Opinion, by Darren Clarke, November 29, 2020
On November 13, 2020, the Ontario government announced that, in lieu of the recent spike in Covid infections, it would be re-upping social restrictions. Immediately my social media pages lit up. The posts from friends and family were hallmarked by real anger, understandable fear and frustration, along with some bad math, bad information and conspiracy videos.
So, just another day in the never ending month of March really.
In most cases I get it. People are having their jobs and businesses threatened, are wondering how they are going to continue to pay their mortgage or rent, how they are going to keep their businesses from closing, how they are going to take care of their families. I even get it when I see good people desperately wanting the whole thing to not be valid and just go away.
On a basic everyday human level 2020 has robbed us of (or at least put a significant damper upon) so much that is vital about being alive- friends and family, concerts, sports, community gatherings of all kinds, wings and beer while watching a game inside your local bar. Just to name a few. I’m married so it’s not on my radar but I cannot imagine what the hell the dating world looks like at this point. So, yes, I get why there is frustration. Some of the other stuff though, is crazy. More to the point, it’s missing the point.
Let’s start right here with the point–
This was going to happen. A pandemic was going to happen because of who we are and what we do. A pandemic was going to happen and people were going to die in large numbers in places like the United States because of how they have designed their country.
Preventable deaths happening is in the design.
So, if we are going to talk about Covid in North America we need to talk about the design.
There is no more foolish an idea than the notion that once this passes we can go back to normal without more consequences to follow. Be it another pandemic or the continued disastrous effects of Climate Change, moments of reckoning will continue until we make meaningful changes to how we live.
The challenges presented by Covid are unprecedented to this generation and trying to understand the real time information, both globally and locally, ain’t easy. Not only is there a lot of moving parts, there is a lot of previously unexamined and sometimes, entirely new moving parts. At the heart of the larger pandemic though is the same old problems we have always faced. The cause of Covid, the reasons behind it spreading rapidly, the stress points causing North Americans to feel physically, mentally and financially, threatened, are clear, identifiable, well documented. Mostly, the reasons are who we are and what we do.
Yet for the most part we aren’t really talking about the factors that made this pandemic and its’ accompanying challenges as inevitable and destructive as they are. Despite humanity’s love for conspiracies we are seemingly willing to indulge in all conspiracies except the longstanding, provable one- Greed is burning down the house. Consider this from the Financial Post on November 26, 2020, “According to a report out this morning, the wealth of Canada’s top billionaires grew by $53 billion between April and October of this year, an increase of 28%. In a number of cases, the same billionaires who profited during the pandemic also moved quickly to cut pandemic pay for their low-paid workers, who continue to expose themselves to significant risks at work.”
Greed drives wealth inequality resulting in the dwindling of wealth for the middle and lower class. Accompanying the diminishing of wealth for the lower classes is a diminishing of reasonable contributions from the upper class to social safety nets and infrastructure leading to increased marginalization for the vulnerable. Greed has resulted in the political ascension of corporate and development interests that see regulations and protections for the masses, including public health care, as only impediments to increasing their wealth. Mostly, greed doesn’t care if you live or die unless it impacts their bottom line. Greed drives the weaponizing of misinformation via formal and informal media platforms to allow them to manufacture consent for their worst tendencies. Those same compromised media platforms work to inflame and confuse public discourse to prevent meaningful revolt to their pillaging of the land, people and resources of our communities.
Among the lessons from this pandemic should be the importance of being able to communicate with each other, to tap into information from legitimate, informed, sources about important things. Life and death things. So let’s take an honest look at where things are at, beginning with digging deeper into what we should be talking about but aren’t.
Burning Down the House (we’re sitting in)- Doubling Down on the Problem
In April of this year Gavi, The Vaccine Alliance, advised of, “The Five Reasons Pandemics Are Becoming More Likely.” Those five drivers are, 1) Global Travel, 2) Urbanization, 3) Climate Change, 4) Human-Animal Conflict, 5) Shortages of Health Care Workers.
All of these drivers for pandemics are within the span of human control. All of them. If we are going to understand anything about the pandemic we have to start with- We did this.
Early in this pandemic it was reported that the coronavirus originated in an unregulated wet market in Wuhan, China. Since that time scientists have questioned whether the virus was born in that market or was more the first super spreader event for the virus.
What is clear though is that a market in a densely populated city, a market symbolic of humanities disregard for the environment, life around us and regulation, was where the virus took flight.
In July of 2020, Inger Andersen, Executive Director of the United Nations Environmental Program noted, “The science is clear that if we keep exploiting wildlife and destroying our ecosystems, then we can expect to see a steady stream of these diseases jumping from animals to humans in the years ahead.”
The consequences life around us has been experiencing for decades informs the reckoning we are experiencing right now. The reckless choices we have made in regards to the environment simply being delivered back to their point of origin. A World Wild Life article from this September advised, “Globally, monitored population sizes of mammals, fish, birds, reptiles, and amphibians have declined an average of 68% between 1970 and 2016, according to World Wildlife Fund’s (WWF) Living Planet Report 2020.” The article further explains the implications of this decline, “As an important indicator of planetary health, these drastic species population trends signal a fundamentally broken relationship between humans and the natural world, the consequences of which—as demonstrated by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic—can be catastrophic.”
Respecting the environment and the life within it has always been the right thing to do, not just altruistically but pragmatically as well. What’s troubling is amidst the pandemic, governments, particularly Conservative governments in North America, have leveraged the threat of the virus to double down on removing environmental protections for water, air, land and wildlife.
To understand why the problem would be presenting itself as the solution amidst the hot mess of its’ most recent failure you have to consider the ongoing attack in North America upon anything providing a barrier to the increased profits for corporations and developers. You have to understand that the problem’s reluctance to change, the rigid, fatal, attraction to self-destruction is based on the fact they have invested in it. You have to understand big picture gains means nothing to them relative short term losses.
In the United States the Republican Party spent the last four years gutting environmental protections and public health infrastructure. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under former fossil fuel lobbyists (who openly viewed the environmental protection agency with contempt before joining), Scott Pruitt and Andrew Wheeler, becoming the antithesis of protection of the environment, enabling wanton destruction for short term profit.
The fact either Pruitt or Wheeler would be placed in charge of the EPA illustrates the predatory manner Conservative parties in North America view the environment with. The fact both men enabled former colleagues from their lobbying days to profit from threatening the environment and the life within it is everything you need to know about our biggest threats. As Chris Saeger, a spokesperson for the progressive watchdog group Accountable.US, told Salon.com, “Andrew Wheeler is overseeing policies that damage the air we breathe and water we drink while his associates benefit. This is a clear abuse of his taxpayer-funded position and ethics agreement.”
In Ontario the Conservative governments 2020 budget proposal undercuts the powers of local community environmental agencies in terms of regulating destructive development. The Ford government budget seeks to inflame this development by reducing and delegitimizing community environmental checks while simultaneously removing protections for endangered species.
Reflecting on the current state of the environment the 2020 Ontario Auditor General’s report further highlighted the Conservatives lack of concern for it. Sarah Buchanen of environmentaldefence.ca noted in a November 20, 2020 article- “Ontario’s Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk tabled a scathing annual report on environmental issues this week, blasting the Province once again for failing to do the bare minimum to fight climate change or protect the environment. According to Lysyk, Ontario’s government is failing to protect natural spaces and endangered species, ignoring critical climate change promises and targets, refusing to respect Ontarians’ right to participate in environmental decisions, and failing to properly track and measure biodiversity in protected areas.”
