The River Soar yesterday. What follows is less pretty.
I’m promoting three reads here, starting with Caitlin Johnstone’s post today:
Humanity Is Still Trying To Be Born
Things are fucked. That’s our current situation in a nutshell.
In a slightly bigger nutshell, things are fucked because powerful people are making them fucked, and they won’t stop unless ordinary people use their superior numbers to make them stop, but ordinary people are being psychologically manipulated away from making them stop by propaganda.
This is happening on a global scale, on national scales around the world, and on pretty much any other scale you want to break the collective humaning fractal down to. 1
Our biosphere is being destroyed by the reckless pursuit of profit. US war-mongering is leading to a final confrontation with Russia and China that could end life on Earth. Authoritarian agendas are being rolled out by ruling power structures to exert greater and greater control of populations. And oppressive and exploitative status quo political systems are held in place in supposedly free societies despite mountains of evidence that those systems do not serve the interests of ordinary people.
All of these dire realities are manipulated, distorted, re-framed or simply omitted by the sources which people have been trained to look to for information about the world. As long as we’re successfully manipulated away from forming a clear picture of what’s going on, things will remain fucked.
I agree, but of the primary stripes of fucked Caitlin identifies, my focus has for a while now been on one in particular. It should be obvious to a child that the daily outpourings of Sinophobic bile on every conceivable front – by media of both populist and ‘quality’ stripe, generalist as well as business-oriented – are driven by the economic threat posed to the West by China rising.
Or to be precise, the threat to a tiny elite – Caitlin’s “ruling power structures” – within the West.
Obvious to a child. Trouble is, adults consume media whose systemic corruptions – a mockery of democracy – “manipulate [us] away from forming a clear picture of what’s going on”.
On China (as on so much else but right now I’m staying with China) nothing we are told by any segment of corporate media should be taken at face value. The threat to imperialism 2 posed by China’s rise is simply too great for truth to trump power in the reckonings of journalists 3 who, if they know what’s good for them, please editors who, if they know what’s good for them, please proprietors who – even if their socio-economic position did not place them firmly within a ruling class whose existence only the truly credulous deny – need advertisers and, should such market discipline fail (which on matters vital to said ruling class it rarely does) will face the more direct discipline of the deep state.
One day it’s the Guardian on ‘human rights’ in Xinjiang. Another its BBC and CNN ‘reminding’ us of Tiananmen Square in ways that fail predictably to say how tendentiously selective were their own contemporaneous accounts. Or it’s an uncritical acceptance of a privileged minority’s one-sided take on Tibet, merging seamlessly with orientalism … with entire lifetimes absorbing the vital message that Socialism Doesn’t Work … with conclusions drawn from 007 and Animal Farm. Or it’s China’s alleged belligerence to Taiwan. Or the insistence, not so much evidence-lite as evidence-defiant, that Belt & Road is a plot to debt-trap the global south.
(Now there’s projection for you.)
Shit, it can be as pathetic as the lie, in Rothermere’s Mail and Murdoch’s Times, of a black face photoshopped out of promotional images for the launch in China of the Dune movie …
Beneath this many-fronted propaganda blitz lies a simple truth. There is but one reason why the lies – and even where the attacks do contain a sliver of accuracy (as propaganda usually does) they deceive us on the why now? question – are coming at us from every media direction.
We are being psychologically prepared for war. 4
Cue for my second read. Writing on the Information Clearing House website yesterday, Ajamu Baraka begins (abridged here) thus:
The Delusional Commitment to the Doctrine of “Full Spectrum Dominance” is leading the US and the World to Disaster
The 21st Century was supposed to see unchallenged global dominance by the US in its Project for a New American Century (PNAC). The optimism was understandable. With the fall of the USSR, it saw no check on US power. According to liberal theorists like Fukuyama, with the dismantling of the Soviet state and system, the historic struggle to establish the hegemony of classical liberalism and capitalism as the inevitable outcome of the “Western” driven project known as modernity had come in an end.
For both classical liberals like Fukuyama and neocons who would rise to power under George W. Bush, Western societies marked the apex of collective human development: history and objective rationalism had determined it so.
But human societies, even those claimed to be guided by objective scientific laws, never emerge as a tabula rasa. What develops at any point in history is the outcome of the social and economic contradictions of the previous era with many of those unresolved contradictions still present.
US dominance and the end of history, decreed in the nineties, was an ideological fiction like Hitler’s Thousand-Year Reich. And like Hitler, with whom the managers of the US empire share a commitment to white supremacy and a recognition that global hegemony needs a colonial empire, US policymakers made fatal strategic blunders once they found themselves with unchallenged global power.
A delusional worldview infused with white supremacism makes it impossible for those infected to cognitively grasp the world as it really exists, let alone to understand the limitations of their power.
