Disobedient Media has reported consistently on issues that are misrepresented or censored by establishment press. However, this author has never addressed the “why” and the “how” of corporate media theatrics, which are so omnipresent in our daily lives.
I recently discussed the false dichotomy of political parties and ideologies, as maintained by legacy outlets, with Suzie Dawson. Dawson is a journalist, activist, and current leader of the Internet Party of New Zealand, and we have collaborated on a world-first journalistic initiative called DecipherYou, focused on analyzing the content of never-before-reported Snowden files in real time. At some points during the ongoing series, Dawson and I engage in discussions that transcend the immediate significance of data points in the files themselves and address the bigger picture in which they are relevant. It is one such discussion that inspired this editorial.
A growing number of incredibly talented independent journalists and sharp-witted comedians have encapsulated the manipulative reality that undergirds Western media narratives. Caitlin Johnstone, Lee Camp, Jimmy Dore, the late great George Carlin and many others have addressed the divisive political theatre as well as the plutocratic reality that underpins such gaslighting. This article does not represent the first or last time the undercurrent of our collective social drama has been pointed out.
Illustrating this point, The Hill recently reported that a staggering 49% of Americans believe the country is: “run for the benefit of a small elite.” In other words, a vast portion of Americans are at least superficially familiar with the concept that the media representation of US politics does not serve the public at large and it functions to a large extent as propoganda.
While the ruling elite destroy our civil liberties and suck the working class dry, many Americans bicker passionately over daily "news" like "shithole." That's by design.
— Redacted Tonight (@RedactedTonight) January 13, 2018
Disobedient Media recently reported on establishment Democrats’ subversion of the Democratic process in the 2016 Primary race, and their attempts to deflect from the revelation of their corruption by focusing exclusively on the largely discredited Russian hacking narrative. Allegations of Russian hacking, then Russian collusion, then Russian social media trolls consumed corporate media attention for what seemed like the entirety of 2017.
Legacy press’s hysterical neo-McCarthyism was thankfully countered by a growing field of independent journalists. Many, including Robert Parry of Consortium News, Caitlin Johnstone, HA Goodman, VIPS, Redacted Tonight and others, called the massive gaslighting attempt for the fraud that it was throughout the past year. This author was humbled to report on the narrative-shattering analysis of The Forensicator and Adam Carter, investigative journalists and analysts in their own right who have individually excised truth from specious lies in regards to Guccifer 2.0, Crowdstrike and key elements of the Russian hacking allegations.
Despite this, anti-Russian hysteria has poured from every major cable news outlet, magazine and corporate news site. The carnival did appear to successfully hypnotize an appalling number of Americans. Trump was characterized as a puppet of Putin, and anyone who denied this fact was labeled an agent of the Kremlin.
However, the hysteria that was whipped up in the press regarding Trump was belied by the open hypocrisy of those exact individuals who promoted it. As noted by The Intercept, a large number of supposedly fierce anti-Trump Democrats who had superficially expressed their seething hatred for the current President undermined their own stances by voting to give him unprecedented spying powers. Among the numerous Democrats who voted in favor of giving Trump such unprecedented surveillance ability was infamous former DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz.
I'm excited to see which Dem Senators who have spent the year calling Sessions a corrupt racist & Trump a treasonous Kremlin-loyal authoritarian will now provide the key votes to empower them to domestically spy with no safeguards. My money is on Cardin, Schumer, Warner & Kaine. https://t.co/TcHmFPadVO
— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) January 14, 2018
The vote ripped the mask from the pretense of differentiation between the Democratic party and Republicans, and highlighted instead the troubling bipartisan support among lawmakers for increasing the power of the American deep state. That so many Democrats would vote to give Trump additional spying authority illustrates the sham of media and political theatrics which thrum up a fiction where foamy-mouthed Democrats ‘resist’ the Putin-controlled President. Instead, an allegiance to the intelligence community and its enmeshed corporate interests is shown to transcend political stripe. The situation was recently discussed by Current Affairs, which expanded on the impact of the Democratic Party’s hypocrisy:
“Bipartisanship of this kind is the reason tens of millions of Americans still can’t afford healthcare and why so many elections are ultimately bought and sold rather than won or lost… It’s the process through which Americans have found themselves engaged in destructive, open-ended war, and the reason that debates about military intervention invariably revolve around how to prosecute it most competently rather than whether to prosecute it at all…”
And yet The NY Times helps manufacture consent for war regularly. And the Democrats have voted with the GOP to continue the AUMF, thereby giving Trump unlimited war powers. https://t.co/drjqn3Dmth
— Lee Camp [Redacted] (@LeeCamp) January 15, 2018
Further, Disobedient Media previously reported on the longstanding carnage in Yemen resulting from Saudi Arabia’s blockade of the country’s ports. As in the recent vote on the spy-bill, bipartisan support of Saudi Arabia’s actions in Yemen typifies the horrifying uniformity referred to in this author’s DecipherYou discussion with Suzie Dawson. American support for Saudi Arabia’s blockade of Yemen continued through the Obama administration and into President Trump’s foreign policy. Though CNN reported the President’s call for Saudi Arabia to end the blockade in December, Trump also signed off on a hundred billion dollar arms deal with the country. The New York Times wrote that the deal was negotiated by Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner.
