It’s election time in the US, and people are talking about subjects generally ignored in the woof and warp of everyday life. The role of government, trade policy, immigration, foreign policy – but none of these subjects dominated the stage in the latest installment of the seemingly endless GOP debates. Instead, the assembled candidates were pilloried by the moderators with a series of condescending and openly hostile “questions.” As Ted Cruz put it: “Donald Trump, are you a comic book villain? Ben Carson, can you do math? Marco Rubio, why don’t you resign? Jeb Bush, why have your numbers fallen?”
Cruz received a roar of approval from the crowd, which by that time was sick unto death of the CNBC panel’s arrogant hectoring – and that’s really the story of this election in a nutshell: what we’re witnessing is a populist rebellion against the political class, of which the media is an essential part.
Insulated from the public, smugly ensconced in their own certitude, the “mainstream” media has routinely set the narrative of every election in modern times – but not anymore. Their reign effectively ended with the rise of the Internet and the explosion of independent outlets, like the Drudge Report – and, yes, Antiwar.com – which have left them in the dust.
Yet the “legacy media” has stubbornly clung to their privileged position, mostly by their dominance of television – their last redoubt. But the time has passed when they could set the agenda, as Fox News and now CNBC have discovered. The rise of the GOP outsiders – Trump and Carson, who together have nearly half of the GOP electorate’s support in the polls – is in large part a revolt against the media, as well as the Republican Establishment. As in the last days of the old Soviet Union, people are tired of being lied to and told what to think. As many Russians said of the two principal Soviet mouthpieces, Pravda and Izvestia – in English, "the truth" and "the news" – "v Pravde net izvestiy, v Izvestiyakh net pravdy" (“In the Truth there is no news, and in the News there is no truth”). Today the same goes for NBC and Fox News.
I seem to recall a time when the news media was respected, and seen as the people’s shield against government abuse and corruption. Those days are long gone, as the revolving door between official Washington and the press corps keeps swinging and the two sectors meet and merge socially and ideologically.
The Iraq war was the final nail in the legacy media’s coffin, as the New York Times and other major outlets played a key role in ginning up that disaster, acting as a transmission belt for the Bush administration’s lies about Saddam’s alleged “weapons of mass destruction. When the public becomes convinced that the “news” is simply propaganda, then trust goes out the window and all bets are off.
The revolt against the Establishment is manifested in the rise of Donald Trump, whose political demise has been gleefully predicted by pundits and journalists with clocklike regularity – even as his poll numbers soar to new heights. And the mandarins of Establishment wisdom are angry about it: GOP consultant Rick Wilson, a longtime sycophant of the “donor class,” has called on Republican party bigwigs to “put a bullet in Trump,” and it’s not at all clear to me he meant this only figuratively. Trump, for his part, has called for Secret Service protection, and has so far not gotten it.
Yes, the political class can get quite nasty when their edicts are defied and their preferred narratives are ignored. In this country, they couldn’t quite get away with simply canceling the election, although I wouldn’t put it past them to try. We still retain the old republican forms, even if they are largely emptied of content. However, in the outer reaches of the Empire, far from the Imperial Metropolis, the rules are easily bent.
Take Ukraine, our latest acquisition, where an election for local offices was recently held. After a successful campaign to overthrow the democratically elected government of President Viktor Yanukovich, and the installation of a “pro-Western” coalition of technocrats and outright fascists, the new regime found itself in the midst of a civil war: the eastern provinces, who had voted for Yanukovich, weren’t about to take the coup d’etat lying down. They rose up, declared their independence, and successfully fought off a vicious assault by the Ukrainian army, enduring attacks on civilian centers which took many thousands of lives and fighting the Kiev regime to a standstill.
Under pressure from the European Union, and especially the Germans, the gang in Kiev granted the easterners limited autonomy and agreed to hold elections – but as election day approached, and the anti-Kiev Opposition Bloc seemed sure to win in the hotly contested cities of Mariupol and Krasnoarmeysk, they simply canceled the vote.
