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The Free Thought Project,The Daily Sheeple & FREEDOM OR ANARCHY Campaign of Conscience are dedicated to holding those who claim authority over our lives accountable. “Each of us has a unique part to play in the healing of the world.”
“Every record has been destroyed or falsified, every book rewritten, every picture has been repainted, every statue and street building has been renamed, every date has been altered. And the process is continuing day by day and minute by minute. History has stopped. Nothing exists except an endless present in which the Party is always right.” - George Orwell, 1984

"Until the philosophy which holds one race superior and another inferior is finally and permanently discredited and abandoned, everywhere is war and until there are no longer first-class and second-class citizens of any nation, until the color of a man's skin is of no more significance than the color of his eyes. And until the basic human rights are equally guaranteed to all without regard to race, there is war. And until that day, the dream of lasting peace, world citizenship, rule of international morality, will remain but a fleeting illusion to be pursued, but never attained... now everywhere is war." - - Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia - Popularized by Bob Marley in the song War

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Who Owns the State? Cannibals and vultures.

Who Owns the State?
Cannibals and vultures.


I have come to the conclusion that imperialism and exploitation are forms of cannibalism and, in fact, are precisely those forms of cannibalism that are most diabolical or evil.

– Jack D. Forbes

Recent events across the carnival of hokum midway make evident the nature of political systems, contradicting the articles of faith inculcated into the minds of the young by the state priesthood (i.e., civics class pedagogues). That some amorphous collective known as “We the people” own and direct the agency enjoying a legal monopoly on the exercise of violence across a nation has become a laughable proposition.

The pretense that competition for control of the machinery of state power has been vested in “the people” is often seen in the realpolitick of state action. The process by which popular sovereignty is supposedly exercised (i.e., “democracy”) is not as complete as might appear. The election of Donald Trump to the presidency has made increasing numbers of Americans aware of the existence of the “deep state.” Unelected and unidentified government officials’ power to thwart the results of a duly-constituted election has begun to awaken the suspicions of the dullest minds. While the votes were still being counted, and before the new president had even taken the oath of office, these hidden forces were already speaking of the need to impeach Mr. Trump! That no legal grounds could be found for doing so only increased the intensity, and absurdity of trumped up (pardon the pun) claims against him! The heretofore unasked question “who runs the government” began to blossom within passive minds.

Popular efforts by the electorate to create, amend, or repeal constitutional provisions or statutes are often met with judicial declarations of their unconstitutionality. Rarely is the question asked: if “the people” are the sovereign political authority, why is their collective will subject to judicial preemption? The same question applies to the charge that people ought not “take the law into their own hands.” Whose hands are to manipulate the machinery of state power if not the purported owners thereof?

As long as inquiries into the nature of political systems extend no further than exploring their “deep state” implications (i.e., the covert organizational framework, and persons – be they elected or appointed officials or career bureaucrats who constitute the government-within-the-government) they will never get to the core of the problems they pose to human well-being. They will tend to be seen, rather, as flaws to be remedied within the system itself by “responsible” men and women; the kinds of reforms criticized by Frank Chodorov as wanting to “clean up a brothel and yet leave the business intact.” It is the nature of the state itself, including the identity of the persons who own and control its operations, that requires focused, in-depth examination.

I have no quarrel with those who engage in “deep state” inquiries: indeed, such efforts are a good place to start to help people understand the inherently deceitful and corrupt nature of all political systems. A resilient state can withstand the embarrassment of its short-term defects being made public. It may even enhance its trustworthiness by creating remedies  and punish wrongdoers in the expectation of making changes to ensure that “problems like this never happen again.” This oft-recited mantra has become words of assurance to reinforce Boobus’s faith in the system that is systematically destroying mankind!

I have almost completed another book – titled “Please Don’t Feed the Cannibals! A Visitor’s Guide to the Human Zoo” – in which I explore the nature of political systems from a perspective never taught in a political science classroom. Borrowing from Plato’s three-part characterization of political society being comprised of the “men of gold, men of silver, and men of brass;” I treat these classes less glamourously as the Cannibals, the Vultures, and the Zombies. At the top of this pyramidal structure reside the Cannibals, whose lives and interests are sustained by consuming the energies of the Zombies, who have little or no control over the system, and who have been conditioned to be but resources for the Cannibal class. Between these two classes are the Vultures, whose roles are also to serve the Cannibals, but in controlling and providing the Zombies for the Cannibals. In the Vulture class are to be found politicians, judges, career bureaucrats, members of the mainstream media, military, many church officials, teachers and academicians, members of the entertainment industry, writers, and numerous others, all of whom derive their incomes and social status from helping to shape the minds and control the bodies of the subservient Zombies.
Why are entertainers included in the Vulture category? A brief examination of the television and Hollywood film industries reveal their connections to serving the cannibalistic state. Early Greek and Roman mythology spoke of nine goddesses – the muses – who inspired artistic, scientific, speculative thinking, and other creative expressions. Poets, painters and sculptors, musicians, and philosophers, were among the better known occupations whose creative works were said to have been inspired by the muses. But creativity produces change, and change is quite upsetting to the established order’s preferences for the status quo.

The entertainment industry’s function is to provide products that amuse people. The word “amuse” finds its meaning in how the word is organized: “a-muse,” to be without the creative spirits, the inspirations provided by the muses. Entertainment produces minds willing to be maintained in a passive state, their energies diverted from the focused, hard work associated with creative pursuits. When entertainers are separated from the scripts others have prepared for them to follow, they rarely have much of importance to say.

Another branch of the entertainment industry, sporting events,  has been taken over by the state’s war-making racket. In addition to the presence of military color-guards, the playing of the national anthem has raised the contrived issue of whether players should stand, or be allowed to kneel, during its performance. “Oh, the disrespect by those who refuse to stand!” Perhaps the most vulgar – if not sociopathic – institutional expression celebrating war I have recently seen is in Northwestern University’s football uniforms. Running from helmets to the players’ shoes, the uniforms are one blood- splattered American flag. Why no one seems to have suggested that a show of patriotism need not be incorporated into every public event, and that the conflict could easily be resolved by not having color-guards and Star-Spangled Banners preceding such events, is another example of the problems that can arise by asking the wrong questions. Eating at restaurants, or attending a movie theater, are not accompanied by these symbols of statism.

Other celebrity entertainers have been quick to abandon the civilizing sentiments that otherwise make life peaceful and decent. It is the advantages associated with public fame that allows many of them to blithely speak of killing Donald Trump, blowing up the White House, or prancing across a stage with a mock-up of Trump’s severed head. That so little moral contempt has been expressed by those conditioned to laugh or applaud the performances of these people, tells much about the state of our culture.
The roles of most teachers, academicians, and make-believe journalists are essentially the same: to condition and reinforce the belief in the necessity for children and adults to accept the political arrangement for living “responsible” lives. “Obedience to institutionally constituted authority” is the premier article of faith in our politically dominated world.

First century AD Roman Emperor, Tiberius, was neither the first nor the last political authority to bring the violent collective force of the state down upon those whose creative acts might have threatened the status quo. The writer, Petronius, informs us of an inventor who appeared before Tiberius to demonstrate a form of flexible glass he had created. Impressed by what he had seen, the emperor asked the inventor whether anyone else knew of his creation and, when told “no,” Tiberius ordered the man to be immediately beheaded, concerned that his creation might generate adverse consequences to certain members of the Roman economy. Modern inventors need not fear decapitation for their genius nor, as Ayn Rand suggested, be burned at the stake for having discovered how to start fire. Instead, the often multimillion dollar expenses of satisfying government regulatory and testing standards before being allowed to market their creations, often force inventors to abandon their undertakings, or to sell them to already established firms. Preston Tucker and John DeLorean, as well as Nikola Tesla and Wilhelm Reich, Lenny Bruce, Timothy Leary, and Ezra Pound have been the more recent persons to be victimized by the state – with some being imprisoned – for daring to challenge the status quo boundaries of permitted creative work. Perhaps the First Amendment was intended, by the Founders, as a protection for the broadest then known forms of expressing the ideas, sentiments, and other products of free minds essential to human well-being. Might these men have understood, at least implicitly, that civilizations are created by individuals, and destroyed by collectives?

Yet another branch of the entertainment industry essential to inculcating popular belief in the necessity for state power is political elections. Held with sufficient frequency (e.g., every two years) to reinforce the democratic illusion that “the people” are in control of the state, the meaningfulness of the “choices” individuals make in a voting booth are akin to selecting “paper or plastic” at the grocery store checkout counter. Or at least such was the case until 2016.

Elections are an enterprise owned and operated by the Owners of the political establishment. While necessary to keep the Zombies believing they are in control of the system that few of them genuinely trust or want in their lives, the political classes are not so naïve as to allow decision-making over trillions of dollars of wealth to be left to the whims of voters. The attitudes toward the public shared by those who sit comfortably atop the pyramid of power are no secret. Many have openly referred to those they pretend to represent as “the deplorables,” “excrement,” or “freeloaders” for objecting to having to pay higher levels of taxation. And why not? Who should respect persons who make their lives, the lives of their children, their wealth and liberty subservient to the interests of those who rule them by force?
And thus do we witness the spectacle of elections as a permanent and dominating feature of our social life. As soon as one election is over, politicians, and members of the media and so-called “think-tanks,” begin speculating about the next one: who will be the candidates and what will be the issues.  The real task of conducting elections will be left to the Owners and key officials of the two political parties, who will select a few safe candidates acceptable to these special interests and from whom the voters will be permitted to make “their” selections. This clique will then begin to flesh out the “issues” that will induce members of the “boobeoisie” to erect yard signs on their front lawns, place bumper-stickers on their cars, and traipse to the polls where they will receive an “I voted” sticker that provides them social approval.

This system has well served the Owners’ interests until 2016. The Willie Horton make-believe issue that sufficed to elect George H.W. Bush to office was improved upon by Barack Obama’s 2008 candidacy to be the first black president and, in 2012 by Hillary Clinton’s opportunity to become the first woman elected to the White House. We may never know whether the Owners were grooming a subsequent openly gay candidate for that office, to be followed, perhaps, by a transgender offering; for Donald Trump had the audacity to think that he could participate in the democratic process without having the permission of the Owners. The idea that the American political system could function on genuinely democratic lines, with the “deplorables” and “excrement” getting to generate their own presidential candidate, has left the Owners and their sycophantic bootlickers terrified.

If you are wondering why the hard-core political classes, members of the mainstream media, academia, the entertainment industry, and others who have been constant defenders of the established order remain in the kind of tizzy that borders on insanity, you need to ask the question: who owns the state? The Cannibal interests and the Vulture classes who have for so many years dominated and consumed mankind are in retreat from the empowered Zombies. Is it only an idle coincidence that films about zombies and the “living dead” are now so popular?

I am not a Trump supporter: I disagree with so many of his policies – particularly in matters economic, military, regulatory, and policing. But I am thoroughly enjoying the robust manner in which he has been rattling the establishment cages. The erstwhile Owners truly do not know what they are up against – just as I suspect Mr. Trump does not fully grasp the nature of the forces that drive his supporters. Be it sufficient to know that the Owners don’t have a speck of concern for the consequences of the ersatz “problems” of which they daily babble and scribble to a public increasingly weary of their concocted charades. But be equally aware that the Owners are more desperate than you can imagine to be restored to the fiefdom that only you can deny them. As is always the case in dealing with the political classes: watch every move!

Who Owns the State?
Cannibals and vultures.


I have come to the conclusion that imperialism and exploitation are forms of cannibalism and, in fact, are precisely those forms of cannibalism that are most diabolical or evil.

– Jack D. Forbes

Recent events across the carnival of hokum midway make evident the nature of political systems, contradicting the articles of faith inculcated into the minds of the young by the state priesthood (i.e., civics class pedagogues). That some amorphous collective known as “We the people” own and direct the agency enjoying a legal monopoly on the exercise of violence across a nation has become a laughable proposition.

The pretense that competition for control of the machinery of state power has been vested in “the people” is often seen in the realpolitick of state action. The process by which popular sovereignty is supposedly exercised (i.e., “democracy”) is not as complete as might appear. The election of Donald Trump to the presidency has made increasing numbers of Americans aware of the existence of the “deep state.” Unelected and unidentified government officials’ power to thwart the results of a duly-constituted election has begun to awaken the suspicions of the dullest minds. While the votes were still being counted, and before the new president had even taken the oath of office, these hidden forces were already speaking of the need to impeach Mr. Trump! That no legal grounds could be found for doing so only increased the intensity, and absurdity of trumped up (pardon the pun) claims against him! The heretofore unasked question “who runs the government” began to blossom within passive minds.

Popular efforts by the electorate to create, amend, or repeal constitutional provisions or statutes are often met with judicial declarations of their unconstitutionality. Rarely is the question asked: if “the people” are the sovereign political authority, why is their collective will subject to judicial preemption? The same question applies to the charge that people ought not “take the law into their own hands.” Whose hands are to manipulate the machinery of state power if not the purported owners thereof?

As long as inquiries into the nature of political systems extend no further than exploring their “deep state” implications (i.e., the covert organizational framework, and persons – be they elected or appointed officials or career bureaucrats who constitute the government-within-the-government) they will never get to the core of the problems they pose to human well-being. They will tend to be seen, rather, as flaws to be remedied within the system itself by “responsible” men and women; the kinds of reforms criticized by Frank Chodorov as wanting to “clean up a brothel and yet leave the business intact.” It is the nature of the state itself, including the identity of the persons who own and control its operations, that requires focused, in-depth examination.