The ongoing crisis in Yemen is an issue of central importance to Americans in whose name support is given to Saudi efforts. Thousands of lives lost to hunger and cholera under the terms of two Presidents who outwardly could not be more different exemplifies the absolute indifference of US foreign policy to the changing affiliation of political office-holders, even Presidents.
Another example of this substantive indistinguishability can be seen in Venezuela, an oil-rich nation that has long been in the grips of a financial meltdown. Though there are many internal factors in Venezuela which have undoubtedly contributed to the chaos, the country has also been the target of severe US economic sanctions. As in Yemen, both Obama and Trump have signed off on similar sanctions against Venezuela. The current and former Presidents are presented by legacy press as universes apart in virtually every respect, but the unsettling reality is that they are horrifically consistent on the issues that matter most.
DisobedientMedia previously wrote regarding a Princeton University study which found that “business interests” have a larger effect than the majority public opinion on policy decisions. In other words, as 49% of the populace is at least somewhat aware, the United States no longer functions as a ‘democratic republic,’ but would be most accurately described as a plutocracy. The Merriam-Webster dictionary describes plutocracy as a “government by the wealthy,” as referenced by the Princeton study’s characterization of “business interests” driving policy-making decisions in the U.S.
As discussed with Suzie during the DecipherYou discussion, American democratic process is not only shown to be hollow in the empty promise of enfranchisement represented by a vote. The hypocrisy extends to the media hysteria that portrays Trump as a figurehead to be despised, while sanctifying the policies of the Clintons and Obamas and even the George Bushes of the world who are of the same ilk. The problem is not that the media excuses the bad policy of corrupt statesmen: it is that the media charade pretends to be emotionally invested in one figure against the other.
The entire fantasy projected by establishment press is primarily involved in emotionally entrapping the public either for or against someone like Trump. It does not matter which side one falls on, but one must pick a side. As in the sleight of hand in a cheap magic trick, this effectively gaslights the masses into a false opposition against each other and operates to enable the continuance of the plutocracy which so many would otherwise oppose.
In order for us to ignore our disenfranchisement and support the status-quo with passivity, plutocrats and their representatives must wear a convincing mask of political differentiation in order to swindle the public into believing not only that their votes choose political candidates, but that the difference between the two major political sides are substantial.
There are endless examples that can show the similarity between establishment Democrats and Republicans, including previously noted instances like Yemen, Venezuela and pro-spying legislation. However, a particularly stark example of the puppet-like roles of major political and media figures which are as easily assumed as they are discarded can be seen in the history of President Trump.
Trump characterized himself as a Democrat in a 2004 CNN interview, before transforming from a reality TV star to Presidential candidate. A similar shift is found in the history of other establishment props, including Hillary Clinton who called herself a former Republican and “Goldwater Girl,” before metamorphosing into the pinnacle of the neoliberal wing of the Democratic Party. Such instances within the establishment are legion.
Returning to the example of our current President, however, is particularly useful due to his previous role in reality TV, which exemplifies the emptiness of political and media theatre. As Trump assumed a different face in the world of WWE, he has done so as a President on a larger scale and with a larger budget.