The conservative blueprint in the United States and Ontario can also be seen in Alberta where Greenpeace has reported that early in the pandemic Conservative premier Jason Kenney, “…issued an order exempting all facilities (other than water treatment plants) from reporting requirements under the province’s three main environmental laws. This makes the Alberta government the first Canadian government to use the public health emergency as cover for rolling back environmental protections (in the U.S., there are almost two dozen such initiatives).” Kenney meanwhile continues his all-our-eggs-in-one-basket approach to the Alberta Oil sands, which the Guardian reported, “… have been dubbed the largest – and most destructive – industrial project in human history.” He also, along with funding climate change denialism, has sought to close or privatize many of Alberta’s public parks.
And in Alberta all these attacks on the environment have been done in conjunction with billion dollar bailouts to private oil companies and the exorbitant public cost of the cleanup of wells abandoned by private companies. It is in essence pure swindle with the communities health, safety and tax dollars being sacrificed for corporate gain.
What is happening in the Alberta, Ontario, in the United States, is happening on a larger global basis where right wing governments are aggressively attacking any impediments to their status quo business model continuing to increase its’ wealth.
I hesitate to even use the term- right wing governments, as this isn’t about right vs left, it’s a more vertical than horizontal proposition, it’s entirely about up vs down. It’s entirely about the forces of wealth inequality.
Putting Wealth Before Our Welfare– The Forces of Wealth Inequality
First, I want to use the appropriate word for the small group that threatens not just wildlife and the environment but the welfare of the greater population- Plutocracy. I hate to use the word plutocracy because it’s the kind of word that makes people’s eyes glaze over in first year political-science classes, never mind every day conversation. But the phenomenon that is the plutocracy is too important, too impactful on our times, to not address explicitly. Kevin Phillips, author and political strategist to Richard Nixon, brought the idea of the United States as a plutocracy home in an interview with Kevin Moyers in 2004 saying, “…what you’ve got is that this is what money has done. It’s produced the fusion of money and government. And that is plutocracy… what we’ve seen in the ’80s and ’90s is that it’s taken control of both parties, pretty much taken control of the culture, and controls the whole dynamics of politics.”
In between 2004 and 2020 the Republican party in the United States became the full realization of a plutocratic sensibilities. In conjunction the plutocracy continue to devour national and local governments all over the globe. Why is Covid running rampant in the United States and flaring up in Canada? Why is the health and financial future of the larger portion of the population so precarious? Why we are being provided with this false choice- Vulnerable Life or the Economy? We can’t intelligently talk about these things if we aren’t addressing the hoarding of wealth by the ultra-rich, we can’t meaningfully act to make the world a sustainable place without talking about that synthesis of wealth and power and how that creates the fragile backdrop from which these threats generate.
Meanwhile, you can see the the strain between business interests and public health in the November 11, 2020, article from the Toronto Star’s Jennifer Yang, entitled, “Ontario rejected its own public health agency’s advice when it launched its colour-coded plan for COVID-19 restrictions.” The article illustrates the latest example of the Ontario Conservative government’s willful disconnect for public safety in combatting the Coronavirus, pointing out the difference between what public health officials suggested as checkpoints for having businesses open versus the more reckless checkpoints government officials ended up officially applying.
The conflict evidenced in the divide between the right-wing, conservative, government and public health officials is at its’ heart symbolic of the conflict between the interests of the small but influential, wealthy, ruling class and the interests of the other 99% of the population.
Given the proximity of the current threats to us, our friends and our family, it’s hard sometimes to see the greater forces at work. The ongoing impacts of wealth inequality means the average person often views their choices through the lens of clear and present danger. Living paycheque to paycheque (or somewhere close to that) necessitates that world view.
If we are going to understand the real threats to the real greater good we have to talk about what the plutocracy wants and how that impacts us. Mainly what they want is as few barriers as possible between them and more wealth.
In a nutshell there are two main barriers to the plutocracy expanding their wealth, 1) Protections for the environment and the wildlife within, 2) Protections for us. And as we are learning, these two things are really just one thing.
It’s been hard not to notice that most of the subsidizing of people and small businesses has generated from the Federal Liberal government during this pandemic. The Conservative provincial governments have been loathe to make supportive gestures to small businesses and employees threatened by the need to close things down again. This is where a lot of the angst for people comes from. The uncertainty of getting through the next months. And it doesn’t have to be this way.
The, “pro-business,” Conservative parties are just showing you who they are though. They don’t just believe in wealth inequality, they enable it and often profit from it. That’s the problem right now.
For decades in North America the idea of government as a facilitator of business absent any function as a regulatory check has run rampant. You can see that sensibility in Reagan’s, “Trickle Down Economics,” or Doug Ford’s, “Run Government Like a Business,” mantra in Ontario. The overarching idea being that in order to have a healthy society all we have to do is get out of businesses way. But cultivating a healthy society is not what corporations or developers do.
Trickle Down Economics for instance suggested that all you had to do was give greedy people more wealth and it would magically trickle down. That’s just not how greed works.
I know using the word, “greedy,” seems inflammatory right? It’s not. It is precisely what corporations design themselves as. Greed is the ambition corporations have decided to make, not just central to who they are, it’s the all encompassing mandate for their existence.
The existence of corporations is fundamentally tied to a self imposed mandate to constantly increase profits. That’s what they do and who they are. There is a common confusion that making profit for shareholders is a legal mandate. It’s not. It’s a design mandate. In 2012, corporate legal scholar, Cornell’s Lynn A. Stout explained the myth of the legal mandate for shareholder profit but in doing so explains how the mandate is in the design of the corporation within the market-
“In nearly all legal jurisdictions, disinterested and informed directors have the discretion to act in what they believe to be the interest of the business corporate entity, even if this differs from maximizing profits for present shareholders. Usually maximizing shareholder value is not a legal obligation, but the product of the pressure that activist shareholders, stock-based compensation schemes and financial markets impose on corporate directors.“
In a 2016 New York Times article Stroud expanded upon why Corporations choose to err on the side of short term profit, short term thinking ,“In other words, it is activist hedge funds and modern executive compensation practices — not corporate law — that drive so many of today’s public companies to myopically focus on short-term earnings; cut back on investment and innovation; mistreat their employees, customers and communities; and indulge in reckless, irresponsible and environmentally destructive behaviors.”
So the idea that the interests of corporations, developers and the politicians they insert into positions of power are in any way aligned with the best interests of the greater community is demonstrably false.
They do not care about you, the future, evolution of humanity, preservation of nature and life. That’s not their mandate. Immediate profit is. Fair hiring practices, community outreach, charitable endeavours, support of social movements, this is all posturing. Noble in pretence at times sure but in the end it is all open to being undercut at the first sign it threatens the only thing that truly matters- more profit.
Understand that blind desire for profit at any cost is only thing coded into their DNA and you understand everything that drives the worst aspects of humanity. The very things that are driving climate change and this pandemic.
In the United States, the self professed, “Wealthiest Country in the World,” we have the perfect illustration of what happens when a pandemic intersects with the purest form of the corporate ideal, what writer Sarah Kendzior refers to as a, “transnational crime syndicate masquerading as a government.” The Trump lead Republican Party.
The fact Covid has run rampant against the backdrop of a fully corrupt party pillaging America was completely predictable. The potent mix of predatory capitalism devouring their health care system, leading to prohibitively expensive for some, unattainable for others, access to healthcare, along with the purposeful economic and social disenfranchisement of millions of others was the perfect context for the tragedy we have watched unfold.
