“Who Controls the Present”*
One distinction of a healthy society is how it treats its past...An insecure and closed nation will distort its history
- Will Inboden, former Senior Director of Strategic Planning in George W. Bush’s National Security Council,June 3, 2009
* This essay is an expanded version of a talk given at a May Day (2010) event held by the anarchist group Wild Rose Collective in Iowa City, Iowa on May 1, 2010
Thank you for that introduction and for noting that May Day is the international workers’ day going back to the struggle of American workers for a shorter work day and for a world beyond wage slavery. It is richly characteristic of the United States ’ authoritarian political culture that only a small and disproportionately radical number of Americans know the working class meaning of May Day and its origins in connection with the great left-led struggle for an eight hour day within and beyond Chicago in the spring of 1886. That meaning and origins are much more well-known in France and Germany and Bolivia and Ecuador and Venezuela than they are in the U.S.
Think about that for a second. It is hardly accidental. I’m guessing a lot of people here remember the following slogan from the totalitarian state portrayed in George Orwell’s famous dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty Four: “Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.” Top-down thought control in totalitarian societies like the old Soviet Union and China , Saudi Arabia and the United States today depends among other things on the distortion and deletion of all history that questions the authority and legitimacy of the power elite. It is illegal in China to make any public reference of the bloody slaughter of masses of democracy protestors – including many urban workers, who bore the brunt of the post-massacre repression – in Beijing ’s Tiananmen Square on June 4 1989. The state suppresses independent information sources that might mention the slaughter. Mention of the Tiananmen massacre is forbidden in China, where workers are routinely beaten, killed and incarcerated for daring to resist the conditions imposed on them as they make the low cost items we buy at anti-union retail giants like Wal-Mart. According to Will Inboden, a former Senior Director of Strategic Planning in George W. Bush’s National Security Council, “The official denial and censorship has largely served the government's purpose: most Chinese people are unaware of the Tiananmen Square massacre, and those comparative few who do know of it are coerced into silence.” This is quite shocking to Inboden, who adds an interesting commentary:
“Tiananmen is not just one tragedy but several. There is the tragedy of the bloodshed itself, and then the tragedy of the government's suppression of history. One distinction of a healthy society is how it treats its past. Every nation creates its own myths, but a confident and free nation will be open about its history, and will allow all of its people -- especially dissenters -- to examine, debate, contend with, and continually reinterpret the past as new evidence comes to light, all in an ongoing search for truth. An insecure and closed nation will distort its history, and use the past as a crude instrument to control its people in the present.”
It would be interesting to ask the author of this passage how well he thinks it applies if at all to the nation that the Ivy League professor Michael Eric Dyson once called “the United States of Amnesia.” In the U.S. “homeland” (a lovely imperial term passed on from George W. Bush to Barack Obama) at least, our authorities practice generally softer and more sophisticated forms of repression and control (things are often harsher in the hinterland) than those conducted in China . But historical deletion – the throwing of system-threatening history down Orwell’s “memory hole” is a part of the power elite’s tool box inside the United States as well. By now it’s practically instantaneous: history the masters don’t like gets wiped out even as it occurs.
You go to a demonstration against (say) war and/or for social justice, maybe for workers’ rights and/or immigration rights and they don’t generally beat or shoot you in the U.S. The gendarmes contain your actions into a very small area and the communications authorities ignore and/or mock and misrepresent you. Serious popular protests don’t make the news or if they do they appear in only the most partial, distorted and marginalized way. They and their core messages are quietly purged from the collective memory even as they happen/don’t happen. As the liberal-left political scientist Sheldon Wolin noted in his chilling book Democracy Incorporated: Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted Totalitarianism (2008):
“The relationship between democratic decline and the [ever more concentrated private] media ownership is demonstrated in the contrast between the [comparatively high] attention paid by Washington and the national media to the sixties protests against the Vietnam War and, four decades later, the virtual blackout of the [many large] protests against the invasion of Iraq…”
“...the [George W. Bush] administration consistently ignored the (anti-Iraq War] protestors. The media, ever attentive to official cues, followed suit, with belated, condescending, and minimal coverage.”
“...Consider the attempts on the parts of protests groups during the summer of 2004 to enter the public space of the streets in the environs of the conventions of the two national parties. As the police herded the protestors into the equivalent of cattle pens, the media presented the groups as bizarre and ignored the serious arguments they were attempting to offer. In effect, the media transformed a political action, intended for the civic education of a public, into a spectacle framed for mass entertainment.”
“...Police control over demonstrators, combined with the media’s censorship of popular protests and of third party activities, produces for [U.S.-style] inverted totalitarianism what Fascist thugs and censorship accomplished for the classic version.”
Tea Party and Socialism Tied: Who Knew?
A thousand or so white male middle-class suburban and right-wing “Tea-Party” jerks show up to protest the militantly state capitalist Barack Obama’s  “socialism” in downtown Chicago and it is front-page news. The “Tea Party movement’s” noxious, paranoid, and arch-reactionary gatherings are front-page news and their vicious views (essentially identical with the hard-right rhetoric of racist and nativist television and radio personalities like Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, and Rush Limbaugh) are taken seriously in the “mainstream” reporting and commentary.
But of course. The “Tea Party movement” is a fake-populist, primarily Republican-coordinated and elite-funded gathering of relatively privileged folks organized from the top-down. It is deeply consistent with existing corporate and imperial hierarchies. Serious rank-and-file social movements for peace and justice challenge those hierarchies in ways that the owners, managers, and deeply indoctrinated reporter operatives of corporate- media find irritating. They do not fit very well with the media’s critical function of pleasing advertisers by putting consumers in the mood to buy.
Recently somebody told me with great concern that Gallup reported 37 percent of the American populace giving a favorable response to the term “the Tea Party movement.” I got interested in the survey and while I was looking at the Gallup Web site I ran across a different recent poll showing that 36 percent of Americans respond favorably to the word “socialism.” That’s quite remarkable, consistent with my longstanding sense that this country could support a third left party if we had proportional representation within “our” electoral and party system (currently organized on a disastrously authoritarian “winner-take-all” basis): more than a third of the U.S. populace give a thumbs-up to “socialism.” Despite decades of right wing and media assault on the concept in the U.S, the approval level for “socialism” is basically identical to that of “the Tea Party.” But “socialist” sentiment is a complete non-story in “mainstream” media. Why would dominant communications authorities want us to know that 36 percent number? It could be contagious, encouraging people to resist the system that pays big salaries in a dominant media that routinely calls the U.S. a “center-right nation” despite longstanding survey data showing that most Americans hold left progressive positions on numerous key policy issues and societal values. And there’s nobody with a lot of money and affiliated with a major political party putting a thousand “socialists” in downtown Chicago to force the issue.
