By Heather Gray
November 4, 2016
The Republicans have themselves to blame for the mess they are in. For decades the American corporate elite have attempted to marginalize all of us by espousing corporate control of virtually everything. In fact, right-wing America has learned well from Adolph Hitler’s propaganda minister, Joseph Goebbels, and, under Ronald Reagan, they also got rid of media constraints to be “fair” in reporting so they could follow Goebbels manipulation of the masses for the benefit of the elite. The godfather of the American rightwing, Leo Strauss, also has played a role here, of course. What is hopeful, however, is that Americans are more alert than the elite are willing to admit even after their decades of attempted manipulation in the media and/or through their right-wing think tanks.
Ultimately, all of this attempted corporate control of virtually everything and manipulation of the people broke up the Republican Party, which is not a bad thing in my opinion, but it left open a vacuum for the nonsensical, ill-informed and abusive rhetoric by the likes of Donald Trump. The Republican Party has not been respectful of the American people and its democracy – it is rather as simple and profound as that! The Democrats have also had their challenges, of course, but no where near the likes of the Republican elite.
Most Americans are probably not aware that the concept of “left” and “right” politics comes from the French Revolution. Here is an explanation:
The modern usage of the political terms left and right comes from the French Revolution of 1789 when supporters of the king stood to the president’s right, and supporters of the revolution to his left.
The simplest answer to “what do left and right mean?” historically speaking, is liberal is left (toward liberty and/or collectivism) and conservative is right (toward authority and/or individualism).
- As a comparative term left is always toward liberalism and liberty, and right is always toward conservatism and authority (from any given perspective).
- As an absolute term left means to the left of center (toward liberalism and liberty), and right means to the right of center (toward conservatism and authority).
For instance, a democratic form of government will always be to the left, and a form of monarchy will always be to the right. (Fact/Myth)
The conflict in America has almost always been between these forces of left and right as in:
Left Collectivism – i.e. Roosevelt’s New Deal programs to support the masses; labor unions and collective bargaining; a mixed economy of programs for the collective combined with some private entities, etc.; and
Right Authoritarianism – i.e. basically capitalist privatization of virtually everything be it health care, education, prisons, politicians (Citizens United), women’s bodies (so-called “pro-life”; etc.
Regarding shaping the “conservative” Republicans and how to control and manipulate the people – then enters Leo Strauss.
…. Leo Strauss was born in 1899 and died in 1973. He was a Jewish scholar who fled Germany when Hitler gained power. He eventually found refuge in the United States where he taught political science at the University of Chicago. He is most famous for resuscitating Machiavelli and introducing his principles as the guiding philosophy of the neo-conservative movement. Strauss has been called the godfather of Newt Gingrich’s “Contract with America.” More than any other man, Strauss breathed upon conservatism, inspiring it to rise from its atrophied condition and its natural dislike of change and to embrace an unbounded new political ideology that rides on the back of a revolutionary steed, hailing even radical change; hence the name Neo-Conservatives (Yurica).
Leo Strauss, in the 1930s, had witnessed what Hitler was doing and beginning to threaten the Jewish community so he left Germany and came to the United States. He didn’t trust democracy and said it was democracy that brought Hitler to power. Yet, oddly enough, he seemingly learned from Hitler. Like Hitler he wanted to control the people and was not interested in their democratic rights.
Strauss said, essentially, that the people cannot handle the truth and need to be controlled. Religion is a good way to do this, he said. And it didn’t matter what religion it was. Christianity was largely the choice by his followers listed below along with some of what Strauss taught them:
The father of neo-conservatism (Leo Strauss) had many “spiritual” children at the University of Chicago, among them: Paul Wolfowitz and Abram Shulsky, who received their doctorates under Strauss in 1972. Harry V. Jaffa was a student of Strauss and has an important connection to Dominionists like Pat Robertson … However, Strauss’s family of influence extended beyond his students to include faculty members in universities, and the people his students taught. Those prominent neo-conservatives who are most notable are: Justice Clarence Thomas, Robert Bork, Irving Kristol and his son William Kristol, Alan Keyes, William J. Bennett, J. Danforth Quayle, Allan Bloom, John Podhoertz, John T. Agresto, John Ashcroft, Newt Gingrich, Gary Bauer, Michael Ledeen and scores of others, many of whom hold important positions in George W. Bush’s White House and Defense Department
Strauss’s teaching incorporated much of Machiavelli‘s. Significantly, his philosophy is unfriendly to democracy-even antagonistic. At the same time Strauss upheld the necessity for a national religion not because he favored religious practices, but because religion in his view is necessary in order to control the population.
