*edit, March 14, 2015/ Oct 10, 2015 – I’ve taken another good look at this post and decided that it needed to look better, so I added in some pics and a video. I added a little more content tangential to my mention of Tom Flanagan. And I discussed Tom’s famous moral lapse, having to do with support for child porn. There is a section where I discuss an amorphous ‘comfortable class’. I thought I had that worked out. If I’m not intelligible now, then I don’t have it worked out. But, seeing as it doesn’t ruin the post and subjects I look at in it, I’ll leave it in. I don’t have the energy to do major surgery on this post anyway.
New book portrays Stephen Harper’s control fixation – thestar.com. – by Susan Delacourt
Delacourt’s article doesn’t tell us much of importance. It’s really just a reporting of unexamined facts. Bare facts aren’t usually the story that they’re related to.
Delacourt’s first fact is that “Harper has made no secret of his distaste for the media.” Harper is a servant of power and therefore a beneficiary of power. He’s a corporatist. Delacourt’s article does not say anything about the ‘media’ that Harper dislikes. Is it the dependent, corporate-owned media? Or is it the independent, progressive, alternative media? Those media categories are also facts.
Common sense suggests that Harper would not truly, as in completely, dislike the corporate-owned media, especially if such a tool of power (as he) wants to distinguish it from the alternative, progressive media that pushes a message he is paid (let’s say) to attack. Harper, like any rightwinger, will always disagree on details of rightwing positions espoused by other rightwingers and rightwing organizations, but that means nothing. ‘Exactly’ how you choose to not care isn’t the issue. Not caring is the issue.
And so Harper should, (well advertised) appearances not withstanding, want to prop up the mainstream media’s promotion of neoliberal capitalism and rightwing positions such as yes to tax and spending cuts, yes to inflation fighting (in which inflation that is low is called high), yes to deficit reduction, yes to small government (that restricts peoples’ access to political representatives while making it easier for powerful special interests to control government), yes to deregulation, yes to privatization (and its assistant P3s), yes to military spending (and its assistant national security ideology), yes to Israel (right or wrong) and yes to free trade agreements and free markets.
Occasionally, a rightwing media outlet, like The Toronto Star, will criticize a rightwing position and/or support a leftwing position that is counter to that rightwing position. That’s going to happen now and then when not every single journalist in that organization is rightwing. As long as that can be kept under control (which macho, power trippers sometimes don’t bother to do), elites and their tools have no problem with it, especially as it lends an air of authenticity to their ‘democratic’ organization (and to the ‘democratic’ society is purports to prefer), to have dissenting voices out there. (I see, from David J. Climenhaga’s Rabble article, that there is a brouhaha over the rightwing Globe And Mail’s axing of Rick Salutin’s column. Rick Salutin was one of – unless there’s others; I pay little attention to the Globe – the Globe’s token lefties. It’s still a developing situation as this private company doesn’t have to be honest or forthright with the public about reasons for its actions impacting the public.)
As well, There’s much more sophisticated propaganda at work in developed nations like Canada and less need for the guns and clubs you see in places like China. And so, printed articles by the few journos who are not enamoured of the corporatocracy and its anti-people, anti-environment stance do not signal that the paper which those journos write for actually supports the people and disagrees with the corporatocracy – which isn’t even a word you’ll find in the major dailies for gosh sakes.
In fact, Harper knows that. Journalists like Susan Delacourt know that. Thinking people know that.
Harper is not Canada’s corporatocracy government. He’s a small part of Canada’s corporatocracy government. And, apparently, he ‘does’ have the time to serve power in informal, as well as formal, ways.
What can it mean for Harper to be fixated “with his Liberal enemies” when they are not, in any meaningful way, his enemy? (Maybe reportage that does not explain that means that journos in the ‘free’ press do ‘not’ have enough time to properly serve the people.) There just isn’t any real difference between the Liberal Party and the Conservative Party, which (rightwing) writers like Edward Greenspon and Anthony Wilson-Smith explain in their depressing and, despite itself, useful book “Double Vision.” (Do not read this book unless you’ve been innoculated. You simply have to possess a built-in translator, or filters, to know just what these authors are saying. For the unpoliticized, the book might not be so healthy. Linda McQuaig, incidentally, has some interesting things to say about the book on pages 4, 5 and 18-21 of her book titled “The Cult Of Impotency – Selling The Myth Of Powerless In The Global Economy.”)