Besides simple deletion of history there’s the savage deletion of context for understanding selectively presented facts. There’s no meaningful past or present context allowed in “mainstream” media for the sensational and terrifying “news” that flashes across our telescreens between the parade of advertisements and mostly vapid (and itself often highly ideological) entertainment programming. I’m from Chicago where (just like in most major metropolitan areas) there’s a steady drumbeat of horrific crime and murder reporting from inner city black neighborhoods. There’s never anything about the concentrated misery and poverty that is imposed on those neighborhoods by institutionalized race-class oppression. There’s nothing about the savage job-loss, the hyper-segregation, the absence of opportunity and resources and the generalized subjugation that makes violence and crime predictable in those communities.
The immigration issue is another example. The onslaught of ominous news and commentary on immigration occurs in a giant informational and conceptual vacuum that leaves the field open to nativists like the Arizona legislators who recently passed a shockingly racist anti-immigrant law. Critical aspects of the issue that dominant media refuses to treat in any serious and honest way include the labor-exploiting profit interest of the employer class in stateless workers and the central roles that regressive and repressive U.S. trade and foreign policies play in creating and sustaining the destitution that compels millions of Central and Latin Americans to seek employment (often at great risk) in the United States.
“Why do They Hate us?” How many times have you seen someone on television or in the press advance this query, generally stated with an incredulous of tone of clueless amazement that anyone would actually want to do any harm (imagine) to the wonderful United States? We hear over and over again about scary Evil Others who attack intrinsically noble U.S. soldiers, structures, and symbols for no apparent reason other than deviant hatred of our greatness and of the glorious “freedom” we supposedly champion and embody. The dominant U.S. culture and media keeps most of the “homeland” populace woefully ignorant about how the U.S. has richly earned “anti-Americanism” around much of the planet. As the great British playwright Harold Pinter noted while accepting the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2005, brutality and oppression inflicted buy the former Soviet Union were widely known in the West, but the United States’ imperial crimes were hidden. The U.S. Empire might have killed and maimed millions, both directly and indirectly, through wars, invasions, coups, the sponsorship of dictatorships, the training of death squads, the equipping of repressive regimes, economic sanctions, and the distortion of national economies. “But you wouldn’t know it,” Pinter observed. “It never happened. Nothing ever happened. Even while it was happening it never happened….It was of no interest.” All that ugly history doesn’t fit the dominant media and politics narrative that “We [the United States ] are and always have been inherently good,” so down the “memory hole” it goes.
It’s the same with domestic radical and workers’ struggles in the American past. Big Brother the U.S. Version says that we are a democracy, not a corporate plutocracy (dare I say “plutonomy”?) that crushed people who rose up against the concentration of wealth and power. That’s conventional doctrinal wisdom across the acceptable spectrum of opinion in the press, on television, in the movies, the universities and in the two dominant business parties. The history of the people who fought back against the nation’s unelected and interrelated dictatorships of money and empire doesn’t fit that ruling narrative and so it gets airbrushed out of a history written for and by the winners.
Of course, the architects of policy and opinion don’t particularly want us to know how ordinary working people won past improvements in their conditions and lives – things like higher wages and health care and vacations and the right to send our kids to halfway decent public schools school and safety guards in factories and garbage collected from our streets and shorter hours so that we might have enough time and energy to participate in something approximating a democratic society. They don’t want us to grasp the vital historical fact that these and other basic gains were attained through collective struggle and the formation of movements and cultures of solidarity. If we really connected with all that we might be encouraged to engage in such struggle and (re-) build such cultures again as they wage their relentless top down class war to roll back our living standards and to extinguish the last sparks of democracy in this country.
“ More Effective Ways to Change the World”
American liberal and labor “leaders” could use some anti-Orwellian history and current events lessons in the current period of soul-numbing “left” surrender. Last year, United Steelworkers of America president Leo Gerard gave a revealingly myopic response when New York Times reporter Steven Greenhouse asked him why American labor seemed less willing than European labor to engage in workplace occupations and mass demonstrations. Gerard “said there were smarter things to do than demonstrating against layoffs — for instance, pushing Congress and the states to make sure the stimulus plan creates the maximum number of jobs in the United States,” by Greenhouse’s account. “Americans believe in their political system more than workers do in other parts of the world,” Gerard told Greenhouse: “Large labor demonstrations are often warranted in Canada and European countries,” but “demonstrations are less needed in the United States … because often all that is needed is some expert lobbying in Washington to line up the support of a half-dozen senators.”
Liberal Stanford historian David Kennedy also spoke to Greenhouse on U.S. labor quiescence. “This generation [of workers],” Kennedy proclaimed from his perch atop the ivory tower, has “found more effective ways to change the world. It’s signed up for political campaigns, and it’s not waiting for things to get so desperate that they feel forced to take to the streets.” Gee, wouldn’t it be awful if we all had to “take to the streets”?
What a noxious, fetid pile of crap. How’s that lobby though- and campaign- and vote-for-the-Democrats thing working out for working people?! Barack Obama, the unparalleled pacifier of so-called progressives, is (according to liberal political scientist Thomas B. Edsall last year) “The Kingpin of Corporate Subsidies.” The president has set new records in the transfer of taxpayer dollars to so-called private corporations, starting above all with the leading parasitic financial behemoths that crashed the economy in the first place.  His auto bailout includes subsidies for GM to set up yet more plants in cheaper, non-union locations around the world – this as the real U.S. unemployment rate (including involuntarily part-time workers and people who had given up on finding work) has been setting new post-Great Depression records by hitting 17.5 percent (the Bureau of Labor Statistics “U6 Rate” by the fall of 2009) and even (by one calculation including long term discouraged workers) 21 percent last month.
Obama cut a corporatist health “reform “deal that only the big insurance and drug companies could love, making sure to coldly defy technically irrelevant majority public opinion by leaving single-payer health insurance out of the discussion and making corrupt bargains with those companies long ago – last summer – to keep even a public insurance option (supported by 65 percent of Americans in a September 2009 CBS-New York Times poll) out of the package. Obama went to Copenhagen and did the bidding of the energy corporations by coldly undermining any serious move towards desperately needed mandatory carbon emission reductions for the industrialized states that account for the lion’s share of global climate change. That’s “Change we can Bereave in,” as the radical writer Mickey Z says.
Obama’s not really going to seriously control Wall Street; he sure isn’t going to cut its “too-big- [and powerful-] too fail” behemoths down to size. He hasn’t done and won’t do anything to move on his disingenuous campaign promises to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (to include new labor and environmental protections) and push the Employee Free Choice Act, which could have re-legalized unions in this country, where private sector union density is back to historic lows at 7 percent – the “lowest percentage of private-sector workers in unions since 1900” (the New York Times, citing “labor historians”). Capital opposes the EFCA and therefore so does Obama, who went to the headquarters of Caterpillar to sell his stimulus bill last year – to Caterpillar, the first major American manufacturers to smash labor with permanent strikebreaker replacements during the Reagan era. That was a big raised middle finger to the working class and to organized labor.