(From Shadia Drury‘s work on Strauss, here is) a brief list that shows the radical unchristian basis of neo-conservatism….
First: Strauss believed that a leader had to perpetually deceive the citizens he ruled.
Secondly: Those who lead must understand there is no morality, there is only the right of the superior to rule the inferior.
Thirdly: According to Drury, Religion “is the glue that holds society together.” It is a handle by which the ruler can manipulate the masses. Any religion will do. Strauss is indifferent to them all.
Fourthly: “Secular society…is the worst possible thing,” because it leads to individualism, liberalism, and relativism, all of which encourage dissent and rebellion. As Drury sums it up: “You want a crowd that you can manipulate like putty.”
Fifthly: “Strauss thinks that a political order can be stable only if it is united by an external threat; and following Machiavelli, he maintains that if no external threat exists, then one has to be manufactured.”
Sixthly: “In Strauss’s view, the trouble with liberal society is that it dispenses with noble lies and pious frauds. It tries to found society on secular rational foundations.”
… Put all the enemies of the Dominionists together, boil them down to liquid and bake them into the one single most highly derided and contaminated individual known to man, and you will have before you an image of the quintessential “liberal”-one of those folks who wants to give liberally to the poor and needy-who desires the welfare and happiness of all Americans-who insists on safety regulations for your protection and who desires the preservation of your values-those damnable people are the folks that must be reduced to powerlessness-or worse: extinction.
… Take, for instance, Sean Hannity’s remarks to Time Magazine, “You can play golf with liberals, be neighbors with them, go out to dinner. I just don’t want them in power.” Or take Ann Coulter’s assertions: “Liberals have a preternatural gift for striking a position on the side of treason.” Or, “Whenever the nation is under attack, from within or without, liberals side with the enemy.” (It turns out that every single “liberal” in the country is a member of the Democratic Party and therefore is a traitor.)
…. Robertson’s book acknowledges that his followers, the “Christian” army raised up for political purposes are the elect chosen to rule. Robertson’s transcribed television interviews and dialogs give shocking evidence to the legitimization of greed, hatred, violence and cruelty by members of the various fundamentalist branches of the American clergy and by elected officials of the Republican Party, which can be cited as evidence that Dominionism is not a Christian religion-that above everything else, Dominionism is synonymous with Machiavellianism: the ends justify the means. Under Dominionism, true Christianity is a target to destroy, not a goal to achieve. … (Yurica)
It is important to note also that after Gingrich’s “Contract with America” (that I refer to as the “Contract ON America”) civics classes were largely stopped being offered in America’s schools. The likes of Gingrich and others seemingly didn’t want Americans to know how a democracy works! Was it so they could take up the slack and suggest what they wanted which was seemingly a right-wing neoliberal economic system to serve the corporate elite? Sounds like fascism to me – as in “extreme right-wing, authoritarian, or intolerant views or practices”. You be the judge!
Since Roosevelt in the 1930s and 1940s the elite have also wanted to rid the country of the New Deal policies because these were government programs that in many instances empowered the people through federal national programs such as social security. Many in the corporate elite have been categorically against this. They don’t want policies that empower people through collective government actions. They want to control people by ridding the country as much as possible of public assistance programs as well as unions and collective bargaining. They, for sure, have no interest in empowering workers. The list goes on and on. It’s “control” they want and they get their message out, for one, by control of the media. All of this became intensified since Ronald Reagan.
Joseph Goebbels? His many quotes are memorable. He referred to “lies” as a strategy by referring to the English behavior. He said:
The essential English leadership secret does not depend on particular intelligence. Rather, it depends on a remarkably stupid thick-headedness. The English follow the principle that when one lies, one should lie big, and stick to it. They keep up their lies, even at the risk of looking ridiculous (Wikipedia).
Hitler was saying much the same thing and the above quote has been shortened since which is relevant to America’s media, particularly since Reagan: “A lie told once remains a lie but a lie told a thousand times becomes the truth”.
To control the people, Strauss’ three implementation principles, summarized, are: deception, power of religion, and aggressive nationalism (Alternet).
George Bush had 20 Straussians in his administration and they followed all these principles. So largely thanks to them what we witnessed under Bush’s administration was 9/11. It is also the case that some claim 9/11 to be manufactured by America’s military industrial complex and questions still remain on this interpretation. And also, manufactured were so-called enemies such as Saddam Hussein who was falsely accused and never had the so-called weapons of mass destruction. But it has led to a painful war and accusations that mobilized the Americans against many in the Middle East. This is right out of Strauss – “an external threat” and “aggressive nationalism.”