A September 2020 articles by Reuters spoke of wealth inequality being largely unchanged under the Trump administration. It’s important to note exactly what that status is though, “Wealth inequality was largely unchanged, with the top 10% of families holding about 71% of family wealth in 2019, roughly the same as in 2016, the Fed found in its latest Survey of Consumer Finances, conducted every three years.”
It’s worthy of note that in a time where Trump provided tax breaks to billionaires deepened national debt despite a robust economy, increased the Estate Tax Exemption (inheritance tax) from 5 million-dollars to 11.4 million per person (so that a married couple would be entitled to a 22.8 million exemption) this loss of government revenue coincided with egregious cuts to services and protections for the population at large. Some of those cuts undermining the United States ability to protect its’ citizens from Covid. In April of 2020, Business Insider wrote of the numerous cuts to programs central to dealing with a pandemic namely-
- “The White House disbanded the National Security Council’s pandemic response team in May 2018, and two top officials in charge of the response were either fired or abruptly left the administration.”
- “Later that year (2017), a bureaucratic fight within the Department of Homeland Security led to the wind-down of a program that created models about how pandemics would affect critical infrastructure, Politico reported.“
- “October 2019: The Trump administration declines to renew funding for a pandemic early warning system”
The Republican Party has also consistently attempted to make even larger cuts to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), with Christopher Sellers, an expert in the environment and health at Stony Brook University telling The Guardian in March, 2020, “The administration has repeatedly and systematically corroded critical parts of the CDC. This was just begging for an epidemic to hit us. It was a perfect storm of lack of preparation.”
Cuts have consequences. With the global right wing playbook consistently and aggressively targeting public infrastructure, we need to talk about this. In this case those cuts clearly cost people their lives. Disproportionately it cost the most vulnerable, those at the bottom of the wealth inequality scale, their lives.
A World Economic Forum article from October of this year pointed out on the main impacts of the pandemic, “1- As well as a public health crisis, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on poverty levels and inequality. 2- Women, alongside the poor, elderly, disabled and migrant populations, have borne the brunt of the fallout from the pandemic. 3- Minorities have been hit harder and are recovering more slowly from the downturn.”
The article further goes on to point to the increase in wealth inequality with the pandemic being a, “boon to the ultra-rich,” that the US has the highest level of wealth inequality of high-income countries and how this inequity has deep historical and future implications, “An individual’s future is largely determined by their parents’ income. In 2020 alone, children will inherit around $764 billion and pay an average of just 2.1% on this income. By contrast for working people, the average tax rate is 15.8%, seven times more. These disparities are further skewed by race, and the racial wealth gap is even larger than it was in 1968, at the peak of the struggle for civil rights.
A 2020 Time Magazine article provided twelve examples where the Trump policies negatively, insidiously, deepened social inequality, “1) Weakening shields for payday-loan recipients, 2) Shutting transgender people out of housing, 3) Working to block access to birth control, 4) Constructing new barriers for migrants, 5) Limiting access to food stamps, 6) Pushing to reduce access to future benefits (note- i.e. slowing the growth of the federal poverty line so as to strip millions of low-income Americans, including seniors and people with disabilities, of benefits like Medicaid and prescription-drug funds over 10 years), 7) Trying to tie access to basic health care to work, 8) Shifting an additional burden to rape survivors (note- in a legal context), 9) Blocking trans troops from the military, 10) Reducing Native Americans’ land, 11) Deterring travellers from predominantly muslim countries, 12) Obstructing access to abortion.”
The trend here is towards disenfranchisement with economic consequences. The attack is based on the same assumption that the attack on the environment is predicated upon- That people won’t care. Or, at least, not enough people will care. Wealth inequality doesn’t have to be, but it is and it is by design. Being poor shouldn’t make you more vulnerable to a preventable death but it does and it is by design.
Similar to the attacks on the environment though, people should care. As Dr. Alicia Fernandez, a professor of medicine at the University of California San Francisco, whose research focuses on health care disparities, said in May to NPR, “I think it’s incumbent on all of us to realize that the health of all of us depends on the health of each of us.”
In Ontario, Long Term Care Homes (LTC’s) were targeted for decreased regulation and funding by the Conservative government. Shortly after taking power the Ford government cut inspections, from the mandatory one per year down to pretty much zero so that in 2019 only 9 of 626 homes were inspected. Prior to covid the Ford government also cut LTC funding by 34-million, rejected the Ontario Medical Association’s calls for more physician support at LTC’s, removed training requirements for nursing home workers mid-pandemic and ignored calls to limit health workers to a single nursing home.
Again, cuts have consequences. The contempt shown for the needs of most vulnerable has consequences. As the pandemic has shown the collateral damage for the intended consequence of the rich getting richer is the poor getting dead.
The World Economic Forum went on to illustrate how Covid has only further elevated the billionaire class, “Between 1980 and 2020, billionaires in the US saw their wealth soar by 1,130%, increasing more than 200 faster than median wages. At the same time, the tax obligations of billionaires in the US declined by 78% between 1980 and 2018 (measured as a percentage of their wealth).”
This deepening of wealth inequality and accompanying increased vulnerability of the masses being, again, by design.
In many ways, what is happening within America is what they long perpetrated on other countries via their foreign policy. You can see that template in play in Central and South America in the 1970s. A foreign policy (generated by the same people who vilify socialism) that leveraged a tax payer funded military to solidify and expand the wealth and influence of the plutocracy. What we are witnessing in America right now is simply that same playbook just being played out domestically.
In Canada that playbook is being used by Conservative premiers. Most obviously in Alberta by Jason Kenney and Doug Ford in Ontario. In addition to their dismantling of environmental protections and enabling of predatory businesses both have started to privatize the hugely popular universal healthcare system in their province. Public healthcare has been one of Canada’s most effective weapons against a pandemic and is supported by 94% (2011) of the population (note- it’s hard to find current stats on this but public healthcare support seems to fall somewhere between 85 and 94% historically). The United States has proven that privatized health care is more expensive and less accessible. So why would public healthcare in Canada constantly threatened by Conservative parties?
Because there’s more money to be made for the plutocracy.
The rise of the plutocracy in North America explains how, even with an abundance of overall wealth, so many workers and businesses are threatened by the fallout of the pandemic. How this could be perpetrated though is the question. For that we have to further look at the corruption, the complete capitulation, of conservative parties in North America to enabling the plutocracy. We have to look at the gutting of Canadian media by foreign interests and how those media outlets create narratives that propel Conservative parties to power,
The plutocracy is more than just the synthesis of wealth and government at this point. It is the synthesis of wealth, government and the means to power.
The Assimilation of Media and Government by the Plutocracy– The Enabling of Wealth Inequity
First, we need to talk hedge funds. And to break down what hedge funds do we can look to this exchange from the movie, Pretty Woman, wherein successful hedge fund executive Edward is explaining to Julia Roberts character, Vivian, what he does for a living-
Vivian: And you don’t make anything…
Vivian: … and you don’t build anything.
Vivian: So whaddaya’ do with the companies once you buy ’em?
Edward: I sell them.
[Viv reaches for his tie.]
Vivian: Here, let me do that… You sell them?
Edward: Well, I… don’t sell the whole company, I break it up into pieces, and then I sell that off, it’s worth more than the whole.
Vivian: So, it’s sort of like, um… stealing cars and selling ’em for parts, right?
Edward: [sighs exasperatedly] Yeah, sort of. But legal.
Everything you need to know about what what hedge funds are in one scene from Pretty Woman.
Not only are hedge funds interwoven into the corruption of our governments and our information systems they are, in and of themselves, symbols of the rot at foundation of who we are and what we do.