How about major public works programs to put millions of Americans back to work in green jobs that contributed to the common ecological good in the current moment of grave environmental peril? Barack Obama (a supporter of ecologically disastrous nuclear power and now -- as he announced just prior to British Petroleum’s epic offshore oil explosion and leak off the U.S. Gulf Coast! - of offshore U.S. oil drilling) will not seriously consider that.
Obama’s betrayal of American workers reached levels that struck the legendary left U.S. intellectual Noam Chomsky as “surreal” last fall. In the summer of 2009, the business press reported that Obama’s transportation secretary traveled abroad in pursuit of contracts with European manufacturers to construct high-speed rail projects with federal funds designated by Congress for U.S. economic stimulus. “At the same time,” Chomsky noted, “Washington is busy dismantling leading sectors of U.S. industry, ruining the lives of the workforce, families and communities….Surely,” Chomsky reflected, “the auto industry could be reconstructed, using its highly skilled workforce to produce what the country and the world needs – ad soon, if we are to have some hope of averting major catastrophe. It has been done before, after all…But all such matters are off the agenda…” Chomsky recently observed that Obama is now in fact “offering federal stimulus money to Spanish firms to produce the high-speed rail facilities that the US badly needs, and that could surely be produced by the highly skilled work force that is reduced to penury in Ohio.”
Meanwhile, one of the U.S. Senate’s top “liberals” and a key Obama ally, Dick Durbin (D-IL) recently told “bleeding heart liberals” (Durbin’s phrase!) to open their minds to the federal government’s need to cut Social Security and Medicare for the good of the country. This was fascinating Wall Street Speak from the “progressive” Senator who noted last year that Washington is a den of corruption since “the big banks own the place.”
Obama has passed the biggest Pentagon budget in history, itself a giant subsidy to high-tech corporations like Boeing and Raytheon. This is consistent with leading Wall Street investment firm Morgan Stanley’s observation to investors one day after Obama’s presidential election victory: “Obama has been advised and agrees that there is no peace dividend.” Along the Empire’s New Clothes (Obama) has “kept the U.S. global machine set on kill” (Allan Nairn) as he conducts his deeply provocative (in the Muslim world) child-killing five-front petro-imperialist terror war in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia and as he militarizes U.S. policy in Latin America and Africa and provokes nuclear Russia.
It is an interesting reflection on U.S. political culture that nobody frets about the imminent fiscal insolvency of the Pentagon, which enjoys an open-ended taxpayer commitment for endless funding. This is no small commitment: at $1 trillion a year, the Pentagon accounts for nearly half the world’s military spending and maintains “800 to 1000 bases scattered across the world” (Chicago Tribune columnist William Pfaff), including more than 130 nations – all in the in the name of something our politicians, professors, and dominant corporate-owned mass media routinely – echoing Oceania’s slogan “War is Peace”  – call “defense.”
“The Enemy is a System That Wages War When its Profitable”
Leo Gerard and David Kennedy might want to pay a little more attention to real history beneath and beyond the whitewashed variant that prevails in our political culture. I want to move toward my finish by remembering a quote from the great left-anarchist and left-Marxist American historian Howard Zinn, who we lost last January, who was loved by millions of students and readers, who took “to the streets” on more than one occasion and who was quite naturally never accepted as a peer by most academic historians, whose job (though they would deny it) it is to help coordinate collective memory in accord with the interests of the rich and powerful. In early 2008, Zinn wrote something that the United States ’ current wilted crop of so-called progressives might reflect upon if they ever want to wake up from their Obama-induced slumber. He wrote against what he called “election madness” he saw “engulfing the entire society, including the left”:
“The election frenzy seizes the country every four years [Zinn argued,] because we have all been brought up to believe that voting is crucial in determining our destiny, that the most important act a citizen can engage in is to go to the polls and choose one of the two mediocrities who have already been chosen for us.”
“And sad to say, the Presidential contest has mesmerized liberals and radicals alike…Would I support one candidate against another [Zinn asked]? Yes [he answered,] for two minutes-the amount of time it takes to pull the lever down in the voting booth.”
“But before and after those two minutes, our time, our energy, should be spent in educating, agitating, organizing our fellow citizens in the workplace, in the neighborhood, in the schools. Our objective should be to build, painstakingly, patiently but energetically, a movement that, when it reaches a certain critical mass, would shake whoever is in the White House, in Congress, into changing national policy on matters of war and social justice.”
“Let’s remember that even when there is a "better" candidate, that difference will not mean anything unless the power of the people asserts itself in ways that the occupant of the White House will find it dangerous to ignore….. It won’t mean anything unless it is met with rebellion from below…”
Leo Gerard and the rest of his overpaid labor-bureaucratic ilk can talk all they want about the top-down campaign and lobbying efforts. Real gains for the working class majority are only going to be won today like they were achieved in previous periods: through direct and collective actions sparked by dedicated cadres who refuse to bow down before the Gods of greed, private poverty and polite, middle-class decorum. We got a glimpse of what’s required nearly a month after Obama was elected and more than a month before he was inaugurated. That’s when a militant, largely immigrant-based union local in Chicago occupied the door and window factory of an absconding employer to demand the compensation that was due them. The union and its supporters mounted a highly effective public relations campaign highlighting the harsh disconnect between the massive federal bailouts that were being made to parasitic “too big to fail” banks and the economic misery being imposed on ordinary working Americans who did enjoy government protection. “They Got Bailed Out, We Got Sold Out” was the slogan. This quintessentially working class and unapologetically populist struggle quickly became a highly popular cause celebre not just in Chicago but across the country and internationally. It even held the corporate media’s news cycle for a couple days. Support for workers who had technically broken the law by staging an occupation of their workplace was widespread. The President-Elect felt compelled (against his deeply conservative grain) to endorse their action – probably his shining progressive moment!
The Republic Door and Window workers struck a chord of populist dissent that resonated across the country. They didn’t wait to get the okay from Barack Obama or the Democratic Party or any other politicians or elected officials or with electoral considerations in mind. They had developed and utilized the rank-and-file institutional capacity to undertake a morally righteous direct action at the immediate shop-floor and community levels and thereby forced events from the bottom, compelling media and politicians to follow in their wake. We need hundreds and then thousands of little, big and merging epic fights like the one fought in Chicago two Decembers ago. That’s where the real and relevant hope for change can be found, not in the masters’ elections and candidates, not in the “pull” of lobbyists, and not in the promises and actions of politicians. Tellingly enough, U.S. labor “leadership” learned nothing from the Republic Door and Window action and undertook no steps to replicate it across the country in the sorts of ways that could win actual and concrete gains for working people.
