often reflects "intellectual groupieism," emotions, professional insecurities as well as venal collective interests."

Possibly as in the JFK case? I actually watched Lee Harvey Oswald get drilled by the man who was later identified as Jack Ruby (real surname "Rubenstein") live on television. The minute it happened and even at age 16 at the time I smelled a rat. Who was ultimately behind it all is something which I can't answer and care not to speculate upon, but to this day I remain suspicious about the circumstances surrounding Oswald's death and Ruby's subsequent dissembling.

Jacques Sheete > , September 5, 2016 at 2:46 pm GMT

Superb article.

It's good to see that Mr. Beard is getting some well deserved good press. It's also good to have people put on alert about Leo Strauss; his name should be a household word, and that of derision. I first learned of the fool at LewRockwell.com, and I feel it's worth investigating him as a source of the goofy neocon outlook that the world's been suffering under for decades. "Strauss, who opposed the idea of individual rights, maintained that neither the ancient world nor the Christian envisioned strict, absolute limits on state power. Straussian neoconservatism is not conservatism as it has ever been understood in America or anywhere else "

https://www.lewrockwell.com/2004/09/thomas-woods/the-neocon-godfather/

Paul Jolliffe > , September 5, 2016 at 2:53 pm GMT

Mr. Unz,

Here is a link to Carl Bernstein's definitive 1977 Rolling Stone article "CIA and the Media" in which he addresses – and confirms – your worst fears. You are very right, and no less a figure than Bernstein has said so for nearly four decades . . .

http://www.carlbernstein.com/magazine_cia_and_media.php

Clearpoint > , September 5, 2016 at 2:53 pm GMT

Popper and Strauss. Neoliberal thought unites with neoconservative thought. Explicitly different rationales, but the same goals and the same method of achieving those goals. Sounds like target marketing of the two biggest target markets of American exceptionalism – dumb and dumber. Apparently critical thinkers are a minority that they believe can be easily marginalized.

John Jeremiah Smith > , September 5, 2016 at 2:58 pm GMT

@JL Perhaps the media tried too hard, were too eager to be complicit, and now they've completely lost the plot. The rise of Trump, in the face of a completely and uniformly hostile media, suggests that a large part of the American public, consciously or not, now completely rejects entire media narratives and assumes the exact opposite to be true. And they're panicking. Not knowing what to do, they double and triple down on the same fail that got them into this mess. Truly interesting times.

Thanks, Mr. Unz, for your "small webzine".

The rise of Trump, in the face of a completely and uniformly hostile media, suggests that a large part of the American public, consciously or not, now completely rejects entire media narratives and assumes the exact opposite to be true. And they're panicking.

Are they? Or, have they simply fired the first few rounds of easily-dispatched, easily-targeted artillery? I do note that this is the most massive full-court press in support of the oligarchy that I have ever seen. But, I sense that political wars have moved from the court of public opinion and perception, into the courtyards of the moneyed elite. Inasmuch as no rich person has ever believed that he or she has enough money and power, the national political conflict is now composed solely of issues that affect the wealth and power of the 0.1%, which is itself segmented into areas of economic focus and varying forms of wealth acquisition. For example, if air transport systems threaten the wealth and power of ocean-based shipping, that competition between oligarchs will morph into politically-expressed contexts.

There is absolutely no concern, anywhere within the dominion of the 0.1%, with human values, human rights, or any of that sort of ethically-principled hoo-hoo.

John Jeremiah Smith > , September 5, 2016 at 3:05 pm GMT

@SolontoCroesus

Stepping back from it all to get a long distance view one can see the patterns of deceit and manipulation all throughout American political life. It's not just incidental but rather is built in.
Is this built-in deceit and manipulation unique to American life, or -- beyond the usual understandings about human nature -- is the systematic or institutionalized "deceit and manipulation" present in all cultures? in western cultures? in some but not all cultures? If the lattermost, in which cultures is "deceit and manipulation" less systematic and institutionalized?

Was "deceit and manipulation" institutionalized into American life from the beginning -- by the Founders, or did USA deviate from its intended path at some point? If so, at what point? How did it happen?

Is there the possibility of redemption?

Is there the possibility of redemption?

Of what is "redemption" constituted? Considering that fewer than 20% of American residents during the Revolution were actually involved in the revolt, with an estimated 40% preferring to retain the colony under monarchy, and considering that the ethical and political awareness of the Average American and the Average Illegal Resident Alien have gone downhill from there, can it honestly be said that there's enough true flavor of human rights and equal access/opportunity to redeem?

biz > , September 5, 2016 at 3:10 pm GMT

@John Jeremiah Smith

The definition of a conspiracy theory is an explanation of events that traces them to a secret network, and when presented with contradictory evidence, simply enlarges the network of supposed conspirators rather than modifying the explanation.
LOL x 2. I think you're saying that the above is YOUR definition of "conspiracy theory", not to be confused with any real and accurate definition of "conspiracy theory". No what I have put is the generally accepted definition used in journalistic and sociological works about conspiracy theory culture, e.g. this book .
CanSpeccy > , Website September 5, 2016 at 3:22 pm GMT

Good epistemological analysis.

The great flaw in the Western system of "democratic" government is that hardly anyone knows the meaning of the word "epistemology", let alone have any grasp of the underlying challenge of knowing what they know, or rather knowing how little they know beyond what they know from direct personal experience. This is a challenge made vastly more difficult in the modern age when almost everything we know is derived not from personal experience, or from other people of whose character and intellectual competence we have some personal knowledge, but from the arrangement of ink on paper or of pixels on a video screen. To this problem, there is probably no solution, although either a sharp restriction of the franchise to those of some maturity and education, or a division of the franchise according to what each particular individual could be expected to know something about, would be a step in the right direction.

As it is, we will, inevitably, continue to be the target of high powered manipulation by corporate owned media and other powerful interests.

Professor Lance Haven de Smith, whose book you mention is an expert on SCADS, or state crimes against democracy. An article by him on this topic is available here . There is some interesting academic material about SCADs here .

nsa > , September 5, 2016 at 3:25 pm GMT

In spook circles, leaving [false] clues is referred to as inoculation. Refer to the work of Bill McGuire in the late 50s and early 60s. For example, we here in Langley and Ft. Meade have left intact on the internet the early picture of the 20′ entry hole left by the "757″ in the facade of the pentagon before the explosion and complete collapse of the exterior wall ..inviting the conspiratorial question " where are the wings, the mangled cadavers, the tail?". This is all just too easy

Alden > , September 5, 2016 at 3:27 pm GMT

Highly reccomend Chris Buckley's book. "Little Green Men" The plot is that the entire UFO thing was set up after WW3 by the DOJ to keep the money flowing. Like all Buckley's books, it's a great read. I stopped believing in anything written in newspapers around 1966 because they were so pro black criminal and anti police

Have fun on Labor Day

John Jeremiah Smith > , September 5, 2016 at 3:45 pm GMT

@biz No what I have put is the generally accepted definition used in journalistic and sociological works about conspiracy theory culture, e.g. this book .

No what I have put is the generally accepted definition used in journalistic and sociological works about conspiracy theory culture, e.g. this book.

Journalism? Sociological works? You choose to quote even bigger liars as defining "conspiracy theory"?

"A conspiracy theory is a belief that a secret conspiracy has actually been decisive in producing a political event or evil outcome which the theorists strongly disapprove of. The conspiracy theory typically identifies the conspirators, provides evidence that supposedly links them together with an evil plan to harm the body politic, and may also point to a supposed cover up by authorities or media who should have stopped the conspiracy. The duty of the theorist is to pick from a myriad of facts and assumptions and reassemble them to form a picture of the conspiracy, as in a jigsaw puzzle. A theorist may publicly identify specific conspirators, and if they deny the allegations that is evidence they have been sworn to secrecy and are probably guilty."

Similar, agreed, but with noteworthy differences.

SolontoCroesus > , September 5, 2016 at 4:12 pm GMT

@Decius Your characterization of Strauss on conspiracy has almost no basis in anything Strauss actually wrote. I would bet that you are presenting a dumbed -down and inaccurate version of Shadia Drury's books on Strauss, which are themselves abysmally inaccurate and libelous about Strauss.

The only place Strauss discusses conspiracy thematically that I can recall--and I have read all his books several times, and still read them; have/do you?--is on Thoughts on Machiavelli . Strauss does so, first and foremost, because conspiracy is a major theme of Machiavelli's and the subject of the two longest chapters of his two most important books ( Prince 19 and Discourses III 6). Strauss further develops the idea that modern philosophy begins as a conspiracy between Machiavelli and (some of) his readers. Strauss simply never said anything like this:

Meanwhile, Strauss, a founding figure in modern neo-conservative thought, was equally harsh in his attacks upon conspiracy analysis, but for polar-opposite reasons. In his mind, elite conspiracies were absolutely necessary and beneficial, a crucial social defense against anarchy or totalitarianism, but their effectiveness obviously depended upon keeping them hidden from the prying eyes of the ignorant masses. His main problem with "conspiracy theories" was not that they were always false, but they might often be true, and therefore their spread was potentially disruptive to the smooth functioning of society. So as a matter of self-defense, elites needed to actively suppress or otherwise undercut the unauthorized investigation of suspected conspiracies.
As for his relationship with neoconservatism, you also overstate that considerably. Yes, there are many neoconservative Straussians. But there are also Straussian paleos, tradcons, liberatarians, liberals, and moderates. There are many who are apolitical and interested only in abstract philosophy. There are Straussian religious conservatives, agnostics and atheists. Christians, Jews and Muslim. Catholic, Protestants and Mormons. The neocons just get all the attention--owing again, in part to Drury and in part to one terrible 2003 article by James Atlas, which no one these days has read, but quickly became THE account of neocon Straussians controlling the Bush administration, which everyone today believes without having read, or even being aware of (have/are you?).

If "neocon" has any meaning, it means, first, a former intellectual liberal who has drifted right. Second, a domestic policy scholar who focuses on data-driven social science. And third, a foreign policy hawk.

None of these really apply to Strauss, who spent his who career studying political philosophy, with an intense focus on the Greeks. He voted Dem in every election in which he could vote, until his last, 1972, when he voted for Nixon out of Cold War concerns. You might say that makes him a "hawk" but he never wrote any essays saying so. He simply told a few people privately that McGovern was too naïve about the Soviets. You might also say that is evidence that he "drifted right" but he didn't think so. He apparently considered himself a Cold War liberal until his death. As for data-driven social science, he famously attacked it in of the very few of his writings that ever got any attention in mainstream political science ("An Epilogue").

You may well be right about the CIA's role in popularizing the phrase "conspiracy theory." But Leo Strauss had nothing to do with it. Or, if he did, he hid his role exceptionally well, because there is no evidence of such in his writings. C Bradley Thompson was educated/trained as a Straussian neoconservative, then got mugged by reality and started to re-assess his own philosophical orientation.