Why has government become more corrupt? Because big business has become more corrupt and more aggressively insinuated itself into government. Corporations, hedge funds, developers, look to insinuate themselves into government to remove barriers to more audacious levels of corruption. It’s the kind of vicious cycle that provides the perfect conditions for America to be run by a, “transnational crime syndicate.”
Remember, after the economic crisis in 2008 that had America on the edge of financial ruin, work was done to try to prevent future financial crises due to reckless investment and speculation. The result was the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act in 2010. A key component of Dodd-Frank was the Volcker rule that Investopedia describes as , “…restricts the ways banks can invest, limiting speculative trading, and eliminating proprietary trading. Banks are not allowed to be involved with hedge funds or private equity firms, which are considered too risky. In an effort to minimize possible conflicts of interest, financial firms are not allowed to trade proprietarily without sufficient “skin in the game.”
In 2018 the Trump government rolled back major portions of the Dodd-Frank act, including the Volcker rule, thus re-opening America for more reckless looting. And that looting by the plutocracy isn’t limited to corporations and investor groups. No, that synthesis of wealth and power also provides for massive corruption by elected officials. Take Republican Senator David Perdue from Georgia with the Daily Beast reporting, “Perdue acquired stock in a U.S. Navy contractor as he took control of the Senate subcommittee with jurisdiction over the Navy and sold it off as he helped increase the contractor’s business. The senator also bought shares in an Atlanta-based debit card company after pushing to weaken industry regulations, and appeared to time purchases and sales around key events such as a merger.”
The Daily Beast article further offered that Purdue, along with a few other members of the Senate, has more recently been investigated for further acts of corruption, “The Georgia Republican’s history of trades has come under close scrutiny after he reported purchases and sales of stocks in companies that were likely to be affected by the pandemic. The most controversial of those sales came after closed-door Senate briefings about the spread of the coronavirus in January.” Prosecutors with Bill Barr’s Department of Justice found that there was no evidence of Perdue’s stock activities being based on non-public information. While one can speculate as to the integrity of the investigation one can’t deny the benefits Perdue reaped from his actions as laid out in an AP News story on November 24, 2020-
“On Jan. 23, as word spread through Congress that the coronavirus posed a major economic and public health threat, Perdue sold off $1 million to $5 million in Cardlytics stock at $86 a share before it plunged, according to congressional disclosures.
Weeks later, in March, after the company’s stock plunged further following an unexpected leadership shakeup and lower-than-forecast earnings, Perdue bought the stock back for $30 a share, investing between $200,000 and $500,000. Those shares have now quadrupled in value, closing at $121 a share on Tuesday.”
In February after telling the average person via Fox News that the economy was strong and that President Donald Trump was, “executing the greatest economic turnaround in U.S. history,” Perdue simultaneously, “dumped some company stocks, while investing in others — like protective equipment maker DuPont and pharmaceutical company Pfizer — that were poised to do well during the pandemic.”
A few things to consider here- First, the possibility of government officials leveraging non-public information isn’t limited to Perdue. In just one example of a larger malaise, also from the same AP News article, “Republican Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina drew the most attention and stepped down as Senate Intelligence Committee chair amid a probe of his sale of upward of $1.7 million in stock, which came when he was privately warning some well-heeled constituents about the virus while publicly downplaying the threat.” Second, and this is the point here, the fact the possibility of elected officials legally trading stocks, enriching themselves, via information from sources the average person doesn’t have access to, the fact that exists is a problem. Never mind that elected officials can also influence the success of various businesses via legislation and regulation. That’s a massive design flaw. In and of itself the fact these opportunities exist is the ultimate testament to the depths of the corruption in government and the ultimate testimony to the ascension of the plutocratic design.
Why am I talking so much about the Republicans in the United States? While the parallels in terms of attacks on regulation, health care point and the disenfranchised points to shared sensibilities there are often times the same people behind the wheel. To appreciate this we can look at the International Democratic Union and hedge funds in general which both provide cautionary tales for how the plutocracy manufactures consent via propaganda networks. While the shared sensibilities and playbook with Canada’s Conservative parties are obvious, what might be less obvious is they often are supported by the same people. For example, hedge funds.
Of Canada’s major news outlets- The National Post, The Toronto Sun, The Montreal Gazette, The Ottawa Citizen, The Vancouver Sun, The Calgary Herald, The Calgary Sun, The Ottawa Sun, and more recently the Toronto Star, are all owned by Post Media. This is not a comprehensive list of major dailies owned by Post Media nor does it include the numerous local papers it owns.
How the American hedge funds that own a significant part of much of Canadian print and online media operate is breathtakingly manipulative. Take the National Post. Not only does the hedge fund own the National Post they also purchased the National Post’s debt for a fraction of the full debt. Marc Edge, Professor of Media and Communication, University Canada West, provided this breakdown of the relationship in The Conversation in 2018-
“Postmedia had operating earnings of $54.6 million on revenues of $754 million in its 2017 fiscal year ended Aug. 31, for a profit margin of 7.2 per cent.
Fully 60 per cent of its earnings, however, went to pay the interest on Postmedia’s massive debt, most of which is perversely held at usurious interest rates by its own hedge fund overlords, which are skimming their take right off the top in a nifty piece of financial engineering.“
As Vivian said, “So, it’s sort of like, um… stealing cars and selling ’em for parts, right?“
A Medium article from February 2017 referencing Sheelah Kolhatkar‘s book, Black Edge: Inside Information, Dirty Money, and the Quest to Bring Down the Most Wanted Man on Wall Street broke down the wealth and inherent influence of hedge funds, “By 2015 hedge funds controlled almost $3 trillion in assets around the world and were a driving force behind the extreme wealth disequilibrium of the early twenty-first century.”
I could go on about the inherent lack of morality of hedge funds- the complete disregard they have for people jobs and livelihoods, for laws and the remotest conception of consideration for the communities they impact. But you get it. When you are hearing, “We don’t have enough money to support people and small businesses through this pandemic!” you should be hearing, “We do, but we’re are hoarding it.”
Life is not part of the hedge fund design.
Coopting politicians and distorting public discourse however is.
Let’s look at the enormous rise in hedge fund campaign contributions since the 2010 Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision opened up the possibility of exorbitant campaign contributions via indirect, “soft,” financing (Hard money contributions in the US which are made directly to candidates and are subject to limits and regulation, soft money, money directed to the campaign, has no limits). A Public Citizen analysis of 2017-18 United States election cycle funding concluded, “… political donors whose wealth comes from the financial sector, including several prominent hedge fund billionaires, were the largest reported funders of outside political groups. The top 100 individual donors gave a total of nearly $690 million to outside spending groups, with $359 million, or 52 percent, benefiting Democrats and $312 million, or 45 percent, benefiting Republicans. About $19 million, or 3 percent, benefited outside election groups that did not favor one party over another.”
Opensecrets.org tracking of specifically hedge fund campaign financing illustrates the intensity of the escalation of campaign financing in the States from 2000 where the total contributions to parties was just over 4-million dollars as compared to over 183-million in 2020.
That’s an investment.
And they aren’t just investing in influence of the Republican Party in the States. The angst so often on display in the Democratic Party- between progressives looking to strengthen public institutions and protections versus the centre-right more enamoured with the status quo is fuelled by this influence.