That is precisely why the dawn of the 21st century saw the US embroiled in two military conflicts that US policymakers thought they could successfully conduct with a poverty conscripted army and the dubious rationale of the “War on Terror.”
But instead of the global natives being in awe of US. power, by 2007 what Mao Zedong had proclaimed, and the Vietnamese confirmed, was that the US was a “paper-tiger.”
And with the defeat in Iraq and Afghanistan, did US policymakers reassess their military-first approach? Of course not.
Amid precipitous global decline, and with an ongoing and deepening crisis of legitimacy at home, Obama launched and/or supported at least three wars, and Trump continued many of those policies, including escalating tensions with both Russia and China.
Biden embraced the anti-Chinese belligerence of the Trump administration and Obama’s pivot to Asia – and the dangerously irrational belief that military bluster would pre-empt or reverse the fate of all empires when their subjects are no longer afraid, and the rulers unable even to convince themselves they are still fit to rule.
Yet this is a cold-blooded criminal class; ruthless and still dangerous. The destruction of Libya, wars in Syria and Yemen, subversion in Ethiopia and Haiti, coups, illegal sanctions and the outrageous meddling in Nicaragua and Venezuela 5 are just some of the actions that bear out the destructive power of the US …
From Ajamu Baraka’s overarching perspective, in its way a complement to Caitlin’s, we get to my third read: the most specific, and the scariest, of the three. It’s from Finian Cunningham, also posted yesterday to the ICH site, and starts like this:
Biden Just Announced Date for WWIII
The Biden administration this week brazenly announced its intention to walk over China’s red line warning on Taiwan. The move by the US is a recklessly provocative step that dares an inevitable military response from Beijing.
If that happens then all bets are off for a full-scale military confrontation between the United States, its allies, and China. It is not alarmist to say such a clash would escalate into World War III.
Australia and Britain are explicitly committed to a military alliance with the United States in the Asia-Pacific through the recently formed AUKUS pact. Russia will be obliged to defend China.
The date in question is December 9-10 when the Biden administration plays host to a so-called “Summit of Democracies”. This week the State Department announced a list of “participants” that include 110 countries. China and Russia are not invited, among other excluded nations.
Most provocatively, the separatist Chinese territory of Taiwan is invited to attend the video conference. The US is careful to refer to Taiwan as a “participant” not as a “nation”. Nevertheless, this semantical device aside, the invitation is a blatant violation of China’s sovereign claim of authority over Taiwan.
China’s claim to Taiwan as being a part of its integral territory is recognized by the United Nations and, at least in theory, by the United States with its One China Policy since 1979.
The island of Taiwan has existed as a self-governing territory since China’s civil war ended in 1949 with communist victory. The nationalist opponents fled to Taiwan. China retains the right to reunite Taiwan under governance from the mainland. Beijing has warned it will do so by military force if Taiwan ever declares independence.
Washington maintains a position of “strategic ambiguity” whereby it acknowledges a One China Policy while also simultaneously offering US commitments to help Taiwan with military defence.
Since Joe Biden took the White House in January, his administration has taken this ambiguity to dangerous levels. At one point, Biden has overstepped policy by explicitly stating the US would defend Taiwan in the event of a confrontation with China.
* * *
- Caitlin’s use of the fractal metaphor is apposite. Students of ideology (see footnote 3) would do well to study its mathematically recursive method of replication.
- I define imperialism, simply but not simplistically, as the export of monopoly capital from global north to south, and repatriation of profits from south to north.
- In the main it is unnecessary to assume the journalists at the bottom of the food chain I sketch out are consciously self-serving. Most are no less taken in than the population at large – see my too too brief discussion of ideology in this November post. Noam Chomsky called it right in his 1996 interview with the BBC’s Andrew Marr. (Marr may be higher up that food chain than the average journo but the point stands.) When Marr protested that he wasn’t self-censoring, Chomsky replied: ‘I don’t say that you are. I’m sure you believe all you say. My point is that if you believed something different, you would not be sitting in that chair.’
- It’s easy for my generation, having lived give or take seven decades in the shadow of a thermonuclear annihilation yet to materialise, to assume we’ve seen it all before so why don’t we all just chill out? Two things in reply. One, China poses a greater and wider ranging threat to the US Axis than the Soviet Union ever did. (China’s challenge not only looks set to beat Western capitalism at its own game but – contrast its lifting of hundreds of millions from dire poverty with the abject failure of its most obvious comparator, neoliberal India – offers humanity at large, and global south in particular, a compelling alternative to forty years of Chicago School orthodoxy.) Two, in the more gung-ho wings of our ruling class, the case for striking first and with deadly force has its admirers. Time is not on the side of the US Empire. This – and the fact we are ruled by gangsters who not only have vast arsenals paid for by you and me but the best PR money can buy, aka corporate media – is why the world is now so dangerous.
- Spoilt for choice, Ajamu Baraka omits Hillary Clinton’s role in the theft of the 2009 election in Honduras.