One of the most interesting points Thompson makes in this discussion of his book, Neoconservatism: An Obituary for an Idea, occurs in the Q&A segment when he demonstrates that Strauss was, indeed, an acolyte of Nazi philosopher Carl Schmitt

Laurel > , September 5, 2016 at 4:22 pm GMT

The best strategy is to foster implausible conspiracy theories to create a cloud of disinformation. This technique was used very effectively after 9/11, such that it's very hard to discuss a coverup without being labeled a truther.

SolontoCroesus > , September 5, 2016 at 4:24 pm GMT

@SolontoCroesus C Bradley Thompson was educated/trained as a Straussian neoconservative, then got mugged by reality and started to re-assess his own philosophical orientation.

One of the most interesting points Thompson makes in this discussion of his book, Neoconservatism: An Obituary for an Idea, occurs in the Q&A segment when he demonstrates that Strauss was, indeed, an acolyte of Nazi philosopher Carl Schmitt

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Oh6DmjQaho @ 12 min, Thompson asserts that "Leo Strauss was the most important influence on Irving Kristol's intellectual development. My book reveals for the first time the importance of Kristol's 1952 review of Strauss's Persecution and the Art of Writing . For me this is the Rosetta Stone . . .for understanding the deepest layer of neoconservative political philosophy."

It should also be noted that Irving Kristol was sponsored by -- on the payroll of – the CIA while still in Britain. Kristol has acknowledged that CIA support got his movement off the ground.

Decius > , September 5, 2016 at 4:25 pm GMT

@SolontoCroesus C Bradley Thompson was educated/trained as a Straussian neoconservative, then got mugged by reality and started to re-assess his own philosophical orientation.

One of the most interesting points Thompson makes in this discussion of his book, Neoconservatism: An Obituary for an Idea, occurs in the Q&A segment when he demonstrates that Strauss was, indeed, an acolyte of Nazi philosopher Carl Schmitt

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Oh6DmjQaho No. Strauss and Schmitt were friendly in the 1930s but Strauss was critical of Schmitt's work even then and said so. Schmitt himself said that Strauss had "seen right through" his arguments. Strauss was no acolyte of Schmitt's, he was a greater and deeper thinker and Schmitt -- something Schmitt himself acknowledged.

Decius > , September 5, 2016 at 4:42 pm GMT

@SolontoCroesus @ 12 min, Thompson asserts that "Leo Strauss was the most important influence on Irving Kristol's intellectual development. My book reveals for the first time the importance of Kristol's 1952 review of Strauss's Persecution and the Art of Writing . For me this is the Rosetta Stone . . .for understanding the deepest layer of neoconservative political philosophy."

---

It should also be noted that Irving Kristol was sponsored by -- on the payroll of - the CIA while still in Britain. Kristol has acknowledged that CIA support got his movement off the ground. So what? That's one guy. How do we even know Kristol interpreted Strauss correctly? Kristol's concerns–data-driven social science–were not Strauss's. And so on and on.

But all that is a re-frame anyway. The charge from Unz is that Strauss is responsible, partly, for the way Americans think about conspiracy today because Strauss advocated for elite conspiracy. That's false and Unz can't back it up.

5371 > , September 5, 2016 at 4:45 pm GMT

@Decius No. Strauss and Schmitt were friendly in the 1930s but Strauss was critical of Schmitt's work even then and said so. Schmitt himself said that Strauss had "seen right through" his arguments. Strauss was no acolyte of Schmitt's, he was a greater and deeper thinker and Schmitt--something Schmitt himself acknowledged. This is complete nonsense. Schmitt is a powerful and original thinker, Strauss a weak and derivative one whose real sweet spot was academic politics.

Decius > , September 5, 2016 at 4:54 pm GMT

@5371 This is complete nonsense. Schmitt is a powerful and original thinker, Strauss a weak and derivative one whose real sweet spot was academic politics. Schmitt disagreed with you.

Decius > , September 5, 2016 at 4:59 pm GMT

@5371 This is complete nonsense. Schmitt is a powerful and original thinker, Strauss a weak and derivative one whose real sweet spot was academic politics. At any rate it's sort of absurd to watch you people chase your tails. All that you "know" or think you know is that Strauss is bad. But Schmitt is good. But Strauss is derivative of Schmitt. Doesn't that make Strauss good, or Schmitt bad?

Schmitt is famous for arguing in favor of the essential particularity of politics -- i.e., against alleged neocon universalism. So if Strauss is derivative of Schmitt, how can he be a neocon universalist?

Strauss in fact agrees with Schmitt on the essential particularity of politics and says so, but finds a deeper source, with deeper arguments, in Plato. Schmitt admitted that his own attempt to fortify his particularism was build on the quick-sandy foundation of modern rationalism, which Strauss taught him to see through.

Hibernian > , September 5, 2016 at 5:02 pm GMT

@anonymous Pearl Harbor (covered in "Day of Deceit") is good starting point. I strongly encourage Mr. Unz to read Robert Stinnet's book next before moving on.

FDR never intended that 2,400 Americans would die there. He just thought that if Japan "struck first", he could justify our entry into WWII to the public. What's really fascinating (and almost wholly unknown) is the sequence of events and headlines from December 8 to December 11, 1941, the date Hitler declared war on the USA.

While Pearl Harbor meant war with Japan, it did not necessarily guarantee war with Nazi Germany. For 72 hours, no one could be sure that Germany would declare war on us. Did FDR manipulate events post-Pearl Harbor to ensure it did happen? "FDR never intended that 2,400 Americans would die there."

Did he think our forces at Pearl, lacking needed intelligence, would limit the losses to a lesser number?

SolontoCroesus > , September 5, 2016 at 5:07 pm GMT

@Decius So what? That's one guy. How do we even know Kristol interpreted Strauss correctly? Kristol's concerns -- data-driven social science -- were not Strauss's. And so on and on.

But all that is a re-frame anyway. The charge from Unz is that Strauss is responsible, partly, for the way Americans think about conspiracy today because Strauss advocated for elite conspiracy. That's false and Unz can't back it up.

The charge from Unz is that Strauss is responsible, partly, for the way Americans think about conspiracy today because Strauss advocated for elite conspiracy. That's false and Unz can't back it up.

Can't back it up or has not done so, so far?

The day is young . . . the moon has not yet appeared in the eastern sky.

Carlton Meyer > , Website September 5, 2016 at 5:20 pm GMT

Some conspiracies are eventually acknowledged. For recent examples, our government finally admitted that our CIA overthrew the government of Iran in the 1950s. The sinking of the Lusitania because it carried tons of munitions and weapons during WW I has been mostly accepted since 1982, after the sunken ship was discovered and searched by divers. For example, Encyclopedia Britannica:

"The Lusitania was carrying a cargo of rifle ammunition and shells (together about 173 tons), and the Germans, who had circulated warnings that the ship would be sunk, felt themselves fully justified in attacking a vessel that was furthering the war aims of their enemy. The German government also felt that, in view of the vulnerability of U-boats while on the surface and the British announcement of intentions to arm merchant ships, prior warning of potential targets was impractical."

https://www.britannica.com/topic/Lusitania-British-ship

One of the newest has got little attention, the murder of DNC staffer Seth Rich, who was a computer guy leaking info to Wikileaks.

http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2016/08/10/assange-implies-murdered-dnc-staffer-was-wikileaks-source.html

If we truly had aggressive news competition in the USA, this story would remain in the headlines, but of course its implications are not acceptable. However, stories about Russian hackers persist with no hard evidence.

JL > , September 5, 2016 at 5:27 pm GMT

@John Jeremiah Smith

The rise of Trump, in the face of a completely and uniformly hostile media, suggests that a large part of the American public, consciously or not, now completely rejects entire media narratives and assumes the exact opposite to be true. And they're panicking.
Are they? Or, have they simply fired the first few rounds of easily-dispatched, easily-targeted artillery? I do note that this is the most massive full-court press in support of the oligarchy that I have ever seen. But, I sense that political wars have moved from the court of public opinion and perception, into the courtyards of the moneyed elite. Inasmuch as no rich person has ever believed that he or she has enough money and power, the national political conflict is now composed solely of issues that affect the wealth and power of the 0.1%, which is itself segmented into areas of economic focus and varying forms of wealth acquisition. For example, if air transport systems threaten the wealth and power of ocean-based shipping, that competition between oligarchs will morph into politically-expressed contexts.

There is absolutely no concern, anywhere within the dominion of the 0.1%, with human values, human rights, or any of that sort of ethically-principled hoo-hoo. I suppose my comment came off somewhat like unbridled, naive optimism. Your points are unquestionably valid, however, and I am disinclined to argue. Of course Trump represents the interests of certain groups of elites and is not merely the essence of a popular movement. I'll be honest, though, I'm having a tough time determining who these groups are, exactly.

Just like with Brexit, these events don't happen without powerful manipulation from somewhere within the 0.1%. Still, it's tough for me to imagine what a Trump presidency will even look like. Who will be in his cabinet, from what backgrounds will they come?

There is absolutely no concern, anywhere within the dominion of the 0.1%, with human values, human rights, or any of that sort of ethically-principled hoo-hoo.

Certainly not. What are fundamentally important questions for us are merely means to an end for them.

Jeffrey S. > , Website September 5, 2016 at 5:31 pm GMT

Beard was an interesting guy, but's let's not forget that his central thesis regarding the founding of this country doesn't hold up to historical scrutiny:

http://www.libertylawsite.org/2014/10/10/charles-beard-living-legend-or-archaic-icon/

Meanwhile, I think it helps to think about conspiracies philosophically ! rigorous thought can help clear up sloppy thinking (which is found in many such theories):

http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2009/01/trouble-with-conspiracy-theories.html

Mulegino1 > , September 5, 2016 at 5:35 pm GMT

With respect to conspiracies, there are two equally absurd extreme views which distract from reality: one is the childish rejection of all conspiracy theories and the other the childish belief that every appreciable newsworthy event with a political, economic or social impact is the result of a nefarious conspiracy. The truth, of course, is to be found in the middle....

Decius > , September 5, 2016 at 5:43 pm GMT

@SolontoCroesus

The charge from Unz is that Strauss is responsible, partly, for the way Americans think about conspiracy today because Strauss advocated for elite conspiracy. That's false and Unz can't back it up.
Can't back it up or has not done so, so far? The day is young . . . the moon has not yet appeared in the eastern sky. I know Strauss's books. I am guessing that Unz does not because if he did, he would not attribute to Strauss what he did. At any rate, even if Unz does know the books, I fail to see what passages he could cite to support the paragraph that I highlighted. As noted, the claim sounds vaguely derivative of Drury, who hates Strauss (and gets everything wrong) but even she doesn't quite say what Unz says.
Ron Unz > , September 5, 2016 at 5:44 pm GMT

@Decius Your characterization of Strauss on conspiracy has almost no basis in anything Strauss actually wrote. I would bet that you are presenting a dumbed -down and inaccurate version of Shadia Drury's books on Strauss, which are themselves abysmally inaccurate and libelous about Strauss.