Of course, There’s plenty of plain language explanation, among Left-leaning authors (Maude Barlow for example) outlining how Liberals and Conservatives are the same. Even further on the Left, writers like Noam Chomsky say more, in no uncertain terms, about that. In “Straight Through The Heart – How The Liberals Abandoned The Just Society And What Canadians Can Do About It,” Barlow recounts how a traitorous (to the people) Trudeau, in 1982, set up the Macdonald commission that outlined how to dismantle the social nation state of Canada, a project taken up by Brian Mulroney in 1985. “Social Liberalism was in full retreat, its death hastened by the Royal Commission on the Economic Union and Development Prospects for Canada, chaired by former Liberal Finance Minister Donald Macdonald. Set up in late 1982 under Trudeau, the commission did not publish its report until 1985 under Mulroney, when it served as the perfect symbol of the now-shared ideology of the Liberals and Conservatives, and became the vehicle for transferring an economic platform from one government to the other. The Macdonald Commission called for the contraction of government itself in order to foster business competition. Concerned that the welfare state subverts “the genius of the market economy,” the report laid the groundwork for continental free trade, planned high unemployment, and the coming assault on universal social programs.” -pg 41
The showcase positions of Conservatives, including their weak support for diversity – arguments for which are often rendered suspect by ‘weak’ members who, when push comes to shove, turn out to be like, or hold views like, those they publicly denounce – such as tax cuts for (tax evading) corporations, and their concomitant of spending cuts, are often more zealously upheld by their Liberal colleagues once the reins of power shift to Liberals. And it’s a sad commentary on the state of the peoples’ fightback when such glaring tears in the proffered Corporatocracy narrative go unchallenged and are met with only lassitude and, at best, a momentary twitch of mental discomfort, no more upsetting to the status quo than a tiny pebble would be to riders in a limo that ran over one.
The task of cultural managers, which is not off limits to those with stations above them, is to direct the thinking of the people. And it helps that, once you’ve sold your soul for gain and must now betray the people, you choose to see them as deserving of ill treatment and epithets such as “bewildered herd.” (I’m finding it harder to care about people these days, but I’m certainly not powerful or privileged. I just find that people, from all stations, don’t care. They don’t care about themselves or others. And they don’t care about me and I can’t help but take it personally after all these years of living in this capitalist paradise in which I have nothing despite being a good, caring guy.)
“The public must be put in its place,” Walter Lippmann wrote, so that we may “live free of the trampling and the roar of a bewildered herd,” whose “function” is to be “interested spectators of action,” not participants.” -pg 352 of “Deterring Democracy,” by Noam Chomsky
The task of truly progressive media is to counter that attack on the people by pointing out when it’s taking place, for one thing. The job then involves educating people about things like the neoliberal agenda and the corporatocracy. It involves, therefore, explaining to people the difference between the horizontal thinking demonstrated by their traitorous leaders and other servants of power and the vertical thinking that’s missing or not nearly as visible as the horizontal thinking purveyed by the major media.
Cultural managers, including elites and their political partners at all levels, exercise ‘demonstration’ behavior and thinking that will teach the people how to behave and think. If that’s not an easy intellectual state of mind for elites and their tools to achieve, it no doubt imparts some level of satisfaction to those who can achieve it, rather like a yoga student who can finally contort the hell out of his or her body, something Chomsky marvels at now and then.
“For submissiveness [of the bewildered herd] to become a reliable trait, it must be entrenched in every realm. The public are to be observers, not participants, consumers of ideology as well as products. Eduardo Galeano writes that “the majority must resign itself to the consumption of fantasy. Illusions of wealth are sold to the poor, illusions of freedom to the oppressed, dreams of victory to the defeated and of power to the weak.” Nothing less will do.