If you want to hear a voice of “rebellion from below,” the kind of voice we started to hear at the Republic Door and Window plant in Chicago two Decembers ago, don’t listen to me. Listen to a young ex-soldier named Mike Prysner speaking to a meeting of Iraq Veterans Against the War last December. After relating his inability to participate any further in the de-humanizing conduct of U.S. foreign and military policy in the Middle East and after characterizing the Iraq occupation as the U.S. sending “poor and working in this country” to “kill poor and working people in another county [and] to make the rich richer,” Prysner focused on the real threat to “homeland security” in the United States. “Without racism,” Prysner noted, “soldiers would realize that they have more in more in common with the Iraqi people than they do with the billionaires who send us to war.”
“I threw families on to the street in Iraq ,” Prysner said, “only to come home and see families thrown on to the street in this county in this tragic and unnecessary foreclosure crisis.” Prysner related his realization “that our real enemies are not in some distant land….The enemy is a system that wages war when it's profitable. The enemy is the CEOs who lay us off from our jobs when it's profitable. It's the insurance companies who deny us health care when it's profitable. It's the banks who take away our homes when it's profitable. Our enemy is not 5000 miles away. They are right here at home.” 
Now that’s the real live radical American May Day shit right there, brothers and sisters. Some of these Johnson County (Iowa) Democrats and labor bureaucrats around here might want to put that in their Obama pipe and smoke it. That’s how actually left and radical activists, workers, soldiers, and intellectuals have felt and thought since long before the Diggers and up through Marx and the Haymarket Martyrs and Joe Hill and Eugene Debs and Howard Zinn to the present day. Thank you very much.
Paul Street's next book is The Empire's New Clothes: Barack Obama in the Real World of Power ( Boulder , CO : Paradigm, July/August 2010). Street (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the author of Empire and Inequality: America and the World Since 9/11 ( Boulder , CO : Paradigm, 2008); Racial Oppression in the Global Metropolis ( New York : Rowman & Littlefield, 2007); Segregated Schools : Educational Apartheid in the Post-Civil Rights Era (New York : Routledge, 2005); and Barack Obama and the Future of American Politics ( Boulder , CO : Paradigm, 2008).
1 See Bryan Palmer, Cultures of Darkness: Night Travels in the Histories of Transgression ( New York : Monthly Review, 2000), 315-316. The best social history of the Eight Hour and radical movements and the related Haymarket bombing and subsequent mass repression of radical and labor activists in Chicago is Bruce C. Nelson, Beyond the Martyrs: A Social History of Chicago’s Anarchists, 1870-1900 (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1986). See also James Green, Death in the Haymarket: A Story of Chicago, the First Labor Movement, and the Bombing That Divided Gilded Age America ( New York : Pantheon, 2006.
2 George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty Four (New York: Harcourt Brace, 1949), 32.
3 On the shocking (for many, even on the left) that the US . might be or be in real danger of becoming a totalitarian society, see Sheldon Wolin, Democracy Incorporated: Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted Totalitarianism ( Princeton , NJ : Princeton University Press, 2008); Alex Carey, “The Orwell Diversion,” pp. 133-139 in Carey, Taking the Risk Out of Democracy: Corporate Propaganda Versus Freedom and Liberty (Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 1997).
4 Elizabeth Dalziel, “ Tiananmen Square : Workers Bore the Brunt of Repression,” Christian Science Monitor, June 4, 1989, at http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Asia-Pacific/2009/0604/p06s14-woap.html
5 Dan Martin, “China Tightens Information Controls for Tiananmen Anniversary,” Agence France Press (June 2, 2009); “Tiananmen Square Massacre,” inthenews.co.uk(June 4, 2008), at http://www.inthenews.co.uk/infocus/view-from-abroad/in-focus/tiananmen-square-massacre-$1225735.htm
6 Rob Weil, “Conditions of the Working Classes in China ,” Monthly Review (June 2006).
7 Will Inboden’s career profile can be read on Linked In at http://uk.linkedin.com/pub/will-inboden/9/133/876
8 Will Inboden, “ China ’s Tiananmen Square Cover-Up Won’t Last Forever,” Foreign Policy (June 3, 2009), at http://shadow.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2009/06/03/chinas_tiananmen_cover_up_wont_last_forever
9 Public Broadcasting System, “Dr. Michael Eric Dyson,” The Tavis Smiley Show (airdate March 9, 2007) at http://www.pbs.org/kcet/tavissmiley/archive/200703/20070309_dyson.html
10 For “memory hole,” see Orwell, Nineteen Eighty Four, 36, referring to the totalitarian state media’s practice of constantly re-writing past history in accord with contemporary changes in reigning party line.
11 See Anthony Dimaggio’s findings and reflections on the distorted coverage of antiwar demonstrations in the dominant U.S. media in the second chapter (titled “There are No Protestors Here: Media Marginalization and the Antiwar Movement”) of his book When Media Goes to War: Hegemonic Discourse, Public Opinion, and the Limits of Dissent ( New York : Monthly Review, 2009).
12 Wolin, Democracy Incorporated, 78, 107, 216 and 217,
13 See Paul Street , Barack Obama and the Future of American Politics ( Boulder , CO : Paradigm Publishers, 2008), Chapter 1, titled “Obama’s Dollar Value,” and (later this summer) Paul Street , The Empire’s New Clothes: Barack Obama in the Real World of Power (Boulder, Co: Paradigm Publishers, 2010), Chapter 1, titled “Business Rule as Usual.”
14 Paul Street and Anthony Dimaggio, “What Populist Uprising? Part 1: Facts and Reflections on Race, Class and the Tea Party ‘Movement,’” ZNet (April 23, 2010), at http://www.zcommunications.org/what-populist-uprising-pt-1-by-paul-street ;Anthony Dimaggio and Paul Street , “What ‘Populist Uprising?’ Part 2: Further Reflections on an ‘Astroturf Movement,’ “ ZNet (April 30, 2010) at http://www.zcommunications.org/what-populist-uprising-part-ii-further-reflections-on-an-astroturf-movement-by-anthony-dimaggio
15 I use quote marks to make a point. We did not call Soviet state television and the Soviet state newspapers papers Pravda and Izvestia “mainstream Russian media” and we should not refer to the dominant oligopolistic corporate state U.S. media outlets as “mainstream” either. They advance a closely filtered and narrow spectrum of opinion and sentiment that is well to the corporate-imperial and neoliberal right of the American citizenry. See Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky, Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media (New York: Pantheon, 1988); Robert W. McChesney, Corporate Media and the Threat to Democracy (New York: Seven Stories, 1997); Robert W. McChesney. Rich Media, Poor Democracy: Communication Politics in Dubious Times (Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 1999); Dimaggio, When Media Goes to War ; Paul Street, “More Than Entertainment: Neal Gabler and the Illusions of Post-Ideological Society,” Monthly Review (February 2000): 58-62; Paul Street, “Reflections on a Largely Forgotten Book: Herbert Schiller’s The Mind Managers,” ZNet (April 4, 2009), at http://www.zcommunications.org/reflections-on-a-largely-forgotten-book-herbert-schillers-the-mind-managers-1973-by-paul-street
16 Dimaggio and Street, “What ‘Populist Uprising?’ Part 2”
17 On the deeply conservative world view and related professional journalism-school training of US reporters, see McChesney, Corporate Media, 9-17 and Dimaggio, When Media Goes to War, 53-54, 113-131.
