Monday, October 7, 2013

Drone Strikes and Dinner Theatre

There's something I think a bit off about how the new-wave Republican strategy is being discussed, but it hinges on discerning exactly how that wave is shifting from older mentalities and the best way to illustrate that is with a reminder that the Democratic wing of the one single American conservative party is in every way save by comparison to Republicans also a puppet of corporate imperialism.

A year and two and three ago, there were various scandals about covert U.S. agencies conducting assassinations via unmanned drones. "Scandals" is probably too strong a word, because the public outcry was more of a "meh" than the Abu Ghraib sex scandal (and admit it, if only pain-stimulus torture were involved and not nudity, those pictures would not have made such a splash.)
One of the core features of Imperial versus other types of warfare is a removal of causality and consequence from the eyes of the public. Dainty heartland ladies don't have to care how many slaves were whipped to death to make their ball gowns because those slaves are far removed. The baker in the capital's square grins in delight at the abundance and low cost of grain, regardless of all the families starving in the provinces. The manufacturer basks in his growing profit margin as the imperial brigades destabilize and dismantle the industry of far-off lands to open new markets and create economic dependency. It all works because the greater mass of the people is allowed to ignore the consequences of prosperity and just how intrinsically untenable a system of constant plunder is. Politics turns into a shell game. Keep the voters' eyes trained on anything but what you're actually doing.
Drone strikes are a perfect example of this. It was never going to be Obama's Abu Ghraib, because the truth is that the public likes drone strikes. It's something that can be ignored, something faceless and impersonal, not a hometown girl caught pointing at naked men. Just a bunch of people (and since when do foreigners count as people) getting killed. Plus it means uncle Bob gets to keep his cushy job shining medals for the defense industry.

That's just business as usual in the U.S. So-called "news" programs are filled more with fluff pieces and the opinion of the man on the street than information. Keep your eye on the ... hey, look over there! This is how the Democratic party would prefer to do business, a slow, gradual sell-out, metaphorically boiling the frog alive because it cannot feel the heat rising. This is the spirit of Affordable Care, which (in my admittedly meager understanding) far from being a step toward socialized heath care seems to cement the dependence on megacorporations in medicine.

Now. The MSNBC/NPR commentary on the current U.S. federal services shutdown by Cruz, Boehner et al. centers on the idea that these are Republicans from deeply Republican (reactionary) districts scoring points by posing themselves in opposition to a Democratic government and its programs. Commentators posit that corporations, the iron fist within modern-day public policy, are not in favor of such tactics, and it's true that corporations have always preferred the shell game over public scrutiny. The very concept of a corporation is in fact itself a shell game. Individual profit without individual responsibility, as wise old Bitter Bierce put it.

However, I see what the new reactionaries are doing as an attempted proof of concept. They represent not only a polarization between ultraconservative and mainstream, but between covert and overt crowd control. They are trying to prove that this is the new way of doing business, that they can wrangle public opinion in an open fight whenever they want to pick a fight, just by being brazen enough. This is a show put on for big business, and here we have to remember what big business means. It's not just Wall Street. The financial sector can work in secret because it is the most fluid and diffuse, the most globalized. It deals in abstracts. Big business is however best exemplified by oil companies and by labor laws.

The U.S. is approaching its collapse. With the rise of China as the new world empire in the following decades, U.S. bakers, manufacturers and dainty ladies of the voting class will be faced more and more with actual issues and not simply a facetious game of voting for identical smiling clean-cut boys spewing platitudes. As crises begin to reach the heartland, as Alaric draws up his fist to beat on the gates of Rome, it begins to be more and more necessary to engage the public instead of blinding it. Someone has to convince the public to keep drilling for oil and keep backing oil-dependent businesses. Someone has to convince the labor market it's better off without labor unions and that waiting tables is a "career." In order to keep increasing their profiteering within the U.S. as the empire dwindles along with the loot from sacking foreign lands, corporations need more and more draconian domestic measures.
The new-wave Republicans are filling a demand, the corporate demand for active rabblerousing. To some extent, the Tea Party itself provided the initial proof of the growing place for empty demagoguery. That the mentality is now becoming institutionalized should be no surprise. Americans have a very strong tendency toward institutionalization, from schoolhouse oaths to patriotic invasions.

The real damage is not done this year. The current clique of representatives has pushed too fast, too eagerly. But their corporate overlords are no doubt taking note. They are seeing the use of getting the public to vote against its own interest not just through willful ignorance but through complicit vandalism. If impressing Pfizer and the American Medical Association resulted in a government shutdown, what'll happen when the oil companies buy into this new program of open intra-government warfare? What if this is the new way the government does business with the corporations? No more drone strikes, no more comfortable distance.

Good or bad?
I guess that depends on whether you think of human nature as good or bad, of the public as capable of making rational decisions or as a drooling mass of idiots waiting to swallow whatever lie they're given.
Ouch. We're fucked.

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