In many ways the Reagan administration in contemporary history was also a turning point. A lot of this undermining of programs to benefit the masses was happening before Reagan but intensified under the Reagan presidency with the right-wing’s economic agenda known as “neoliberalism”. Neoliberalism?
Neoliberalism refers primarily to the 20th century resurgence of 19th century ideas associated with laissez-faire economic liberalism.[ These include extensive economic liberalization policies such as privatization, fiscal austerity, deregulation, free trade, and reductions in government spending in order to enhance the role of the private sector in the economy (Wikipedia).
As a result, we have witnessed, dramatically, a conflict between the people’s economic interests and the corporate elite’s neoliberal economic agenda and this has been coupled with deliberate manipulation through unregulated media as a way to force all of this down our throats. It was ill-intent for the people from the beginning!
In the 1980’s Ronald Reagan, the darling of American capitalism, started deregulating everything from the environment, to banking, the media and nuclear policies to name but a few. Reagan’s policies were a war against the poor and an invitation to corporate exploiters in every conceivable area. Pro-corporate propaganda spin intensified as a result. As mentioned, since Roosevelt’s New Deal, America’s corporate elite had been waiting for the likes of Reagan to sit in the White House to begin to dismantle the social programs developed in response to the 1930’s depression and as a cushion for working Americans. In fact, corporate leaders finally saw the light at the end of the tunnel with their guy in the White House and organized their think tanks and corporate/government exploiters to distribute their sinister messages.
It is also important to note that this neoliberalsm or “free market” mindset changes under Reagan were made to media as well. It, in fact, was under Reagan that the media’s “Fairness Doctrine” was overturned. While Roger Ailes has recently been fired by Fox News over a sex scandal, knowing his earlier presence in the changes in media policy is essential.
But first, the “Fairness Doctrine” was a policy introduced by the United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in 1949:
The Fairness Doctrine had two basic elements: It required broadcasters to devote some of their airtime to discussing controversial matters of public interest, and to air contrasting views regarding those matters. Stations were given wide latitude as to how to provide contrasting views: It could be done through news segments, public affairs shows, or editorials. The doctrine did not require equal time for opposing views but required that contrasting viewpoints be presented. The demise of this FCC rule has been considered by some to be a contributing factor for the rising level of party polarization in the United States (Wikipedia).
Roger Ailes was a consultant to help Reagan in his reelection campaign and was, therefore, instrumental in the Reagan decision to rid the country of “fairness” in media:
The Reagan administration effectively killed the Fairness Doctrine, choosing to stop enforcing it in 1987 in the wake of a court decision by future supreme court justice Antonin Scalia and the infamous Robert Bork that made its implementation discretionary. Congress voted to reinstate the doctrine with the force of law, but Reagan used his veto pen, a move that would clear the way for the rise of right-wing talk radio and Roger Ailes’ Fox News network….
News stations no longer were compelled to be fair or balanced (MNN).
Without the “Fairness Doctrine” the right wing in America had tons of outlets, including, of course, Ailes’ Fox News, to manipulate the public at will to then serve the corporate interests and this has continued ever since.
With Reagan and the advent of more conservative and reactionary media we also witnessed the strengthening of right-wing think tanks:
America’s new Counter-Establishment (was) a complex headed by such groups as the American Enterprise Institute, the Committee on the Present Danger, the Heritage Foundation, the Hoover Institution, the Institute for Contemporary Studies, the Federalist Society for Law and Public Policy, and the (Joseph Coors-backed) Mountain States Legal Foundation. This skewed recruitment pattern also held true for many of the second- and third-tier posts in the Reagan’s administration and, to a lesser extent, Bush’s. (There were) connections to right-wing think tanks, not only for the Court but also in such important fields as foreign policy, military spending, and economics and taxation (Ideas).
To look more closely at this dilemma and conflict between the people and the corporate elite, I wrote about the issue in 2005 during the George W. Bush presidency. I am editing it to apply to today’s political and economic world, but am also sharing it because I am sure many of you reading this will recognize that in a contemporary sense much of what has happened since the 1980s is relevant to today’s political milieu.
Above all, they want us to stop thinking “collectively” within society and of any semblance of social responsibility. Recalling the past few decades of the insidious corporate myths that have been thrust upon us, there are three major themes I want to mention from my own experience and they are in the economic, religious and social spheres.
