The most powerful empire in world history has become, predictably but alarmingly, a neofascist regime directly governed by a junta of billionaires, military hardliners, and religious extremists. Though the regime has the potential to unleash historic violence on the planet and its inhabitants, it is also inefficient, self-contradicting, and overwhelmingly unpopular. The instability of the state and its ruling powers creates genuine potential for revolutionary change for the first time in decades. But halting and reversing the nation on the road to destruction will require an organized resistance with an accurate understanding of the crisis integrated into a productive vision for the future.
For that reason, it is urgent and critical to break through the fog of misinformation provided by corporate media outlets, whose vision of resistance calls for a return to the traditional free market of neoliberal political actors. If we accept that submitting to brutal corporate governance at the cost of millions of lives and the global climate is not an option, it is essential for every person to understand the following ten points:
- There is no shortage of actual scandals that would, if adequately reported or legally examined, undermine Donald Trump’s presidency, the most obvious of them being his longstanding reliance on tax evasion and state subsidies. Doing my taxes last week, I imagined a country where the media exposes the magnitude of these crimes: I, a nursing aid who sleeps on a mattress on the floor, have paid at least 800 million more dollars to the City of New York than our billionaire president. Trump embodies the dual criminality of the American elite: he lives off of what Ruth Wilson Gilmore scathingly calls “twice-stolen wealth: a) property sheltered from b) taxes.” If taxes are too abstract, Trump’s critics could highlight his company’s well-established record of racial discrimination, hundreds of outstanding allegations of wage theft, or the major war crimes his regime has already committed by continuing President Obama’s illegal attacks on civilians in Yemen and Afghanistan. Any of these are crimes worthy of not just impeachment, but imprisonment. The media, however, chooses to focus on scandals relating to either Russia or Trump’s outrageous personality, since his other transgressions are fairly typical among the ruling class.
- Despite endless reports from the New York Times and Washington Post, there has never been any credible evidence linking Trump’s presidential campaign to Russia, or in fact any credible evidence of any Russian interference in the election. Intelligence agencies claim the evidence is classified, widely trusted newspapers vaguely cite sketchy online sources without investigation. While the allegations relating to Russian interference have never been proven to be true, many have been proven false (Buzzfeed’s amusing report of golden showers, the Post’s claims regarding cyberattacks, the Times’ attempt to link WikiLeaks, Edward Snowden, and Julian Assange to Russia). The widespread reporting of false CIA and NSA claims reveals our cultural amnesia; just 14 years ago CIA lies launched us into war with Iraq.
- Democrat-leaning media outlets and covert agencies are working together to blame Russia for Trump for two simple reasons. The CIA and NSA are generating these claims to fuel their longstanding war with Russia, a war supported by Democrats in its vicious manifestation in Syria, but apparently opposed by Trump during his campaign. And blaming outside interference allows the media to avoid analyzing the real reasons Trump came to power. Many of these reasons, as I will describe shortly, are self inflicted, and directly related to the very same organizations now attacking Trump. It is entirely within the interests of the media and the intelligence community to see Trump impeached for ties to Russia and replaced by a more predictably neoconservative Republican (they wouldn’t have to look farther than the Vice President). This would dodge any self-examination while changing none of the most atrocious facets of the Trump regime.
- If the media’s allegations are true, they are still relatively insignificant. They claim Russia had some part in WikiLeaks publishing verified documents proving that the Democratic Party worked with media corporations to sabotage the remarkably resilient campaign of Bernie Sanders, the candidate most likely to defeat any Republican, because they felt threatened by his anti-corporate agenda. Providing information on rigged elections is not, as the media has branded it, an attack on democracy. In fact, the United States did the same in Russia in 2011 under the premise of spreading democracy. Of course Putin wanted Trump to defeat Hillary Clinton, since she was practically guaranteed to continue President Obama’s aggressive policy of encirclement and proxy war in Syria. But if the Russian government acted on that desire (and again there is no evidence that they did in any way), they did so without violating American or international law. The same can not be said for the anti-Russian CIA. Under the last administration, they aided in the kidnapping of President Manuel Zelaya of Honduras during a military coup, covertly intervened in the Haitian elections to lower the minimum wage, and joined Saudi Arabia’s invasion of Yemen to prevent democratic government there.
- The media’s accusations of Russian interference are an attack on WikiLeaks and other voices of dissent as much as they are an attack on Russia. It is essential to understand that, despite their insinuations, no journalist has ever disputed the legitimacy of any document released by WikiLeaks. From revealing illegal detentions at Guantanamo Bay, to exposing widespread suppression of journalism related to the Iraq War, to uncovering international mass surveillance and secret caveats in free trade agreements, WikiLeaks has a perfect record of accuracy for its entire 10 year existence. The organization has been demonstrably non-partisan, revealing major crimes of both the Bush and Obama administrations. Its dedication to unmasking power has demonstrated the unprecedented potential of transparency and anti-authoritarianism in the internet era, and the leaks from the DNC and the Clinton campaign are no exception. Dismissing legitimate dissent as a Russian attack is taking a page directly from the draconian playbook Joseph McCarthy and J. Edgar Hoover used to attack the ACLU and Martin Luther King. It relies on Americans’ xenophobia and nationalism to convince them to ignore the urgent oppression of the capitalist state.