The only place Strauss discusses conspiracy thematically that I can recall--and I have read all his books several times, and still read them; have/do you?--is on Thoughts on Machiavelli . Strauss does so, first and foremost, because conspiracy is a major theme of Machiavelli's and the subject of the two longest chapters of his two most important books ( Prince 19 and Discourses III 6). Strauss further develops the idea that modern philosophy begins as a conspiracy between Machiavelli and (some of) his readers. Strauss simply never said anything like this:

Meanwhile, Strauss, a founding figure in modern neo-conservative thought, was equally harsh in his attacks upon conspiracy analysis, but for polar-opposite reasons. In his mind, elite conspiracies were absolutely necessary and beneficial, a crucial social defense against anarchy or totalitarianism, but their effectiveness obviously depended upon keeping them hidden from the prying eyes of the ignorant masses. His main problem with "conspiracy theories" was not that they were always false, but they might often be true, and therefore their spread was potentially disruptive to the smooth functioning of society. So as a matter of self-defense, elites needed to actively suppress or otherwise undercut the unauthorized investigation of suspected conspiracies.
As for his relationship with neoconservatism, you also overstate that considerably. Yes, there are many neoconservative Straussians. But there are also Straussian paleos, tradcons, liberatarians, liberals, and moderates. There are many who are apolitical and interested only in abstract philosophy. There are Straussian religious conservatives, agnostics and atheists. Christians, Jews and Muslim. Catholic, Protestants and Mormons. The neocons just get all the attention--owing again, in part to Drury and in part to one terrible 2003 article by James Atlas, which no one these days has read, but quickly became THE account of neocon Straussians controlling the Bush administration, which everyone today believes without having read, or even being aware of (have/are you?).

If "neocon" has any meaning, it means, first, a former intellectual liberal who has drifted right. Second, a domestic policy scholar who focuses on data-driven social science. And third, a foreign policy hawk.

None of these really apply to Strauss, who spent his who career studying political philosophy, with an intense focus on the Greeks. He voted Dem in every election in which he could vote, until his last, 1972, when he voted for Nixon out of Cold War concerns. You might say that makes him a "hawk" but he never wrote any essays saying so. He simply told a few people privately that McGovern was too naïve about the Soviets. You might also say that is evidence that he "drifted right" but he didn't think so. He apparently considered himself a Cold War liberal until his death. As for data-driven social science, he famously attacked it in of the very few of his writings that ever got any attention in mainstream political science ("An Epilogue").

You may well be right about the CIA's role in popularizing the phrase "conspiracy theory." But Leo Strauss had nothing to do with it. Or, if he did, he hid his role exceptionally well, because there is no evidence of such in his writings.

Your characterization of Strauss on conspiracy has almost no basis in anything Strauss actually wrote. I would bet that you are presenting a dumbed -down and inaccurate version of Shadia Drury's books on Strauss, which are themselves abysmally inaccurate and libelous about Strauss. The only place Strauss discusses conspiracy thematically that I can recall–and I have read all his books several times, and still read them; have/do you? .The neocons just get all the attention–owing again, in part to Drury and in part to one terrible 2003 article by James Atlas, which no one these days has read, but quickly became THE account of neocon Straussians controlling the Bush administration He apparently considered himself a Cold War liberal until his death.

I'll candidly admit I haven't read a single one of Strauss's own books, nor even that very influential James Atlas article you dislike so intensely. Instead, I was merely summarizing the extensive arguments of Prof. deHaven-Smith, who, as a prominent political scientist, is presumably quite familiar with Strauss, though I don't doubt that his views might differ considerably from your own.

But on your second point, I do remember seeing a very amusing private letter of Strauss that came to light about a decade or so ago. Written shortly after his arrival in America, it was addressed to a fellow ultra-rightwing Jewish exile from Europe, and in it he praised fascism and (I think) Nazism to the skies, arguing that their regrettable deviation into "anti-Semitism" (which had precipitated his own personal exile from Germany) should in no way be considered a refutation of all the other wonderful aspects of those political doctrines. This leads me to wonder if Strauss was truly the "liberal" you suggest, or perhaps was instead engaging in exactly the sort of "ideological crypsis" that seems such an important part of his political philosophy

It's likely my faulty memory may have garbled important aspects of the letter I mention, and given your expertise on Straussian issues, I'm sure you should be able to locate it and easily correct me.

Mulegino1 > , September 5, 2016 at 5:48 pm GMT

@SolontoCroesus

Stepping back from it all to get a long distance view one can see the patterns of deceit and manipulation all throughout American political life. It's not just incidental but rather is built in.
Is this built-in deceit and manipulation unique to American life, or -- beyond the usual understandings about human nature -- is the systematic or institutionalized "deceit and manipulation" present in all cultures? in western cultures? in some but not all cultures? If the lattermost, in which cultures is "deceit and manipulation" less systematic and institutionalized?

Was "deceit and manipulation" institutionalized into American life from the beginning -- by the Founders, or did USA deviate from its intended path at some point? If so, at what point? How did it happen?

Is there the possibility of redemption? To my mind, the real point of deviation in the history of the United States is the Spanish American War, and the transformation of America from a tellurocratic to a thallasocratic power. America's traditional role had been that of a vast, continental, land based power, eschewing intervention in the affairs of Europe and the rest of the world outside the Western Hemisphere. (This is largely the reason that the Russian Czar allied with the Union in the American Civil War).

Unfortunately, America's traditional tellurocratic role was abandonded – thanks to the likes of Admiral ("Victory through Sea Power") Mahan, John Hay, and the loopy Teddy Roosevelt, inter alia – and the nation went on to embrace the role of international arbiter and busybody, and became insatiable in the pursuit of empire, with catastrophic results for the world.

Sam Shama > , September 5, 2016 at 5:59 pm GMT

@5371 This is a good piece which deserved an acceptable level of mental hygiene in the comment section. Unfortunately, two of the first nine comments are from morons spamming their "no lunar landing" drivel. In all probability the "no nuclear weapons" clowns will also be here imminently. Oh well, a delicious sweet dish will attract a fly as much as a gourmet. [Oh well, a delicious sweet dish will attract a fly as much as a gourmet.]

LOL. I'll compile a mental list of both. Aren't the comments missing someone btw?

Decius > , September 5, 2016 at 6:00 pm GMT

@Ron Unz

Your characterization of Strauss on conspiracy has almost no basis in anything Strauss actually wrote. I would bet that you are presenting a dumbed -down and inaccurate version of Shadia Drury's books on Strauss, which are themselves abysmally inaccurate and libelous about Strauss. The only place Strauss discusses conspiracy thematically that I can recall–and I have read all his books several times, and still read them; have/do you?....The neocons just get all the attention–owing again, in part to Drury and in part to one terrible 2003 article by James Atlas, which no one these days has read, but quickly became THE account of neocon Straussians controlling the Bush administration...He apparently considered himself a Cold War liberal until his death.
I'll candidly admit I haven't read a single one of Strauss's own books, nor even that very influential James Atlas article you dislike so intensely. Instead, I was merely summarizing the extensive arguments of Prof. deHaven-Smith, who, as a prominent political scientist, is presumably quite familiar with Strauss, though I don't doubt that his views might differ considerably from your own.

But on your second point, I do remember seeing a very amusing private letter of Strauss that came to light about a decade or so ago. Written shortly after his arrival in America, it was addressed to a fellow ultra-rightwing Jewish exile from Europe, and in it he praised fascism and (I think) Nazism to the skies, arguing that their regrettable deviation into "anti-Semitism" (which had precipitated his own personal exile from Germany) should in no way be considered a refutation of all the other wonderful aspects of those political doctrines. This leads me to wonder if Strauss was truly the "liberal" you suggest, or perhaps was instead engaging in exactly the sort of "ideological crypsis" that seems such an important part of his political philosophy...

It's likely my faulty memory may have garbled important aspects of the letter I mention, and given your expertise on Straussian issues, I'm sure you should be able to locate it and easily correct me. The letter you are referring to is a letter to Karl Lowith from 1933. The most sustained–not to say serious–attempt to make it say that Strauss is coming out as a fascist has been the work of William Altman. I don't think he even comes close to making his case.

The letter can more charitably and reasonably read as a frank acknowledgement of the failure of Weimar liberalism and of liberalism generally precisely to take into account nationalist sentiment but instead to "universalize" all particulars without due attention to differing conditions, circumstances, "matter," and so on. In other words, Strauss is defending the "concept of the political" both from liberal universalism and from the simple-minded identification of particularism (or nationalism) with fascism. Sound familiar? All nationalist sentiment is fascism, Trump is a Nazi, and so on. An "argument" as old as hills and which Strauss saw through immediately.

Once again, though, the tail is chased. How can Strauss be both a universalist neo-con and a particularist-nationalist-fascist at the same time? The only common thread is: Strauss is bad.

In my view, Strauss is good. More to the point, I find stronger intellectual support in Strauss for my own nationalist leanings and pro-Trumpism than I find in any other intellectual source of any depth. I am in the minority among Straussians in thinking so, but I am not alone. Morevoer, I think in open debate, I have a stronger case for Straussian particularism than others can make for Straussian universalism.

And, not incidentally, none of this points to any such views on conspiracy as you put into Strauss's mouth.

Robard > , September 5, 2016 at 6:04 pm GMT

If government doesn't believe in conspiracies, why have secret services in the first place? Either they want to thwart conspiracies or they are creating their own or both.

Jacques Sheete > , September 5, 2016 at 6:24 pm GMT

@Ron Unz

Your characterization of Strauss on conspiracy has almost no basis in anything Strauss actually wrote. I would bet that you are presenting a dumbed -down and inaccurate version of Shadia Drury's books on Strauss, which are themselves abysmally inaccurate and libelous about Strauss. The only place Strauss discusses conspiracy thematically that I can recall–and I have read all his books several times, and still read them; have/do you?....The neocons just get all the attention–owing again, in part to Drury and in part to one terrible 2003 article by James Atlas, which no one these days has read, but quickly became THE account of neocon Straussians controlling the Bush administration...He apparently considered himself a Cold War liberal until his death.
I'll candidly admit I haven't read a single one of Strauss's own books, nor even that very influential James Atlas article you dislike so intensely. Instead, I was merely summarizing the extensive arguments of Prof. deHaven-Smith, who, as a prominent political scientist, is presumably quite familiar with Strauss, though I don't doubt that his views might differ considerably from your own.

But on your second point, I do remember seeing a very amusing private letter of Strauss that came to light about a decade or so ago. Written shortly after his arrival in America, it was addressed to a fellow ultra-rightwing Jewish exile from Europe, and in it he praised fascism and (I think) Nazism to the skies, arguing that their regrettable deviation into "anti-Semitism" (which had precipitated his own personal exile from Germany) should in no way be considered a refutation of all the other wonderful aspects of those political doctrines. This leads me to wonder if Strauss was truly the "liberal" you suggest, or perhaps was instead engaging in exactly the sort of "ideological crypsis" that seems such an important part of his political philosophy...

It's likely my faulty memory may have garbled important aspects of the letter I mention, and given your expertise on Straussian issues, I'm sure you should be able to locate it and easily correct me. While I've read nothing by Prof. deHaven-Smith, from what you've written, he and DiLorenzo would probably agree.