I remember marching into New York’s Central Park in the huge 1982 national rally against Reagan’s military and nuclear policies and being greeted by activists who said “We invite you to a Republican fundraiser in Manhattan. It’ll only cost you $1,000. Don’t worry, with ‘trickle down’ you must have at least $1,000 in your shoes by now!”
Snide remark or not, this is myth number one: in the economic sphere “trickle down” was becoming ingrained in the American psyche thanks to the conservative manipulators, as in give more wealth to the rich and everyone will benefit. Corporate leaders have wanted us to accept this as an economic given for the development of a healthy and thriving economy. They wanted us to hand over our hard earned tax dollars to the wealthiest of Americans and what fools we’ve been to let Congress do exactly that!
The reality is that when we give these wealthy capitalists our money, invariably they keep it at the expense of everyone coupled with excessive greed and mismanagement. The recent Wells Fargo fiasco is a prime example. Witness, for example, the corporate abuse and/or huge government give-aways that took place in Iraq after the Bush invasion including, of course, the infamous Halliburton with billions of dollars in question. As in: “According to the bipartisan Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan, the level of corruption by defense contractors may be as high as $60 billion” (RSN). Or witness Monsanto’s outrageous manipulation of agriculture and disrespect of local farmers throughout the world resulting in destabilization and environmental degradation including harming human health while Monsanto reaps the profits.
Where is the plan for “real” efficiency by contracting with locals and family farmers who are more likely to have a vested interest in the community and keeping the wealth in the community? The great populist Jim Hightower’s response to all this has been “We need an economy that percolates up rather than trickles down.” Indeed! Or another of his renowned sayings is “We need to place our nation’s growth not on the Rockefellers but on the ‘little’ fellers because if we do it will be based on genius and not greed!”
Why we insist on wasting our money and resources on these wealthy Americans is beyond comprehension. In fact, when we in the United States attempt to establish programs to benefit the masses, they’ll attempt to malign us, divide us and destabilize our efforts while promoting myths such as “trickle down”.
In 1985, one of my friends accused me of being a “secular humanist”. “What on earth is that?” I asked. She said, “You’re more concerned about the physical welfare and well-being of the people then you are about their souls.” I said, ” Yeah, that’s me.” She then proceeded to criticize me, of course.
This is myth number two: in the religious sphere under Reagan and W. Bush there was “faith-based everything” and secular humanist criticism. (Amazingly, there was an effort to take out anything considered secular humanist in schoolbooks in some districts across the country during this period.) Basically, this was a means of discouraging the lack of support for programs and activities involved in hands-on support for the poor. “Just pray”, was the answer. “People are on their own”, it was inferred. It’s their fault if they don’t have good health coverage, good schools, good food, or a job. Obviously they haven’t prayed enough. God is looking at them with disdain as a result. If their environment is polluted, tell them to pray. Keep out of the public sphere. Leave it to the corporations or the free market to handle this. After all the market place is miraculous-it will take care of everything. And besides, people need to adapt and figure out these problems by themselves. Basically, the message from the right-wing was “don’t organize against anything. Go to church.”
The undermining of “secular humanism” in the United States is comparable to the Catholic Church’s ousting of the liberation priests who sided with the oppressed poor throughout the Third World. All of this was occurring at about the same time period. With liberation theology, finally the Catholic Church was doing something relevant for the poor, but the Church ultimately opposed this.
Liberation priests were a thorn in the side of the ruling elite throughout the Third World and of western multi-national corporations. Much to the chagrin of the corporations, the priests, for one, were helping to organize against corporate exploiters. The corporate elite was not about to let this continue whether it was by Catholics or Protestants. While in the Philippines in the late 1980’s I met a number of the liberation priests whose lives were threatened by the military and paramilitary when the church turned against them.
The reality is that the most outspoken religious leaders in America don’t appear to have a vested interest in the poor or programs that will benefit the poor through sustainable economic development. Witness the vengeance by the Reverend Pat “Assassination” Robertson, who was president of the Christian Coalition, against the late President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela. Chavez’s remarkable programs to assist the poor and his attempts to build sustainable wealth in poor communities through cooperatives and other collective measures, were obviously threatening to the Reverend. He seemingly couldn’t handle the thought of empowered poor communities and certainly had no interest in a distribution of wealth.
Karl Marx was correct when he stated that religion is the “opiate” of the masses – at least the corporate leaders were doing their best to force the evangelical version of it down our throats so the last thing we would think about is their excessively decadent profits and stop us from organizing against their oppression. Clearly, the bond between conservative religious leaders in the world and multinational corporations is a deadly alliance.