The essential reality of Western governments is normally hidden behind the gauzy veil of “democracy,” only to reveal its true face in times of crisis: that’s when its monstrous visage – pitted and pockmarked like the portrait of Dorian Gray by its own inherent evil – is unmasked in all its ugliness. Mariupol, deep in the Donbass region, has never been part of Ukraine: it is Russian through and through, and it has suffered in this vicious civil war perhaps more than most. Its long suffering people want nothing to do with the gang in Kiev, which has been bombarding their city for the past year, and they were ready to vote with their hearts – but their tormentors couldn’t permit that.
Likewise in Krasnoarmeysk, where the Ukrainian “National Guard” – actually, members of the neo-Nazi “Right Sector” group – murdered at least two people when the populace tried to vote in the “secessionist” referendum. That was one election the politicians in Kiev and their Western masters were determined to stop any at cost. And so the local elections, mandated by the Minsk agreement and demanded by the Europeans, were canceled there, too – because the results would have represented a massive repudiation of President Petro Poroshenko and the entire US-EU regime change operation that has torn the country asunder.
Every government on earth must seek some form of legitimacy, no matter how staged, because even the worst dictatorship depends to a large extent on the voluntary cooperation of the populace. The people must consent to be ruled, and when that consent is withdrawn it’s curtains for the ruling class. The Soviets discovered this in the Great Revolution of 1989, when the Berlin Wall came down without a shot being fired: and when the rebellion spread to the rest of the Warsaw Pact and into the Soviet Union itself, the Leninist project was no more. The whole mighty edifice simply evaporated with a bare minimum of violence in a relatively short period of time.
The official reaction in the West was, initially, disbelief, morphing into genuine horror: President George H. W. Bush, you’ll recall, urged Ukrainians not to overthrow their Soviet masters too hastily, and tried to “stabilize” the situation, which seemed rather odd at the time. After all, hadn’t Washington waged a “cold war” against the Soviets, declaring them to be an “evil empire” that represented a deadly threat to Peace, Democracy, and the American Way? Hadn’t we armed ourselves with enough nuclear weaponry to destroy the world a hundred times over in “defense” against these mortal enemies of all that is good and right?
Well, yes, but when it came right down to it – when the captive nations of the “evil empire” rose up and the Soviet colossus began to crumble with astonishing rapidity – the mandarins of Washington were horrified. That’s because the example of a mighty empire being swept away without even a single military skirmish was something that rightly sent a shudder of fear coursing through their own veins. If it could happen to the Soviets then it could just as easily happen to them – and that is a lesson they didn’t want their own captive peoples to learn.
Here in the Imperial Metropolis, the captive peoples are growing restless, just as they are on the frontiers of the Empire. Everywhere the spirit of rebellion against arbitrary authority is gaining strength and picking up momentum. This is what frightens our political class, which, up until recently, has felt safe in its Washington and New York redoubts. With the two “major” parties under their thumb, and the media singing like a Greek chorus echoing their manufactured narratives, a very small group of plutocrats, political operatives, and behind-the-scenes fixers have manipulated the apparatus of “democracy” to their advantage, maintaining their monopoly on the reins of power. Yet that monopoly is now being effectively challenged, not only here but all over the world.
As Bette Davis once put it: Fasten your seat belts – we’re in for a bumpy ride! And it really is about time, isn’t it?
NOTES IN THE MARGIN
You can check out my Twitter feed by going here. But please note that my tweets are sometimes deliberately provocative, often made in jest, and largely consist of me thinking out loud.
I’ve written a couple of books, which you might want to peruse. Here is the link for buying the second edition of my 1993 book, Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement, with an Introduction by Prof. George W. Carey, a Foreword by Patrick J. Buchanan, and critical essays by Scott Richert and David Gordon (ISI Books, 2008).
You can buy An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard (Prometheus Books, 2000), my biography of the great libertarian thinker, here.