Right wing, plutocratic, influence goes well beyond hedge funds and manifests in international entities like the alt-right Atlas Network. The Atlas Network is funded in part by the Koch brothers whose influence on the Republican Party in the States helped move the party to the hard-authoritarian-right. The group also fuels Canadian Conservatism via supporting groups that shape public discourse, groups including the, The Taxpayers Federation and the Fraser Institute. The Atlas Network’s impact on Canadian Conservatism is most clearly seen in the influential Fraser Institute, with the website North99.org reporting, “In fact, the founder of the Atlas Network helped create the Fraser Institute, one of Canada’s leading think tanks, and a group that advocates for private health care in Canada.”
Similar to how the Atlas Network’s influence impacts democracies in Canada the United States and globally, so to is that of the International Democratic Union, an entity that rabble.ca described as a, “Munich-based alliance of the world’s centre-right to right-wing political parties, including the Republicans south of the border and the Conservative Party of Canada here, the reigning Likud Party in Israel and Hungary’s anti-immigrant Fidesz.”
If you’re not sure of how intertwined the global, plutocratic, movements are, consider the similarities in their slogans- In the United States there was Trump’s Republicans with, “Make America Great Again,” Canadian Conservative leader Erin O’Toole has, “Taking Canada Back,” the far right, pro-Brexit party managed, “Take Back Control,” Brazil’s radically right wing party lead by Jair Bolsonaro used, “Brazil Before Everything! God Above All!” and anti-immigrant Fiesz in Hungary’s slogan was, “For us, Hungary first!”
The International Democratic Union is chaired currently by former Canadian Prime Minister and until January of this year, board member of the Conservative Fund Canada (the financial arm of the national party) Stephen Harper.
It’s worth pausing now to consider Harper’s May 2020 article in the Wall Street Journal on the necessary political reactions to a pandemic fueled by lack of regulation, dismantling of public agencies like the Center for Disease Control and the costly and often inaccessible nature of privitized health care. His suggestion? Less government, “What has happened in this crisis so far is not an indicator of the future. A new era of big government in the economy is unlikely, undesirable and far from inevitable.”
There are lessons to be learned from the pandemic but the global conservative movement, fuelled by the plutocracy is determined not to learn them. They have too much invested in prologing the problem to do anything other than war against the solution.
One of the weapons in the arsenal of the plutocracy is their media/propoganda wings. For instance Post Media’s Toronto Sun. For instance, Brian Lilley.
Media Bias/Fact Check rates The Sun as having a, “right bias,” analysing their reporting to be, “Overall, we rate the Toronto Sun, Right Biased based on story selection and editorial positions that favor the right and Mixed for factual reporting due to a lack of sourcing and scientific positions that do not align with the consensus of science.”
Brian Lilley writes for the Sun having left the, “media,” outfit he cofounded, The Rebel, after it apparently had gone too far to the right for even him during the Trump Presidency, telling CTV News, “I don’t think these guys are racist, but I think there’s… ahh, it’s getting too close for these guys.” It bears mentioning though that The Rebel has always been to sober journalism what Sam Kinison is to quiet bedtime story telling. At the French Leaders Debate in the last Federal Election Rebel reporter Keean Brexte chose to obsess about Justin Trudeau’s use of blackface from years earlier and make an absurd insinuation regarding Trudeau’s time as a teacher (1998-2001) at West Point Grey Academy. The question, which I hesitate to repeat here as it is such a scummy insinuation, was predicated on a one of Trudeau’s fellow teachers at the Academy, Christopher Ingvaldson, being arrested, some nine years after Trudeau had left the Academy, in 2010, and charged with four counts of possessing and distributing child pornography. We’ll return to The Rebel in a moment but it’s important to note what the paper Lilley cofounded was and is- a Conservative Party advocate masquerading as a media outlet so as to undermine any opposition to the Conservative agenda via means that the public would traditionally reject if employed by the party.
Lilley’s reporting on Covid has undermined reasonable public discourse and instead inflamed it. Consider his October 7, 2020 article wherein he seeks to undermine concerns for the covid death toll by abstracting the totals and never providing actual, real, numbers. Here’s the opening two paragraphs from the article-
“Were it not for long-term care deaths, Ontario’s handling of COVID-19 would have been exemplary. Beyond those who died in the homes where our loved ones go to spend their last days, the reality is only a very small proportion of the population has died from COVID-19.
A review of just-released data on deaths in long-term care though shows that while the province was hard hit, it really was not that much worse than a bad flu season when it came to fatalities for our most vulnerable.“
The level of artful dishonesty here is sublime. “Were it not for the bad things this wouldn’t be a bad thing.” “It was only the most vulnerable people that died.”
Looking deeper into the article, while Lilly never provides explicit numbers or a link to the data he is using he does acknowledge that, well, there were a few bad months, “A review of death statistics from January through June shows that in three out of five months, the number of deaths in 2020 was lower than the six-year average. It was only in April and May that the death count was above the average.”
The art of what Lilley does here is abstracting the data to skew the integrity of the numbers, while underselling the truth and overselling the inflammatory. The end result for public discourse is that the oversell is the main takeaway for a lot of people. The takeaway in turn feeds into unexplored emotional reactions- fear and denial, to being faced with a complex and deadly problem.
Similarly, Anthony Furey writes for the Sun and alt-right screeching post, True North. His latest article in the Sun on October 8th (and still being widely circulated) was entitled, “Ontario death count includes people who didn’t die of COVID-19, but exactly how many is unknown.” That’s the title, that’s the click bait and too often it is all that people will digest from the article. What is actually happening is a little more complicated as a quote from Dr. Vivek Goel, a former President and CEO of Public Health Ontario, clarified later in the article, “Generally, it can be difficult, even with a coroner’s report to make the determination of whether someone has died from or with COVID-19,” Goel explained in an email to the Sun. “For example, since COVID-19 is more severe in those with pre-existing conditions in someone with lung disease who gets COVID it will be hard to ascertain which contributed more.”
For those desperate to dismiss Covid this appears to be the final straw. But is it? You can really only post so many passive-agressive articles that question how impactful the coronavirus is in Canada before you’re clearly saying it isn’t. The two Toronto Sun writers effectively undermine the threat of the pandemic via abstraction and insinuation. It’s blatant but it’s also subtle. It’s not yelling FIRE! in a crowded theatre, it’s more nuanced than that. It’s whispering in a crowded theatre, “you know what could happen in a theatre?” then yelling, “FIRE!”.
An aspect of Canada’s covid numbers that somehow is left out of their writing is that the infection and death rates are suppressed because we have actively sought to social distance, wear masks and modify business and social settings. It wasn’t done perfectly but there was far less resistance and inconsistency here than in the United States. So, let’s look at their numbers to see how the the kind of denialism being indirectly advocated by the Toronto Sun writers works-
The CBC.ca reported on November 25, 2020, “Daily U.S. deaths from COVID-19 surpassed 2,000 for the first time since May this week. Hospitalizations reached a record 88,000 on Wednesday as the country recorded 2.3 million new infections in the past two weeks.”
As of November 27, 2020, worldometers.info has the United States at 271, 036 deaths. And if you’re thinking, “Maybe they are over reporting deaths in the US!?” Consider that it actually may be an undercount given in mid-October Statsnews reported that, “Now, in the most updated count to date, researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have found that nearly 300,000 more people in the United States died from late January to early October this year compared the average number of people who died in recent years. Just two-thirds of those deaths were counted as Covid-19 fatalities, highlighting how the official U.S. death count — now standing at about 220,000 — is not fully inclusive.
Meanwhile, at Post Media’s National Post, Rex Murphy, who Press Progress referred to in February of 2014 as, “Newfoundland’s most eligible keynote speaker at oil, gas and mining industry events all across the country,” in lieu of his frequent flyer approach to speaking at fossil fuel events, continues to bang the drum (alongside Stephen Harper) in the, “This moment of reckoning doesn’t mean we should change at all,” conga line.