“The problem of indoctrination is a bit different for those expected to take part in serious decision-making and control: the business, state, and cultural managers, and articulate sectors generally. They must internalize the values of the system and share the necessary illusions that permit it to function in the interests of concentrated power and privilege – or at least be cynical enough to pretend that they do, an art that not many can master. But they must also have a certain grasp of the realities of the world, or they will be unable to perform their tasks effectively. The elite media and educational systems must steer a course through these dilemmas – not an easy task, one plagued by internal contradictions. It is intriguing to see how it is faced, but that is beyond the scope of these remarks.” – pg 370 of Deterring Democracy, by Noam Chomsky
Interestingly, in the above linked-to Rabble article by David J. Climenhaga, he mentions how big media outlets like the Globe take unethical measures to reach younger, rich people in an effort to expand their markets. “On the business side, they have done again what newspapers have been doing over and over for 30 years, to wit, dumped a feature liked by many existing readers in hopes of attracting new, younger, richer readers who are not engaged by newspapers just at this moment. The net effect has been to drive away loyal readers while failing to attract the hoped-for new ones.” There is indeed, a (small, but highly visible) ‘comfortable class’ that one can superimpose on the elite/concentrated power + cultural managers + bewildered herd map and it will overlap the boundaries of all three of those categories. Young, well paid professionals, or yuppies, make up a large segment of that group. Members, here, also, aren’t always stupid and so they often realize that their continued ‘success’ depends on their complicity and silence. Rock the boat and you may be tossed out of it, they are aware. I see that comfortable class as including the younger ones within it who are developing into cultural managers and members of the elites as well as older ones who have become part of the minority of well off citizens. Which is to say, Some of the younger people within that comfortable class are reachable. (*edit, Oct 7, ’10/ Oct 10, ’15: I’ve revisited this idea because, while I’ve had the idea of a somewhat amorphous comfortable class for a while, I realized recently that it needed closer examination. And so this section of this post was just edited by me, reflecting that now current examination. The main ideas in this post remain the same and, except for the odd typo, unedited.)
And so, the demonstrated thinking goes, The electoral market place isn’t unfree. It’s free and democratic and there’s an organic, naturally arising – from the people – assortment of parties reflecting the assorted beliefs and viewpoints of all the people. There’s the Liberal Party and the Conservative Party, for example, and therefore choice. The democracy we have is not fake. (Elections are not rituals in which the guided and propagandized people get to choose from a handful of corporatocracy-approved candidates.) That’s their (elites) line and they’re sticking to it.
Because that obligation upon servants and beneficiaries of power to deceive the people via fake, horizontal ‘demonstration’ behavior and thinking is ‘never’ openly discussed among elites and their tools, let alone others who are capable of reporting this reality (but, for some reason, not anxious to do so), it is therefore easy enough for those unprincipled people who have embraced this world’s anti-God paradigm of ‘riches for the strongest’ to slip into that dark mindset. Think of your kinkiest – Well maybe not kinkiest – sexual fantasy, namely the one that much of society would censure you for should it become known and think how nice it would be if you could always, without fail, satisfy that desire with impunity (no discussion of it and no accountability for it). You would probably do so. Same thing. And it’s easy, I suppose, for some of the corporatocracy’s cultural managers to disappear into that mode, or mindset, becoming sort of mad.
What about you, Tom Flanagan? Do you ‘overdo’ it? Tom Flanagan made an unwise comment about the lack of wisdom in throwing people into jail, not for producing child porn but for merely watching it. (The unwise part of that comment is that he didn’t make explicit his awareness that that ‘out’ could not apply to those who might buy child porn or look for it online, with a view to seeing it for free or buying it. Buying it supports the sordid business. Perhaps looking for it and watching it for free supports that biz as well. If you possessed family values, you wouldn’t seek out child porn for viewing, period. Stumbling upon it is another matter, in my opinion. When you do, you then move on promptly – if you have principles and are normal. And it should disturb you. And, yes, the best way to avoid that possibility to is to never look at porn. (I don’t think everyone’s going to have exactly the same definition of family values. Some folks will be prudish, which isn’t a crime. But then they will also be judgmental and happy to force their moral codes on others.) So, Why didn’t Tom make that above distinction? I watched a video in which he’s interviewed by the CBC’s George Stroumbolopolous. Here’s what struck and disturbed me about that. By now Tom would have had enough time to get his story straight. He ‘still’ failed to make the important, above, distinction. He effectively stands by his position that seeking out and viewing child pornography is okay. It isn’t. I don’t know what kind of punishment that merits, but Tom seems to be okay with crossing a line that’s not okay to cross.