I have no quarrel with those who engage in “deep state” inquiries: indeed, such efforts are a good place to start to help people understand the inherently deceitful and corrupt nature of all political systems. A resilient state can withstand the embarrassment of its short-term defects being made public. It may even enhance its trustworthiness by creating remedies  and punish wrongdoers in the expectation of making changes to ensure that “problems like this never happen again.” This oft-recited mantra has become words of assurance to reinforce Boobus’s faith in the system that is systematically destroying mankind!

I have almost completed another book – titled “Please Don’t Feed the Cannibals! A Visitor’s Guide to the Human Zoo” – in which I explore the nature of political systems from a perspective never taught in a political science classroom. Borrowing from Plato’s three-part characterization of political society being comprised of the “men of gold, men of silver, and men of brass;” I treat these classes less glamourously as the Cannibals, the Vultures, and the Zombies. At the top of this pyramidal structure reside the Cannibals, whose lives and interests are sustained by consuming the energies of the Zombies, who have little or no control over the system, and who have been conditioned to be but resources for the Cannibal class. Between these two classes are the Vultures, whose roles are also to serve the Cannibals, but in controlling and providing the Zombies for the Cannibals. In the Vulture class are to be found politicians, judges, career bureaucrats, members of the mainstream media, military, many church officials, teachers and academicians, members of the entertainment industry, writers, and numerous others, all of whom derive their incomes and social status from helping to shape the minds and control the bodies of the subservient Zombies.
Why are entertainers included in the Vulture category? A brief examination of the television and Hollywood film industries reveal their connections to serving the cannibalistic state. Early Greek and Roman mythology spoke of nine goddesses – the muses – who inspired artistic, scientific, speculative thinking, and other creative expressions. Poets, painters and sculptors, musicians, and philosophers, were among the better known occupations whose creative works were said to have been inspired by the muses. But creativity produces change, and change is quite upsetting to the established order’s preferences for the status quo.

The entertainment industry’s function is to provide products that amuse people. The word “amuse” finds its meaning in how the word is organized: “a-muse,” to be without the creative spirits, the inspirations provided by the muses. Entertainment produces minds willing to be maintained in a passive state, their energies diverted from the focused, hard work associated with creative pursuits. When entertainers are separated from the scripts others have prepared for them to follow, they rarely have much of importance to say.

Another branch of the entertainment industry, sporting events,  has been taken over by the state’s war-making racket. In addition to the presence of military color-guards, the playing of the national anthem has raised the contrived issue of whether players should stand, or be allowed to kneel, during its performance. “Oh, the disrespect by those who refuse to stand!” Perhaps the most vulgar – if not sociopathic – institutional expression celebrating war I have recently seen is in Northwestern University’s football uniforms. Running from helmets to the players’ shoes, the uniforms are one blood- splattered American flag. Why no one seems to have suggested that a show of patriotism need not be incorporated into every public event, and that the conflict could easily be resolved by not having color-guards and Star-Spangled Banners preceding such events, is another example of the problems that can arise by asking the wrong questions. Eating at restaurants, or attending a movie theater, are not accompanied by these symbols of statism.

Other celebrity entertainers have been quick to abandon the civilizing sentiments that otherwise make life peaceful and decent. It is the advantages associated with public fame that allows many of them to blithely speak of killing Donald Trump, blowing up the White House, or prancing across a stage with a mock-up of Trump’s severed head. That so little moral contempt has been expressed by those conditioned to laugh or applaud the performances of these people, tells much about the state of our culture.
The roles of most teachers, academicians, and make-believe journalists are essentially the same: to condition and reinforce the belief in the necessity for children and adults to accept the political arrangement for living “responsible” lives. “Obedience to institutionally constituted authority” is the premier article of faith in our politically dominated world.

First century AD Roman Emperor, Tiberius, was neither the first nor the last political authority to bring the violent collective force of the state down upon those whose creative acts might have threatened the status quo. The writer, Petronius, informs us of an inventor who appeared before Tiberius to demonstrate a form of flexible glass he had created. Impressed by what he had seen, the emperor asked the inventor whether anyone else knew of his creation and, when told “no,” Tiberius ordered the man to be immediately beheaded, concerned that his creation might generate adverse consequences to certain members of the Roman economy. Modern inventors need not fear decapitation for their genius nor, as Ayn Rand suggested, be burned at the stake for having discovered how to start fire. Instead, the often multimillion dollar expenses of satisfying government regulatory and testing standards before being allowed to market their creations, often force inventors to abandon their undertakings, or to sell them to already established firms. Preston Tucker and John DeLorean, as well as Nikola Tesla and Wilhelm Reich, Lenny Bruce, Timothy Leary, and Ezra Pound have been the more recent persons to be victimized by the state – with some being imprisoned – for daring to challenge the status quo boundaries of permitted creative work. Perhaps the First Amendment was intended, by the Founders, as a protection for the broadest then known forms of expressing the ideas, sentiments, and other products of free minds essential to human well-being. Might these men have understood, at least implicitly, that civilizations are created by individuals, and destroyed by collectives?

Yet another branch of the entertainment industry essential to inculcating popular belief in the necessity for state power is political elections. Held with sufficient frequency (e.g., every two years) to reinforce the democratic illusion that “the people” are in control of the state, the meaningfulness of the “choices” individuals make in a voting booth are akin to selecting “paper or plastic” at the grocery store checkout counter. Or at least such was the case until 2016.

Elections are an enterprise owned and operated by the Owners of the political establishment. While necessary to keep the Zombies believing they are in control of the system that few of them genuinely trust or want in their lives, the political classes are not so naïve as to allow decision-making over trillions of dollars of wealth to be left to the whims of voters. The attitudes toward the public shared by those who sit comfortably atop the pyramid of power are no secret. Many have openly referred to those they pretend to represent as “the deplorables,” “excrement,” or “freeloaders” for objecting to having to pay higher levels of taxation. And why not? Who should respect persons who make their lives, the lives of their children, their wealth and liberty subservient to the interests of those who rule them by force?
And thus do we witness the spectacle of elections as a permanent and dominating feature of our social life. As soon as one election is over, politicians, and members of the media and so-called “think-tanks,” begin speculating about the next one: who will be the candidates and what will be the issues.  The real task of conducting elections will be left to the Owners and key officials of the two political parties, who will select a few safe candidates acceptable to these special interests and from whom the voters will be permitted to make “their” selections. This clique will then begin to flesh out the “issues” that will induce members of the “boobeoisie” to erect yard signs on their front lawns, place bumper-stickers on their cars, and traipse to the polls where they will receive an “I voted” sticker that provides them social approval.

This system has well served the Owners’ interests until 2016. The Willie Horton make-believe issue that sufficed to elect George H.W. Bush to office was improved upon by Barack Obama’s 2008 candidacy to be the first black president and, in 2012 by Hillary Clinton’s opportunity to become the first woman elected to the White House. We may never know whether the Owners were grooming a subsequent openly gay candidate for that office, to be followed, perhaps, by a transgender offering; for Donald Trump had the audacity to think that he could participate in the democratic process without having the permission of the Owners. The idea that the American political system could function on genuinely democratic lines, with the “deplorables” and “excrement” getting to generate their own presidential candidate, has left the Owners and their sycophantic bootlickers terrified.

If you are wondering why the hard-core political classes, members of the mainstream media, academia, the entertainment industry, and others who have been constant defenders of the established order remain in the kind of tizzy that borders on insanity, you need to ask the question: who owns the state? The Cannibal interests and the Vulture classes who have for so many years dominated and consumed mankind are in retreat from the empowered Zombies. Is it only an idle coincidence that films about zombies and the “living dead” are now so popular?

I am not a Trump supporter: I disagree with so many of his policies – particularly in matters economic, military, regulatory, and policing. But I am thoroughly enjoying the robust manner in which he has been rattling the establishment cages. The erstwhile Owners truly do not know what they are up against – just as I suspect Mr. Trump does not fully grasp the nature of the forces that drive his supporters. Be it sufficient to know that the Owners don’t have a speck of concern for the consequences of the ersatz “problems” of which they daily babble and scribble to a public increasingly weary of their concocted charades. But be equally aware that the Owners are more desperate than you can imagine to be restored to the fiefdom that only you can deny them. As is always the case in dealing with the political classes: watch every move!



Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Billionaires Are the Lethal Monkey on the Back of the American Public

Billionaires Are the Lethal Monkey on the Back of the American Public


“I sit on a man’s back choking him and making him carry me, and yet assure myself and others that I am sorry for him and wish to lighten his load by all means possible … except by getting off his back.” —Leo Tolstoy
 This week on “Scheer Intelligence,” Anand Giridharadas, whose latest book is “Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World,” discusses “how rich people and philanthropists and others are engaged in this well-meaning attempt to make the world better … but upholding through their actions an indecent system.” He describes this as a system in which the market and its needs come before the needs of the people, a system that allows the rich and powerful to be seen as philanthropic rather than the malignant force they represent. They would be, as Tolstoy opined, the guy on the American back, choking our society and destroying our economy.
They do so in the name of the distorted libertarian ideology that they use to subvert the American experiment in democracy, by denying the legitimacy of government intervention into the economy on the side of fairness and justice, including decent working conditions, fair wages, regulation of the economy and the right to form unions to represent workers and fight for their interests.
His conclusion: Don’t look to the superrich corporate elite for the solution—they’re the problem. As Giridharadas puts it, for the rich and powerful, “Success depends on extraction. … Making the American dream accessible … will actually require the powerful being pulled down a peg … seeing some of their resources diminish in order for us to do right for most of us.”
Giridharadas is a former journalist for The New York Times. He has given talks on the main stage of TED and at Harvard, Yale, the Aspen Institute, Google and many other prestigious campuses and institutions.
Listen to the interview and read the transcript below:

Robert Scheer: Hi, this is Robert Scheer with another edition of Scheer Intelligence, where the intelligence comes from my guests. In this case, it’s Anand Giridharadas, a brilliant writer. And his new book, Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World–to my mind, this is an inside view of a new ruling class. I don’t think I’m exaggerating. It’s a world that–you have all the watering holes, the TED conferences, the Aspen, everywhere else; you’ve been there, you’ve been there as a journalist for The New York Times for about 12, 15 years. You studied at some elite institutions, you worked at the Aspen Institute. And what we meet in this book are people who are into a great exercise of delusion, that they can make out like bandits and still be Robin Hood. Is that not the deal?

RS:
 But let me defend the Robin Hood thing. What I was saying is, it’s ironic, because it’s the opposite; they’re not taking from the rich and giving to the poor, they’re not settling injustice; they’re in fact involved in a great delusion and a cop-out. They’re conning us. And you start with a quote from Tolstoy, ah–Anand Giridharadas: Absolutely. And I think the problem with the Robin Hood comparison is only the idea that Robin Hood was kind of stealing from the rich to give to the poor. But the people I write about are essentially interested in helping–in an age of inequality, they want to help those left out of the American Dream in any way they can. Except by getting off their backs. Except by paying them more. Except by paying their fair share of taxes, except by submitting to the kind of regulations that would actually help regular people not live with volatile incomes, and hours that shift week-to-week, and an inability to see kind of a long-time horizon. I became interested in how many rich people and philanthropists and others were engaged in this well-meaning attempt to make the world better–and often being very decent people themselves, trying to make the world better–but upholding, through their actions, an indecent system.