Here's a short but readable eval of Strauss' ideas, and DiLorenzo is one academician whom I somewhat trust.:

Moronic Intellectuals
By Thomas DiLorenzo

https://www.lewrockwell.com/2004/09/thomas-woods/the-neocon-godfather/

John Jeremiah Smith > , September 5, 2016 at 6:29 pm GMT

@JL I suppose my comment came off somewhat like unbridled, naive optimism. Your points are unquestionably valid, however, and I am disinclined to argue. Of course Trump represents the interests of certain groups of elites and is not merely the essence of a popular movement. I'll be honest, though, I'm having a tough time determining who these groups are, exactly.

Just like with Brexit, these events don't happen without powerful manipulation from somewhere within the 0.1%. Still, it's tough for me to imagine what a Trump presidency will even look like. Who will be in his cabinet, from what backgrounds will they come?


There is absolutely no concern, anywhere within the dominion of the 0.1%, with human values, human rights, or any of that sort of ethically-principled hoo-hoo.
Certainly not. What are fundamentally important questions for us are merely means to an end for them.

Of course Trump represents the interests of certain groups of elites and is not merely the essence of a popular movement. I'll be honest, though, I'm having a tough time determining who these groups are, exactly.

Yes, and how many players, each with what orientation and degree of focus? The 0.1% population contains 10,000 – 50,00o potential players, globally.

It is my opinion that the extremely-high degree of corruption, within the mighty engine of resource consumption and bribery that is the US government, contributes greatly to the "big picture" of ongoing conflict among the members of the oligarchy.

Pat Casey > , September 5, 2016 at 6:31 pm GMT

@Decius Your characterization of Strauss on conspiracy has almost no basis in anything Strauss actually wrote. I would bet that you are presenting a dumbed -down and inaccurate version of Shadia Drury's books on Strauss, which are themselves abysmally inaccurate and libelous about Strauss.

The only place Strauss discusses conspiracy thematically that I can recall--and I have read all his books several times, and still read them; have/do you?--is on Thoughts on Machiavelli . Strauss does so, first and foremost, because conspiracy is a major theme of Machiavelli's and the subject of the two longest chapters of his two most important books ( Prince 19 and Discourses III 6). Strauss further develops the idea that modern philosophy begins as a conspiracy between Machiavelli and (some of) his readers. Strauss simply never said anything like this:


Meanwhile, Strauss, a founding figure in modern neo-conservative thought, was equally harsh in his attacks upon conspiracy analysis, but for polar-opposite reasons. In his mind, elite conspiracies were absolutely necessary and beneficial, a crucial social defense against anarchy or totalitarianism, but their effectiveness obviously depended upon keeping them hidden from the prying eyes of the ignorant masses. His main problem with "conspiracy theories" was not that they were always false, but they might often be true, and therefore their spread was potentially disruptive to the smooth functioning of society. So as a matter of self-defense, elites needed to actively suppress or otherwise undercut the unauthorized investigation of suspected conspiracies.
As for his relationship with neoconservatism, you also overstate that considerably. Yes, there are many neoconservative Straussians. But there are also Straussian paleos, tradcons, liberatarians, liberals, and moderates. There are many who are apolitical and interested only in abstract philosophy. There are Straussian religious conservatives, agnostics and atheists. Christians, Jews and Muslim. Catholic, Protestants and Mormons. The neocons just get all the attention--owing again, in part to Drury and in part to one terrible 2003 article by James Atlas, which no one these days has read, but quickly became THE account of neocon Straussians controlling the Bush administration, which everyone today believes without having read, or even being aware of (have/are you?).

If "neocon" has any meaning, it means, first, a former intellectual liberal who has drifted right. Second, a domestic policy scholar who focuses on data-driven social science. And third, a foreign policy hawk.

None of these really apply to Strauss, who spent his who career studying political philosophy, with an intense focus on the Greeks. He voted Dem in every election in which he could vote, until his last, 1972, when he voted for Nixon out of Cold War concerns. You might say that makes him a "hawk" but he never wrote any essays saying so. He simply told a few people privately that McGovern was too naïve about the Soviets. You might also say that is evidence that he "drifted right" but he didn't think so. He apparently considered himself a Cold War liberal until his death. As for data-driven social science, he famously attacked it in of the very few of his writings that ever got any attention in mainstream political science ("An Epilogue").

You may well be right about the CIA's role in popularizing the phrase "conspiracy theory." But Leo Strauss had nothing to do with it. Or, if he did, he hid his role exceptionally well, because there is no evidence of such in his writings. Actually I don't think Ron is so far off. And I think, at best, you must be overeducated. Strauss held that authentic philosophy is a conspiracy . From there, certain practical advice about how to carry out the philosophy of the true philosopher follows. Such advice would about seem to be how Ron said it was.

I have not read the essay by Atlas. But for the duration of the Bush Administration I did read the Weekly Standard. I recall in particular one time when the editors recommended what books to bring to the beach, and Bill Kristol said "anything by Leo Strauss." My impression is that the Weekly Standard's brazen propaganda back then was the way certain editors understood themselves to be acting like Strauss's true disciples.

And of course now Krystol is hocking a former spook to run against Trump in Utah.

Ron Unz > , September 5, 2016 at 6:34 pm GMT

@Decius The letter you are referring to is a letter to Karl Lowith from 1933. The most sustained--not to say serious--attempt to make it say that Strauss is coming out as a fascist has been the work of William Altman. I don't think he even comes close to making his case.

The letter can more charitably and reasonably read as a frank acknowledgement of the failure of Weimar liberalism and of liberalism generally precisely to take into account nationalist sentiment but instead to "universalize" all particulars without due attention to differing conditions, circumstances, "matter," and so on. In other words, Strauss is defending the "concept of the political" both from liberal universalism and from the simple-minded identification of particularism (or nationalism) with fascism. Sound familiar? All nationalist sentiment is fascism, Trump is a Nazi, and so on. An "argument" as old as hills and which Strauss saw through immediately.

Once again, though, the tail is chased. How can Strauss be both a universalist neo-con and a particularist-nationalist-fascist at the same time? The only common thread is: Strauss is bad.

In my view, Strauss is good. More to the point, I find stronger intellectual support in Strauss for my own nationalist leanings and pro-Trumpism than I find in any other intellectual source of any depth. I am in the minority among Straussians in thinking so, but I am not alone. Morevoer, I think in open debate, I have a stronger case for Straussian particularism than others can make for Straussian universalism.

And, not incidentally, none of this points to any such views on conspiracy as you put into Strauss's mouth.

The letter you are referring to is a letter to Karl Lowith from 1933. The most sustained–not to say serious–attempt to make it say that Strauss is coming out as a fascist has been the work of William Altman.

Well, I decided I might as well google up the letter, and found this extended discussion in Harpers by someone who clearly dislikes Strauss and the Neocons, with a link to a full translation of Strauss's controversial missive.

http://harpers.org/blog/2008/01/will-the-real-leo-strauss-please-stand-up/

Offhand, it does indeed seem like I misremembered some of the details. Strauss apparently didn't seem to like the Nazis very much, but it certainly sounds like he had positive feelings towards the Fascists. In any event, the following excerpt makes me wonder whether he was actually a "liberal," or merely pretended to be since his income probably depended upon liberal donors and institutions

And, what concerns this matter: the fact that the new right-wing Germany does not tolerate us says nothing against the principles of the right. To the contrary: only from the principles of the right, that is from fascist, authoritarian and imperial principles, is it possible with seemliness, that is, without resort to the ludicrous and despicable appeal to the droits imprescriptibles de l'homme(5) to protest against the shabby abomination There is no reason to crawl to the cross, neither to the cross of liberalism, as long as somewhere in the world there is a glimmer of the spark of the Roman thought.

Buzz Mohawk > , September 5, 2016 at 6:48 pm GMT

By reading Ron's American Pravda series of columns, I am learning things that otherwise I would not have known. I am developing a clearer understanding of the real truth . This is an important contribution to my understanding of of reality! And I trust this because of the quality and earnestness of the source. This is all very much appreciated.

Decius > , September 5, 2016 at 6:50 pm GMT

@Ron Unz

The letter you are referring to is a letter to Karl Lowith from 1933. The most sustained–not to say serious–attempt to make it say that Strauss is coming out as a fascist has been the work of William Altman.
Well, I decided I might as well google up the letter, and found this extended discussion in Harpers by someone who clearly dislikes Strauss and the Neocons, with a link to a full translation of Strauss's controversial missive.

http://harpers.org/blog/2008/01/will-the-real-leo-strauss-please-stand-up/

Offhand, it does indeed seem like I misremembered some of the details. Strauss apparently didn't seem to like the Nazis very much, but it certainly sounds like he had positive feelings towards the Fascists. In any event, the following excerpt makes me wonder whether he was actually a "liberal," or merely pretended to be since his income probably depended upon liberal donors and institutions...

And, what concerns this matter: the fact that the new right-wing Germany does not tolerate us says nothing against the principles of the right. To the contrary: only from the principles of the right, that is from fascist, authoritarian and imperial principles, is it possible with seemliness, that is, without resort to the ludicrous and despicable appeal to the droits imprescriptibles de l'homme(5) to protest against the shabby abomination...There is no reason to crawl to the cross, neither to the cross of liberalism, as long as somewhere in the world there is a glimmer of the spark of the Roman thought.
What is a liberal? That's not a troll question. Strauss was above all a Socratic and Socratic philosophy begins with "what is" questions. One of Strauss's books is entitled Liberalism Ancient and Modern .

Strauss was apparently a liberal in the US context in that he mostly voted for Dems. He also wrote one acerbically critical letter to National Review.

However, a mid-20th-century American liberal may have been many things, but unpatriotic or nationalistic they were not. When liberalism turned with McGovern, Strauss looked elsewhere, and then died a year later, so we don't know how his political outlook would, or would not, have changed longer term. But at least in the 40s-60s, he was quite OK with Cold War American liberals. That's perfectly consistent with the nationalist sentiment expressed in the letter to Lowith. Also, Strauss was appalled by the dissoluteness of Weimar–and would become appalled by the dissoluteness of the late 1960s. But America prior was not yet dissolute. And he was appalled by Weimar's weakness. But America pre-Vietnam was not weak. Again, perfectly consistent with the letter.

Strauss supported the Cold War because he thought the USSR was a real threat in the near term and because he feared, on a higher plane, the imposition of "the universal and homogenous state." He was opposed to that, whereas those to his left were for it. So was he conservative?

Strauss transcends all these distinctions. That's not to say that they are meaningless. Indeed, he would be the first to say that they are meaningful. But, like Tocqueville, Strauss aimed to see not differently but further than the parties.

Decius > , September 5, 2016 at 6:54 pm GMT

@Pat Casey Actually I don't think Ron is so far off. And I think, at best, you must be overeducated. Strauss held that authentic philosophy is a conspiracy . From there, certain practical advice about how to carry out the philosophy of the true philosopher follows. Such advice would about seem to be how Ron said it was.

I have not read the essay by Atlas. But for the duration of the Bush Administration I did read the Weekly Standard. I recall in particular one time when the editors recommended what books to bring to the beach, and Bill Kristol said "anything by Leo Strauss." My impression is that the Weekly Standard's brazen propaganda back then was the way certain editors understood themselves to be acting like Strauss's true disciples.