The entire political establishment and all media pounced on Tom and I have no doubt that, where the Right is concerned, it involved a lot of hypocrisy. Canada’s rightwing politicians no doubt do not condone child porn, even if their family values position is hypocritical. Poor Flanagan therefore gave the Right too easy a target. It could ‘not’ not respond harshly and in no uncertain terms, not least because it provided a way to show the rest of us how sincere they are about family values, which they are not. For example, Do First Nations families matter to the Conservatives? Indeed, Stephen Harper’s policies, very much influenced by Tom Flanagan, are hurting First Nations families a great deal and the rest of Canada’s families, outside the 1%, quite a bit as well, as Murray Dobbin reminds us. (Karl Nerenberg pointed out that Tom, in fact, moderated his views on First Nations, to his credit, abandoning the ‘fee simple’ abuse that the state is enamored of. Still…)
“The comprehensive claims process was designed to undermine indigenous sovereignty. Writing on the British Columbia Treaty Commission (BCTC), indigenous writer and activist Taiaiake Alfred describes the comprehensive treaty process as a failure for indigenous nations, and “at its core morally bankrupt” and “illegitimiate.” It is organized with the purpose of promoting the state’s colonial agenda and facilitating the penetration of indigenous territory by resource companies… The aim of the treaty process has been to absorb serious political activity into the safer legal realm and bind indigenous nations into legal manoeuvreing.
“The central demand underlying Canada’s and the Provinces’ negotiating position in the BCTC and the comprehensive land claims process in the rest of the country makes clear Canada’s ultimate goal: to solidify the colonial control of indigenous communities and land by denying indigenous nationhood and the illegitimate colonial basis upon which Canada is founded. At the heart of the colonial state’s negotiating position is the extinguishment of aboriginal title in return for a relatively small sum of cash – given [from] the wealth that has been made or will be made off of the resources on these lands – and a fraction of traditional indigenous territories. Aboriginal title involves the right to exclusive use and occupation of land, recognized by the Supreme Court as existing in section 35 of the Constitution. Extinguishment therefore involves indigenous nations relinquishing to Canada their political independence and exclusive ownership over and use of their lands. The demand that indigenous nations give up their inherent rights to their land and its resources as indigenous people, and the refusal to engage with indigenous people on a nation-to-nation basis, betrays the profoundly racist premise of the state’s negotiating strategy toward them. On what grounds can Canada deny sovereignty to people who have never conceded it, or demand sovereign nations relinquish title to their land as a prerequisite for insuring that they any land or rights recognized by the colonial state?…
“In the much criticized (by the political right) Nisga’a agreement in British Columbia, for example, the Nisga’a forfeited their title and got control over only ten percent of their traditional land – small plots which critics suggest will make self-sufficiency extremely difficult, especially given the rate of population growth in Nisga’a communities. British Columbia gets control, then, of almost all of the Nisga’a’s traditional territory. Furthermore, the Nisga’a do not even have jurisdictional powers over the rivers and lakes in that ten percent (and have a water allotment under the treaty) or subsurface rights. Under the agreement, furthermore, Nisga’a land is transformed into fee simple title. This means that Nisga’a land is now private property owned by Nisga’a, subject to taxes and governed by the Canadian legal system rather than by aboriginal title. As with property held in fee simple, the Crown has underlying title and can appropriate the land should the owners fail to pay property taxes. Meanwhile, the treaty does not alter existing agriculture and woodlot leases or highway jurisdiction – all of which were established on Nisga’a land before a treaty was signed.” – pages 89-91 of “Imperialist Canada” by Todd Gordon
That was a bit of a digression. But it dealt with an important subject and so I thought Why not?
What therapy can there be for such people (namely cultural managers who must absorb the “necessary illusions,” even if they don’t fully believe them, while also absorbing facts about the wider world which they live in so as to be effective managers of people) when there’s no recognized condition of addiction to demonstration behavior and thinking (other than awareness of, and discussion by, social psychologists of the non specific mental state of cognitive dissonance) by anyone and no therapist therefore to treat the malady? None I suppose. Unless being treated for a cold when in fact you have cancer can have some benefits. If someone like Stephen Harper was forced to stop thinking and start being productive, then perhaps the darkness that is the reward for pursuing darkness would recede. But that’s only speculation.
The people are meant to observe the demonstration thinking and behavior and imitate it. When demonstration thinking comes to be held by the people (excluding willing and knowing cultural managers), it is not fake. It’s real and the people thereby become, helpfully to the corporatocracy, their own enemy – as they take up incessant demands for tax cuts to continue and for out of control government spending to stop and for continued deficit reduction and for inflation fighting, yadda, yadda, all of which, when acted on by corporatocracy governments lead to no helpful reforms but only leave the exploitative, oppressive capitalist system intact or strengthened.