18 Lydia Sadd, “Tea Partyers Are Fairly Mainstream,” Gallup (April 5, 2010), read at http://www.gallup.com/poll/127181/tea-partiers-fairly-mainstream-demographics.aspx
19 Frank Newport , “Socialism Viewed Positively by 36% of Americans,” Gallup (February 4, 2010) at http://www.gallup.com/poll/125645/Socialism-Viewed-Positively-Americans.aspx
20 Steven Hill, Fixing Elections: The Failure of America’s Winner Take All Politics ( New York : Routledge, 2002).
21 See also “Just 53% Say Capitalism Better Than Socialism,” Rasmussen Reports (April 9, 2009), reporting that among U.S, adults under 30, 37 percent prefer “capitalism” to “ socialism, 30 percent prefer” socialism, and 30 percent are “undecided.” Read poll at http://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/politics/general_politics/april_2009/just_53_say_capitalism_better_than_socialism . Rasmussen found that two of very three Americans believing that “big government and big corporations work together” in ways that hurt consumers (imagine).
22 I use quote marks because neither Gallup nor (last year) Rasmussen Reports actually defined either “capitalism” or “socialism.”
23 For one of countless examples, see Robert Meacham, “It’s Not Easy Being Blue: America Remains a Center-Right Nation – a Fact that a President Obama Would Forget at His Peril,” Newsweek (October 18, 2008) at http://www.newsweek.com/id/164656
24 Paul Street, “Americans' Progressive Opinion vs. "The Shadow Cast on Society By Big Business,” ZNet (May 15, 2008) at http://www.zcommunications.org/americans-progressive-opinion-vs-the-shadow-cast-on-society-by-big-business-by-paul-street; Noam Chomsky, Failed States: The Abuse of Power and the Assault on Democracy (New York: Metropolitan, 2006), 204-250; Katherine Adams and Charles Derber, The New Feminized Majority (Boulder, CO: Paradigm, 2008), 67-75; Chicago Council on Foreign Relations [CCFR], Global Views (Chicago, IL: CCFR, October 2004).
25 Street, “More Than Entertainment;” Street, “Reflections on a Largely Forgotten Book.”
26 For an example of, and reflection on, my own largely futile efforts to break through the media embargo on this topic (more officially invisible than ever in light of the election of a black president) in one major metropolitan area, see Paul Street, Racial Oppression in the Global Metropolis: A Living Black History (New York: Rowman and Littlefield, 2007).
27 Marjorie Cohn, “Arizona Legalizes Racial Profiling,” ZNet (April 29, 2009), read at http://www.zcommunications.org/arizona-legalizes-racial-profiling-by-marjorie-cohn
28 Two good opening primers are William Blum, Rogue State : A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower ( Monroe , ME : Common Courage, 2005) and Mark Zepezauer, Boomerang! How Our Wars Have Created Enemies Across the Middle East and Brought Terror to America ( Monroe , ME : Common Courage, 2003). Other recommended readings include Greg Grandin, Empire’s Workshop: Latin America, the United States, and the Rise of the New Imperialism (New York: Metropolitan, 2007); Noam Chomsky, American Power and the New Mandarins (New York: New Press, 2002 ); Noam Chomsky For Reasons of State (New York: New Press, 2003 ); Noam Chomsky, Deterring Democracy (New York: Hill and Wang, 1991); Chomsky, Rethinking Camelot; Noam Chomsky, Hegemony Over Survival: America’s Quest for Global Dominance (New York: Metropolitan, 2003); Noam Chomsky, World Orders, Old and New (New York: Columbia University Press, 1994, 1996); Noam Chomsky, Year 501: The Conquest Continues (Boston, MA: South End, 1993); Chomsky, On Power and Ideology: The Managua Lectures (Boston, MA: South End, 1987); Noam Chomsky, The New Military humanism: Lessons From Kosovo (Monroe, ME: Common Courage, 1999); Noam Chomsky and Gilbert Achcar, Perilous Power: The Middle East and U.S. Foreign Policy (Boulder, CO: Paradigm, 2007); Noam Chomsky, What Uncle Sam Really Wants (Berkeley CA, 1995); Noam Chomsky, Understanding Power (New York: New Press, 2002); Noam Chomsky, What Uncle Sam Really Wants (Berkeley CA, 1995); Christopher Hitchens, The Trial of Henry Kissinger (New York: Verso, 2001); Chalmers Johnson, Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire (New York: Holt & Holt, 2004); Chalmers Johnson, The Sorrows of Empire: Militarism, Secrecy and the End of the Republic (New York: Metropolitan, 2004); Sidney Lens, The Forging of the American Empire, 2nd ed. (Chicago: Haymarket Books, 2004); Ward Churchill, On the Justice of Roosting Chickens: Reflections on the Consequences of U.S. Imperial Arrogance and Criminality (Oakland, CA: AK Press, 2003); Rajul Mahajan, The New Crusade: America’s War on Terrorism (New York: Monthly Review, 2002); Thomas McCormick, America’s Half Century: United States Foreign Policy in the Cold War (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1989); Howard Zinn, Postwar America: 1945-1971 (Indianapolis, IN: Bobbs-Merrill, 1973), pp. 1-88; Howard Zinn, A People’s History of the United States, 1492-Present (New York: HarperPerennial 2003); Howard Zinn Terrorism and War (New York: Seven Stories, 2002); John Perkins, Confessions of an Economic Hit Man (New York: Plume, 2004); John Perkins, The Secret History of the American Empire: The Truth About Economic Hit Men, Jackals, and How to Change the World (New York: Plume, 2008); Noam Chomsky. Profits Over People: Neoliberalism and Global Order (New York: Seven Stories, 1999); Duncan Green, Silent Revolution: The Rise and Crisis of Market Economics in Latin America ( New York : Monthly Review, 2003). ];
29 Pinter is quoted in John Pilger, Freedom Next Time: Resisting the Empire ( New York : The Nation Books, 2007). 4.
30 As Bill Clinton’s Secretary of State Madeline Albright (who proclaimed the death of more than half a million Iraqi children by U.S.-imposed economic sanctions a “price worth” paying in order to advance inherently noble U.S. global aims) proclaimed in 1999: “The United States is good. We try to do our best everywhere.” Albright is quoted in the front-matter of Blum, Rogue State . This is standard doctrine from the beginning and up through Barack Obama, who has repeatedly proclaimed that the U.S. should never apologize for any of its crimes (a fair number have now occurred under his command) because it is “overwhelmingly a force for good in the world.” On the “price-worth”-paying comment (spat out on CBS’ “60 Minutes” on May 12, 1996), see Rajul Mahajan, “‘ We Think the Price is Worth it’: Media Uncurious About Iraq Policy’s Effects – There or Here,” Extra! (November/December 2001) at http://www.fair.org/index.php?page=1084. On Obama and the refusal to apologize, see (among many examples) Paul Street, “Obama’s Letters of No Apology,” Dissident Voice (November 8, 2008) at http://www.dissidentvoice.org/2008/08/obamas-letters-of-no-apology/; Paul Street , “’ We Will Not Apologize for Our Way of Life’: Left Reflections on Barack Obama’s Not-So Non-Ideological Inaugural Address,” ZNet (January 23, 2009) at http://www.zcommunications.org/we-will-not-apologize-for-our-way-of-life-by-paul-street.