AG: I can read it for you right now. “I sit on a man’s back choking him and making him carry me, and yet assure myself and others that I am sorry for him and wish to lighten his load by all means possible….except by getting off his back.”
RS: I do want to encourage people to read this book. But that quote kind of says it all. What you have opened up here is an elite, the elite culture; not an elite, this is our ruling class. This is the billionaire class, the people who work for them, the people they can buy off; co-option is a sort of major theme of this book. The real enemy, in their eyes, is any sharpened sense of class conflict in America. And yet the reality of America, certainly for the last 40 years, is really sharp division of class for most ordinary people and a, what, top five, one percent, one hundredth of one percent, however you define it.
AG: Rich people have pulled off an amazing game. And I think we have to, at some level, marvel at the genius of it, even if we deplore the consequences. And the game is this: in the analogy I’m about to set up, you know, the public at large are hens in a henhouse. Actually, the henhouse once had a guard, and the guard was a good guard. Not perfect, but was guarding the henhouse just fine. And the fox came along; fox is, you know, big companies, wealthy people, philanthropists, billionaires, people who have a vested interest in a society in which government is less active, and more happens in the private sector, and the private sector is left alone. And this fox came along and bit the guard in the leg. And the guard starts bleeding and stumbling and kind of drifting from the scene, unable to guard the henhouse. And with the henhouse now unguarded, thanks to the fox’s timely bite, the fox materializes and says, “This henhouse needs a guard. And here I am. Here I am; I will guard this henhouse.” And I think that’s–the expression “the fox guarding the henhouse” is an old one, but I think in this particular case there’s a backstory. The fox is also the reason the henhouse doesn’t have its proper guard, and then turns around to offer itself as the guard. And I think that is the–you know, we have been in this country on the receiving end of a 30- to 40-year campaign of government being “othered,” being shamed, having Americans convinced that the government is the enemy of their freedom. It has been an extremely successful campaign. And what it has done is, you know, it’s not just Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher and Britain and others who denigrated government. But this idea was also absorbed as secondhand smoke on the left half of the equation, whether it’s Tony Blair in Britain or Bill Clinton and Barack Obama in the United States, who fought for a very different set of policies than their republican brethren, but who absorbed in some way the idea of a society in which the market and its needs come first. You have Bill Clinton saying “the era of big government is over,” an astonishing statement from the head of government from a liberal party. You had Barack Obama creating the office of social innovation in the White House, his first new office that he created, and its founding charter on the web said “top down programs from Washington don’t work anymore.” And again, an astonishing statement, and frankly an untrue one. We have been told that government doesn’t work. Many of us have bought into it; even people on the left, who retain those traditional goals of the left of bettering the lives of the meekest among us, now operate within a framework of market fundamentalism that is hard for us to see. And, like fish caught in water who don’t know anything about water, many of us don’t even know that we’re living in a time of market fundamentalism, and therefore think that, OK, well, maybe the only way to make the world better is to start some kind of social enterprise that will sell poor people a product to make themselves less poor. Maybe the only way to smooth people’s volatile incomes is to invent an app for them. Maybe the only way to have a decent healthcare system in America is for Silicon Valley entrepreneurs to work on companies that would extend people’s lives forever. And I’m interested in the way in which injustice is prosecuted through silence. Because what all of that depends on is talking about those things at the expense of talking about other, more legitimate, more public, democratic, and inclusive ways of actually changing the world.
RS: It’s interesting, hearing your description of the book. Because frankly, I don’t think you’re doing it justice. And what it captures, a culture of betrayal, of co-option, of the con. And when I read your book, the power of this book is that you know these people. You’ve been at the conferences, you’ve heard the bull. And it’s incredible. So the guy who destroys unions and taxi drivers, and be able to make a living ferrying people around in his Uber, has this grand idea that he’s actually a great social rebel. And it’s true of everyone there. And what you’ve gotten hold of here is the modern culture of the ruling class of America, and of the world, actually. And their ability to deceive themselves, their ability to co-opt some of the finest minds. And in order to co-opt modern people, you have to talk the language of concern for the other, right? You know, you have to come on as a highly civilized person while you’re raping the world.
AG: It’s “rule by helping.” At the early stages of writing this book, I came across a phrase that immediately gave me my mission with a clarity that I’d lacked before. And it was a phrase in Thomas Piketty’s book about Capital in the Twenty-First Century. And he has this line about whether or not this kind of extreme inequality is sustainable or not, depends not only on what he calls the repressive apparatus, but also on the apparatus of justification. We all know we live in a time of extreme inequality. We all know that the American dream, which used to allow 90 percent of Americans to earn more than their parents had, has now become a crapshoot dream, where 50 percent of Americans actually fall below where their parents did. We know that something is broken, we know that the system is rigged. And the apparatus of justification is the only way to understand how that can be sustained. How can most Americans be shut off from the American dream and tolerate it and take it? Well, because if they are convinced by elites that the elites are on the case, the check is in the mail, the ambulance is on the way. And so what I tried to do in this book, this is actually not a book of arguments. It’s a book of reporting, and it’s a book of investigation, and it’s a book of embedding. And my investigation is not of the kind of documents and money trails; it’s an investigation of the souls of rich people, who are trying to do something good while also trying to avoid anything bad being done to them. Who are trying to change the world, while trying to avoid their world having to change. Who are trying to give a little bit, without anyone interfering with their right to take. And what I found as I spent time in this world is, as I said, a lot of decent people are upholding an indecent system. And they do that because of rationalization; they do that because of compartmentalization. A lot of them feel that, well, you make money over here in the Andrew Carnegie tradition, you make it as ruthlessly as you need to, then you give it back as generously as you can. And you compartmentalize; you do investment banking or hedge funding in a way that perhaps leads to an economic crisis that has many people suffering and out in the street. And then you take the spoils of that and you give to a charter school that maybe helps the same community that you helped be foreclosed on. But you always help, generally, on a smaller scale than the harm you caused. And I’ve really tried to get under these people’s skin, I’ve tried to get them to tell me the truth about how they saw the world. Because I’ll tell you this. One of the things that actually frustrated me, has always frustrated me, is that people always write about inequality and injustice from the point of view of those on the wrong end of the power equation. Most writing about poverty is about the poor; most writing about inequality is about the poor; most writing about various forms of injustice is about the people upon whom the injustice is visited. And it occurred to me at one point, you know, we need to be writing about the architects of the house, not just the people who happen to be living in it. Because these are engineered outcomes. And so I became interested in actually telling the story of the people who have helped to make the world this way, who have helped to decide what ideas are viable and what are radical. I became interested in being in the rooms where they were, and trying to genuinely see the world as they saw it.
RS: Where I disagree with you is about what you’ve found. These are bad people. I’m sorry. They’re not well-intentioned. They’re the guy that Tolstoy was referring to; they’re on the backs of other people, the people are suffering, and they’re getting their pounds of flesh out of those people. And yes, they would like it if those people were happy having them on their back, but they’re not going to get off their back. And I just want to take one example of that. You discuss Goldman Sachs, one of your first people is somebody at Georgetown, she wants to lead a life of idealism and somehow gets influenced by Goldman Sachs, and all that. I think her name is Hillary Cohen. And you follow her too, and it’s really a challenge that all young people face now: can they lead meaningful lives. And I was thinking of the other Hillary, that you kind of mention with Goldman Sachs, and her speeches. And the thing that was so offensive about her speeches was not that she gave them to Goldman Sachs and took the speaking fees and everything–which you discuss in your book, the co-option of the fees and the money. What was really awful was when we got to finally read those speeches–she did not have one sentence of criticism of Lloyd Blankfein, Goldman Sachs, or the other bankers that were in the room. On the contrary, she said, “We need you people to come to Washington and fix this problem.” And that’s what your book is really all about, is expecting the people who created the problem, who figured out all the lousy collateralized debt obligations and credit default swaps, who do all the scams, who build cartels so there’s no real competition, who destroy labor unions–you got, you know, a whole list here. And then we expect these people, when they get their billions of dollars, to somehow restore sanity and decency and justice to the system. And that’s never going to happen. And that’s the con job.
AG: I think you’re on to something in terms of the idea that there’s a malice, in many cases, in refusing to get off the back. And I think we could take the example of Goldman Sachs; there’s a spectrum, and I think a lot of the folks in finance are very, very clear, if you get them privately–they’re very clear, they understand their business model depends on stripping value out of middle- and working-class people’s lives. They understand that their bonus is someone else’s raided pension. They get it. They know that. And I agree with you, that’s bad. And I think a lot of those people are engaged in activity that is morally indefensible. When I say these are decent people, I’m getting at something deeper, which is, I think we are all endowed with the power to make our lives feel right to us. I don’t think a lot of people go to sleep thinking they’re bad people. I think most people think they’re trying to do the best they can. And I think we therefore, you know, the way you framed the Goldman thing, the only pushback I would have is I think when we think about these people as evil people scheming in a room to screw others, we’re actually not very effective in reining them in, because we’re not understanding their real motivations. And I think the real motivation is, I think a lot of these people are deluded by a story that rapacious finance, and leaving them alone, creates jobs and creates opportunity for price discovery and all these things. I don’t think that is always a kind of BS narrative people are making up; I actually think you got to take these people at their word in order to defeat them. You have to understand how deeply they believe in some of these cons to actually dismantle the cons. And I think actually one of the mistakes a lot of people make when they’re trying to go up against folks like this, is actually not taking them seriously. When Mark Zuckerberg says he’s not about money, he’s about building the tool–I actually think there’s some amount of truth in that. I’m not saying he’s not motivated by money, but I actually think he’s a lot more dangerous because he’s deeply motivated by building the tool. And he’s so maniacal about building the tool, and owning the algorithms of human civilization. I think greed we can deal with; a guy who wants to control what he wants to control, and has such intrinsic pleasure in building those algorithms and building that infrastructure, is actually more dangerous. I don’t think you can actually check power when you don’t understand what it is motivated by.
RS: OK, let’s take Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg. There’s a lot of issues about privacy and invading people’s privacy and so forth, and he claims that he’s concerned about it. He has a business model that is totally built on destroying privacy. And that’s why you have targeted advertising, that’s why he’s made all this money. You can’t separate the profit-making from what the essential model, the business model, is. Amazon, for instance, Jeff Bezos; he can talk a good game at any conference, but the fact is, it’s based on paying people miserable wages. It’s the old efficiency expert in the warehouse saying, you gotta move faster! And no, you can’t have a union, and no, you can’t have rights. You have to be a robot here, or we’ll replace you with an actual robot. And so the business model that they have, whether it’s Peter Thiel and his operations and so forth, they depend first of all on developing a monopoly, so there is a restraint of trade that shouldn’t have been allowed in the first place. Right? And secondly, on exploiting people, whether it’s the people assembling iPhones in China, or anywhere else. And that’s why they won’t get off the back of these people. I take your point–they talk a great game. And there’s a lot of very persuasive people that they can hire to give lectures that tell them they’re on the right track. But I, I have to believe that at Goldman Sachs, when they sold those lousy mortgages and packages, they did look under the lid once in a while and knew it was a lot of crap, and they were deceiving people. They have to know that they’re responsible.
AG: Oh, absolutely, and that’s of course the reason that Goldman Sachs was able to escape the worst of that itself, even while it was selling some of those products to clients, and eventually paid a major fine to the Department of Justice for what it did. I think the important point here is that much of what the leading businesses do in America today depends on dumping a certain amount of harm into our common life. Whether that means you employ people at your Home Depot or Wal-Mart, and you employ people in a way that keeps them precarious, not paying them enough or not employing them in a stable enough way that they can make a life. Whether that’s a Silicon Valley company that says workers are kind of micro-entrepreneurs, but really basically just means you don’t believe in labor protections for them. Whether that’s companies like GE and Priceline, which avoid taxes in many years by coming up with very clever schemes to move money around the world, and therefore deprive us of resources that we could have to invest in education and other things. Whether it’s people who fight for private jets to have a tax break, and for us not to have maternity leave as a society instead, with some of the resources that we could put to that. So one of the hard truths that I tried to speak in this book is that what a lot of rich people are unwilling to acknowledge, but what a certain number of them are willing to acknowledge, is that their very success depends on extraction. And that making America work again for most Americans, making the American dream accessible again for most Americans, will require more than tweaking the engine, will require more than some win-wins. Will actually require the powerful being pulled down a peg on a number of issues, sacrificing, actually seeing some of their resources diminished in order for us to do right by most of us. And that’s painful, but that’s what it’s going to take to move from the age of thousands of private initiatives to what I believe must inevitably follow this age, which is an age of reform.
RS: I’m talking to Anand Giridharadas, and the book is called “Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World.” And there’s a lot in it; we’ll get into it after we take a quick break, and we’ll be back. [omission] I’m back with Anand Giridharadas, and I defy anyone to read this book and not be appalled at what has happened to our claim on democracy. You have a culture that’s based on inequality, it’s based on–you know, what is Apple or Google? These are monopolies, right? They’ve developed cartel arrangements, they prevent unionization. And then when you have somebody like Gates, says he wants to save American education–yes, a part of him does. He had great parents, he’s a decent guy, I suppose; I liked him personally. But the fact of the matter is, he doesn’t want education in American high schools, say in Oakland, where the Gates Foundation did have a big impact, and I think hurt the schools. He doesn’t want young people to know about the unions and the struggles, and you know, how we ended slavery; it wasn’t just some nice president said something. And he doesn’t want to empower poor people to organize or to question or challenge for their rights; he doesn’t want lessons about the exploiters. And yet these people claim they’re saving our educational system, and what they’re doing is designing it so they can get a workforce that they can exploit. And that won’t question their power. Is that not the case?
AG: I think it is the case that, as you say, private individuals are assuming and asserting a level of power over public institutions and public questions that is simply incompatible with democracy. What is the point of one person, one vote? Why do we bother to go to the lengths we do to enforce that, if we create this huge other sphere where rich people have all the votes and we have none, and that other sphere actually controls public things like public schools? It’s just a level of power, first of all, that no one should have, regardless of how they use it. Second, there’s the question that you’re raising of how they use it. And there’s no question–I found when I spent time with these folks that when rich people take over social change, they don’t, you know, run the restaurant like the previous owners. They impose on it their biases, their needs, their no-go zones, their pet ideas. And so what you often see is that, essentially, the kinds of ideas of progress that might come at the winner’s expense get talked about less or not at all. And the kinds of ideas that would help people in some modest way, at zero cost to the winners, get talked up. And over time, this contributes to an enormous distortion where, in our conversations about how to make the world better, we end up surrounded by win-win ideas that modestly help while protecting the opportunity of the privileged to stay on top. And ideas that actually involve the sacrifice of power for the greater good are shut out, shamed, and deemed radical and vague.
RS: I’m talking to Anand Giridharadas, and he has written a–maybe, in some ways, the most important book of our time. And the reason I say it’s so important is because it is a charade that most of us don’t grasp. And the only part I’m quibbling with, and it really is only a quibble–you seem to want to treat these people as if they have some soul, some decency. And I’m with the pope on this one, I think this is a rapacious capitalism that is disguised as something softer, but is absolutely brutal.
AG: Yeah, I don’t think we deeply disagree, I just think that it’s very possible for human beings to do very awful things while feeling like they’re good people and believing they’re doing the right thing. And I think that’s actually where a lot of human darkness comes from, it’s where a lot of the worst things that have happened in history come from. People who weren’t cynical, who were actually naive and idealistic in a really awful way.
RS: OK, so let’s take this word, cynical. And again, I’m not taking anything away from this book, because I think the speeches that you were present at, the–I should explain to people, the thing that makes this such an incredible book is it’s a great piece of reporting, OK? We’re not, unfortunately I haven’t been conveying that enough here. It’s not a theoretical exposition, it’s not a didactic argument; this is journalism at its best. And it’s letting people talk, it’s listening to them. And our author, Anand Giridharadas, is present. You actually worked at the Aspen Institute; you were at many, you were a TED speaker; these people liked you. They welcomed you. And you could have easily taken the money and run, right? You’re one of the people you describe–what do you call them, thought leaders? Who are just bought off. And you decided to not go that route. I mean, you have an amazing scene where they’re listening to Edward Snowden on some Transatlantic communication; he was also listened to at the TED Talk and so forth. And at one point, they think hey, he’s one of us. And he tries to set them correct, no, I’m not out to rip people off, I’m out to help their freedom.
AG: I went on a cruise ship called Summit at Sea for 3,000 or so entrepreneurs who believe they are changing the world. I was interested in what happens when you have this kind of density of people who are convinced that they’re making the world a better place, and that growing their businesses is how you make the world better, and you make the world better by growing their businesses. This total idea of the win-win. And one of the events was the talk by Edward Snowden via videoconference from Russia. Chris Sacca, a venture capitalist in Silicon Valley who’s been very, very successful, was his interlocutor. So Chris kind of stood on stage looking up at this big screen asking Edward Snowden questions. And this hasn’t really been reported ever, so it’s kind of new in the book. And the scene where Snowden is talking and explaining this kind of powerful vision of why he did what he did–he kind of gave an explanation of it that I hadn’t heard before, which is that he is convinced that the opportunity to dissent, to call out something untrue in a society, that that act requires a certain freedom to think thoughts, exchange ideas with others that are not visible to the government. If we live in a world in which every communication is surveilled and interdicted, potentially interdicted by government, we’re going to live in a world in which change becomes very hard to make. Because as soon as someone has a truly heretical idea, they’ll be neutered; if not in the United States, then certainly in many countries. It was a very interesting vision, and as he started describing, well, the way I’m going to do that is I’m going to build all these tools that would allow dissidents to actually operate more freely. A communication tool so you can message without getting caught, a Facebook “like” tool so you can socially network without losing your privacy, some kind of tokenized identity so you can make clear to different websites that you’re the same person without revealing which person you are–various things. Snowden was describing the creation of all these things because he wanted to live in a world in which dissent of the kind that he made is possible, in which it’s possible to go up against power and not be interrupted in that quest; that’s his motivation, his goal. And what was so fascinating to me, given the cultural collision between this man who deeply believed, whether you like him or not, in sacrifice and in taking a risk for what he felt to be the greater good, who believed in fighting the power structure–he was standing there talking to these 3,000, or you know, however many were in the room–kind of entrepreneur types, whose biggest goal is to, like, make $1 billion in a way that serves humanity. And it’s like they couldn’t process him; they couldn’t process his set of motivations. And so Chris Sacca says, wow, you sound like you’re designing a lot of tools that, they sound like apps, or startup–do you want to build a startup? I mean, there’s a lot of people here who would like to be your investor. Snowden just looked at him, puzzled, like–what are you talking about? I’m talking about freedom and heresy and truth, and being a dissident, and how a society corrects itself from manifest injustices through allowing people who have an uncomfortable truth to tell it. And you’re talking about startups? And it was just this wonderful collision between someone who believes in real changes, and these people who kind of believe in the pseudo-change that lines their own pockets.
RS: There’s a lot of people who kind of criticize what’s going on, and who these people are. And we fall for their malarkey because we really don’t witness what they say to each other in more private spaces. And this book, the great strength of it is you actually tell us; you have the transcripts, you have the conversations, you have the body language. And most important, you show how, OK, here I’ll accept your “good people” thing. You introduce us to people that start out with aspirations to be decent. And it’s very quickly sacrificed, bargained away. And to be able to capture that–because most of us, you know, we suppress it in ourselves, right? We all lead compromised lives. And what your book really connects is that act of compromising, selling out, to the big problems that we have. It’s why you’re willing to go along with the smashing of unions, or unnecessary wars, or not taxing the super wealthy, or having lousy schools. It’s really a very important thesis about why we’re in such trouble. It’s not just that there are some bad actors. It’s that they control the action. They were able to effectively move government aside and come up with a market-based solution to our problems that has failed us miserably, and they have profited, and the rest of the people–you have statistics on the stagnation of wages that are appalling. And how much they have been able to get in the last 40 years, and you can’t all blame it on Ronald Reagan; it runs through Clinton, and the first President Bush, and Obama, and it’s not all Trump. The book ends with a story–or not Trump and Reagan, I mean that’s not the key thing.
AG: I think of Donald Trump as a pimple on a boil on a diseased body politic. He’s a very attention-getting pimple, but if anybody thinks that popping that pimple is going to get rid of the problem, I think we’re failing to understand that you don’t get a Donald Trump as president of a country as good and great as this one, without a lot of things being wrong as preconditions. It is very important that the removal of Donald Trump from office, or the impeachment of Donald Trump, or whatever it is that people want to do with Donald Trump, not be the only focus of those who want to make America actually better. And not simply “great again” in this narrow and fake way that he promises, but to actually bring the American dream back into the reach of most Americans. That’s going to require not just deposing Donald Trump, but frankly, deposing the conditions that led to Donald Trump; deposing the era of fake change itself, and ushering in, as I say, an age of reform, where we fix our problems at the root, for all of us, through the extraordinary democratic institutions that we are lucky enough to live under.
RS: Anand Giridharadas, and the book is called Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World. And I want to thank you for joining us today on this edition of Scheer Intelligence.
AG: Thank you so much.
RS: Our producers are Joshua Scheer and Isabel Carreon. Our engineers are Kat Yore and Mario Diaz. And we got an able assistance from NPR in New York City, and we broadcast from KCRW. Thanks for joining us, see you next week.
Robert Scheer, editor in chief of Truthdig, has built a reputation for strong social and political writing over his 30 years as a journalist.