Couple of interesting takes here:
“Some Brit hack, in a twisted way, actually managed to sum up the overall impotence – and insignificance – by painting Europe as a victim, “a beleaguered democratic island in an anarchic world, which a rising tide of authoritarianism, impunity and international rule-breaking threatens to inundate”.
The answer by NATOstan Defense Ministers is to come up with a Strategic Compass – essentially an anti-Russia-China scam – complete with “rapid deployment forces”. Led by who, General Macron?
As it stands, poor NATOstan is uncontrollably sobbing, accusing those Russian hooligans – scary monsters, to quote David Bowie – of staging an anti-satellite missile test and thus “scorning European safety concerns”.
Something must have got lost in translation. So here’s what happened: Russia conclusively demonstrated it’s capable of obliterating each and every one of NATO’s satellites and blind “all their missiles, planes and ships, not to mention ground forces” in case they decide to materialize their warmongering ideas.
Obviously those deaf, dumb and blind NATOstan armchair warrior clowns – fresh from their Afghan “performance” – won’t get the message. But NATOstan anyway was never accused of being partial to reality.”
““But what about the Ukraine?” you might be tempted to ask. Well, the correct answer to that question seems to be, “Nobody cares.” Seriously, looking at recent Ukrainian history, that seems to be the only answer that makes sense. The Americans certainly never cared, the Russians once cared but care less and less with each passing day, and the Ukrainians themselves don’t care either and have been making that point by voting with their feet. The European Union and NATO may care a great deal about having a large failed state in the middle of Europe, and they should, because that is probably just the beginning, but a very good start.“But what about the Ukraine?” you might be tempted to ask. Well, the correct answer to that question seems to be, “Nobody cares.” Seriously, looking at recent Ukrainian history, that seems to be the only answer that makes sense. The Americans certainly never cared, the Russians once cared but care less and less with each passing day, and the Ukrainians themselves don’t care either and have been making that point by voting with their feet. The European Union and NATO may care a great deal about having a large failed state in the middle of Europe, and they should, because that is probably just the beginning, but a very good start.”
“China’s claim to Taiwan as being a part of its integral territory is recognized by the United Nations and, at least in theory, by the United States with its One China Policy since 1979.” Under the policy, the US recognises and has formal ties with China rather than the island of Taiwan, which China sees as a breakaway province to be reunified with the mainland one day. The US policy is not an endorsement of Beijing’s position and indeed as part of the policy, Washington maintains a “robust unofficial” relationship with Taiwan, including continued arms sales to the island so that it can defend itself.
On this much, if nothing else, we can agree.
True. The US military industrial complex (Eisenhower’s term not mine) makes the arms sector vital to the US economy: a means of enforcing imperialism, and of syphoning wealth from America’s many to its ruling few.
Hmm. I wonder how Washington would appreciate China or Russia selling arms to Cuba, so that island can defend itself.
For a more far reaching articulation of my reasons for (cautiously) welcoming China’s rise, see my open letter: Isn’t China just as bad?
I never did reply to your open letter. Unfortunately events, as they say, conspired to redirect my attention. However, I would like to correct an impression that I may have inadvertently given. I am not saying that China is worse than the “West”, or that it doesn’t offer an alternative. What I am saying is far more cynical than even you seem to be. That most of the time ALL leaders in ALL countries under ALL systems are ultimately out for themselves and their actions and policies are essentially driven by self-interest. Anyone or anything that impedes them will be swept aside without hesitation. The reason for this is simple. In order to get to the top in most political systems you have to be ruthless, unprincipled, driven, ambitious, selfish, non-empathic, and prepared to drop people or policies the instant they threaten your position. You need to have no conscience and no sense of shame. Our systems are designed so that psychopaths get to the top. This is true of most organisations – from the Republican party to the Communist party of China, via Exxon, Huawei and BAE, probably to the WI and National Trust. Although obviously where the power is greatest, the severity and violence is most intense (although the casual inhumanity of those latter groups towards any that threaten them can be shocking).
What this means is that the leaders of most countries have clawed their way there, usually with baggage and debts in favours owed to others in power, and are all different degrees of abominable. Hoping that cheering on China because they represent a barrier to the domination of everything by the USA will somehow produce a change to the benefit of ordinary people is, while understandable given the way we are headed, desperate but misplaced.
You mentioned three factors offering resistance to the plutocratic neoliberal veneer democracy running most “western” countries, which included social activism. What you didn’t mention was that by being involved with other people of similar mind and values in a noble and positive pursuit you may not change the world, but you make a small part of it better, including yourself, and that is all we can realistically hope to do.
The world is well on its way to civilizational collapse. It will be chaotic, long, slow and terrible. There is probably nothing we can do to prevent it. But by working with compassionate, kind and thoughtful people on projects aimed at improving some tiny fragment of the whole complex mess we can at least make the journey a little less grim.