In a November 24, 2020 article, leveraging the mostly imagined alt-right media obsession with the idea the Liberal government is secretly seeking to leverage the pandemic to entirely makeover the economy Murphy busted out his, east coast meets Shakespeare at a white collar rap battle, game, to take aim at the idea of change, “But how could COVID-19, a medical calamity, provide a rationale for a total economic makeover? When someone breaks an arm, who responds by saying, “It’s time to repair the roof”? Does someone with a headache see it as an opportunity to mow the lawn? I think not.”
You have to know Murphy is the guy at the intervention saying things like, “Have you ever considered smoking more crack though?” The fact the virus is a medical calamity made inevitable by the foundation of the economy was, of course, a reality Murphy was unwilling to entertain. That reality would interfere with his speaking engagement gig not to mention ruin a perfectly awful lawn mowing analogy.
I always struggle with the idea that ownership of newspapers would overtly pressure their writers, professional journalists, to compromise their craft. I’m sure it happens to an extent but if it were that prevalent I think we’d hear more about it. Right? What the likes of Murphy, Lilley and Furey illustrate though is that there is no need to corrupt good journalists when you can just hire corrupt journalists in the first place. As access to major platforms for that type of journalist becomes more obvious the incentive to compromise becomes more enticing.
The larger assault against honest public discourse in Canada is also evidenced in the consistent attacks on the Canada’s public broadcaster, the CBC, by Conservative Parties. An example of this assault would be Conservative opposition leader O’Toole tweeting in February, “The CBC is out of control and in need of reform. I’ll slash funding for English TV and CBC News Network, and end funding for digital news.”
O’Toole’s attack on the CBC mirrors those by Stephen Harper’s government while in power including in 2012, when the CBC reported on cuts to its’ funding, “Federal government cuts will mean the CBC loses $115 million in funding over three years, according to the budget released Thursday.” Those cuts of course were publicly applauded by Gregory Thomas of the Atlas Network’s Canadian Taxpayer Federation who wanted even deeper cuts, “People do have to remember that we’re talking about borrowed money here. The government is still running a substantial deficit.”
Now, I’m not going to suggest the CBC as an entity isn’t complicated. It is. So is the mainstream media. Yes, it is largely funded by corporations and hedge funds whose interests can be in conflict with the greater good of the community but it’s not like all the reporting is bad or entirely lacking in integrity. While the fundamentals of the ownership/journalism dynamic is wildly open to corruption it doesn’t mean it entirely is or can’t be navigated via some informed critical thinking. But against this backdrop of largely foreign and/or corporate owned news outlets and influencers, taxpayers investing in a platform for community conversations, ideally, untouched by compromised influence, seems more essential than ever. If you aren’t sure of the importance of a strong, uncompromised source of information for communities- take a look at those US death totals again. Death totals that testify to the dangerous power of misinformation.
For the record this is the CBC’s current mandate, “The mandate of Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC/Radio Canada) is to inform, enlighten and entertain; to contribute to the development of a shared national consciousness and identity; to reflect the regional and cultural diversity of Canada; and to contribute to the development of Canadian talent and culture. To achieve its mandate, the CBC/Radio Canada produces, procures, and distributes Canadian programming in English, French and eight Aboriginal languages and broadcasts a selection of programs around the world.”
It’s a solid mandate. If the CBC isn’t functioning in lockstep with its’ mandate then I would suggest the most important thing to do is fix it, not continue to underfund it or scrap it.
Formal news platforms however aren’t even the main source of misinformation, inflammatory pro-conservative bias and general sabotaging of public discourse. To begin to look at these other voices we have to start with the rabid, informal attack dogs, of the conservative social media in Canada- The Post Millennial, The Rebel, Ontario Proud, Canada Proud and True North, just to name a few.
The Post Millennial, Ontario Proud and Canada Proud are all attached on some level to former Stephen Harper employee and member of Erin O’Toole’s leadership team, Jeff Ballingall. In July 2019 I did an article on Ontario Proud, a group funded mainly by Conservative donors, being leveraged as a work around to campaign finance laws. What Ontario Proud offers the greater community is not pretty. Mostly Ontario Proud concentrates on inflaming hate against Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau- be it for the socks he wears, his dislike of plastic straws, etc. but of course there’s more to it, “This is the art of the Ontario Proud lie. It’s distortion through proportion. It’s persuading through inflaming. The lie is not being overt about who they are and who anybody else is. What Ontario Proud amounts to is a Conservative Party attack dog. Not only does Ontario Proud allow the party to in essence circumvent campaign finance laws it allows for a level of loose-with-the-truth mud slinging that traditionally political parties have been reluctant to engage in. Why? Well, the fear would be that sooner or later decent people will reject being associated with rampant negativity and dishonesty.”
As a whole these would-be media groups want you to listen only to them. “Left Wing media,” (which as we’ve discussed, barely exists) “Mainstream media,” are the enemy. In the meantime they amplify the greater plutocratic messaging portraying the coronavirus as alarmism, i.e. Candice Malcolm’s October article in True North on the second wave of covid starting, “We need a reality check when it comes to the so-called “second wave” of COVID-19.”
The, “so-called,” second wave.
Malcolm also writes mostly inflammatory renderings of suspect information, for Post Media’s The Toronto Sun (you see the pattern here).
The Post Millennial meanwhile employs noted grifter and Anti-fascist alarmist, Andy Ngo, whose disingenuous inflation of the dangers presented by people who don’t like fascism was given a platform on Joe Rogan’s popular but less than journalistically rigorous podcast. The unchecked amplification of Ngo’s need for attention on Rogan’s podcast in part laying the groundwork for the President of the United States pretending that the protests against the latest indicators of hundreds of years of institutionalized violence, segregation and economic disenfranchisement inflicted against black people was less about that history and more about the myth of, “leftist extremists.”
Similarly when Rex Murphy rails against the, “Great Reset,” he’s doing so against a context created by the likes of the Post Millennial who have spent the past month chucking out an endless stream of stories about it. These layers of right wing propaganda aren’t just an echo chamber, they’re a repetition and amplification device.
The Media Bias/Fact Check website rates the Post Millenial as extreme right in its’ bias, “Overall, we rate The Post Millennial Right Biased based on story selection that favors the right and Mixed in reporting due to publishing unsubstantiated claims and having several failed fact checks.”
As mentioned earlier, Rebel News is likely the most objectionable of the wholly objectionable lot. Not a shred of decency resides in that site. Check it out if you’d like, I’m not linking to it. Here’s Media Bias/Fact Check’s take on them, “Overall, we rate The Rebel Right Biased based on story selection that always favors the right and Mixed for factual reporting due to poor sourcing techniques and consistent one sided reporting.”
Right wing parties leveraging suspect right wing media narratives to consolidate a voting base plays out similarly on either side of the American-Canadian border. Ontario Proud for instance had a profound impact on the last provincial election in Ontario surfing on suspect journalism in much the same way the Republican party glides the ocean of inflammatory commentary provided by Fox News.
Fox News rating on Media Bias/Fact Check website is, I would suggest a bit on the generous side, “Overall, we rate Fox News strongly Right-Biased due to editorial positions and story selection that favors the right. We also rate them Mixed factually and borderline Questionable based on poor sourcing and the spreading of conspiracy theories that later must be retracted after being widely shared. Further, Fox News would be rated a Questionable source based on numerous failed fact checks by hosts and pundits, however, straight news reporting is generally reliable, therefore we rate them Mixed for factual reporting.”