Robert Scheer, editor in chief of Truthdig, has built a reputation for strong social and political writing over his 30 years as a journalist.

Billionaires Are the Lethal Monkey on the Back of the American Public


“I sit on a man’s back choking him and making him carry me, and yet assure myself and others that I am sorry for him and wish to lighten his load by all means possible … except by getting off his back.” —Leo Tolstoy
 This week on “Scheer Intelligence,” Anand Giridharadas, whose latest book is “Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World,” discusses “how rich people and philanthropists and others are engaged in this well-meaning attempt to make the world better … but upholding through their actions an indecent system.” He describes this as a system in which the market and its needs come before the needs of the people, a system that allows the rich and powerful to be seen as philanthropic rather than the malignant force they represent. They would be, as Tolstoy opined, the guy on the American back, choking our society and destroying our economy.
They do so in the name of the distorted libertarian ideology that they use to subvert the American experiment in democracy, by denying the legitimacy of government intervention into the economy on the side of fairness and justice, including decent working conditions, fair wages, regulation of the economy and the right to form unions to represent workers and fight for their interests.
His conclusion: Don’t look to the superrich corporate elite for the solution—they’re the problem. As Giridharadas puts it, for the rich and powerful, “Success depends on extraction. … Making the American dream accessible … will actually require the powerful being pulled down a peg … seeing some of their resources diminish in order for us to do right for most of us.”
Giridharadas is a former journalist for The New York Times. He has given talks on the main stage of TED and at Harvard, Yale, the Aspen Institute, Google and many other prestigious campuses and institutions.
Listen to the interview and read the transcript below:

Robert Scheer: Hi, this is Robert Scheer with another edition of Scheer Intelligence, where the intelligence comes from my guests. In this case, it’s Anand Giridharadas, a brilliant writer. And his new book, Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World–to my mind, this is an inside view of a new ruling class. I don’t think I’m exaggerating. It’s a world that–you have all the watering holes, the TED conferences, the Aspen, everywhere else; you’ve been there, you’ve been there as a journalist for The New York Times for about 12, 15 years. You studied at some elite institutions, you worked at the Aspen Institute. And what we meet in this book are people who are into a great exercise of delusion, that they can make out like bandits and still be Robin Hood. Is that not the deal?

RS:
 But let me defend the Robin Hood thing. What I was saying is, it’s ironic, because it’s the opposite; they’re not taking from the rich and giving to the poor, they’re not settling injustice; they’re in fact involved in a great delusion and a cop-out. They’re conning us. And you start with a quote from Tolstoy, ah–Anand Giridharadas: Absolutely. And I think the problem with the Robin Hood comparison is only the idea that Robin Hood was kind of stealing from the rich to give to the poor. But the people I write about are essentially interested in helping–in an age of inequality, they want to help those left out of the American Dream in any way they can. Except by getting off their backs. Except by paying them more. Except by paying their fair share of taxes, except by submitting to the kind of regulations that would actually help regular people not live with volatile incomes, and hours that shift week-to-week, and an inability to see kind of a long-time horizon. I became interested in how many rich people and philanthropists and others were engaged in this well-meaning attempt to make the world better–and often being very decent people themselves, trying to make the world better–but upholding, through their actions, an indecent system.