31 The leading public personification of the totalitarian state-capitalist regime (“ Oceania ”) in Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty Four.
32 According to internal Citigroup memos written in late 2005 and early 2006 and highlighted in Michael Moore’s 2009 movie “Capitalism: A Love Story”), the U.S, is a “Plutonomy” – a society in which growth and development are driven entirely by the wealthy few. A Citigroup analyst divided “the world” into two blocs: the (i) Plutonomies in the U.S. , England , and Canada and (ii) the “egalitarian bloc” of Japan and continental Europe , where a broader segment of the populace beyond the wealthy help drive development. See “Trader Mark, ““Citigroup 2006: America - a Modern Day Plutonomy,” International Business Times (September 17, 2009) at http://www.ibtimes.com/articles/20090907/citigroup-2006-americamodern-day-plutonomy.htm; “Citigroup, October 16, 2005: Plutonomy Report Part 1” at http://www.scribd.com/doc/6674234/Citigroup-Oct-16-2005-Plutonomy-Report-Part-1.
33 Zinn, A People’s History. For useful accounts and summaries of (and extensive bibliographic guides to) worker resistance see Melvyn Dubofsky, Industrialism and the America Worker, 1865-1920 (Arlington Hts. IL: AHM, 1975); The American Social History Project, Who Built America? Working People and the Nation’s Economy, Politics, Culture and Society, Volumes I and II (New York: Pantheon, 1989). See also David Montgomery, Workers Control in America: Studies in the History of Work, Technology, and Labor Struggles (Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press, 1979); Lizabeth Cohn, Making a New Deal: Industrial Workers in Chicago, 1919-1939 (Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press, 1990); Robert Zieger, American Workers, American Unions (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins, 1994). .
34 See (for one of the best among many reflections) Jeff Faux, The Global Class War: How America’s Bipartisan Elite Lost Our Future and What It Will Take to Win it Back (New York: Wiley, 2006).
35 Steven Greenhouse, “In America , Labor Has a Long Fuse,” New York Times, April 5, 2009.
36 For what it’s worth, I always enjoy “taking to the streets” (it’s great fun)and I am fairly put off by someone like Kennedy talking about marching and protesting if they are something one would only do as a last resort because they were “forced to…” How bizarre.
37 Thomas B. Edsall, “Barack Obama: King of Corporate Welfare,” Huffington Post, April 24, 2009. “No matter what else he achieves or where he falls short,” Edsall wrote, “Barack Obama can lay claim to the title of King of Corporate Subsidies...Using any variety of measures, the Obama administration has broken all records in the distribution of tax dollars to American businesses, primarily banks, automobile manufacturers and insurance companies...The tidal wave of dollar bills has stunned folks on all sides of the political spectrum.”
38 William Greider, “Obama’s Weird Idea of Auto Industry Rescue: Use Our Money to Build Factories Abroad,” AlterNet (May 11, 2009), read online at http://www.alternet.org/workplace/139940/obama's_weird_idea_of_auto_industry_rescue:_use_our_money_to_build_car_factories_abroad; Greg Palast, “Grand Theft Auto: How Stevie the Rat Bankrupted GM,” GregPalast.com (June 1, 2009), read at http://www.gregpalast.com/grand-theft-auto-how-stevie-the-rat-bankrupted-gm/
39 See Matthew Bandyk, “Is Unemployment the Worst Since the Great Depression? Hidden Behind the Unemployment Rate are Some Startling Numbers,” USA Today, August 27, 2009 at http://www.usnews.com/money/business-economy/articles/2009/08/27/is-unemployment-the-worst-since-the-great-depression.html ; Midtowng, “Unemployment at Highest Level Since Great Depression,” The Economic Populist November 7, 2009 at http://www.economicpopulist.org/content/unemployment-highest-level-great-depression;and John Williams, “Alternate Unemployment Rate,” Shadow Government Statistics, American Business Analytics & Research, LLC (May 2010) at http://www.shadowstats.com/alternate_data/unemployment-charts
40 For details and sources written up as and right after the deal was finalized, see Paul Street , “Health Reform: Theirs and Ours,” ZNet (March 24, 2010), at http://www.zcommunications.org/health-reform-theirs-and-ours-by-paul-street; “Corporatist Health ‘Reform,’” ZNet (March 31, 2010) at http://www.zcommunications.org/corporatist-health-reform-as-an-attack-on-wealth-inequality-by-paul-street.The CBS-New York Times poll: New York Times-CBS Poll, “Confusion Over Health Care,” survey of 1,042 adults, September 19-23, question number 57, p. 15 of 26, poll results at http://documents.nytimes.com/new-york-times-cbs-news-poll-confusion-over-health-care-tepid-support-for-war#p=15
41 George Monbiot, “Requiem for a Crowded Planet,” The Guardian ( UK ), December 21, 2009; Peter Brown, “Obama: Washington Liberal, Copenhagen Conservative,” Wall Street Journal, December 16, 2009.
42 Mickey Z, “Change We Can Bereave In,” Cool Observer (December 15, 2008), at http://www.mickeyz.net/news/mickeyz/fullarticle/change_we_can_bereave_in/ (please note that Mickey Z coins the phrase prior to the Dalai Obama’s inauguration).
43 The left economist Robin Hahnel recently commented on the conservative nothingness behind the White House’s recent fake-progressives claim to be responding to legitimate popular outrage by working with Democrats and some Republicans in the U.S. Senate to seriously regulate the leading parasitic financial firms who can be expected to create another major financial meltdown in the not-so-distant future. As Hahnel notes, “We are now witnessing the kind of political maneuvering you would expect …from the Obama Administration and the US Congress. Speeches designed to assuage a furious public, followed by legislation designed to please their paymasters on Wall Street. When all is said and done the big holding banks will be even bigger and therefore less likely to be permitted to fail. Commercial and investment banking will still be tied at the hip. Trading in highly profitable, esoteric financial products, that have no social value whatsoever but put the financial system at great risk, will continue. And regulatory powers will be more concentrated in the hands of the Federal Reserve Bank, which Wall Street captured long ago. In short, financial reform will be a fig leaf in the US , leaving the financial system just as prone to crisis as it was before September 2008. The only question will be what the next asset bubble looks like, and how long it will take to grow and burst.” See Robin Hahnel, “Economy Roundtable, Part 2,” New Left Project (May 4, 2010) at http://www.newleftproject.org/index.php/site/article_comments/economy_roundtable_-_part_2/.