Beyond how these Conservative entities work within their own countries there is a crossover. Fox News has on a number of occasions fired shots at Justin Trudeau while Conservative platforms in Canada (see Conrad Black, Rex Murphy, Malcolm and the Rebel) have both directly and indirectly looked to provide support for Donald Trump and his agenda. On both sides of the border the handful of would-be conflict of interest accusations against the Liberal government in Canada were amplified ad nauseam while the 3,400 conflict of interest charges (and counting as of September, 2020) of the Trump regime were almost entirely ignored.
Beyond the conventional media and the new formal social media type outlets are ad-hoc crazies and Youtube neophytes trying to muddy the information waters. Facebook is a perfect platform for that. The Guardian reported in August in an article entitled, “Facebook is Funnelling readers towards Covid misinformation – study,” that over a half-a-billion people had viewed Covid misinformation in April alone. The Guardian article went on to explain how widespread the issue is on Facebook and the very real dangers of misinformation-
“False medical information can be deadly; researchers led by Bangladesh’s International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, writing in The American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, have suggested a single piece of coronavirus misinformation led to as many as to 800 deaths.“
“Pages from the top 10 sites peddling inaccurate information and conspiracy theories about health received almost four times as many views on Facebook as the top 10 reputable sites for health information, Avaaz warned in a report.”
Why are we struggling to appreciate the root problems our larger communities face, whether it be the coronavirus or anything else? Because there is a concerted effort to not allow us to. In fact there is a larger effort- via repetition and amplification to indoctrinate us into accepting the plutocratic agenda, the one that has driven climate change, provided the kindling and ongoing fuel for the virus, as being the only legitimate way to live.
Some of the misinformation is born of ego and narcissism but mainly it’s born of corruption and corralled for the greater purposes of right wing parties and the increasing of profit and power for the plutocracy.
The right wing’s work ethic, diligence, endless resources explains a degree of influencing public conversation and preventing important change. It doesn’t however fully explain the public’s warm reception to it.
How Complicit Are We?– Bad People Don’t Elect Themselves, We Do
Right wing governments, often authoritarian in design, don’t elect themselves. They need a significant slice of the population voting for them to do that. To understand this phenomenon we have to look at drivers like- religious extremism, racism, misogyny, anti-intellectualism, disenfranchisement of the traditionally entitled and the struggles to provide a compelling alternative to the status quo.
The plutocracy has no principles beyond profit- this is entirely an the end end justifies any means game. The exercise? To find issues, that if pandered to, will elicit the kind of loyalty that will allow the carnage that accompanies plutocratic rule. To find just enough people to turn a blind eye to plutocratic plundering in exchange for a gentle massage of a base’s worst inclinations.
Days after the election Dr. James Dobson of the Dr. James Dobson Family Institute, wrote a letter supporting Donald Trump, “He isn’t a perfect man, and his relationship with the Lord is a very private matter. But he attempted during the first four years of his presidency to get acquainted with, to honor, and to learn from Christian leaders.”
Dobson wrote this of course while Trump was trying to undermine legitimate election results in what amounted to an attempted coup. Dobson’s thoughts on that? “I won’t speculate on the voting controversy.”
Now, we could talk a long time about Donald Trump but I think any reasonable human being could agree, or at least struggle to refute, the idea he is the ultimate manifestation of the Seven Deadly Sins- pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, wrath, and sloth
The only real question here is why so many Christians are willing to subvert any real inclinations to decency, to caring for the plight of, “…the least of my brothers,” for such a horrible human being and his authoritarian regime. The answer? “Mr. Biden has told us emphatically that he will bring an open season on the unborn child.”
The fact the abortion debate has suddenly become more contentious in North America is this- the plutocracy sees it as a means to power. The anti-abortion crowd will vote for you, will run for you, will corrupt themselves for you, if you just hitch your wagon to their anti-abortion crusade.
In my opinion nobody should have a comfortable stance on abortion given what is in play. In the end though a woman’s body is entirely her domain to make choices in regards to.
Ultimately Donald Trump’s support from religious groups was entirely aligned with what he had to offer and their worst inclinations. The fact Trump’s offer was mysticism at best, a con at worst, accompanied by a dismissal of scientific thought- that was preaching to the choir. In many ways the only real power the Republicans offered followers was the freedom to not feel bound by decency, facts and science, by reality. It was entirely an, “alternative fact,” regime. Why? Because they knew that sells.
If the Cambridge Analtytica Scandal taught us anything it should be that the far right isn’t throwing darts blindly. Far from it. Indeed what they are doing is based upon intense, invasive, research on who we are, what we are afraid of and what we are willing to tolerate to have even the illusion of power.
Historically, currently, white America provides the strongest base for conservative governments. Generally what is the greater part of that base afraid of? Lessening degrees of entitlement, immigrants, change, black people.
Sure, various right wing media types created the myth of violent anti-fascists wantonly destroying cities as opposed to the reality of mostly peaceful protests against hundreds of years of violence discrimination. Those right wing types like the Post Millennial’s Andy Ngo were just selling though, somebody had to be willing to buy. Lots were. And not just to buy once but again and again.
Those selling the bogus left wing extremist narrative to frustrated white people of course neglected to mention that they were at the root of the white demographic’s larger frustrations- wealth inequality, shortening life spans, job uncertainty and disenfranchisement. Not only were they were enabling it, they were profiting off of it, for example, the opioid epidemic, a significant contributor to shortening life spans. The US National Library of Medicine advised in July of this year, “There is overwhelming evidence that the opioid crisis—which has cost hundreds of thousands of lives and trillions of dollars (and counting)—has been created or exacerbated by webs of influence woven by several pharmaceutical companies.” But of course there was more to the overall sense of anger. Front and centre, Racism.
Racism is an obvious lever to manipulate for the conservative movement given the United States has never fully reconciled itself to the sins of its’ past- Slavery, segregation, mass incarceration, all manner of economic/social discrimination and institutionalized violence.
When large scale protests began in the States this spring in the wake of a number of incidences of police violence against black people, culminating in the video of a policeman kneeling on the neck of George Floyd until he died, there was a need for thoughtful leadership. Problem was, the United States leader, the very embodiment of the synthesis of wealth and power, could offer only what the plutocracy offers- cynical opportunism. The fact Donald Trump chose to pour gas on the fire instead of trying to meaningfully address the United States densely woven history of systemic racism was everything you needed to know about his view of how effective pandering to racism would be in terms of his pursuit of power. Donald Trump was only playing to what he thought his base was- Racist. Deplorable.
The Migrant Caravan crisis the Republicans invented to coincide with the 2018 mid-term election is another example of playing to what they perceived as the worst tendencies of their supporters. The grossly inflated fears of caravans marching towards the United States to commit crime, steal jobs and generally undo American greatness, was founded entirely on political opportunism.
The result of all this fomenting of fear and hate? Kids in cages and family separation, often, by design, leading to children being placed outside their families reach or left to their own devices in circumstances no child should face alone. Again though, it’s just a lever to pull for the Conservative right. A dynamic that somehow gives white Americans the sense their lives are of more value than others simply based on where they were born and what skin they were born in.
And yes this is awful, privileged, behaviour. Beyond that though it’s missing the point that if you accept others being treated in that manner you are in essence granting the government carte blanche to do that to you. That phenomenon and how it informs the tragic death toll from Covid is best captured in a tweet by Sarah Kendzidor of Gaslit Nation, “The Trump admin committed crimes against humanity. Two of the worst: 1) purposefully separating and abusing migrant families 2) letting covid-19 run rampant while denying medical staff protective equipment and citizens access to care.”