AG: I can read it for you right now. “I sit on a man’s back choking him and making him carry me, and yet assure myself and others that I am sorry for him and wish to lighten his load by all means possible….except by getting off his back.”
RS: I do want to encourage people to read this book. But that quote kind of says it all. What you have opened up here is an elite, the elite culture; not an elite, this is our ruling class. This is the billionaire class, the people who work for them, the people they can buy off; co-option is a sort of major theme of this book. The real enemy, in their eyes, is any sharpened sense of class conflict in America. And yet the reality of America, certainly for the last 40 years, is really sharp division of class for most ordinary people and a, what, top five, one percent, one hundredth of one percent, however you define it.
AG: Rich people have pulled off an amazing game. And I think we have to, at some level, marvel at the genius of it, even if we deplore the consequences. And the game is this: in the analogy I’m about to set up, you know, the public at large are hens in a henhouse. Actually, the henhouse once had a guard, and the guard was a good guard. Not perfect, but was guarding the henhouse just fine. And the fox came along; fox is, you know, big companies, wealthy people, philanthropists, billionaires, people who have a vested interest in a society in which government is less active, and more happens in the private sector, and the private sector is left alone. And this fox came along and bit the guard in the leg. And the guard starts bleeding and stumbling and kind of drifting from the scene, unable to guard the henhouse. And with the henhouse now unguarded, thanks to the fox’s timely bite, the fox materializes and says, “This henhouse needs a guard. And here I am. Here I am; I will guard this henhouse.” And I think that’s–the expression “the fox guarding the henhouse” is an old one, but I think in this particular case there’s a backstory. The fox is also the reason the henhouse doesn’t have its proper guard, and then turns around to offer itself as the guard. And I think that is the–you know, we have been in this country on the receiving end of a 30- to 40-year campaign of government being “othered,” being shamed, having Americans convinced that the government is the enemy of their freedom. It has been an extremely successful campaign. And what it has done is, you know, it’s not just Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher and Britain and others who denigrated government. But this idea was also absorbed as secondhand smoke on the left half of the equation, whether it’s Tony Blair in Britain or Bill Clinton and Barack Obama in the United States, who fought for a very different set of policies than their republican brethren, but who absorbed in some way the idea of a society in which the market and its needs come first. You have Bill Clinton saying “the era of big government is over,” an astonishing statement from the head of government from a liberal party. You had Barack Obama creating the office of social innovation in the White House, his first new office that he created, and its founding charter on the web said “top down programs from Washington don’t work anymore.” And again, an astonishing statement, and frankly an untrue one. We have been told that government doesn’t work. Many of us have bought into it; even people on the left, who retain those traditional goals of the left of bettering the lives of the meekest among us, now operate within a framework of market fundamentalism that is hard for us to see. And, like fish caught in water who don’t know anything about water, many of us don’t even know that we’re living in a time of market fundamentalism, and therefore think that, OK, well, maybe the only way to make the world better is to start some kind of social enterprise that will sell poor people a product to make themselves less poor. Maybe the only way to smooth people’s volatile incomes is to invent an app for them. Maybe the only way to have a decent healthcare system in America is for Silicon Valley entrepreneurs to work on companies that would extend people’s lives forever. And I’m interested in the way in which injustice is prosecuted through silence. Because what all of that depends on is talking about those things at the expense of talking about other, more legitimate, more public, democratic, and inclusive ways of actually changing the world.
RS: It’s interesting, hearing your description of the book. Because frankly, I don’t think you’re doing it justice. And what it captures, a culture of betrayal, of co-option, of the con. And when I read your book, the power of this book is that you know these people. You’ve been at the conferences, you’ve heard the bull. And it’s incredible. So the guy who destroys unions and taxi drivers, and be able to make a living ferrying people around in his Uber, has this grand idea that he’s actually a great social rebel. And it’s true of everyone there. And what you’ve gotten hold of here is the modern culture of the ruling class of America, and of the world, actually. And their ability to deceive themselves, their ability to co-opt some of the finest minds. And in order to co-opt modern people, you have to talk the language of concern for the other, right? You know, you have to come on as a highly civilized person while you’re raping the world.
AG: It’s “rule by helping.” At the early stages of writing this book, I came across a phrase that immediately gave me my mission with a clarity that I’d lacked before. And it was a phrase in Thomas Piketty’s book about Capital in the Twenty-First Century. And he has this line about whether or not this kind of extreme inequality is sustainable or not, depends not only on what he calls the repressive apparatus, but also on the apparatus of justification. We all know we live in a time of extreme inequality. We all know that the American dream, which used to allow 90 percent of Americans to earn more than their parents had, has now become a crapshoot dream, where 50 percent of Americans actually fall below where their parents did. We know that something is broken, we know that the system is rigged. And the apparatus of justification is the only way to understand how that can be sustained. How can most Americans be shut off from the American dream and tolerate it and take it? Well, because if they are convinced by elites that the elites are on the case, the check is in the mail, the ambulance is on the way. And so what I tried to do in this book, this is actually not a book of arguments. It’s a book of reporting, and it’s a book of investigation, and it’s a book of embedding. And my investigation is not of the kind of documents and money trails; it’s an investigation of the souls of rich people, who are trying to do something good while also trying to avoid anything bad being done to them. Who are trying to change the world, while trying to avoid their world having to change. Who are trying to give a little bit, without anyone interfering with their right to take. And what I found as I spent time in this world is, as I said, a lot of decent people are upholding an indecent system. And they do that because of rationalization; they do that because of compartmentalization. A lot of them feel that, well, you make money over here in the Andrew Carnegie tradition, you make it as ruthlessly as you need to, then you give it back as generously as you can. And you compartmentalize; you do investment banking or hedge funding in a way that perhaps leads to an economic crisis that has many people suffering and out in the street. And then you take the spoils of that and you give to a charter school that maybe helps the same community that you helped be foreclosed on. But you always help, generally, on a smaller scale than the harm you caused. And I’ve really tried to get under these people’s skin, I’ve tried to get them to tell me the truth about how they saw the world. Because I’ll tell you this. One of the things that actually frustrated me, has always frustrated me, is that people always write about inequality and injustice from the point of view of those on the wrong end of the power equation. Most writing about poverty is about the poor; most writing about inequality is about the poor; most writing about various forms of injustice is about the people upon whom the injustice is visited. And it occurred to me at one point, you know, we need to be writing about the architects of the house, not just the people who happen to be living in it. Because these are engineered outcomes. And so I became interested in actually telling the story of the people who have helped to make the world this way, who have helped to decide what ideas are viable and what are radical. I became interested in being in the rooms where they were, and trying to genuinely see the world as they saw it.
RS: Where I disagree with you is about what you’ve found. These are bad people. I’m sorry. They’re not well-intentioned. They’re the guy that Tolstoy was referring to; they’re on the backs of other people, the people are suffering, and they’re getting their pounds of flesh out of those people. And yes, they would like it if those people were happy having them on their back, but they’re not going to get off their back. And I just want to take one example of that. You discuss Goldman Sachs, one of your first people is somebody at Georgetown, she wants to lead a life of idealism and somehow gets influenced by Goldman Sachs, and all that. I think her name is Hillary Cohen. And you follow her too, and it’s really a challenge that all young people face now: can they lead meaningful lives. And I was thinking of the other Hillary, that you kind of mention with Goldman Sachs, and her speeches. And the thing that was so offensive about her speeches was not that she gave them to Goldman Sachs and took the speaking fees and everything–which you discuss in your book, the co-option of the fees and the money. What was really awful was when we got to finally read those speeches–she did not have one sentence of criticism of Lloyd Blankfein, Goldman Sachs, or the other bankers that were in the room. On the contrary, she said, “We need you people to come to Washington and fix this problem.” And that’s what your book is really all about, is expecting the people who created the problem, who figured out all the lousy collateralized debt obligations and credit default swaps, who do all the scams, who build cartels so there’s no real competition, who destroy labor unions–you got, you know, a whole list here. And then we expect these people, when they get their billions of dollars, to somehow restore sanity and decency and justice to the system. And that’s never going to happen. And that’s the con job.
AG: I think you’re on to something in terms of the idea that there’s a malice, in many cases, in refusing to get off the back. And I think we could take the example of Goldman Sachs; there’s a spectrum, and I think a lot of the folks in finance are very, very clear, if you get them privately–they’re very clear, they understand their business model depends on stripping value out of middle- and working-class people’s lives. They understand that their bonus is someone else’s raided pension. They get it. They know that. And I agree with you, that’s bad. And I think a lot of those people are engaged in activity that is morally indefensible. When I say these are decent people, I’m getting at something deeper, which is, I think we are all endowed with the power to make our lives feel right to us. I don’t think a lot of people go to sleep thinking they’re bad people. I think most people think they’re trying to do the best they can. And I think we therefore, you know, the way you framed the Goldman thing, the only pushback I would have is I think when we think about these people as evil people scheming in a room to screw others, we’re actually not very effective in reining them in, because we’re not understanding their real motivations. And I think the real motivation is, I think a lot of these people are deluded by a story that rapacious finance, and leaving them alone, creates jobs and creates opportunity for price discovery and all these things. I don’t think that is always a kind of BS narrative people are making up; I actually think you got to take these people at their word in order to defeat them. You have to understand how deeply they believe in some of these cons to actually dismantle the cons. And I think actually one of the mistakes a lot of people make when they’re trying to go up against folks like this, is actually not taking them seriously. When Mark Zuckerberg says he’s not about money, he’s about building the tool–I actually think there’s some amount of truth in that. I’m not saying he’s not motivated by money, but I actually think he’s a lot more dangerous because he’s deeply motivated by building the tool. And he’s so maniacal about building the tool, and owning the algorithms of human civilization. I think greed we can deal with; a guy who wants to control what he wants to control, and has such intrinsic pleasure in building those algorithms and building that infrastructure, is actually more dangerous. I don’t think you can actually check power when you don’t understand what it is motivated by.
RS: OK, let’s take Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg. There’s a lot of issues about privacy and invading people’s privacy and so forth, and he claims that he’s concerned about it. He has a business model that is totally built on destroying privacy. And that’s why you have targeted advertising, that’s why he’s made all this money. You can’t separate the profit-making from what the essential model, the business model, is. Amazon, for instance, Jeff Bezos; he can talk a good game at any conference, but the fact is, it’s based on paying people miserable wages. It’s the old efficiency expert in the warehouse saying, you gotta move faster! And no, you can’t have a union, and no, you can’t have rights. You have to be a robot here, or we’ll replace you with an actual robot. And so the business model that they have, whether it’s Peter Thiel and his operations and so forth, they depend first of all on developing a monopoly, so there is a restraint of trade that shouldn’t have been allowed in the first place. Right? And secondly, on exploiting people, whether it’s the people assembling iPhones in China, or anywhere else. And that’s why they won’t get off the back of these people. I take your point–they talk a great game. And there’s a lot of very persuasive people that they can hire to give lectures that tell them they’re on the right track. But I, I have to believe that at Goldman Sachs, when they sold those lousy mortgages and packages, they did look under the lid once in a while and knew it was a lot of crap, and they were deceiving people. They have to know that they’re responsible.
AG: Oh, absolutely, and that’s of course the reason that Goldman Sachs was able to escape the worst of that itself, even while it was selling some of those products to clients, and eventually paid a major fine to the Department of Justice for what it did. I think the important point here is that much of what the leading businesses do in America today depends on dumping a certain amount of harm into our common life. Whether that means you employ people at your Home Depot or Wal-Mart, and you employ people in a way that keeps them precarious, not paying them enough or not employing them in a stable enough way that they can make a life. Whether that’s a Silicon Valley company that says workers are kind of micro-entrepreneurs, but really basically just means you don’t believe in labor protections for them. Whether that’s companies like GE and Priceline, which avoid taxes in many years by coming up with very clever schemes to move money around the world, and therefore deprive us of resources that we could have to invest in education and other things. Whether it’s people who fight for private jets to have a tax break, and for us not to have maternity leave as a society instead, with some of the resources that we could put to that. So one of the hard truths that I tried to speak in this book is that what a lot of rich people are unwilling to acknowledge, but what a certain number of them are willing to acknowledge, is that their very success depends on extraction. And that making America work again for most Americans, making the American dream accessible again for most Americans, will require more than tweaking the engine, will require more than some win-wins. Will actually require the powerful being pulled down a peg on a number of issues, sacrificing, actually seeing some of their resources diminished in order for us to do right by most of us. And that’s painful, but that’s what it’s going to take to move from the age of thousands of private initiatives to what I believe must inevitably follow this age, which is an age of reform.
RS: I’m talking to Anand Giridharadas, and the book is called “Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World.” And there’s a lot in it; we’ll get into it after we take a quick break, and we’ll be back. [omission] I’m back with Anand Giridharadas, and I defy anyone to read this book and not be appalled at what has happened to our claim on democracy. You have a culture that’s based on inequality, it’s based on–you know, what is Apple or Google? These are monopolies, right? They’ve developed cartel arrangements, they prevent unionization. And then when you have somebody like Gates, says he wants to save American education–yes, a part of him does. He had great parents, he’s a decent guy, I suppose; I liked him personally. But the fact of the matter is, he doesn’t want education in American high schools, say in Oakland, where the Gates Foundation did have a big impact, and I think hurt the schools. He doesn’t want young people to know about the unions and the struggles, and you know, how we ended slavery; it wasn’t just some nice president said something. And he doesn’t want to empower poor people to organize or to question or challenge for their rights; he doesn’t want lessons about the exploiters. And yet these people claim they’re saving our educational system, and what they’re doing is designing it so they can get a workforce that they can exploit. And that won’t question their power. Is that not the case?
AG: I think it is the case that, as you say, private individuals are assuming and asserting a level of power over public institutions and public questions that is simply incompatible with democracy. What is the point of one person, one vote? Why do we bother to go to the lengths we do to enforce that, if we create this huge other sphere where rich people have all the votes and we have none, and that other sphere actually controls public things like public schools? It’s just a level of power, first of all, that no one should have, regardless of how they use it. Second, there’s the question that you’re raising of how they use it. And there’s no question–I found when I spent time with these folks that when rich people take over social change, they don’t, you know, run the restaurant like the previous owners. They impose on it their biases, their needs, their no-go zones, their pet ideas. And so what you often see is that, essentially, the kinds of ideas of progress that might come at the winner’s expense get talked about less or not at all. And the kinds of ideas that would help people in some modest way, at zero cost to the winners, get talked up. And over time, this contributes to an enormous distortion where, in our conversations about how to make the world better, we end up surrounded by win-win ideas that modestly help while protecting the opportunity of the privileged to stay on top. And ideas that actually involve the sacrifice of power for the greater good are shut out, shamed, and deemed radical and vague.
RS: I’m talking to Anand Giridharadas, and he has written a–maybe, in some ways, the most important book of our time. And the reason I say it’s so important is because it is a charade that most of us don’t grasp. And the only part I’m quibbling with, and it really is only a quibble–you seem to want to treat these people as if they have some soul, some decency. And I’m with the pope on this one, I think this is a rapacious capitalism that is disguised as something softer, but is absolutely brutal.
AG: Yeah, I don’t think we deeply disagree, I just think that it’s very possible for human beings to do very awful things while feeling like they’re good people and believing they’re doing the right thing. And I think that’s actually where a lot of human darkness comes from, it’s where a lot of the worst things that have happened in history come from. People who weren’t cynical, who were actually naive and idealistic in a really awful way.
RS: OK, so let’s take this word, cynical. And again, I’m not taking anything away from this book, because I think the speeches that you were present at, the–I should explain to people, the thing that makes this such an incredible book is it’s a great piece of reporting, OK? We’re not, unfortunately I haven’t been conveying that enough here. It’s not a theoretical exposition, it’s not a didactic argument; this is journalism at its best. And it’s letting people talk, it’s listening to them. And our author, Anand Giridharadas, is present. You actually worked at the Aspen Institute; you were at many, you were a TED speaker; these people liked you. They welcomed you. And you could have easily taken the money and run, right? You’re one of the people you describe–what do you call them, thought leaders? Who are just bought off. And you decided to not go that route. I mean, you have an amazing scene where they’re listening to Edward Snowden on some Transatlantic communication; he was also listened to at the TED Talk and so forth. And at one point, they think hey, he’s one of us. And he tries to set them correct, no, I’m not out to rip people off, I’m out to help their freedom.
AG: I went on a cruise ship called Summit at Sea for 3,000 or so entrepreneurs who believe they are changing the world. I was interested in what happens when you have this kind of density of people who are convinced that they’re making the world a better place, and that growing their businesses is how you make the world better, and you make the world better by growing their businesses. This total idea of the win-win. And one of the events was the talk by Edward Snowden via videoconference from Russia. Chris Sacca, a venture capitalist in Silicon Valley who’s been very, very successful, was his interlocutor. So Chris kind of stood on stage looking up at this big screen asking Edward Snowden questions. And this hasn’t really been reported ever, so it’s kind of new in the book. And the scene where Snowden is talking and explaining this kind of powerful vision of why he did what he did–he kind of gave an explanation of it that I hadn’t heard before, which is that he is convinced that the opportunity to dissent, to call out something untrue in a society, that that act requires a certain freedom to think thoughts, exchange ideas with others that are not visible to the government. If we live in a world in which every communication is surveilled and interdicted, potentially interdicted by government, we’re going to live in a world in which change becomes very hard to make. Because as soon as someone has a truly heretical idea, they’ll be neutered; if not in the United States, then certainly in many countries. It was a very interesting vision, and as he started describing, well, the way I’m going to do that is I’m going to build all these tools that would allow dissidents to actually operate more freely. A communication tool so you can message without getting caught, a Facebook “like” tool so you can socially network without losing your privacy, some kind of tokenized identity so you can make clear to different websites that you’re the same person without revealing which person you are–various things. Snowden was describing the creation of all these things because he wanted to live in a world in which dissent of the kind that he made is possible, in which it’s possible to go up against power and not be interrupted in that quest; that’s his motivation, his goal. And what was so fascinating to me, given the cultural collision between this man who deeply believed, whether you like him or not, in sacrifice and in taking a risk for what he felt to be the greater good, who believed in fighting the power structure–he was standing there talking to these 3,000, or you know, however many were in the room–kind of entrepreneur types, whose biggest goal is to, like, make $1 billion in a way that serves humanity. And it’s like they couldn’t process him; they couldn’t process his set of motivations. And so Chris Sacca says, wow, you sound like you’re designing a lot of tools that, they sound like apps, or startup–do you want to build a startup? I mean, there’s a lot of people here who would like to be your investor. Snowden just looked at him, puzzled, like–what are you talking about? I’m talking about freedom and heresy and truth, and being a dissident, and how a society corrects itself from manifest injustices through allowing people who have an uncomfortable truth to tell it. And you’re talking about startups? And it was just this wonderful collision between someone who believes in real changes, and these people who kind of believe in the pseudo-change that lines their own pockets.
RS: There’s a lot of people who kind of criticize what’s going on, and who these people are. And we fall for their malarkey because we really don’t witness what they say to each other in more private spaces. And this book, the great strength of it is you actually tell us; you have the transcripts, you have the conversations, you have the body language. And most important, you show how, OK, here I’ll accept your “good people” thing. You introduce us to people that start out with aspirations to be decent. And it’s very quickly sacrificed, bargained away. And to be able to capture that–because most of us, you know, we suppress it in ourselves, right? We all lead compromised lives. And what your book really connects is that act of compromising, selling out, to the big problems that we have. It’s why you’re willing to go along with the smashing of unions, or unnecessary wars, or not taxing the super wealthy, or having lousy schools. It’s really a very important thesis about why we’re in such trouble. It’s not just that there are some bad actors. It’s that they control the action. They were able to effectively move government aside and come up with a market-based solution to our problems that has failed us miserably, and they have profited, and the rest of the people–you have statistics on the stagnation of wages that are appalling. And how much they have been able to get in the last 40 years, and you can’t all blame it on Ronald Reagan; it runs through Clinton, and the first President Bush, and Obama, and it’s not all Trump. The book ends with a story–or not Trump and Reagan, I mean that’s not the key thing.
AG: I think of Donald Trump as a pimple on a boil on a diseased body politic. He’s a very attention-getting pimple, but if anybody thinks that popping that pimple is going to get rid of the problem, I think we’re failing to understand that you don’t get a Donald Trump as president of a country as good and great as this one, without a lot of things being wrong as preconditions. It is very important that the removal of Donald Trump from office, or the impeachment of Donald Trump, or whatever it is that people want to do with Donald Trump, not be the only focus of those who want to make America actually better. And not simply “great again” in this narrow and fake way that he promises, but to actually bring the American dream back into the reach of most Americans. That’s going to require not just deposing Donald Trump, but frankly, deposing the conditions that led to Donald Trump; deposing the era of fake change itself, and ushering in, as I say, an age of reform, where we fix our problems at the root, for all of us, through the extraordinary democratic institutions that we are lucky enough to live under.
RS: Anand Giridharadas, and the book is called Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World. And I want to thank you for joining us today on this edition of Scheer Intelligence.
AG: Thank you so much.
RS: Our producers are Joshua Scheer and Isabel Carreon. Our engineers are Kat Yore and Mario Diaz. And we got an able assistance from NPR in New York City, and we broadcast from KCRW. Thanks for joining us, see you next week.
Robert Scheer, editor in chief of Truthdig, has built a reputation for strong social and political writing over his 30 years as a journalist.