One doesn’t have to be a leftist to share professor Hahnel’s basic skepticism towards the president’s populace-pleasing pretense at progressive financial reform. In a column titled “Financial Reform Goldman (Sachs) Can Love,” Wall Street Journal columnist Kimberly Strassel (no anti-business radical) notes that the president and his allies in the U.S. Senate “have been playing a very smooth game on Wall Street reform.” Strassel mocked Obama’s claim to be “standing up for Main Street ” and against Wall Street. She notes that Obama and the Senate Democrats propose nothing to seriously guard the public against future massive bailouts of “the titans of the financial world…To listen to President Barack Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid,” Strassel writes, “Democrats have crafted a sidewinder of a bill. It’s so tough, explains the president, that the Republicans now must protect their wealthy Wall Street ‘movers and shakers’ by trying to sabotage it. The industry is so worried, he claims, that their lobbyists are engaged in a ‘furious effort’ to kill the legislation.” The truth of the matter, Strasssel observes, is quite different. “On the No.1 issue - whether it protects taxpayers from again being held to ransom by a failing bank system - the legislation remains a giveaway. The financial giants particularly like a provision that allows the FDIC to backstop any failing bank (or parent, or affiliate) by guaranteeing their corporate debt, with congressional approval...." It was widely assumed among Wall Street insiders that Obama and the Democrats’ promise to force leading banks to abandon the trading of the highly speculative and dangerous financial instruments knows as derivatives would come to nothing. “Meanwhile,” Strassel adds, “ rules proposed by the White House and Senate Democrats to coordinate derivatives through weakly regulated clearinghouses and exchanges “mean guaranteed new business for some big traders and exchanges.” For this and other reasons, Strassel observes, Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankenfein “meant it” when he recently said that he was “genuinely supportive” the Obama-Democrats’ bill. Of course, Blankenfein didn't mention how literally and financially supportive of the Democratic senators he and other Wall Street elites had been. "In the 2010 [election] cycle so far,” Strassel notes, “the securities and financial sector has stumped up $5.3 million for Senate Democrats. That's three times the amount it gave to Senate Republicans. The top three Senate recipients include Charles Schumer [D-NY] ($1.4 million), his fellow New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand ($630,000), and Harry Reid [D-AZ] ($530,000)...." See Kimberly Strassel, “Financial Reform Goldman Can Love,” Wall Street Journal, May 7, 2010, A15
44 Bruce Dixon, “Department of Broken Promises: Obama Closes Door On NAFTA Renegotiation,” Black Agenda Report (April 22, 2009), at http://www.blackagendareport.com/?q=content/department-broken-promises-obama-closes-door-nafta-renegotiation; Kevin Baker, “Barack Hoover Obama: The Best and the Brightest Blow it Again,” Harper’s Magazine (July 2009), p. 36
45 Steven Greenhouse, “Most Union Members are Working for the Government, New Data Shows,” New York Times, January 22, 2010 at http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/23/business/23labor.html.
46 Noam Chomsky, “Crisis and Hope: Their and Ours,” Boston Review (September-October 2009), read at http://bostonreview.net/BR34.5/chomsky.php. Following the militantly anti-union president Ronald Reagan’s lead “with the dismantling of the air traffic controllers union,” Chomsky noted. “Caterpillar managers decided to rescind their labor contract with the United Auto Workers and seriously harm the union by bringing in scabs to break a strike for the first time in generations.”
47 On ongoing and imminent ecological collapse, see Massachusetts Institute of Technology, “Climate Change Odds Much Worse Than Thought: New Analysis Shows Warming Could be Double Previous Estimates,” MIT News (May 19, 2009), at http://web.mit.edu/newsoffice/2009/roulette-0519.html#;; Herve Kempf, How the Rich Are Destroying the Earth (White River Junction, VT: Chelsea Green, 2007).Kempf is the environmental editor at the leading French newspaper Le Monde.
48 Noam Chomsky, “Coups, UNASUR, and the U.S. ,” Z Magazine (October 2009), 26.
49 Noam Chomsky, “The Center Cannot Hold: Rekindling the Radical Imagination,” Speech to Left Forum in New York City , March 21, 2010, read transcript at http://www.zcommunications.org/the-center-cannot-hold-rekindling-the-radical-imagination-by-noam-chomsky
50 Jackie Calmes, “Obama Tells Debt Commission ‘Everything Has to Be on Table,’” New York Times, April 27, 2010; Jane Hamsher, “Durbin Says ‘Bleeding Heart Liberals’ Should Be Open to Medicare and Social Security Cuts,” Firedog Lake (April 29, 2010), at http://fdlaction.firedoglake.com/2010/04/29/durbin-says-bleeding-heart-liberals-should-be-open-to-medicare-and-social-security-cuts/.
51 Ryan Grim, “Dick Durbin: Banks ‘Frankly Own the Place,” Huffington Post (April 29, 2009), at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/04/29/dick-durbin-banks-frankly_n_193010.html;Adam Doster, “Durbin on Congress: the Banks “Own the Place,’” Progress Illinois (April 29, 2010) at http://progressillinois.com/2009/4/29/durbin-banks-own-the-place
52 Patrick Martin, “Obama Signs Bills for Record Pentagon, Homeland Security Spending,” World Socialist Web Site (October 30, 2009) at http://www.wsws.org/articles/2009/oct2009/dfns-o30.shtml; Winslow T. Wheeler, “The Pentagon Spigot is Wide Open,” CounterPunch (June 17, 2009), read at www.counterpunch.org/wheeler060172009.html; Katherine McIntire Peters, “Defense Budget Portends Difficult Trade-Offs,” Government Executive (August 12, 2009), read at http://www.govexec.com/dailyfed/0809/081209kp1.htm. (Government Executive describes itself as” government's business news daily and the premier Web site for federal managers and executives”).