And of course now Krystol is hocking a former spook to run against Trump in Utah. The reduction of Strauss and all his concerns to TWS is not serious. Yes, Bill K loves Strauss. That really doesn't prove much about Strauss either way. I believe, though of course cannot prove since Strauss can't speak, that Strauss would have opposed the Iraq War. He would have seen it as imprudent and prudence is the supreme virtue of the statesman.

You are sort of right about philosophy being a conspiracy, but wrong in the second half. MODERN philosophy attempts to take the conspiracy public, so to speak, to act in the real world. Ancient philosophy did not, or did so in a very limited, mitigating way, always with caution, moderation, prudence, and a lack of messianic hopes or intentions. Strauss argued his whole life for the superiority of the ancients to the moderns on this point (and on other points).

Yngvar > , September 5, 2016 at 6:59 pm GMT

So as a means of damage control, the CIA distributed a secret memo to all its field offices requesting that they enlist their media assets in efforts to ridicule and attack such critics as irrational supporters of "conspiracy theories."

And what do you know, the term "conspiracy theories" was non-existent in books before JFK's assassination but took off right after, according to Google's Ngram Viewer: https://is.gd/GYioQZ

utu > , September 5, 2016 at 7:38 pm GMT

@Decius The reduction of Strauss and all his concerns to TWS is not serious. Yes, Bill K loves Strauss. That really doesn't prove much about Strauss either way. I believe, though of course cannot prove since Strauss can't speak, that Strauss would have opposed the Iraq War. He would have seen it as imprudent and prudence is the supreme virtue of the statesman.

You are sort of right about philosophy being a conspiracy, but wrong in the second half. MODERN philosophy attempts to take the conspiracy public, so to speak, to act in the real world. Ancient philosophy did not, or did so in a very limited, mitigating way, always with caution, moderation, prudence, and a lack of messianic hopes or intentions. Strauss argued his whole life for the superiority of the ancients to the moderns on this point (and on other points). Unless you give some evidence that Strauss was a Reptilian or at least that he was a skeptic about the Moon landing there is no need for further discussion on Strauss here.

Erik Sieven > , September 5, 2016 at 7:40 pm GMT

@Kirt Conspiracy is simply a plan or agreement by more than one person to do something evil and then the pursuit of that plan. Secrecy may be needed for the success of a conspiracy, but it is not essential to the definition. Were it essential to the definition, you could never prove the existence of a conspiracy. Either secrecy would be maintained and there would be little or no evidence or secrecy would not be maintained and the plan would become known and by definition not be a conspiracy. "Conspiracy is simply a plan or agreement by more than one person to do something evil and then the pursuit of that plan." but probably everything think that what he does is good, not evil

art guerrilla > , Website September 5, 2016 at 8:10 pm GMT

@Chief Seattle So, a conspiracy theory is a theory without media backing. There's no better recent example of this than when the DNC emails were released by wikileaks during their convention. The story put forth was that Russian hackers were responsible, and were trying to throw the election to their buddy Trump. The evidence for this? Zero. And yet it became a plausible explanation in the media, overnight.

Maybe it's true, maybe not, but if the roles had been reversed, the media would be telling its proponents to take off their tin foil hats. ahhh, but 'Russkie!/squirrel!' worked, didn't it ? ? ?
virtually NOTHING about the actual content of the emails
what was hysterical, was a followup not too long afterwards, where pelosi 'warned' that there might be a whole raft of other emails which said bad stuff and stuff, and, um, they were -like- probably, um, all, uh, fake and stuff
it really is a funny tragi-comedy, isn't it ? ? ?
then why am i crying inside

Pat Casey > , September 5, 2016 at 8:35 pm GMT

@Decius The reduction of Strauss and all his concerns to TWS is not serious. Yes, Bill K loves Strauss. That really doesn't prove much about Strauss either way. I believe, though of course cannot prove since Strauss can't speak, that Strauss would have opposed the Iraq War. He would have seen it as imprudent and prudence is the supreme virtue of the statesman.

You are sort of right about philosophy being a conspiracy, but wrong in the second half. MODERN philosophy attempts to take the conspiracy public, so to speak, to act in the real world. Ancient philosophy did not, or did so in a very limited, mitigating way, always with caution, moderation, prudence, and a lack of messianic hopes or intentions. Strauss argued his whole life for the superiority of the ancients to the moderns on this point (and on other points).

The reduction of Strauss and all his concerns to TWS is not serious.

That's not what I did. Don't do that. You seemed to be saying the neo-cons do not hail from the school of Strauss as this Atlas fellow said they did. I was saying they do, according to them.

It was pretty obvious back then that the weekly standard was acting as an organ of the bush administration more than a member of the media. I remember there was even a tepid discussion about how we as journalist should feel about these fellas with one foot in the media and one foot in the politics. Does that have anything to do with the style Strauss bespoke? My understanding is that Strauss addressed his philosophy not to Princes but certain among the reading public. That turns out to first of all mean political journalists who will sacrifice the integrity of their profession for the sake of a particular kind of proud story about the USA polity and its villains. Yes I do think people like Bill Krystol and Michael Ledeen saw themselves in terms as dramatic as that.

You are sort of right about philosophy being a conspiracy, but wrong in the second half. MODERN philosophy attempts to take the conspiracy public, so to speak, to act in the real world. Ancient philosophy did not, or did so in a very limited, mitigating way, always with caution, moderation, prudence, and a lack of messianic hopes or intentions. Strauss argued his whole life for the superiority of the ancients to the moderns on this point (and on other points).

You mean I was right about Strauss having a conspiracy theory of philosophy. I didn't say anything about the second half. I read Paul Gottfried and I agree Strauss was a ridiculous scholar. Of course I believe you when you say in so many words that Strauss did not like philosophies that license mass movements of true believers. Full stop right there. Now we can count back from all them and make this an exercise in splitting hairs. What audience to be precise did Strauss exactly have in mind? Actually I don't think he deserves that much credit; I don't think he really knew who he was writing for.

Jacques Sheete > , September 5, 2016 at 9:43 pm GMT

@Pat Casey

The reduction of Strauss and all his concerns to TWS is not serious.
That's not what I did. Don't do that. You seemed to be saying the neo-cons do not hail from the school of Strauss as this Atlas fellow said they did. I was saying they do, according to them.

It was pretty obvious back then that the weekly standard was acting as an organ of the bush administration more than a member of the media. I remember there was even a tepid discussion about how we as journalist should feel about these fellas with one foot in the media and one foot in the politics. Does that have anything to do with the style Strauss bespoke? My understanding is that Strauss addressed his philosophy not to Princes but certain among the reading public. That turns out to first of all mean political journalists who will sacrifice the integrity of their profession for the sake of a particular kind of proud story about the USA polity and its villains. Yes I do think people like Bill Krystol and Michael Ledeen saw themselves in terms as dramatic as that.

You are sort of right about philosophy being a conspiracy, but wrong in the second half. MODERN philosophy attempts to take the conspiracy public, so to speak, to act in the real world. Ancient philosophy did not, or did so in a very limited, mitigating way, always with caution, moderation, prudence, and a lack of messianic hopes or intentions. Strauss argued his whole life for the superiority of the ancients to the moderns on this point (and on other points).
You mean I was right about Strauss having a conspiracy theory of philosophy. I didn't say anything about the second half. I read Paul Gottfried and I agree Strauss was a ridiculous scholar. Of course I believe you when you say in so many words that Strauss did not like philosophies that license mass movements of true believers. Full stop right there. Now we can count back from all them and make this an exercise in splitting hairs. What audience to be precise did Strauss exactly have in mind? Actually I don't think he deserves that much credit; I don't think he really knew who he was writing for.

I don't think he really knew who he was writing for.

Love it.

My theory is that they basically wrote anything that came to mind so long as no one could pin 'em down to specifics, allowed them to keep paying the bills , afforded them a chance to sound "profound," and to be somebody.

Pretty much all of the type are frauds and only fools (especially the pompous quasi-scientific, pseudo intellectual, ones) take 'em seriously. I agree that the ancients were much more honest but even they were recognized as BSers of high degree by the likes of Aristophanes and Lucian of Samosata to name only two. (I named them because they make particularly entertaining reading.)

I think the 20th century should be known as the Age of Pathetic Charlatans and I'm glad it's over. May it and the endless gaggle of cheap morons it spawned never return.

Decius > , September 5, 2016 at 10:12 pm GMT

@Pat Casey

The reduction of Strauss and all his concerns to TWS is not serious.
That's not what I did. Don't do that. You seemed to be saying the neo-cons do not hail from the school of Strauss as this Atlas fellow said they did. I was saying they do, according to them.

It was pretty obvious back then that the weekly standard was acting as an organ of the bush administration more than a member of the media. I remember there was even a tepid discussion about how we as journalist should feel about these fellas with one foot in the media and one foot in the politics. Does that have anything to do with the style Strauss bespoke? My understanding is that Strauss addressed his philosophy not to Princes but certain among the reading public. That turns out to first of all mean political journalists who will sacrifice the integrity of their profession for the sake of a particular kind of proud story about the USA polity and its villains. Yes I do think people like Bill Krystol and Michael Ledeen saw themselves in terms as dramatic as that.


You are sort of right about philosophy being a conspiracy, but wrong in the second half. MODERN philosophy attempts to take the conspiracy public, so to speak, to act in the real world. Ancient philosophy did not, or did so in a very limited, mitigating way, always with caution, moderation, prudence, and a lack of messianic hopes or intentions. Strauss argued his whole life for the superiority of the ancients to the moderns on this point (and on other points).
You mean I was right about Strauss having a conspiracy theory of philosophy. I didn't say anything about the second half. I read Paul Gottfried and I agree Strauss was a ridiculous scholar. Of course I believe you when you say in so many words that Strauss did not like philosophies that license mass movements of true believers. Full stop right there. Now we can count back from all them and make this an exercise in splitting hairs. What audience to be precise did Strauss exactly have in mind? Actually I don't think he deserves that much credit; I don't think he really knew who he was writing for. Kristol is a Straussian because he got a PhD in PolPhil from Harvard under Mansfield, who is a Straussian. There is no necessary connection between Strauss's thought any of the main tenets of Neo-conservatism. I've said, and you've all ignored, that Strauss attacked data-driven social science, which is the original hallmark of neo-conservatism. A later hallmark (which emerged after Strauss's death) was foreign policy hawkism. Unless you want to say that Strauss's opposition to the USSR makes him a neo-con, in which case every Cold War liberal going back to Truman was a neo-con. At which point the term has no meaning.

Strauss addresses scholars and potential philosophers. He has almost nothing to say about the transient issues of his age. Based on his comments on what other thinkers had to say about war (Thucydides above all) I believe we can infer that Strauss was generally in favor of preparedness and wariness but otherwise anti-war in the general sense. If we may analogize the Iraq War to the Sicilian Expedition we may say that Strauss probably would have opposed the former as imprudent, just as he tacitly endorses T's judgement that the latter was imprudent.