Robert Scheer, editor in chief of Truthdig, has built a reputation for strong social and political writing over his 30 years as a journalist.


Suspending the Constitution: In America Today, the Government Does Whatever It Wants

 Suspending the Constitution: In America Today, the Government Does Whatever It Wants


 That was when they suspended the Constitution. They said it would be temporary. There wasn't even any rioting in the streets. People stayed home at night, watching television, looking for some direction. There wasn't even an enemy you could put your finger on.”—Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid's Tale
We can pretend that the Constitution, which was written to hold the government accountable, is still our governing document.
The reality we must come to terms with, however, is that in the America we live in today, the government does whatever it wants, freedom be damned.
“We the people” have been terrorized, traumatized, and tricked into a semi-permanent state of compliance by a government that cares nothing for our lives or our liberties.
The bogeyman’s names and faces may change over time (terrorism, the war on drugs, illegal immigration, etc.), but the end result remains the same: our unquestioning acquiescence to anything the government wants to do in exchange for the phantom promise of safety and security.
Thus, in the so-called named of national security, the Constitution has been steadily chipped away at, undermined, eroded, whittled down, and generally discarded to such an extent that what we are left with today is but a shadow of the robust document adopted more than two centuries ago.
Most of the damage, however, has been inflicted upon the Bill of Rights—the first ten amendments to the Constitution—which historically served as the bulwark from government abuse. 
A recitation of the Bill of Rights—set against a backdrop of government surveillance, militarized police, SWAT team raids, asset forfeiture, eminent domain, overcriminalization, armed surveillance drones, whole body scanners, stop and frisk searches (all sanctioned by Congress, the White House, the courts and the like)—would understandably sound more like a eulogy to freedoms lost than an affirmation of rights we truly possess.
Here is what it means to live under the Constitution today.
The First Amendment is supposed to protect the freedom to speak your mind, assemble and protest nonviolently without being bridled by the government. It also protects the freedom of the media, as well as the right to worship and pray without interference. In other words, Americans should not be silenced by the government. To the founders, all of America was a free speech zone.
Despite the clear protections found in the First Amendment, the freedoms described therein are under constant assault. Increasingly, Americans are being arrested and charged with bogus “contempt of cop” charges such as “disrupting the peace” or “resisting arrest” for daring to film police officers engaged in harassment or abusive practices. Journalists are being prosecuted for reporting on whistleblowers. States are passing legislation to muzzle reporting on cruel and abusive corporate practices. Religious ministries are being fined for attempting to feed and house the homeless. Protesters are being tear-gassed, beaten, arrested and forced into “free speech zones.” And under the guise of “government speech,” the courts have reasoned that the government can discriminate freely against any First Amendment activity that takes place within a government forum.
The Second Amendment was intended to guarantee “the right of the people to keep and bear arms.” Essentially, this amendment was intended to give the citizenry the means to resist tyrannical government. Yet while gun ownership has been recognized by the U.S. Supreme Court as an individual citizen right, Americans remain powerless to defend themselves against SWAT team raids and government agents armed to the teeth with military weapons better suited for the battlefield. As such, this amendment has been rendered null and void.
The Third Amendment reinforces the principle that civilian-elected officials are superior to the military by prohibiting the military from entering any citizen’s home without “the consent of the owner.” With the police increasingly training like the military, acting like the military, and posing as military forces—complete with heavily armed SWAT teams, military weapons, assault vehicles, etc.—it is clear that we now have what the founders feared most—a standing army on American soil
The Fourth Amendment prohibits government agents from conducting surveillance on you or touching you or invading you, unless they have some evidence that you’re up to something criminal. In other words, the Fourth Amendment ensures privacy and bodily integrity. Unfortunately, the Fourth Amendment has suffered the greatest damage in recent years and has been all but eviscerated by an unwarranted expansion of police powers that include strip searches and even anal and vaginal searches of citizens, surveillance (corporate and otherwise) and intrusions justified in the name of fighting terrorism, as well as the outsourcing of otherwise illegal activities to private contractors.
The Fifth Amendment and the Sixth Amendment work in tandem. These amendments supposedly ensure that you are innocent until proven guilty, and government authorities cannot deprive you of your life, your liberty or your property without the right to an attorney and a fair trial before a civilian judge. However, in the new suspect society in which we live, where surveillance is the norm, these fundamental principles have been upended. Certainly, if the government can arbitrarily freeze, seize or lay claim to your property (money, land or possessions) under government asset forfeiture schemes, you have no true rights.
The Seventh Amendment guarantees citizens the right to a jury trial. Yet when the populace has no idea of what’s in the Constitution—civic education has virtually disappeared from most school curriculums—that inevitably translates to an ignorant jury incapable of distinguishing justice and the law from their own preconceived notions and fears. However, as a growing number of citizens are coming to realize, the power of the jury to nullify the government’s actions—and thereby help balance the scales of justice—is not to be underestimated. Jury nullification reminds the government that “we the people” retain the power to ultimately determine what laws are just.
The Eighth Amendment is similar to the Sixth in that it is supposed to protect the rights of the accused and forbid the use of cruel and unusual punishment. However, the Supreme Court’s determination that what constitutes “cruel and unusual” should be dependent on the “evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of a maturing society” leaves us with little protection in the face of a society lacking in morals altogether.
The Ninth Amendment provides that other rights not enumerated in the Constitution are nonetheless retained by the people. Popular sovereignty—the belief that the power to govern flows upward from the people rather than downward from the rulers—is clearly evident in this amendment. However, it has since been turned on its head by a centralized federal government that sees itself as supreme and which continues to pass more and more laws that restrict our freedoms under the pretext that it has an “important government interest” in doing so.
As for the Tenth Amendment’s reminder that the people and the states retain every authority that is not otherwise mentioned in the Constitution, that assurance of a system of government in which power is divided among local, state and national entities has long since been rendered moot by the centralized Washington, DC, power elite—the president, Congress and the courts. Indeed, the federal governmental bureaucracy has grown so large that it has made local and state legislatures relatively irrelevant. Through its many agencies and regulations, the federal government has stripped states of the right to regulate countless issues that were originally governed at the local level.
If there is any sense to be made from this recitation of freedoms lost, it is simply this: our individual freedoms have been eviscerated so that the government’s powers could be expanded.
Yet those who gave us the Constitution and the Bill of Rights believed that the government exists at the behest of its citizens. It is there to protect, defend and even enhance our freedoms, not violate them.
It was no idle happenstance that the Constitution opens with these three powerful words: “We the people.” As the Preamble proclaims:
We, the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this CONSTITUTION for the United States of America.

In other words, we have the power to make and break the government. We are the masters and they are the servants. We the American people—the citizenry—are the arbiters and ultimate guardians of America’s welfare, defense, liberty, laws and prosperity.
Still, it’s hard to be a good citizen if you don’t know anything about your rights or how the government is supposed to operate.
As the National Review rightly asks, “How can Americans possibly make intelligent and informed political choices if they don’t understand the fundamental structure of their government? American citizens have the right to self-government, but it seems that we increasingly lack the capacity for it.”
Most citizens have little, if any, knowledge about their basic rights. And our educational system does a poor job of teaching the basic freedoms guaranteed in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. For instance, when Newsweek asked 1,000 adult U.S. citizens to take America’s official citizenship test44% were unable to define the Bill of Rights.
A survey by the Annenberg Public Policy Center found that a little more than one-third of respondents (36 percent) could name all three branches of the U.S. government, while another one-third (35 percent) could not name a single one. Only a quarter of Americans (27 percent) know it takes a two-thirds vote of the House and Senate to override a presidential veto. One in five Americans (21 percent) incorrectly thinks that a 5-4 Supreme Court decision is sent back to Congress for reconsideration. And more than half of Americans do not know which party controls the House and Senate.
A 2006 survey by the McCormick Tribune Freedom Museum found that only one out of a thousand adults could identify the five rights protected by the First Amendment. On the other hand, more than half (52%) of the respondents could name at least two of the characters in the animated Simpsonstelevision family, and 20% could name all five. And although half could name none of the freedoms in the First Amendment, a majority (54%) could name at least one of the three judges on the TV program American Idol, 41% could name two and one-fourth could name all three.

It gets worse. 
Many who responded to the survey had a strange conception of what was in the First Amendment. For example, 21% said the “right to own a pet” was listed someplace between “Congress shall make no law” and “redress of grievances.” Some 17% said that the First Amendment contained the “right to drive a car,” and 38% believed that “taking the Fifth” was part of the First Amendment.
Teachers and school administrators do not fare much better. A study conducted by the Center for Survey Research and Analysis found that one educator in five was unable to name any of the freedoms in the First Amendment.
In fact, while some educators want students to learn about freedom, they do not necessarily want them to exercise their freedoms in school. As the researchers conclude, “Most educators think that students already have enough freedom, and that restrictions on freedom in the school are necessary. Many support filtering the Internet, censoring T-shirts, disallowing student distribution of political or religious material, and conducting prior review of school newspapers.”
Government leaders and politicians are also ill-informed. Although they take an oath to uphold, support and defend the Constitution against “enemies foreign and domestic,” their lack of education about our fundamental rights often causes them to be enemies of the Bill of Rights.
So what’s the solution?
Thomas Jefferson recognized that a citizenry educated on “their rights, interests, and duties”  is the only real assurance that freedom will survive.
As Jefferson wrote in 1820: “I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of our society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power.”
From the President on down, anyone taking public office should have a working knowledge of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights and should be held accountable for upholding their precepts. One way to ensure this would be to require government leaders to take a course on the Constitution and pass a thorough examination thereof before being allowed to take office.
Some critics are advocating that students pass the United States citizenship exam in order to graduate from high school. Others recommend that it must be a prerequisite for attending college. I’d go so far as to argue that students should have to pass the citizenship exam before graduating from grade school.
Here’s an idea to get educated and take a stand for freedom: anyone who signs up to become a member of The Rutherford Institute gets a wallet-sized Bill of Rights card and a Know Your Rights card. Use this card to teach your children the freedoms found in the Bill of Rights.
If this constitutional illiteracy is not remedied and soon, freedom in America will be doomed.
As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, we have managed to keep the wolf at bay so far. Barely.
Our national priorities need to be re-prioritized. For instance, some argue that we need to make America great again. I, for one, would prefer to make America free again.
As actor-turned-activist Richard Dreyfuss warned:
Unless we teach the ideas that
make America a miracle of government, it will go away in your kids’ lifetimes, and we will be a fable.You have to find the time and creativity to teach it in schools, and if you don’t, you will lose it. You will lose it to the darkness, and what this country represents is a tiny twinkle of light in a history of oppression and darkness and cruelty. If it lasts for more than our lifetime, for more than our kids’ lifetime, it is only because we put some effort into teaching what it is, the ideas of America: the idea of opportunity, mobility, freedom of thought, freedom of assembly.”