53 Morgan Stanley Research, Aerospace & Defense, Heidi Wood et al., “Early Thoughts on Obama and Defense” (November 5, 2008), read at www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/business/governmentinc/documents/ObamaDefense.pdf, quoted (without citation) in Frida Berrigan, “Who Rules the Pentagon?” TomDispatch (November 25, 2008) at http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/175007
54 “‘Obama Has Kept the Machine Set on Kill’ –Journalist and Activist Allan Nairn Reviews Obama’s First Year in Office,” Democracy Now! (January 6, 2010), read at http://www.democracynow.org/2010/1/6/obama_has_kept_the_machine_set
55 Glen Greenwald, “Cause and Effect in the ‘Terror War,’” Salon (December 29, 2009) at http://www.salon.com/news/opinion/glenn_greenwald/2009/12/29/terrorism
56 Edward S. Herman and David Peterson, “‘Obama’s Foreign Policy Report Card’: Juan Cole Grades His President – and Very Positively,” MR Zine (November 9, 2009), at http://www.monthlyreview.org/mrzine/hp091109.html
57 Edward S. Herman, “John Yoo, Social Security, and Korean Threat,” Z Magazine (July 2009), at http://www.zcommunications.org/john-yoo-social-security-and-korean-threat-by-edward-herman
58 John Bellamy Foster, Hannah Holleman, and Robert W. McChesney, “The U.S. Imperial Triangle and Military Spending,” Monthly Review (October 2008), at http://www.monthlyreview.org/081001foster-holleman-mcchesney.php
59 William Pfaff, “A Duped President’s Wasted Foreign Policy Year,” Antiwar.com (January 28, 2010) at http://original.antiwar.com/pfaff/2010/01/27/a-duped-presidents-wasted-foreign-policy-year/; Chalmers Johnson, “ America ’s Empire of Bases,” Common Dreams (January 15, 2004) at http://www.commondreams.org/views04/0115-08.htm
60 Orwell, Nineteen Eighty Four, 26.
61 “Howard Zinn (1922-2010): A Tribute to the Legendary Historian with Noam Chomsky, Alice Walker, Naomi Klein and Anthony Arnove,” Democracy Now! (January 28, 2010) at http://www.democracynow.org/2010/1/28/howard_zinn_1922_2010_a_tribute.See Alfred Young, The Shoemaker and the Tea Party (Boston, MA: Beacon Press, 1999), 197-198, for some reference to Zinn’s role in the antiwar movement in Boston in 1970 and 1971.
62 As John Judis perceptively observed in The New Republic in February of 2009, “what exists of a popular left [in the U.S. ] is either incapable of action or in Obama's pocket.” John Judis, “End the Honeymoon,” The New Republic, February 13, 2009, read at http://www.tnr.com/politics/story.html?id=5bff5e94-6fa6-4a69-9ff2-8f08cb437ccc. For some depressing updates consistent with Judis’ judgment, see Paul Street , “What’s the Matter with the Democrats? Post-Massachusetts Reflections on Popular Resentment, the Liberal-Left Vacuum, and the Right Comeback,” ZNet (January 24, 2010); Lance Selfa, “Can the Right Stage a Comeback?” International Socialist Review, Issue 69 (January-February 2010).; Jane Hamsher, “The Progressive Movement is Officially Dead,” Firedog Lake (April 30, 2010) at http://fdlaction.firedoglake.com/2010/04/30/the-progressive-movement-is-officially-dead/
63 Howard Zinn, “Election Madness,” The Progressive (March 2008).
64 Larissa MacFarquhar, “The Conciliator: Where is Barack Obama Coming From?” The New Yorker (May 7, 2007). According to MacFarquhar, “In his view of history, in his respect for tradition, in his skepticism that the world can be changed any way but very, very slowly, Obama is deeply conservative.”
65 According to the once radical historian Nelson Lichtenstein in an essay bearing the unfortunate title “Obama’s First Year: Why He Deserves a More Enthusiastic Endorsement From the Left” in the pro-Israel magazine called “Dissent” last January, “historians are going to spend a lot of time figuring out why the December 2008 sit-down strike at Chicago Windows and Doors, which Obama endorsed, had no progeny.” See Dissent (January 27, 2010) at http://www.dissentmagazine.org/online.php?id=329. I doubt very much that this will be a big topic for future historians but any who investigate the problem will want to focus among other things on the relative absence of militant left cadre from union payrolls on and on the fact that much of the top labor mis-leadership thinks pretty much along the lines suggested in my quotations from Leo Gerard earlier in this essay. For some reflections that raise unpleasant questions about why a left historian would be publishing in Dissent, see Paul Street, “Towards a ‘Decent Left’?: Liberal-Left Misrepresentation and Selective Targeting of Left Commentary on 9-11,” Z Magazine (July/August 2002): 61-68. For some very different and I think damning (for Obama but also Lichtenstein) looks at the first Obama year that Lichtenstein scandalously thinks merits more “enthusiasm” from “the left,” see Paul Street, “Perverted Priorities: One Year Later,” ZNet (November 4, 2009) at http://www.zcommunications.org/perverted-priorities-one-year-later-by-paul-street; Paul Street, “Obama, As Predicted,” ZNet (November 21, 2009) at http://www.zcommunications.org/obama-as-predicted-by-paul-street; Paul Street, “Blood on the Nobel: On Words, Deeds, and Imperial Re-Branding,” ZNet (December 14, 2009) at http://www.zcommunications.org/blood-on-the-nobel-by-paul-street; Paul Street, “‘You Can’t Be President:’ Race, Class, and Memories of Obama,” ZNet (December 17, 2009) at http://www.zcommunications.org/you-can-t-be-president-race-class-and-memories-of-obama-by-paul-street; Paul Street, “The Fading Call of Obama,” ZNet (December 22, 2009) at http://www.zcommunications.org/the-fading-call-of-obama-by-paul-street; Paul Street, “ ‘ Safe Havens’ and Other Myths in Obama’s Terror War,” ZNet (December 30, 2009) at http://www.zcommunications.org/safe-haven-and-other-myths-in-obama-s-terror-war-reflections-in-the-wake-of-flight-253-by-paul-street; Paul Street, “Killer Obama, Dr. King, and the Triple Evils,” ZNet (January 14, 2010), at http://www.zcommunications.org/killer-obama-dr-king-and-the-triple-evils-by-paul-street; Paul Street, “Haiti, ‘Classquakes,’ and American Empire,” ZNet (January 15, 2010) at http://www.zcommunications.org/haiti-classquakes-and-american-empire-by-paul-street;Paul Street, “What’s the Matter With the Democrats? Post-Massachusetts Reflections on Popular Resentment, the Liberal-Left Vacuum, and Right Comeback,” ZNet (January 24, 2010) at http://www.zcommunications.org/what-s-the-matter-with-the-democrats-post-massachusetts-reflections-on-popular-resentment-the-liberal-left-vacuum-and-right-comeback-by-paul-street; Paul Street , “Obama and American Politics, Part 1,” New Left Project (January 26, 2010) at http://www.newleftproject.org/index.php/site/article_comments/interview_paul_street/
66 “Amazing Speech by Iraq War Veteran,” YouTube (December 20, 2009) at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=akm3nYN8aG8