In the 1990’s Hillary Clinton wisely stated, “It takes a village to raise a child.” I appreciated her articulating what I’ve always known – yet thought what she said was innocuous – a given – everyone knows this as true – I didn’t give it a second thought. Suddenly Clinton received a maelstrom of criticism from the Republican leadership and religious conservatives. I was astounded at this. Why this simultaneous outcry from the right-wing?
Clinton was stating basically that we’re all in this together. We are engaged in a “social contract” which incorporates a responsibility for the whole. No one is isolated. We bear responsibility for all children in terms of the funding and support of schools, of the environment, good food, of the support systems such as fire, police, and virtually everything in our local, national governments and international extended communities. And, it takes this “village” of all of us to nurture and raise all of our children.
This is myth number three: in the social sphere, “individual responsibility” is claimed to be sacrosanct by these corporate strategists and Clinton had violated their mantra by suggesting otherwise. They obviously want us to forget that we are part of a community. They wanted us to think that it’s us and our family against the world. Grab what you can for yourself and don’t even consider the consequences. It’s making money and material accumulation that bring you success and means that God shines “his” blessings on you. They want an end to government programs for the poor and to hand over the welfare of the masses to the “free” market. Think also of W. Bush’s efforts to privatize social security that would have been a disaster!
The hypocrisy here is rather astounding. The corporate elite in the U.S. seemingly doesn’t sneeze without informing others in the corporate world. The last thing they want is competition. In fact, they are excessively collective in action and spirit – “village minded” you might say. They sit on each other’s boards and consistently support and assist each other. They want us underlings, however, to fight among ourselves and certainly not to cooperate as they do. This is the classic case of “divide and rule” and they’ve unfortunately been successful at this game.
Further, the so-called rugged individualism was never a reality in the United States. Going west always required a community of individuals working together in order for families and communities to survive effectively. “Individualism”, therefore, is myth in American lore from the American west, rather like the Southern elite’s efforts (known as the “Lost Cause”) after the Civil War to romanticize an aristocratic gentile South with smiling contented Black slaves in the cotton fields. It’s all a myth!
In some ways, what the corporate community has done in the United States through the increase of “neoliberal economics” serves as a substitute of the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) imposed structural adjustment programs. As the U.S., for example, is not taking out IMF loans, the corporate controlled IMF couldn’t require that the United States end its social programs as a structural adjustment prerequisite for loan acquisition as it has done throughout the so-called “developing” world. Instead, the corporate world seeks and accomplishes the same goals in the west through use of propagandizing these myths and through political control of Congress and the White House.
All of these lies and manipulation have led to an ill-informed population and a disastrous Republican’s party’s ill-informed and disastrous candidate, Donald Trump, to play to the fears of the manipulated masses. All of this coupled with dangerous violent tendencies. The Republicans have themselves to blame for it all.
The above myths and lies in economics, religion and social concepts are the foundation of neoliberalism ideology that the U.S. and the world’s capitalists are attempting to impose everywhere in the world. I must say that the 2011 Occupy Movement helped to, importantly, alert the public to the dramatic inequities in the American society as the 1% versus 99% is now ingrained in the American psyche. But it’s way past time for a vigorous, coordinated and collective anti-corporate propaganda attack of our own in America, but based on reality and not myths. With crony capitalism running amuck in the United States and the world, it’s clear we have nothing to lose and everything to gain.
As mentioned, it’s time for Americans to counter the manipulation of the right-wing and explore all the various economic and social options before us, as in: “What is capitalism?”, “What is socialism?”, “What is communism?”, “What is a mixed-economy?” “What is best to empower the masses of the people for the benefit of all rather than the empowerment of the military industrial complex and corporate elite in America?”
Needless to say, the Cold War and its rigid control after WWII didn’t allow us in America, and those throughout much of the world, an opportunity to dialogue and explore many of these above options and this was further compounded by the likes of Strauss and his conservative followers primarily since Reagan. But we can act now regardless of what happens with the presidential elections.
Also, we all should look at the Black Lives Matter Platform for excellent contemporary answers and options and organize around them. We should also explore Jack O’Dell’s important “Democracy Charter”.
We can do this! The time is now!
HEATHER GRAY is the producer of “Just Peace” on WRFG-Atlanta 89.3 FM covering local, regional, national and international news. She lives in Atlanta, Georgia and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.