- It makes sense that mass media wants to discredit the WikiLeaks documents. They paint a distressing portrait of dozens of reporters agreeing to treat Secretary Clinton favorably, New York Times editors asking for the Clinton campaign’s approval on reports, instructions to rig polls, convoluted and racist schemes to discredit Senator Sanders, even CNN showing Clinton supposedly unplanned questions before a primary debate. The extent of the collusion between most media outlets and a political party is a chilling confirmation of the public’s unprecedented drop in confidence in journalism and the media. It proves what many Americans already understood: that democracy is an absurd sham, that the government works closely with the dictators of public opinion to cement social control. The vacuum of credible information has made it easy for President Trump and his lead propagandist, Breitbart, to gain public confidence without any effort to imitate the truth. As newspaper and television networks continue to publish blatant lies, they give nothing but legitimacy to the Americans who get their news directly from the President.
- The most important document from the leaks came from the inbox of the Clinton campaign chairman, John Podesta. On April 7, 2015, campaign staffers sent a memo to the Democratic National Committee outlining their strategy to guarantee a Hillary Clinton presidency. You can read it here. It’s only two pages. In it, they acknowledge Clinton’s vulnerability in the general election, and propose to resolve it by elevating the most outlandish and radically conservative candidates to the head of the Republican primaries. These “Pied Piper” candidates, designed to draw votes away from more conventional Republicans, are clearly listed: Ted Cruz, Ben Carson, and Donald Trump. The memo states: “We need to be elevating the Pied Piper candidates so they are leaders of the pack and tell the press to take them seriously.” Several further emails refer to the implementation of the “Pied Piper” strategy. And so Donald Trump, whose similarly flamboyant 2001 presidential campaign was barely a blip on the nation’s radar, became the most widely reported phenomena in American history. He secured airtime that would have cost another candidate nearly $3 billion, and with the dexterity of a life-long conman, rode that coverage into the presidency.
- Since Brexit, one of the most repeated memes in corporate media is the suggestion that far right political movements have seized control in the US and Western Europe because there is “too much democracy.” In a widely circulated article for New York magazine, Andrew Sullivan (formerly a marginalized neocon, now a darling of liberal media) wrote “the barriers to popular will, especially when it comes to choosing our president, are now almost nonexistent.” The Pied Piper Memo proves incontrovertibly that the opposite is true. Donald Trump does not represent the democratic will of the people, he represents a move to consolidate authoritarian control that went too far. Incidentally, the same can be said of Brexit, and even of Hitler, whose rise was funded by American businessmen to crush the popular German Communist movement.
- Corporate rulers, media outlets, and the Democratic Party would all have us respond to the Trump regime by reducing democracy. High profile voices are literally calling for a military coup. Discrediting adversarial journalistic networks such as WikiLeaks and falsely claiming foreign aggression are just as blatant attacks on democracy. As the American left runs into the arms of corporate authoritarianism, the only winners will be the masters of capital and industry who ruled long before Trump and will rule long after him. They understand the shock doctrine of global capitalism: if the state is sufficiently undermined through artificial crises, the people will be forced to accept corporate governance. Noam Chomsky once said that out of all structures of authoritarian power, “the government has a defect; it is potentially democratic.” We must remember that rule by the CIA or by mass media has no such defect. To destroy the oppressions of the state, we must first establish genuine popular control.
- What would real populism and democracy look like in the United States? Absolutely nothing like Donald Trump. As recently as last month, studies consistently show that most Americans believe the government should guarantee universal health care coverage. They support drug decriminalization and, by a smaller margin, women’s right to reproductive control. Across the political spectrum, there is overwhelming consensus that corporations and the wealthy must pay more in taxes, that environmental protection should be a top priority, and (more narrowly) that we must end our policy of military intervention. Most Americans oppose the President’s travel ban, and his proposed border wall. The existential myth of capitalism, that human nature is driven by self-interest, is completely disproven by any data or observation. By studying reality, rather than allowing corporate pundits to narrate it for us, we see that people are profoundly compassionate, and that it is the authoritarian structures imposed upon them by a tiny minority which create hatred and violence. The Pied Piper Memo is evidence of a profoundly destructive conspiracy, but it is also a cause for hope. The Democratic Party’s desperation to suppress a movement for democracy in their own ranks shows how viable that movement was. It shows that true societal progress and populism was defeated not by democracy and human nature, but by criminal subversion from the ruling class. And it completely restructures what we can learn from the 2016 election.
If we accept that the current crisis in our political system is due to anti-democratic crimes of the apparently liberal forces of the status quo, we understand how to escape this crisis. The potential for a democratizing revolution is real. The rulers know it, we should too. But in order to realize our tremendous collective power, we must unconditionally reject the authoritarian mass media, reject any and all corporate politics, and reject fear.