Strauss openly characterizes Machiavelli's approach to philosophy as a conspiracy, using that word, but does not say it about any other thinker. However, his teaching that philosophy is an inherently elite and very small enterprise may be fairly characterized as a "conspiracy." however, before modernity, the nature of the conspiracy was to protect the conspirators and the philosophic life, not a reform campaign. that's what it becomes under modernity, which Strauss opposes. One of Strauss's aims in writing was to revive the ancient idea of philosophy, its proper scope, and its proper relationship to society, which he believed modernity had corrupted.

It is unfortunate that Strauss became a bogey-man to so many who have no idea what he said or why. It happened rather recently and based on some very thin scholarship. Most of the thing people try to pin on him are things that I and my friends oppose too. We just know they don't trace to Strauss. In fact, the opposite is often true.

Konga > , September 5, 2016 at 10:17 pm GMT

@Miro23 The British and Americans have been the victims of conspiracies (False Flag operations) for years.

For example:

The Irgun bombing of the King David Hotel (headquarters of the British Mandate Government of Palestine) in which Zionist activists dressed as Arabs placed milk churns filled with explosives against the main columns of the building killing 91 people and injuring 44. Israeli prime Minister Netanyahu, attended a celebration to commemorate the event.

Operation Susannah (Lavon Affair) where Israeli operatives impersonating Arabs bombed British and American cinemas, libraries and educational centers in Egypt to destabilize the country and keep British troops committed to the Middle East.

Or June 8, 1967, the Israeli attack on the USS Liberty with unmarked aircraft and torpedo boats. 34 men were killed and 171 wounded, with the attack in international waters following over nine hours of close surveillance. When the ship failed to sink, the Israeli government concocted an elaborate story to cover the crime. Original plan to blame the sinking with all lives lost on the Egyptians and draw the US into the war.

Or Israelis and U.S. Zionists appearing all over the most recent WTC 9/11 "Operation" with Israelis once again impersonating Arabs in a historic deception/terror action of a type that seems to carry a lot of kudos with old Israeli ex-terrorist Likudniks. Israeli agents were sent to film the historic day (as they later admitted on Israeli TV), with the celebrations including photos of themselves with a background of the burning towers where thousands of Americans were being incinerated.

Iraq was destroyed as a result of 9/11 but unfortunately for the conspirators, the momentum wasn't sufficient for a general war including Iran. Also the general war would have included the nuclear angle and justified the activation of a neo-con led Emergency Regime (dictatorship) in the US enforced with the newly printed Patriot Act and Homeland Security troops - or maybe that's just another Conspiracy Theory? So true!
But you forgot the two missiles shot from a NATO naval and HQ base in Spain towards Damascus, shot down by the Russians (two weeks before the "agreement" on chemical weapons, remember?) and then attributed to Israel's drills turned wrong

Decius > , September 5, 2016 at 10:17 pm GMT

A good book, BTW, is Robert Howse's Leo Strauss: Man of Peace . Howse is liberal, FWIW.

ten miles > , September 5, 2016 at 10:20 pm GMT

One resents (first), and eventually hates whom they have to lie to. In what regard would our elites, in our electoral democracy, hold us voters in (by now)?
Kinda answers itself doesn't it?

map > , September 5, 2016 at 11:03 pm GMT

Popper's point about conspiracy theories really makes no sense. This is the assumption that a conspiracy is like a start-up, one that requires lots of transparency to work because of the need to recruit members for the conspiracy. As soon as one member disagrees, the conspiracy falls apart.

The problem is that a conspiracy is not like a start-up. The purpose of the start-up is the start-up itself. The purpose of the conspiracy is not the conspiracy itself. Conspiracies are simply vehicles by which like minded people actually find each other. The secrecy is built-in because they are like-minded.

Kirt > , September 5, 2016 at 11:15 pm GMT

@Erik Sieven "Conspiracy is simply a plan or agreement by more than one person to do something evil and then the pursuit of that plan." but probably everything think that what he does is good, not evil "probably everything think that what he does is good, not evil"

Yeah, that's true. I think that it was Saint Thomas Aquinas who said that evil is always done under an aspect of good. Hence no one will consider himself a conspirator other than perhaps in a legal sense if he is aware that what he is doing is illegal. Apart from that the charge of conspiracy will always come from opponents; e.g. Hilly's charge of "a vast right-wing conspiracy".

Ron Unz > , September 5, 2016 at 11:27 pm GMT

@Paul Jolliffe Mr. Unz,

Here is a link to Carl Bernstein's definitive 1977 Rolling Stone article "CIA and the Media" in which he addresses - and confirms - your worst fears. You are very right, and no less a figure than Bernstein has said so for nearly four decades . . .

http://www.carlbernstein.com/magazine_cia_and_media.php

Here is a link to Carl Bernstein's definitive 1977 Rolling Stone article "CIA and the Media" in which he addresses – and confirms – your worst fears. You are very right, and no less a figure than Bernstein has said so for nearly four decades

Thanks so much for the excellent reference to the Bernstein article, of which I hadn't been aware. I found it fascinating, not least because of all the speculations floating around over the last decade or two that Bernstein's famed collaborator, Bob Woodward, had had an intelligence background, and perhaps Watergate represented a plot by elements of the CIA to remove Nixon from the White House. As for the 25,000 word article itself, I'd suggest that people read it. Since quite a lot of this comment-thread is already filled with debates about the supposed liberalism of Leo Strauss and an alleged Moon Landing Hoax, I might as well provide a few of the provocative extracts:

http://www.carlbernstein.com/magazine_cia_and_media.php

He was very eager, he loved to cooperate." On one occasion, according to several CIA officials, Sulzberger was given a briefing paper by the Agency which ran almost verbatim under the columnist's byline in the Times. "Cycame out and said, 'I'm thinking of doing a piece, can you give me some background?'" a CIA officer said. "We gave it to Cy as a background piece and Cy gave it to the printers and put his name on it." Sulzberger denies that any incident occurred. "A lot of baloney," he said.

[MORE]

Stewart Alsop's relationship with the Agency was much more extensive than Sulzberger's. One official who served at the highest levels in the CIA said flatly: "Stew Alsop was a CIA agent." An equally senior official refused to define Alsop's relationship with the Agency except to say it was a formal one. Other sources said that Alsop was particularly helpful to the Agency in discussions with, officials of foreign governments!asking questions to which the CIA was seeking answers, planting misinformation advantageous to American policy, assessing opportunities for CIA recruitment of well‑placed foreigners.

The New York Times. The Agency's relationship with the Times was by far its most valuable among newspapers, according to CIA officials. From 1950 to 1966, about ten CIA employees were provided Times cover under arrangements approved by the newspaper's late publisher, Arthur Hays Sulzberger. The cover arrangements were part of a general Times policy!set by Sulzberger!to provide assistance to the CIA whenever possible.

When Newsweek waspurchased by the Washington Post Company, publisher Philip L. Graham was informed by Agency officials that the CIA occasionally used the magazine for cover purposes, according to CIA sources. "It was widely known that Phil Graham was somebody you could get help from," said a former deputy director of the Agency. "Frank Wisner dealt with him." Wisner, deputy director of the CIA from 1950 until shortly before his suicide in 1965, was the Agency's premier orchestrator of "black" operations, including many in which journalists were involved. Wisner liked to boast of his "mighty Wurlitzer," a wondrous propaganda instrument he built, and played, with help from the press.) Phil Graham was probably Wisner's closest friend. But Graharn, who committed suicide in 1963, apparently knew little of the specifics of any cover arrangements with Newsweek, CIA sources said.

The Agency played an intriguing numbers game with the committee. Those who prepared the material say it was physically impossible to produce all of the Agency's files on the use of journalists. "We gave them a broad, representative picture," said one agency official. "We never pretended it was a total description of the range of activities over 25 years, or of the number of journalists who have done things for us." A relatively small number of the summaries described the activities of foreign journalists!including those working as stringers for American publications. Those officials most knowledgeable about the subject say that a figure of 400 American journalists is on the low side of the actual number who maintained covert relationships and undertook clandestine tasks.

From the twenty‑five files he got back, according to Senate sources and CIA officials, an unavoidable conclusion emerged: that to a degree never widely suspected, the CIA in the 1950s, '60s and even early '70s had concentrated its relationships with journalists in the most prominent sectors of the American press corps, including four or five of the largest newspapers in the country, the broadcast networks and the two major newsweekly magazines. Despite the omission of names and affiliations from the twenty‑five detailed files each was between three and eleven inches thick), the information was usually sufficient to tentatively identify either the newsman, his affiliation or both!particularly because so many of them were prominent in the profession.

The Alarmist > , September 5, 2016 at 11:43 pm GMT

@Darin If moon landings were fake, why hadn't USSR or China revealed it? This would discredit USA before the whole world and won the Cold War in one stroke.

If USSR was also part of the plot, then whole Cold War was fake - and in this case there would be no need for the small Apollo fake.

Sometimes, stupid conspiracy theories are just stupid conspiracy theories - or smart fakes, designed to discredit conspirational thinking and distract them from the real conspiracies. Take your pick.

" then whole Cold War was fake."

Wow, now here's a conspiracy theory to sink one's teeth into. That would make a great Matrix/MI/Bourne sequel.

Pat Casey > , September 5, 2016 at 11:48 pm GMT

@Decius Kristol is a Straussian because he got a PhD in PolPhil from Harvard under Mansfield, who is a Straussian. There is no necessary connection between Strauss's thought any of the main tenets of Neo-conservatism. I've said, and you've all ignored, that Strauss attacked data-driven social science, which is the original hallmark of neo-conservatism. A later hallmark (which emerged after Strauss's death) was foreign policy hawkism. Unless you want to say that Strauss's opposition to the USSR makes him a neo-con, in which case every Cold War liberal going back to Truman was a neo-con. At which point the term has no meaning.

Strauss addresses scholars and potential philosophers. He has almost nothing to say about the transient issues of his age. Based on his comments on what other thinkers had to say about war (Thucydides above all) I believe we can infer that Strauss was generally in favor of preparedness and wariness but otherwise anti-war in the general sense. If we may analogize the Iraq War to the Sicilian Expedition we may say that Strauss probably would have opposed the former as imprudent, just as he tacitly endorses T's judgement that the latter was imprudent.

Strauss openly characterizes Machiavelli's approach to philosophy as a conspiracy, using that word, but does not say it about any other thinker. However, his teaching that philosophy is an inherently elite and very small enterprise may be fairly characterized as a "conspiracy." however, before modernity, the nature of the conspiracy was to protect the conspirators and the philosophic life, not a reform campaign. that's what it becomes under modernity, which Strauss opposes. One of Strauss's aims in writing was to revive the ancient idea of philosophy, its proper scope, and its proper relationship to society, which he believed modernity had corrupted.

It is unfortunate that Strauss became a bogey-man to so many who have no idea what he said or why. It happened rather recently and based on some very thin scholarship. Most of the thing people try to pin on him are things that I and my friends oppose too. We just know they don't trace to Strauss. In fact, the opposite is often true. Thanks for that response, gave me a better perspective of the man. I guess he did know who he was writing for. And I do think the way to write for history is to write history by disregarding topical preoccupations, except to damn them with faint praise. I have a master like that I always go back to on the topic I care about most.