The thinking encouraged by elites (Chomsky’s ‘concentrated power’) and their servants and adopted by the people is ‘horizontal’, as opposed to ‘vertical’, in the sense that the self-serving way that corporatists talk to us about society and its problems represents shallow, useless thinking, while activists point out the deeper stuff that corporatists ignore (or deal with in their own way), outlining policies and approaches that would, if implemented by governments, lead to the betterment of all of society.
I regard much of the public, surface yammer and discussion by elites and their servants, especially in media, as horizontal, in that fashion, even if those are otherwise worthy enough discussions to have – by earnest actors who are not, at the same time, ignoring more serious (to the hurting people) matters. Horizontal crap that comes to mind would include unending discussions about gun registration, the funding of culture (instead of stopping offshore tax havens that contribute to revenue, not spending, problems), criminalizing prostitution and drugs, pro-choice versus pro-life positions, teaching evolution in schools, stopping Quebec from separating, etc..
The vertical thinking of activists focusses on the need to attack unequal social relations in society (that underpin all else that’s wrong with the current system), the need to reform the tax system to make it progressive, as it once was (to some extent) and the need for thorough, informed (not biased and funded by corporations, as much of it is now) economic analyses of the economy with a view to implementing poverty reducing redistribution and other measures. Vertical (including scientific) thinking will lead to facts that will debunk rightwing propaganda about taxation, deficits and the costs of social spending. Vertical behavior occurs when activists do what they can to encourage frank talk about those subjects (on the negative side) and the social policies and solutions (on the positive side) that politicians – at the behest of corporations – say (outside of elections) we can’t have.
Vertical thinking involves thinking about our governments’ complicity in allowing and protecting offshore tax havens and availing ourselves of the research of experts in that field who stay on top of this evil practice. (See my blogroll.) The taxes not paid by corporations create deficits that the people pay for through (relatively) high taxes and through austerity measures (stopped social spending) imposed on them by a traitorous ruling class, while that class aids and abets the privatizers who use ruined programs and services (via the sabotage of underfunding) as an excuse to privatize them, which they can pull off if the people don’t notice (unless we exert ourselves to prevent that) that the programs and services weren’t faulty because they were publicly funded but because they weren’t ‘properly’ funded. Toronto’s publicly funded transportation system is in appalling shape because it has been, forever, underfunded by higher levels of government. (Large public transportation systems are usually funded by multiple governments, but Toronto, alone among large urban centers in North America, has been hammered by the provincial and federal governments’ lack of funding.) Why properly fund what capitalists want to privatize? The default position of neoliberal governments is to not properly fund publicly funded services etc., precisely so that, once they crumble, the case can then be made – to unobservant citizens – that perhaps they would be better off in private hands.
Vertical thinking means activists who call upon governments to pursue full, meaningful, employment policies, whereas the corporate owned media pushes the self-serving idea (backed up by psuedo science and its product, the NAIRU, or Non-Adjusted Inflation Rate of Unemployment; See Linda McQuaig’s book “Shooting The Hippo.”) that you can’t have full employment. High unemployment in fact disciplines labor. If you can’t escape your employer’s abuse and low pay to go to another employer who will treat you better, because that employer doesn’t exist, then you are forced to take what you get. You are thereby disciplined. Our ‘law & order governments’ protect corporations that treat the people like the enemy in that and other ways, and that’s a crime.
The economy – that is, the common sense idea of ‘the economy’ – doesn’t benefit from high unemployment and low wages, but that isn’t the issue. As long as elites and their servants, and a buffer, nebulous ‘comfortable class’, can participate in the economy in a positive way (which they often then refer to as a ‘healthy economy’), then that’s what matters. And that ‘healthy economy’ can easily exist alongside a great deal of poverty and deprivation, since elites actually get their prosperity and privilege in a manner (exploitation) that creates that inequality. See my previous post, Rickety Mansion, for an explanation of this perverse situation.
In a money system, such as we have on this planet at this time, money means life. Discussions and policies that will seriously look at proposals for redistributing wealth – the means of survival – come from vertical thinking. Vertical thinking is thinking about important, or deep, things. And issues concerning whether or not people have the means of survival are important and deep issues worth discussing.
Such vertical thinking and behavior is not missing among elites. It’s just not ‘demonstrated’. As well, Conclusions drawn by uncaring and too free elites who exercise vertical thinking are not going to have positive outcomes for society as long as elites and their tools don’t have good intentions. They don’t intend, for example, to make peace with the people who they have chosen to exploit. You’ll know when their thinking changes because you’ll also see the exploitation ending. It’s not only not ending, but it’s getting worse.