It’s through that lens that we should further consider the nationalist, global, right-wing, rhetoric-
Make America Great Again.
Taking Canda back
For us, Hungary first!
Brazil Before Everything! God Above All!
All this rhetoric is at it’s most simple and truthful ideology- Profit before People! All this rhetoric to tap into the cautionary truth Voltaire expressed with, “Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.”
So What Do We Do?– How Do We Change?
It’s fair to question why more compelling models for our future aren’t being presented to people. First, they are. The progressive movement in the Democratic Party in the United States offers a more humane, inclusive, kinder, sustainable, option to their party. Second, in so many countries around the globe support for sustainable forms of governing is contending with being drowned out by the endless propaganda of alt-right media outlets. Third, when people do get the messaging they are often afraid of it because change is scary and the sweet whisperings of the alt-right, via amplification and repetition, has sought to poison the messaging. If you’re unsure of that consider how words important to improving the lives of the average person have been denigrated by propaganda, words like- Regulation, public health care, equality, social programs, science, research, environmental protection.
The Coronavirus is a symptom of a larger problem. It is the most compelling recent symbol of a need for large scale change. Begging the question- How do we do that?
Well that’s hard. And while I have focused on laying out exactly where not to go for answers, where to go isn’t something I pretend to know fully. The infiltration of wealth and power into controlling our communities runs deep and is transnational. Being transnational means that, like exterminating in an apartment building, spraying one or two rooms means the invaders just move to another room.
This isn’t as simple as one man or one party. The roots of the greater malaise run deep. It’s not just part of who they are it’s part of who we are. You and I, we don’t get off the hook here. Almost all of us (leaving room for a few saints out there) in some way condone, participate, support, the plutocracy. And while it’s kind of hard not to given the how entrenched their influence is in our daily lives I think most of us know we could do more to support the right things.
If we’re looking for answers in terms of what we can do to begin to get the world to lean more in the direction of the greater interests of the life on the planet maybe we can find some of the answers in what the plutocracy tells us to most fear. Let’s start with cancel culture.
Nothing gets the right going quite like, “Cancel Culture,” which inspires them to act like a petulant teenager angry that fart jokes have suddenly fallen out of favour in college. How much has actually been cancelled by cancel culture is a fair question. But maybe more should be. Actions deserve consequences.
Here’s hoping we stop supporting and sharing dishonest, inflammatory, media sources like- True North, The Post Millennial, Fox News, The Toronto Sun, Ontario Proud, Canada Proud, Pick-your-province-Proud. And yeah, I’m all for cancelling Rex Murphy, Laura Ingraham and Tucker Carlson.
Let’s not vote for the Conservative Party or the Republican Party at any level. Hey, if they change, great, but let’s see it first. Let’s cancel everybody who supported the Trump regime’s reign of atrocities. Anybody who supported them in any way- Don’t buy a My Pillow, don’t watch Dana White’s UFC, don’t watch/listen to the Joe Rogan podcast (whose guests in the days prior to the election seemed determined to support Trump’s reelection, including, the far right, exercise in vanity, Glenn Greenwald, the horrible excuse for a human being Alex Jones and the winner of the Most Disingenuous Presidential Candidate Ever- Kanye West, whose sole purpose for running seemed to be to carve votes away from the Democrats) just for starters.
As far as any person who participated in the Trump administration- the Trump family, Bill Barr, Betsy Devos, any of the many lobbyists inserted into positions of power, and all the elected officials who did nothing over the four years of Trump’s narcissistic crime spree- hold them accountable. They got people killed. Don’t vote for them, don’t support them in any way and do not allow for them segueing into TV jobs. If they appear on a show as a guest- contact that show, stop watching that show. Generally, stop watching, clicking on, spending money on anything attached to the worst people in our society. And I will also add that we need to make other parties more accountable- The Liberal Party in Canada, The NDP, The Democratic Party in the States, heck, if you’re still that big of a fan of the Conservative Party in Canada, join the party and try to influence the agenda. Join, be active, provide feedback and let them know that your support is always conditional. No party in Canada or the States has shown itself wholly willing to protect the environment, to protect us, over the interests of the plutocracy so unconditional support simply inflames the problem.
In short- Don’t support bad things, do support good things. Work to remove the undue influence of real estate and development concerns at a local level. Support important means of communication for your community, i.e. the CBC and any thoughtful form of media. Do support local businesses that are positive parts of the community. Do support all manner of honest politician who cares about their community and shows it in their actions. Do support a living wage not just in North America but everywhere. Do support investments in education, public health, health care, community support agencies. Do support humane treatment for everybody whether they be inmates serving a sentence, asylum seekers looking for a better life, or any and all manner of the traditionally disenfranchised. Do it for them, do it for yourself.
This isn’t so much about cancel culture is it is making discerning choices about what you support.
The United Nations
The United Nations and the Deep State conspiracy theories are probably my favourite because they, like Cancel Culture, are such exercises in elaborate fantasy with little to no supporting evidence. More important to consider here is why the plutocracy and their propaganda platforms are so afraid of the very idea of them.
The plutocracies biggest strength in expanding their influence is their transnational nature. If you try to hold them accountable or even, slightly suggest they play nicer within your community, province, or country, they leverage the very real threat they will leave. Having devoured so much of the alternatives to what they offer to communities- jobs, goods and services, etc. that’s a significant threat.
A global check that means accountability will follow the plutocracy wherever they wheel off to would inhibit their profit before people interes
We need that.
How to manifest and maintain this kind of elaborate check on the plutocracy is a larger question. For the moment I ask you only to consider the importance of the fact a global check on a global threat is necessary.
Be an Activist
Oppose racism. Oppose destruction of the life around us and within our living environment. Oppose discrimination against the LGBTQ community. Be informed. Be active. Oppose voter supression.
Let’s support science. Let’s understand what it is. It’s not perfect but it’s the most qualified among us trying to understand the realities of our world. Let’s listen to scientists, doctors, poets, teachers, refrigerator salesmen, janitors- let’s leverage their expertise and try and reconcile it with the larger needs and concerns of humanity, wildlife and the environment.
I can’t stress enough how important acting to defend the life around us is to protecting the life that is us. In much the same way allowing immigrants to be mistreated informed how much of America would be mistreated by the Trump regime, how we allow the life around us to be treated informs how we will be treated. Right now we are understandably upset about an approximate deaths of a relatively small portion of the population due to Covid while 68% of wildlife on the planet has been wiped out over the past 50 years.
Nobody is free until we are all free.
And hey, I’m not here to pretend I am out there protesting. I’m not. That’s a failure on my part. A significant area of opportunity. History has shown that when we get up off our ass and protest in person change can and does happen.
“The Great Reset“
Since Rex Murphy and The Post Millennial gang keep talking about The Great Reset, hey, maybe it’s not such a bad idea. Given the status quo has brought us to climate and virus calamity maybe looking for a non-destructive way of life is a good idea. And maybe that idea isn’t all that foreign, maybe we can take some inspiration from Matthew 25:40, “…“Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.”
I’ve never really liked the least part of the line because it implies less than-grater than status but the spirit of the thing is on point. The takeaway from Covid-19 should be that it is a reckoning. That which we have done to the life around us along with the land, the water, the sky, we have done to ourselves.
Let the Great Reset begin with extending protections to the world around us in accordance with how we would ideally like to be treated.
I don’t know if we are capable of making the world a better place. I do know though that if we are going to, good people have to be able to get around all the disingenuous sources of discourse and really listen, really talk, with each other.
Or maybe, it’s just time to unleash the, “Deep State.”