And actually the one work of Strauss's I have picked up, years ago, is his Machiavelli; it's one of the thousands of books I've read! not though one of the few I finished. Brushing up just now by way of wikipedia, it doesn't look like Strauss staked his claim strong enough, if an original reading is what he was writing.

By the way, I know the Irishman John Toland was the first to publish on the esoteric-exoteric distinction, and coined the term pantheist on a related occasion when he named what new beast Spinoza had born. That was when an esoteric mode of writing was really needed, and you will hear The Ethics called esoteric or cryptic, but I know the work well, and it is no more esoteric than any work of genius that teaches you to read closely right at the start.

Is The Prince an esoteric work? Did it entertain a conspiracy with special readers? I suppose only if Machiavelli had individuals in mind who might wonder were they all the while in mind when he was writing about how to dispose of them. The point is, there's nothing profound about observing that, it's almost common sense if you take into account the first thing about Machiavelli's circumstance.

I won't be glib and write Strauss's method off as typically paranoid; it's creative, but bound to be too creative by half. I think it might lead readers to have more fun than's good for learning.

Wizard of Oz > , September 6, 2016 at 12:15 am GMT

@Decius Kristol is a Straussian because he got a PhD in PolPhil from Harvard under Mansfield, who is a Straussian. There is no necessary connection between Strauss's thought any of the main tenets of Neo-conservatism. I've said, and you've all ignored, that Strauss attacked data-driven social science, which is the original hallmark of neo-conservatism. A later hallmark (which emerged after Strauss's death) was foreign policy hawkism. Unless you want to say that Strauss's opposition to the USSR makes him a neo-con, in which case every Cold War liberal going back to Truman was a neo-con. At which point the term has no meaning.

Strauss addresses scholars and potential philosophers. He has almost nothing to say about the transient issues of his age. Based on his comments on what other thinkers had to say about war (Thucydides above all) I believe we can infer that Strauss was generally in favor of preparedness and wariness but otherwise anti-war in the general sense. If we may analogize the Iraq War to the Sicilian Expedition we may say that Strauss probably would have opposed the former as imprudent, just as he tacitly endorses T's judgement that the latter was imprudent.

Strauss openly characterizes Machiavelli's approach to philosophy as a conspiracy, using that word, but does not say it about any other thinker. However, his teaching that philosophy is an inherently elite and very small enterprise may be fairly characterized as a "conspiracy." however, before modernity, the nature of the conspiracy was to protect the conspirators and the philosophic life, not a reform campaign. that's what it becomes under modernity, which Strauss opposes. One of Strauss's aims in writing was to revive the ancient idea of philosophy, its proper scope, and its proper relationship to society, which he believed modernity had corrupted.

It is unfortunate that Strauss became a bogey-man to so many who have no idea what he said or why. It happened rather recently and based on some very thin scholarship. Most of the thing people try to pin on him are things that I and my friends oppose too. We just know they don't trace to Strauss. In fact, the opposite is often true. Fascinating. A reminder that one should five lives lived to 120 so one can lots of stories right .

Bill Jones > , September 6, 2016 at 1:04 am GMT

@Gene Tuttle I've often used the argument myself that conspiracies inevitably have short shelf lives in the US because it was so difficult for Americans to keep secrets. The article makes a useful point in suggesting that secret plots, even after being revealed, may nevertheless remain widely ignored. Ideology, group-think, pack journalism etc. are powerful forces, often subconsciously at work, preventing alternative theories from developing legs.

Though long an admirer of Karl Popper, I hadn't strongly associated him with attacks on conspiracy theories per se. As an American "outsider" living abroad most of my adult life, I've all too often encountered those who assumed my background alone explained an argument of mine that they didn't like. Popper had hit the nail on the head when he wrote about

"a widespread and dangerous fashion of our time...of not taking arguments seriously, and at their face value, at least tentatively, but of seeing in them nothing but a way in which deeper irrational motives and tendencies express themselves." It was "the attitude of looking at once for the unconscious motives and determinants in the social habitat of the thinker, instead of first examining the validity of the argument itself."
The powerful nazi and communist ideologies of his day assumed that one's " blood " or " class " precluded "correct" thinking. Those politically incorrect challengers to their own totalitarian weltanschauung were (to put it mildly) persecuted as conspirators. No doubt, as Ron Unz notes, Popper's personal experience "contributed the depth of his feelings" -- I would say skepticism – about conspiracy claims.

But the author of the " Open Society " had an open mind and I suspect he'd find the thesis reasonable that real conspiracies can both be uncovered and largely ignored because so many simply opt to ignore them. In such cases, evidence and "not taking arguments seriously" often reflects "intellectual groupieism," emotions, professional insecurities as well as venal collective interests. Nice try.

The Manhattan Project was successfully kept secret despite its scope and the fact that it consumed 17% of the electricity production of the entire US.

exiled off mainstreet > , September 6, 2016 at 1:14 am GMT

@Miro23 The British and Americans have been the victims of conspiracies (False Flag operations) for years.

For example:

The Irgun bombing of the King David Hotel (headquarters of the British Mandate Government of Palestine) in which Zionist activists dressed as Arabs placed milk churns filled with explosives against the main columns of the building killing 91 people and injuring 44. Israeli prime Minister Netanyahu, attended a celebration to commemorate the event.

Operation Susannah (Lavon Affair) where Israeli operatives impersonating Arabs bombed British and American cinemas, libraries and educational centers in Egypt to destabilize the country and keep British troops committed to the Middle East.

Or June 8, 1967, the Israeli attack on the USS Liberty with unmarked aircraft and torpedo boats. 34 men were killed and 171 wounded, with the attack in international waters following over nine hours of close surveillance. When the ship failed to sink, the Israeli government concocted an elaborate story to cover the crime. Original plan to blame the sinking with all lives lost on the Egyptians and draw the US into the war.

Or Israelis and U.S. Zionists appearing all over the most recent WTC 9/11 "Operation" with Israelis once again impersonating Arabs in a historic deception/terror action of a type that seems to carry a lot of kudos with old Israeli ex-terrorist Likudniks. Israeli agents were sent to film the historic day (as they later admitted on Israeli TV), with the celebrations including photos of themselves with a background of the burning towers where thousands of Americans were being incinerated.

Iraq was destroyed as a result of 9/11 but unfortunately for the conspirators, the momentum wasn't sufficient for a general war including Iran. Also the general war would have included the nuclear angle and justified the activation of a neo-con led Emergency Regime (dictatorship) in the US enforced with the newly printed Patriot Act and Homeland Security troops - or maybe that's just another Conspiracy Theory? The Israelis learned their false flag lesson from the Nazis, who used concentration camp inmates dressed as Polish soldiers as part of a phony attack on the frontier radio station "Sender Gleiwitz" a day or so before they invaded Poland.

exiled off mainstreet > , September 6, 2016 at 1:44 am GMT

@Darin Yes, why?

If you want to start a war, would you want to start with great defeat and loss of your fleet?

In the thirties, there were three cases of false flag attacks created to justify a war.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mukden_Incident
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gleiwitz_incident
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shelling_of_Mainila

In none of these cases the attacker actually killed thousands of his own soldiers, what would be the point? I didn't notice Gleiwitz was mentioned in another posting before I mentioned it. I tend go along with you and suspect incompetence rather than purpose was the cause of the Pearl Harbor disaster, though the incompetence may have included failure to adequately warn those on the ground at Pearl Harbor. Personally, I don't back the "truther" version of the twin towers because that would have required a broader conspiracy than I think could have succeeded. My guess is that the neighboring building was destroyed as part of the cleanup effort. I do think, however, that the authorities knew something was up, didn't believe it could ever succeed and used it as a sort of Reichstag Fire incident to brush aside constitutional democracy in the US. I also suspect that the Mossad knew more than they let on. My guess is that if Gore rather than Bush had been in power that history would have been far different. I suspect that the anthrax thing was more likely started by the yankee regime as a home-grown conspiracy.

Decius > , September 6, 2016 at 1:51 am GMT

@Pat Casey Thanks for that response, gave me a better perspective of the man. I guess he did know who he was writing for. And I do think the way to write for history is to write history by disregarding topical preoccupations, except to damn them with faint praise. I have a master like that I always go back to on the topic I care about most.

And actually the one work of Strauss's I have picked up, years ago, is his Machiavelli; it's one of the thousands of books I've read--- not though one of the few I finished. Brushing up just now by way of wikipedia, it doesn't look like Strauss staked his claim strong enough, if an original reading is what he was writing.

By the way, I know the Irishman John Toland was the first to publish on the esoteric-exoteric distinction, and coined the term pantheist on a related occasion when he named what new beast Spinoza had born. That was when an esoteric mode of writing was really needed, and you will hear The Ethics called esoteric or cryptic, but I know the work well, and it is no more esoteric than any work of genius that teaches you to read closely right at the start.

Is The Prince an esoteric work? Did it entertain a conspiracy with special readers? I suppose only if Machiavelli had individuals in mind who might wonder were they all the while in mind when he was writing about how to dispose of them. The point is, there's nothing profound about observing that, it's almost common sense if you take into account the first thing about Machiavelli's circumstance.

I won't be glib and write Strauss's method off as typically paranoid; it's creative, but bound to be too creative by half. I think it might lead readers to have more fun than's good for learning. First, if you are at all interested in esotericism, I cannot recommend highly enough Philosophy Between the Lines by Meltzer. The only thing critical I can say about this book is that, if one is really an expert in one of the thinkers that Meltzer treats, one will read the passages on that thinker that Meltzer cites and say "So what? I've known that for years. He's shed no new light." Which is true. But irrelevant to what he's trying to do. The book presents an unassailable case that philosophy has been esoteric since Plato. Esotericism long predates Spinoza and has been discussed since ancient times. Strauss simply revived a concept that had been forgotten. Toland (who I am not that familiar with) wrote before esotericism as it were "lapsed." Strauss says that Goethe and Lessing were the last to write this way. When Strauss revived knowledge of esotericism in the late 1930s with the first Xenophon article, he was considered nuts.

Strauss's Machiavelli book is my favorite and I think his best. It is totally "original" in the sense that he took a wildly new path from all previous scholarship. It has basically defined the debate to this day. All subsequent scholarship either follows him, opposes him, or tries to ignore him.

I would recommend in addition Strauss's book on Spinoza and especially the much later preface that he wrote when he felt he finally understood Spinoza's esotericism.

Yes, the Prince (and the Discourses , and Art of War , and Florentine Histories ) are esoteric. It's too complex to argue in a comment thread. Suffice it to say for now that the outrageous "kill that dude" teachings serve and exoteric purpose.

anonymous > , Disclaimer September 6, 2016 at 2:18 am GMT

@exiled off mainstreet I didn't notice Gleiwitz was mentioned in another posting before I mentioned it. I tend go along with you and suspect incompetence rather than purpose was the cause of the Pearl Harbor disaster, though the incompetence may have included failure to adequately warn those on the ground at Pearl Harbor. Personally, I don't back the "truther" version of the twin towers because that would have required a broader conspiracy than I think could have succeeded. My guess is that the neighboring building was destroyed as part of the cleanup effort. I do think, however, that the authorities knew something was up, didn't believe it could ever succeed and used it as a sort of Reichstag Fire incident to brush aside constitutional democracy in the US. I also suspect that the Mossad knew more than they let on. My guess is that if Gore rather than Bush had been in power that history would have been far different. I suspect that the anthrax thing was more likely started by the yankee regime as a home-grown conspiracy.