During his Presidential run, Trump assumed the persona of the WWE heel, the “bad guy” wrestler or “villain.” You and the rest of the public would be considered “marks” in wrestling terminology. A mark is a gullible audience member who believes that the narrative and character roles of the wrestlers is “real.” A mark is defined in these terms:
“mark (n.) — A wrestling fan not clued in to the sham of the enterprise.”
Another source defines the phrase as: “A wrestling fan who enthusiastically believes that professional wrestling is not staged, or loses sight of the staged nature of the business while supporting their favorite wrestlers.” Every single person who buys into the false difference between left and right wing politicians is the political equivalent of a “mark” who has been duped into believing that wrestling storylines are real.
This is incredibly important not in the sense of taking pot-shots at the President because of his reality TV history, but in order to illustrate that Trump is no more hated – in reality, outside the machinations of political theatre – by mainstream press than he is by Vince McMahon for shaving his hair. Trump is simply playing the role of “heel” or villain for the benefit of the same plutocrats that pretend to despise him, in order to distract one half of America into calling for his head and the other half into his impassioned defense.
As in wrestling, such storylines are for one purpose only: to make money from a captivated audience. As Suzie Dawson pointed out in the DecipherYou stream that inspired this article, it is entirely fitting that our current President is a former reality TV star. Acknowledging that the current President is an emblem of a media charade designed to create heels and heroes for the express purpose of providing a surrogate catharsis for the public rips the mask off of the plutocrats that effectively control policymaking. They are not part of any resistance, but fully enmeshed across party lines by the bond of obscene wealth that has determined their influence.
As wealth inequality inexorably rots the core of American society, establishment interests become increasingly aware of the public’s rage at this decay. In response, it becomes necessary to wave pundits, and caricature controversies in front of the populace to distract them. Much like a magician diverts attention with one hand while the mechanics of the trick happens in the other.
Essentially, “the resistance” on the left and shock-tactic pundits on the right function as cheap tools of the establishment’s control of the mass psyche. Their purpose on both sides is to make you believe in, and become emotionally entangled in, the idea of Trump being Hitler – or the second coming of a capitalist Christ – not because it is true or because the plutocratic class believes in either narrative, but because it is the only thing standing between the minority who own our representatives and the seething rage of the masses who they have robbed blind, illegally surveilled, lied to, imprisoned for financial gain, sent to foreign nations to kill and die for profit, and on, and on.
As others have stated, divide and conquer is the tactic of control. But more specifically, the method of division is to assume the face of falsely opposing an emotionally provocative narrative, as in wrestling and reality TV, where there is actually no dissent behind the camera whatsoever. In this way, as Caitlin Johnstone pointed out, Trump is another Obama, and both are like their predecessors in a decades-old pattern of power consolidation among the ruling ‘elite.’
Instead of media outrage at Trump’s arms deal with Saudi Arabia, or a variety of other decisions which mirrored the policy of his predecessors, the media raises almighty hell over the use of a word. A singular utterance is worth more media attention than thousands of bombs, drone strikes or starving Yemeni children because it makes Trump into a believable villain without discussing policy, and in so doing, protects the plutocratic underpinnings of the status-quo.
Such controversies create the appearance of substantive division between supposedly opposed political stripes, where in fact there is no difference between the establishment left and establishment right. Such placebos disguise the plutocratic reality undergirding the entire production. Other independent journalists like Caitlin Johnstone have repeatedly noted this similarity.
In George Orwell’s prophetic novel “1984,” people are allowed to expel their emotions at specific, sanitized targets ‘constructed for that purpose,’ in a mass catharsis called the ‘Two Minutes Hate.’ The organized purging of emotion is state-sanctioned and controlled, designed to allow the public to vent their rage at approved targets in order to more effectively keep them in line. The caricatures created for this purpose, like WWE villains, are intended to provoke this public rage, to deflect it from the singular ruling ‘Party.’
Even the image chosen for the cover of Time Magazine converts the President into a cartoon illustration, complete with orange hair apparently on fire with hatred. Although Orwell was a staunch anti-communist, his description of the singular Party’s use of a two-dimensional figment in order to intentionally redirect the population’s rage is virtually identical to the current media characterization of Trump. The narrative is not only ridiculous in its portrayal of Russian collusion with zero basis in evidence, but also extremely harmful because it maintains the plutocratic status quo, to the detriment of the entire country.