 Suspending the Constitution: In America Today, the Government Does Whatever It Wants


 That was when they suspended the Constitution. They said it would be temporary. There wasn't even any rioting in the streets. People stayed home at night, watching television, looking for some direction. There wasn't even an enemy you could put your finger on.”—Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid's Tale
We can pretend that the Constitution, which was written to hold the government accountable, is still our governing document.
The reality we must come to terms with, however, is that in the America we live in today, the government does whatever it wants, freedom be damned.
“We the people” have been terrorized, traumatized, and tricked into a semi-permanent state of compliance by a government that cares nothing for our lives or our liberties.
The bogeyman’s names and faces may change over time (terrorism, the war on drugs, illegal immigration, etc.), but the end result remains the same: our unquestioning acquiescence to anything the government wants to do in exchange for the phantom promise of safety and security.
Thus, in the so-called named of national security, the Constitution has been steadily chipped away at, undermined, eroded, whittled down, and generally discarded to such an extent that what we are left with today is but a shadow of the robust document adopted more than two centuries ago.
Most of the damage, however, has been inflicted upon the Bill of Rights—the first ten amendments to the Constitution—which historically served as the bulwark from government abuse. 
A recitation of the Bill of Rights—set against a backdrop of government surveillance, militarized police, SWAT team raids, asset forfeiture, eminent domain, overcriminalization, armed surveillance drones, whole body scanners, stop and frisk searches (all sanctioned by Congress, the White House, the courts and the like)—would understandably sound more like a eulogy to freedoms lost than an affirmation of rights we truly possess.
Here is what it means to live under the Constitution today.
The First Amendment is supposed to protect the freedom to speak your mind, assemble and protest nonviolently without being bridled by the government. It also protects the freedom of the media, as well as the right to worship and pray without interference. In other words, Americans should not be silenced by the government. To the founders, all of America was a free speech zone.
Despite the clear protections found in the First Amendment, the freedoms described therein are under constant assault. Increasingly, Americans are being arrested and charged with bogus “contempt of cop” charges such as “disrupting the peace” or “resisting arrest” for daring to film police officers engaged in harassment or abusive practices. Journalists are being prosecuted for reporting on whistleblowers. States are passing legislation to muzzle reporting on cruel and abusive corporate practices. Religious ministries are being fined for attempting to feed and house the homeless. Protesters are being tear-gassed, beaten, arrested and forced into “free speech zones.” And under the guise of “government speech,” the courts have reasoned that the government can discriminate freely against any First Amendment activity that takes place within a government forum.
The Second Amendment was intended to guarantee “the right of the people to keep and bear arms.” Essentially, this amendment was intended to give the citizenry the means to resist tyrannical government. Yet while gun ownership has been recognized by the U.S. Supreme Court as an individual citizen right, Americans remain powerless to defend themselves against SWAT team raids and government agents armed to the teeth with military weapons better suited for the battlefield. As such, this amendment has been rendered null and void.
The Third Amendment reinforces the principle that civilian-elected officials are superior to the military by prohibiting the military from entering any citizen’s home without “the consent of the owner.” With the police increasingly training like the military, acting like the military, and posing as military forces—complete with heavily armed SWAT teams, military weapons, assault vehicles, etc.—it is clear that we now have what the founders feared most—a standing army on American soil
The Fourth Amendment prohibits government agents from conducting surveillance on you or touching you or invading you, unless they have some evidence that you’re up to something criminal. In other words, the Fourth Amendment ensures privacy and bodily integrity. Unfortunately, the Fourth Amendment has suffered the greatest damage in recent years and has been all but eviscerated by an unwarranted expansion of police powers that include strip searches and even anal and vaginal searches of citizens, surveillance (corporate and otherwise) and intrusions justified in the name of fighting terrorism, as well as the outsourcing of otherwise illegal activities to private contractors.
The Fifth Amendment and the Sixth Amendment work in tandem. These amendments supposedly ensure that you are innocent until proven guilty, and government authorities cannot deprive you of your life, your liberty or your property without the right to an attorney and a fair trial before a civilian judge. However, in the new suspect society in which we live, where surveillance is the norm, these fundamental principles have been upended. Certainly, if the government can arbitrarily freeze, seize or lay claim to your property (money, land or possessions) under government asset forfeiture schemes, you have no true rights.
The Seventh Amendment guarantees citizens the right to a jury trial. Yet when the populace has no idea of what’s in the Constitution—civic education has virtually disappeared from most school curriculums—that inevitably translates to an ignorant jury incapable of distinguishing justice and the law from their own preconceived notions and fears. However, as a growing number of citizens are coming to realize, the power of the jury to nullify the government’s actions—and thereby help balance the scales of justice—is not to be underestimated. Jury nullification reminds the government that “we the people” retain the power to ultimately determine what laws are just.
The Eighth Amendment is similar to the Sixth in that it is supposed to protect the rights of the accused and forbid the use of cruel and unusual punishment. However, the Supreme Court’s determination that what constitutes “cruel and unusual” should be dependent on the “evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of a maturing society” leaves us with little protection in the face of a society lacking in morals altogether.
The Ninth Amendment provides that other rights not enumerated in the Constitution are nonetheless retained by the people. Popular sovereignty—the belief that the power to govern flows upward from the people rather than downward from the rulers—is clearly evident in this amendment. However, it has since been turned on its head by a centralized federal government that sees itself as supreme and which continues to pass more and more laws that restrict our freedoms under the pretext that it has an “important government interest” in doing so.
As for the Tenth Amendment’s reminder that the people and the states retain every authority that is not otherwise mentioned in the Constitution, that assurance of a system of government in which power is divided among local, state and national entities has long since been rendered moot by the centralized Washington, DC, power elite—the president, Congress and the courts. Indeed, the federal governmental bureaucracy has grown so large that it has made local and state legislatures relatively irrelevant. Through its many agencies and regulations, the federal government has stripped states of the right to regulate countless issues that were originally governed at the local level.
If there is any sense to be made from this recitation of freedoms lost, it is simply this: our individual freedoms have been eviscerated so that the government’s powers could be expanded.
Yet those who gave us the Constitution and the Bill of Rights believed that the government exists at the behest of its citizens. It is there to protect, defend and even enhance our freedoms, not violate them.
It was no idle happenstance that the Constitution opens with these three powerful words: “We the people.” As the Preamble proclaims:
We, the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this CONSTITUTION for the United States of America.

In other words, we have the power to make and break the government. We are the masters and they are the servants. We the American people—the citizenry—are the arbiters and ultimate guardians of America’s welfare, defense, liberty, laws and prosperity.
Still, it’s hard to be a good citizen if you don’t know anything about your rights or how the government is supposed to operate.
As the National Review rightly asks, “How can Americans possibly make intelligent and informed political choices if they don’t understand the fundamental structure of their government? American citizens have the right to self-government, but it seems that we increasingly lack the capacity for it.”
Most citizens have little, if any, knowledge about their basic rights. And our educational system does a poor job of teaching the basic freedoms guaranteed in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. For instance, when Newsweek asked 1,000 adult U.S. citizens to take America’s official citizenship test44% were unable to define the Bill of Rights.
A survey by the Annenberg Public Policy Center found that a little more than one-third of respondents (36 percent) could name all three branches of the U.S. government, while another one-third (35 percent) could not name a single one. Only a quarter of Americans (27 percent) know it takes a two-thirds vote of the House and Senate to override a presidential veto. One in five Americans (21 percent) incorrectly thinks that a 5-4 Supreme Court decision is sent back to Congress for reconsideration. And more than half of Americans do not know which party controls the House and Senate.
A 2006 survey by the McCormick Tribune Freedom Museum found that only one out of a thousand adults could identify the five rights protected by the First Amendment. On the other hand, more than half (52%) of the respondents could name at least two of the characters in the animated Simpsonstelevision family, and 20% could name all five. And although half could name none of the freedoms in the First Amendment, a majority (54%) could name at least one of the three judges on the TV program American Idol, 41% could name two and one-fourth could name all three.

It gets worse. 
Many who responded to the survey had a strange conception of what was in the First Amendment. For example, 21% said the “right to own a pet” was listed someplace between “Congress shall make no law” and “redress of grievances.” Some 17% said that the First Amendment contained the “right to drive a car,” and 38% believed that “taking the Fifth” was part of the First Amendment.
Teachers and school administrators do not fare much better. A study conducted by the Center for Survey Research and Analysis found that one educator in five was unable to name any of the freedoms in the First Amendment.
In fact, while some educators want students to learn about freedom, they do not necessarily want them to exercise their freedoms in school. As the researchers conclude, “Most educators think that students already have enough freedom, and that restrictions on freedom in the school are necessary. Many support filtering the Internet, censoring T-shirts, disallowing student distribution of political or religious material, and conducting prior review of school newspapers.”
Government leaders and politicians are also ill-informed. Although they take an oath to uphold, support and defend the Constitution against “enemies foreign and domestic,” their lack of education about our fundamental rights often causes them to be enemies of the Bill of Rights.
So what’s the solution?
Thomas Jefferson recognized that a citizenry educated on “their rights, interests, and duties”  is the only real assurance that freedom will survive.
As Jefferson wrote in 1820: “I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of our society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power.”
From the President on down, anyone taking public office should have a working knowledge of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights and should be held accountable for upholding their precepts. One way to ensure this would be to require government leaders to take a course on the Constitution and pass a thorough examination thereof before being allowed to take office.
Some critics are advocating that students pass the United States citizenship exam in order to graduate from high school. Others recommend that it must be a prerequisite for attending college. I’d go so far as to argue that students should have to pass the citizenship exam before graduating from grade school.
Here’s an idea to get educated and take a stand for freedom: anyone who signs up to become a member of The Rutherford Institute gets a wallet-sized Bill of Rights card and a Know Your Rights card. Use this card to teach your children the freedoms found in the Bill of Rights.
If this constitutional illiteracy is not remedied and soon, freedom in America will be doomed.
As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, we have managed to keep the wolf at bay so far. Barely.
Our national priorities need to be re-prioritized. For instance, some argue that we need to make America great again. I, for one, would prefer to make America free again.
As actor-turned-activist Richard Dreyfuss warned:
Unless we teach the ideas that
make America a miracle of government, it will go away in your kids’ lifetimes, and we will be a fable.You have to find the time and creativity to teach it in schools, and if you don’t, you will lose it. You will lose it to the darkness, and what this country represents is a tiny twinkle of light in a history of oppression and darkness and cruelty. If it lasts for more than our lifetime, for more than our kids’ lifetime, it is only because we put some effort into teaching what it is, the ideas of America: the idea of opportunity, mobility, freedom of thought, freedom of assembly.”


Real Federalism Isn’t it time?

Real FederalismIsn’t it time?

Fractured Federalism

Proposals to turn national programs over to the states are abound in Washington. The failure of federal programs over the past 60 years demonstrates that centralized solutions to local problems are ineffective. Federalism—the constitutional distribution of power between the states and national government— is once again on the agenda.

Lessons regarding centralization have been learned the hard way. For example, since the 1960s the national government has spent $5 trillion on social welfare programs for such efforts as the “War on Poverty.” The result is a poverty rate of 15.1 percent—higher than the 14.7 percent rate we had before the Great Society. The nation cannot afford anymore trillion-dollar lessons. As an alternative, many leaders around the country are re-examining the role of the states.

But is the rhetoric of the politicians sincere? Is there a genuine movement in Washington toward federal decentralization?

Though national politicians often claim they seek to restore power to the states, a closer look at their proposals indicates otherwise. Consider Republican initiatives for welfare reform and environmental deregulation. Rather than abolishing burdensome federal directives like the Clean Water Act or fundamentally altering welfare programs, the initiatives simply direct the states to craft new methods for complying with those dictates. Proposals for block grants for school lunch programs mandate how states will use 80 percent of the funds. This is clearly not meaningful change.

Rather than block grants, the states require a return of their sovereignty. Local citizens have a greater stake in the purity of their water and relief of their indigent than any outsider. Moreover, their familiarity with the resources available and community priorities is unparalleled.

Efficacy is only one reason to return to the states their traditional powers. The Constitution delegates no power over local environmental concerns or welfare to the national government. The power of states and localities to craft their own laws is a key component of our federal system. Only when Washington once again accepts this will a serious discussion of federalism be possible.

The Constitution defines a central government whose jurisdiction is limited to certain enumerated objects. The majority of governmental duties were considered local in nature and left to the states. Because of geographic and cultural differences, the framers of the Constitution knew that the people would require legislation tailored to their own unique circumstances. The power to craft a national policy for local matters was unfathomable to them.

When one understands the original principles of federalism, one sees just how fraudulent today’s schemes that purport to return power to the states are. A return to the principles of the Constitution would be revolutionary. It would seriously curb Washington’s power. Therefore, it is highly unlikely that any real reform will come from Congress.


The true voices of federalism belong to grassroots efforts like the Tenth Amendment movement. The movement seeks to give new life to the words of the Constitution: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” Part of their efforts include the Tenth Amendment Resolution which commands the federal government to cease and desist, effective immediately, mandates that are beyond the scope of its constitutionally delegated powers. It has been passed in 14 state legislatures and introduced in 17 others.

Such grassroots notions about federalism look quite different from the block grants offered by the planners in Washington. These populist efforts would actually eliminate—rather than alter—unconstitutional edicts.

Local leaders and citizens are serious about a return to the principles of strictly enumerated powers and self-government. The national politicians are not. The Constitution makes the federal government the agent of the states. Unfortunately it is now the master. Washington’s fraudulent federalism does not change this. It only clouds the real issue: the return of sovereignty to the states.