My guess is that if Gore rather than Bush had been in power that history would have been far different.

Joe Lieberman was Gore's running mate. Lieberman had the Patriot Act on a shelf waiting for an opportunity !

While holding the chair of the "Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs," Lieberman introduced on October 11, 2001, Senate Bill 1534, to establish the US Department of Homeland Security.

Anticipating the bill's certain passage, Lieberman gave himself automatic chairmanship after he changed the name of his committee to, "The Senate Committee of Homeland Security and Government Affairs."

Since then, Lieberman has been the main force behind legislation such as:
-1- The USA Patriot Act
-2- Protect America Act
-3- National Emergency Centers Establishment Act
-4- The Enemy Belligerent Interrogation Act
-5- The Terrorist Expatriation Act, and the proposed
-6- Protecting Cyberspace as a National Asset Act.

Rurik > , September 6, 2016 at 2:40 am GMT

Thank you Mr. Unz, for this excellent- and circumspect and salient- article.

His main problem with "conspiracy theories" was not that they were always false, but they might often be true, and therefore their spread was potentially disruptive to the smooth functioning of society. So as a matter of self-defense, elites needed to actively suppress or otherwise undercut the unauthorized investigation of suspected conspiracies.

I'll just add that from what I've glimmered, (I'm definitely no expert on Leo Strauss), Strauss' philosophy contained more than just a careful consideration of 'conspiracy theories' and how they should be handled, but that what he advocated was a small group of highly motivated elite zealots (Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, et al) who would not just use power to control the narrative vis-a-vis conspiracy theories, but more to the point, would be the men who would conspire to alter the realities that required a mocking of "conspiracy theories" in the first place.

From what I understand, one of his motivating themes was that his acolytes would come to understand that they shouldn't be guided by trite, pedestrian notions of morality when being the agents of change in the world. And that rather, they should use his teachings as a way to see the world as exceptional men, who would boldly do things others might shrink from, out of hackneyed notions of probity.

Perhaps the best quote I know of to describe Straussianism (as I understand it) was made by a man who wasn't one of his actual students, but who certainly would have been well acquainted and worked closely with others who were; Karl Rove, when speaking to an aid:

"That's not the way the world really works anymore." He continued "We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality!judiciously, as you will!we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do."

that quote for me, describes Straussianism to a T. And if so, certainty dovetails with what happened during the reign of Bush-the lesser. Especially with something as audacious as 911.

That at least, is how I've seen it

As for the control of the media, I think most of your readers are certainly aware of that particular conundrum and its consequences. It is literally impossible to be too cynical as regards our media and government and CIA and other shenanigans, IMHO.

Thanks again sir.

SolontoCroesus > , September 6, 2016 at 2:50 am GMT

@Decius First, if you are at all interested in esotericism, I cannot recommend highly enough Philosophy Between the Lines by Meltzer. The only thing critical I can say about this book is that, if one is really an expert in one of the thinkers that Meltzer treats, one will read the passages on that thinker that Meltzer cites and say "So what? I've known that for years. He's shed no new light." Which is true. But irrelevant to what he's trying to do. The book presents an unassailable case that philosophy has been esoteric since Plato. Esotericism long predates Spinoza and has been discussed since ancient times. Strauss simply revived a concept that had been forgotten. Toland (who I am not that familiar with) wrote before esotericism as it were "lapsed." Strauss says that Goethe and Lessing were the last to write this way. When Strauss revived knowledge of esotericism in the late 1930s with the first Xenophon article, he was considered nuts.

Strauss's Machiavelli book is my favorite and I think his best. It is totally "original" in the sense that he took a wildly new path from all previous scholarship. It has basically defined the debate to this day. All subsequent scholarship either follows him, opposes him, or tries to ignore him.

I would recommend in addition Strauss's book on Spinoza and especially the much later preface that he wrote when he felt he finally understood Spinoza's esotericism.

Yes, the Prince (and the Discourses , and Art of War , and Florentine Histories ) are esoteric. It's too complex to argue in a comment thread. Suffice it to say for now that the outrageous "kill that dude" teachings serve and exoteric purpose.

Strauss's Machiavelli book is my favorite and I think his best. It is totally "original" in the sense that he took a wildly new path from all previous scholarship. It has basically defined the debate to this day. All subsequent scholarship either follows him, opposes him, or tries to ignore him.

Nonsense.

Maurizio Viroli has dedicated his life to scholarship on Machiavelli. He reads and understands The Prince (and Machiavelli's other works and life) in the context in which they were written, taking account of the finest details of Machiavelli's human, psychological, and spiritual evolution in the course of career and writing. Viroli walks in Niccolo's footsteps; like Machiavelli, he "puts on the garments" of 15th century Florence, and Rome, and the French and Germanic cities where Machiavelli traveled to represent Florence.

Strauss may satisfy those inclined to engage in exercise in Talmudic argument, but Machiavelli was Italian, Florentine, and Roman; Dante was his constant companion; he was also conversant in Old and New Testament literature and, less extensively, with the relatively newly rediscovered Greek philosophers.

Strauss does not understand Machiavelli's thoughts on religion because he fails to separate Niccolo's Christian, Danteian spirituality from his disgust with the corruption of the Roman Catholic papacy and institutional church.

If you want intellectual showmanship and hair-splitting, Strauss on Machiavelli's your man. If you want to understand the soul of Niccolo Machiavelli and the complexities of political life in the Florence, Italy he lived in and loved, you can't do better than Maurizio Viroli.

Machiavelli and Republicanism

http://www.cambridge.org/us/academic/subjects/history/history-ideas-and-intellectual-history/machiavelli-and-republicanism?format=PB

Redeeming the Prince

http://www.journals.uchicago.edu/doi/abs/10.1086/681223

For Love of Country: An Essay on Patriotism and Nationalism

http://www.oxfordscholarship.com/view/10.1093/0198293585.001.0001/acprof-9780198293583

(Strauss twists Machiavelli's love of country into an evil act because it is not universal. Yet, as one reviewer noted of Strauss, "I would make the case that the best defense of Strauss lies in an understanding of Aristotle and Israel." https://www.amazon.com/German-Stranger-Strauss-National-Socialism/dp/0739147382 )

CanSpeccy > , Website September 6, 2016 at 2:50 am GMT

@biz


you are too quick to conflate 9/11 and the moon landings
Actually, it was Unz himself who stated a while back that if we admit that one of them is possible, then all are possible, or something more or less to that effect.

In an case, the 9/11 controlled demolition / missile / flight 93 is in a hangar in Cleveland stuff is just as implausible as faking the moon landings. Too many people and organizations and countries needing to be in on it, etc. biz, you obviously missed it. Bill Jones, above , debunked your argument even before you made it.

Pat Casey > , September 6, 2016 at 3:31 am GMT

@Rurik Thank you Mr. Unz, for this excellent- and circumspect and salient- article.


His main problem with "conspiracy theories" was not that they were always false, but they might often be true, and therefore their spread was potentially disruptive to the smooth functioning of society. So as a matter of self-defense, elites needed to actively suppress or otherwise undercut the unauthorized investigation of suspected conspiracies.
I'll just add that from what I've glimmered, (I'm definitely no expert on Leo Strauss), Strauss' philosophy contained more than just a careful consideration of 'conspiracy theories' and how they should be handled, but that what he advocated was a small group of highly motivated elite zealots (Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, et al) who would not just use power to control the narrative vis-a-vis conspiracy theories, but more to the point, would be the men who would conspire to alter the realities that required a mocking of "conspiracy theories" in the first place.

From what I understand, one of his motivating themes was that his acolytes would come to understand that they shouldn't be guided by trite, pedestrian notions of morality when being the agents of change in the world. And that rather, they should use his teachings as a way to see the world as exceptional men, who would boldly do things others might shrink from, out of hackneyed notions of probity.

Perhaps the best quote I know of to describe Straussianism (as I understand it) was made by a man who wasn't one of his actual students, but who certainly would have been well acquainted and worked closely with others who were; Karl Rove, when speaking to an aid:

"That's not the way the world really works anymore." He continued "We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality!judiciously, as you will!we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do."

that quote for me, describes Straussianism to a T. And if so, certainty dovetails with what happened during the reign of Bush-the lesser. Especially with something as audacious as 911.

That at least, is how I've seen it...

As for the control of the media, I think most of your readers are certainly aware of that particular conundrum and its consequences. It is literally impossible to be too cynical as regards our media and government and CIA and other shenanigans, IMHO.

Thanks again sir. Nice job. You roped the quote that ran across my mind! I swear these things are in the air. How do you say, the ghost of Leo Strauss was moving men to do what you can't pin on his memory? Well you said it and that settles it. Thank goodness.

Astuteobservor II > , September 6, 2016 at 3:32 am GMT

after snowden, every conspiracy theory got a 99% boost in credibility. he confirmed the big bad boogeymen watching and spying on us all. nothing else is impossible, nothing. every theory is now possible, everything.

Decius > , September 6, 2016 at 3:55 am GMT

@Pat Casey Nice job. You roped the quote that ran across my mind--- I swear these things are in the air. How do you say, the ghost of Leo Strauss was moving men to do what you can't pin on his memory? Well you said it and that settles it. Thank goodness. Wait, a quote from Rove that doesn't even mention Strauss explains everything about Strauss? Are you serious?

I gather you just need a boogeyman and Strauss is the one you've selected. Or, more accurately, have allowed others to select for you.

Decius > , September 6, 2016 at 4:03 am GMT

@SolontoCroesus

Strauss's Machiavelli book is my favorite and I think his best. It is totally "original" in the sense that he took a wildly new path from all previous scholarship. It has basically defined the debate to this day. All subsequent scholarship either follows him, opposes him, or tries to ignore him.
Nonsense. Maurizio Viroli has dedicated his life to scholarship on Machiavelli. He reads and understands The Prince (and Machiavelli's other works and life) in the context in which they were written, taking account of the finest details of Machiavelli's human, psychological, and spiritual evolution in the course of career and writing. Viroli walks in Niccolo's footsteps; like Machiavelli, he "puts on the garments" of 15th century Florence, and Rome, and the French and Germanic cities where Machiavelli traveled to represent Florence.

Strauss may satisfy those inclined to engage in exercise in Talmudic argument, but Machiavelli was Italian, Florentine, and Roman; Dante was his constant companion; he was also conversant in Old and New Testament literature and, less extensively, with the relatively newly rediscovered Greek philosophers.

Strauss does not understand Machiavelli's thoughts on religion because he fails to separate Niccolo's Christian, Danteian spirituality from his disgust with the corruption of the Roman Catholic papacy and institutional church. If you want intellectual showmanship and hair-splitting, St