This article was originally printed in the Third Quarter 1995 issue of Southern Partisan Magazine.

Real FederalismIsn’t it time?

Fractured Federalism

Proposals to turn national programs over to the states are abound in Washington. The failure of federal programs over the past 60 years demonstrates that centralized solutions to local problems are ineffective. Federalism—the constitutional distribution of power between the states and national government— is once again on the agenda.

Lessons regarding centralization have been learned the hard way. For example, since the 1960s the national government has spent $5 trillion on social welfare programs for such efforts as the “War on Poverty.” The result is a poverty rate of 15.1 percent—higher than the 14.7 percent rate we had before the Great Society. The nation cannot afford anymore trillion-dollar lessons. As an alternative, many leaders around the country are re-examining the role of the states.

But is the rhetoric of the politicians sincere? Is there a genuine movement in Washington toward federal decentralization?

Though national politicians often claim they seek to restore power to the states, a closer look at their proposals indicates otherwise. Consider Republican initiatives for welfare reform and environmental deregulation. Rather than abolishing burdensome federal directives like the Clean Water Act or fundamentally altering welfare programs, the initiatives simply direct the states to craft new methods for complying with those dictates. Proposals for block grants for school lunch programs mandate how states will use 80 percent of the funds. This is clearly not meaningful change.

Rather than block grants, the states require a return of their sovereignty. Local citizens have a greater stake in the purity of their water and relief of their indigent than any outsider. Moreover, their familiarity with the resources available and community priorities is unparalleled.

Efficacy is only one reason to return to the states their traditional powers. The Constitution delegates no power over local environmental concerns or welfare to the national government. The power of states and localities to craft their own laws is a key component of our federal system. Only when Washington once again accepts this will a serious discussion of federalism be possible.

The Constitution defines a central government whose jurisdiction is limited to certain enumerated objects. The majority of governmental duties were considered local in nature and left to the states. Because of geographic and cultural differences, the framers of the Constitution knew that the people would require legislation tailored to their own unique circumstances. The power to craft a national policy for local matters was unfathomable to them.

When one understands the original principles of federalism, one sees just how fraudulent today’s schemes that purport to return power to the states are. A return to the principles of the Constitution would be revolutionary. It would seriously curb Washington’s power. Therefore, it is highly unlikely that any real reform will come from Congress.


The true voices of federalism belong to grassroots efforts like the Tenth Amendment movement. The movement seeks to give new life to the words of the Constitution: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” Part of their efforts include the Tenth Amendment Resolution which commands the federal government to cease and desist, effective immediately, mandates that are beyond the scope of its constitutionally delegated powers. It has been passed in 14 state legislatures and introduced in 17 others.

Such grassroots notions about federalism look quite different from the block grants offered by the planners in Washington. These populist efforts would actually eliminate—rather than alter—unconstitutional edicts.

Local leaders and citizens are serious about a return to the principles of strictly enumerated powers and self-government. The national politicians are not. The Constitution makes the federal government the agent of the states. Unfortunately it is now the master. Washington’s fraudulent federalism does not change this. It only clouds the real issue: the return of sovereignty to the states.

This article was originally printed in the Third Quarter 1995 issue of Southern Partisan Magazine.


You probably didn’t read the most telling part of Orwell’s “1984”—the appendix


You probably didn’t read the most telling part of Orwell’s “1984”—the appendix




If there is any doubt about the persistent power of literature in the face of digital culture, it should be banished by the recent climb of George Orwell’s 1984 up the Amazon “Movers & Shakers” list. There is much that’s resonant for us in Orwell’s dystopia in the face of Edward Snowden’s revelations about the NSA: the totalitarian State of Oceania, its sinister Big Brother, always watching, the history-erasing Ministry of Truth, and the menacing Thought Police, with their omnipresent telescreens. All this may seem to be the endgame of indiscriminate data mining, surveillance, and duplicitous government control. We look to 1984 as a clear cautionary tale, even a prophecy, of systematic abuse of power taken to the end of the line. However, the notion that the novel concludes with a brainwashed, broken protagonist, Winston Smith, weeping into his Victory Gin and the bitter sentence: “He loved Big Brother,” are not exactly right. Big Brother does not actually get the last word.

After “THE END,” Orwell includes another chapter, an appendix, called “The Principles of Newspeak.” Since it has the trappings of a tedious scholarly treatise, readers often skip the appendix. But it changes our whole understanding of the novel. Written from some unspecified point in the future, it suggests that Big Brother was eventually defeated. The victory is attributed not to individual rebels or to The Brotherhood, an anonymous resistance group, but rather to language itself. The appendix details Oceania’s attempt to replace Oldspeak, or English, with Newspeak, a linguistic shorthand that reduces the world of ideas to a set of simple, stark words. “The whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought.” It will render dissent “literally impossible, because there will be no words in which to express it.”

But it never comes to pass. The Party’s plans—the abolition of the family, laughter, art, literature, curiosity, pleasure, in favor of a “boot stamping down on a human face forever”—are never achieved because Newspeak fails to take. Why? Because it was too difficult to translate Oldspeak literature into Newspeak. The text Orwell singles out to exemplify this, intriguingly, is the Declaration of Independence. The “author” of the appendix argues that these ideas cannot be expressed in Newspeak, specifically the part about governments deriving their legitimacy from the consent of the people, and citizens having the right to challenge any government that fails to honor the contract. As long as we have a nuanced, expansive system of language, Orwell claims, we will have freedom and the possibility of dissent.

This appeal to the integrity of language and principled thought may sound utopic or academic, but we are currently in the midst of a similar struggle. Consider the names of the post-9/11 programs that were ostensibly designed to protect the United States: the Patriot Act, Boundless Informant, and practices like “enhanced interrogation techniques.” The justifications of these 1984-sounding schemes—and PRISM too—follow the obfuscating principles of Newspeak and the kind of manipulative euphemism Orwell skewers in his famous essay, “Politics and the English Language.” He writes: “Political language—and with variations this is true of all political parties, from Conservatives to Anarchists—is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.” Orwell maintains that misleading terminology and evasive explanations are endemic to modern politics. “In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defense of the indefensible,” including practices like imprisoning people “for years without trial,“ Orwell writes.

If the main story of 1984 is language and freedom of thought, a crucial part of the Snowden case is technology as a conduit of ideas. In Orwell’s novel, technology is a purely oppressive force, but in reality it can also be a means of liberation. Snowden has claimed that tech companies are in collusion with the government, but he’s also using those same channels of technology to tell his story. Daniel Ellsberg had to photocopy the Pentagon Papers and distribute them in hard copies; now our language of dissent includes emails, tweets, and IMs.

It’s worth recalling Apple’s famous ad that unveiled the Macintosh computer to the world in 1984, making full use of the reference to Orwell’s novel. A mass of worker drones trudges toward a screen showing a bespectacled leader proclaiming that, “We have created, for the first time in all history, a garden of pure ideology—where each worker may bloom, secure from the pests purveying contradictory truths.” Suddenly, an athletic woman, in glorious technicolor, emerges with a hammer, the police in pursuit. She hurls the weapon at the screen and smashes the image. “On January 24th,” the screen tells us, “Apple Computer will introduce Macintosh. And you’ll see why 1984 won’t be like ‘1984.’” Apple’s Board of Directors tried to block the ad, but Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak pushed it through.

This is contemporary technology’s founding myth: the garage band ethos of its early founders going up against centralized, bureaucratic cultures like IBM by putting technology into the hands of the people. Obviously, scrappy startups have grown into multinational corporations led by wealthy CEOs, and most successful social networks are now run by powerful companies. However, we are surrounded by examples of technology used to question the status quo: Twitter and the Arab Spring is one example, Wikileaks is another, and so is Snowden.

When Orwell wrote 1984, he was responding to the Cold War, not contemporary terrorism. He did not anticipate the full reach of digital technology. Even so, he was correct in seeing a future where the government had greater control but also a belief in the people’s ability to use language for dissent.


Laura Frost



Joseph F Barber,is a freelance writer and editor of the blog FREEDOM OR ANARCHY,Campaign of Conscience.it is my message to we the people and the citizens of our world to stand free and your ground feed another if you can ,I tell you this as it come from with in my soul There comes a point when a man must refuse to answer to his leader if he is also to answer to his own conscience.


Pro Deo et Constitutione –
Libertas aut Mors Semper Vigilans Fortis
Paratus et Fidelis

Joseph F Barber



You probably didn’t read the most telling part of Orwell’s “1984”—the appendix




If there is any doubt about the persistent power of literature in the face of digital culture, it should be banished by the recent climb of George Orwell’s 1984 up the Amazon “Movers & Shakers” list. There is much that’s resonant for us in Orwell’s dystopia in the face of Edward Snowden’s revelations about the NSA: the totalitarian State of Oceania, its sinister Big Brother, always watching, the history-erasing Ministry of Truth, and the menacing Thought Police, with their omnipresent telescreens. All this may seem to be the endgame of indiscriminate data mining, surveillance, and duplicitous government control. We look to 1984 as a clear cautionary tale, even a prophecy, of systematic abuse of power taken to the end of the line. However, the notion that the novel concludes with a brainwashed, broken protagonist, Winston Smith, weeping into his Victory Gin and the bitter sentence: “He loved Big Brother,” are not exactly right. Big Brother does not actually get the last word.

After “THE END,” Orwell includes another chapter, an appendix, called “The Principles of Newspeak.” Since it has the trappings of a tedious scholarly treatise, readers often skip the appendix. But it changes our whole understanding of the novel. Written from some unspecified point in the future, it suggests that Big Brother was eventually defeated. The victory is attributed not to individual rebels or to The Brotherhood, an anonymous resistance group, but rather to language itself. The appendix details Oceania’s attempt to replace Oldspeak, or English, with Newspeak, a linguistic shorthand that reduces the world of ideas to a set of simple, stark words. “The whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought.” It will render dissent “literally impossible, because there will be no words in which to express it.”

But it never comes to pass. The Party’s plans—the abolition of the family, laughter, art, literature, curiosity, pleasure, in favor of a “boot stamping down on a human face forever”—are never achieved because Newspeak fails to take. Why? Because it was too difficult to translate Oldspeak literature into Newspeak. The text Orwell singles out to exemplify this, intriguingly, is the Declaration of Independence. The “author” of the appendix argues that these ideas cannot be expressed in Newspeak, specifically the part about governments deriving their legitimacy from the consent of the people, and citizens having the right to challenge any government that fails to honor the contract. As long as we have a nuanced, expansive system of language, Orwell claims, we will have freedom and the possibility of dissent.

This appeal to the integrity of language and principled thought may sound utopic or academic, but we are currently in the midst of a similar struggle. Consider the names of the post-9/11 programs that were ostensibly designed to protect the United States: the Patriot Act, Boundless Informant, and practices like “enhanced interrogation techniques.” The justifications of these 1984-sounding schemes—and PRISM too—follow the obfuscating principles of Newspeak and the kind of manipulative euphemism Orwell skewers in his famous essay, “Politics and the English Language.” He writes: “Political language—and with variations this is true of all political parties, from Conservatives to Anarchists—is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.” Orwell maintains that misleading terminology and evasive explanations are endemic to modern politics. “In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defense of the indefensible,” including practices like imprisoning people “for years without trial,“ Orwell writes.

If the main story of 1984 is language and freedom of thought, a crucial part of the Snowden case is technology as a conduit of ideas. In Orwell’s novel, technology is a purely oppressive force, but in reality it can also be a means of liberation. Snowden has claimed that tech companies are in collusion with the government, but he’s also using those same channels of technology to tell his story. Daniel Ellsberg had to photocopy the Pentagon Papers and distribute them in hard copies; now our language of dissent includes emails, tweets, and IMs.

It’s worth recalling Apple’s famous ad that unveiled the Macintosh computer to the world in 1984, making full use of the reference to Orwell’s novel. A mass of worker drones trudges toward a screen showing a bespectacled leader proclaiming that, “We have created, for the first time in all history, a garden of pure ideology—where each worker may bloom, secure from the pests purveying contradictory truths.” Suddenly, an athletic woman, in glorious technicolor, emerges with a hammer, the police in pursuit. She hurls the weapon at the screen and smashes the image. “On January 24th,” the screen tells us, “Apple Computer will introduce Macintosh. And you’ll see why 1984 won’t be like ‘1984.’” Apple’s Board of Directors tried to block the ad, but Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak pushed it through.

This is contemporary technology’s founding myth: the garage band ethos of its early founders going up against centralized, bureaucratic cultures like IBM by putting technology into the hands of the people. Obviously, scrappy startups have grown into multinational corporations led by wealthy CEOs, and most successful social networks are now run by powerful companies. However, we are surrounded by examples of technology used to question the status quo: Twitter and the Arab Spring is one example, Wikileaks is another, and so is Snowden.

When Orwell wrote 1984, he was responding to the Cold War, not contemporary terrorism. He did not anticipate the full reach of digital technology. Even so, he was correct in seeing a future where the government had greater control but also a belief in the people’s ability to use language for dissent.


Laura Frost



Joseph F Barber,is a freelance writer and editor of the blog FREEDOM OR ANARCHY,Campaign of Conscience.it is my message to we the people and the citizens of our world to stand free and your ground feed another if you can ,I tell you this as it come from with in my soul There comes a point when a man must refuse to answer to his leader if he is also to answer to his own conscience.


Pro Deo et Constitutione –
Libertas aut Mors Semper Vigilans Fortis
Paratus et Fidelis

Joseph F Barber